MJ Abell: From First Story to Facilitator

Applications are now being accepted for our summer workshop! Submit your application by June 23rd.

Click here for information about the August 2015 Digital Storytelling Workshop.

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you.
Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.

Neil Gaiman

When I heard about the Digital Storytelling Workshops, the opportunity to bring a personal story to life in a visual medium was irresistible. I love working with words, and I was curious how in 3 days I could produce the kinds of videos shared as examples. Yet as a PC user, working with a Mac and iMovie was new territory. Would technical assistance be close at hand? I would find out…

Fast forward …by the end of the workshop I had created The Girl Who Loved Scissors, coached along by the Digital Storytelling Team. My story connects me as a girl who loved to cut pictures with my work today as a SoulCollage® facilitator, still cutting and pasting. I started the workshop with a general shape for the story, which was deepened through others’ comments in story circle. The experience was challenging and satisfying ̶ I left excited to create more digital stories.

Being part of a small, immersive learning community was a high point of the experience. I journeyed with about a dozen faculty and staff members, starting each day with bagels and fruit. The Digital Storytelling Team taught us about digital story basics, image and music searches, copyright and iMovie, pacing the concepts carefully so we were not overwhelmed. We refine our scripts in story circles; we practiced our narrations. What a celebration when we viewed each other’s videos on the final afternoon. How far we had each come from our original idea jotted on a single 4”x6” card!

I posted a link to my story on Facebook and shared it by email with friends and colleagues. My 90-something Aunt Ruth and my cousin Dwyn – people who knew the kindergarten me in my story – watched it together. I now had a new tool in my creative and professional toolkit.

Story 2…the learning continues

When a space opened in a workshop a few months later, I was eager to create a second story. More comfortable with the tools this time, I had more direction and a better sense of the process. Yet I faced a new challenge. I wanted to create a story on reframing situations in a more positive way, a story that I could use in an upcoming staff workshop.

My first scripts sounded too much like something to accompany a PowerPoint, too informative. Where was the story? Where was I, the storyteller? After talking with Brian Leaf of the DS team, I shifted my perspective. I shared my journey with reframing, conveying the concepts through examples from my life. The result: The Art of Reframing.

This second time around, I also learned how to let images do more of the work in telling the story. My script became crisper as I trimmed words, letting the images speak.

First time facilitator

I was invited to join the Digital Storytelling Program and co-facilitated my first workshop over spring break. I explained the 7 elements of digital stories, led a story circle, helped search for images, and encouraged participants along the way. Several students relaxed when I mentioned I too was new to Macs when I attended my first workshop.

The participants created an amazing range of stories ̶ taking risks in new countries and new roles, reflecting on family and childhood, searching for the ultimate dessert and more. Their feedback shows how much they got from the workshop as individuals and storytellers:

  • This workshop has really been an eye-opening experience. This ‘tool’ has given me a creative outlet for pulling together my writing, photography, love of music and fondness for all things technical!
  • The story circles were both practically useful and inspiring. A great tactic.
  • Personally, it was empowering to feel that each of us has a story that others enjoy and devote time to sharing/hearing. Professionally, I have already begun thinking about the ways I can apply these skills to telling the stories of faculty, students, staff and alumni. The impact of personal stories is so important for building community ̶ this workshop has re-invigorated my approach to my position. Technically, I learned a great deal in a very short amount of time (iMovie, storytelling, pacing, even providing better feedback).
  • This workshop has refined how I think about all kinds of storytelling and has expanded by 100 percent what I know about video storytelling. Making some personal connections was an unanticipated benefit.

I look forward to continuing with our small but passionate team of digital storytellers, introducing others to this captivating genre. New digital stories are forming in my mind, soundtracks are waiting for me, and iMovie will help me weave it all together.

MJ Abell is a member of the Digital Storytelling Program and a Learning and Development Specialist in the Office of Human Resources.

Writers Talk with Karen Diaz and Joe Lambert

Check out this film produced by Alex Everett in which Doug Dangler, host of Craft: Exploring Creativity on WCBE 90.5 FM in Central Ohio and an Associate Director at the Ohio State University (OSU), interviews Karen Diaz and Joe Lambert for Writers Talk, an education podcast that used to run out of OSU’s Center for the Study of Teaching and Writing. Karen Diaz is the head of Teaching and Learning for OSU Libraries as well as the director of the OSU Digital Storytelling Program. Joe Lambert founded the Center for Digital Storytelling over 20 years ago. Today, he continues to listen deeply and help others find their stories.

This event took place at the Digital Media Collective’s May 21st, 2013 public meeting on the 11th Floor Reading Room of Thompson Library.