I love technology. It makes my job pretty wonderful. Well, I want to love technology, but there are some nuances that stump me on the daily. That’s where my kids come in! Being a mom of six and a mom who works from home has its advantages. For example: I’ve been learning how to tell stories with video. It can be pretty overwhelming sometimes. But I have learned that my kids are making videos for fun and entertainment on their own, so why not have them teach me and tell some family stories while we’re at it? My kids are a shout out away most of the time and they can bring me up to speed quickly. I have discovered, however, that it’s more than just a shout out when I’m stumped. There are those teaching moments – the moments where they are teaching me – that have turned out to be pure magic. I want to outline four ways children and technology create magic with family storytelling.
1. It ties together generations
A little over 20 years ago, my husband and I interviewed my maternal grandparents and all of their descendants. My husband then condensed the interviews into a 30-minute video on VHS. Last year, he digitized the interviews. (Read more about that magic here.) We uploaded the digitized version to our family Facebook group and my extended family fell in love. Many of my family members who loved it most were my cousins’ children who relished the family stories they had been told by their parents. Hearing them straight from the people who the stories were about was priceless!
My oldest son, who sat in on all of those interviews as a toddler 20 years ago, knew the special connection we felt to the project and decided to add to it for a college class on family history, but he used a different medium. He created a podcast by interviewing his grandparents (my mom and dad) about the videos and about his great-grandparents’ love story – it’s the stuff of love legends. He published the podcast and it’s another piece of my family’s history out there for the world to hear. He asked lots of questions of me, his dad, and his grandparents and he taught me why a podcast is important. In the process, he helped me upload the video to Facebook and make sense of it all so my family could enjoy it. We are still working to splice it into smaller pieces, a project to be done as a hobby when college work isn’t in the way for him. But this 20-year project has bound four generations together between the living and the dead. Who knew that a senior project for my husband 20 years ago would turn into a priceless treasure all these years later? Click below to listen to that special podcast with my son and my parents, talking about my grandparents’ love story. It’s pretty special.
2. It bonds us with our children in special ways
About a year ago, my then 10-year-old daughter was chosen to tell a story at the Weber State University Storytelling Festival. Another of my sons was a senior in high school at the time and loved all things YouTube.
“Mom, you need to go big with YouTube,” he would often tell me, offering me business advice for Evalogue.Life. He suggested chronicling her storytelling journey with an iMovie video and posting it to Evalogue.Life’s YouTube channel. I’ve watched as my kids have done different short videos on iMovie – an Apple creation, but it was a blast to have him sit by my side and guide me through the video-making process. I learned a lot of what to do and not to do and he showed me how to post something on YouTube. I feel more comfortable posting video to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but now I know a bit about the nuances of YouTube. We made several versions of the video and he would kindly make suggestions like, “Let’s put in an interview. Let’s take a photo here.” Simple things like that made us both feel like we were working together.
A few months later, I was teaching a class that required a PowerPoint presentation. Easy-peasy, right? Well, not so much. PowerPoint is one of those small animals that I never learned once I became a writer. But both my 17- and 21-year-old sons sat on either side of me and we went to work. The thing I have learned in working my kids is that they are much more patient teaching me than I am teaching them. They laugh and giggle at my novice mistakes, but they don’t seem to tire of them either. In just a couple of hours, we had put together a power point that was both polished and pretty and guess what? I ran it at my presentation with no trouble. Now my oldest son sat in the audience and was at the ready in case I needed him, which meant the world to me, but my sons taught me and I learned. Am I still a little rusty? You bet. But with enough time, I can figure it out and my kids can help me out if needed.
3. They teach us shortcuts that are easy to understand
When the time came for me to use Adobe Spark, I felt more than intimidated. I was telling my husband how nervous I was while our little storyteller I mentioned above sat in the backseat of the car.
“Adobe Spark? I use that like every day at school!” she exclaimed with sheer delight and a sparkle in her eye.
“Do you want me to help you, Mom?” she asked with more excitement than I expected.
“Of course I do,” I said, with mild trepidation, thinking, “Does she really know what she’s talking about?” Doubting her ability was a huge mistake. Last weekend the two of us sat down and went to work with Adobe Spark. The girl is a master. She knew all the shortcuts and the best tips to create a darling video. We took turns narrating each slide and she showed me how to insert a video. It turns out, Adobe Spark is really as easy as it looks!
While we were working, my 15-year-old son came home from a camp out, eyeing what we were doing. He is a master video guy. He even wants to be a filmmaker when he grows up. He saw what we were doing and immediately wanted to get involved.
“What you really need to make it perfect is a microphone,” he said as he rushed downstairs. Within moments, he had his video recording microphone and was hooking it into my laptop. My daughter was skeptical, thinking what we had done was already perfection. But alas, we used the microphone and it was just what we needed to round out the project.
He and I then moved to Animoto, something entirely new for both of us. We have been playing around with it and figuring out its good and bad features. Once again, the whole patience thing has been amazing and we are slowly figuring it out.
Below is the video we created with Adobe Spark of the experience sending my oldest daughter on a service experience to another country.
4. It’s fun and the spirit it creates is unforgettable
I have to admit, dabling and then getting waist deep and then neck deep in this whole “using technology for storytelling” thing is addicting. I could sit for hours finding photo clips, creating video shots and putting them all together surrounded by my children. They offer valuable insight and lots of laughs. Plus, reminiscing about the video content has been priceless, too. Exclamations of “We should use this video!” or “Remember that trip? Let’s make a video of that!” have been music to my ears. There is a strong spirit of joy and camaraderie that has accompanied my children and me with our storytelling projects. It is palpable. There is something about connecting generations that brings a feeling of love and peace. I have found that when I let my kids teach me in their way, not my way, things go better. They don’t need specific instructions like I do, they need to follow their natural instincts. I find that when I try to navigate technology, following my natural instincts helps me learn better, too.
Kids Make Video Fun
These days we hear so much about the negative effects of technology with our youth. I see that side, but I also see the great amount of goodness that comes from it because technology is practically programmed in their amazing brains at birth. Children are born knowing and understanding this technology stuff and if we let them guide us with good things, like family storytelling, that is half the battle. If we engage and learn together, it is goodness. Technology is bad for everyone when there are no limits because in reality, we all do better with limits. There is joy to be had with kids, technology and family storytelling. I have discovered it and I will hold on to it!
Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.