Audiohistory: An Experiential Model for Teaching 30s Era American Culture

McCain, Andrew William , Department of English, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of English, University of Virginia
Thomas, William G., Department of History, University of Virginia

As a teaching tool, the audiohistory website combines multimedia elements in order to virtualize the experience of history and culture. In addition to providing a model for creating a multimedia experiential lesson, the site uses the Federal Theater Project's Living Newspaper, Triple A Plowed Under (1936) as a means to understand the socio-economic complexities of the Great Depression. Not only do historical events take on new significance for students when experienced through drama, but the use of images, audio, primary sources, and dramatic narrative allows students to take control of their learning and "learn by doing." Favoring the "process" of history over the "product," this site provokes students to engage issues of historical analysis and interpretation as if they were solving a puzzle. By examining cryptic elements and making inferential guesses, students not only develop more confidence in drawing connections between materials, but also learn not to fear being wrong.

Scene from Triple-A Plowed UnderThe site is divided into four sections. This introductory section goes on to explain the differences between progressive and traditional education, the benefits of active learning, how audiohistory can be used as a tool for experiential education, and lastly how the Living Newspaper provides an effective means for comprehending the 1930s. The lesson plan provides two experiential activities involving Triple-A Plowed Under as well as an overview of the strategies and objectives of the exercises. The lesson plan draws elements from the third section, The Living Newspaper, which is its own self-contained web-site and provides a history of the Federal Theater Project, as well as context for the scenes. Since much of the contextual material for the exercises was taken from this section, it is not vital to the activity, but offers a resource for further investigation. Lastly, the Resources section facilitates the teacher's ability to create his or her own activities based on this model by providing links to scripts and images.

MA (Master of Arts)

Originally published on the XRoads site for the UVA American Studies program. Years range from 1995-2005. Content is captured at the level of functionality available on the date of capture.

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