Tomorrow I’ll be sharing about our statewide “Celebrate Oklahoma Voices” digital storytelling project at the OTA 2008 conference in Oklahoma City along with Dr. Dana Owens (Univ of Central Oklahoma), Dr. Don Wilson (Mid-Del Public Schools) and Whitney Allen (Asher Public Schools). Today Whitney shared the following interview video (21 min, 15 sec) which high school students in Asher created this past December, interviewing Hank Thompson, a local World War II veteran living in Ada, Oklahoma.

Educators and students in Asher (led by Whitney) hosted several veterans on December 6, 2007, and had them share with students about their wartime experiences. Students interviewed the veterans and recorded their stories using portable digital voice recorders, edited the interviews using Audacity, and are using photos each veteran provided to create visual digital stories using PhotoStory software. Following the morning discussions, both students and veterans participated in our interactive videoconference with Pearl Harbor survivors from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

I am SO thrilled to see the work students and teachers in Asher have created as a result of our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices and Oklahoma World War II Stories projects! Educators like Whitney, Don, and Dana are “walking the walk” of encouraging the development of 21st century literacy skills with students. In addition, and just as important, they are empowering students to become DIGITAL WITNESSES to the oral histories of veterans and others in their communities. What a wonderful project, what superb work, and what a great example for other learners around Oklahoma and even around the world to study and emulate!

Hearing Hank describe what it was like to fight the Japanese on Guadalcanal, the US invasion and “return” to the Philippines, and the destruction wrought by U.S. atomic bombs dropped on the Empire of Japan (which he saw firsthand) is MUCH more poignant and meaningful for me personally since I have just finished watching the entire Ken Burns documentary “The War” last week. It is a six DVD set, and it’s taken me several weeks to finish all the episodes.

Many, many thanks and kudos to the learners of Asher, to Hank Thompson, and the other veterans involved in these Oklahoma oral history digital storytelling efforts. There are many more stories to record and share, and if you are an Oklahoma educator we want YOU to participate! 🙂

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