Memory Days

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     A few years ago we in the A.V. department of my former school were surprised to find history students coming in to edit video interviews of WWII vets, WAC’s, and “Rosie the riveters.” It was a great learning experience for the students, but I wish we had been forewarned. Most of the half hour or more long videos were straight on headshots and just a few of them were two shots, including the student interviewer. ALL of them were done with a static camera. As interesting as these people’s stories were, they were tough to watch after the first few minutes. I know the point of the project was to create primary source documents and not digital stories per se. We did manage to assist with a few things in “post;” mainly helping students to insert and paste in other pictures and memorabilia over the video. The finished tapes were instant heirlooms for the families and may be of interest to a historian some day, but they really aren’t digital stories by any definition of the genre. They are unscripted interviews.
     You can turn interviews into interesting digital stories or at least add a little digital storytelling flavor. Have students go into the interview with a set of questions that are organized with the structure of a story in mind, but they also must be prepared to take the story where the interview goes. With a little (bordering on a lot) of extra work, the WWII interviews could have been broken up into chapters as stories on a DVD: getting drafted, basic training, combat, readjusting to home life…
     Another way to capture your community’s historical memory is to invite families and senior citizens in to tell their stories with the help of your digital native coaches – your students. My former school district has done this the last couple of years. Using volunteer staff (including an English teacher) and our student tech leaders, the seniors come in for five, two hour sessions and celebrate their stories on the big screen in the auditorium during the sixth. Our program  was inspired by the Center for Digital Storytelling and one of it’s off shoots, the BBC’s Capture Wales Project.
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     My former district has created a site showcasing the seniors digital stories and sharing the resources we’ve drawn from. There is also a PowerPoint explaining the rationale and with the senior citizen workshop agenda.
     Use your digital storytelling skills to make some memories.

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