Smartphones make storytelling easier than ever. As students focus on asking good questions and treating interviews as meaningful learning opportunities, they’re developing more than just a story to post online — they’re improving listening skills while expanding their ability to understand others.
The Great Thanksgiving Listen from StoryCorps offers that winning combination. The project is a free technology-based assignment for students studying journalism, history, social studies, English, language arts, drama, media and/or technology — and it’s awesome. The goal is for students to honor someone in their lives such as a grandparent, sibling, mentor or friend through a 40-minute interview with audio captured via smartphone. (Not familiar with StoryCorps? Back up and check out this gold mine of stories.)
Thousands of high schools have participated during the first two years and have preserved nearly 80,000 interviews. The social movement connected to #TheGreatListen creates a powerful way to engage during Thanksgiving weekend, a time students often spend with loved ones. The project can double as a way to capture an oral family history by interviewing a grandparent, and interviews posted through the app become part of the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Participating goes most smoothly if both the teacher and students plan a few weeks ahead. Downloading the free StoryCorps app first helps students get a feel for the simple interface. The teacher toolkit provides a variety of resources and best practices, including suggestions for students who want to participate in the interview but opt out from posting it online.
As teachers invite students to take part in #TheGreatListen, several lessons from the JEA Curriculum Initiative may come in handy. In the News Gathering module, this interviewing basics lesson (Unit 2) and this practice activity (Unit 3) tie in nicely.
The Exploring free multimedia apps lesson in the Multimedia Broadcast module has an application analysis activity that works well as students explore the app in preparation for their interview.
Students familiar with Cogi or tools like Voice Record Pro have a general awareness of tips for capturing high-quality audio, but we’ll share another post here next week on a few best practices for recording interviews with smartphones as well as a cool connection with Adobe Spark for bringing students’ interviews for #TheGreatListen to life with an eye-catching digital design.