I’m co-teaching a Digital Storytelling course this semester at Bellarmine Universtiy in Louisville. It’s a blast so far. My co-teacher, Tony O’Keeffe has been such a great collaborator. Not only is he an excellent digital storytelling in his own right, but he’s absolutely top-notch in talking about his production process. However, while I’d love to keep explaining all the ways that Tony is amazing, that’s not what this post is really about. It’s about bracing for the inevitable chaos that will be our classroom tomorrow afternoon. Here’s why.
Tomorrow will be our first day using video capture hardware. Basically, video cameras. But here’s the kicker. No body’s going to have the same equipment. Some people will be using video cameras like the FlipVideo and Sony Bloggie (at least, I think). Other students will be using the video capture on their phones. Some will be using the webcams on their laptops, and some will be bringing an external webcam to plug into the lab’s desktop machines. We’re in a Windows lab, so no iSight cameras for us. And it get’s even more challenging. There’s no video editing on software on the machines. That might be the biggest problem. Wish you could be there for it? Yeah, I bet.
[pullshow]It. Will. Be. Awesome. I’m serious.
It’s not going to be easy. Certainly not smooth. And it will be interesting to see how our students (and we) end up dealing with the stress, anxiety, and frustration of this sort of thing.
Maybe I’m expecting the worst. I don’t think so, though. I’ve been teaching for a few years now at Ohio State’s Digital Media and Composition summer institute, and putting this many people in one room together with different goals and varying skill sets can be quite a spectacle.
And I’m going to learn from it. I’m usually pretty good in these situations. Not that I can save any situation. It’s just that in the classroom, I just have a pretty high tolerance for hiccups, snaffus, and fatal errors. [pullthis]I think it takes some mental preparation to stay calm. To remain confident that there’s a solution somewhere in every challenge. And that students really need to see someone model that attitude for them. Well, that’s the thinking, anyway.[/pullthis] We’ll see how it pans out tomorrow.
So how did we get ourselves into this position? It was easier than you might think. Tony is a senior professor at Bellarmine, and he asked me to co-teach this class with him. He’s got a lot more teaching experience than I do, especially in literature, rhetoric, and composition. And I’ve got more experience and knowledge about multimedia production, digital storytelling, and teaching environments focusing on those areas. We certainly haven’t divided up the duties, though. We share everything, but one of us usually defers to the other in certain situations to make clear the different skill sets we can offer our students. So I’m the interloper.
Originally we were going to be located in an iMac lab with iSight cameras and iLife software suites. That would have covered a lot of our needs. A consistent set of hardware and software tools that would have allowed us to teach interface tutorials in iPhoto, iMovie, Audacity, and YouTube. We do have access to some Edirol sound recorders and a few different video recorders, to meet more out-of-the-classroom paths students wanted to follow. … And then the construction affecting our classroom was behind schedule and we had to move to a Windows lab. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but there are no cameras and no editing software.
So here we are. Do the best we can in a (much) less than ideal environment.
But here’s the kicker. Digital environments are always less ideal. And unpredictable. Sure it’s one thing to help students become comfortable and productive in a given envirnment (and a tough task in its own right). And maybe it would be best to limit our course goals to that context in a course introducing students to working in digital media environments. But it’s also an incredibly powerful skill to be able to understand the foundations of working with digital media well enough to become competent in almost any environment. At least I thing we need to at least gesture toward that orientation in any digital media classroom.
I can’t think of a situation that’s going to demonstrate the power of that orientation as much as tomorrow’s class period.
(image: “Panic Button” by star5112, via Flickr, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Creative Commons license)