• Digital History and the Community College

    I’m currently working on a revamp of our department’s oral history course which will expand into larger areas of local history.  I’m also, at the same time, working on a revamp of our static, old-school-looking department website.  What I would like to do is have a database-driven, dynamic site that faculty will find more useful.

    Then it hit me that if students are doing local and oral history projects, a new, dynamic department website could be the perfect place to showcase these projects.  This would have the additional pedagogical utility of introducing students to composing for a wider audience.  This idea, while technologically possible, brings up a few issues that I would like to discuss.

    Teaching at an open-enrollment community college in one of the most economically depressed cities in the country (2nd most poverty stricken, with unemployment in the mid 20% range) I cannot make any assumptions about the technological knowledge of my students, nor can I make assumptions about their access to technology.  Thus, designing a course (or even a significant course project) around a technological feature is fraught with problems.  I plan to discuss both these problems and potential solutions to these problems in March.

5 Comments


  1. tbrock says:

    Interesting project. I think you also have an issue with the community you are using for your oral history project: it is always important when working with communities to make sure they are engaged with the results, and since this is a community that is economically depressed, they may be interested in more accessible ways for them to view your work as well. Accessing technology may be difficult for them the same way it is for your students.

  2. ajgulyas says:

    That’s a good point. I’ve been thinking about ways to present the finished work on these projects to community members who participated, as well as those who didn’t participate but are still interested. We’ve got a good relationship with the Flint Cultural Center, as well as local libraries and other potential venues for a display or presentation. It will be a bit more difficult to find a permanent physical place for people to access projects and information, but I’m certain it can be done.

  3. ajgulyas says:

    By the way, Terry, I love the design of your website!

  4. tbrock says:

    aw shucks *blush*

    I would definitely suggest you look into some of the literature out there on engaged research and engaged teaching if you haven’t. It might provide you with some strategies and ideas for not only engaging the community in providing content, but also in developing it, analyzing it, and being a part of the finished product. MSU offers some great resources: http://outreach.msu.edu/

  5. cpokrzywa says:

    I’m working on an oral history project that focuses on social media and digital delivery of recordings. The project was funded through a small grant from a local philanthropic initiative called Building the Civic ‘Net and a matching grant from the Meadow Brook Writing Project, the Oakland University site for the National Writing Project. The oral history Project is called Rochester Oral History Archive (ROHA) http://www.oakland.edu/roha

    I am currently coordinating and funding “oral history collection events” at various locations in Rochester, MI, promoting these events through social media (FB, Twitter) with the support of local newspapers. The Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm will archive all of the project’s recordings and transcripts. Right now, we are loading mp3 files on our website to share the recordings with the wider community.

    The project is exciting and challenging; I am seeking input on the best possible way to create an easily searchable database for the website. I am definitely interested in hearing about your revamped oral history course.

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