Meridian Stories Professional Development Workshops

Meridian Stories Professional Development Workshops Overview

Meridian Stories, in conjunction with Heinemann Publishing, is proud to offer Professional Development Workshops that focus on various aspects of the Digital Storytelling experience. The proposed Workshops that follow all feature the Executive Director, Brett Pierce, and exist in 1 or 2-hour, Half Day, and Full Day formats. All Workshops are built around hands-on activities and all participants leave with a slate of fully developed Digital Storytelling Challenges in their subject area to pilot in their classrooms.

Everything You Need to Know about …the Professional Development Workshops

Professional Development Workshop Offerings

Digital Storytelling is the New Writing

On Why and How to Make Digital Storytelling a Normative Practice in the Classroom

If today’s global dialogue is happening mostly inside of digital platforms, from YouTube to Twitter to Instagram, are we preparing students to meaningfully participate in this expansive sphere of knowledge? The answer is mostly, No. This workshop argues for making meaningful, thoughtful digital storytelling a standard, best practice in schools. In short, a ‘writing’ literacy unto itself, in deep dialogue with text-based literacy. How to do this? The process of guiding students to re-invent curricular content inside of a digital story — be it a mystery, a radio drama, a special news report or a personal vlog — is organically engaging, super fun, and deeply educational. It’s a portal into meaningful participation in the digital sphere. It’s a portal into internalizing the structure and power of story. And it’s a portal into practicing the necessary ‘human skills’ that will be needed to succeed in a world of omnipresent change.

Participants will explore the multiple advantages of integrating digital storytelling into the curriculum through an interactive creative process that involves collaborative creativity and exploratory discussion.

Proposed Outcomes include an understanding of:

  • The primary components of digital storytelling and the mechanics of how these components work together to create a dynamic and deeply relevant form of communication;
  • The factors that shape the emergence of digital literacy and its relationship to traditional text-based literacy;
  • The educational depth that the process of digital storytelling delivers, in terms of 21st Century Skills, ISTE and Common Core standards; and
  • The significance of practicing digital literacy to students’ future success in the world, post-secondary education.
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The Process of Integrating Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

Research, Creativity, Development, and Production

This Workshop begins with the premise that text-based literacy and digital literacy are of equal value. In traditional text-based literacy, you, the educator, know the rules and you teach those rules to your students…whether you are teaching science, math, history, or literature. Text-based literacy is powered by rules of syntax and grammar, word choices and punctuation. Digital Literacy is not about rules as much as it about mechanics. Digital Literacy is about knowing 1) the individual operations of the different digital parts (imagery, music, sound, editing, zooms, etc.); and 2) how those different digital parts all synchronize with each other. For the students, discovering these digital mechanics — including cool apps that let letters fly or distort an image to comic effect — is like letting them loose in a playground designed just for them. Except it’s digital.

There is a fallacy out there amongst educators that declares you can’t teach digital literacy skills without knowing how to produce video and audio stories yourself. Here’s the truth: you don’t need to know any of that stuff. All you need to know is what you know: the content. The answer to any question from the students about digital production and IT-related questions is this: “You figure it out.”

We will cover a model process for introducing this project-based learning model into your classroom in a way that balances control with freedom; discipline with independent ownership of the content. It’s an adapted flipped classroom model that requires planning and time management, but not more so than any other immersive educational experience. You just need to know the specific markers to hit, following a Research, Creativity, Development, and Production timeline, and we’ll go through those details, while exploring the very process of digital story creation itself.

Proposed Outcomes include an understanding of:

  • The process that digital storytelling entails and the educational value it delivers;
  • How to guide students effectively through the process of Research, Creativity, Development, and Production;
  • The classroom management issues that arise in this project-based learning environment; and
  • The significance of practicing digital literacy to students’ future success in the world, post-secondary education.
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Storytelling, Empathy, and Knowledge Creation

How Story Development Drives Engagement and Learning

Storytelling is the most powerful narrative construct to effectively communicate content that reflects both curricular mastery and a visceral, emotional connection to the content. It’s inside of that emotional connection that the learning happens; that it sticks. Digital storytelling, however, offers complex opportunities and restrictions on the traditional story format. In this workshop, we will investigate the deep learning power of storytelling in the classroom, as well as offer specific narrative tools for effective digital storytelling.

Storytelling is humanity’s most universal form of communication, from oral cultures to literate cultures, transcending all languages: the story, the tale, is a clear fundament of communication. If you can get students to tell a story about a literary character; the origins of a word; the process of photosynthesis; the motivations of a political leader; a day in the life of an ant; or the experiences of immigrants in your community, then there is a deep understanding of that topic. Why? Stories reveal “deep understanding” because the format of storytelling implicitly insists that you have a personal connection to the topic. Stories aren’t summaries, outlines, or book reports. They are communications that come from inside the storyteller. That’s the secret of this form of communication and its power: one’s personal investment in and connection to the content. In short, one’s empathetic understanding of the content.

Digital Storytelling poses its own set of challenges. We all know the traditional story elements that compose a narrative arc. They include character, conflict, tension, resolution; setting, language, surprise and plot. Here’s the thing: in four minutes — the proposed length of a curricular driven digital story — there is not time to develop these classical narrative elements. Think about it: you can’t develop and deliver any kind of character, aside from familiar stock characters (which often leads to stereotypes), in that short a time. You also will be hard-pressed to deliver a full story arc. So, while we still need to factor in these classical elements of story, the successful digital story tends to be selective about which tools are needed to be engaging and effective. In this workshop we will focus on five specific tools that can help your students bring their digital story to life.

In the end, this educational journey is about knowledge creation. Stories are not re-hashes: they are original creations. Digital stories are original creations inside of the new, emerging literacy of your students: digital literacy.

Proposed Outcomes include an understanding of:

  • The significance of integrating story and story creation into classroom through a breakdown of its core elements;
  • The specific challenges, opportunities and tools for creating effective and meaningful digital stories that deliver curriculum in an engaging way;
  • The relationship between story, digital storytelling, and knowledge creation as a pathway to student ownership, voice development and learning; and
  • The significance of practicing digital literacy to students’ future success in the world, post-secondary education.

Narrative Unlimited

The Vast Array of Digital Storytelling Formats and their Powers to Communicate

One of the beauties of digital storytelling is the depth of the narrative bench at its disposal. There is well over seventy years of television that has yielded myriad narrative forms that can be applied in the classroom. We are talking Game Shows! Realty shows! Sitcoms! Music Videos! Sketch comedies! Dramas! The list goes on. Digital Storytelling in the classroom is an invitation to students to utilize their intimate knowledge of television, podcasting, and social media formats – which introduces us to How-to videos, vlogs and TikToks — to explore curricular content. That is part of the attraction for students — tapping into their organic knowledge of these genres of storytelling.

In this workshop, we will look at whole range of media-driven storytelling formats, and then zoom into five – the game show, the PSA/commercial, the vlog, the podcast, and the radio drama – and explore their potential to effectively carry meaningful curricular content. One of the ideas that we will explore is the balance of process vs. outcome. With these various narrative formats, it’s the process of creating the stories wherein the deep educational value lies. But, in this case, the outcomes also yield a treasure trove of content as your class can use the final stories as a launching pad into deeper discussions about the myriad ideas presented. It’s a win-win.

Proposed Outcomes include an understanding of:

  • The wide range of narrative formats at your disposal for the creation of meaningful, curricular-driven digital stories;
  • How curriculum and meaning can be excavated in unique ways through five specific digital storytelling formats: the game show, the PSA/commercial, the vlog, the podcast, and the radio drama;
  • The educational value and power of the digital storytelling creative process, as well as how to utilize the outcomes for catalyzing discussion; and
  • The significance of practicing digital literacy to students’ future success in the world, post-secondary education.
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The Underestimated Power of Voice, Sound and Music in Digital Storytelling

A Focus on the Educational Potency of Podcasts and Radio Dramas

Sound, imagery, words, and music: these are the cross-over elements between real life and digital life. In real life, they are laid out all around you, organized and random, shaping your every second. In Digital Life, they are tools that allow you to create stories for others to experience. Learning how to use Sound to shape the narrative experience; learning how to use Music to craft the emotional trajectory of the narrative; learning how to use Words as active visual components and not just receptacles of meaning; and learning how Imagery communicates …and manipulates and evokes and horrifies and soothes, are all vital skills to effectively communicate — have your voice heard — in this digital age.

In this Workshop, we will focus on sound. One of my favorite academic quotes of all time comes from Walter Ong and his book, Orality and Literacy. He writes, “Sight isolates, sound incorporates. Whereas sight situates the observer outside what he views, at a distance, sound pours into the hearer.” It’s true: sound is a sensory experience that seeps into us; feels like it can connect directly to the soul or the interior of the mind where consciousness resides. Sound is, in my view, the key distinguishing element in a digital story. It is sound that is often in the lead controlling the experience of the viewer, …whether they know it or not.

We will focus on two powerful storytelling formats to effectively communicate curricular content – the podcast and the radio drama – as well as different key elements of sound and their role in storytelling: the voice, ambient sound, sound effects and music.

Proposed Outcomes include an understanding of:

  • The nature of sound and how it interacts with the listener in compelling ways;
  • The elements and processes for producing podcasts and radio dramas and why this particular mode of digital storytelling is especially impactful;
  • The different ways sound can be incorporated into narratives, with a focus on ambient sound, natural sounds, sound effects, voice, and music; and
  • The significance of practicing digital literacy to students’ future success in the world, post-secondary education.
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Creating Stories for Social Impact in the Classroom

Lessons from South Sudan and the Kakuma Refugee Camp

Digital stories – from short videos to radio dramas to reality game shows – have the power to deliver social impact and create behavioral change. This is a well-documented and researched fact in the global field of aid and support championed by organizations such as Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps and UNICEF. UNICEF defines ‘social and behavior change (SBS) as follows: “Social and behavior change (SBC) aims to empower individuals and communities, and lower structural barriers that hinder people from adopting positive practices and societies from becoming more equitable, inclusive, cohesive, and peaceful.”

SBC involves a form of digital storytelling that can be translated into the classroom to challenge students to create curricular-driven stories that can have positive social impact on their communities. As is the case with the integration of any form of digital storytelling into the classroom, it’s the process of digital story development and production wherein the real educational value lies. But the outcomes are exciting as well.

In this workshop, based on the presenter’s extensive experience working in the international SBC world, and with a specific focus on radio work done in South Sudan and the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, we will work through the key narrative elements of SBC storytelling and explore the potent ways that it can be transferred into a project-based learning experience in the classroom. Mixing the narrative designs of public service campaigns with character-driven radio stories, we will detail the methodology for creating stories designed to have measurable impact, and overlay that onto clear curricular goals, whether it be in History, LA, or STEAM.

Proposed Outcomes include an understanding of:

  • The historical background and context for the development of media for social and behavioral change (SBS);
  • Several specific models that have been successfully applied globally, as the basis for understanding how this can be applied in the classroom;
  • The formula for creating digital stories designed to have social and behavior impact in the local or national community; and
  • The significance of practicing digital literacy to students’ future success in the world, post-secondary education.