Boundless Classroom with Digital Storytelling – Experiences in situ

@Municipal Radio Station FM 100.6, ‘Telloglio talks…’, Telloglio Arts Foundation, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, 06.11.2012 


Europe and Greek myths, 16th-19th century, & related educational projects
The theme of the radio talk connected the Exhibition of paintings of the Louvre Museum hosted in Telloglio Arts Foundation with the projects organized and implemented by the 1st Neapoli and 92nd Primary Schools in Thessaloniki. The schools are FINNABLE 2020Boundless Classroom & Digital Storytelling partners. Students of two sixthgrade classes work in teams, create their digital stories that focus on myths from Ancient Greek mythology, upload on MoViE, and share with peers in Finland and California, USA. This is the background then that sets the scene of my presence and participation in the program.

Inevitably, an invitation to an art-related radio program entailed relevant themes and, therefore, the launching question did investigate my view of what type of interaction between technology and art should underscore the relationship of these two in the educational domain.

Taking a stance in order to solve the puzzle of the type of relationship, I inverted the interviewer’s question into another one : Should we treat art as Subject or as Object? As  a fossilised representation of the artist’s idea of the world? Or as as transformative experience that transgresses the limits of descriptive symbolic representation through dynamic re-symbolization? In the latter, the work of art brings the myth forward, the myth is thus (re)discovered in the eyes of the students-beholders, interpreted and transformed into new meaning, applied to a different context at a different historical moment. It is this process of interpretation that the ‘marriage’ of art with technology needs to be targeted at in the educational domain. Through this, the students explore reality not as a static entity, but as one that is constantly reconstructed.

Technology then is the tool, the medium, that enables the activation of creative imagination, the retelling of the myth, the accounting of the story, the creation of the digital story from and within a new perspective through novel narrative. The novelty is apparent in the digital transfer of the myth of Europe through time to the 21st century. In this, the 6th grade students of Thessaloniki schools  built their own ‘MoViE’ scenario. This presents Europe to resist Zeus’ courting at the shopping mall, the couple’s meeting point. In this interpretation, Hera, the ever-jealous wife asks for a divorce, while Europe is made by her parents to accept Zeus’ proposal and, finally, wed him. This act of creation of a new version of Europe’s kidnap , dramatisation and digitization in the form of a video, or, to be exact, of a number of optimized and remixed videos, is only the outcome. During the process, as Tasos Papas, their Greek teacher asserts, the students’ innovativeness and creativity burst out unplanned, naturally, without pressure. In this way, willingness for learning or, in Ricoeur’s term, this ‘poetic will’ (i.e., willingness in the making) is mobilized. It is this willingness for learning that crosses the boundaries of traditional schooling and meets with the educational context anew to refresh the school-teacher-student relationship.

This emergence of creative imagination could possibly explain the Boundless Classroom students’ active participation in the MoViE activities. And the engagement is increasing, at least at this very moment when international connections and collaborations are being shaped. With, I dare say, an escalating involvement in improving video-artefacts, while, at the same time, movies get edited and remixed individually and in teams; stories refined; use of digital tools becomes more complex and advanced; and meanings deepened and broadened. ‘The students can’t wait to come back to school the next day and get started with their movies’, Eleni Bousia, one of the Digital Storytelling teachers-partners from Neapoli, Thessaloniki, states. A claim that I, as a researcher, definitely abide.

My presence in the five participating Greek schools# during last October and beginning of November aimed to support technologically and pedagogically the integration of digital storytelling into pedagogical practice.  The in-situ experience is documented and the forthcoming analysis will attempt to discuss and interpret the process of the integration of digital stories in classroom practices. To the findings of the empirical study, however, I will add my own convictions, being outcomes of involvement filtered through an ethnographer’s eyes : The digital tools CAN and MUST be part of the daily pedagogical practice. Not only because they contribute to students’ skills, creativity and collaboration enhancement. But mostly because they are vehicles toward the realization of our vision of the School of the Future, that caters for access to information and knowledge for all, and reduces the digital divide.

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