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‘Sprouting’ new projects

April 30, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I learned about a new web-based tool that allows you to create Flash-based multimedia projects without having to actually learn flash. It’s called “Sprout Builder.” We’ve been growing multimedia classes at Cerritos College mostly with video, but I immediately see lots of possibilities with Sprout Builder as another way for our students to learn to tell stories in multimedia format.

This week a couple of our multimedia students created our first multimedia sprout using Sprout Builder. You can find it on the Talon Marks web site at www.talonmarks.com. It is the Noam Chomsky piece at the bottom of the page. The sprout is embedded into a College Publisher story page.

The sprout covers a teleconference event on campus yesterday morning. There is a lot more the students COULD have done with it, but something has to be first and they wanted to get it out in conjunction with today’s print edition. In the last month or so my newspaper students have learned some value in making available audio files of events, but they need next to learn to take those long pieces and build shorter podcasts with a story line. But we take things in baby steps sometimes. It took almost a year and half to show the value of audio connected with the newspaper.

The students included an hour-long audio file, but ran into a problem embedding it into the sprout. Seems you have two options: embed it as a sprout asset or merely link to it. An embedded audio asset cannot exceed 1.5 MB. An hour-long mp3 takes about 57 MB. So they uploaded it elsewhere and just linked to it. It was learning-as-you-go. They also had it completed and then realized that they lacked navigational buttons on secondary pages, so had to go back in and fix it.

The newspaper is just one area where I and my adjuncts see the value of storytelling using sprouts. I’ve already assigned sprout projects to my beginning newswriting students and expect results from them within a couple of weeks. (the students seemed excited about the projects and didn’t show any hesitation to learning to create the sprouts. Good! They have enough to learn about the storytelling aspect of gathering original data and aggregating data.) My adjuncts and I are talking about replacing traditional term papers with sprout research projects to add more fun to the assignments –and to make it more difficult to try to pass off the research assignment with a hastily written essay. And we’re seeing lots of possibilities for our multimedia: one of my adjuncts also teaches Anthropology at the college and wants to set up a partnership where we provide multimedia storytelling training for her Anthro students who would then build sprouts.

We are already building a strong partnership with our Political Science department to train students to edit video for that department’s MyDemocracy projects. (See the lower half of this previous post.)

We want to do a lot more in introducing not only journalism students, but students from other disciplines to storytelling through sprouts, blogging, podcasting, Soundslides and video. it’s exciting, even for an old dinosaur like me.

Thank you Byran Murley of Innovation in College Media for introducing us to Sprout Builder.

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