Spotlight: Student Tech Liaisons Patrick and Nikolai Discuss Digital Storytelling

In addition to the work of Whittier College faculty,  Sonia Chaidez (Instructional Media Designer), and Kathy Filatreau (Instructional Technologist), the Digital Storytelling Project would not function without the work and expertise of our Student Technology Liaisons, who spend hours working with their peers to draft scripts, record audio, assemble media, and edit videos. Here are two of our current Tech Liaisons, Patrick Rubalcava and Nikolai Barkats, to answer some questions about how they’ve worked with students on their digital stories.

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Q: Tell us about how you’ve been contributing to the Digital Storytelling Project in your capacity as Student Technology Liaisons.

NB: Mostly we’ve just been taking the time out to talk to students and see how familiar they are with video editing software. We find that, often, students have some background in video editing, but that they remain unaware about the wealth of tools available to them when compiling a digital story or any other kind of video-based project. What I’ll do is sit down with them and take them through video editing at the most basic level, making sure they understand how the editor they’re using works and why certain tools are helpful. The more we educate and inform individual students about the basics of video editing, the more they can grow as digital storytellers themselves. Once they’ve done that they can learn to create independent storytelling styles of their own, and develop their skills to a point beyond what we could have taught them.

photo credit: Adam Franco via photopin cc
photo credit: “Finger Dance” by Adam Franco via flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Q: What kinds of stories have you helped other students develop into digital stories?

PR: Well, the students that come in for help are taking classes from an array of different disciplines (music, sociology, etc), and this presents an opportunity to help develop some really different products. While some are strictly informational (perhaps telling the life story of an important composer, for example), others were argumentative in nature, and there were even a few that were intensely personal. Being able to hear these stories and assist these students in creating a manifestation of the story that they could be proud of was definitely enjoyable.

photo credit: diylibrarian via photopin cc
photo credit: “DHS Reports” by diylibrarian via flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

…make sure you have a secure vision and a tight script prior to delving in and constructing your video or recording your content. I’ll emphasize that it’s helpful to develop your script and record it first, and then construct your video second.

Q: What are the major steps in creating a digital story, and how do you help your peers with this?

PR: First, develop a concept. There’s not a whole lot we can do to assist in this regard; your work will be much better if its a product of your passion/imagination. After you know what you’re doing, write your script, making sure that it meets all of the criteria that your professor has set for you. Next, practice it a few times before recording. We are available to assist in recording, both as a second set of ears and possessors of a quality microphone. Furthermore, we can assist in manipulating your audio in any manner you may see fit. After recording, one simply uploads the the audio onto a video-creation platform (perhaps WeVideo) and adds other relevant media to complete the experience.

NB: I think Pat hits the nail on the head, make sure you have a secure vision and a tight script prior to delving in and constructing your video or recording your content. I’ll emphasize that it’s helpful to develop your script and record it first, and then construct your video second. That way you can find images that correspond to your subject matter and make sure that they surface in the video at the correct time. So, step one would be to write your script. Step two would be to open your editor and record your script. Step three would be to collect images that correspond with your subject matter (from either the web or your own personal photo collection). Lastly, step four would be to bring the images into the editor and cut them together to form a visual narrative that adheres to your audio. It’s about baby steps. Take small steps and you’ll be just fine.

photo credit: wwwuppertal via photopin cc
photo credit: “Footprint” by Werner Wittersheim via flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0


Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in this work?

NB: The largest challenges we’ve faced are the issues that arise when facilitating the recording process for the students. Ideally, we’d have a space where multiple recordings could occur at once, an area where a vast amount of recording equipment and video editing software is available to the students. Beefing up the quality of video crafting tools would help immensely. I think more intricate and interesting kinds of digital storytelling could surface if students had access to more up-to-date video and audio recording devices. This would include cameras specifically built for shooting video, and a wealth of microphones meant for recording audio. Then tech liaisons like myself and Patrick would be more then happy to show students how to use that equipment in an academic fashion, and how using those tools would aid in crafting a more compelling argument or captivating narrative. However, it’s also helpful if their projects are as portable as possible. This is why sites like WeVideo are so helpful. I think that in the meantime the current resources available to us suffice, but in using those resources students should be as clear as possible when letting DigLibArts know what they need help with. A lot of the time I’ll just go right into teaching students the basics of video editing because they don’t know what to ask or where to begin. If students are more vocal with which aspects they need help with, it becomes easier for us to fine-tune their skills. The more they ask us questions in person ( or even on twitter) the more helpful we can be.

photo credit: Matt Hamm via photopin cc
photo credit: “My Original Twitter Bird Drawing” by Matt Hamm via flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.


Q: What advice would you give students creating their own digital stories?

PR: Preparation. Preparation. Preparation. Make sure you have your script is almost finalized by the time you’re going to record. Practice performing your script a few times. Trying to be prepared will save you a lot of time in the editing process. Be as creative as possible, and don’t be afraid to take some risks. Above all, make sure you enjoy telling the story you’re telling. And, of course, stop by the DigLibArts offices if you need any help.

NB: I’ll also add that students should try to speak up when recording their stories. Don’t be timid when speaking into the microphone. A little confidence goes a long way. Other than that, I’d say Pat’s right, one hundred percent. Come by and make sure you know what kind of tools are available to you before you begin your project. A lot of video editing is trial and error, but double check to make sure that you’re familiar with all the basics prior to getting started. To do so you could watch an online tutorial like the one we’ve developed pertaining to how to use WeVideo.


NB: But if you prefer face-to-face interaction… to have a liaison between yourself and the technology you’re dealing with, perhaps, then totally come by and speak with one of us.

PR:  If it’s particularly difficult work, be sure to ask for Nikolai Barkats (I kid, of course).

NB: Oh, Pat! You jokester!