Digital Public History

Project Personas


Joe Goza: A Teacher on the Edge of Technology
“History is Not Boring”

Works as:  9th grade history teacher in Oregon

Background: History Major, San Francisco State University

Age:  39 and has been teaching 11 years

Computer Skills:

Proficient trying out new technology in the classroom

Curious about new ways to teach history in the classroom

Quick Takes

  • Wants to engage students in new ways of understanding history
  • Believes that students learn best by doing

A Day in the Life Narrative

Joe has been teaching history for 11 years.  He has become bored with “stand and deliver” teaching and so have his students.  Recently he learned about Project Based Learning through posts on Edutopia, and he sometimes lurks on the #sschat on Twitter on Tuesday nights.  He’s been experimenting lately with having students do documentaries using their BYOT devices instead of doing research papers.  They like the technological aspect of it, but he isn’t sure if this just isn’t changing the format of presentation.  He really wants to teach students to think about being historians and to practice the skills of thinking historically.

End Goals

  • Joe is willing to try out new things in education, but he needs to understand how to make that happen.
  • He wants students to move beyond just reading about history. He wants them to make connections to history.
  • Joe has heard about a lot of different projects on the Twitter #sschat and in reading Edutopia posts about how to incorporate real world learning in history.  However, teachers usually only present their ideas and not the details of the project. He doesn’t have time to reinvent the wheel.
Donna Key:  Grandmother
“There are two gifts we can give our children; one is roots – the other is wings.”

Works as: Professional Grandmother
Background:  Retired Flight Attendant from Southwest Airlines
Computer Skills:  Likes to surf the Internet, do genealogy on and connect with her family on Facebook

Quick Takes

  • Enjoys being involved in her grandchildren’s lives and school
  • Volunteers at the Arboretum and reads with underprivileged students at the local elementary
  • Enjoys travel

A Day in the Life Narrative

Donna is an active grandmother and regularly volunteers at a range of community placements.  She also helps her daughter juggle picking up the grandkids at school when needed.  She enjoys going to the kids’ performances and being involved in their lives.  In her spare time, she enjoys doing genealogy research and planning future trips.  She also likes to keep up with the family on Facebook.

She was excited to help her granddaughter learn more about what it was like to be a flight attendant during the earliest days of Southwest Airlines.  Her granddaughter interviewed her for a school project and made a little film about it.  She was proud of her grandaughter’s work and wants to share it with the family.

End Goals

  • She enjoys opportunities for connecting with her grandchildren.
  • She wants to share her grandchild’s project with family members.
  • Weaving Our Story allows her to share a link to her granddaughter’s work with her friends and family.
  • She enjoys “strolling down memory lane” in her Ancestry research so she is likely to enjoy looking at other student work or additional resources as well.

Reweaving Weaving Our Story

Creating an archive for my students’ oral history documentaries has been an idea I’ve been kicking around in my head for several years.  Last semester I finally was able to produce this archive as a way to publish and share the learning of St. John’s students with grandparents and our school community. However, little attention was given to the overall design, purpose and learning outcomes for the public with which it might engage. Hearing about how the initial grant request for Histories of the National Mall was rejected has served as the inspiration to retool the project.  I would like to create a more nuanced design and to think more carefully about both the intended audiences and institutional goals for St. John’s School and its students.

In order to begin the process of redesign, I interviewed three people – our admission director, our curriculum development director, and our curriculum integration specialist who is a recognized expert on PBL (Project Based Learning) and grandmother of eight.  Each person visited the website and answered a set of questions about the site’s design, intended audience and purpose.  Some interviews were conducted live and recorded.  Others gave written feedback.  While the written feedback was concise and helpful in that regard, the oral interview proved more valuable than I imagined.  The ability to let the conversation flow back and forth led to some new findings and new insights that I probably wouldn’t have garnered otherwise.  Clearly, this dialogical process was a large part of the readings for this module, and while I understood its value in concept, I was surprised by how different the two experiences actually were.  It was a valuable exercise to be able to compare the two methods, and it taught me a valuable lesson. While personal interviews might not always be possible, identifying at least one or two individuals to really engage in a dialogue is critical to doing this kind of public history.  Otherwise, the conversation becomes one-sided and self-directed by the researcher.  It’s not so much about getting the answers to questions but more about discovering new questions to ask.

In totality, this initial research has given me several things to consider.

  • I was surprised by how much all three liked the way the site looked and was organized.  A particular strength was the title of the site and the ways that it visually connected to weaving that students do each year as part of our art program.  For each of them it spoke to the community feel of St. John’s that is palpable in the halls and to outside visitors.
    • I still feel like it is too wrapped up in the written word and needs more visualization. Perhaps some explorations or mini exhibits that ask questions that hook the viewer could be added to the landing page.
    • The landing page needs revision to make it more dynamic.  As my professor noted, “The site is less dynamic than the content.”  I need to figure out a way to adjust that.
  • I am considering adding a section on teaching with the site, both how to do the documentary film project (inspired by the Bracero Archive) and ways to devise lessons that center around some of the student produced videos.  These were two things that I had not considered before having a dialogue with one colleague who saw this as a potential for the site.