A Digital Story Assignment for my US Survey Course

This is the first of two posts about teaching. Below are directions for the digital story assignment for my survey course.  The directions also describe the traditional paper  assignment.

Section assignments require students to think like a historian. Doing so demands thoughtful consideration of why the story/narrative is an important genre within history. What is it about history that lends itself to this treatment? How do we tell persuasive stories about the past? Please begin this process with a more basic question: what are the characteristics of a good story?

The course is divided into five sections and at the end of each section students will be given a question. Students are required to complete four of the five assignments. The first assignment is required of all students. Students may select which of the remaining assignments they wish to omit. Each assignment is worth 100 points. Students are required to write a traditional essay at least three full pages long and no longer than five pages (900-1500 words) for the first section assignment.

For all remaining assignments students can chose the medium in which they want to work—traditional essay or digital story—as long as they fulfill the requirement of two essays and one digital story over the course of the semester. The digital story must be five to ten minutes long. For the papers your name must be on the first page, pages must be numbered, and standard fonts and margins must be used (Times New Roman, 12 point, one inch).

All assignments require students to make an argument, support it with evidence synthesized from lecture notes, the e-text, the primary document PDFs, and the discussion board activities. The two most important components to master for these assignments are the argument and the primary source evidence. No additional research is required or necessary to produce excellent work on the papers, but students may augment their essays with the following electronic newspaper sources available from our library: ProQuest Historical Newspapers. No other outside sources may be used without the expressed, written permission of the TA or the instructor. Wikipedia is not allowed. You are welcome to discuss your answers with your classmates, but you must submit an original work of your own scholarship.

The digital story requires analytical thinking and explication of evidence but the presentation format is different, oral and visual not written. Students should remember that visuals, sound, and tone can have an important rhetorical effect if deployed well. Students may use iMovie or Audacity or any other equivalent video-editing program; students may also simply narrate a PowerPoint if their video making skills are rudimentary. Students must narrate their digital stories and must include an argument and evidence to support the argument, the bulk of which should come from the primary documents in the assigned PDFs but approximately a quarter from original research. This assignment, like all others, requires thought and preparation. The images need to be selected with great care and they need to relate to the narrative and analysis contained in the digital story. Please note: digital story telling is not sitting and reading a script while looking at the computer camera. In addition to images, students may use music as long as it is in the public domain. Students will need to engage in some rudimentary library research to find the information they need. For the digital story students may find images at one of several approved internet sites where the images are available in the public domain: the UH Digital History site; the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs site; the National Archives site; various sites in the Creative Commons (meaning there are no copyright restrictions on usage), including the Morgue File, Wylio, WorldImages, and Google Advanced Image Search (To use the usage rights filter option, select “advanced image search” on the main Google Images page. Once in the “advanced image search” page, you will find the usage rights options at the bottom of the page. In the usage rights menu you can select one of four options; “labeled for reuse,” “labeled for commercial reuse,” “labeled for reuse with modification,” or “labeled for commercial reuse with modification.”). You may also use any other site that the professor or the TA approves. The digital story must include source attributions (listed on the last frame). The digital story assignment will be graded according to the traditional A, B, C, D, F scale defined below and not according to video editing skill, though as with a paper particularly sloppy work will not help the grade.

To do well on these assignments—paper and digital story—students must plan their work. For papers outlines are recommended as an initial step before writing. For digital stories the concept of the outline is transferred to a storyboard whereby students not only outline their content but also the visuals that will be used to demonstrate the pertinent points.

Digital stories must be loaded on YouTube (you can create a channel for the purposes of this class) with the link sent to the TA and me. Papers must be submitted to the Turnitin.com link on the course Blackboard page. We will check for originality, and students who submit plagiarized work will face serious academic consequences.

Late assignments will be penalized. For each day a section assignment is late its maximum grade will be reduced as follows: A- is the maximum for a paper one day late, B+ for a paper two days late, B for a paper three days late, and so on including weekends.

Source: A Digital Story Assignment for my US Survey Course