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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Story Telling Part Three: Using Different Medias in Storytelling

Anthony Bloome, Peace Corps Information Communications and Technology Specialist, interviews Peace Corps Deputy Director Jody Olsen about the essential components of story telling, speaking in classrooms, using different medias in story telling, and reflection on the impact of the volunteer experience.

Anthony Bloome
That's terrific. We've talked about, previously, in terms of phone calls as part of the exchange between currently serving volunteers and schools. Can you think of any other examples in terms of returned volunteers and media or formats that they might use, or are using, to help tell their story? You have the traditional artifacts, and maybe you can elaborate on what they've been using to help tell their stories. But have you also seen examples of other forms of media that are being used for that same purpose?
Jody Olsen
think that, well, first, just to stay with artifacts for a moment, that particularly when you're giving a talk or, you know, visiting with students, particularly the importance of students and classrooms. But I think sometimes even with adult audiences, that when you bring in an artifact of some kind, and you sit it beside you as you're starting to speak, the curiosity is so high, so you already have their attention because they're trying to figure out, one: what is it? And two: how are you going to use it, and what is it going to be? And so, being able to do that helps create the story opportunity, and an artifact can be so simple. It can be a bowl that you ate out of. Often I carry a head covering because that was so common in Tunisia, but the head covering can be a fairly simple scarf. It's what you weave around it in your story that makes that artifact come to life. We also get opportunities, and again it comes to radio or to local television. I know and have seen volunteers who have taken their best photos and made a photo display and then have done visual storytelling using the photos as a basis for stories that they tell. And, I think that photos can really bring stories to life, and the photos don't need to be great. You know, sometimes we think, "Ah, they gotta be perfect, or I'll keep them in the attic." But you know, bring them out, mediocre as some of them might be, and go ahead and use them and use those as the basis for stories. But, I also want to note what I think many of us are doing much more, which are all the interactive, Internet kinds of activities, and now we move to generations that are much younger than me. But, you know, particularly blogs and things like that. I'm just starting to discover that stuff, but as you go and, you know, think about, think about a blog for a moment, which is actually a written communication, that those that come across your blog can then use and think about in a lot of different ways, which is part of how I also think of storytelling. Let's say you commit that you're doing a blog once a week to friends and family back home, and you're currently serving. And you're thinking, "What is it that I'm going to put in this blog? What is going to come to life that makes a good story?" And I think one component of that, as you're working your way through the week, and a lot of strange things happen, and you get angry and, you know, have been sitting and waiting for the local mayor, and it's three hours later, and he hasn't come, and it's 110 degrees, and you're thinking of all the things you're not doing, and he keeps promising he's going to be there, and what you want to do is yell and scream and run out the door and say, "I'm not gonna deal with this anymore!" Well, what you can do at that moment, before starting to scream, is to take a half a step back and say, "Okay, one: I'm in this situation, but two: let me be an observer to my own situation that I'm now in. What does that look like? What is it? Why am I getting angry? Why is the mayor not here? What's happening?" You have a beginning of a story for a blog, and in that, because you're sort of analyzing yourself, "Okay, here's part of me being an American; here's part of me still wearing my watch and running on a certain kind of time." And you then have a chance to think, "Okay, what is the culture of the mayor? Why is he late? Is this all sorts of dynamics of age and leadership or territory?" or, you know, whatever one wants to think about. But, in doing that and thinking about that, two things happen. One: you have a story that actually is fairly neutral because you're describing what happened to you, and you describe what happened to the situation, and you're not saying, you know, "Darn that mayor!" You're talking about the environment that you found yourself in and what you learned from it as you were waiting for the mayor. And, second, as part of that, you discovered what you learned from in waiting for the mayor. You understand your own situation better. You will react the next time that happens, because it will happen again. You understand better what's happening in that situation. And I think that finding opportunities to tell stories, to create stories, to do blogs, to do whatever those written, or let's say regular written or regular spoken opportunities you have, particularly for friends and family back home, is a chance to see detail that you didn't see before, think of yourself in the environment in a way that you've never done that before. And you can, I think, appreciate and adjust and understand so much better as you put on those "story eyes" and become a participant observer, or even a silent observer, to yourself and the environment.