Posted on December 17, 2007
Learning the new tools for storytelling
This semester I had the opportunity to create and teach a new graduate course, focused on multimedia storytelling. I admitted 15 students, all of whom had some prior experience as reporters (for some, it was only a one-semester reporting class).
The course is called Journalists’ Toolkit 1, and the complete syllabus is online.
The students’ final assignment was to write an assessment of the course on their individual blogs. Here are some excerpts:
What was most impressive for me was that I could use these photos and audio to tell a story, online. I could load them into Soundslides and Web pages. I am still a little shocked. Sure, I could use some more coding practice. Heck, I couldn’t actually write my own Web page if asked. But I can work within that all-important content management system, and for that, I’m grateful. I can even make all the material required for the site. Not only the news and written word portions, but also the audio, the photos and the infographics. Now that’s something to put on the resume.
The Soundslides package was a revelation, a structured way of telling a story using still images and audio. I had used each piece alone, but I was shown a way to use both together to tell a compelling story. I’ve already begun using Soundslides in my professional work …
As we moved toward the final package, I gained another new tool in embedded Google Maps. I knew it was possible to embed these, but I hadn’t done it, and was bowled over by the simplicity of the process.
This has been, by far, one of the best graduate classes I have taken in my educational career so far. Since starting graduate school last year, all my classes have definitely taught me something. But they have been strictly academic. We’ve discussed theories, different literature and numerous studies. But they all felt incomplete. This class was a complete learning experience from start to finish.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this semester could be one I had overlooked multiple times. I realized how being a responsible journalist means paying attention to details. There were several times this semester when I felt lost. My saving grace was learning how to spend time reading and carrying out directions as well as thinking about ways to solve technical problems. There were several times when I had to go back and change a setting or image size or file type in order to make a project successful. Before this class paying attention to detail mostly meant the “dotting I’s and crossing T’s” processes associated with checking grammar and AP Style for print journalism. Yet this class helped me learn how to be detail oriented when creating multimedia products.
There is no doubt that I have enhanced my technical and practical skills, but the most important thing that I can take from this class is the art of storytelling. This course has challenged my comfort zone, and made me think outside the box to come up with stories that truly mean something. I am really proud of the three Soundslides I made so far. Yes, many of the pictures looked good and most of the audio sounded clear, but the topics of the stories were what made the Soundslides interesting and worthwhile.
If you want to see the work the students completed in the course, follow the linked name to the student’s blog.
For links to all of the students’ blogs from the course, see the Blogroll on the right side of the course blog.
Each student completed three individual Soundslides during the semester. The final Soundslides was bundled into a package using three templates provided to them. Students were required to include either a spreadsheet-generated Google map or an XML-driven data chart in the package. Here are three examples:
You can find the others linked from the students’ blogs, via the Blogroll on the course blog.