Digital Stories in Sugar Vol.1

Posted on July 10, 2011 by


Milan and Gayathri wait with the XOs for the children to arrive before the start of the workshop.

This post, and the ones that will follow, will bring out the stories that the 3rd and 4th grade children of Our Lady of Merces High School (Merces, Goa) recorded during the course of the ‘Digital Stories in Sugar’ workshop that we conducted at the school in April 2011.

Though we have previously held Digital Storytelling workshops, there were a lot of firsts for this one – it was the first time that we would be using Open Source software, first time that the participants would be using individual laptops, the first time that we would have more than 10 participants (we ended up with 25!) and the first time that we would be working with children of this age group (previous workshops were with older children, of 9th and 11th grade). Though the first two challenges were not much of a difficulty, given that we had been experimenting with the Sugar software on the XO laptops long before we decided to have the workshop, the others were a bit more daunting – how would such young children take to a 10-day, 3 hours a day workshop where they would be expected to diligently come up with stories on their own? And wouldn’t having so many young participants in the workshop simply end up in chaos?

In our brainstorming sessions while we were designing the structure of the workshop, Milan, Gayathri and I would talk about what we thought would work, what wouldn’t. Milan’s vast experience working with children and my own experience with using Sugar activities on the XO and our combined knowledge from our previous digital storytelling workshops in another village in Goa (see the Siolim Diaries blog that records our experiences from those workshops) helped give a definite shape to the workshop – after discussing various permutations and combinations, we did manage to come up with something that looked like it might work.

In the next posts, I’ll elaborate further into the details that went into designing the workshop. Since the children’s stories will be presented in multiple posts, there’s no need to rush into everything now. One thing needs mention though – the stories are not audio-visual (like Digital Stories tend to be), they are purely in audio form. In the workshop, we wanted to keep the focus on letting the children express themselves in the easiest possible way, and not ‘burden’ them with having to learn editing software to create short films like the older children in our other workshops did. Also, there was the difficulty of not having a convenient activity in Sugar that would let us put together images and audio to produce a conventional audio-visual digital story. Of course, the option to use one of the many video editing softwares available on Linux was always there, but we just decided to do away with this, and have the children record their stories in audio form using the Record activity in Sugar instead.

The stories are in various forms – some are anecdotal, some talk about a family member or a friend (or a pet), some are dreams and wish lists, others are like random observations and yet others are like notes from a personal diary. They celebrate multilingualism – the children recorded in Konkani, Hindi, English – whatever language they felt comfortable in. Typically, participants of Digital Storytelling workshops are helped along in their storytelling by suggesting that they focus on ‘an important event in their life.’ Well, for these small children, even the journey from home to school and back everyday is a major event, as is spending time with their cat, basking in the warmth of the sun, or dreaming about apple trees in a place where apples don’t grow. Here is the first lot of recordings…Enjoy.

(The photos of the children, that appear alongside their recordings, were taken by those children themselves, on their XO laptops. They’ve only been cropped to suit the layout of the blog)

(English transcripts for the non-English audios will be provided in the blog very soon. Apologies for the non-availability at present)

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Soumya (in Konkani)

Among the girls, she was the first to volunteer to record her voice on the XO. Always eager to participate in everything, Soumya talks about her ‘apple tree’, which she drew in her drawing as well.

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Sarfaraz (in Hindi)

The first in the workshop to record his voice on the XO, his stories always include mentions of all his friends, sometimes with more detail than one would want (in one of his recordings he described his friend’s experiments with nose-digging!). But that’s Sarfaraz – generous in his praise for his friends; he even has them making guest appearances in the recording posted above.

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Ankita (in Konkani)

Shy and silent, but very participative. In the recording she lavishes praise on just about every member of her extended family!

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Irfan (in Hindi)

His drawing was all about his house, and a mango tree close to it. Not surprising that he expresses so much love for his house in his recording. Irfan was a bundle of energy during the workshop; he loved creating games in Memorize, and would wait eagerly to work on the XO every day.

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Hrithik (in Hindi)

Flamboyant, talkative and very polite, Hrithik simply loved doing anything on the XO. An all-rounder by every definition of the phrase, he was probably one of the most participative of all the children, with an infectious, unstoppable enthusiasm for everything that we did in the workshop. In his recording, he attempts to retell the conventional cat and mouse story, in his own style and lingo.

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More to come in later posts.

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The workshop was conducted by Monsoon Grey. The resource persons were Milan Khanolkar, Salil Konkar and Gayathri Rao Konkar. The volunteers were Radha Chandy, Sneha Chaudhury and Indraneil Chaudhury. It was financially supported by The Digital Bridge Foundation (DBF). The workshop was made possible with consultative support from Harriet Vidyasagar (Consultant, E-Learning). The partners for the  OLPC deployment at Merces are DBF, Gnowledge Labs (Homi Bhabha Centre for Science & Education, TIFR) and Nirmala Institute of Education (NIE).