Quick! Grab your calculator! What is the answer to the equation: Physics + Digital Storytelling? Well, this should be easy. Physics is everywhere! At first, my mind fills with random thoughts…little clips from MythBusters, Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner, and collisions and explosions from various movies. But then, I’m a bit hesitant. How can Physics be paired with a silly little story? This is rocket science, by the way. So, wouldn’t assigning my students a storytelling project be a trivial activity? After spending time researching and thinking about the basics of digital storytelling, I am excited to share my observations and ideas related to Physics + Digital Storytelling.
First, I’m a bit bothered by the term Digital Storytelling. There has got to be a better name for this. When a student is given a Digital Storytelling assignment, they are potentially being asked to do more than simply tell a story. A well designed Digital Storytelling project requires critical thinking. It asks the student to explore, write, design, problem solve while also engaging creativity. As a product of the project, students should walk away with a better, deeper, more personal understanding of the topics involved. With these intentions in mind, I don’t think it’s as simple as turning students loose with a computer, digital media and some laws of Physics. I feel a certain level of structure would be appropriate for my Physics students.
Next, it’s important to know, I teach Physics online. My course is written with limited room for immediate changes to the curriculum. So, I need to squeeze this project option into the current framework of my class. With that limitation in mind, I focus on two ideas. Idea 1 involves motion graphs. Students often struggle with understanding how to read position versus time, velocity versus time and acceleration versus time graphs. Idea 2 involves an honors writing activity where students usually write an essay on the Physics involved in a sport. With this project, Digital Storytelling could easily replace the essay and be much more engaging and enjoyable for the student.
Digital storytelling can help students develop a more personal and in-depth understanding. And for that reason, I think it is important to explore Idea 1. First, I would build upon my existing course lessons involving motion graphs. Second, a key part of the project would ask students to use the University of Colorado, Moving Man simulation http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/moving-man. Third, the project would also ask students to find or create their own motion video, describe that motion and sketch corresponding motion graphs. Students could submit a Prezi, PowerPoint or other format of their choice to summarize their investigation.
Since my students are typically juniors and seniors, many are willing and able to try new web 2.0 tools. My school offers information and help links to recommended web 2.0 tools. In addition to that, I would probably offer teacher created examples and a detailed list of steps to follow or rubric. It might also be fun to ask students to compare an example with proper Physics with an example of bad Physics such as that Wile E. Coyote.
These are just some of my initial thoughts regarding Physics + Digital Storytelling. I look forward to digging deeper into the possibilities and growing more comfortable with curriculum integration within my online Physics class. I truly feel a meaningful project takes time to develop and asks the students to go beyond telling a story. So, for now, I’d rather call this Physics + Digital Story-crafting.