youth media

Ending & Beginning

This past week was our final one working with our TMS Boston scholars in the Computer Clubhouse at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club. On Monday and Thursday, we held our final classes of the workshop, and on Friday we hosted our finale showcase, where our scholars had the opportunity to share their completed “Where I’m From” digital stories with their fellow Club member peers, with Club staff and administrators, and, most importantly, with their family members who were able to attend the showcase.


Our scholars spent the final two classes in post-production, working with Fellows and interns on taking their digital content and editing and organizing it all into a final product in iMovie. After reviewing each others’ draft versions of their digital stories, scholars provided each other with feedback on how they could improve their stories. All of the scholars’ agreed that their stories could benefit from more scholar-produced imagery, and so we worked together as a TMS team (scholars and Fellows and interns alike) to take photos and videos, with everyone rotating the responsibility of being the camera operator or the director or an actor. Once these last acts of production were finished, scholars focused the rest of their class time (as well as some of their free time outside of class) in post-production. Fellows and interns worked with scholars to help them learn the intricacies of iMovie, and slowly but surely each scholar’s digital story came together. By the end of class on Thursday, our scholars had completed their “Where I’m From” digital stories, and were ready to share them with the world.


The next day was the finale showcase, and each scholar arrived early for TMS class. It was evident to all of us that they were both excited and somewhat nervous to share their digital stories. We had each scholar cue up their digital story on separate iMacs on different tables in the middle of the Computer Clubhouse. We discussed how scholars should introduce their stories, and encouraged them to share with their audience about the process they went through in making their digital stories as well as what they learned in doing so.


At 3:00 pm, one scholar’s father and another scholar’s grandmother arrived right on time for the showcase. We explained to them that they could view their scholar’s and the other scholars’ stories at that time, but that we would wait for more audience members to arrive in order to share all of the stories at once. Thus, in the meantime, we would encourage visitors to view scholars’ stories in a “gallery walk” fashion at their leisure. The scholar whose grandmother had arrived first wanted to wait for his father to be present to show his story, and so his grandmother graciously respected his wish and waited. Over time, some Club members and staff filtered into the Computer Clubhouse and rotated to each scholar’s table and watched their digital story with them. Our scholars did a great job of explaining the genesis of their stories and the process they went through in making them. By around 3:45 pm, we reach a critical mass of audience members in the room, including South Boston Boys and Girls Club leadership and the father of the scholar who was anxiously awaiting his arrival. At that time, I asked for everyone’s attention and welcomed them to our TMS finale showcase. I explained what TMS does as an organization, as well as what our scholars did over the course of our workshop. Then, each scholar was presented with a certificate by a Fellow or intern who had worked closely with them on their digital story. And finally we held a mass viewing of each scholar’s digital story.


The last story to be shown was that of the scholar who had his grandmom and his father in attendance. I could tell that he was both excited and anxious to show his story. Even I was somewhat anxious, as I knew that the scholar shared some very personal things about his family, and his dad in particular, in his story. What made me slightly nervous was when the scholar speaks about his father’s occupation as an electrician, and how his father has always pushed his son to do something “more than” being an electrician. The scholar speaks eloquently and powerfully about how his father and mother want what is best for him, and want him to succeed, and don’t want him to struggle in the same manner that they have had to struggle at times to provide for themselves and their family. I was slightly nervous because you can never truly tell how someone who is not completely familiar with digital storytelling will react when part of their story is being told by a loved one. I watched the family as they and the rest of the audience watch the digital story. From the very beginning, the scholar was sitting in a seat in front of the computer, and his father stood behind him with his hands on his son’s shoulders, while the scholar’s grandmom stood to their side. All three of them watched and listened intently throughout the story. When it came to an end, amidst the applause of the audience, the scholar looks up at his dad who was looking down at him. He told his son that he was proud of him and that he loved him, and he gave him a kiss on his forehead.


After the applause died and the crowd dispersed, the scholar took his father and grandmom into the media room to show them how he mad made his digital story. As he did so, I watched from afar. I was proud of him for telling his truth, and happy for him that he got to share it with his family that cares about so much, and who obviously love him beyond my ability to comprehend. I was proud of my scholars, each of whom had opened themselves up and given their all to their digital stories and to each other. I was proud of Franklin, Nicole, and Sam, and all the hard work they had put into guiding and supporting our scholars. I was proud of TMS, as much a movement as it is an organization, and one that has amplified the voices of youth near and far.


But what I felt more viscerally than any other emotion was a simple but powerful awe. Awe at the stories of our scholars. Awe at the power of their stories. Awe at the power of storytelling – to create, to connect, to liberate.


And awe at the fact that while this moment was in many ways an ending, it was also a beginning.


And for that, I am beyond grateful.


Ever onward.


– Rich


Intern, Sam’s reflections on the experience of working with The Modern Story:

Since TMS was essentially my first job working with kids, it really taught me about the challenges and numerous benefits of this practice. It taught me that to work with kids you must put yourself out there and although that is difficult at points, you will see results and wonderful relationships form as a result. The Modern Story aims to get children to see themselves and their world through a different lens that they may not always have the opportunity to use. During my time with TMS I saw that this ability lies within all of the children we worked with and they simply needed someone to hand them the tools to express it. 


MGM Voices

In addition to making these wonderful movies, the students of MGM also elected one of their crew to write a short essay about the topic of their movie. Below you will find out about two of the topics in their own words.

Stop Power Cuts

In our school, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Girls Government High School (MGMGGHS) we did a movie on power cuts. In the power cut film, there are many characters. We did this film shoot because now a days so many times the power goes out and during that time we can’t do any work. In this film, the children also go to school, and in their class the teacher is teaching a lesson. When she is teaching the lesson, the power goes out and the teacher cannot tell the lesson to students. So many times the power is going out like this, that’s why we can’t do our work successfully. Power is very important to human beings. When we can’t have power, that means in our home, school, etc, we will not have fan, light, computer, etc. We can’t use any of these things. That is why power is very important to us, and that is what this film means. Power cuts means we can’t do any work successfully. Power is very important to us. The power cut film tells this message.

Written by Akhila

(The power cut group includes: Maheshwari, Kavitha, Anusha, Varaikshmi, Sirisha, Sandhya, and Akhila)


Get Rid of Rubbish

Good morning everybody.

We are from MGM Government Girls High School Nampally, Hyderabad, of 8th class.

Our title is Rubbish/Garbage. We did a movie on this because we want to protect our world. It is especially important because of the Swachh Bharat campaign that was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. We want to explain to our world: don’t throw garbage anywhere, throw it in dustbins. Because from garbage we get illness, and from garbage mosquito and small insects will grow and bite people. From garbage we get diseases like poliovirus, infections, and malaria (etc). We want to tell the Municipal Corporation they should clean the road every day but they are not cleaning everyday. With garbage, children are getting illness and that is why they are not going to school– they are irregular to school and they are not getting education. Garbage is very dangerous to our life. In our surrounding areas we are not safe, so I want to tell our world: don’t throw garbage anywhere, throw it in dustbins.

We want to protect ourselves, so we tell our mothers to protect children and family, and our friends help us do the movie on Rubbish/Garbage. We are following Mahatma Gandhi’s rules and Narendra Modi, who is the prime minister of our country. He was sweeping 1 kilometer, that is why we should clean our house, surrounding area, schools, temple, mosque, churches, etc.

Thank you faithfully.

Written by Amreen Fatima

(The rubbish group includes: B. Savitha, Asra Begum, Qareena Begum, K. Bhargavi, Zabunnisa, Afreen Begum, K. Priya Singh, and Amreen Fatima.)

Anilady: Our Town

Heading to Anilady was like driving into a dream: while sounds of soothing Tamil pop played over the car stereo, we drove past acres of palm trees, rice paddies, peanut farms, and quietly grazing cows. 40 minutes into this drive into rural Tamil Nadu we arrived at Sacred Heart School– a massive yellow cathedral in the midst of one story houses and palm frond-roof stables.

Drive to Anilady

Drive to Anilady

We were in Anilady in early October through a partnership with Communities Rising, an organization that brings after school programs to rural villages in Tamil Nadu and one TMS has worked with for several years. We didn’t know exactly what to expect aside from that the students spoke Tamil and were coming in over their school break to learn about movie making. Videos in the past have ranged from music videos to features on cleanliness. Regardless, the drive made one thing clear: we were not in Hyderabad anymore.

And these were certainly not Hyderabad students. Though they shared common traits of being very enthusiastic about getting their hands on the camera, making up stories, and showing off their dance, mehendi, and biking skills to us, their skill levels were different from students we have in the city. The students had previously been trained on computers through CR and had extra time after school to play around with programs like Photoshop, so the simpler tasks that have become a headache to teach at Hyderabad’s schools (like clicking and dragging, creating a folder, right clicking, saving) were something we could pass right over. It was clear that the extra help and individual attention they received at these schools was key to them getting to the next level of working with cameras and video editing. But their English skills were not as advanced as our Hyderabad students, likely because there were not as many opportunities to practice. But that being said, we had incredible support from the CR and Sacred Heart staff (and extended group of friends). Nelson, Agni, Siva, Mario, and Seenu were absolutely crucial to making this project work. They translated and joked around with the students to make them feel more comfortable with the new subject matter and teachers. I think this was a major contribution to our final project– you quickly see how willing the students were to be open about tough subjects and welcome us into their village home.

After a day of brainstorming we came up with four things that the students noticed about their village. First, they loved the food

Tearing banana leaves for plates

Tearing banana leaves for plates

and festivals. Dosas, peanuts, and (the festival) Pongal were all brought up right away. But they also knew there were things in the village they wanted to improve, like alcohol abuse which has affected families, and power cuts which have affected farming and other industries. With this nuanced look at their community, we decided to tackle all four issues over the next week.

The week was a whirlwind of filming around the entire village. Rachel’s group, which worked on food, ventured to peanut fields and showed how to make a homemade dosa. Dara’s group followed the effect of power cuts from the home to the farm to the local spice factory. Nandini’s group recreated the Pongal celebration (which included bringing a cow on school grounds). My group

Anilady portraits

Post-mehendi portraits

created a fiction film about a man who is an alcoholic, but changes and becomes a better father, husband, and worker. While in Hyderabad we are mainly confined to school grounds, here we could make the whole village our movie set, and due to that you can really get a feel of what life is like in Anilady.

Overall, we had so much fun with the Anilady students and were very pleased with the movie they filmed and edited. A huge thanks to the Communities Rising organization for making this happen. It was easily one of the most memorable weeks of our fellowship.

Stay tuned for the video from our other school, Vikravandi!


Anilady group picture

Anilady group picture

MGM: Freedom For Girls

Constant talk of marriage, lack of parent support, street harassment, and cyber bullying: just a day in the life of a teenage girl? That’s what students at MGM Girls Government High School say in this short film about a girl named Zoha. Though Zoha wants to go to school (and has her brother’s support), her family wants her to get married and stay inside. But what would happen if she had her parent’s support? This movie explores both options.

The film also touches on issues that modern girls face, like harassment, bullying, and blackmail through cell phones. In India, where mobile phones are more widely available than ever before, this has become another tool for making girls’ lives harder.

Proud of these students for thinking of this idea, writing the script, filming, and editing on their own! Stay tuned for what MGM has coming next.

MGM: Stop Power Cuts!

Ever since Telangana split off from Andhra Pradesh in June, power cuts have increased dramatically in Telangana because Andhrah is where most of the region’s power originates. The Hindu newspaper reported that people in Telangana are facing power cuts between four to 18 hours per day. Students at MGM Government Girls High School in Nampally have taken notice– in the middle of the day there will be no light for a classroom and we can’t use computers. At night, they sometimes have to do homework by candlelight or flashlight– or not do it at all. This PSA shows how power cuts affect three students’ lives in order to shed light on this problem. The idea, filming, and editing was done almost entirely independently by this group, which is quite a feat given this is their first movie ever. Proud of their work!

This video is one of a series of three short movies that the students produced focused on spreading a message about an issue in their community. The students came up with the concepts, scripts, and shots on their own, in addition to doing all the filming and most of the editing.  Given these are their first movies, I am really impressed at the outcome!

MGM takes on Swachh Bharat (before Modi)

One of India’s currently most talked about civic works movements is Swachh Bharat– Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign to sweep the country’s streets clean of rubbish. MGM students were a step ahead of the Prime Minister, pointing out the issues with garbage on the streets and the poor infrastructure around trash pick up before the campaign even began. With this in mind, they have created a visual letter to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) discussing their issues and complaints around garbage in the city. They also include short fiction stories about how garbage affects citizens’ lives.

These students also brought up an important detail that specifically pertains to Hyderabad: population growth and infrastructure issues that arise because of it. From 2001 to 2011, Hyderabad’s population grew 87 percent, now resting at about 8 million. This massive influx of people, mostly from rural areas searching for better opportunities, has drastically changed the city and infrastructure has not necessarily kept up. I was really impressed with these students for noticing the nuances and context of this issue. Perhaps PM Modi should take notice!

This video is one of a series of three short movies that the students produced focused on spreading a message about an issue in their community. The students came up with the concepts, scripts, and shots on their own, in addition to doing all the filming and most of the editing.  Given these are their first movies, I am really impressed at the outcome!

Hyderabad, India to Ranong, Thailand

October has been a bit of a “swiss cheese” month in terms of classes given a 15-day Dussehra break, Eid al-Adha, quarterly exams, and (this week) Diwali, but students have been working hard with the few classes we have been given.

My school, Seetaphalmandi, is doing a classroom exchange with my friends (and fellow Loyola alums) Nick and Kristin’s class in Ranong, Thailand. We sent them this short video about our school just before the end of September and were thrilled to get a response video about two weeks after! Here are the first two videos in our exchange, and be sure to stay tuned for more updates about Seetaphalmandi Government High School and Anuban Ranong School!



Kelly’s Railway Reflections

After one week in moderately hot and sporadically humid Hyderabad- Dana, Emily and I have finished with the formal introductions – to students, teachers, commute routes, and culture. We have been left with the template of characters and stages that will be the basis of the story we tell over the next six months as teaching fellows with the Modern Story. On a personal note, I am surprised at how familiar the idiosyncrasies of India feel to me this time around – from the traffic exemplifying the potential for order in chaos, to the startling variety of human experience co-inhabiting the space of the streets. Wealthy, poor, Hindu, Muslim, Christian- boundaries between self and other broken- beckoning the foreign eyes to recognize the meaning of the Namaste greeting, an honoring of the place in each of us where we are the same.

We will be carrying out the Modern Story curriculum at a total of five government schools. Thus far, we have only begun classes at the Railway Girls School located in the Secunderabad area of Hyderabad, and will begin at the other 4 this coming week. All three fellows teach at Railway School, and then the tasks are divided up between the remaining four- with Dana and Emily co-teaching at two, and myself teaching at another two, called Sultaan Bazar and MGM. Initially I was struck with the distinct personality each of these schools had, and impressed with the quality of the computer labs that the students have access to. The greatest challenge I anticipate of our duties for the next six months is overcoming the language barriers, and finding a way for the students to actualize their creative potential despite the hurdles of communication. I enter this journey in a recognition that I must expect the unexpected, and that each school will present its own unique difficulties, but ultimately, and hopefully, through this will come a variety of voices in the media projects of the students.

Reading over the ‘script’ of our introductory videos with the girls of the Railway class.

We are blessed with the help of two inspiring teaching assistants at the Railway School, named Asma and Neha. Dana and I, co-teaching, work with Asma, while Emily works with Neha. I am struck by the calm maturity of Asma in the classroom and as an individual. The strength and determination I see in her rings to an age well beyond her young years, and I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to work alongside her. There is a strong network of support at the Railway School, and a dedicated interest in the program from the staff, that has been helpful in assuaging the anxieties of our first days. I am quickly growing fond of the students, and find myself needing to consciously keep the walls of student-teacher erect when I get swept by the instinct to just befriend the wide-eyed and attentive group. I am hoping that we will be able to harness their energy and direct it through their passion in a specific topic to produce nice media projects together.

This week was spent introducing the students to the Modern Story curriculum and what is meant by digital storytelling. We set rules for the class, reminding us to respect each other, listen to each other, and to not be afraid to share our own voices. We are orienting towards two goals, the technical product aspect of the digital component – technological literacy, camera, and writing skills – as well as the empowerment that comes through the process of creativity. We began with the questions of ‘What is a Story?’ and encouraging the students to recognize that everyone is a storyteller and they, themselves, are the lead character of their own individual, unique stories. The following is a slideshow of the student’s drawings done in a classroom exercise to practice connecting words with images. I am interested in the study of religion, so it grabbed my attention when many of the students responded that the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning is pray to God, or the first thing they see is nature. The religious diversity of Hyderabad is dramatically visible, and I am wondering if there is potential for exploring the topic of religion more closely throughout our time together.

‘When I wake up in the morning, I always…’

As the sun sets on Sunday and thus the weekend,the three of us are anxious to see what the next week has in store for us. The journey continues…

Until next time,

Sultan Bazaar School Final Videos

Twenty-four hours and several Bollywood films after leaving Hyderabad, Ilana and I landed safely at JFK airport in New York City today. We still have lots to write about our final weeks in India, though, so you’ll keep hearing from us here. One important thing we have to share are our students’ wonderful final projects! The first batch comes from our pilot program at Sultan Bazaar Government Girls High School, in collaboration with the American India Foundation.

Our class at Sultan Bazaar involved small groups of teachers and students working together to learn digital technology skills and create multimedia projects that could enhance their learning/teaching experiences in regular curriculum subjects. As you will see in the videos below, this format proved to be an effective and accessible way to introduce such digital tools to participants unfamiliar with cameras or computers.

Ilana and I are excited to have been part of developing this model in TMS’s work and truly looking forward to see how TMS builds on our work in the next year. For now, enjoy this first series of curriculum-focused projects created by TMS students!

Cotton Project from The Modern Story on Vimeo.


Natural Resources Project from The Modern Story on Vimeo.


Triangle Project from The Modern Story on Vimeo.

Works in Progress: Sultan Bazaar

It’s hard to believe Ilana and I have already had six classes at our Sultan Bazaar workshop! The teachers and students have made quick progress. Last week they completed storyboards, production plans and scripts.

Sultan Bazaar Government Girls School

Class storyboard practice (Photo by Kara)

Sultan Bazaar Government Girls School

The natural resources group hashes out a production plan based on their storyboard (Photo by Kara)

After two 1.5-hour production sessions this week, the groups are nearly finished filming and photographing for their curriculum-based multimedia projects. This workshop is operating on a low-budget model using two Canon Powershot cameras, one Flip HD video camera, and a tripod. Below are some highlighted photos by each of the groups. Click on the project title to view the rest of their photos in TMS’s Flickr photostream.


Cotton Plant

Cotton Plant

Sari Shop


Visualizing Triangles

Visualizing Triangles

Visualizing Triangles

Natural Resources

Natural Resources

Natural Resources

Natural Resources

Now that they have their project content, it’s time to teach editing skills. We’ll use Windows Live Movie Maker in the Digital Equalizer computer lab that AIF installed at the school. I’ve already been impressed with the girls adeptness at uploading photos and video, so I have high hopes for the strength of their final projects!