As the capstone to a year-long research project, my seventh grade students create short historical documentaries based on an event related to family history. They share them with the school community at the Oral History Documentary Film Festival at the end of the year. Through the years I have noticed the ways in which these films complement one another by providing diverse perspectives about commonly shared experiences such as the Vietnam War, student protest movements or the fright caused by the polio epidemics. Because we are in Dallas, we also have collected some very unique stories related to the JFK assassination. Using Omeka as a platform, I am collecting these films into curated exhibits that highlight the commonalities and contrasts demonstrated in these films in a project tentatively titled Weaving Our Stories. The hope is that this will give students a more lasting and authentic platform on which to publish their work and that it will also be a resource for the community as well as for other educators who want to take up the mantle of digital humanities and project based learning in the secondary classroom. Initally, the project will be internally facing until permissions are worked out for films that have already been submitted. This has created a unique situation for developing a social media strategy for a project that won’t actually be public in the near future.
Audience: School Community
Because I need to obtain permissions, I am planning on publishing a project blog to generate momentum for creating the exhibit. Parents and grandparents of students can go to the blog to learn more about how their information will be used. It would also create anticipation for the project for parents of younger students who would look forward to their child having this unique experience. The blog could also serve as an outlet for students to write guest posts reflecting on their learning process as the year unfolds. To direct the school community to the blog, I would use a link in the school newsletter directing the community to the blog. The school’s Director of Communications will also use Facebook posts to promote the blog.
As a school we have found Facebook to be a much more effective platform for engaging with parents than Twitter because, like the Pew Research study shows, the number of Internet users regularly connecting with Facebook outpaces Twitter by a significant margin. Facebook is also more likely to be used by older individuals such as my students’ grandparents, who as a group who would also need to sign off on permissions before their documentary was placed into a public facing archive.
Audience: Prospective Parents/Larger Community
Inspired by Building Inspector’s creative use of video, I also plan to make a movie-trailer-style video with the help of our Film/Drama Integration Specialist Tom Parr, who is my collaborator on the project. The goal is to generate interest by telling the story of the project in an engaging way. The video could be housed on the school’s YouTube platform and embedded in the school’s web page designed to inform prospective parents about 7th grade curriculum in addition to the school Facebook page.
Audience: Other Educators
I would also like to grow the community of teachers using published DH projects like Orbis. I was recently at an event where I connected with another teacher who uses this in her classroom. I would like to use this project as springboard to create a community of practitioners who are not only using DH projects but also DH tools like Voyant, Carto or Palladio to engage in content in the context of the secondary classroom.
Project Based Learning is a focal point of our curriculum, and we regularly interact with the folks at EdTechTeacher. I want to capitalize on these connections by utilizing our PBL and Curriculum Integration Specialists to promote the project blog through their considerable Twitter connections.
Finally, I am inspired by Elijah Meeks who started the Digital Humanities Wikipedia page because he “figured someone should start this, since no one has.” Meeks has also spoken about the possibility of incorporating Digital Humanities in secondary education, but as far as I can tell, no teacher has started a forum for the conversation. I hope to do so after thinking about what to name this forum. (In the education world, the initials “DH” are often interpreted to mean “developmentally handicapped.”) While a Wikipedia page wouldn’t be appropriate, it might be helpful to begin a Facebook group for this purpose in order to tear down some of the silos that seem to exist within the academic community in only promoting their own projects.
Like Melissa Terras who expressed some frustration at the abundance of riches in her DH world, I realize these are ambitious goals. I will need to measure how effective each is and focus my efforts first on the specific goal of the project itself and broadening the scope of #DigHumEd (?) in secondary education as an independent endeavor. To measure this, I will, along with my school colleagues, monitor the number of clickthroughs that occur for the the newsletter link and monitor evaluate the frequency that the trailer video is seen. We can also monitor the number of shares, likes and new followers on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Our school also sends a post-admission process survey, and information about this project could be one of the questions. These are metrics that are easily obtainable. While these are lots of data points, they are spread among several individuals making it a realistic goal. By the end of the year, we could tabulate results and evaluate the strategy over the summer in order to improve the process for the Fall Term.