For 12 weeks starting back in September 2013, Toronto youth aged 13-18 took part in a digital story-making project at Story Planet. With Story Planet as the lead organiation, the project was able to provide after school programming with many tools to help bring the bright imaginations of digi story-makers alive.
The Digi Storymaking Workshop officially launched on September 30th. On that day we introduced everyone in the class (talking about favourite TV shows always helps), shared some cool digital stories for inspiration, and gave a brief overview of what we hope to achieve with our participants over the course of the next 12 weeks. In the personal introductions we learned what kinds of existing digital skills each participant already has, as well as what area(s) of digital media they are interested in exploring for their personal story.
Our second week together was a field trip to the Textiles Museum of Canada where we learned a bit about storytelling around the world using textiles – an analog way of doing so, but a fascinating and inspiring way nonetheless. After a brief tour of the museum, we split up into smaller teams of three or four and went off to three mini workshops: one exploring sound and music run by Ryan of CareerMash, one exploring the power of apps by Gaby of Fab Spaces, and one using the web-based platform Zeega (run by me). The goal of these 10-minute workshops was to get everyone thinking about different methods of storytelling. It’s also a chance to get together and do some fun group work before diving deeper into each individual’s personal stories in the upcoming weeks.
Project Outcomes: Celebrate, Reflect and Learn
There is much to celebrate, reflect upon, and learn from as we wrap up our inaugural Digi Storymaking program at Story Planet. Here are some of our major insights, from the planning side of things:
Coordinating a group of 8 students was not as straightforward as the headcount may imply. We had to keep in mind the varying levels of digital competency – ranging from younger students who were not familiar with editing software at all, to older high school students who have been already been using this software to do advanced projects at school – while planning the program in advance. The major upside to this scenario, however, was that students could teach each other new skills, form new friendships, and communicate ideas amongst themselves in ways that are not necessarily possible in a traditional workshop setting.
Scheduling proved difficult in the later weeks of the program because the students’ time commitment to this workshop often took a backseat to other priorities such as school exams, auditions/interviews, and university applications. This lead to reduced amounts of time for students to develop, revise, edit, and refine their stories, unless they were willing to do so on their own time. Others simply dropped out of the program when they decided that they could not complete their digi stories by our deadline.
Since there were multiple partner organizations involved in this grant, as well as various speakers coming in to talk to students (about career planning, relevant fields of expertise, digital trends and technology) throughout the early weeks, it was difficult to keep students focused on the fact that all these activities and guests were designed to help shape them as digi storymakers now and into the future.
With the aforementioned challenges in mind, our greatest learning as an organization is to be more in tune with issues of time commitment (both on our end and on the students’ end). We plan on doing more regular check-ins with our students in the future – to see how their individual projects are going, what their priorities are outside of Story Planet – so that we know how to enforce deadlines and work periods accordingly, on a week-to-week basis.
Maintain a better balance between planning the architecture of the program (prior), versus tailoring the weekly rundown of activities and scheduling (during), by anticipating the issues that we’ve now gone through and come across in advance. Having multiple back-up plans and alternative methods/resources to draw upon is key!
Providing students with a ‘toolbox’ of knowledge is not necessarily the same as running a tutorial – our primary goal is to inspire curiosity and spark motivation to learn new skills, rather than to teach how something should be done verbatim. If anything, two hours per week with 8 students is simply not enough to do so!