Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Digital Storytelling

Academics

Telling stories of travel and of the workplace

Digital Storytelling can be an extremely effective way of encouraging reflection around complex, intense experiences — such as travel or an internship — and helping to distill moments of transformation (Digital Storytelling has been described as a particularly effective way to "turn experience into learning").

Donna Kerner and Grace Baron each taught classes that included a storytelling component to make sense of students' experiences in new environments.

Telling stories of travel

For her Anthropology 215 class, Prof. Donna Kerner took Wheaton students to Tanzania, Africa. Her purpose was to:

put a human face on some of the complex policy issues targeting development in the Third world [and], even briefly, learn to speak and think in a different cognitive domain, and [...] connect with people whose lives are different from their own.

To that end, she and her students collaborated with secondary school students in Tanzania and LIS liaison Patrick Rashleigh to produce the following short digital story, which was subsequently sent to the White House and published in the inaugural issue of the online magazine CURA.

Two other students on the Tanzania trip, Jessie Davidson and Emily DeWet, created their own Digital Story to relate an experience in which they encountered an artist in a local market. After recording over an hour of field interviews, they produced this short video that teased out one of many threads covered in their conversation:

"Juma," a digital story by Jessie Davidson and Emily DeWet

In 2013 another group of Wheaton students traveled to Tanzania and were shown a new tree nursery in the Rombo district that has been dedicated in Wheaton's name.  They were later able to partake in tree plantings in the Lerangwa and Rombo districts and wrote reflection pieces on the experience. Professor Donna Kerner and LIS Liaison Lauren Slingluff collaborated with the students to produce "These Roots Run Deep," using the students' written reflections and photos from their trip.

Telling stories of the workplace

Students in Prof. Grace Baron's Psychology 334 "Practicum in Human Services" course were placed in internships in a wide variety of local medical institutions — including Sturdy Memorial Hospital, the Grodin Center for autistic children, and the Tufts Floating Hospital for Children.

Towards the end of semester, Professor Baron had the students present to each other their experiences in their various placements using the Pecha Kucha presentation format, in which speakers deliver their talks in front of a Powerpoint projection that consists of 20 slides that advance automatically every 20 seconds (Pecha-Kucha is covered in detail elsewhere on this site). Therefore, every presentation is exactly 400 seconds (or 6 minutes and 40 seconds) long.

Like Donna Kerner, Grace Baron sees this as a means to encourage brevity and discipline, and to encourage students to tease out threads of personal significance through reflection and translate them into a form that can be communicated to others.

Here are some examples of her classes' stories, recorded live in class:

Caity Vomastek's experiences in Tufts Floating Hospital for children

Maya Ambroise's experiences in Sturdy Memorial Hospital

Jessica Flori on the "messier side of research" at the Grodin Center

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