Don’t make DMAL start with a Web1.0 script, please. It’s cruel to some of us.

Digital Media & Learning (DMAL) offer/s multiplicity that is compelling to many of us, particularly for persons (from professors to preschoolers) who have turned off, festered, or gone mechanical in educational settings.  If DMAL were to be offered in Web2.0, school could become exciting!  The multiples mingle dynamic interactions among visual image, spoken word, sound effect, as well as transition, animation, collage, remix, and on.  We could be playing across boundaries into the limitless vitality of the unconscious and into re-imaginations of our social landscape.

I’m excited that some teachers are moving into these expanded opportunities of DMAL.  For example, Because Digital Writing Matters illustrates with a teacher whose ESL students narrated their slideshow.  This would allow learners to launch their composing in visual production rather than having to begin with words.

I’m troubled when I see instructions, programs, or practices that impose limitations on the DMAL opportunity.  In a brief web search and a scan of recently published books on digital writing, I found frequent examples of teachers imposing what I consider web1.0 and linear print-literacy when the describe their instruction involving digital media.  Are we imposing old models, particularly our existing expertise in print literacy, on digital media and thereby reducing its liberatory potential?

One place that troubles me comes at the beginning. If we operate from the directive: “Don’t let kids near the computer until they have a script!” I’m concerned that we have already cut with the same social injustice that already severs off opportunity from certain learners, including some who are often classified G/T as well as ones who are stratified as drop-out, special ed, troubled, ESL, and other devaluing terms.  Almost all educators are not mean spirited; while they intend their “differentiated” and scaffolding strategies to support all learners in their particular needs, we need to push our consciousness to ask when we are staying in our safe zone and when doing so is restricting opportunity for others.  While we may need to start with the script on occasion, in DMAL I see it more as a last resort than a guideline.

The situation reminds me of what my storytelling mentor once said about the paradoxical and demanding requirement of being true both to the tradition/source and to the immediate moment.  To paraphrase her: “If you can’t make the story true, then just recite it the way it is in your textbook.  But if you can, at least try to true up the story and yourself.”  For some teachers, “storytelling” gets limited to reading the book aloud because they haven’t developed capacity to tell true stories.  For some educators, digital media instruction gets limited by print-based models of composing.

Teachers who have not experienced the generative power of engaging and being engaged by DMAL might be better off just doing the same-old.  Some learners will be fine with print-literacy application: start with a draft script, maybe a paper storyboard, prepared according to a traditional genre (e.g., narrative, exposition, persuasion), then turn on the computer and follow a linear dot to dot like PhotoStory3.

Please consider, however, that my desire to compose gets very unhappy when poured in that mold, especially when I know that other models are available.  These others (e.g., Web2.0) bring fun, power, and meaning to composing; and I’m pretty sure many other would-be-learners are similar to me.  I hope this isn’t misunderstood: I’m not recommending that all teachers storm their kiddies to the media center and turn them loose on FinalCutPro or even on iMovie or MovieMaker.  When the teacher/co-composer feels the vibration of DMAL as it takes form, he or she thereby has capacity to make adjustments for fine-tuning the experience of learners and can respectfully guide the learners enthusiasm beyond the glitter.  If we don’t have that feel, things are likely to get strident and off-key as we’re overtaken in the allure of splash, dash, glitter, glam.  I’m not sure that’s a whole lot worse than being bored to death though.

So why not dive into digital media?  Play with it.  Twitter into a PLN where resources and assistance abound.  Follow my favorite hashtag: #nwp.  Take the time to feel DMAL’s potential for voice, audience, purpose,  and social justice.

In summary, when I (or we because the making of true stories happens in social interaction with awareness of particular exigences) compose in digital media, I don’t want to be constrained by 1.0 paradigms or by print-based models of writing.  While writing a script may be the preliminary step to digital composing on some occasions and for some learners, I believe that often imposes a limitation.  I feel more vitality and creativity when a compelling image calls for articulation until words expand meaning, bring relationship, and carry significance.  The dynamic representation generates other words, images, sequences, tone; and all this incubates and recovers authentic voice.  When I look at and read an emerging collage, I see and sense gaps, better phrasings, modifications on drawings; I remember similar or contrasting images and anecdotes; my feel for pacing and tone are invoked.  This dynamic play of composing constructs the digital media canvas and interactive playground that I want to hang around.  I’ll try new things and imagine better worlds.

Ira Glass http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loxJ3FtCJJA proposes two basic building blocks for the digital story (DS): anecdote and reflection.  He contends that the sufficient presence of each makes the DS satisfying and effective; when dominated by one without the other, the DS fails.  In my work with digital media production, this integration of reflective insight into the discourse usually happens when I’m mixing image (photograph, drawing, video clip) with words (text on and/or voice over).  Often I sense something missing or catch a new insight flashing by in my mindstream.  The subsequent revision just feels better and that taste draws me further into and back to the composing process.  It also liberates me somewhat from the external critiques of any publication.

Part of the taste is the acceptance of and satisfaction with authentic voice.  Power in digital media, as in anyplace else I’ve experienced it, improves with integrity.  A digital story feels better and works better when it has authentic voice, when it tells a true story in the sense that the representations are genuine, accurately situated in a particular time and place, and balanced with proper fit, timing, flow, and resonance.  While these criteria stretch beyond my reach, that’s what I aim for, what I love about composing, and what I want as target for my teaching and learning.

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