I was both impressed and thrilled by the quality of the digital stories created a couple weeks ago by the largest group of teachers we’ve had participate together to date in our statewide digital storytelling project, “Celebrate Oklahoma Voices.” My interest in and passion for digital storytelling has been fueled by multiple people and experiences, but the muves of Marco Torres as well as my conversations and interactions with Marco over the past 3 years have been pivotal. Marco’s film “Tocayo” is one example of a video which has made on strong impression on me, not only for the ideas it communicates about families and immigration, but also for the power of digital media to speak directly to both the heart and the mind.

During our latest “Celebrate Oklahoma Voices” workshop, we divided participants into two groups for our “digital show and tell” activity the last day. I have not yet watched all the videos of the other group, but do want to share two more videos created by teachers in our group. Both of these videos can provide a rich backdrop to discuss some very important topics with our students: the multiple faces of immigration policies as well as realities, and the important need we have to meaningfully acknowledge and understand the continuing sacrifices of many of our countrymen and women (as well as their families) in military service around the world.

Jon Corea’s video “Torres Family” tells the story of an Oklahoma family which immigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1982. Similar to “Tocayo,” but with more basic digital storytelling techniques (this was Jon’s first experience with digital storytelling and PhotoStory3,) I think Jon succeeds in telling a compelling and important story using both his own voice as well as the voices of other members of the Torres family. (I do not think there is a family connection between the Torres family this video describes and Marco, btw.) I visited El Salvador in 1993 when the UN sponsored “Truth Commission” was gathering evidence about the death squads which had plagued the nation for years. If your students do not understand “death squad” on a personal level, they should count that a blessing. Videos like these can help our students connect with concepts which include ideas in the formal curriculum but also may extend far beyond them.

Find more videos like this on Celebrate Oklahoma Voices!

Angela Dormiani’s video “Iraqi War: Five Years Ago” tells part of the story of her husband, former Sgt. Mark McDevitt, who served in the US Army in Iraq in 2003.

Find more videos like this on Celebrate Oklahoma Voices!

Here in the United States where I currently live, we are surrounded by a media-centric society. According to Dr. Lynell Burmark, the human brain processes an image over 60,000 times faster than plain text. OF COURSE we should use images and other types of media to help extend our learning and expand the learning opportunities of our students when we can. I think our abilities to connect ideas to our personal lives can powerfully amplify the “stickability” of the stories and lessons we share. These videos provide two examples of this contention.

Thanks to Jon, Angela, and all our other participants in the Celebrate Oklahoma Voices project for not only taking time to learn some of the skills of digital storytelling, but also contributing to our growing archive of digital stories about the lives of Oklahomans.

We’ve only just begun to document, archive and share the stories of Oklahomans safely on the global stage of the Internet.

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3 Responses to The power of digital storytelling to help students understand immigration, sacrifices and war

  1. I think that if digital storytelling really helped students understand war, they would refuse to support them or fight in them.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Kant wrote about that thesis in Perpetual Peace, I think. My experience has been no wants to prevent and avoid war more than the soldiers who do the fighting and the dying. I do believe some things are worth fighting for, if necessary. I think we have a great deal of confusion on the part of some national leaders in our country, however, over what those “vital interests” constitute and what things are worth sacrificing human lives for. I think digital stories which can bring to life the real issues and circumstances of war for students can be very educational and beneficial. Interestingly, already in our “Celebrate Oklahoma Voices” project we’ve had teachers report that they’ve self-censored some of the photos which World War II veterans shared with them of battlefield casualties. We live in an age when warfare for many seems no different than a game on an X-Box or a Gameboy. Unmanned aircraft like the USAF Predator aircraft are operated exactly like a video game, which raises many issues that are worth exploring.

    The most powerful way to learn about war, short of being in one yourself, is to visit in depth with a veteran about his/her experiences in one. I don’t think any person can walk away from an oral history interview like that unchanged.

  3. […] RSS feeds that might help me in the classroom one day when I am a teacher. I read an article about the power of digital storytelling to help students understand immigration, sacrifices and war, from the Moving at the Speed of Creativity website. It discusses a group of teachers that create […]

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