Storyteller Secrets

Digital Storytelling-P3

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The rules for digital stories have changed.  Story themes that go viral have created a new set of rules.  But the first rule that still applies--is your story compelling?  The six elements that work together to make this happen are: the message, content, visual images, color, action and timing.

Timing is more than the length of the story, it also represents viewer’s attention.  This is one reason I keep my daily blogs down to 500 words, that is about 2-minutes of reading  time out loud.  My blog competes with thousands of other blogs for not just your attention–but your time.

Digital stories have more elements to combine than regular storytelling, so the timing is very important in both presentation and delivery.  I cannot emphasize enough that a digital story should be created and developed on a storyboard—yesterday’s lesson.  A storyboard helps to craft and develop how the six elements bring continuity and appeal to attract visitors to your site.

Remember, that it is the message not the story you are really trying to deliver.  If this is a strategic story then the message has a call to action for a response step.  It all begins with your script.  Scripts are generally written in font 12 and double spaced.  Depending on the script, one page formatted in this matter could be equal to one-minute or more.

An actor can be a narrator’s voice, an actual person, an animated character, or even an object.  The story will have a certain pace to emphasize points towards your message.  Back in the 1980’s, John Moschitta, made several commercials for different companies.  He was known as the fastest speaker on record.  Here is an example of a 1980, 30-second commercial he made.

The fast pace kept the viewer’s attention because it motivated the listener to pay attention to the words.  Had John spoke at a normal speed this probably would have been a one-minute commercial.  The hook was John’s pace and lack of pauses, it forced the listener’s attention and was quite successful.

When to release your story is another timing issue.  If your digital story is for brand marketing or sales then Thursday’s and Sundays are the best days to reach customers surfing on the Net.  If your story pertains to a current event then releasing the story as soon as possible will be important.  Adding twitter hash marks will help . During the day, the best times for release are between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on the West Coast.  These times will vary across the world depending on highest commuter traffic.

Rehearsal is probably the last important key to timing.  I enjoy the character Data, an android character, on the Star Trek Next Generation series.  In this clip, Data is trying out his joke to Guinan (played by Woopie Goldberg).  What this clip will illustrate is that you can have quality material, but if timing is off, you lose reliability.  In humor that’s the punch line.  In Digital Storytelling that’s your message.

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To Change Reality–Change the Story P2

walt-disney-treasures-tomorrowland-disney-in-space-and-beyond--20040524043358986Back in 1994, I thought it would be great if I could do science projects with schools across the nation.  At that time, I had an account with AOL and my username was OceanFront.  I had memories of the space station created by Walt Disney back in 1955 and shown on his Disney television show, and imagined a similar virtual space station where students and teachers would be welcomed aboard to conduct experiments in space.

aol4I worked with AOL in developing the Electronic Schoolhouse to help launch an idea I developed called, “Space Island.”  I used the Internet to invite schools in the United States to partner with the idea to cross-train and learn from each other.  Soon, schools from around the world were contacting me to join our Space Island’s story.

 

Projects varied around the world.  For example, students in Kuwait discussed how water would be made in space, since water was an important necessity in their desert country.  Students in Nebraska wrote, “Using this water maybe we could raise corn in hydroponic labs.”  Students from Cambodia said, “While corn is a good crop, we think rice would have more benefits.”

Back in the 1980’s and 90’s, universities were prime online connectors that linked to other universities and schools that were connected to them.  The Universities of Helsinki and Amsterdam were key to spreading the Space Island program globally.  University students from Helsinki noted that with so many languages aboard our virtual space station they would work on a language translator.  Their initial project translated Spanish, English and Finnish into the present tense.  Online translators, like “Babelfish”, started their first explorations at this point.  Today, you can find ‘Babelfish.com’ now translates about 75 languages.

Clinton_and_jiangBack in the late 1990’s, the United States had boycotted China, but online, my program reached a teacher in Beijing, China.  Not able to directly contact me, her request traveled to Helsinki, then to Amsterdam then to me.  I was an educator not a politician, but the red lights went off when China became part of the program.  This caused an investigation.

Two State Senators came to my school to find out what my connection with China was. I was working with JPL and NASA and there was probably concern about Space technology getting passed around.

While that was going on a reporter from the Los Angeles Times Newspaper started his investigation on the number of participants in the Space Island online program.  Working with AOL, the number of participants was confirmed to have reached globally 2.3 million students and teachers in forty nations.  In short–It went Viral.

In 1996, the United States Congress placed my Space Island Program into the Library of Congress as a historical event.  It was considered the first long distant educational program ever developed.  Both the State of California and NASA also gave recognition.  Today, all online educational programs are a continuation of the story.  When I look back, I realize good stories can influence and change lives globally.