This past week, I attended a workshop titled “Create A Rich Multimedia Narrative with ESRI Story Map.” The workshop was hosted by two of the GC Digital Initiatives’ digital fellows, primarily being conducted by Olivia Ildefonso, with assistance from Javier Otero Peña. The goal of the workshop was to teach us how to effectively use ArcGIS‘s “Story Maps” feature. I was a bit hesitant to work with ArcGIS because I used it once before for a different class and it was a bit difficult to navigate. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how user-friendly it is and overall how naturally the skills needed to create an efficient story map came to me.
Olivia and Javier prepped a Google Slides show as a guide for the participants, but they prefaced the actual story map developing with making sure we went and downloaded a previously created folder on Google Drive. The folder contained all of the materials needed to create a replica of Olivia’s story map, “3 Weeks in Argentina.” I was actually worried about how efficient this workshop would be, thinking we may be creating random story maps. That would open up the possibility of ten different problems arising all at once. The method of having us replicate a demo story map was actually significantly helpful and definitely prevented any potential chaos from erupting.
I was planning on sharing some screenshots to show some of the work we had done, but I realized that defeats the purpose of the story map (I did, however, embed a link to Olivia’s demo in the title above). The difference between a story map and a simple PowerPoint presentation is that the story map brings a presentation to life. You can make your slides immersive, meaning that they can naturally phase between slides (and you can change the phasing effect), present media (such as live videos playing behind your text boxes, or a stagnant video clip waiting for the viewer to press play), present data via different methods, and much more.
What I should be clear about is the fact that we used the “Cascade” style story map, which is only one of seven different style options. The cascade option fits that of more narrative-based presentations (which is why we worked with information/media from Olivia’s trip to Argentina). With my background being in Education & English, I immediately thought of this as a great tool for narrative-based projects in English classes. Even something as simple as book reports could be an assignment that opens up students to the world of digital humanities. Similar to what Ryan Cordell wrote in his essay “How Not to Teach Digital Humanities” within the Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016 edition (a recent reading of ours), we need to start small with our students and help them climb the scaffolding we lay out in order to help them reach the top. Even simple mapping tools such as ArcGIS’s story mapping is a gateway tool to bigger DH projects, which is something we need to take into consideration when developing curriculum. I’m currently thinking of projects I have done as well as projects I have given students in the past and am thinking of how I could incorporate something like story mapping.
Overall, this workshop went incredibly smoothly and is probably tied for first for my favorite workshop thus far (the other contender is my HTML & CSS workshop with Patrick Smyth). Story maps is a great tool for making presentations much more fun and engaging for students/your audience. It is an incredibly flexible digital tool and surely one that I will be utilizing in the near future. I highly encourage those of you who couldn’t attend the workshop to go to the website (link embedded in “Story Maps” above) and play around with it! Hopefully, you will find it just as easy to use as I did!