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Tibet to Bosnia

Summer Institute Promotes Global Storytelling

Story by
Nancy Joseph
September 2011Perspectives Newsletter
Moly Sam, a Cambodian court dancer who escaped the Khmer  Rouge, told her story and performed a traditional Cambodian  dance during the Summer Seminar for Educators.

Moly Sam, a Cambodian court dancer who escaped the Khmer Rouge, told her story and performed a traditional Cambodian dance during the Summer Seminar for Educators. 

For two days in June, teachers attending the Summer Seminar for Educators listened with rapt attention as guest speakers shared their personal stories of survival and escape from Nazi Germany, war-torn Cambodia, and other turbulent regions of the world. Then, working in groups, the educators created digital materials that captured those dramatic stories, providing a powerful teaching tool for their own classrooms.

Helping teachers bring global issues to the classroom is at the heart of the Summer Seminar, aimed at middle school, high school, and community college educators. The annual offering is hosted by the Jackson School of International Studies and organized by the School’s eight area resource centers. 

Tikka Sears, outreach coordinator for the Southeast Asia Center, led this year’s seminar. A theater artist who is passionate about storytelling, Sears proposed a program that would help educators gain skills in using oral histories by creating and editing digital stories and brainstorming ways to implement them in the classroom. “This model works well,” says Sears. “It is unique and provides the opportunity to combine different models of learning.”

The educators worked in groups, each group focusing on one of the regions covered by the guest speakers. The participants listened to presenters, sorted through archived images, read a short article, built and edited a presentation using Photo Story software, and presented the finished product to the group. 

Seminar organizer Tikka Sears.

Seminar organizer Tikka Sears.

“I loved the hands-on experience,” says participant Elizabeth Norville, co-founder and project director for the Seattle Refugee Youth Project. “It really showed me the learning benefits of a digital media assignment and active learning.” Norville’s work includes digital storytelling to promote the social inclusion of local refugee youth into their new Seattle homeland. 

Recruiting seminar presenters with compelling stories was crucial to the project. This year’s invited speakers included Dr. Noor Aaf, a physician who lived in Afghanistan at the time of the Soviet invasion; Stephen Adler, a Holocaust survivor who escaped by Kindertransport to Hamburg; Abdullah Polovina, a Seattle Imam who lived through revolution in Bosnia; Moly Sam, a Cambodian court dancer who escaped the Khmer Rouge; and Tsering Chamatsang Yuthok, an international program advocate who fled Tibet.

“It was an intense two days with five incredible stories,” says Sears. “Teachers walked away with photo stories and digital archives for all the regions, which they can bring back to the classroom.” 

Sears and her team are now preparing DVDs of the presentations for participants to use as a resource. The software selected for training purposes is also easily accessible and available as a free download online, so the teachers may continue honing their digital storytelling skills. 

Scott Macklin (far right) was the seminar's keynote speaker,  as well as digital media facilitator and instructor.

Scott Macklin (far right) was the seminar's keynote speaker, as well as digital media facilitator and instructor.

“Increasingly we are coming to a better understanding that learners today are not just mere consumers of content but are becoming co-creators of content and thus co-creators of meanings,” says Scott Macklin, filmmaker and associate director in the UW Master of Communication in Digital Media program, who delivered the seminar’s keynote lecture and served as the digital media facilitator and instructor. “Learning sessions such as this summer's session help teachers gain access to the concepts, skills, acumen, and abilities to develop relevant and rigorous learning activities that are based in relationships and generating results.”

Macklin’s wife, Angelica Macklin, award-winning documentary film maker and Multimedia Producer for the National Center for Quality Teaching and Learning, served as co-instructor and facilitator for the Summer Seminar. Wesley Henry, a PhD student in the College of Education, served as teacher liaison. 

“It will be nice to have an alternative to Power Point presentations,” says seminar participant and Roosevelt High School librarian Patricia Pawelak-Kort. “I think students will be very excited about these digital materials, which seem to allow for more creativity. I look forward to using them.”