Spotlight on the Classroom: Media Studies Course Shapes the Next Generation of Storytellers
Dr. Michele Prettyman teaches Mercer students how to find their voice as storytellers and appreciate the stories that others have to tell.
This is the fourth year that dr. Prettyman, an assistant professor of media studies and Africana studies, has taught digital storytelling, but this is the first time the course has included a trip to the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.
The course focuses on the art of storytelling and shows the tools that can be used to create meaningful stories about the world around us. Students learn to create compelling non-fiction stories with modern digital technologies, including audio, photography, video, and interactive graphics.
“It’s not just about the technology,” said Dr Prettyman. “It’s about yourself as part of a larger community. As storytellers, our job is to rewrite stories about people and communities that have been marginalized from storytelling, or whose stories have not been told in a more complete and thoughtful way.
Class members gain proficiency in smartphone technologies as well as computer/software resources, including Adobe Premiere editing software; analyze stories presented in different media forms, such as short films, feature films, documentaries and podcasts; discover the basic elements of cinema; and develop an understanding of media literacy and the ethical obligations of storytellers.
This general Education courses attract students from a variety of disciplines and with varying technological experience, Dr. Prettyman said. This is an interactive and collaborative course that includes lectures, group work, fieldwork as students practice their skills, and lots of discussion.
“To be able to tell stories, you have to understand how people digest stories and what methods are used to tell them in the best way,” said Yasmeen Hill, a junior dual specialization in journalism and Media studies. “I really feel like I’m learning all of these things by taking this course.”
During class on September 16, Dr. Prettyman and his students looked at still images they took around campus to depict certain themes. They interpreted and commented on the photos and asked questions about them. A student took a photo of the fountain at Tattnall Square Park at 3 a.m. Another showed a photo of a Mercer football fan hugging a player after a game.
“I think what I enjoy the most is seeing different people’s perspectives on a lot of different things.” says sophomore Devin Dickinson, a specialist in global development. “I loved seeing how different people tell stories and how to dissect them.”
Dr. Prettyman usually invites a few guests to speak with his digital storytelling class. Dr. Matt Harper, Assistant Professor of History and African Studies, spoke with students about local historical projects he is involved in, and Hannah Vann nabiassociate director of Mercer’s Quality Improvement Plan (QEP), spoke about the growth and challenges of the Macon and Mercer communities.
On September 26, about 70 people in two chartered buses traveled to the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Attendees included Dr. Prettyman’s digital storytelling students, Dr. Laura Simon’s students ssociology of rhave and andethnic class, other Mercer faculty and staff, and members of the community. The trip was supported by a Research That Reaches Out/QEP grant.
“The design is unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” said Dr Prettyman. “It just floods you with information and experiences that help us understand the fullness of how racial terrorism has operated in this country for many years. decades.”
The multi-sensory museum uses interactive media, sculptures, videos and exhibits to detail the history of racial injustice in America. The memorial features hanging headstones that symbolize the thousands of lynching victims in the United States.
“I was definitely going through a lot of emotions when I was there,” Hill said. “Having everything set up in chronological order, it really documented what it was like. I was just confronted with a physical representation of black suffering.
Dickinson said it was overwhelming and shocking to see the country’s black history portrayed in this way. The museum is a “story of how slavery still affects the world” and shows things that have gone unseen for far too long.
“With the travel component, you definitely want students to be exposed to a kind of living history that they might not have experienced otherwise,” Dr. Prettyman said. “I want them to be able to bond. I want them to have a more tangible sense of how these things are actively shaping our own social lives. The museum does a good job of making these things very tangible.
Students in sociology and digital storytelling courses apply their museum experiences to projects. In Dr. Prettyman’s class, students work on group projects related to an issue they were exposed to at the museum it is also connected to middle Georgia. They will incorporate interviews, stills, moving images, stock footage and other elements into creative stories lasting five to seven minutes. They are not journalistic pieces but non-fiction stories, similar to short documentary films.
Hill’s group was considering a project that focused on either medical discrimination or prison sentences for young black people. Dickinson’s group was investigating unequal medical care for women in prison.
One of the things the course has addressed is the danger of telling only one story and not giving people enough context. TailinHis son said he learned “how to tell a story as fully as possible, while still leaving room for people to want to investigate further.” They will be able to apply this knowledge and perspective to future lessons and assignments.