Making History: An Indiana Teacher Uses Technology to Feel the History

Technology & Learning, February 2008 | Go to article overview

Making History: An Indiana Teacher Uses Technology to Feel the History


By T&L Editors

"We must learn how to use [television], make it speak our truths and tell our stories, our histories, in an honorable fashion." This quote from filmmaker Ken Bums is the first thing you would see if you visited the homepage of teacher Jon Carl's historical documentary class, Feel the History. It's an apt quote, as it describes what Carl, who teaches social studies at F.J. Reitz High School in Evansville, Indiana, is all about.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Carl's vision is simple: get students passionate about history by turning them into historians. To accomplish this, he created a class centered on documentary filmmaking. Students choose a topic, conduct research at local libraries, write a script, film video interviews, and create video segments of four to 15 minutes. District technology specialists and members of Evansville's local history community review these "rough cuts" for historical accuracy, technical merit, and storytelling interest. Students use the feedback to re-edit their pieces, which air on WNIN, the local PBS station, and are rebroadcast on the local NBC affiliate.

Given the high-tech nature of Carl's class projects, one might think he came into Feel the History with a technology bent. In fact, he had no experience at all with film production. In almost a year's time, however, Carl mastered Sony DSR-PD170 video cameras, wired and wireless microphones, document and photo scanning via Adobe Photoshop CS2, and video editing using Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0--and he has trained his students to do the same.

Because of Carl, students not only gain the tech skills of a filmmaker, but they also become historians in the community. During Evansville's Preservation Week, Carl's students presented a documentary they made about the city's 1938 vintage Art Modeme Greyhound bus station. Carl's students also crafted 30 interstitials--short video pieces that fill space in between programs--to accompany Burns's WWII documentary, The War. …

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