Today was the third time I was invited to do a remote presentation of 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story for the Wooster College Faculty Fellows Program. Since Jon and Matt visited UMW a few weeks back, we had a good chance to talk about some different ways to structure the session, and it worked well.
I suggested we try presenting via Google Hangout, but the google docs presenter in there is fine for screen viewing, but too small for projection, so we went low tech, and used Hangout to see each other, and had them advance my slides on a second screen there.
Here’s da slides, with embedded movies
This time I spent much less time talking about the tools, and front loaded with some discussion of the shape of stories, e.g. the Kurt Vonnegut talk
as well as some stuff from Nancy Duarte from her Resonate book section on sparklines, but mainly to make a case for the need for academics (teachers and students) to consider the allure and impact of their communications- like the idea of using what works well n cinema as a “trailer” for work that then can be treated in also a more traditional form, if appropriate.
I also illustrated the brilliant work of Dan Meyers in creating his Three Act approaches to math lessons, which could easily be applied to almost any discipline — see his three act resource for a gold mine of ideas
I’ve been getting a ton of inspiration from Randy Olson’s “Don’t Be Such a Scientist”
Olson was a tenured marine biologist who long harbored to be a film director, and in his 40w he bailed entirely on the academic career to enroll as a student on the USC Cinema School. He opens with his being shamed by a tough acting teacher who scolded him for being too much in his head, and Olson goes on to share what he learned about the effectiveness of the storytelling aspects of film that can make academic communications much more effective.
I used some of his stuff as well as the Wikipedia reference on the Three Act screenplay structure to change up the workshop activity.
Typically I do as an audience participant part a story prompt, something to get them shouting out ideas for a story. I typically do something about “You would not believe who I saw last night at _________” where I pick a locally well known locale. This is all about them brainstorming as a group.
For the Wooster group, I chose as last time, a local landmark restaurant, Matsos. but instead of just a 2 part break in the slide show, I set it up in the 3 act play structure, with prompts for the group to develop a story they would all use later. I created a google doc for each one, set open to edit for the workshop (now read only)
The group was small enough to make this a table discussiom but they also jumped in together. I was surprised how cohesively they came to a pretty solid story concept, if I can paraphrase:
Greg, the local guy who goes around shirtless, goes to Matsos for dinner; the pizza is so hot he burns his chest hair. The owner starts a fight, and in the middle, instead of a screm, Greg belts out an operatic solo, and the owner dude is so impressed, he arranges Greg to get a tryout for the local production company. Greg ends up so successful, he becomes mayor
They certainly followed the 3 act structure to a T. I mentioned the idea (again from Olson’s book) about distilling this into an elevator speech, and even more into the Hollywood High Concept one sentence or phrase (e.g. “Snakes on a Plane” or “What if we could clone dinoaurs?”). i am not sure how to do this story- “even the shirtless sing arias”?
I also had them search for media to put into a shared spreadsheet– the idea was after the 2 hour intro session, they would have 3 hours of work time to each tell that same story in a different tool.
I came back to see the final results, and like my Mom used to say, I was blown away by not only their products, but also how they treated the story each in different ways, but kept its structure. Here are a few of them:
The Matsos Pizza Shirtless Guy Story done in
The more odd thing has the handful (3 or so) who who not make their work public- I got a hint of some concern since the story involved real people, but this lack of interest in sharing disturbs me some. I even heard them say “Well we can always delete it after this workshop” – that is the sword to my gut when people dismantle the web.
That is the only negative I came away with- this was a fun group and I enjoyed the new approach to the workshop.
I still have looming over me a huge mountain of updates to the site, but am also toying with a completely new approach to the site that could make it more portable and localized for interested persons.
Stay tuned- but thanks again Jon and Matt for inviting me back to Wooster- now I just ahve to get there one day and claim that beer and pizza and Matsos