I met BJ Berquist in the context of a recent article on Tapped In that I was developing for Learning & Leading. I had been aware of the evolution of Tapped In over the past several years, and had briefly talked to Mark Schlager at conferences once or twice during its development. My recent exploration of Tapped In 2 increased my awareness of enhancements in the user interface and in the community of educators gathering around it.
Both are equally important - the metaphor for use and the user interface must be readily accessible to novice users. Once they have joined Tapped In, the presence of a community of users provides a reason to return. The advent of the World Wide Web made it possible to easily establish discussion groups and forums on every conceivable topic on thousands of servers world wide. The number and range of Web forums made it difficult for many to attract a critical mass and build community. Tapped In has made significant advances on this front in the educational community.
I recently used Tapped In to support an institute for English teachers on "Digital Storytelling" and was pleased at how well it worked in that context. We used Tapped In for exploration of digital storytelling between physical meetings on alternate weekends. Digital storytelling combines still images with short video clips and a narrated voiceover to create documentaries that bring stories to life. The emerging art of digital storytelling (see http://www.storycenter.org) allows students to combine digital images with an accompanying oral narration to tell their own stories. Effective expression in this medium can be used as a bridge to writing. In some cases the written script may precede the oral narrative, while in other instances the oral expression may be translated to written form.
Until recently, the digital editing software for creation of digital stories was expensive and difficult to use. Now, however, Apple provides i-Movie as part of the basic software included in all Macintoshes. Following this lead, Microsoft has developed Movie Maker, which is also made available without charge for all Windows XP systems. Both applications are easy to use. Availability of the software on all computers sold in the future will make digital storytelling increasingly viable, particularly when this trend is coupled with the rapid diffusion of digital cameras in American society. Digital cameras allow students to quickly and inexpensively acquire images, while ready availability of digital video editors allows them to create digital stories that incorporate the images.
I am now working with BJ and Julie Springer, coordinator of teacher programs at the National Gallery of Art, to develop a Tapped In forum on uses of digital storytelling in the visual arts. A week-long seminar at the National Gallery in Summer 2004 will "explore the connection between storytelling and learning and examine the ways teachers can use art objects with storytelling activities in the classroom" (see http://www.nga.gov/education/storyworkshop.htm for more information).
The parallel Tapped In forum, the "Art of Storytelling," was established for exploration of digital storytelling and the visual arts. We hope that you will join us if you have an interest in either digital storytelling or the visual arts.