I recently found a picture taken of me on a hill overlooking the Krak des Chevaliers in western Syria during a 2003 trip.  I am pictured with my video camera, tripod and a bag strapped to my waist that holds brick-like backup battery packs and as many mini DV recording cassettes as I could carry.  I was filming a documentary on women, history, and the middle east.  I remember the challenges of the heat and the altitude along with the heavy gear I had to trek on some of the expeditions. But once I got the shots I wanted: Magic! Exhilaration! So many ancient stories to tell, beginning with one picture.
I’ve held on to this feeling and I’m thrilled to begin an idea I’ve had in the works for some time: pocket documentary filmmaking.
Krak des chevaliers, 2003
Later this spring, Kathy Filatreau (Instructional Technologist & partner in Digital Storytelling projects) and I will be traveling with 20 students from Whittier College’s anthropology and social work 300 course to Copenhagen, Denmark.  The course taught by Professors Paula Sheridan and Lisa Ibañez are studying the ways in which welfare and workfare states contribute to the well-being of children and families.  For many of the students in our group, this will be the first time they are traveling abroad.  Along with their excitement to visit a different part of the world they also bring specific topics they would like to research.  Some of these include education systems, clean energy plants, and the Dane’s renowned culture of happiness.  Their main assignment is to create a digital story that reflects their research and findings.  In 2016, the tools students will use to create their digital stories are all in their pocket.  We will use our mobile devices, including phones and tablets to take photos and gather interviews and footage to edit with a personal narrative.  The result will be a series of pocket documentaries that students will share with each other and a group of Danish faculty and students.

Our trip will include class meetings hosted by Metropolitan University College’s Social Work Program and we will share workshops on creating digital stories with our Danish partners.  Students will take part in field visits relevant to course content and cultural excursions that will include a photography tour of the city focusing on techniques for capturing images and sound that will add dimension to student narratives. We will be blogging our learning adventure and sharing our digital stories on DenmarkDS.soniachaidez.com.  We hit the ground running on May 20, 2016!