This module has been particularly helpful. My project began with an idea about doing oral history documentaries with students years ago. As the project went on, I realized that archiving the projects would be a worthwhile endeavor. Finally, I was able to create that archive last semester.
However, I have realized that the project that I created was not well-planned and only included my own vision for the project. As I have been mulling over ways to improve the project in my elevator speech, I continued to engage in this one-sided thinking. I knew my own internal dialogue for my own vision for the project. However, I hadn’t considered how others might view the site or its potentialities.
By having a dialogue with multiple colleagues who have expertise in a variety of disciplines and perspectives within the school, I realized that many of the flaws I saw weren’t as bothersome to them. More importantly, I found that my vision for how the site might be used might weaken its effectiveness. Finally, I learned about others’ perspectives on how the site might be used differently than I had previously envisioned.
One week ago, the thinking behind my elevator speech was oriented toward how to engage grandparents in their grandchild’s work. While I still consider this to be an important group to consider, I am not sure they are as important as the foci of my first and second potential personas – prospective parents and other teachers. I would not have had this perspective had I not had the collaborative dialogue. While I think that grandparents are an important component, I am not sure they are central to the project. I would like to have a follow-up conversation with an additional colleague who has a unique perspective on how the relationship between the school and grandparents functions.
Public history is by definition “public” in nature. It is important not to forget talk with the public in designing history projects rather than only talking at them when it is time to deliver the project to them. I’ve learned a valuable lesson in asking questions and doing so in person. In this way the conversation is truly dialogical instead of an exercise in question and response.
Good teaching is about engaging in a push and pull with students; good public history should be, too.