Discovering Community Summer Institute Promo Video 2016

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Last year was my first year teaching the Summer Institute, which is the culminating professional development program for the Discovering Community program. And I do have to admit, I enjoy teaching professionals just as much as teaching kids.  

I can continue to gush about how much the gang we had last summer was not only like a bunch of sponges, thoughtful and willing to engage with the field work, and not only did they feel renewed and inspired to tackle the 2016-2017 school year, but they also provided me with the same inspiration.

Below is the promo video edited together from vèritè footage of the week, teacher-shot media, and the incredible field visits to local farms.  Look for more video snippets from the institute in the coming weeks.

Vermont Youth Rally Promo Video

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Harwood Union High School social studies teacher Matt Henchen was a VFC Summer Institute participant and has been doing a lot of really interesting work in his classes, particularly with a group of students who have organized a Youth Rally to promote student voice.  I was impressed with how the group operates, with a sincere focus on the students doing the organizing, choosing the topics, and even operating the budget.

Last week, I was able to join Matt and the students for an afternoon of brainstorming a social media strategy to promote the April 12th rally. I also helped a student produce a video, and we even ended the afternoon with another video I edited to help them get the save-the-date info out there. I was able to share some editing tricks with the student I was working with, and I think going forward they will be able to use some of these techniques in future projects.

Here is a look at the video we edited:

Peoples Academy Community Documentary Behind the Scenes

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Peoples Academy Social Studies teacher Kate Toland was a Discovering Community Summer Institute participant, and has brought the media skills from last summer into her classroom to produce community documentaries with her students. Each student is choosing a theme, finding a community partner to interview, and then editing a short video to be shown in a community showcase. Since the beginning of the year, the class has been working with community themes like youth, elders, tradition, challenge, and change. They even dedicated a whole wall in the classroom to map out how all these themes overlap and intersect and to keep track of the production process, from pre-production, production and post-production.

During one of the visits, I set up one of Kate's students, Larkin, with my camera rig to get some experience with a DSLR.  Below you can see a quick look at the behind the scenes of a typical class.

Camera Obscura at King Street Center

Posted by Mary Rizos

Last week, Vermont Folklife Center Education Outreach and Media Instructors Myles Jewell and Mary Rizos spent Wednesday afternoon with students at King Street Center in Burlington, and with some plastic bags, tape, and a ladder, covered the windows of a room of the center in order to turn it into a camera obscura, a chamber ("camara,") closed off to light that can act as a camera when a small hole is created to let light in, projecting an image of the outside world into the dark room.

Throughout the planning, set-up, and execution, the students documented the process by using multiple cameras to record what was happening, narrating the events, and interviewing each other about their experience. Below, check out a short video created from their footage:

Woodstock Middle School Speak Chorus

Posted by Mary Rizos

In September, the Vermont Folklife Center worked with Woodstock Union Middle School teachers Matthew McCormick and Anne Lessard in preparing students to interview community members about Hurricane Irene. Together, we did a workshop for students on using an ethnographic approach to research, and on interviewing skills. Many thanks to Molly Thompson in Grade 10 and teacher Jeff Thomas for participating in model interviews with me and for taking students questions as the 7th graders observed, reflected on, and practiced the interview process. The 7th graders later did interviews with people in the community, and those interviews provided information that was used as part of an interdisciplinary project examining the effects of Hurricane Irene on the community and the landscape, five years later.

One outcome of the interviews was a “Speak Chorus,”  an original performance the students created by the selecting and re-combining quotes from the interviews they conducted. A student describes the process:

“The very first thing that we had to do, before we had to do anything else was learn about interviews. After that we had to do practice interviews to prepare for our real interviews. Then came the real interview, which we recorded on  an iPad so that we could listen to it later (we had to email the interviews to ourselves). After that we listened to the interview and put down promising quotes in our “interview quote catcher.” We then made the quotes into a script, practiced the script many times. And finally we performed our speak choruses.”

An example of the final product that came out of the students’ work (thanks to Woodstock Middle School for making the footage available to us!):

Woodstock Community Television has the entire student performance available at this link:

Here are some excerpts from one student’s reflection on the project:

“One thing in particular that I liked about this project was that we got to make our own scripts... I liked that we got to be creative and that everyone’s script was different from everyone else’s.”

“One thing that challenged me during that process was doing the real interview because I was super nervous and I didn’t want  to somehow mess up the interview.  One thing I learned from this challenge was that, sure you make mistakes sometimes, sometimes you mess up, but it’s okay to mess up, everyone does sometimes.”

“I thought this was a really fun challenge.  Can we do something like this again?”

Thanks to Matt McCormick, Anne Lessard, and the 7th graders at Woodstock Middle School for reaching out to us and for the opportunity to collaborate with them in this unique project. It was a great fit for our Discovering Community philosophy and model, and had so many important and interconnected elements - community connections, community relationships, connections to place and environment, communication skills, student ownership, choice, and creativity.


Harwood Media Studies Introduction to Ethnography

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Every year, I find myself doing more and more work with Harwood students, particularly with their Media Studies class.  In December, I was able to give an Introduction to Ethnography lecture to Krista Connelly and Christopher Whalen's class.  The first half focused on the ethics of representation and the impossible expectation of representing reality (see lecture outline below), while the second half we did a short exercise to aide a basic tutorial on WeVideo.  

To engage the students with the theory of representing reality through visual mediums, I give students the hands on process of shooting a series of images to upload into WeVideo.  I generally explain five different frames that can be used to show setting, characters, and formal approaches like shot reverse shot.   As a result, I handed my phone to one of the students, had them take five pictures from different angles, showed them on the projector how to upload to google drive, download into WeVideo, and then edit the five shots into a coherent image sentence.

Here is short video exemplifying the outcome:


December 14th, 2016 - Media Studies

  1. Intro

    1. The Vermont Folklife Center


      2. Discovering Community:

      3. What is Ethnography?

II.  What do we think of when we think of documentary?

  1. List out what we watch by genre?

  2. What are we actually seeing and hearing?

  3. Make point of Form and Content

III.  It wasn’t always like this:  

    1. Colonialism and Power Dynamics

    2. Shortcomings of representation always trying to better itself.

    3. Bad practices with power dynamics

    4. Form and content part two

Vermont Nepali Heritage Dance Media Workshop Introduction

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Three times a week, the Vermont Nepali Heritage Dance group meets at the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington. The group's aim is to bring young people together and have them engage with traditional Nepali dance. Kathleen Haughey from the VFC has been meeting with the group and supporting their efforts and thought that bringing a media component might entice more members of the community to engage with the group.  This is where the Discovering Community program comes into play.

Once a month, I've been going to their gatherings and trying to become a friendly face the community members know. After meeting several times with the leaders of the group, we felt that a media workshop would possibly engage more of the community. So last month, in the middle of November, I brought some equipment in hopes of working with community members to practice some media literacy skills. I was able to briefly show them some of my work, talk to them about their interest, and set them up to video some of the dance practice. This month, I will be working over three days with the community members as they produce their own short videos.

Here is a short behind-the-scenes look at our introduction workshop:

Mock Election 2016 - Edge Academy @ Essex Middle School w/ Lindsey Halman

Posted by Myles David Jewell

With the 2016 Election taking place on Tuesday November 8th, 2016, past Summer Institute participant and Essex Edge Academy teacher Lindsey Halman ran a Mock Election on Monday, November 7th, and realized what an opportunity it would be to have the students do exit interviews with each other. Some students gathered media for a behind-the-scenes look at the Mock Election, while others asked questions for video Vox Pops.

Using iPads, the students documented each class passing through the polls. As the students filtered out after casting their votes, their peers asked them about their votes and views.

Students uploaded all footage, interviews, and media to Google Drive, allowing them to later access all the media from the day and edit it in different ways into a final product or products.

To help the students in thinking about and editing their projects, I produced this short piece as an example.  

A few days later, I was able to visit again and I went through the editing process of the above short piece. We talked about the pacing, how the questions unraveled, the similarity between answers, and how there are other approaches to what I quickly completed. The students and I then spent some time workshopping their edits. Eventually, we received quite a few edited pieces, including this one below.



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...


People's Academy "Sense of Place" Community Documentary

Things are moving along with Kate Toland and the gang over at People's Academy.  Since my last visit they produced a "Sense of Place" project.  It could take form as a video, a slideshow, an audio piece, but all with the main goal of embarking on a project with the framework of "deep hanging out."  Lauren Ross' project on flying is a good example of taking a non-traditional idea of place and examining it in the form of a video.  I think the video does a good job creating a visceral sense of place.

Putney Food Stories

It was great to visit Leah Toffolon's eighth grade class at Putney Central School a few weeks ago and see what they are working on this year! Their project is "Putney Food Stories," and they'll be interviewing community members who are connected to the multi-faceted world of food. Students will be thinking about the production, distribution, access, and sustainability of food in their community, and will get at the bigger questions of where food comes from and what makes "good" food.

The project has the larger objective "for students to learn to be 'storytellers'; to explore and capture stories in their community by doing primary-source research; to listen to others' stories, thereby building empathy and compassion; to learn from the stories they are told' and to come to see themselves as part of a wider, interwoven community."

In the photo below, students take turns interviewing Putney Central School's Sustainability Coordinator, Steve Hed, in their classroom,  in preparation for their upcoming community interviews. Vermont Folklife Center collaborator and media instructor Evie Lovett assists with audio-recording technology.

Students have done a lot of preparation and we wish them and their community participants well as they begin their interviews this week!

People's Academy "Sense of Place" Documentary Workshop

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Generally we don't think of Geography classes as using Ethnography, nor as producing documentaries, but Kate Toland's Geography class at People's Academy is going to be doing just that.  Last week I went and visited her class for a second time to talk about how to visually represent a place in a dynamic way and what some formal approaches would be.  My biggest emphasis was on the idea that whatever is in the frame is the ingredients to the story.  If you want to tell a story about a pizza place, and you are just showing the pizza, that is what your story will be.  But if you want to tell a story about the people who own the pizza joint, make sure to show us exactly that.  As my mother always says, "If you're gonna give someone a bologna sandwich, there better be bologna."  

After emphasizing how important shot size is and what type of story that tells visually, I exemplified the importance of moving around a space with a camera to achieve different angles, which in turn tells a more dynamic story.  For instance, if we wanted to tell the story of a classroom, what might be the first thing we see?  Well, we want to know where we are, so show the whole classroom (see pic below):

So after establishing the space in the wide shot from the back of the room, I asked the students what might they see next?  We have a wide shot of the space, showing us a classroom with an adult standing at the front of the class, so what is next?  Logically, we want to get closer, so cut that wide shot in half and go to a medium shot:

So now from a wide to a medium, we'd also want to see the reverse angle, and see who the teacher is talking to, so turn the camera around and show us the reverse:

After the reverse, we can start to create a shot reverse shot, to emphasize an interaction.  


Below, you can see a short clip where I am talking briefly through this process:

As a final thought, this type of down and dirty how to tell a story using different camera angles and frame sizes is a great way to introduce students to visual storytelling.  As always, more to come on this type of exercise.

Walden School Visits VFC for a Lecture on Ethnographic Approaches to Media

Posted by Myles David Jewell

Most of the time I am teaching for the VFC, I am on the ground in a school classroom.  However, this past October (2016), we had a visit from the Walden School to the VFC in Middlebury, focusing on Ethnographic approaches to media.  The hour was spent trying to spark discussions around a few key ideas we find very powerful in the lexicon around Ethnography; if all media is produced, which in turn means that representing reality is an impossible notion, how can we do a better job at this impossible task?  Our point in creating this contradiction around media production is to emphasize the general idea around ethnography, which is to try and best represent the story from the point of view to who that story belongs.  Contextualization and collaboration are probably two of the biggest attributes we try and stress, so during the course of the discussion with the students, I  screened clips from Nanook of the North to some of Jean Rouch's work, emphasizing different formal approaches to representing reality or media making.  To my mind, being able to show visual examples really helps ground these concepts for teenagers.  From the VFC's point of view, we feel that this general introduction can carry over into many areas of studies, but ideally, we hope that a basic understanding to the methodology can help spur on the process of discovery amongst young scholars.

Audio Exercise Lesson Plan and Example

Posted by Myles David Jewell

It can be intimidating for teachers to embark upon a media project, using new or unfamiliar technology and trying to guide students through the process at the same time.  For this reason, scaffolding projects with a number of smaller assignments can help students create dynamic stories piece by piece.

All too often, in the world of media, audio exercises are overlooked or viewed as outdated or too simplistic, but telling a story with audio can be just as important and successful as telling a story with video. Gathering media in both formats (audio and video) and then using them together in a final product can create an informed, dynamic and effective media project; thus the scaffolding.

Here is an outline of how to run a small audio exercise with a class of students. This outline explains the structure and format of an exercise, as well as an approach that can be replicated in any subject area. Educators can adapt to the content that fits their syllabus, curriculum, or lesson plan.

Here is an example project I created to help think through a lesson plan:


Below are some points for discussion and teaching:

  1. Listen to the above audio clip, and discuss (in order to better understand the structure and process):

    1. What was the Question for the Exercise?

      1. When was the Question asked?

      2. What else do you hear?

      3. REFLECT:  At what point was the voiceover written?  Why?  (The audio was recorded, listened to and then the Voiceover was written.)

    2.  THE PROCESS or RECORD LIST (this can be done in any order- there is no right or wrong to the process of creation)

      1. Record B-Roll sound

        1. Surrounding areas:  I recorded outside the house to draw contrast to what was in the house

        2. Setting:  I wanted to give the listener an idea of what it sounds like in the environment

                                  3. Make sure to record different aspects of the setting:  Even though it was just TV noise, I wanted a few different programs

                         2. Interview

                                  1.  Contextualize the project/Introductions: always make sure you are recording

                                 2.  Ask the question: be sure to be an active listener and pay attention to other sounds you may want to capture after the answer

                                 3.  Leave the interviewee any room to add anything they would like

                         3.  Post Production/Editing

                                  1.  Label audio - this is huge, always rename and know where it is saved

                                  2.  Uploading to Google Drive can be a good way to save the file in the cloud and for group projects, a good way to share

                                  3.  Bring in other sounds - think if you want sound effects, cars going by, nature sounds, sound effects etc.

                                  4.  Pick your editing software (we recommend Soundtrap for Chromebook users or Audacity is another free software)

                                  5.  Know that you can Record Voice Over in most editing softwares

Now, just imagine, doing this with a group of students and then coming up with how to also visually depict the same process.  It's a great way to get into storytelling.



People's Academy Socrates Vox Pop

This September (2016), I visited Marc Ducharme and Kate Toland's class at People's Academy in Morrisville.  Kate was a participant at this year's Summer Institute and wanted to incorporate a Vox Pop into her co-taught Philosophy class (Marc was a participant in previous years).  A lot of schools are now using the ideas of Socrates to ponder larger issues and get students engaged with critical thought.  As a class exercise, the group brainstormed ideas about what kinds of questions they ask themselves every day, questions they ask every so often, and questions they rarely ponder.  From there, the students were tasked with producing a Vox Pop.  I supported the students in this task by facilitating a workshop on how to produce a Vox Pop, including audio recording technique and editing.  This is what McKenna Montminy came up with her group:

Project Example: Producing Field Studies with Students

As a media educator, I am always looking for project examples to share with teachers and students.  The larger the database educators have of projects to pull from, the more this type of work will continue to be implemented in classrooms.

For an example, conducting a Field Study with students is a great way to introduce the theme of "deep hanging out."   The idea is simple, send students to a place of their choice, and have them just sit and observe.  The time can vary, but obviously, the longer the better.  During this time, the participants will start to pay attention to every detail and eventually write some field notes.  From these notes, the participant can also capture some specific aspects of the place they have now spent some time in, and produce a short "sense of place" audio piece or even video.

Here is a quick rundown of how the project can be introduced to students:




  1. Pick the place.  It can be a place you frequent or not.

  2. Think through the FORM, what types of shots and sounds?  BE SPECIFIC and create a STORYBOARD (Pictured right).

  3. Create Shot List including sounds.

  4. Go to the place, Take notes/video/pictures/sound.

  5. Although you have a shot list, feel free to explore and go off script.

  6. Upload to Google Drive.

  7. Import into Editing Software such as WeVideo.

  8. Edit Piece by dragging clips into a sequence and cutting out extra material.  

  9. As for a point of introduction, notice the difference in Myles’ piece vs. the storyboard.

  10. To that point, allow for process of discovery in the making.



To conclude with an anecdote, the piece you see above differs from the storyboard so significantly because my phone ended up dying once I started the filming and I was out on a bike path.  I did, however, come up with these images beforehand, and decided to explore what I had and still try and edit something together similar.  In the end, it goes to show that allowing for the process of discovery, helped me still create something despite technical hiccups.

Summer Institute 2016- Participant Media Golden Russet Audio Example

During the course of the Summer Institute, a major goal is to get the participants to engage with media themselves, and to actually have them produce a short piece with the skills from the week.  Loading up the participants tool-belt with ideas on the art of the interview, deep hanging out, simulated field studies, the week culminates with a field visit to a community partner.  This year, we split the participants in to two groups, and brought one crew to Golden Russet Farm.

Nick Gordon Interviewing @ Golden Russet Farm.

Nick Gordon Interviewing @ Golden Russet Farm.

Nick Gordon (pictured above), a 7th Grade teacher from Harwood Middle School, was able to produce this short audio piece before the end of the week.  A job well done for such a short time: