Once Upon A Time…

Last week, Alan Levine (@cogdog) visited our merry group of tiegrad classmates. Although he has been mentioned in other classes, finding the time to seek out information on him or connect to the DS106 site was on the list of things to do when I had time again. In my mind, the very idea of digital storytelling seemed like something for the middle school or high school teachers in the crowd.

The Monday before Alan visited, I began a unit on folk tales in my Kindergarten classroom. In one week we focus on one story and the different versions. We act them out in little plays, use puppets, dolls, story cards and pictures to retell them. We practice the oral tradition of telling them to each other and to visitors in our room. The kids want to tell these stories and I always find it gives them that first taste of understanding that their words can be written down to tell their own stories. Oh, and did I mention that these stories grow and change beautifully. Our poor ELL teacher and principal have both been eaten by the Big Bad Wolf, but I remain safe, in the brick house.

What I realized as I participated in Alan’s pechaflickr experience, was that storytelling somehow becomes this programmed piece as students get older. What begins in Kindergarten as a game, as a fun, imaginative activity, somehow becomes a formulaic story with the”beginning, middle and end” sections. I remember teaching storytelling this way, because I had been taught to teach it this way. Somehow, we lose that ability to go a little wild and crazy as we tell a story. I think about our idea of education being an inquiry, and isn’t the story part of that inquiry? Sharing what you think or see, wonder and explore. The trials and tribulations of creating a car slide from toilet paper rolls and tape becomes a narrative on the dangers of tape being stuck in your hair and the frustration of getting those blasted tubes to bend properly. I am always saying to my students, “tell me the story of what you are doing? Tell me your story.”

What I really took from listening and participating in Alan’s chat was that I need to find a way for these 5 year olds to tell their stories in a digital sense. My kids deserve the opportunity to record their ideas and stories so that they have a record of their inquiry and development, beyond the photograph or the documentation panel. Looking through the amazing assignments and projects on DS106 was inspiring, and had me looking at the ipads at school to see what we could do and how we could use them to tell our stories. Don’t be surprised if you see some interesting folk tales coming your way.

I’m not sure that I am fully prepared to use pechaflickr or the Five Card Flickr activities with my students. I still have a healthy dose of fear over “inappropriate” photos showing up. I think I can figure out a compromise though. We play similar games with calendar photos and loose treasures from the treasure baskets in the room, but maybe it’s time to bring a little bit of digital into the story play.

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