Over the past two years or so in working with a diverse set of educators, digital storytelling, or some derivative thereof, continues to be one of the primary uses of technology in classrooms across all grades levels. Though we can argue about what the most pure definition of digital storytelling is, the basic concept of capturing or gathering images and developing a narrative with those images remains a consistent theme. I still believe it is one of the most effective and accessible means of using technology in the classroom (some much so that I created the first e-book for educators from Microsoft on this topic with the intent of encouraging the craft), as it just makes sense on so many levels. So when the project Espero [I hope], by educator Matthew Kelly, a Spanish teacher from The Academy for International Studies at Independence High School (Charlotte, NC) became a finalist for the U.S. Innovative Education Forum I was intrigued.

As the title suggests, students are asked to develop a digital story about their personal hopes and aspirations. Aimed at Mr. Kelly’s seniors, this is a timely task as graduation lies ahead and thoughts turn to life after high school. The interesting twist is that the students have to do this in Spanish! The tool of choice is the ever-popular Microsoft PhotoStory, but he uses the Spanish version of the software as well as guiding them to Spanish-language tutorials on the product to familiarize themselves with how it works. To encourage students to grasp the power and impact of still imagery he has them watch the seminal film La Jeteé  (1962) by French director Chris Marker (with Spanish subtitles of course) documenting the three most powerful images from the film (which incidentally was the inspiration for the film 12 Monkeys).

The project focuses on a number of 21st century skills including media literacy, practicing good digital citizenship and respect for intellectual property, as well as properly attributing sources, while the Spanish learning goals are to be able to communicate, read and present information in the target language. By choosing a personal topic and encouraging self-expression students have ownership in the end product while asking them to think about their goals and their next steps which is not often an area explored too deeply, at least in a formal way during the high school years. It is nice to see Mr. Kelly get a shout-out in his local paper for his work.

I am looking forward to meeting Matthew Kelly and learning more about his project at the U.S. Innovative Education Forum in Redmond next week. It will be an action-packed two days including two great keynote presentations by Dr. John Medina and Jane McGonigal which will be streamed through our Facebook page so “Like” us there to be sure to receive the updates. Also, as always be sure to follow at @TeachTec and we will be using @msftpil throughout the event.

Regards,

Rob