Let’s start this story with a brief flashback: Summer 2010. I make my own first digital story—“Why I Mind”—for the Information Stories project lead by Peter Shane, with support from the Digital Union. It clocks right at 5 minutes. Of all the things I’ve written (a lot) or given lectures about (a lot more) over my 20-year academic career, nothing better captures why I do what I do, how I do what I do . . . why I mind.
Now picture this, more in the present: As a 50+ year old deaf person, I have always been a visual learner, a lover of all things visual (art, film, pretty jewelry, colorful students, etc.), and a storyteller as well. So, when I first heard about it, digital storytelling made all the sense in the world to me. For most of the last ten years I’ve also had a dream about putting together a writing workshop for deaf and disabled teens and adults to work with them on writing/telling their life stories.
Enter, significant character/moment (fly in from screen right): the Digital Union and the OCIO offer me the chance to help them conduct just such workshop for deaf/hard-of-hearing teens in central Ohio during the summer of 2012—The Deaf Digital Storytelling Project (DDSP).
But wait, a fuzzy blurry scene of dreamscape clashes now with the brutal white light of honest self-awareness: Does having done ONE digital storytelling experience of my own really qualify me to lead an entire digital storytelling workshop for others? Maybe? Maybe not? Humility and half-panic begins to tonally shade this developing story.
And then the opportunity for Valencia came my way.
The University of Valencia (yes, Valencia Spain—the place where those oranges come from) was the host of the International Digital Storytelling Conference March 21-23, 2012. And my awareness of this conference collided perfectly with my developing humility and half-panic over helping lead the upcoming DDSP in July 2012.
Fortunately for me, there was funding from the eLearning Professional Development Grants right here at OSU that I could apply for to help me attend this conference In Valencia.
Funded by the eLearning grants and my own department (English), I attended sessions in Valencia by international others (in both Spanish and English) who were also just finding ways to engage and use digital storytelling in their university environment and classrooms. I took in a workshop with Bernard Robin, Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Houston, who has done much work in the educational uses of digital photography, digital video, and digital storytelling. I mostly sponged up many things (including some great tapas) and it was not until I returned to the cold grey reality of mid-Ohio in March again that I realized all that I really had completely absorbed.
And fortunately for me, the guru of Digital Storytelling (who was also in Valencia), Joe Lambert, came to Ohio State to lead another digital storytelling workshop just 3 weeks after my return from Valencia (April 9-11). By that time, the Valencia events had sunk in and I was ready to talk—really talk—to Joe (and others) about issues, concerns, challenges, and the huge opportunities I could now see we were all going to have in carrying out the DDSP this summer. Joe and I had dinner then, just the two of us one night, and I also then learned about Joe’s own considerable connection with deaf students (through his brother).
While I still carry some humility and panic (but maybe only quarter-panic at this point) over running the DDSP this summer, I think I’m ready and ripe for the challenge—thanks to the eLearning professional development grant, the Valencia conference, and time to talk directly with Joe Lambert.