One of the most exciting new developments in StoryMaker 2 is the ability to create unique templates, which we call storypaths. A storypath is a series of illustrated, step-by-step interactive screens that walk users through how to produce audio, video and photos for a specific story types. This path structure enables us to create tailored assignment instruction for a wide variety of uses. Paths can be created to provide instructions on how to shoot a portrait or how to cover an event like an election. Individual storypaths are grouped by topic into related packs.

Lately we have been working on creating more specific paths directed at very specific projects. StoryMaker 2 initially shipped with a very general set of instructional  paths that provide guidance to help users create a basic story. StoryMaker has produced downloadable packs in Farsi, Arabic and Spanish for journalists and activists working in the MENA region and elsewhere. We are currently working on a project for Cuban users, specifically improving photography skills and basic understanding of how to tell photo stories with a mobile phone.

Beginning last week we took on a new experiment to see if we can tailor classroom assignments for a workshop in videomaking for journalists and activist from Libya. Beginning with our Alive in Libya project Small World News has been working in Libya since the 2011 revolution. Despite great promise following the revolution, the absence of a strong central government in Libya has led to widespread political violence, often at the hands of armed tribal militias, and ideological extremism.

For this workshop I created 5 individual paths:

  • What do you hope to learn
  • Interview your partner
  • Shoot a Process Story
  • Create a Story with Narration
  • What’s the most important thing you learned.

The first path and final path are aimed at bookending the workshop. We think this approach will help improve monitoring and evaluation to judge the impact of the workshops more clearly. The other three paths focus on first getting the participant to demonstrate their current skill level and familiarity with mobiles by asking each to interview their partner and shoot two clips related to the interview. From there I asked them to create a story showing a clear process with three clips, and a final complete story with five clips and a narration to add context and depth.

In the past we have depended on workshop participants to listen well and remember the exact directions provided for each assignment in class. This has always proved challenging and produced mixed results. Videomaking alone is a very complex skill. When you add translation, you are not always sure the participant will understand and remember every detail. With these new paths we can provide direction in the classroom and reminders of exactly what we discussed as they work.

In addition to content for specific projects  Small World News is developing a library of lesson packs/packages from which users can choose. These packs include theoretical content, such as journalism ethics. They also include practical training on a wide variety of topics. We are developing material to help users get the most out of StoryMaker as a tool for human rights observers and activists.

I’ll update you at the end of the workshop with the results, hopefully including some stories as well as my analysis on how to improve the paths further in the future.