Winston Struye: Helping students find the artist within themselves using Sway


The following is a repost from the Sway blog, written by guest author Winston Struye, artist teacher at Slideluck Youth Initiative.

Sway guest blog—artist teacher Winston Struye

Winston Struye My job title at the Slideluck Youth Initiative is “artist teacher” and it’s not a job I take lightly. To me, the role of an “artist teacher” is similar to that of a “creative leader” in a workplace: someone who can incite creativity in others, open people to possibilities that they did not see before, and, above all else, point students towards the “artist” they all have within them. My method of doing this is by providing students with tools (such as ideas, applications, methods) that can potentially illuminate their own creative potential. And Sway has turned out to be one of the most effective luminaries for showing my students the artists they all are within themselves.

The Slideluck Youth Initiative is a branch of Slideluck that does photography outreach programs in under-served communities in New York City and Los Angeles. The program aims to empower students by having them look through the lens of a camera. I hope that by teaching my students how to take photos of the world outside them every day, they will begin to discover insights about what they already have inside of them. You see, the class is labelled as “photography class,” but the themes I get across to my students are more along the lines of critical observation, storytelling, and seeing things from new perspectives. I’m currently to teaching two classes–one with a group of middle-school students in the East New York, Brooklyn, and another class with high-school students in the Bronx.

I’m always trying to bring technology into my lessons. However, there are often issues when it comes to accessibility. Although creative technologies are bountiful for professionals, they are often difficult for young students like mine to access. And on top of that, they often have a steep learning curve, which can easily lead to frustration and loss of excitement for the project. For most of the classes I had taught before, I had been simply showing individual photos one-by-one to the class and discussing them. But I felt as if I was missing a lot of the process, the story-building and story-thinking methods that are so beneficial to empowerment. I wanted the students to start building stories, not just images, and I needed a program that was intuitive and easy to use like a text editor, but also powerful enough to create something that students could feel like was something of an admirable quality.

This is where Sway comes in. With Sway, my students can now create dynamic, engaging, multi-media stories without any technological roadblocks. Because Sway is so easy to use, I can have my students lay out their images in a manner that is confusion-free, dynamic, and fun—all essential parts of the creative process that I’m constantly trying to maintain. And, the finished product will always be something they are very proud of and have confidence in, prompting them to return to the program and create more stories; therefore building more creative thinking blocks in their brain.

Sway is going to continue to be a vital part of the Youth Initiative, not only for the students to use to create things themselves, but in its ability for them (and us) to share their creations. We’ve always shared students’ work through our blog, but that has been limited to roughly one photo at a time. And with a million photo blogs out there, we’ve been searching for new ways to showcase the work we’ve been creating with our students. Needless to say, our students have already been showing their Sways to their friends and family, and Slideluck plans on doing the same, and with the greater Slideluck community to increase exposure for the Youth Initiative.

But, all this being said, my students aren’t the only ones using Sway! As a photographer myself, I too am constantly looking for new tools in which to build, edit, and share stories that I capture with my camera.  For a long time, I’ve thought about how images can tell simple stories, but how it often takes the relationships between multiple images to show people the extent of ideas and emotions attached to those stories. To see both what I’ve created myself in Sway, and to learn a little bit more about the Slideluck Youth Initiative, the kids, and their work, please have a look at my Sway here:


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