Readers of my blog and other friends know that I am taking a course for the first time in 45 years. It is Social Media (EC&I 831) taught by Alec Couros(@courosa) at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Yesterday I posted my reactions to the class on October 20. Today I am writing this post about last week's class on Digital Storytelling. We watched 9 short videos, most from YouTube or Vimeo. A complete list (plus three additional videos that either I missed or were added after the class) can be found on Amy Perry's post Digital Storytelling.
I enjoyed the movies and considered them as examples of different ways of presenting information. That is what my students are working on right now: telling the story about some technology/program/approach that we do not have time to cover in EDM 310. I have urged them to explore new storytelling techniques and I showed them three of these videos as examples of techniques they might adopt as well as urging them to visit Amy's blog.
But what fascinated me the most was the difference in my reaction to the videos and the reactions of the other students in the class. (I am MUCH older). I have no context in which to place these videos. I rarely watch movies. I never watched YouTube until I began teaching EDM 310. I have no historical context of visual materials in which to place these materials. This also happened when I watched the movie Moulin Rouge. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was glad I watched it. If fact, I even watched it a second time with my son-in-law who, throughout the movie, contributed a running dialogue on what movie stimulated this scene, what song was the inspiration for this dialogue or musical rendition, what history was evoked by this or that approach taken in the movie. I had none of that context, and was amazed how "out of it" I was when attempting to understand the full meaning and impact of Moulin Rouge. My children have been telling me that for a long time, especially since I admitted that I have never watched a complete episode of Saturday Night Live, even in the middle of the Sarah Palin "appearances". The same was true in class on October 13.
My intellectual context is books. I do well there. But my students don't. I surveyed them at the beginning of the semester (148 respondents) and at midterm. Most never read a newspaper, or do so only occasionally (59%). Only 10% read a newspaper every day. As for books, 59% read less than a book a month (not counting class assignments). At midterm (109 respondents), 98% said their primary method of gathering information for school work was through Google searches, only one person reported using books or print materials in a library. Twenty nine percent of the students in EDM 310 responding at midterm said they had never been to the University of South Alabama Library for any purpose. Seventy-nine percent said they had not gone to the University Library this semester in order to make use of library materials.
But my students do watch and listen. Ninety-nine percent report that they watch videos with 44% reporting that they watch more than 4 hours of video every week. Fifty-one percent say they listen to music more than 2 hours a day, 27% listening 3 or more hours a day. So the culture of our students is now a listening/watching culture rather than a reading/writing culture, a point that I made in 1995 in my article "A Cultural Revolution: From Books to Silver Discs" which was in the Summer 1995 issue of Metropolitan Universities, a journal of which I was guest editor for that issue.
What is the import of this cultural change? In 1995 I urged my readers to begin to involve their students in the "writing" of multimedia. That is beginning to happen today. In fact, Richard Miller, Chair of the English Department has demonstrated in a marvelous and exciting video exactly how writing with multimedia can be done, providing us with a concrete example in his (what else?) YouTube video This Is How We Dream (Scroll down to see Dr. Miller's two videos.)
What should we learn from the above? I think we must learn that instruction must involve the use of video and audio materials. The reading material we use should be electronic. And portability is essential.
All of this from a delightful and entertaining class on storytelling!