Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Making History: Creating Podcasts out of Actual World War II-Era Events Offers One Example of a Collaborative Project That Is Propelling Students out of Their Textbooks and into the Real World

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Making History: Creating Podcasts out of Actual World War II-Era Events Offers One Example of a Collaborative Project That Is Propelling Students out of Their Textbooks and into the Real World

Article excerpt

Jennifer Dorman was in a fix. Teaching ninth-grade US history at Holicong Middle School in Doylestown, PA, Dorman wanted to tap into her students' interest in creating "'something of value," she says, "not just for their teachers, but something they could share with other students and people." But that required something a conventional paper-based assignment could not provide. It meant conceiving of a project that freed her students from their textbook and allowed them to work together toward a finished creation.

Dorman's school district subscribed to Discovery Education's Streaming and PowerMedia Plus; the two products provide classroom access to streaming audio files such as speeches, music, and video images, which she knew appealed to her students. The wheels began to turn. She created teams of four or five students and had them each create a podcast that placed them in the midst of pivotal moments in and around World War II, where they would have to reenact and report on those events as if they were happening live.

"We discussed breaking news and how reporters interview sources, and how they would have to talk to experts to get information," says Dorman, recalling the project from two years ago. Today she works as a staff development facilitator for Pennsylvania's Central Bucks School District. "Specifically, I wanted them to imagine talking to experts with different viewpoints on the event to force them to get different perspectives."

The idea was for the podcast to be what Dorman had once heard characterized as "a breaking 'oldcast,' as opposed to a breaking newscast."

The students had to choose from a list of World War II incidents or backdrops that Dorman provided, which included the front lines of Poland after the Nazis invaded, and the deck of the SS St. Louis after President Franklin Roosevelt denied refuge to Jewish passengers sailing from Germany. Every member on the team had a role, such as playing the part of desk reporter, field reporter, or eyewitness.

Dorman gave the students a full class period to plan, brainstorm, and conduct "interviews," making use of the internet, library resources, and their textbooks. In Discovery Education's Streaming, she created a folder of audio and video clips, images, and articles. "My goal was to give them raw material to work with, which they were able to access with a student log-in," she says. "It gave them background information to understand their event."

After the day of research, the class had one day to prepare a script, practice it, and begin recording. A third day was provided to finish the recordings and do any necessary editing. "For me it was a time investment of three classes," Dorman says.

The recordings were made with Audacity, an open source program from Source Forge. The program enables students to add layers of sound effects or music to their audio file, and then edit, rerecord, and trim it if necessary. The finished podcasts were saved as MP3 files ranging in length from six to 10 minutes.

Dorman says the students tried to inject authentic vintage elements into their podcasts. For example, a lot of the teams would have the reporter interrupt a musical program typical of radio in that era with breaking news. One of the more memorable podcasts, says Dorman, came from a group that reported from London during the Blitz. What made the production so interesting was that the students went beyond the scope of the information provided in their textbooks, interviewing people in a London subway train and a family sheltering a Jewish child.

"This particular group touched on other topics besides the bombing of Britain," Dorman says. "They were hinting about other things like the Holocaust, and they used a lot of sound effects, even using three or four piano keys to do the call sign for the radio station they were reporting for."

While this wasn't the first time Dorman had her class make podcasts--they also create them throughout the year for vocabulary reviews and to study for tests--she calls this her most creative use of the technology yet. …

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