Webinar Recording: Brooklyn College: Remote learning and oral history in the time of COVID

Zack Ellis's picture

Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the webinar with Brooklyn College/TheirStory earlier this month. For those who weren't able to make it or would like to revisit the conversation, you can find the indexed recording here: https://theirstory.aviaryplatform.com/collections/926/collection_resources/35084/index

To get a sense for what was discussed, here is the index for the webinar:

# Introduction 

>Zack Ellis (TheirStory.io) introduces himself and his involvement with Professor Phil Napoli's oral history class at Brooklyn College. Discussion around Napoli and students Malkah (Shack) and Xander (Raff). This recording is to be indexed and archived at permanent.org. Zack encourages open discussion and jumping in with questions. (More housekeeping notes)

# Participant introductions, interests

>Audience invited to express their curiosities and specific interests in oral history, which include tools, teaching tips, methods/ethics in COVID, best practices for transcription: 

**OH tools, OH pedagogy, OH in COVID, OH transcription**

# Course students: Malkah, Xander

>Malkah is a recent Brooklyn College graduate, entering grad school, has been a teacher of history and wanted to bring this experience to her classroom.
>Xander is an undergrad (Jr.) at Brooklyn College under the US Army G.I. Bill. Enjoyed the class work a lot.

**Brooklyn College, G.I. Bill**

# Prof. Napoli background, course evolution

>Phil Napoli, History Dept., Brooklyn College. Oral historian, 20+ years, happy to see Linda Shopes and Michael Frisch participating, who he learned from. US Military Veterans are his focus. COVID came, he had to anticipate online courses in the fall. Checked out webinars, like Baylor's. Heard about TheirStory eventually talked to Zack, learned what TS could do. Eventually built TS into the syllabus, with Zack joining the class. Goal was 7 hours of oral history each (4 credit class), goal was not always met. Concerns/problems going into the course: Zoom is limited (40 minutes), they need to record at length. TS is simpler. 

**Brooklyn College, Linda Shopes, Michael Frisch, Veterans, OH in COVID, OH pedagogy, OH process, Zack Ellis, TheirStory, Zoom**

# Experience taking the course

>Q: Expectations about course and interviewing? Xander's first full semester (Fall 2020) after a long break. Wanted something engaging, knew Napoli's connection to veterans. Saw potential of oral history, chance to learn something new, different. Malkah had worked with Napoli, she is also a teacher. Oral history appealed to her even as an introvert. One behaves differently in an online interview situation, there is a barrier that made her comfortable doing interviews.

**OH pedagogy, Veterans, online interviews**

# Oral history topics, interviewees

>Malkah's interest is historical clothing/dress throughout time. Wanted to explore identity expression through clothing. (Discusses her interviewees). Xanders topic: wanted to interview Kurdish people. Pivoted to speaking to veterans on mental health. He was close to the issue, knew people, had a pool of veteran friends (on Facebook). Wanted to take an in-depth look from their perspective, and explore the value in discussing it in an interview. 

**Historical Dress/clothing, Veterans, mental health, Facebook**

# Finding narrators, workflow process (Malkah)

>Malkah relied on people she knew, including Jewish community, other connections through professors, etc. Her process from interviewing to podcast? Reached out on social media, interviewed with TheirStory, sending link was simple. After interview, TS has automatic transcription with timecodes to find clips, edited in Garage Band (Audio editing software from Apple). Challenges in the process? Most time consuming is going through transcripts, finding narrative, finding clips. Started with questions, but interviews diverged. Had pin-pointed a few moments (different approach than Xander). (Combination of tools used.)

**Jewish community, TheirStory, Garage Band, OH process, interviewing**

# Xander's work flow, modes

>Explored how to make veteran's interviews unique. Started with a 2-hour interview over facebook (using Open Broadcast Software). Uploaded to TheirStory for transcription, helps keep interviews together. Had some strong testimony, suicide, trauma, living far from family--had hours of clips. Cut down to a good 20 mins on veteran mental health. Made easy because of TS and online mode. He had computer troubles in the middle of the process and was still able to work. Had a solid experience, vets were pleased with his work. Worked close to the deadline. Transcription helped him identify clips, had full transcriptions (not perfect). Was able work without his computer with help from TS and Prof. Napoli. 

**interviewing, OH process, online interviews, TheirStory, OH transcription**

# Ethical Considerations

>Malkah: everyone signed consent, some wanted no video. Stripped the audio from the video. Accommodated other interviewer restrictions. Zander: Fairly heavy testimony, sent forms around, worked well, importance was understood. 

**interviewing, OH process**

# Q and A: Professor's comments 

>Background: The listening project/program at Brooklyn College, multi-departmental, got an IRB exemption. Established the forms needed for interviewing. Students needed to address consent before interviewing. Need to know if interviews may be made public. (See syllabus in the comments.) Need great students to start with. Online learning requires more prep, is very different, e.g., setting up audio/video.

**OH pedagogy, online interviews, OH process**

# Q and A: Teaching process or publishing?

>Napoli: Both theory and method, taught them about the process, but in order to do something. Recording, writing, 10 page in-depth paper including historical context, was required. To produce something showing what they learned. Clothing, vet mental health, many other topics that spoke to the students. Discusses public access. 

**OH pedagogy, OH process**

# Takeaways from the process

>Malkah explored her own feelings on clothing and identity. Explored that with interviewees. (Cites examples of dress and identity.) Xander learned a lot. Interviewing was comfortable, especially for interviewees, being in their own house or environment. He likes to talk, but enjoyed listening, staying out of the way, adjusting how he interacts. Doing as little prompting as possible. All interviews were over 90 min. Even his stoic brother-in-law opened up and he learned things he never had. TS and being remote specifically was advantageous. 

**OH pedagogy, OH process, interviewing, TheirStory**

# Use of PixStori

>Malkah on Pixstori assignment, starting with a photo from during isolation. [Shows PixStori, audio: Image of romantic era gown and robe she made after learning to hand sew. (Cotton, silk, linen, purchased a fan.) Learned a life skill. Did photo shoot with brother.] Each person showed their PixStori. They all understood each other better. Happened late in the semester, that was important to creating connection within the class, and made her empathetic to others' COVID experiences. 

>Xander: That class session was like a group therapy session. Created a close bond. Sharing feelings about a COVID photos. Not a complicated assignment, but everybody put a lot into it. Speaks to the great class and instruction. Doing something new, unique, and a product together. Everyone listened to each other's. "The best class environment I've had yet."

>Napoli: Frisch's PixStori and smart students (+ class dynamics) made it work. Set up "support" groups early in the semester. Xander helped others with technology. Bonds were created by the structure and by PixStori--a different model for doing oral history, useful this semester. 

**PixStori, OH pedagogy, OH in COVID**

# Final Comments 

>Xander: Plays clip about vets struggle and not finding help. (Plays two example stories.) A good experience with interviewees and TS. Napoli taught them the process, showed examples. He could show a poorly represented group, they gave him the seal of approval in the end. Malkah: Things were well prepared for them. Well supported as interviewers and interviewees (in the PixStory assignment). Napoli acknowledges Zack, as a class member, and his support through TS. Plans to continue to use it in Spring and going forward. Zack: wrap up.

**Veterans, OH process, OH pedagogy, TheirStory**