After studying abroad in Argentina, Knox College student Bekah Lauer found herself feeling challenged to explain the life-changing experience to her family and friends back home. A new course at Knox, Digital Storytelling, helped her overcome that challenge as she and fellow students crafted short videos offering insight into the ways that international travel and experiential learning transformed them.
Lauer's video, La Cena -- Spanish for The Dinner -- recounts an especially meaningful meal that she shared with her host parents in Argentina and her actual parents, who traveled to Argentina to visit her. (Photo above: Bekah Lauer and other Knox students in Argentina. Photo below right: Bekah Lauer with her parents and her Argentine host parents.)
The videos produced by Lauer and other students marked the culmination of the Digital Storytelling course, which was offered at Knox for the first time during winter term 2014. The course is one component of Knox College's commitment to a nationwide initiative, the Institute of International Education's Generation Study Abroad project, which aims to dramatically increase the number of American students studying abroad.
Knox faculty member Robin Ragan, associate professor of modern languages (Spanish), was inspired to teach the Digital Storytelling course after she attended a couple workshops about using technology to enhance study abroad experiences. The course helps students articulate what their study abroad and experiential learning experiences meant to them, said Ragan, who also directs the Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies at Knox.
"As with any transformative experience, reflection is an essential component to making meaning," she said. "Digital Storytelling is a great opportunity to produce a reflective, compelling, visual piece that is then easily shared with others, as opposed to a journal or a scrapbook."
Lauer said the course enabled her to fully process her study abroad experience.
"When you return from a study abroad program, people ask you how your experience was and many times expect a short response filled with positive updates and quick tales," Lauer said. "This class was a chance to really share and work through experiences with other students who had gone on other study abroad programs."
As part of the process of producing their self-narrated videos, Digital Storytelling students brainstormed ideas and revised drafts in peer review groups. Ragan invited two other Knox faculty members -- Elizabeth Carlin Metz, Smith V. Brand Endowed Chair in Theatre Arts; and Chad Simpson, associate professor of English -- to the class to help students sharpen their editing and vocal presentation skills.
"Robin truly gave us the chance to make these projects our own (and) also the opportunity to learn from one another in the process," Lauer said.
The work that students created for the class was phenomenal, Ragan said. "My hope is that these stories will also work to inspire first-year and sophomore students to study abroad."
Here are some of the videos that students produced for the class:
Carina Arroyo, The O.R.
Gabe Charles, Pura Vida
Allison Diamond, Scarborough
Anna Karwowska, The Sound of Memory
Bekah Lauer, La Cena (The Dinner)
Duksangh "Duku" Dolma Sherpa, Kunga Bro
Alex Zimay, Cyklen (The Bike)