Messalonskee High School
Maine Writing Project
Dave Boardman, executive director of LiteracySparks, a Maine-based nonprofit that develops creative learning solutions for adolescents using technology, runs digital storytelling and filmmaking programs for both teachers and students. He teaches English and filmmaking at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine, and is a teacher consultant with the Maine Writing Project. Named the 2006 Instructional Technology Teacher of the Year by the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine, in 2007 Dave was a key organizer of Maine's first Digital Storytelling Festival for students, a result of a grant that allowed the Maine Writing Project to fund a team of educators to study storytelling and how teachers can use digital tools to improve writing. Dave coordinates technology professional development for school districts in central Maine and is conducting doctoral research into effective 21st century teaching practices. His blog, Digital Recess, shares some of his thoughts on teaching and learning with technology. His most recent article is "Inside the Digital Classroom" (The Neglected "R"; Rethinking Writing Instruction in Secondary Classrooms, 2008).
My goal is to help students relate their learning to their lives. Digital storytelling, multimedia – in a project-based learning environment especially – helps students connect the importance of communication to their own lives. Everyone has a story, and when students are allowed to explore their own stories, the "work" of school takes on relevance; suddenly, the classroom walls become transparent and students find connections between learning and the world.
In filmmaking classes, students communicate engaging and informative messages in formats from purely narrative to documentary, public service announcements, and short films. In English classes, students use digital storytelling to communicate narratives of meaningful moments from their lives, things they've learned, or their concept of what it means to be a hero, or succeed in life. The creation of multimedia works also helps my students bring to life for real audiences the meaning of the literature we read in class. I have also helped adults explore digital storytelling as a tool for teaching literacy skills through my work coordinating technology professional development programs for the Maine Writing Project and a central Maine regional school district.
Often, for many students, these projects help participants truly understand what makes writing successful; they see their message communicated in a way that moves, convinces, or inspires. They also realize that they have a story to tell – either a personal one, such as the loss of a father, or a persuasive one concerning something they care about: climate change, the role of heroes, the need for family.
Click here to sample digital stories from David Boardman's students.