Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Illinois Veterans & Community Classroom Project
Students as Digital Historians

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Organizing for Success

Step 1: Development


Define the project – Scope, goals, timeline


Students need to have clearly defined goals for what they are to accomplish.  The Illinois Veterans’ Classroom Project provides a sample rubric which can be used to help define expected outcomes.  Showing and discussing examples of some of the award winning projects posted on the website may also help them understand the scope and goals of the project.

WWII Veterans Project Rubric.docx


A timeline with hard and soft deadlines are essential in completing projects.  They help keep students on task, and develop time management skills.  These projects can seem never ending if not well managed.  It is essential to keep students focused and to help them understand that their projects will never seem “perfect”, but must simply be the best possible under the circumstances.


Determine student roles for each step


While projects can be finished by individual students, working in groups can facilitate completion in a timely matter as well as developing project management and collaboration skills.  The following document presents possible roles for developing video projects. 

Student Roles


Locate and recruit interviewees

Obtain all required interview forms

Set up dates and locations for interview


 Review Bio-Data Sheet

Online research


The Bio Data Sheet serves as a starting point for learning and eventually understanding.  Students need to build background knowledge in order to ask good questions and understand the scope of the veteran’s service. This is an opportunity for them to truly understand war and conflict in a meaningful way through the human elements of sacrifice, courage, loss, suffering, and perseverance.  The bio sheet provides basic information about the branch, theatre, and type of service.  Students then use print and online resources to conduct the needed research. 


Interview Prep

 Review/modify interview questions


Step 2: Pre-Production


Organizing Folders


Nothing slows down a project like lost files.  Teaching students to get organized by using a planned folder hierarchy and set naming convention is a valuable use of time.  The structure below is only a suggestion and can be modified as needed.


Create a main project folder using the veteran’s name as part of the folder name.   Inside create the following folder hierarchy:


Edited Images

Music and sounds

Production Copies

Raw Footage


Storyboard/project notes


File Naming Convention


Students working in groups with assigned roles may find that they are dealing with folders on multiple machines or saved in multiple places.  If students have email, they may want to create a Dropbox account and share folders online so all have access to the latest versions.  Having a file naming convention such as Subject_your initials_date can prevent loss of files with the same name.




Project students have said you need to save your files every 30 seconds.  While that may be a bit of overkill, when editing video it is wise to save after every major change.  Also file should be saved in at least two locations.  External hard drives are excellent for saving and transporting large digital files.


Small Group Instruction


Take advantage of “experts” in your classroom. Students may already have some experience in using equipment or software.  Identifying them as the “go-to person” in that area can facilitate students who need assistance getting it in a timely fashion.  As others learn, they can also teach others.  Training small groups in each area and then mixing them into the project groups where they are an area expert is also a good strategy.  Since there are many self-guided tutorials online, students can use them to learn and refer back to them as needed.  It is simply not necessary to provide direct instruction to all students in all areas, but it is necessary to make sure they have at least the minimal level of competence to complete the task. 


Areas of needed skills:




Scanner/External Hard Drive


            Sound editing

            Image editing

            Video editing


How to film an interview




          Framing the shot


Conducting an Interview

Room assignments: Rooms should be quiet and at a comfortable temperature.  Make sure to check for possible unexpected noise sources such as traffic, clocks, heating and cooling systems, or even bells if interviewing at school.  If possible have students visit the room prior to the interview to put them at ease.

Roles: Make sure everyone knows their roles.  Who is setting up the interview site?  What will the background be?  Do you need to bring items such as a flag or a comfortable chair?  Who is bringing and/or setting up equipment? Who is filming? Who is doing the sound check?  Who will be conducting the interview?  Who will be in charge of gathering the artifacts?  Who will be welcoming the veteran and family?  Making sure there is a specific individual responsible for each of these things will make sure nothing is forgotten.


Interview:  In order to relax your guest, spend a few minutes chatting before the interview begins.  This will put them at ease and relieve some of the guest’s and interviewer's nerves.  Explain the scope of the interview to the person you are interviewing. It is important they are aware of the expectations, agenda, time and format of the video. Make suggestions to your guest prior to the interview. Encourage the interviewees to talk slowly, articulate their words, and to remain a consistent distance from the microphone throughout the interview.  Also remind them that excessive movement can be caught on the microphone, and if they have documents or photos they want to show, have them laid out and ready before starting to prevent rustling through papers and folders.  Interviewers should also take care to remain still and not shuffle their papers.  Don’t worry about silence; let the subject think and fill in the gaps (which will be removed in the editing).  Give positive feedback to the subject by nodding and reacting to his/her story with appropriate facial expressions (smiling, frowning, etc.).  Have water and tissues available for your guest and interviewer.  The telling of these stories can be very emotional for the veterans.  Students should be prepared for how to respectfully respond at such a time.  Finally, make sure you thank your guest.  Thank them for taking the time to come and be willing to allow you to interview them, and thank them for their service.


Step 3: Production

Preparing Raw Footage

Download Raw Footage from cameras into a properly named folder - immediately backup that raw footage onto a server, dropbox, portable harddrive.

Download the Audio and Video Log from the USLOC Veterans Fieldkit. (Click here to see a sample of how the log should be fill out.)  This form is required to submit veterans raw footage to the USLOC. 


What is a Storyboard?

A storyboard is a written or graphical representation of the all of the elements that will be included in a digital story. The storyboard is created before actual work on creating the digital story begins. 

Creating storyboards is an often overlooked component of digital storytelling and for many students, storyboarding may seem like a tedious extra step. However, storyboarding is a valuable component in the creative process which allows the developer to organize story elements before the development begins. It saves time by allowing students to visualize how the project will be put together and identify all the elements to be used.  Time is not wasted on editing elements that won’t be used. 

There are many methods that can be used to create a storyboard.  Templates, index cards, or simply sheets of paper can be used for individual scenes.   Written and graphical depiction of the elements of the story, such as images, text, narration, music, transitions, etc. are added to the storyboard. The elements of the story are arranged in the storyboard in the chronological order in which they will appear in the story and this allows the developer to organize and re-arrange the content for maximum effect.

For sample templates and more insight on using a storyboard:

 Gather and prepare media resources


Music/Sound effects

Narration & guest voices

Record in segments

Review for quality



What can we use legally? The chart below provides information on copyright issues your students need to be aware of.  Projects with copyright violations in use of images or music cannot be accepted or posted.


Copyright Chart


Step 4: Post-Production

Mixing it all together

Rough cut

Editing raw interview footage

Narration track laid down

Complete audio/video log of raw footage for LOC

Final cut



Sound effects



Reflection and Evaluation

The Illinois Veterans' Classroom Project goals include making those vital connections between today's students and those who have sacrificed to serve our country and preserve their freedom.  Every project is asked to include a short student reflection on what participation has meant to them.  These reflections can take any form including narration over images, taped statements, written reflections with music, or whatever form the students wish.  The following document contains questions that could be used to guide students through this important process.  Student Reflection.doc


Step 5: Distribution and Backup

Project posted to ILVETS site

Copies of project and interview raw footage for veterans and families