How do you use learning media to tell stories of place?  This month, we’re featuring three powerful place-based educators’ approaches to using technology to tell their stories.  Laura DePalma from the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, Makena Riley, from MSU Extension, and Morgan Lantz from Experiencia have provided a few templates for engaging youth voice through technology below:


  • Oral History Project Video:  An afterschool club used this powerful place-based learning tool  at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, where an oral history project provides students with a direct connection to their history of place.  The Oral History Club finished its first semester last December with a video celebrating school teachers and community members’ reflections on the Midtown neighborhood where this school is located.  The video can be found here:  Oral History Club Project.  Laura DePalma answered a few questions about this tool for the SEMIS Coalition:
    • How did the project get started? Who was involved and why did they find the project exciting?
    • “The idea for this event was sparked in the summer by door­-to­-door, community conversations, initiated by the Boggs School’s summer interns, which revealed the fond memories that neighbors have of the Sophie Wright Settlement House. The summer interns, ranging from 17­ to 22 years of age, worked closely with young adult mentors to study “roving listening”, an asset-­based approach to community organizing. “Roving listening” enables organizers to discover the stories, gifts and passions of neighbors and build community intergenerationally. The interns used this framework and were able to discover the powerful stories and memories of community elders regarding their involvement at the Sophie Wright Settlement House. To make this history come alive, The Oral History Club, a student group, formed in October.”
    • How did students develop the list of questions they used with community elders?
    • “Students engaged in an activity where they were investigators of history and  walked around the school building, the playground and the neighborhood as investigative historians.  They were asked to observe and notice historical artifacts and record their observations on paper.  They were taken to spots and shown photographs of that spot in the early 20th century. Then they were asked to generate questions based on what they wanted to know about that particular space over time.  They used their observations to come up with questions for community members about what artifacts or objects they observed.  This investigating history activity was given to me by Kae Halonen, who is a Professor of History at University of Michigan – Dearborn.”
    • What advice do you have for other students and adult educators who want to do a video project like this? What partners did you have and how did they help? Is is easy or hard to create a video?
    • “Start by listening. Build long-lasting relationships with community members. Connect with filmmakers and storytellers who can help guide the process.   Center the stories of community members.”
    • How is the oral history project helping to promote the larger mission of the Boggs School?
    • “The Boggs School implements a place-­based model of education, which incorporates local heritage and culture into the curriculum. In this way, students are taught to respect and learn from the community they live in. The Boggs School Oral History project has enabled students to do just that.  Students learned local history and culture through the stories told by community members as well as made personal connections to the community members whom they interviewed.”


  • Photovoice:  Photovoice is a tool mostly used in the field of education which combines photography with grassroots social action. Subjects are asked to represent their community or point of view by taking photographs, voiced over with stories.  The five concepts of Photovoice are images teach, pictures can influence policy, an image of healthy public policy should be shaped/defined by community members, people of power and influence should be the target audience, and this process emphasizes community action.  SEMIS Coalition member Makena Riley shares a few tips in her blog on how to use this powerful tool with youth:
  • Weebly Blog:  At Experiencia, Morgan Lantz uses a Weebly Blog to engage students in thoughtful discussion about their class work on improving healthy water access throughout the Americas.  This tool is powerful because it acts both as a promotion program for her project and fundraiser for their Tower Garden and Water for the Americas campaign, as well as an important inquiry tool that encourage youth voice.  Students also produce a YouTube video to promote a fundraiser for their project.  From asking questions about project outcomes to discussions of literature and lessons on entrepreneurship, this type of forum prepares students for college and beyond.  See the full story on Morgan’s class project in the Shared Stories section of the website.


There are so many other great resources out there for using technology to promote your projects and tell your story!  Please use these links as a starting point, and share others that you use in the comments section of the blog:

  • StoryCorps: An American non-profit organization whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.  StoryCorps provides great examples of using community interviews to tell compelling stories, as well as sample questions and DIY templates to record your own stories.
  • Twitter Tips to Help Teachers Become Tweeting Pros!  Tips and tricks to mastering this new social media format to spread the word about your community based projects.
  • Social Media Curriculum:  Lots of ideas for how to introduce the ethics, social studies and free speech aspects around using social media.