This website was created for a project in a graduate course at Texas A&M University - Commerce. Below is my final reflection on this course. To view the digital story I created, please see the Movie page. For information about me, please the corresponding pages on this website.
Reflections on creating my first digital story:
I enrolled in Course 697 Digital Storytelling, not knowing quite what to expect. I thought it would be intimidating because of the technology required, but at the same time, I was excited to learn something new. Because this was a fast-paced course over the winter break, I had to think of a story quickly. I searched through boxes of family photos, hoping to recall something original and great. At first I thought I would write about my experience with my mother's death, an emotional journey for sure. But then I realized that would create an overwhelming sadness for me. Since it was the joyous holiday season, I decided I needed a happy story instead.
And then I looked up. Literally. I saw my shelf lined with ceramic ballet shoes and ballerinas. I knew right then I should write about my experience with ballet. Certainly many girls have studied ballet and some have pursued it professionally. How many have studied it, left it, and returned? As with any sport, this is not an easy feat. The moment a dancer leaves her craft, her body begins to lose its flexibility, its strength, and its control. I do not want to create this story under false pretenses; I was not a professional ballerina by any stretch. I was simply a girl, a teenager, who worked hard for years to get on pointe, stayed there two years, and left. But in returning to ballet as an adult, it must be noted I was not exactly in shape. Yes, I had taken aerobics classes, but that does not prepare the body fully for ballet. Resuming the position at the barre was challenging enough. Turnout of the feet, flexibility of the legs, and balance of the body were struggles for me from day one. I wanted to give up. The pain was more embarrassment than physical. Something in the core of my being convinced me that I had to finish what I started. A simple pirouette on pointe. Because I ultimately achieved my goal, I knew this was my story and mine alone that I could and should tell.
The challenges came in how to tell it. First I had to find the right photos. Being that the photos were print, I had to get my husband to help me scan them into my computer. A story told in just photos was not quite captivating. I need short video clips to add movement. At first I used my camera to make these, focusing on my old pointe shoes. But I also wanted something professional quality. When I first explored archive.org for footage, I found nothing I wanted to use. I returned to the site several times, but still nothing. Finally, I changed my search to “ballet shoes” and bingo! There it was: a five minute documentary on the making of pointe shoes entitled “Pointe Shoes with Principal Dance Megan Fairchild.” I was able to take several short clips and add them to my movie. Presto! The music was actually the easiest part: I knew I wanted a soft sounding piano piece in the background. My computer has a sample music section, and there I found Bob Acri’s song “Sleep Away.” Next, I looked on FreeMusicArchive.org and filtered for classical piano music. Only a few songs did I listen to and found Chris Zabriskie’s “Prelude No. 8” for my final selection.
Originally, I used iMovie on my iPad, but after a crash scare, I switched to my laptop. I found MovieMaker to be difficult at first. Only after making mistakes did I learn how to add narration, music, photos, and videos. Voila! I did it. I’m sure many younger people who grew up with technology would find this simple to use, but I am of a generation that used typewriters for writing papers in school. I can honestly say I proud that I learned new technology and technology I plan to use again.
This experience has forced me to revisit my past. It has demanded me to consider not only the elements of a story, but its structure as well. My tools were two textbooks: Digital Storytelling Capturing Lives, Creating Community by Joe Lambert, and Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg. Lambert’s text provided examples to consider. He also breaks down the kinds of stories we tell. Most importantly, Lambert points out seven elements to a successful digital story: point of view, a dramatic question, emotional content, the gift of your voice, the power of the soundtrack, economy, and pacing. Goldbert’s Old Friend from Far Away provides more of a starting place for your story. She provides a variety of writing prompts and activities to get the mind and memory working cohesively to create a great story. In fact, I intend to use some of these in my classroom with my high school students. I recommend both of these texts to anyone who wishes to create their own digital story. Thank you Dr. Shannon Carter for selecting these texts for your Digital Storytelling course.