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Episode twelve transcript

The Virtual Staffroom Podcast

Episode 12: The Modern Storyteller

 

Joachim Cohen:

Welcome to The Virtual Staffroom, a podcast made for teachers by teachers and all with a dash of educational technology thrown in. My name is Joachim Cohen, and today like every day, I'm joined by two rather awesome members of a Technology 4 Learning team. Linda Lazenby and Yvette Poshoglian, welcome team.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Hi.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Hello.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So what do we have in store for you today? I can tell you it's exciting. So let's get straight into it.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

We're so lucky to have award winning author for kids and teens, Tristan Bancks with us today. You might know his books Detention, The Fall, Two Wolves, the Tom Weekly and Mac Slater series, and now a new Ginger Meggs 100th Anniversary collection. Tristan spends an extraordinary amount of time too working with young writers to develop their voices. Tristan, welcome and thank you so much for joining us.

 

Tristan Bancks:

Thanks. It's good to be here. I liked that school bell. It gets you into character.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I know it's a bit Pavlovian.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Tristan, you're one of the most disciplined writers that I know and you have the incredible ability to write any time, anywhere. Do you have any tech that helps you with this or is it more of a mindset thing? How do you work?

 

Tristan Bancks:

I get bored easily. And so I tend to need to move around a bit and as a consequence of needing to move around a bit, I then need to have equipment that works on the run. So I tend to use notes in my phone quite a bit to jot down ideas. I use Scrivener on my MacBook Pro to actually write my books. But I use voice memos on the phone as well and quite often when I'm driving along, I'll press that little microphone button on the steering wheel and say, "Hey, take a note," and I'll get the note down that way. So I use lots of different tools in order to facilitate writing on the run and feeling like writing is just part of my everyday life.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Tristan, you also have a background on the stage and behind the camera. What sort of tech do you use on a daily basis for that creativity?

 

Tristan Bancks:

As well as Notes and Scrivener and voice memos, what else do I use? I use a final draft for a screenwriting. And I actually start off the day, very non-digital very analog. I start off writing three pages in a notebook. And the longer I can stay away from technology in the morning, the more honest the writing seems to be and the more centred I am for the day. If I get on technology too early, particularly email and social media and things, my writing day tends to be a bit of a mess and it's all chopped up. Whereas I can keep that long, long period of just staying in that story head space, it really helps me.

 

Joachim Cohen:

That's really interesting. And I think it's one of the amazing developments we're seeing with technology at the moment, is the ability to interface with it without interfacing with it. And I know in my mornings, I'm always talking to my Google Home. It tells me the times that I have to look at my phone and it sounds like you're doing the same thing with those voice memos. So you're actually able to take a note without taking a note and a great way for our students and teachers to get their ideas down. But you do work with a lot of developing young writers and young storytellers. How do you find their writing today? And do you see them creating on different platforms rather than just a traditional exercise book?

 

Tristan Bancks:

I think I would have loved going to school now more than I did going to school when I went to school in that it seems like almost every assignment now there's an option to do a sort of trans-media version of it. You can do the written version, but quite often, it feels like teachers are encouraging, particularly in high schools that I'm seeing, encouraging that thing of including images or doing it as a keynote or including audio or creating a podcast. It seems like there are multiple ways that you can respond to the original stimulus.

 

Tristan Bancks:

And I would have loved that because I really like to on my website, I blog, but I also have audio book links and audio stories that I've created over time. I have video book trailers that I've created. I have video games that I've created with a friend of mine who does that kind of thing. And I really like that sort of trans-media approach. And it feels like when I go into schools, I'm always trying to encourage kids to, I don't know, to draw on all those different ways of storytelling, not just words on a page, which for some kids just doesn't work.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Tristan, you're across lots of different forms of writing as well. I know that you've got some things in the background that you're developing maybe from page to screen. Do you find yourself working in different ways? Obviously you're using different programs, say from simple docs to Final Draft Pro. So how does it work with whatever mode you're writing in with, with the tech?

 

Tristan Bancks:

I guess I try to do that thing of letting the tech serve the writing process, as opposed to trying to foreground the tech. I haven't had an iPad. All my family seemed to have iPads, but recently I got an iPad. And that has actually helped a bit. And that's one where I have been sort of pushing it a bit to try out different ways of using it.

 

Tristan Bancks:

I've got an Apple Pencil and a Magic Keyboard and because it's a small screen and it's a bit more mobile than the laptop, I feel like if I'm just want to muck around with an idea, like a scene or a chapter in a book, that I might even use or a character background or something like that, I'll just get the iPad Pro and I'll go and sit up at the kitchen bench while diner is being cooked or while I'm cooking it and then quickly scurrying away to write something.

 

Tristan Bancks:

And all these ideas come, it's a bit like a scratch note pad where the ideas are going down, but they're not, I'm not precious about them. Or I'll use the Apple Pencil and it has a mode where you can hand write on the screen, but as you hand write it, it converts it to text, to type to text as you go like a few seconds after you've written it. So I've been mucking around with those things too, and that's been helping me quite a bit in my process.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Look, this is just another question that I've got about how you read. Are you an ebook reader or are you a physical book reader or are you doing a combination of both?

 

Tristan Bancks:

A combo. I really like paper books and I have five or six paper books in various stages of 'readerness' around the house at any one time. And I'm one of those terrible people who doesn't just focus on one book, I always have a few on the go. But I prefer paper books. I also have a Kindle on my bedside table and just last night I heard about a new book by someone that I know. And so I quickly downloaded the sample and I read that. I'll jump in the car to pick up my sons from school and I'm always listening to an audio book. So I use all of them, probably paper and audio on my favourites and then Kindle after that.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Wow, you just really opening my eyes, I can tell you, to the various ways in which we're now able to tell stories and to get our stories down. And I was only thinking, as you were talking about the Apple Pencil about the way that it's enabling us to retain that creativity that we get from writing, but also putting it in a format that makes it really easy to reflect on and to communicate. And I'm wondering that sounds like one top tech tip, but do you have other top tech tips for young writers today, around technology that could make it easier to put digital pen to page?

 

Tristan Bancks:

Well, the thing that I've been using a lot that I really like is, usually after I write a draft of something I print it out and then I get a pen or pencil and I go through and I cross out bits and I write extra bits and I basically destroy the manuscript. And then I have to go back and transcribe all the ideas. And with a 250 or 300 page, A4 page book, it's a lot of paper. Now I've just been saving as a PDF and I'll air drop it onto my iPad and I'll open it in Books. And then I'll use the Apple Pencil just to mark up the manuscript that way. So then I go through and get all those marked up things, but I'm still using the same tool. I'm still using the handwritten thing to respond to something that I did on the laptop. And then I'm transcribing those changes, but one saves a lot of paper and two, it just seems, I don't feel like there's anything lost in the process.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) so many interesting things that you've talked through with us Tristan. Can I just ask on the back of all of that, how do you see storytelling in say 2030 and beyond, about how that genre will change and maybe what our young people were using for story storytelling as well?

 

Tristan Bancks:

Well, it's interesting the way we consume TV now, is a lot more book like, in that you can devour as many chapters as you like. I'm watching a show at the moment and each night we'll watch an episode and then if you feel like you want to stay up or whatever, you'll watch other. And it's like reading another chapter of a book. And it's not being drip fed to us, perhaps the way TV used to be. And so I feel like there's a bit of a convergence happening there between visual mediums and I guess audio mediums as well. By podcasts, either story-based ones or non-fiction ones are fed to us and we can devour as much as we like. And it's a bit like devouring a book I guess.

 

Tristan Bancks:

So I really like that convergence. I think it's exciting. I don't think it will replace the paper book. And I still love when I find a paper book that I absolutely love. There's nothing better than just being left to yourself. You can cruise, get to half create the characters in your mind and what they look like, which you obviously can't do in a TV show because it's all there in front of you. But I do like crossing over between the two. And I think that there's a lot that both professional writers can learn from say, writing a screenplay and then moving back to writing a book or from playing an instrument and then moving back to a book or doing a sculpture or something. But also kids, I think by moving across different creative media, I feel like they can become better writers through that and become more creative across other media too.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Linda, that really... You've gone into a point there Tristan as well about the convergence of those skills and those interests in the media that children are consuming and young writers are possibly using as source material, but Tristan your background, people may not know you began life as an actor. You've been involved in filmmaking. If we've got students that want to go down these paths, what are some of the skills they need to have? Or what's some of the avenues they could take?

 

Tristan Bancks:

I think, you know, the basic one is each day exercising those muscles. Whenever I go to... The one thing that my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Banister taught me was this Anything Goes book, this idea of every day for five minutes, sitting down and blocking down whatever's in your mind. Whether it might be crazy, or it might be boring, or it might be it is what it is. And you put it down and feel like that basic journaling or morning pages thing is a real basing for any form of creativity and probably is healthy for any kind of humans, even if you don't see yourself as creative.

 

Tristan Bancks:

So I feel like that's a one base thing, is exercising those muscles on a daily basis. Getting used to putting your ideas down, thinking about your ideas and valuing your own ideas and your own perspective on the world. I feel like whatever creative field you're going to go into, whether it's music or filmmaking or video or writing books or some medium we haven't thought of yet, I think having a point of view on the world, valuing your own point of view, as well as other's points of view and just being used to putting that down and trying things out and experimenting without fear of failure. I feel like that in a way is the ground zero for all creative pursuits.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, I really like that. We often talk on this podcast about having a learning habit, but I think having a creativity habit as well, sounds like something that every one of us should be doing because who knows what we're going to discover, what we're going to release or just how it enriches our own lives. So I like the sound of that.

 

Tristan Bancks:

I think so because you hear people like Einstein who it seems to be these characters had lots of reflection in time, as well as scientific, maybe more logistical time, there was also that time to reflect that was sort of the creative reflection on perhaps the more logistical thinking. I feel like that's a hugely valuable part of that process across all subjects in school.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yeah. Absolutely. Sometimes you just don't make time for it.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Well, it gets back to Pasi Sahlberg's idea of 'play'. Those educational thought leaders that really advocating for that moment.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Yeah.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. Now look we're almost at the end of our questions, Tristan, but we're wondering you've written some absolutely amazing books. They cover topics that I think are close to kids hearts and tackle some pretty tough issues as well. Where do you get your inspiration from? Are there any digital sources, any apps that you really like to engage with that help inform your writing?

 

Tristan Bancks:

Let me think. I guess I was engaging with MasterClass a fair bit, that sort of online video master class. And then I created my own online video 'masterclass' as well, Story School. That was inspired in a way by MasterClass. So that helped me. I guess I'm always sort of between podcasts and YouTube and things. I'm watching things about the creative process from other creatives and letting that inform me. And that inspires me quite a bit too. So I feel like perhaps in the classroom watching inspiring videos or listening to snippets of audio in order to inspire students or to get them to find their own inspirations is probably even better. Yeah. But in terms of inspiration, I guess the sort of apps that I've been talking about that are available. Yeah. I don't know. Does that help you at all?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

And even podcasts and things like that you were talking about like non-fiction narratives. It sounds like everything's a bit of an inspo and you can take... I know my list is totally unorthodox. It's not one thing or another. We're getting hit with ideas. So many beautiful productions as well that are really informing everything we do and listen to.

 

Tristan Bancks:

I think so. And Pinterest is one thing. Pinterest boards and then also saving things to collections in Instagram is a good one because I can think about a character or a location for my story and then I'll look that up on Pinterest and I'll create a board around that particular book. And then you start to create this look and it has colors and there's architecture and there are characters and all these things that you can sort of flick through. And I think if you reference that often enough, it starts to sort of seep into your DNA. And so when you get back to writing the story, you feel like this world that you've created is real. So I feel like that is a particular one, actually, Pinterest and collections in Instagram can really help.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah. Oh, I like that. Thank you, Tristan. Look, we had so much to dig into, but we finished up our interviews with our guests, we ask you something that we pinched from Desert Island Discs, and it's called Rocket Ship Robots. And we'd love to know what piece of tech, we're putting you on the spot, what piece of tech you would take into outer space with you, if you had the opportunity to be on a rocket ship? What's the one piece of tech you can't live without?

 

Tristan Bancks:

The one I can't live without? I mean, look, I guess the phone is really the one. I think the iPad is a treat for me. It's a fun extra. The laptop I have to have, to write, but really I could do most things that I do on my phone. And it allows for the most sort of mobile usage. And I think in space, I'd want the phone. I could actually, in a way, if I got rid of all the other things I would be happy just to, and I'd like to challenge myself some time to write a book entirely on a phone.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Ooh challenge set. We will come back to you with that one and see how you're progressing. But thank you so much Tristan, for sharing your insights and your ideas. Really loved chatting with you today. Thank you so much.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Thank you.

 

Tristan Bancks:

It was fun. Thank you.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So Linda and Yvette, what are you going to take away from our conversation with Tristan?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Well, for me, it was absolutely fascinating because I think over my times working in schools, there are so many children that are resistant writers or find it really hard to come up with ideas, but then also find the physicality of writing really difficult. And I think sharing some of the ways that Tristan, I suppose, puts his thoughts to paper or to digital, would be really helpful to share with kids. And I think there's a lot teachers can unpack there and maybe think about having those different mediums to be used in their class writing programs.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think for me, it's the visual storytelling aspect and how he talked particularly about Pinterest and Instagram and collating or curating collections of visuals or even colour schemes. You might use a stimulus image in class to start them off on a story, but what about colour collection? That is actually really true.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yeah. I can certainly see me coming from their Yvette because so many times when you ask a student to start writing a story, they don't know where to begin, but if they start with an inspiration board, then they've got something to jump from. Yeah. And I think... I've been piggybacking off yours a little bit Linda, and I think that what was really excited to think about the many and varied ways that we actually start to tell stories now. And like you're saying, it makes it so much more accessible to students from both an exposure, but also from a creation perspective.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

But then also the point about needing the time apart to think and create and have those ideas ferment and stew, when are we going to do that, when are we going to ask our students to have that time? It's almost like we're asking on demand a lot of the time for those stories. I think we need to build that time back in.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And also if Tristan has Pinterest boards and he has Instagram collections and he has all of this inspiration to allow him to create, yet we're really terrible at saying to kids "Here's a photo, write." and ask them to go for that. And I think we need to think about that better.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So Tristan really inspired us today with new ways of thinking, working and crafting. So team, can we share our favourite creativity and writing tools with listeners?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Linda, start us out?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Oh yeah. So I've been looking at the, Everyone Can Create series and there are so many great resources for teachers that they could use with their students or parents, even if they want to use them at home. One that I've been playing with is the Everyone Can Create Drawing series. And I really like, a bit of what we talked about with Tristan, the different modes of drawing. So there's sketch noting, there's word art, there's all sorts of things, not the Word Art that we might've used in Microsoft Word 15 years ago, but there's a lot that people could do with that everyone can create series. So I would recommend that. There's drawing music, video and photos. And off you go.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I think as well, we've been looking a lot this term at T4L about developing multimodal documents using, Word docs or pages. And I think how to boost your documents to actually make them... You could use that in the storytelling sense. What images could kids insert, what content could they find out there that really matches, what audio could they find? So I think a lot of those other things too, that Tristan touched on that the way he consumes media or uses the tech to really develop his story ideas and time save for me as well, it's been investigating those elements of voice typing or dictating into documents to save time.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

And it actually forces you to think in a different way I think, because it forces you to be prepared with what you're thinking and what you're actually going to put down onto the page. But you know you can easily delete it and that's fine, but it actually has forced me to use a different thought process and be using those sort of narrative devices differently. So I think that could be something really to explore with students, to get them to maybe dictate a story, instead of writing it down or start with one sentence, dictate it and go from there. I think that could be a bit of a breakthrough. Yeah. And Joe, what have you been finding out? What have you got?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yeah, I agree with both of you in terms of finding some extra tools that we can show students so that they can actually release their creativity potential. And I think one of the places that I would go is to the Adobe Education Exchange, where you can find loads of courses on some really great tools that can empower them to develop their own podcasts, maybe they want to do some drawing, no matter what kind of device they're on. There they going to create some awesome videos or web pages to be able to communicate their story. There are some great tools on there for teachers to learn how to do it, but also for our students to be able to go there and learn.

 

Joachim Cohen:

And it wasn't for some great ideas. I know I jumped on and I saw there's a great lesson activity about how to design your own skateboard cover, which I think is a wow, an amazing art form in itself and would really engage a lot of our disengaged learners. And also how to create a storified portfolio, which I found it a really interesting concept, but it's all about them. So how do you create a portfolio about you, that's about your story in lots of different multimodal forms?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) And isn't that increasingly what we want our students to be able to do when they get out into the wide world? What is your story? Who are you? What are you bringing to this interview? That is actually a really key life skill.

 

Joachim Cohen:

You hit it Yvette. And that's like the resume of 2021.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Can I sneak one book in, because given this has had a bookish feel, this podcast, I've just got a little book that I'd like to recommend, as well as go out and seek out Tristan's books. I've got a lovely little book here called In the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido. And it's really interesting. It blends music, poetry and coding of all things together. And it's a verse novel, but not. It's also written almost in code, but not. It's for ages eight plus, features a really strong female protagonist, who's immersed in the world of steam, but she's a musician. And just looking at the relationship between something like programming and music really brought it home to me. It's a really enjoyable when kind of came out last year. And I think it be something that your students might like to read. Anyway. It's a good one.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I love the sound of that. [crosstalk 00:23:52] Yeah, absolutely. Coding is beautiful. I think it's one thing that we often forget and maybe that's what comes out. I'm going to be reading it.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Excellent.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I have the last word in our podcast. As our regular listeners will know, from now on, we're going to give you a voice. And so to close us out, here's a little gem of techno wizardry wisdom from one of our amazing teachers in a new South Wales public school.

 

Bahia Malas:

Hello teachers, it's Bahia Malas, an English teacher from Blakehurst High School. One of the tech tips that I would like to share with you is one that you can use in the classroom and in your faculties and also in your school teams. And that's using Google Jamboards, which is part of the Google workspace tools.

 

Bahia Malas:

Google Jamboard offers a rich collaborative experience for your teams and classrooms. Again, if you're doing a brainstorming activity or if you just want your team members to jot down ideas, you can do that on this interactive whiteboard.

 

Bahia Malas:

And once done, you can actually save them, whiteboard and upload it or share it either as a PDF or image. It's really easy to use and it really creates and fosters that collaborative environment. And students have a lot of fun with it. So you can choose different backgrounds, you can choose different colors, you can embed also different images. So again, when you have a chance, don't hesitate to check it out. Thank you

 

Joachim Cohen:

Blown away is all I can say. Linda and Yvette as always, it has been a complete blast.

 

Joachim Cohen:

This podcast has been produced by the masterful, Jacob Druce with the assistance and supreme coordination of Heather Thompson, as well as many more awesome members of the T4L team.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Just a little note, please be aware that all views expressed by the podcast presenters, that's us, our personal opinions and not representative of the new South Wales Department of Education. Discussions aren't endorsements of third party products or services or events. And please note that as much as we sound like it, we are not experts in legalese, tech speak or anything in between, we're just passionate people keen to boost technology for learning in the classroom and to help build the skills in your students, and for you to solve the problems of tomorrow. Do your due diligence, read further, and if we've got something wrong, let us know. We too are always learning and always improving.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Before we go, please make sure you send us through your comments, especially your words of techno wizardry wisdom, and your thoughts for new guests and segments. And don't forget to join our T4L community as well. And if you liked the podcast, give us a rating so more and more educators can find us and be inspired to get little techie in the classroom. Stay compassionate, stay curious, stay excited everyone. And thanks for joining us.