Aug 26

“Our Stories”

Now that USI and USII no longer have an end of course SOL, my colleague and I started discussing how excited we are that teachers won’t feel obligated to spend multiple weeks at the end of the school year reviewing the year’s content. In thinking about this new “extra time” at the end of the year, we began to discuss digital archiving and how the technology we have today allows us to preserve history in a way that would not be possible decades ago.

Based on this idea, and our mutual love for NPR’s “StoryCorps” and “This I Believe” projects, we brainstormed this assignment. This assignment is still in draft form, and we would love some feedback. Here are some specific questions we’re still wrestling with:


As far as “housing” the archives, I  am leaning towards creating a blog as the repository for all of the audio files. Each students would initially upload the final MP3 audio file onto Soundcloud and share the link for the audio file with his/her teacher.  During the last nine weeks, each student would create a new post on the blog and embed their audio into a post that would then look something like this…

I like Soundcloud for this purpose because we could have the student upload an image of the individual telling the story (we would have people sign waivers allowing this) and have the audio directly embedded into the site (so that it’s click and play with no download). In their posts, the students would also pick out a quote or two that provides a summary and/or hook for the story.

This activity would also be preceded by a short lesson on “tagging” and digital archiving. We would have students explore some crowd-sourced attempts at archiving historical material. Using these resources, we can discuss the purpose and effective use of tagging and then have students tag their posts with the most relevant concepts, events, people, etc.

So, here are two questions:

  • Anyone see any flaws with this structure? Would your recommend another method of sharing and housing the information?
  • Does anyone have any recommendations for other crowd-sourced attempts at archiving history that may be interesting for the students to explore?


Ideally, we will be having all history students at our school complete this assignment (so 1000+ entries and stories). At the end of the year, we will have students search the repository (using tags and other search features) for a story that interests them. Then, we want the students to complete a research assignment based on their chosen story. Each student will find a primary or secondary source that can be compared/contrasted to the audio story (the two sources should discuss similar events, people, themes, etc.) Each student would use specific examples from the primary document and the audio story to help answer the question: “How does perspective influence our understanding of the past?” This essay and link back to the accompanying primary/secondary documents could be completed in the comments section of the relevant audio post.

  • Any other thoughts on how to finish the assignment and bring it all together? Are there some big picture themes that we’re missing?


We are extremely excited about this project. If you have thoughts as to how to make it better, please let us know!



    • Mike Hasley on August 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm
    • Reply

    I like the idea of a digital story at the end of the year, especially if it’s a question the student creates. I’d also prefer kids picking their own mode of presentation (Animoto, iMovie, etc…). I think students should be responsible for housing it themselves. Maybe for students who don’t have a way to do that, then we have an HCPS repository for them.

    1. I thought about having the students create a digital story at first as well, but we moved away from that idea after considering a couple of points. One of our big goals for this assignment is to discuss “how technology and the tools we have available today will change the way that we learn about and interpret history.” This will be another reflection question for the assignment. Given that goal, I think it’s important that the students record (either video or audio) the person who is telling the story, as it might help them to discuss the preservation of primary documents/ sources, and the preservation of an individual’s perspective in their own voice and how that might be different than say, the preservation of text.

      The second reason for the audio/video is that during the interview process we DO NOT want the students to “interpret” or “analyze” what the subjects are discussing. We will be discussing proper interview techniques and questioning with the students so that the students don’t ask leading or biased questions, and instead use effective questions that “pull out” the memories and perspectives of the individuals that are being recorded. If the students created a digital story initially, there is a lot of room for the student’s to “interpret” what the subject says and not actually record their perspective. We do want the students to interpret, analyze, etc., but we want them to do that in the final portion of the assignment, when they compare/contrast the interviewee to the primary/secondary documents that they find. Do you think we need a different final question given this goal?

      As far as the housing, the students are creating their own Soundcloud accounts, so we will teach them how to house information. I thought about just Google Drive as well (but it doesn’t embed nearly as pretty as Soundcloud and doesn’t have a click and play option through WordPress (unless I’m missing something). And if we didn’t aggregate all these files somewhere, there would be no easy way for the students to search through eachother’s information in the final portion of the task. Plus, the final blog provides a product that not only the students can use, but the greater community can use as well.

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