Several weeks ago, Dr. Glen Bull alerted me to the Primary Access project and website. Primary Access is a web-based (web 2.0 – read/write web) service permitting people to use the Internet to create and share digital stories. Rather than using client-side software like iMovie or PhotoStory, people can use their web browser to create finished digital stories including narration and music. Since these stories are created on the web, they are already on the web for sharing with others. This is a huge advantage, since one of the most complex parts of sharing a digital story has traditionally (if I can use that word loosely) been uploading (via ftp or other means) the compressed video file to an Internet server located somewhere in cyberspace.

Primary Access is now being revamped and released by Center for Technology & Teacher Education at the University of Virginia as Digital Storyteller, in part because some secondary teachers got hung up on the word “primary” in the title. This is NOT just for primary-age students, it is for anyone and everyone. Digital Storyteller is being developed by university folks for release as freely licensed software. Bravo UVA!

Miguel Guhlin posted today about EyeSpot, a “video mixing community” that looks like a video-version of BubbleShare.

These website services are different from sites like YouTube because they are not just places to upload videos and digital stories you have made with other tools: These sites provide tools for actually editing and creating your digital stories from scratch using a web browser. In the case of Primary Access and Digital Storyteller, you can link to images on Flickr or other websites and not actually download/reuse copies of those images. Digital Storyteller renders video on the fly using hyperlinks to images still stored on their original servers. This is REALLY innovative from an intellectual property perspective. In contrast, both BubbleShare invites users to upload their own images, for which they should have copyright or legal use rights. Like Digital Storyteller, EyeSpot lets you upload your own files (video in this case) and use publicly shared video files uploaded by others.

This is Creative Commons sharing in action– but taken to another level, since remixing is enabled powerfully through web interfaces!

These tools look great! As available bandwidth continues to increase, we will do more and more of our work on the web. On this subject, I am reminded of a response from an IT administrator at my keynote on Monday in Fort Worth. He commented that “the network must be protected” because otherwise, there won’t be a network for anyone to use. I am not advocating that schools open up their networks for students and teachers to engage in P2P file sharing/downloading, but I DO fervently believe networks should be open for distruptive technology uses like blogging, podcasting, and appropriate social networking. We have to be helping students learn how to use these tools at school, and also helping parents! Just look at a current Google News search for MySpace— kids are making poor choices with these tools right and left, and it is our professional and moral responsibility as both educators and adults in the community to help them learn to make better decisions.

That does not mean merely blocking access to all social networking sites on the school network! It does mean that we will need increasing amounts of Internet bandwidth in schools to engage in the conversations enabled by web 2.0. I think it also means we need to be advocating for fiber optic connections to all our schools, as I detailed in last year’s (here-to-for unpublished in traditional print sources) article “Digital Curriculum and The Last Mile: Providing Curricular Flexibility and Limitless Bandwidth.”

We need students as well as teachers to be content CREATORS as well as consumers. We have to change our curriculum expectations for teachers and schools for this to happen broadly. The fact that more web-based digital storytelling tools like Digital Storyteller, BubbleShare and EyeSpot are available is very exciting. These are disruptive technologies, but can be used in very constructive and powerful ways.

We need more formal, collaborative projects which encourage educators and students to share their digital stories, in a similar way to what YouTube is doing. (We need formal guidelines for the community, however, that let others flag objectionable content that can be removed from the site as it is policed communally.) I’m betting that in the months and years to come, we’ll see those types of projects emerge dynamically, not as the result of some top-down technocratic plan– but rather as the natural product of the work of creative educators passionate about 21st century teaching and learning.

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4 Responses to Web-based digital storytelling

  1. Tom Hoffman says:

    Why do you say “Digital Storyteller is being developed by university folks for release as freely licensed software?” I see no evidence for that on the website. Did someone tell you that?

  2. Huuuurrraaayyyy!

    It is of little to no use “protecting” kids at school from content when they just head home and access it there anyway. Teach them to use the tools safely, responsibly, critically, and dynamically and they will (usually anyway) use them the same way outside of school. Teach them to be consumers and they will consume whatever is thrown at them. Teach them to be creators and they become a much more “dangerous” audience for content creators.

  3. Cheryl Oakes says:

    I really like the ease of interface of the Digital Storyteller. I used my flickr account, recorded and it was amazing! There was even some music in the background.Thanks and please keep sharing.

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    Tom: Yes, Glen Bull at UVA told me at the SITE conference that Digital Storyteller is being developed so the code can be run locally by schools if they want to host their own installations. Contact Bill Ferster by email (bferster at virginia dot edu) and he can provide more info. I do not know their timeline, but my understanding is that because this is a university developed program (not sponsored by a vendor) there will not be a commercial pricetag attached to it.

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