Small World News is a member of the Video 4 Change network. Steve and I attended the Latin America regional conference in Mexico City last week. The gathering brought together more than 30 activists from across Central and South America. The v4c networks provides support and resources for the use of video to document human rights abuses and encourage social change.

StoryMaker has been downloaded by users around the globe but this was our first chance to work closely with activists and citizen journalists in Latin America. We have been working on improving StoryMaker’s usefulness for Cuban journalists specifically, and Latin Americans in general. The conference was an opportunity to gather feedback from journalists, filmmakers, and fellow trainers. We tested some of our assumptions earlier this year in Turkey, but continued assessment by highly diverse groups of testers is key to building relevant, useful tools.

The current drafts of our photo lessons were extremely well received. Diego, who works on community video projects in Peru, looked up from the first lesson to say “I learned something new!” Gustavo, an activist from El Salvador, felt the lessons were “very practical.” Laura, an experience trainer from Mexico was particularly impressed with the use of color and black and white to demonstrate how layers are used in photography.

We also received a fair amount of feedback about how we might improve the lessons. In particular, the “call to action” feature––the practical work at the end of each lesson needs to be clearer.

Each path provides example content, but testers said its impact could be improved by making clearer what the example intends to teach. For instance in the case shown here, we intend to teach the user one important use of the background layer in photography. It appears now that this text would be more helpful as an initial card, introducing the concept, followed by the photo with text that says something like “In this photo the background shows the protest, adding more context to the photo of a protester speaking with a passerby.” By separating the learning that teaches “what might a background layer used for” from the explanation of the specific example, we can reinforce the user’s learning.

Overall, our testers felt the paths were a great introduction to the basics of photography. They also requested some additional paths, some of the highlights were:

  • How can I ensure photos shot with a mobile have proper lighting?

  • How can I write good captions for my photos?

  • How can I shoot good portraits?

  • How can I make a great photo series?

  • What are the different types of shots one might use in photography?

In the coming weeks we will be implementing some changes to improve the lessons, based on the feedback we have received. We will also consider what additional lessons to include in the Mobile Photo 101 curriculum. By this fall, you’ll be able to see these lessons in a new release of StoryMaker that will also support publishing photo series to Facebook and Flickr. We look forward to hearing your feedback as well. Consider joining StoryMaker’s Beta Community on Google+ to get a first look at new lessons and features before they become public in the play store.