Sasha Fight, a teacher in Hopkins County, is certain that her experience in the Dataseam Teacher Track at the 2015 Mountain Workshops will benefit her and her students for the rest of their lives.
"Storytelling for me will be a process, a lifelong experience," she said, while participating in the four-day workshop in Kentucky's capital city of Frankfort.
"We're learning at the feet of the masters here, from people who are so good at their craft," said Fight, a teacher in Hopkins County. "We get to listen to them, have one-on-one conversations with them . . . We're learning not just how to tell a digital story, but how to tell it well."
Working with Western Kentucky University's annual workshop for students of visual journalism, Dataseam selects an average of eight K-12 educators for free one-on-one coaching by professionals in multimedia skills. The teachers are given four computers for use in their schools. Ultimately, the students benefit.
"For hundreds of years, coal drove the Kentucky economy. Today, it's data driving it," said Chief Operating Officer Henry Hunt, explaining the origin of Dataseam's name — replacing seams of coal with seams of data. He maintains that today's students need communication skills to be able to tell their stories and succeed in any occupation.
In return for the Mountain Workshops' sharing of professional expertise, Dataseam lends computers to Mountain Workshops – 89 in 2015 – for their weeklong project. The loaner computers come from funds provided by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, earmarked for development in coal regions. K-12 students in Kentucky are the end users of the computers.
In its eight-year existence, Dataseam has placed over 17,500 computers in Kentucky schools, engaged more than 6,000 educators in training and professional certifications, awarded over $1.8 million in college scholarships and worked with 200 schools in 54 participating school districts and three universities to transform the use of technology in public schools.
Working with the Dataseam Teacher Track differs from coaching Mountain Workshops photojournalism participants, according to Mark Osler, WKU graduate and freelance photographer in Denver, Colorado, who was working his fourth Dataseam Teacher Track at the 2015 Mountain Workshops.
With the K-12 educators, "We start with fundamentals – over- and under-exposure, how to frame a picture, vocabulary," he said. "They're trying to learn the skills of storytelling and photography they can use in schools."
Osler aims to build a common ground. Despite the different experience level between the K-12 educators and would-be photojournalists, he believes "there is a hunger on both sides" for good photojournalism skills.
Greg Moore, who teaches enrichment classes at Adams Middle School in Floyd County, attended two Dataseam Teacher Track workshops and liked them so well he returned as a paying participant of the Mountain Workshops in Somerset.
"As soon as I get a chance, I'm coming back," he said recently. "You have forever changed the way I will look at things and the way I treat my students. If I can impact their lives and help them pursue their dreams, even a fraction of what you have for me, my time won't be wasted."
Dataseam's education mission started when Dean Hughes, telecommunications businessman, and Brian Gupton had an idea for expanding Kentucky's significant investments in computers and network for K-12 schools into a large network of computers to work collectively for economic growth and development. Gupton wove education into the plan. To add a business perspective, they recruited fellow entrepreneur, Henry Hunt. Gupton, now Dataseam chief executive officer, and Hunt set out to convince state policymakers and legislators to support a program that would increase economic opportunity for Kentucky students.
By the end of the 2015 Dataseam Teacher Track, Lori Corbin, Webster County school media specialist, was a believer.
"The kids see me as their tech go-to person," she said. "By the end of the day, I knew I could do this."
Each October, a group of visual journalists set up shop in a different community in Kentucky to document life and culture in a way that is rarely attempted. Raw and live, it’s all about the people and their stories, not the institutions. It’s called the Mountain Workshops, and dozens of students and professionals from around the country swoop in for a week every year to garner new skills and fresh inspiration.
It’s a crash course in visual journalism.
Participants can choose from one of five options for the week. Photojournalism, the original workshop at Mountain, has always been a big hit, but Video Storytelling is increasingly in demand. If you wish to increase your knowledge in other visual skills, the Mountain Workshops can deliver. Picture Editing pushes a traditional skill set of image selection and book design into the digital age, while Digital Storytelling takes us into a world of multiple forms of media and collaborative cooperation on a single topic.
A special workshop for K-12 educators is hosted by Dataseam, a Louisville-based nonprofit that provides resources for Kentucky educators. The K-12 Educators workshop is designed to help high school teachers looking to develop their students’ communication skills to tell their own stories.
Five workshops held in one location, in one week, with a constant flow of new ideas and one-on-one guidance by the top professionals in their fields, all add up to an intense five days of high-octane education in visual communication and storytelling.
Harrison County Fair Grounds
2906 Paris Pike, Cynthiana, KY 41031
[Day-to-day scheduled still being determined]
• One teacher with 24 students in five classes reaches 120 students in a day
• Eight teachers can reach 960 students
• The eight teachers trained in the first Dataseam Teacher Track have influenced communication skills of 2,168 students
• Forty-eight Dataseam-trained teachers to date have reached 46,080 students
• Elementary, middle and high school educators that wish to gain a stronger understanding of the journalism industry
• Educators that realize in this time of youtube, instagram and the internet, visual literacy is as important as reading, writing, science and arithmetic