Vox-Pop Summer Institute Follow-Up With Mr. Gordon @ Harwood Middle School

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Every teacher who participates in the Folklife Center's Summer Institute receives, as part of the course, follow-up support to help transfer the tools learned over the summer to on-the-ground situations and projects in the classroom. Mr. Gordon (Nick), is a 7th grade teacher at Harwood Middle School and wanted to create Vox Pops to give students a basic understanding of audio recording and editing (Vox Pops are short interviews with a variety of people who are all asked the same question, and the multiple voices are then edited into a compilation, a snapshot of multiple views). I visited Harwood this week and was able to help Nick share with students a basic understanding of ethnographic approaches to media-making. We wanted to briefly explore the history of representing reality through media, and we wanted to make the point that all media is constructed through the technical barriers of framing and editing. We watched a clip from the 1922 film Nanook of The North to examine power dynamics between media-maker and the subject and the importance of contextualizing our work. After several more visual examples, we wanted to show students different approaches to media-making, especially those that emphasize collaboration. Nick's eventual goal is to have students conduct longer interviews, so we wanted to introduce the bigger framework within the container of the Vox Pop.

After these initial discussions, the students, in pairs, prepared to interview each other. Each student was responsible for each part of the process listed below:

  • Contextualizing project to interviewee/How to approach subjects

  • Understanding and employing recording techniques

  • Saving and Naming the audio clip

  • Uploading to shared Google Drive Folder

  • Acknowledging that other people will have access to your Vox Pop interview, it's a professional, public endeavor to be taken seriously

Nick and I played a few examples of Vox Pops and discussed the process of editing. The class worked on their Vox Pops over the next few days and even produced this piece himself to use as an example. I always recommend that teachers also complete a piece and go through the same process as the students.

Once the students were ready to start the class project, they began with these instructions:

  1. Students will Record individual Vox Pop interviews in pairs (ask and be asked the question)

  2. Students will Save and name their individual Vox Pop interviews (save with Name & Question)

  3. Students will upload individual Vox Pop interviews to Google Drive and move to Shared Drive Folder

  4. Students can start to listen to everyone's individual responses and begin to think about the editing decisions they will make in creating their own Vox Pop compilation

Vox Pops can be done in a variety of ways, and in a classroom setting, pair interviews using the same question with a subsequent sharing of all recordings is a way to include all voices but use minimal class time. Uploading all files to Google Drive gives every student access to all the responses, and students can choose how to edit the recordings into a final product. Here are some editing tips once the students have finished recording:

  1. Listen to all individual Vox Pop recordings and make editing decisions about eventual Vox Pop compilation. Know why you're making the choices you're making.

  2. Find sound bites; it's not necessary to use full answers.

  3. Learn how to use Soundtrap in order to edit together a Vox Pop compilation from individual Vox Pop interviews.

  4. Think about form and content. Use pacing, music, sound effects, combination of words from different people.

  5. When using music and sound effects, make sure it fits the goals, mood, and objectives of the project (that you thought about in step #1).

For Nick, this exercise was an introduction to a longer project where students will conduct longer interviews with a community member and edit those into stories.

More soon from Nick and the gang @ Harwood Middle School...