Digital storytelling through podcasts


Contributed photo

Claire Werynski, Sydney Van Leeuwen, Andy Gebauer and Jake Smith work on their podcasts.

Elizabeth Shewan, Staff writer

This semester, Averill Earls, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of History, is teaching a class called Digital History: Storytelling. Students have been researching and compiling information on local history, which they have presented in the form of a podcast, “Hurstories.”

The class, which consists of 20 students of a variety of majors and graduating years, is project-driven, rather than content-based. “Hurstories” is the first of three major projects for the class. The other two will have students contributing to a blog and creating a family history documentary.

“Hurstories” is part of an emerging trend toward the resurgence of oral storytelling as a means of passing knowledge. With the growing popularity of podcasts and the increasing availability of the internet, storytelling has become popular and possible again.

“I love the concept of oral storytelling,” said Earls. “Communicating history through oral narration and the challenges that presents, like: how do you write for the ear? And how do you edit so it sounds natural, but measured and keeps the listener interested throughout?”

Students, working individually or in small groups, were able to pick their own topic for an episode of the podcast. Based on what interested them, they compiled information, recorded their voices and made creative decisions, like whether to use music and sound effects.

For freshman Claire Werynski, a Social Work major, an important part of this process was editing.

“The editing stage of the podcasts was something I really liked, because I really like digital music and editing music. I was kind of nitpicky about how I was getting my final copy done. I probably focused more on that than other parts of my project, because that’s what’s important to me,” Werynski said.

Sydney Van Leeuwen, junior Public History major, minoring in Documentary Film, said she felt the course was a perfect fit for her and for what she wanted to do.

“The podcasting project was my favorite so far, because the podcast is very similar to projects I’ll have to be doing in the future,” Van Leeuwen said.

The course is the first of a three-part series that Earls plans to offer. The next will be offered in the spring of 2018.

“The main goal, for me, is for these students to really develop digital literacy, knowing the tools that are available,” Earls said.

In the class, the students learn the basics of using editing software and HTML.

“Ultimately,” said Van Leeuwen, “you come out with a project that’s something that you’re really proud of, and that you could show to anybody and say ‘look, I did this.’”