Humanizing Oral Histories: Student Podcasts During Distance Learning

Ruth Asawa School Student Podcasts

Through an ongoing consultancy with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Teacher-Librarians Department, the VOW Education Program has been working with several middle and high schools around the city to develop oral history projects for their classrooms. During the pandemic, Voice of Witness has continued to support projects virtually in the distance learning environment.

At the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, VOW worked with Ethnic Studies teacher Bruna Lee in adapting last year’s student podcast project for the virtual classroom, encouraging students to interview community members both inside and outside of their “pods” through phone calls and video calls. Students took this opportunity to explore a diverse range of themes, including activism, challenges in the workplace, education, migration, and parental relationships.

The resulting project, Humanizing Oral Histories: Student Podcasts from SOTA Ethnic Studies 2020-21, is now available online!

While some students conducted interviews in person with their household members, many learned how to utilize Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other platforms for recording their conversations. They then transformed the interviews into a podcast through a partnership with SoundTrap. VOW supported students in learning how to create questions, conduct an interview, process the information, write introductions and conclusions, and edit audio files. This project turned out to be an exciting and engaging assignment for students who were struggling to find motivation during this difficult time.

A few students shared their reflections on the project with Voice of Witness:

It was really interesting to see all these different ways of life and all these experiences all together. It’s interesting because we all kind of know each other, but we’re learning more about people that we wouldn’t normally get to. I learned more about my family’s history and their struggle. This project gave me the opportunity to see a wide variety of ways of life, culture, and experiences that I wouldn’t be able to learn from any textbook.

S.MK., 11th grader

This project was the highlight of Zoom school education for me and I am very glad it was an experience that I got.

Q.P., 11th grader

I very much enjoyed doing this project because it made me feel very accomplished and it’s been hard to motivate myself doing anything during quarantine. I learned about how much I am capable of when it comes to large projects, and all this hard work truly did pay off.

P.F., 11th grader

Listen to the student podcasts here, and sign up for more Voice of Witness education program updates through our newsletter.

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