Animating the Classroom – No Longer Living Next Door to Alice – Week Five

“The conversations that follow viewing the stories are often filled with the feelings associated with discovering new territory: excitement about being in a foreign land, anxiety about not understanding the native language, in this case the language of media, and frustration as they struggle to remain open-minded. It is my job to act as guide…”
Jason Ohler; Digital Storytelling in the Classroom p.21 (Corwin Press, California, 2008)
After four episodes of Inanimate Alice our world was somewhat turned around this week as we began to construct our own episodes.  We agreed, as I claimed in my last ‘Alice’ post, that the story had to be the most important thing so we had to ask some hard questions.
 I was faced with some big decisions; how much freedom would I give them?  Should I give any guidelines, rules, deadlines? Should they work in pairs or groups?
As teachers, we can often be guilty of being too controlling in the classroom. We can be over prescriptive in what we expect our students to produce and in the manner we expect them to produce it. We can stifle creativity and explode confidence and self-esteem when we express disappointment if they produce something which does not match our assessment criteria. Even if it is really, really good.  Therefore, no rules from me. They will have to organise their groups, their assessment criteria, their homework targets.
Blogging their thoughts has allowed students to track their own progress and understanding and they all had a good idea of how their episodes would fit into the series. The difficult things for me this week was reiningthem in to keep to the story. Ideas about music, movie, colour, everything, could potentially distract them from an effective story.
Again from Jason Ohler: ‘music (especially)…can be so emotionally engaging all on its own that it can easily overwhelm a story, or worse, compensate for the lack of a story.” P.30
However, this was proving to be an extremely complex process. Have we taken on too much? Am I asking too much of them?
Half way through Friday’s lesson, I took a step away and took in this scene. One group was researching oil rich capital cities for potential settings; another had a storyboard sketched out; another was whistling possible soundtracks for the scarier scenes of their episodes; the last group was involved in a heated debate about what the 16/17 year old Alice might be thinking.
They delegated homework tasks to work on the technical aspects – try out movie-makers, music etc- everyone has a job to do.
Our work on Inanimate Alice has taught me that allowing the flow of creativity in the classroom means I have to step back, bite my tongue, sit on my hands, and let them get on with it.It is often difficult for educators to admit that sometimes our students know more than we do but it is vital for the learning process. It has been a remarkable learning experience for ME so far. The students are loving it; my classroom is coming alive.

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