Telling Our Story: Reflection on the CTE Digital Storytelling Program at VCU

This is a reflection on the origin and development of storytelling, the impact of various media upon the art and upon faculty participation in the CTE Digital Storytelling Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. This short story provides food for thought about the transformative power of stories and narrative in an educational context.

Exploring the iPad for use in Higher Education

The iPad is often touted as a revolutionary new means of computing, but what exactly does that mean?

How does one explore the capabilities of a device which changes with the apps which may be loaded?

Should we be exploring the iPad as a device? Or, should we explore the educational experiences which might be possible though the Apps which are available?

How can we explore the device, if we do not have the funding to explore promising applications? This is like learning to use a microwave/convection oven without having funding to by the elements required to cook a meal or develop a new recipe. Exploring free resources can be beneficial and lead to rewarding results, but all too often, quality apps require time and funding to develop and may not be able to be shared freely.

Further, should we rely on the applications which are available or should we in fact be developing our own, and in the process, defining what the iPad or the "iPad experience" might be (possibly for our own or our students' needs). Perhaps this is not a unique idea. The history of modern education has relied upon the use of textbooks, but when scholars and researchers who teach cannot find the textbooks or resources to convey ideas, they write or create their own. So it might be with resources for the iPad or other digital devices. The lamentation for resources which are applicable for higher education might just be the canary in the coal mine which identifies not only the need for resources, but the need for educators to develop new "literary skills" to create the learning opportunities which these new devices just might afford.

Consider an interview and behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the his ebook, The Elements: A Visual Exploration. Consider how he has developed a resource which uses the iPad's multiple touch feature, 3D imagery, and the ability to incorporate real-time information, such as his example of linking to the current price of gold.

So, should the iPad be seen as a consumption device? Or, are their unique opportunities to use this as a tool for the creation of knowledge? Should the iPad (of 2010) be explored with the knowledge that it is the first generation of a device of its type? Should we acknowledge the iPad as a learning experience in its' own right and identify means to improve functionality and learning opportunities?

What do you think? What can you contribute? Let's learn together.
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Haiku and Digital Storytelling

Image by Frida Eyjolfs

Yesterday, Narrative Magazine invited submissions to the second annual Haiku contest for a poem incorporating the theme of the fall season. ( This 5-7-5-syllable form of writing once again tugged at me to visualize

Waterfowl swimming

through gray rocks and rising fog

rise in autumn flight.

Today, the muse continues to dance and I wrote “Autumn Morning”:

Clear blue autumn sky:
Light shining through golden trees
Illuminates me.

The form of Haiku causes me to visualize what I’m trying to convey and takes me to a place of deep reflection; familiar and hallowed ground to one who is engaged in the power digital storytelling. Like Haiku poetry, my digital stories (example) are an attempt to explore my own personal narrative, ask myself truthful and sometimes painful questions in hope that the process will reveal deeper meaning to my own experiences. Both Haiku and digital storytelling require deep reflection and both transform everyday writing into new forms; one might even argue, new languages.

Like Haiku poetry, digital storytelling is a distillation process. Both can use words to create mental pictures and convey story. However, digital storytelling is empowered by the language of images, sounds, transitions, timing and metaphor to convey meaning. It may in fact be approaching story from a 180 degree direction.

If there is a parallel in the reflective process of these two mediums, how can one inform the other? Can the 5-7-5 structure of Haiku be used to more elegantly distill digital stories? I know it is true that the selection, order and delivery of images can convey different meaning. I know that the practice of telling a story with the limitation of 5 images has been widely explored. I am however unfamiliar with any exploration of limiting stories to the use and delivery of images in the 5-7-5 format. This begs me to explore the notion. I am wise enough at this point in my life to realize that new ideas are very rare and I’m sure that others have already journeyed down this path.

I’m taking my first steps.

How to Embed a Screencast into a Blog

Today, I am preparing to participate as a guest lecturer in a class which is considering the use of screencasting in higher education. I will be reviewing examples of several screencasts and challenging the students to consider various uses of screencasting, advantages and disadvantages of screencasting and introducing them to Jing as a free tool which will enable them to create and distribute their own short screencasts. One of the demonstrations I will be providing is how to embed a screencast into a blog or other online location. Below is an example of the use of a screencast to talk about one why in which I use a Wiki.

Note: the original size of video below video was 1278 x 948. I simply edited the code to cut the size to 421 x 312, so it will display inside my blog. However, the contents of the screencast are not ledgible at this size, so the reader should click on the screencast and use the player tool at the bottom of the video to enlarge it to full screen size. Use the excape key to reduce back to the original posted size.

How to embed Jing video WordPress (& my tests inside Blogger)

I am aware of a problem with trying to embed Jing screencasts into WordPress (and possibly other blogs/spaces). The screen displays as black instead of providing video.

Thanks to Brooks Andrus, there are video tutorials which address this problem and provide a solution. See this excellent video at

Here is a test to see how this works in Blogger:

The first example below was my attempt to insert the Jing embed code without any edits.
The second example demonstrates the results of editing the code to re-size the embedded video.

Example one:
Note, when I used the Edit Html area to insert the embed code into Blogger, it worked perfectly. That is to say, the video presented. However, the size was too big, as illustrated below. (see second re-sized screencast in example 2)

Upon inspection of the code, it appears that Jing may have changed their code (as discussed by Brooks Andrus) to now include the container with term and therefor, I only had to change any references to height, width (container containerwidth=360&containerheight=252) and player (jingh264player.swf" height="252" width="360") to the desired numbers. (I tried using the numbers recommended by Brooks Andrus (width 640 and height 360), but it was still too big for my blog. As illustrated below, you may make any size as long as it is proportional to avoid distortion of the image. My example is height 252 by width 360).

One more try at width 400 and height at 278.

Thanks again, to Brooks Andrus for providing the helpful video screencast.

Thanks and Farewell

Fairwell good friend
Person of color

The world
More Black and White
This morning
With the news of your passing

Njeri Jackson

Looking Through the Fog: Blogs vs Online Discussion Forums

My recent trip to Yellowstone gave me several encounters with fog, thus the title of my post. Fog has long intrigued me. I'm fascinated by the mind's ability to conjure up a concept based on the lack of clarification in its' presence and I love to watch as objects become defined as it lifts. Metaphorically, I'm watching this happen as I continue to contemplate the differences between online discussion forums and blogs.

I’ve been blogging periodically for some time and I’ve spent considerable time in online discussion forums. I see some obvious differences, but still wrestle with the “conversation” which can be conducted in both. As I diagrammed my own understanding on a white board this morning, I found that I really do see clear differences. However, a now dated post by Lee LeFever made me realize that the subtle difference I have been missing is between comments to a blog and replies to a discussion make all the difference.

Lee provides a nice table to compare weblogs and message boards and illuminates the differences in his text post.

What are the Differences Between Message Boards and Weblogs?

Test of Softchalk Connect Rating and Polling Activities

SoftChalk Connect now allows you to create an activity to rate a web site or component. It generates code to be pasted into the html of your page and then embeds the rating system. So, let's experiment: what to you think about this capability?

Before you use this, read my

Full disclosure: my wife works for SoftChalk, but I am experimenting with this feature on my own to see how it works. I'm testing features to see how I might want to employ them and to assist facutly/educators. Of course, I share my experience with my wife and the SoftChalk team, so I want you to be comfortable with that.

Using Digital Story to Explore Effective Online Teaching

I have found that the creation of digital stories can be a powerful reflective tool to explore personal meaning. In this post, I'm providing a preview of a work in progress. This is a draft digital story about the transition from face-to-face classes to online teaching and learning. It explores at least 7 hallmarks of effective online teaching, as supported by research. The audio will be re-edited and credits will be developed to recognize those who have provided resources and constructive criticism in the development process. I encourage discussion about the use of digital story as a reflective, narrative process which might be used as an educational tool by both faculty and students. I also welcome comments about the content.

Working title: Transitioning: Effective Online Teaching

Technology in the Classroom is a Given

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 28:  A man holds...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

This blog post is being dictated into my iPhone using an application
for Dragon Naturally Speaking. There's a reason for stating this
production method, which will become clear as I expand on my thinking
in this blog post.

Earlier this morning I read a tweet by @timbuckteeth. This tweet
contains a link to a video which portrayed a class that purportedly
was on the use of technology in the classroom. However, the instructor had no knowledge of how to actually use
technology in the classroom. As the camera panned around the
classroom it was painfully obvious that the students were in most
cases bored and in the worst cases, asleep. Subsequently, student
interviews stated that they were thoroughly dissatisfied with the
class and had expected to be using technology in their learning

This video prompts me to share my recent thinking. Their should no
longer be a debate about the use of technology in the classroom. The
debate should be about how we incorporate appropriate use of
technologies, which in fact exist in our classrooms.

I think the classroom portrayed in this video is rather typical of
classrooms in 2010. I propose a challenge. With the technologies that
can be rounded up within a classroom, I would like to see exactly what
might be able to be accomplished either individually or
collaboratively by the students in the classroom. Between the use of
laptops and smart phones alone, students have the power to do
research, communicate invarious ways, collaborate, write, record
audio, record video, edit and stream video, manipulate images, use
Google maps, geotagging, and yes even dictate to their iPhone to
convert voice to text. This list is surely the tip of the iceberg.

Technology is in the classroom. Let's embrace it wisely and use it to
enhance our teaching and learning.

Note: tools used were my iPhone, Dragon App, iPhone Notes, e-mail and Blogger. My goal is to produce in a more direct manner, so stay tuned.

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