Published Nov. 18, 2015 at the New Media Consortium

By Sandy Brown Jensen
If you’re looking to fund a curriculum around digital storytelling, or, more broadly, digital humanities, do what Anne McGrail of Lane Community College (LCC) did, and go after a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Me regaling the NEH Fellows at the Summer Institute "Doing DH @ the CC." Photo Credit Russell Shitabata
Me regaling the NEH Fellows at the Summer Institute “Doing DH @ the CC.” Photo Credit Russell Shitabata

In Summer 2014, McGrail asked me in the hallway if I wanted to get on board with her idea of having a summer institute for educators here at LCC called, “Doing Digital Humanities at the Community College,” aka “Doing DH @ the CC!” I pitched an idea, she wrote it into the grant, and the next thing I knew, I was standing in front of a full house of NEH Fellows from across many disciplines and states.

Everybody was smiling at me as if they were thinking, “Oh boy! Now we’re going to have some fun!”

I had them start by writing using their five human digits to answer this prompt: “What is it you don’t want to forget when teaching digital humanities?” During the round table session, they were asked to come up with at least three metaphors to represent what they didn’t want to forget; it was a useful mental exercise.

Next, the fun really did begin! I sent them all out of the room into the bustling streets of downtown Eugene with their pocket technology. Their assignment was to film each metaphor they found for 10-15 seconds while explaining its relevance to teaching digital humanities.

Fellows pointed smartphones at busses, bicycles, graffitied walls, flowers, Venetian blinds, and hammocks; they created their pieces and emailed their video files to me, so I could splice them together using iMovie for iPad. On day two, we had collectively created a digital story to watch on the silver screen.

As intended, that low stakes activity got the Fellows excited about doing their own digital stories. We met for an hour each day that week, starting with basic theory, then discussing how to use the Pixar story spine to generate a script.

The simple, magical steps of the Pixar Story Spine (Campbell's Hero Journey, anyone?)
The simple, magical steps of the Pixar Story Spine 


Afterwards, we initiated Story Circles to workshop scripts, finally ending with the mad, late-night scramble of production where we all felt like undergraduates again. On Friday, the “lightning rounds” commenced, giving each Fellow an opportunity to introduce his or her digital humanities project and to play it for the group.

I saw full grown professors go from nervous to radiant in a five minutes as their productions were enthusiastically applauded by the crowd.

Because I was involved in the inner workings of this project, many Fellows confided in me, and I was taken aback by how much fear of technology I heard expressed — this from a group of professors currently working in or interested in digital humanities. It was so unexpected at such a gathering, but it was pervasive enough that I covered this topic in my own digital story for the event.

At the end of that roller coaster ride, I feel the “Doing DH @ the CC” Fellows went home with a new set of teaching and tech tools for their digital humanities work. More importantly, however, they would be able to help their students tell their stories with more courage and higher hearts.


lightbulb_meI am a Faculty Technology Specialist at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, teaching digital storytelling. I maintain the LCC Story Lane Digital Storytelling Website that showcases digital stories from the entire community: My own digital story website is Mind on Fire: I am an arts commentator on our local public radio, and I blog about all things arty at Toucan Create: And I am proud to blog about digital storytelling for the New Media Consortium!

One Reply to “TECHNOPHOBIA!”

  1. Oh my, I have bottomless ‘technophobia’ when it comes to deciphering the digital world. You make it sound so easy and manageable. I’m not giving up, but I’m not moving ahead very fast either. I’m so glad that you have mastered this medium and are trailblazing for the rest of us…xoxo

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