Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 10:15am

The fifth annual Digital Storytelling Awards—an event fondly referred to as “The Digis”—celebrated digital storytelling at Mercy and the students who created engaging digital stories in their classes this year. After watching just under 30 submissions, the selection committee announced and screened the 10 winning stories at the April 27 event. Winners were invited to say a few words about their stories as they accepted trophies and prizes. The event culminated with an open question and answer session with all the winners in attendance and a celebratory reception.

 

A digital story is a short narrative that is crafted with emotion and told through multimedia in order to meet an instructional outcome, explains Matt Lewis, senior instructional designer in Mercy’s Office for Teaching Excellence and Engaged Learning. The definition is “very malleable,” he emphasizes, but meeting a learning outcome is one of the key elements. “That's one of the powers of the medium,” he says.

 

A thought-provoking digital story about the connections between math and astronomy won a Gold Digi. Creator Sean Hackes made “Astronomy and Math” for a math class with Dr. Mitchell Fried. With a conversational style, beautiful visuals of space, and simple background music, Hackes explains the importance of math in astronomy. He concludes by saying, “Without math, the concept of astronomy wouldn't even exist. And we’d all just stare at the night sky, dumbfounded by the mystery of space. Math has shaped our fundamental understanding of how the universe is made and functions.” Dr. Sabrina Timperman—associate professor of veterinary technology in the School of Health and Natural Sciences and a member of the Digital Storytelling Awards selection committee—reflects on his digital story: “I felt like he really made the connections between the scientific topics and the visuals he chose and the way he put the story together—it really was quite well-written.” Lewis adds, “One of the elements that makes a great story is the idea of building drama. And he had some really cool dramatic moments.”

 

In a more personal digital story entitled “To Teach Or Not to Teach: An Origi Digi,” James Farrington describes his decision to reinvent himself as a teacher after about 30 years as a licensed veterinary technician. A Mercy alum, an adjunct professor at Mercy, and now a Mercy student again, Farrington won a Silver Digi for this story that he created for an education class with associate professor Dr. Ilene Rothschild. In it, he shows photos of himself and his family while explaining, "I decided to reinvent myself. I re-enrolled at Mercy and started taking education classes with, well, my kids' peers. And let me tell you, it has been a rewarding, humbling, and—yes—challenging experience. I suppose I've been teaching for a long time. It just took a roadblock in one career to point me towards that realization and help me respond to the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ My answer? A teacher." Lewis reflects on Farrington’s digital story: “He used such a humorous tone. That's what really kept our attention. I kept thinking that if I were in his shoes, I would be a little more reserved about it, but he owned it. He took a risk. In the stories that tend to engage, the students are taking a risk and sharing something really personal."

 

Engagement was indeed an important factor for the Digital Storytelling Awards selection committee. “We have a rubric we use that breaks down what [engagement] means,” Lewis explains. “Did they put time into the images they selected? Did they use great editing? Ultimately, the students have to write a well-crafted story and then everything falls into place around it.” Lewis, Timperman, Rothschild, Director of Libraries Mustafa Sakarya, and Reference and Instruction Librarian Moddie Breland formed this year’s selection committee.

 

Over the past several years, digital stories have quietly gained traction in a wide range of Mercy courses, including occupational therapy, math, veterinary technology, and education. This flexible medium can complement all kinds of content and learning goals. In Timperman’s veterinary technology classes, for example, students have created digital stories about an animal’s perspective on its anatomy and a tree’s perspective as it experiences climate change. In Rothschild’s education classes, students reflect on the experiences that drew them to pursue careers in education. Rothschild emphasizes the added benefit that digital stories help faculty members learn about students and students learn about each other.

 

When faculty members formed an informal learning community and began to share their students’ stories with each other, they realized that they wanted a forum to share the stories more broadly. “We kept asking, ‘How can we honor these really cool stories?’” Lewis explains. “That’s the genesis of the Digital Storytelling Awards: wanting to share the great work our students are doing.” Timperman adds, “We are so moved by some of the stories that [students] create that we wanted a larger audience for them.” With great enthusiasm about digital stories and their benefits, the selection committee seeks funding to make the Digital Storytelling Awards a sustainable event that can honor Mercy students’ creativity and stories every year.

 

“This is a new way of engaging students that can be just as rigorous as writing,” Sakarya explains, “just a whole different skillset that they need for their careers.... It's the whole package: writing, technology, personal voice, and drama and emotion.” With a laugh, he adds, “Would you rather write a paper or make a video? It's just as rigorous, you still have to cite your sources, but you have much more fun. That’s what it comes down to.”

 

 

Here is the complete list of the winners of the fifth annual Digital Storytelling Awards:

  • Platinum Overall Digi: “Recall, Relive, Recognize” by Rachel Weiss
  • Gold Digi:
  • Silver Digi:
  • Bronze Digi:
    • “Identity Mosaic” by Moe Kushida
    • “Growing Up Different” by Amanda Marinato
    • “SuperKids” by Sam Tenney and Liz Santos
    • “Fennec Fox: The Great Hunt” by Nicole Noblett and Renay Bregaudit

 

Those interested in seeing more digital stories can visit Mercy’s Digital Storytelling YouTube playlist.

 

Faculty members interested in learning how to incorporate digital stories into their courses are encouraged to attend a June Intensive workshop entitled “Lights, Camera, Action: Digital Stories in the Classroom” on June 6 and 7. Interested faculty can RSVP online or contact Matt Lewis at mlewis@mercy.edu for more information.

 

Students are encouraged to submit their digital stories to the 2019 Digital Storytelling Awards.