Featured Student Facilitator: Amanda Conklin

Amanda Conklin, STEP Ambassador and recent graduate of the Ohio State University, was our first regular student facilitator. She graduated this past spring in Environmental Engineering and will be missed. Check out the two stories she produced at the end of this post.

I was first introduced to digital storytelling in my high school psychology class.  The challenge was how to tell my story in only a few minutes.  Where do I start? What do I say?  I eventually figured it out and I was quite pleased with my final product.  Storytelling gave me quite a thrill.

I forgot about this experience until I attended a STEP digital storytelling workshop in October 2014.  Here I not only made a digital story, but I was also trained to be a facilitator.  I was immediately attracted to the story circle and the elements of storytelling. I felt this was a great time to not only let my own creativity and storytelling abilities flourish but also to hear other people’s stories and learn a little about these former strangers.

Since then, I have helped facilitate a story circle for a digital storytelling class held on campus and have co-facilitated all the STEP digital storytelling workshops on campus.  Even though these workshops take up a whole weekend, I don’t feel like I am making a sacrifice.  Facilitating is rewarding.  It allows me to utilize my creativity and my often ignored right brain.  But I think the real reward is the people in the workshops.  Especially because STEP projects are transformational, the stories made by my fellow students are very personal and quite amazing.  I feel like every workshop I facilitate, the better the stories and the final videos.  I like the feeling that I help others tell their stories because it’s important that everyone’s voice is heard.

I have probably facilitated my last workshop here on campus but I do not want this to be the end of my storytelling.  I am moving to Guinea on the West coast of Africa.  The people I will be working with usually aren’t given a voice in the Western world.  I would like nothing more than to help share these stories with my friends and family back home.  I think storytelling is powerful and helps connect us as human beings and look past the stereotypes and divisions we make in society.

The following was produced in our Fall 2014 STEP workshop before Amanda’s trip:

This second video was produced in our Spring 2016 workshop, which she also helped facilitate, after her trip:

Spring Break 2016 Workshop: Apply by February 15th

Our next workshop will be held from March 14th-16th (Monday-Wednesday). Workshops typically run from 9am-4:30pm each of the three days. Lunch, snacks, and refreshments provided.

What is a digital story? On the surface, it is a 3-5 minute video comprised of first-person narration, visuals, music, and addresses some overarching dramatic question like this one created by Deborah Grzybowski in one of our Summer 2015 workshops:

But we’re not just about the product; our workshops are a formative experience that naturally integrates constructivist pedagogy with digital literacy. In our immersive 3-day workshops, you will work in a community of practice to complete a short video around your work, life, or community. If you’d like to apply, please fill out and submit the following form:


There is a fee to cover costs associated with our program. $105 for OSU faculty/staff and $300 for non-OSU participants

Applications are due on February 15th. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance by February 22nd.

Student Perspective: Anthony Bowersock

In our third week of the semester, I wanted to highlight a story from one of our students last year. This past year, he started working at the Medical Heritage Center (MHC) as he continues his studies. His story, Scar: Souvenirs of the Soul, is a deeply personal story that I’m glad he felt able to share. While our course is focused on doing MHS research, we recognize that its original purpose as a vehicle for personal reflection what makes digital storytelling as a learning tool so powerful.

Thinking back to Autumn Semester 2014, I would have never expected my life to take such a series of twists and turns as it did during that term. I had just enrolled in my final semester as an undergraduate student at OSU and was prepared to graduate from a place that I had called home for a very long time, 2003 to be exact. And while the semester started out like every other, almost halfway in between things began to change, at first for the worse, but ultimately for the better…

In order for you to understand my plight, I must take a little step back, so you can fully comprehend the matter at hand. Late in the summer of 2014, I had the distinct displeasure of contracting West Nile Virus during a vacation to see my family in Georgia. While I enjoyed most of the trip, I ultimately ended up in the hospital afterwards, reeling from a series of complications, including that of vertigo, light sensitivity, and overall nausea. As the summer passed, many of these issues dissipated; however, midway through fall, a series of new complications began to develop. I recall the day when I woke up, nearly falling as I got out of bed. I was having trouble using my right arm and leg. Was it the 40 hour work week I was putting in? Or was it the full time class load that I was packing on top of everything? Or was I just simply tired from it all? While I didn’t know the answer, a network of neurologists did. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something I could easily sleep off and recover from. I would need time, more time than I initially was willing to give myself.

As much as I yearned to graduate from OSU during the fall, I knew it ultimately would not be possible considering the complications from the virus that I contracted. Walking was difficult, even with an ankle brace, so I had to choose between damaging muscle or changing my class load and postponing graduation. Of course, I chose the latter, which brought me to ASC2194: Digital Storytelling in the Medical Heritage Center.

Taking this class with Kristin and Brian was one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had here at The Ohio State University. Initially, I was interested in the class due to the medical aspect (as I plan to attend medical school and become a physician); however, after enrolling in the class I was amazed by the course’s ability to interweave research and personal narrative. I always wanted the ability to tell my story, and for people to understand exactly where I came from. Thanks to this class, I ultimately got that chance.

ASC 2194: Digital Storytelling in the Medical Heritage Center gave me the opportunity to not only learn about the MHC but also to learn about myself through the connections I researched. The selection of an artifact was something that I didn’t think I could connect with at first, but over time I learned that something as novel as an 19th century scarificator could take me back into the depths of my mind. I am forever thankful that I was able to tell the world how I made it to Ohio State in 2003 and how I ended up back home and able to stand here today, with my sights set on medical school in 2016 and a career in medicine for years to come. I will never forget the memories that I shared from the seven week journey of the course, as I made a number of new connections to not only my future profession but also to the experiences that surround my personal life.

Tonycampus2 copyAnthony Bowersock is a senior and pre-med at OSU. 

Autumn 2015 Fall Break Workshop: Apply by September 16th

Our next workshop will be held during the week of Fall break from October 14-16 (Wednesday-Friday). Workshops typically run from 9am-4:30pm each of the three days. It costs $105 for OSU faculty/staff and $300 for non-OSU participants.

Lunch is included as part of the cost.

What is a digital story? On the surface, it is a 3-5 minute video comprised of first-person narration, visuals, music, and addresses some overarching dramatic question like this one created by Beth Black in our Spring Break 2015 workshop:

But we’re not just about the product; our workshops are a formative experience that naturally integrates constructivist pedagogy with digital literacy. In our immersive 3-day workshops, you will work in a community of practice to complete a short video around your work, life, or community. If you’d like to apply, please fill out and submit the following form:


Applications are due on September 16th. Accepted applicants will be notified within a week.

Participant Spotlight: Jing Qiu

I walked into the 3-day workshop with qualms about digital storytelling. I walked out a firm believer that it is a powerful thing. At the end of Day 3, after the showcase of our stories, I had folks coming up to hug me. And mine wasn’t even an emotionally charged one. Somehow, the story, the sound and images managed to connect to the audience and touch a few spots in their heart.

Like what I discovered through this story of mine, isolation only makes our curiosity about one another intensify. We all at some point of our lives feel somewhat isolated and vulnerable. We are all so very different and have different life experiences. A lot of times we are afraid of revealing ourselves and sharing our stories. But once we are brave enough to open up, the feeling is truly magical. I totally get it now – it is the human element in a story that matters.

This experience of telling my first digital story has impacted me in no small ways. It challenged and engaged me on many levels: emotional (going down the memory lane and some soul searching), physical (glued to the laptop all day, skipping meals and losing sleep), psychological (feeling vulnerable telling a personal story and overcoming the fear), and technical (crafting the story and dealing with technology). The multi-layered immersion had such a profound effect that what I learned is going to stay with me for a very long time.

It is my hope and desire to convey the same kind of energy to my students in the future to facilitate some real learning – deep, serious, lasting and transformative learning. I believe that the participation, the creative process, the sense of community, the research and critical thinking involved contribute to learning as much as to one’s self-discovery.

Jing QiuJing Qiu is the Coordinator of Library Instruction and Associate University Librarian at West Virginia University. She participated in the July 21-23rd workshop held in Morgantown, WV. 

The Fourth C of Storytelling

This is a repost of a recent blog article on berrypicking, facilitator Brian Leaf’s personal blog.

As I’ve been rethinking my approach to how we facilitate digital storytelling, I was reminded that the Center for Digital Storytelling teaches story structure in terms of context, crisis, change, and closure. For the most part, our program stuck with the seven elements of digital storytelling even though Joe Lambert seems to have sunset that particular approach years ago. However, I do think it’s important to continually think about and improve upon our own processes, and these 4 C’s have shown to popular in our most recent workshop.

They really work as a nice template for the index card activity, which when unstructured, has proven to be challenging for participants. They don’t replace the seven elements or seven steps, but they provide an additional layer of support in the storytelling process. Here’s a somewhat mundane example from my life:

Context: Choosing to take a position on the table or interview with one that was only a possibility
Crisis: If I decided to go with the interview, I would necessarily give up the position offered
Change: Decided to not be driven by security or fear
Closure: Was offered the job I really wanted

Occasionally it feels funny to ask people to describe a particular change or what the impetus to that change was. While I was able to put something down above, it’s an oversimplification of what actually happened and how it “concluded.” And it’s not even always clear what elements really constitute the change, crisis, or closure. The fact is that most of the time, it’s never one thing that leads to that moment of truth or change–not that I think there’s anything wrong with trying to capture something in one’s own story. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t think that communicating our experiences to tangible, digital form wasn’t important.

However, I do take exception to the idea that the storyteller should need to offer closure. Wright and Ryan (2010) write in the journal Seminar.net that “Every good story contains some crisis or conflict that institutes change, has a resolution and, hence, closure.” But oftentimes, participants may come with a story that has no ending. Perhaps the storytelling workshop is an opportunity to find a resolution, but maybe it’s just another stop along the way. When facilitating, I think it’s important that we let people know that they don’t need to necessarily come to a close; our hope would be though that they feel like they are one step closer to resolution, and if so (or even if not), they articulate that. I would guess that Joe would agree with this sentiment, but it doesn’t change the fact that the opposite message is the one that’s taken away. Worcester (2012) articulates as much in a criticism that the expectation of an explicit, closed story as potentially “constraining” even while feeling generally safe in the workshop environment.

Léa explained that it was not due to the social dynamics of the workshop, or problems disclosing private matters to her colleagues. Rather, she felt she did not come to terms with empowerment in the way that the narrative scheme expected, which tends to discard meaning that is obscure or ambiguous. Digital stories are encouraged to be explicit and have closure, rather than open-ended statements. Because she found the meaning ‘deeply personal’ she could not bring herself to produce a story in that way. Not everyone may find it necessary to pin down empowerment as a pivotal life moment to express and be resolved via digital storytelling

Anyway, I need to cut this short to pack, so I’ll end with this: While my thoughts on how we communicate to others how to tell a story constantly evolves though, my opinion has pretty much remained the same about what it means to facilitate ethically. Even though we’re trying to help people communicate stories effectively, we need to be careful that we’re not slipping into a structure or narrative trap that oppresses or takes away from the voices of others. It feels like a constant balancing act because much of what “looks good” originate from those systems of inequality, and I worry that the idea of closure may be walking that fine line as well.

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.

Summer 2015 Workshop: Apply by June 23rd!

Our next workshop will be held from August 4-6 (Tuesday-Thursday). Workshops typically run from 9am-4pm each of the three days with a continental breakfast served each morning.

What is a digital story? On the surface, it is a 3-5 minute video comprised of first-person narration, visuals, music, and addresses some overarching dramatic question like this one created by Joan Young in our Fall 2014 workshop:

But we’re not just about the product; our workshops are a formative experience that naturally integrates constructivist pedagogy with digital literacy. In our immersive 3-day workshops, you will work in a community of practice to complete a short video around your work, life, or community. If you’d like to apply, please fill out and submit the following form:


Due to the high demand of our workshops and our desire to grow as a program, please note that we have started charging. $105 for OSU faculty/staff and $300 for non-OSU participants

Applications are due on June 23rd.

Meet the Facilitators!

Our team has just taken our first group photo:

Digital Storytelling Team Group Photo

From top left to bottom right: Elena Foulis, Brian Leaf, MJ Abell, Alex Everett, Queenie Chow, Karen Diaz, Ruth Sesco

Thanks to Elena Foulis for arranging this!

Our newest facilitator is Caroline Omolesky, who joined us shortly after we took this photo unfortunately. But we’ll be featuring in the blog in a couple weeks, so be sure to check it out later!