Tonight in Digital Storytelling: Class Cancellation

Dear everybody:  I’m sorry, but I have to cancel our class tonight (Wednesday, April 6) due to an illness in my family.

If you’re scheduled for next week’s Storytellers Showcase, please check out the updated line-up on our class blog. I’ll introduce everyone first, and then you’ll each come up, say a little bit about your project and why stories matter to you, then show one of your stories.

We have nine folks scheduled to present (thank you!). After the presentations, we’ll open up a discussion about digital storytelling, stories in general, etc. I hope you’ll all participate all around.

Please feel free to bring friends and family members. Bring snacks to share with others if you can.

Sorry again to miss you tonight, but I’m very much looking forward to next week. I hope you’ll be able to participate in other events during the Writers Festival, too. See our blog or the UPG website for the full schedule of events and please remember that if you need extra credit for our class, attending festival events is a great option.

We’ll pick up with our group project when we return to our regular class April 20. We’ll assemble the story together in class and everyone will be able to post it to his/her blog as a final entry.

Thank you, as always.


Digital Storytelling Showcase: The Line-Up

On Wednesday, April 13 as part of the week-long Writers Festival, we’ll host a Digital Storytelling Showcase. The Showcase will be open to the public. The event will be in our usual classroom, usual class time, but I hope you all might consider bringing snacks to share with our guests. I hope you’ll brings guests as well!

After the presentations, we’ll have an informal discussion with our guests about the art and craft of digital storytelling.

Here’s the schedule of presenters, in the order they’ll appear. If you’d like to be added to the schedule (oh come on please you guys you’re good!), please let me know in class tonight. I may hit some more of you up individually, too.

  1. Matti Tyskewicz
  2. Brooke Lawrence
  3. Jason Rivenburg
  4. Michelle Etling
  5. Matt Burch
  6. Calley Tinley
  7. Patrick Dittmar
  8. Rebecca Parker
  9. Thalia Speksnijder


Tonight in Digital Storytelling: Postcard Stories, plus End-of-Term review

Hi everyone,

Tonight we’ll be screening your Postcard stories. I’m excited to see what you’ve been up to! We’ll also be preparing for the Digital Storytelling Showcase you’ll be doing for the upcoming Writers Festival.

We’ll go over the requirements for the end of the term as well. With that in mind, here’s a rubric that breaks down the grading scale for our course. Please keep in mind that we have a few weeks left, so if you’re concerned about your grade, you have a little time to kick things up a notch. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.

To get an A/A+/A-:

  • Blog design is professional and blog is complete, with all story assignments finished pretty much on time.
  • Stories show evidence of both effort and an understanding of the elements of digital storytelling.
  • Participation throughout the term has been consistently excellent (attendance, attentiveness, enthusiasm for project, willingness to share work during class screenings, work completed on time, professional behavior, engagement in class discussions and Writers Festival showcase, etc.).
  • The quality of the writing for assignments is excellent (content, grammar, evidence of revision, etc.).
  • Student shows ability to work independently and is open to experimenting with technology/options.
  • Student is open to suggestions for revision.
  • Overall project concept is coherent, creative and evolving.
  • Project is professional enough to be used as part of a student’s professional portfolio.

To get a B/B+/B-:

  • Blog is complete, with all assignments finished relatively on time
  • Stories show effort and a general understanding of storytelling concepts.
  • Blog looks professional and shows evidence of student’s willingness to revise and for the project to evolve.
  • Participation throughout the term has been very good (attendance, attentiveness, professional behavior, willingness to share work during workshop screenings, some participation in discussions and events).
  • The quality of the writing for assignments is good, with interesting content, few grammar errors, etc. Writing throughout the term has improved and shows evidence of student’s willingness to revise.
  • Student shows some ability to work independently.
  • Student shows some willingness to try new technologies.
  • Student shows willingness to revise.
  • Overall project concept is clear and effective.
  • Project is good and could be used as part of a professional portfolio.

To get a C/C+/C-:

  • Blog is somewhat complete, with most assignments finished before the end of the term.
  • Blog looks o.k. and shows some improvement from the beginning of the term until the end of the term.
  • Stories show some understanding of storytelling concepts.
  • Participation has been passable, with student missing fewer than three classes. Behavior has not been disruptive. Some participation in discussions and workshop screenings. Evidence of some attentiveness. Shows courtesy to other students during workshops.
  • The quality of the writing is passable, with some evidence of revision.
  • Student has some base understanding of digital storytelling technology and works somewhat independently.
  • Project probably wouldn’t be part of a professional portfolio, but appears to be useful for student personally and for student’s potential development as a storyteller.

To get a D/F:

  • Blog is incomplete and visually unappealing.
  • Assignments consistently not completed on time.
  • Blog design is shoddy and shows little improvement.
  • Stories show little understanding of basic digital storytelling concepts.
  • Participation has been unacceptable. Student has missed more than three classes, been disruptive in class, refused to participate in discussions/workshops/events, shows little courtesy to other students, etc.
  • The quality of the writing is poor and filled with technical errors. Writing shows little effort and little evidence of revision.
  • Student’s overall work shows little improvement from beginning of term until the end of term.
  • Student is unable to work independently and has been unwilling to experiment with technology/digital storytelling tools.
  • Project shows little usefulness for student personally or professionally.

Deadlines and Other Details

Your blog should be complete and ready for grading no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27.

When you’ve finished updating and revising your projects, please send me an e-mail with the subject line MY BLOG IS READY FOR GRADING. Send the e-mail to

Tonight in Digital Storytelling: March 23

Tonight we will be screening your interview-based stories, discussing the art of the interview, and reviewing requirements for next week’s Postcard assignment. We’ll talk about your impressions of the Post Secret show, too.

We’ll also be signing up for the public screenings/presentations that will be featured on April 13 as part of the Writers Festival. I’d like to encourage everyone to present their work, but it won’t be required (attendance, however, is). We’ll talk more about this in class.

Please feel free to invite friends and family to the screening. If you’d like to bring baked goods or other treats to share, that would be wonderful.

Here’s the full schedule for the Writers Festival. I hope you’ll all be able to attend at least some of the events. All the events are free and open to everyone, too, so bring friends, family members, etc.

If you’ve fallen behind in assignments or are otherwise teetering grade-wise, please know that you can get extra credit for attending the festival events. I’ll have class sign-in sheets throughout the festival.

ALSO:  Please congratulate the winners of this year’s Writing Awards (you’ll recognize some of these folks):

Brooke Lawrence/The Gerald Stern Poetry Prize

Calley Tinley/The Joan Didion Creative Nonfiction Prize

Gretchen Uhrinek/The Scott Turow Fiction Prize

Also please congratulate Matti Tyskewicz, who received an Honorable Mention in the Creative Nonfiction category

The winners receive an all-expense paid residency at The Chautauqua Writers Festival at the historic Chautauqua Institution, $100, and recognition at the Pitt-Greensburg Awards Ceremony on April 15.

Cheers to our beautiful poets and storytellers!


Today in Digital Storytelling: March 16

Just a reminder:  We’re meeting at the Palace Theater box office at 7 p.m. to see the Post Secret show. Tickets are $16. Books will be on sale and Frank Warren will be present to sign books and answer questions.

Your interview assignments will be due in class next week. We’ll screen these then.

Also, as part of your Post Secret experience, please use the show tonight as inspiration for your next digital story. You’ll use postcards to tell your story. (If you’d like, optional media would be things like post-it notes or notecards.) Be creative. Tie your story somehow to the subject of your blog. Make the medium part of the message.

These will be due in two weeks. This should be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do.

Today in Digital Storytelling: Wednesday, March 2

Reminder: we have individual conferences today. Please come to your conference with your blog up to date. Choose a single written entry and a single digital story you’d like to review closely. I’ll help you line edit your entry and we’ll talk about ways to enhance your story. Please be sure to come to your conference prepared and on time, as our schedule is very tight. Here it is:

  • 3 — Adam
  • 3:15 — Jason
  • 3:30 — Michelle
  • 3:45 — PJ
  • 4 — William
  • 4:15 — Matti
  • 4:30 — Thalia
  • 5 — Austin
  • 5:15 — Jessica
  • 5:30 — Tim
  • 5:45 — Mckenzie
  • 6 — Cianna
  • 6:15 — Taylor
  • 6:30 — Shayla
  • 7 — Calley
  • 7:15 — Matt

If you missed class last time, please e-mail me to schedule a conference and to discuss what you missed. Per our schedule, we had an exam. You won’t be able to make up the exam without a doctor’s excuse.

Schedule Updates

Next week we’re on Spring Break! (Sorry for the confusion with the assignment schedule last time.)

Your new stories — interview-based — will be due after break.

Please post your stories to your blogs before Wednesday, March 23. This gives you a little extra time because we will not be in our regular classroom when we return from break on March 16. Please remember that we’ll be attending the Post Secret show at the Palace Theater instead.

We’ll meet at the theater box office on Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. You’ll be able to purchase your ticket then (tickets are $16). If you need a ride to the theater, please let me know and we’ll make arrangements. Please be sure you’re familiar with the Post Secret blog before the show.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll see you all in conference later today.





Tonight in Digital Storytelling: February 24

First, we’ll watch this story from the Story Center:


Then we’ll have a quiz on the basic concepts we’ve covered in class so far. Remember to review your notes and the notes here on our class blog. The quiz will be on paper and traditional closed-book, so you won’t be able to reference these notes during it.

After the quiz, we’ll discuss your answers, then screen the stories you created for this week. Those of you we didn’t get to during our last session will go first.

We’ll address any technical problems you may have had with uploading your songs and we’ll talk about the process of creating your own soundtracks for your stories.

Next week, we’ll meet individually in conference and not together in class. I’ll ask each of you to sign up for a conference time beginning at 4 p.m. and going through our regular class time. Please be sure to show up for your conference (missing a conference is the same as a class absence) and be sure your blog is up-to-date and ready for us to review together.

During our conference, I’ll ask you to pick one story for us to examine closely. We’ll look at the quality of your writing and sense of storytelling, your use of the narrative techniques of digital storytelling and more. We’ll work together on any challenges you may be having and I’ll give you a sense of how you’re doing in the class so far. (It’s mid-term. Unbelievable, really.)

Your next digital story will be due right before break. For Wednesday, March 2, please make a story that centers around an interview or conversation with another person. Your subject can be connected to your blog’s subject. However, the focus should be outward — allowing space for someone else’s story — and not inward. It should be focused on a moment or on an object that is meaningful to the person (you know, like Lucinda the car was meaningful for Elyse).

Your story can be in whatever form works best. You can use audio only. You can incorporate still photos. You can use video. You can work with a combination of all or some of these. You can even try your hand at animating your story. (Something as simple and fun as Animation Express or even Sock Puppets would do, though there are many free apps that will allow you to experiment with animation.) It’s really up to you.

Here are a few samples.

Traffic Stop from StoryCorps animation

NPR revisits Studs Terkel’s Working (audio)

53 Years and Counting (family history sample from Cowbird)