Back in 2009, the 5th grade classes, teachers, and I worked on an oral history project to try to capture some of the stories of Barrow’s history. Our school was originally built in 1923, so there are many stories through the decades that could be told.
That year, the teachers and I participated in virtual professional learning with the Library of Congress. We engaged students in centers to explore primary documents from Barrow’s past, how to use laptops and microphones to record, interview etiquette, and how to craft the best interview questions to spark conversation.
Each student worked with a partner to interview a guest from Barrow’s past. Those histories were recorded in Audacity and uploaded to our school website. Since then, I have transferred those files into Youtube. They can all be heard at our Barrow Oral History page.
This year, our school celebrated its 95th anniversary and our PTA planned a big celebration. Since hundreds of guests would be in our building, I thought it was the perfect time to capture a few more Barrow memories. This time, I used Flipgrid to capture the memories since it automatically uploads the video. Our past interviews lasted 20-30 minutes, but I knew people wouldn’t have that much time to give during the anniversary. Flipgrid limited the responses to 5 minutes or less. Rather than ask a series of questions, I simply asked people to share their name, when they attended Barrow, and a special Barrow memory.
Some of this year’s 5th graders served as hosts in the library. Some stood in the hall to welcome people in to record. Others went with each storyteller into my office, the makerspace, or other quiet parts of the library to assist with recording.
Flipgrid has gone through several changes that have been frustrating to me when it comes to events like this one. One of those changes is requiring people to login to their email in order to record. To bypass this step, I had each storyteller “register” with me. They simply filled out their first and last name. I went into the administration side of Flipgrid and added their name to the Oral History grid. Then, I assigned them a unique password. When they went to the iPad, they simply typed in the password, and Flipgrid knew who they were. This allowed them to just focus on recording. Since this event, Flipgrid has added a “guest mode” feature that allows you to record without logging in.
The 95th anniversary was jam-packed with activities, so we didn’t record as many videos as I had hoped. However, I do want to try to continue this grid and add additional memories each time we have an opportunity to share some memories. It could even become something that 5th graders do before they leave our school so that we have an ongoing addition of current memories of our school.
In order to make the Flipgrid videos viewable, I added them to what Flipgrid now calls a “mixtape”. You can enjoy all of the 95th anniversary memories by viewing our mixtape of videos: https://flipgrid.com/+barroworalhistory
If you are a former Barrow student or teacher who would like to record a memory, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can get you info for how to record on your own device.