Key Skills are the ones most commonly needed to effectively complete and succeed in professional, educational and social activities.
More specifically, these skills are:
- Communication – (for instance: engaging in discussions, obtaining and synthesizing information from at least two sources, making a formal presentation);
- Working with Others – (for instance: identifying needs and responsibilities in group or team work, organizing and completing tasks individually or in groups, identifying roles and contribution patterns to complete task;
- Using Information and Communication Technologies – (for instance: finding, manipulating and saving information electronically, making informed judgements based on relevance and quality);
- Improving Own Learning and Performance – (identifying targets, planning how to reach them, checking what is needed to improve performance, taking responsibility for own learning, reviewing progress and providing evidence of achievement).
This is not an exhaustive list. It is instead an indicative list of capacities that learners can (and should) develop during any educational activity, in any instructive environment while exercising their own initiative or while working under guidance. Overall, they should form the framework of all things educational.
One basic tool that can be used (in digital or hardcopy form) is a Storyboard.
A storyboard is a graphic organizer, a planner. It is a table with spaces for images and text which form a sequence. The main purpose is to help the author manage and arrange the information in a way that clearly displays the function, the form and the content of the work undertaken. Storyboards were originally developed by animation studios in the 1930s to visualise what would appear on film. They form an invaluable tool when creating a presentation, paying special attention to the fundamental aspects of a presentation.
These aspects are:
1. Structure. When laid out on the storyboard, the various sections immediately show whether the narrative flows or not. Additionally, weak links or confusing patterns are immediately identified.
2. Outline. A presentation is a show-and-tell experience. Consequently, the ideas, arguments and/or details that require visual or verbal support are recognized and the relevant materials are researched and inserted.
3. Visuals. These can be investigated both in terms of style as well as composition to emphasize meaning and facilitate comprehension.
4. Editing. The work can easily be edited at this early stage. Sections can be introduced or deleted, moved around or rearranged while maintaining the global overview of the composition.
5. Balance. The proportion between verbal and visual information becomes immediately obvious and adjustments can be made to enhance either one as needed.
It is important to remember the rule of threeii when using images in a presentation:
1. Be selective. Avoid overused or stereotypical images.
2. Be relevant. Use images related to your content.
3. Be specific. Make certain that every image serves a purpose.
A presentation requires speaker performance as well as the use of digital media in real time. Once it is over, it is committed to memory and cannot be replayed. It can be repeated but chances are it will not be the same. Enter digital help and digital storytelling.
What are digital stories? Digital Storiesiii are multimedia movies that combine photographs, video, animation, sound, music, text, and often a narrative voice. Digital stories may be used as an expressive medium within the classroom to integrate subject matter with existing knowledge and skills from across the curriculum. In fact, they are an extension of any presentation, since recent versions of slideware programs include the possibility of creating a narrative recording and the making of a video.
PowerPoint 2010 for example, offers the possibility of both recording a narrative and making a video with a few mouse clicks. Look in the Slide Show menu for the former and in the File menu under the Save & Send option for the latter.
Digital Stories can be used and appreciated to their fullest at different times, from a great variety of viewers and at any location without necessitating the presence of the author. In contrast, a slideware presentation is only half as effective without the presence and the performance of its creator.
There are at least seven characteristicsiv of Digital Stories that make them more impactful:
1. Point of View – What is the perspective of the author? What is the main focus depending on the story goal and intention?
2. A Dramatic Question – A question that will be answered by the end of the story. A climax that the author is building up to.
3. Emotional Content – Those serious issues that speak to us in a personal and powerful way connecting to our own thoughts and experiences.
4. The Gift of Voice – The unique way to personalize a story to help the audience understand and appreciate the context that has been rehearsed and perfected.
5. The Power of the Soundtrack – A selection of music or other sounds that support the storyline and make the content memorable.
6. Economy – The use of just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer with excessive information, which may otherwise be wasted.
7. Pacing – related to Economy, but specifically dealing with how slowly or quickly the story progresses; finely tuned and controlled.
There are many uses of Digital Stories depending on age, maturity and development.
For younger learners the focus can be on what is being taught in different subjects, like Geography or History or Music. The story relates to the students’ interests and experiences. The story is kept short, possibly under five minutes, to facilitate production and to retain attention. The selection and inclusion of vibrant pictures, age-appropriate music and narration are paramount. Similarly, narration, accompanied by subtitles, can also help build vocabulary. From a teacher’s perspective, content-related digital stories can help younger students understand abstract concepts.
There are aspects of digital storytelling, like pictures, music, and narration that reinforce ideas and appeal to different learning types. Teachers can use them to introduce projects, or work in any content area, that can lead students to make their own digital stories and then share them with other members of the class. These digital stories can facilitate class discussions, as a preparatory step for a new topic, or to help students gain a better understanding of more abstract concepts.
From a learner perspective, through the creation of these stories, students are required to take ownership of the material they are presenting. They have to select, comprehend and synthesize information expressing their own thoughts and ideas.
With experience students are able to participate in the multiple steps of designing and creating their own digital stories which can help them to develop and practice a number of key skills like those mentioned at the beginning. In addition, technology skills for a variety of hardware, such as digital cameras, can be put to creative use.