Thursday, 11 September 2008

Digital Storytelling in Second Life

I attended a few sessions from SLCC 2008. the in-world presentations from the conference in Tampa. The Digital Storytelling one particulalry impressed me.

The intro from the programme of events: Good storytelling is a rigorous and rewarding journey for every author who is digging deep into the meaning of their story for themselves and others. As part of a digital storytelling week, classes at Suffern Middle School in Ramapo Central Schools, NY were guided by Bernajean Porter and Peg Sheehy in the task of finding their own visual parallel personal story to unfold while narrating a voice interpretation of Robert Frost’s actual poem, The Road Less Traveled. We wanted them to create more than a literal connection to the Frost poem by stretching to uncover a metaphorical story of their own using the larger theme of struggling with decisions that had had an impact on their lives. Students were introduced to Porter’s Take Six Elements of Good Storytelling to first craft a narrative written storyline, ultimately expressing a clear sensory experience of their own personal story reflecting a choice in their lives, the emotions behind it, and the lesson learned! Creativity, engagement, and deep introspection into sharing something real in their lives gave this project a special glow for everyone! Suffern NY Middle-Schoolers filming in SL (machinimas) share their personal storytelling of Frost's Road-Less-Traveled.

The presentation was very interesting, the speakers clearly passionate about their work with the children. The actual work, inspired by Frost's poem "The road Less Travelled" in Second Life is quite amazing. The build, created as requested by pupils, is based on the story of the death of a young girl, Jenny, due to an eating disorder.

To visit the build go to and teleport from the sign post to Ramapo. This leads to the story Keeper's Garden where you can experience the video, narrations etc., that formed the preliminary work to the project. From the garden there is a teleport sign leading to the Storyteller's World.

Teleporting into the Story teller’s World lands you at the entrance to a school building. You arrive to listen to a young girl crying and newspapers telling of teenage eating disorders and a greeter shouting "Jen needs to gain some weight." Robert Frost is reading his poem in the background. As you enter the building there is frantic whispering in the background and narrations showing the dilemma recognised by other pupils who were concerned but frightened of upsetting Jen by saying anything. In the canteen there is the background sound of pupil at lunch, but the canteen is deserted and questions are asked in each place setting about how to react to an eating disorder.From the main hall area viewers have to decide whether to call help or choose to not say anything. The choice leads to the next scenes.

To wander round it and experience it make shivers run up my spine it is so dramatic. Video clips play in various places such as the toilet block where it is clear that Jen is making herself sick, and whilst friends ask her what is happening she claims to be okay and asks them not to tell.

Newspaper reports float up in random places all round the build forcing you to register the rather sad headlines. Sounds play – whispering, short narrations and an ambulance siren. It is situated in a school and focussed in a canteen, the toilet block and various other school areas.

Outside the school is a graveyard is misty, deserted and utterly depressing, there is a ghostly car, not quite sure of the significance of that but it certainly adds to the atmosphere.

The feelings of anguish, fear, confusion and misery are evident, the emotions portrayed are raw. It is clear that the whole process has bought the story to life for those pupils who were involved in the project. They have told their story in a completely new and different way in this multi-media presentation in a virtual world. The quality of work surpasses “normal” expectations and it is quite thrilling – in a dreadful sort of way. I can only recommend that anyone interested in developing pupils’ literacy skills have a look.

The teacher's wiki is available I would certainly love to join their summer camp - alas that will not be happening!

1 comment:

MaggieMarat said...

Wow Carol - I could use your response to the Story World as the official write-up! You really were able to glean exactly what the kids went through in this project. It was nothing short of life-changing for many of us involved! Just to fill you in on the "car" - it is actually a hearse. The kids wanted the two options; the tell or don't tell, to have very clear outcomes. On one side the door leads to an ambulance and then to a clinic/hospital and on the other side - the hearse and the graveyard. Thank you for sharing your experience with the project and so very eloquently!