Bringing the "Odyssey" into a modern classroom

Bridging the 2,800-year gap between a classic piece of literature and current-day education has been a struggle for English teachers for decades.

But Monticello High School teacher Shannon Bicknell has found at least one method that helped bring the “Odyssey” to life for her freshman English students: digital storytelling.

The multimedia teaching technique helped her students identify with the themes of the epic Greek poem by projecting the trials of Odysseus onto struggles of their own.

Bicknell had researched digital storytelling as an instructional designer at the University of Illinois, so when she began as an instructor at MHS this past fall, she saw it as a good fit for the classroom.

“I knew that pairing that approach with the ‘Odyssey’ would be a perfect fit. After all, the ‘Odyssey’ is one of the foundational stories of Western literature. We wanted our students to be able to personally connect with this text and explore their own personal odysseys while studying it,” said Bicknell, who gave a presentation on the digital storytelling to teachers at an in-service last semester, as well as to school board members on Dec. 14.

“We’re just really trying to think, ‘how do we make this more modern? How do we get kids interested in the ‘Odyssey,’ and how do we prepare them for college too?’ This is a lot like what composition looks like in certain classes in college anymore,” said Bicknell.

“Odyssey” relates the 10-year journey of Greek hero Odysseus after the conclusion of the Trojan War. The themes of perseverance, hospitality and loyalty were ones students seemed to latch on to when they dug into the freshman English project.

 

Bridging the 2,800-year gap between a classic piece of literature and current-day education has been a struggle for English teachers for decades.

But Monticello High School teacher Shannon Bicknell has found at least one method that helped bring the “Odyssey” to life for her freshman English students: digital storytelling.

The multimedia teaching technique helped her students identify with the themes of the epic Greek poem by projecting the trials of Odysseus onto struggles of their own.

Bicknell had researched digital storytelling as an instructional designer at the University of Illinois, so when she began as an instructor at MHS this past fall, she saw it as a good fit for the classroom.

“I knew that pairing that approach with the ‘Odyssey’ would be a perfect fit. After all, the ‘Odyssey’ is one of the foundational stories of Western literature. We wanted our students to be able to personally connect with this text and explore their own personal odysseys while studying it,” said Bicknell, who gave a presentation on the digital storytelling to teachers at an in-service last semester, as well as to school board members on Dec. 14.

“We’re just really trying to think, ‘how do we make this more modern? How do we get kids interested in the ‘Odyssey,’ and how do we prepare them for college too?’ This is a lot like what composition looks like in certain classes in college anymore,” said Bicknell.

“Odyssey” relates the 10-year journey of Greek hero Odysseus after the conclusion of the Trojan War. The themes of perseverance, hospitality and loyalty were ones students seemed to latch on to when they dug into the freshman English project.

 

“So as Odysseus is going through different trials and tribulations, we wanted students to think about what they were facing in their life that is similar to this character,” added the MHS teacher.

For example, freshman Tiegan Reynolds focused on her recovery from a seventh grade softball injury that required surgery and subsequent rehab.

Reynolds, who also spoke to the school board, admits she was concerned when faced with the scope of the classroom project.

“I don’t know a lot about technology, so I was kind of worried about it, making a video. But after we wrote the scripts I felt a little better,” said Reynolds, adding that in the end, “it was fun.”

The videos, most of them still photos with narration and music, last just two to three minutes each, but Bicknell said they took “10 hours, sometimes 20 hours” to construct.

“It took a long time. But I wanted to show emotion of what was going on,” said Reynolds as she provided narration for her project.

The multi-modal teaching technique started with the basics – reading the “Odyssey,” composed by Homer around 700 B.C. Students then wrote a plot diagram, proceeded with scripts and story boards, then created their videos.

Digital storytelling originated at The Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, California. Bicknell is sure she will continue to use it to help students relate to pieces of classic literature, at least once per school year.

The project ended with a viewing party to watch the end results.

“The students’ digital stories were impressive, authentic and insightful. Some brought us to tears and some made us laugh, but the most important thing was that they learned a lot and digital stories brought the students together,” said Bicknell.

 

“So as Odysseus is going through different trials and tribulations, we wanted students to think about what they were facing in their life that is similar to this character,” added the MHS teacher.

For example, freshman Tiegan Reynolds focused on her recovery from a seventh grade softball injury that required surgery and subsequent rehab.

Reynolds, who also spoke to the school board, admits she was concerned when faced with the scope of the classroom project.

“I don’t know a lot about technology, so I was kind of worried about it, making a video. But after we wrote the scripts I felt a little better,” said Reynolds, adding that in the end, “it was fun.”

The videos, most of them still photos with narration and music, last just two to three minutes each, but Bicknell said they took “10 hours, sometimes 20 hours” to construct.

“It took a long time. But I wanted to show emotion of what was going on,” said Reynolds as she provided narration for her project.

The multi-modal teaching technique started with the basics – reading the “Odyssey,” composed by Homer around 700 B.C. Students then wrote a plot diagram, proceeded with scripts and story boards, then created their videos.

Digital storytelling originated at The Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, California. Bicknell is sure she will continue to use it to help students relate to pieces of classic literature, at least once per school year.

The project ended with a viewing party to watch the end results.

“The students’ digital stories were impressive, authentic and insightful. Some brought us to tears and some made us laugh, but the most important thing was that they learned a lot and digital stories brought the students together,” said Bicknell.

 

 

Categories (2):News, Education

Comments

The Piatt County Journal-Republican embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. we reserve the right to remove any comment at its discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

Event Calendar

Today's Events  |  FAQ
Log in to add an event