Friday, August 6, 2010

Pecha Kucha or Digital Storytelling?

If you know me at all, you know about my love affair with the process of Digital Storytelling as a means to create community and to give students an authentic voice to share experiences and life lessons. The idea of developing a personal narrative and adding images, voice, and soundtrack and then recording it in a “permanent” form has developed into one of the most engaging activities for students (and others) to do.

While conducting a workshop on DST last year, I had a teacher who was rather ambivalent about the whole DST concept.  While he embraced the idea of melding words and images, he would have preferred an activity that incorporated a “live” presentation; he wanted to make sure that teachers did not substitute a Digital Storytelling assignment for a speech. I couldn’t agree more. There is no substitute for a live performance; an entire set of skills and learning targets come into play with any public speaking. I had told him that DST would “replace” something like a written narrative, not a live speech.  But the more I thought about it, he had a point. Could there be another possibility that was as engaging as DST yet live (And no, I am not referring to a speech with never-ending, bulleted list Powerpoint slides)?

Then I heard about Pecha Kucha (Pronounced: puCHA kuCHA).  First conceived as a Japanese bar game, (like Karaoke) the Pecha Kucha concept is deceptively simple: twenty consecutive images, each displayed to the audience for twenty seconds while the speaker presents live to the audience. For more information on Pecha Kucha and a sample from me (sort of) please go to my Digital Storytelling page Actually, the inception of Digital Storytelling by Dana Atchley and Joe Lambert stemmed from live performances anyway!

Last year at a conference in Illinois, I was asked to try my hand at Pecha Kucha. As a Digital Storyteller, I must say that the experience was quite a departure for me. The live concept was both exhilarating and a bit intimidating. I mean, in DST if something didn’t sound right or my timing was off, I could re record. But with Pecha Kucha, I was out there.  On the other hand, it was much more engaging for me the performer. I could respond to the audience and “ad lib” when appropriate. I performed it twice live and expectedly, each performance had its own subtle uniqueness.

True, there is not the “polished” feel of a Digital Story, but what it lacked in polish; it excelled in spontaneity and audience interaction.  What I found interesting was how the audience’s attention went back and forth between the screen and me, as if watching a tennis match. At times, they needed to watch the image while listening to my voice and at particular animated moments the attention was all on me. The other new sensation was that clock ticking in the back of my head. Pacing and development of ideas were always on my mind, and the question always loomed, “Is it going to change…now?”

So where does this all fit for teachers? Is there a place for it in my classroom? Can kids do it? Does it need to be 20 images? First I think there can be a situation for students doing Pecha Kucha, or at least a form of it.  Instead of a six-minute plus performance, maybe try ten images. I do like the twenty-second intervals; anything less does not allow for much development on the part of narration. The other point is that when assessing, I believe there needs to be a certain allowance for spontaneity. To me, a speaker engaging with the audience, for the sake of speaking in a “polished” manner should be rewarded. But maybe you feel think otherwise.

So your question may be “Which one should I have kids do?”  My answer would be both. You can NEVER have too much student creation.