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Online Oral History

MCDM: Theories and Practice of Interactivity
Term Project Paper
Suna Gurol, Helen Pitlick and Amy Rainey
Fall 2009
All Rights Reserved Copyright 2009
Our Idea

Our goal is to build a nonprofit educational website that facilitates the creation and sharing of
online oral history projects; we want to help people document and discover untold stories from
within their families and communities. The site, temporarily named OurStories, will offer
resources for storytelling and serve as an online community for video oral history projects.

Based on our research, OurStories will fill an important niche. There are other sites that feature
oral history projects, but we have yet to find a site that also offers a community for creating and
sharing these projects. The focus will be on video oral histories, but projects on our site will also
include audio, photo slideshows and documents, allowing users to share any information they
compile about their interview subject, regardless of medium.

For the purposes of this deliverable, we have named the site OurStories. However, we haven't yet
decided on the name and branding for this site; OurStories is the placeholder name.


As older generations pass on, it becomes increasingly necessary to preserve their experiences so
we can learn from and remember those eras of history. Oral history - storytelling - shares
individual perspectives that might otherwise be left off the historic record. Oral history reveals
personal or private information about known people or events - information that does not come
across in speeches, newspapers, or television coverage - as well as body language and images.
Oral history supplements the official written record with the experiences of real people (Walbert,

Oral history serves many purposes in a variety of academic disciplines. "The advanced
preparation, the complexity of interview relationships, the questioning and listening skills and, as
important, the ability to understand oral evidence and use it in a wide variety of settings"
(K'Meyer, 1998) mean that video oral history projects are applicable to history, journalism,
anthropology, foreign language and virtually any other socially-oriented field of study. Video
projects also have a role in film and technology classes, teaching students digital editing and
documentary techniques. In addition, oral history projects are excellent ways to connect with
family members and the community.

Our site will help create and share personal stories as they relate to history. Good oral history
represents actual events with a personal twist: a microscopic lens on macroscopic events. It's not
just personal stories; for example, a mother recalling nursing her son is not oral history.
However, a mother recalling nursing her son while crying and reading the obituaries of those
who died on 9/11 is compelling oral history because it puts an epic event in terms of an average

Digital media literacy is important in an increasingly online world. "Even though students are
spending more and more time on the Internet and teachers increasingly expect their students to
do assignments online, digital media literacy skills are vastly underrepresented in the curriculum
for all but the most advanced students" (David, 2009). Students are not being taught valuable life
skills because the Internet does not fit into the traditional model of the classroom. "Rather than
ignoring this fact of life, educators and education policymakers should embrace it. From video
games to social networks, incorporating what students are doing online into the school
curriculum holds great, and perhaps the only, promise for keeping students engaged in learning"
(David, 2009). Plus, technology has made it easier than ever to record oral histories. Inexpensive
equipment and free open-source editing software have lowered the barriers to entry.

In addition, traditional forms of media are fading: "...all evidence points to these traditional
media becoming less important over time" (Gillan, 2009). When Anne Frank's diary was first
published, the world gained an intimate perspective on a global tragedy from an otherwise
ordinary teenager. But who keeps a diary anymore? The love letters between John and Abigail
Adams help modern historians better understand the personal lives of these two monumental
figures, but who hand-writes love letters anymore? E-mail, text messages and blogs have
replaced the written record. One forgotten password or crashed server and these important details
are lost - unless they are documented in a more permanent fashion.
It’s easier than ever to create and edit videos, audio recordings and slideshows. We will help
students and others use inexpensive technology to tell their friends and families’ stories while
simultaneously gaining valuable technological and storytelling skills.

Comparison of Other Oral History Sites

In our research, we did not find any existing sites that are similar to our idea - an online
community to facilitate, promote and share the documentation of video oral histories. Several
websites are dedicated to oral history collections, but few provide those historical accounts in
online video format. There are also many sites that enable the creation and sharing of multimedia
stories, but we did not find any with a similar focus.

One of the most impressive oral history collections is that of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute
for Visual History and Education, which has an archive of close to 52,000 videotaped
testimonies from Holocaust survivors and witnesses. The organization is undergoing a massive
effort to digitally preserve its collection. So far, the Shoah Foundation has digitally archived
about 10,000 of those testimonies. Although this archive is impressive, a major drawback is that
few of these video testimonies are available online. People have to visit physical locations, such
as certain universities and the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., to obtain access to
Shoah Foundation testimonies. Our video history project, on the other hand, will be accessible
from any computer with Internet access. Additionally, our oral history projects will begin as
digital archives, allowing for the safe storage of these important files.

There are a variety of oral history projects at universities, such as Concordia University’s Centre
for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, as well collections with specific missions, such as
Witness To War, which preserves the oral histories of combat veterans. Witness To War has a
dynamic website that includes video clips, however, most oral history collection websites do not
offer much interactivity. In fact, most of these sites are poorly designed and offer only interview
transcripts. Although these organizations successfully fulfill their missions, our project has a
different focus.
In our research, we also found the Telling Their Stories project at The Urban School of San
Francisco. This project is an amazing undertaking, especially for a high school. In 2002, The
Urban School created an elective course that focuses exclusively on oral histories. The class
began by interviewing Holocaust survivors. The videotaped interviews were then published on, along with transcripts of the interviews. Telling Their Stories has now
documented the stories of Holocaust survivors, World War II camp liberators and witnesses and
Japanese American internees. The Urban School is a small, independent school with more
resources than most U.S. high schools. Our site, OurStories, will give teachers and students in
other schools a user-friendly platform and free resources for embracing this concept and creating
and sharing their own online oral histories.

Additionally, there is a television network and website called Roots TV, which focuses on
genealogy and family history. On the website and TV network, users can watch professionally-
produced shows about investigating one's family tree. The website offers users the option of
uploading their own family history video; however, this platform and the user-generated content
aren't the focus of the website. These videos also focus more on investigating genealogy rather
than documenting relatives' stories while they're still alive. There are also a variety of popular
genealogy websites, such as These sites allow people to research their family tree,
but don't provide options for documenting living history.

Organizations such as StoryCorps give people the tools and settings to record their loved ones’
stories. StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project that “celebrates one another’s lives
through listening.” Since 2003, tens of thousands of people have told their stories, which are
archived in the Library of Congress. StoryCorps focuses on listening to loved ones and the
conversation between the two people who are being recorded. “By helping people to connect,
and to talk about the questions that matter, the StoryCorps experience is powerful and sometimes
even life-changing. Our goal is to make that experience accessible to all, and find new ways to
inspire people to record and preserve the stories of someone important to them. Everybody’s
story matters and every life counts” (StoryCorps, 2009).

Our project combines the personal nature of StoryCorps with the historical preservation of the
Shoah Foundation and the accessible online content of Witness To War and Telling Their
Stories. OurStories will provide a collection of digital video histories while also helping people
create and upload their own; our project will focus on documenting and sharing your family's
and community members' important stories.

Comparison of Other Multimedia Storytelling Sites

In our research, we did not find any existing sites geared toward teaching people how to create
online oral histories and providing an outlet to host and share those stories. A variety of sites host
video content, from the worldwide YouTube to the focused online community of Zooppa. There
are also several sites that call on people to share their video stories, but these often have very
specific themes or are part of a campaign. For example,, formerly named, is an online video community for Christians. is a
campaign that encourages the sharing of video messages that thank teachers. And on, citizen journalists can upload and share videos that tell inspiring stories of
social change while interested users can watch a variety of videos.

There are also online resources for teachers that encourage multimedia storytelling in the
classroom. PBS, for example, offers a lesson plan in which students use multimedia to tell a
story about their families. “Children grow up surrounded by stories told with pictures, words and
music particularly on television and in movies. Take advantage of this familiarity and place the
power to create stories in your students' hands for a change! Families and memories provide your
students with rich material” (Trowbridge, 2004). OurStories will focus exclusively on stories as
they relate to history, while projects like this PBS example are focused on personal stories.


OurStories will target two primary audiences: education and the greater community.

By providing a framework and platform, OurStories aims to make it easy for teachers, professors
and other instructors to assign online oral history projects to students. The site is applicable to
students in middle school, secondary school, college and graduate school. Students will use the
site to gain knowledge about how to create online oral history projects and to share their projects
online, as well as watch and learn from other projects. Additionally, our site will offer tips to
help students and others find people to interview and approach the interview subjects. Our site
will help teachers facilitate important oral history projects that students might not otherwise do
on their own.

OurStories aims to expand the learning process. Instead of teachers imparting knowledge on
students, students have the opportunity to learn from a variety of new sources. Technically
proficient students can help their peers master video recording and editing. "Students can help
one another master new software programs, create engaging alternative assessments, and make
the most of collaborative online spaces" (Knobel & Wilbur, 2009). Interviewing their subjects
will teach students history on the personal level and allow them to connect with their family and
community in a way they cannot in the classroom. The classroom will become a more
collaborative environment.

But history is not limited to the classroom. We also plan to target people other than students. Our
site will be open to anyone who would like to create and share an online oral history project.
Many adults realize that their time with their parents, grandparents and community members is
fleeting and want to capture their loved ones' life experiences before they pass away. There is
also an audience of people who are researching historical eras and personal stories. For example,
a college student writing a research paper on World War II would be well-served by the oral
histories that would be shared on our site. The student would be able to enter different search
parameters to find the best stories to use in her research. Other people may use the site as
research for a novel or period piece.

Although they're not the users, it is important that OurStories also address the needs and
concerns of a third group: the subjects being interviewed. Some subjects may allow a family
member to document their story for educational purposes but may not want the footage to be
publicly viewed. Others may see OurStories as a way to share their experiences with a wider
audience. OurStories must be sensitive to each of these desires.

Possible Challenges

We acknowledge that there are potential challenges that would impede teachers from using

As part of our Usability Study Plan, we conducted a survey of social studies and technology
teachers. In our survey, we asked “What is the biggest problem you have with implementing
technology into the classroom?” (See Appendix A for more results of our teacher survey.) The
respondents overwhelmingly cited lack of money and time as the major barriers to implementing
technology in their classrooms. The teachers also said they don’t have the necessary time to
prepare students for a technologically based project or to learn the technology themselves.

Our website helps solve this problem. OurStories will provide free resources for creating
inexpensive online oral history projects. Both students and teachers can use the free OurStories
tutorials to learn how to, for example, record an interview with an easy-to-use camera and edit
the video with available software like Windows MovieMaker and iMovie. OurStories will also
provide a free tool for teachers to organize and host their students' content. Teachers and students
will also benefit from the availability of online oral history content on the site. When creating a
lesson plan on the Vietnam War, for example, teachers could easily incorporate the video oral
histories of Vietnam veterans.


Storage is a common problem associated with oral history projects; schools and universities do
not have room (and occasionally permission) to keep projects that are not archival quality.
Therefore, most are discarded or returned to the student (K'Meyer, 1998). A social studies
teacher at Palo Alto High School acknowledged this issue directly, saying, "I still have several
years of student-gathered oral history on video and audio media that I would love to upload to an
oral history website." OurStories is a method for addressing this archival problem.

Because our site is a nonprofit venture, we will initially need low-cost options to store and host
the video oral histories and other files. We will seek to partner with a service such as Vimeo to
host the video histories. We would create an OurStories group on Vimeo and embed the Vimeo
videos in the profile pages of our site. Similarly, we would explore partnerships with a photo-
sharing site like Flickr to host photos and a site like Scribd to share related documents.

Ultimately, we would like our site to have its own servers that can permanently store these
videos and other files. We would like OurStories to be part of the National Digital Information
Infrastructure and Preservation Program that is being led by the Library of Congress. Partners of
the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program are typically connected
with major universities or state institutions. As such, we would also seek to partner with the
University of Washington or another reputable institution. Congress created the National Digital
Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program in 2000 with the mission of developing "a
national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially
information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations" (Library of
Congress). Our site is closely aligned with the mission of this project.

Since our target audience includes children as young as 11 or 12, we need to take some extra
factors into consideration. The Federal Trade Commission states, "If you operate a commercial
website or an online service directed to children under 13 that collects personal information from
children or if you operate a general audience website and have actual knowledge that you are
collecting personal information from children, you must comply with the Children's Online
Privacy Protection Act." (FTC, 2009). Personal information includes the child's "full name, home
address, email address, telephone number or any other information that would allow someone to
identify or contact the child." Because we will need to collect certain personal information, such
as names and email addresses, for identification purposes, OurStories will include a "clear and
prominent" privacy link saying that any personal information collected on the site is for
OurStories' use only and will not be distributed or used for marketing purposes.

K-12 schools also restrict the sites that students and teachers can access from their network;
some schools ban sites like YouTube, Flickr and Facebook. "Bringing literacy 2.0 into
classrooms may also require developing... savvy ways of working with or around school filters
that block access to many collaborative and participatory online sites" (Knobel & Wilbur,
2009). We view OurStories as a way to do this. OurStories will be a closed network to further
ensure privacy and confidentiality, meaning that people will not be able to view content without
signing up or logging in. Users will be able to choose whether they want their videos to be
private (seen only by individuals who have been invited to view it) or public (viewed by
everyone on the network). Profiles and projects belonging to children under the age of 13 will
automatically be set to private.

It is not possible for OurStories to moderate all of the uploaded videos and content for
truthfulness or accuracy. For example, one person's story may conflict with another's, memories
may differ and the interviewer may lack detailed knowledge of historical events. These factors
can all contribute to conflicting stories.

However, to ensure some integrity of the oral history videos and to have at least one level of
moderation, educators will be required to approve all of the videos submitted by their students. A
student will upload a video, and the teacher will have the option of approving or rejecting it or
setting it as pending approval based on feedback. When a student's video is approved, it will
appear on the student's project page and be available to the greater community, if the video was
classified as public. Videos that are classified as "pending" will not appear on the student's
project page, however; the video will still be available for the student to tweak or edit. Rejected
videos will be deleted from the OurStories site. Please see Task Flow Diagram #1 in the «Design
Concept section» for a detailed look at this process.
Visitors will also be able to flag videos that are inappropriate, have questionable accuracy or
truthfulness or have other problems. The site moderator will review flagged videos and remove
them as necessary.


Given the sensitivity and personal nature of the material being shared on OurStories, we debated
whether to allow comments on the videos. However, there are many positive things that can
result from allowing discussion about the videos. For example, students can use the comments
section to discuss the historical content of their classmates' videos. Others can use the comments
section to connect with people who have similar stories or experiences.

We decided to give general users and teachers the option of allowing comments on videos. When
general users upload videos, they will have the option of allowing comments on their video
projects. When teacher users create class pages, they will have the option of allowing comments
on their students' videos. Teachers will be responsible for moderating comments on these

Just as a visitor has to register and log in to view a video, one must be logged in to leave a
comment on a video. Anonymous comments will not be allowed. Visitors can flag comments
that are inappropriate or violate the rules. The site moderator will review those flagged
comments and remove them as necessary. Additionally, as a measure against spam, users will
have to fill out a CAPTCHA when posting a comment.

Site Features

The homepage will be the launching pad for the site. It will display examples of featured videos,
links to resources, and easy navigation to creating, uploading and managing projects. The
individual project pages will feature the video created for the assignment, accompanying text,
and more information on the project and subject.
In addition to serving as a platform for sharing stories, OurStories will provide assistance with
creating and organizing them through the following methods:

• Tutorials: We will include a variety of tutorials on using technology and software to
produce a multimedia storytelling project. The tutorials will also help people plan and
prepare for interviewing their subjects and editing the material. The tutorials will be
available in the form of video tutorials and downloadable, printable PDFs. Please see
Appendix C for sample tutorials.

• Tags: Tags allow users to categorize content, which improves the process of organizing
and searching for content. OurStories will include tags for this purpose.

o Geographic location: city, state, neighborhood, country, region, continent
o Period of time: decade, century, year, era
o Specific event: WWII, the Holocaust, Vietnam, Berlin Wall, 9/11, etc.
o Experience: such as cancer, immigration, adoption, etc.
o Category: such as war, Jewish, gay rights, etc.
o Language
• Links: Links to relevant digital media, oral history and storytelling sites.

o Example: "Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History":
o Example: "How to use the Flip video camera":
• Suggestions: Tips on how to budget time, filmography, interviewing, etc., as well as
places to find interview subjects, such as religious organizations, community centers and
veterans' organizations.

• Resources: We will include a list of additional resources for students, including
suggested readings on oral history and interviewing.

• Lesson plans: Teachers may recognize the importance of media literacy, but may not be
as technically proficient as their students. They may not understand how to incorporate
multimedia storytelling projects into their curriculum. Therefore, OurStories will include
sample lesson plans covering a variety of disciplines and academic levels.
Design Principles

Because media literacy is one the main tenets of this project, and the website will be used by a
variety of people in different demographics, OurStories will need to have a clean, clear,
relatively minimalist design. It will be important that the site not appear antiquated. In addition,
we want to ensure the site is easy to use and easy to find. The website should make history seem
fun and accessible.

Branding for the site will include a logo, a tagline, a color palette, and typography. The color
palette will be vibrant and appealing, but not garish. Here's a preliminary palette:

Typography will be a web-safe, san serif font, likely Verdana.

The logo will be mainly typographic, without the incorporation of a "bug." Because the name of
the website needs to also describe the purpose and the meaning of the project, special attention
will be needed for both the name and a tagline to further explain the project. "OurStories, online
oral history" is the current placeholder name and tagline.

The visual center of every page will be the video or multimedia piece.

The website layout will be well-balanced and attention will be paid to the important use of white
space. White space is necessary to create visual breathing room with the large amount of content
on many of the audience pages.

Design Concept


General User View of a Video Project Page
Student Project Page
Sample Tutorial
Taskflow Diagram #1: Video Upload and Approval Process


When uploading a video, the user will fill out a form about the circumstances of the interview
and the content. This information will be used to create tags to categorize the video content and
make it easy for teachers and other users to search for videos by conflict, country of origin and
other criteria.

Date of Interview 11/23/2009
Location of Interview Skokie, IL USA
Length of Interview 70 minutes
Language of Interview English
Interviewer’s Name Amy Rainey
Interviewer’s Relationship to Interviewee: Granddaughter

Name Magda Brown
Name at Birth Magda Perlstein
Gender Female
Date of Birth 06/11/1927
City, State/Province, Country of Birth Miscolz, Hungary
Other Locations Discussed Auschwitz, Poland

Allendorf, Germany

Budapast, Hungary

Chicago, IL USA
Religious Identity Jewish

The Interview:
Summary of Oral History Interview In this interview, Magda Brown talks about
her experiences in the Holocaust. On her
17th birthday, Magda Brown and her
parents were transported from a ghetto in
their hometown of Miscolz, Hungary to the
Auschwitz concentration camp. Her parents
perished at Auschwitz. Magda survived and
was later transported to Allendorf,
Germany, where she was enslaved in a
munitions factory. In March 1945, she and
others escaped during a Nazi death march
and were liberated by American soldiers.
She immigrated to Chicago in 1946.
Time Periods Discussed During Interview 1939-1946
Specific Events Discussed During Interview World War II, Holocaust
Experiences Discussed During Interview anti-Semitism, Auschwitz, Allendorf, Nazi
death marches, immigration, assimilating to
life in America, liberation

Usability Study Plan

1. Survey of Educators
Using the simple online survey tool Survey Monkey, we created and conducted a survey for high
school social studies and technology teachers. The intention of the survey was to help confirm or
deny the proof-of-concept as well as gain information about the viability and sustainability of the

We distributed the survey to more than 40 teachers and received responses from 14. Overall, the
feedback supports our idea. The majority (71.4%) of teachers surveyed state that they do use oral
history as part of their curriculum, while 78.6% feel that online video oral history projects would
have a place in their course. When asked about the importance of digital media literacy, 42.9%
said that digital media literacy is "very important" for their students, while an additional 28.6%
rated it at "important." However, according to the survey results, teachers believe that neither
they nor their students have the ability to create and edit video using current technology. Please
see Appendix A for full survey questions and results.

We created an additional survey to gather information from students. We asked students about
the activities they perform on the Internet, the tools they use to access the Internet, their
experience creating and editing video, and whether they feel the ability to create and edit video is
useful to their studies. This survey is in the preliminary data collection stage, though a very small
sample of four students confirms many of our theories. Please see Appendix B for full survey

2. Detailed Review of Other Oral History and Video Community Sites
The next step in our usability study plan is a detailed review and analysis of other oral history
websites and video community sites that enable the sharing of user-generated video or
multimedia content.

Through this review, we will gain an understanding of what other sites are doing and what site
elements can be improved upon.

Evaluators: Two website analysts
Estimated time: Two weeks

We will review the following websites:
• USC Shoah Foundation Institute:
• StoryCorps:
• Witness to War:
• Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling:
• Tangle:
• Quantum Shift TV:

We will identify similar web elements and similar nomenclature, such as:
• Registration
• Quality of videos
• Instruction
• Website layout, such as how many videos are highlighted
• Audience
• Design
• Number of videos
• Categorization
• Search functionality

In addition to a written analysis, a detailed spreadsheet will be created to compare these sites in
order to provide a snapshot of the information.

We will also conduct a light analysis of these sites according to Jacob Nielsen’s heuristic
principles and write a detailed heuristic evaluation.
The detailed analysis, as well as the heuristic evaluation, will identify website design, layout and
whether elements were successful. We will use these identified elements in the card-sorting
usability study.

3. Card-sorting
Based upon our review of the oral history and video websites, we will create a card-sorting
activity to help determine how the website should be organized.

We will identify topics and areas that will be important to the website. For example, here’s a
brief list:
• Videos
• Account creation
• Search
• Browse
• Lesson plans
• Tutorials
• Tips
• Educators
• Students
• Registered users
• Login
• Class pages
• Class projects
• Related links

We will put these topics on a series of 3x5 cards, along with a short explanation of each one.

Participants: At least 10 people
Time for card-sorting activity: At least one hour
Setup: A room with several chairs and a table
Technology: Video camera, if possible

The participants will receive the stack of cards along with a thorough explanation of the mission
and plans for the website. They will work either individually or in teams and be asked to
organize the topics in a way that would make sense on a website. We will encourage them to
discuss their decision-making process aloud. If possible, we will arrange to videotape the
participants. Detailed notes will also be taken.

Once the participants complete the project, we will write down their results and enter them in a
spreadsheet. The video will be used as a reference. We will compare the results and identify the

nomenclature norms, as well as possible similarities in organization that the participants have
created. We will use this information to create or modify our wireframes and site map.

4. Personas

A persona is "a user profile focused on goals and activities rather than demographics, where each
fictitious user has a name, photo, and some personal details that bring him or her to life"
(Hoekman, 2007). Personas give designers an idea of the real people who will be using their
product, and help the designers tailor their design to the right audience. We developed three
personas for OurStories.

Student: Maya
Sixteen-year-old Maya is a 10th grade student in a large suburban
public school. She is in several Advanced Placement classes, including
AP US history and AP English literature. Her activities and hobbies
include volunteering at a retirement home, playing soccer, creative
writing and serving as secretary of the Student Government

Maya loves spending time on Facebook commenting on her friends'
photos and posts and playing games. She and her friends take silly cell phone videos and post
them directly to YouTube and Facebook. Maya picks up technology pretty quickly but has never
interviewed someone or edited a video.

Maya has two younger sisters, Emily (12) and Becky (10). Her mom, Lauren (40), is a social
worker for a school district. Her dad, Mike (41), is an airplane mechanic who served in
Operation Desert Storm while he was in the Navy. Maya is often curious about her dad's
experiences in the first Iraq war, but she's afraid to ask. Her parents have recently joined
Facebook, but they aren't very computer-savvy. Maya often has to help them set up profiles and
help upload family videos. Her parents use their video camera to record Maya's soccer games
and school events.

Teacher: Cameron
Cameron is a social studies teacher in his 12th year of
teaching. He is actively involved in his school and is a
moderately popular teacher, known for being tough but fair.
For one quarter each year, his students focus on oral history as
a way to do research, culminating in a final project of a report
and presentation.

Cameron got his BA with honors from a small private college
outside the state where he teaches. After college, Cameron
worked for a local non-profit for a few years until deciding to
go back to school to get his Masters in Education. He is
married to a fellow teacher and is in his late 30s. He and his
wife are thinking about starting a family as they realize that they should probably do it soon. He
drinks a little too much coffee and is teased for being "hyperactive."

Cameron is technically willing and relatively savvy - he can program his Tivo, and checks out
sports scores on his cell phone, but tends to look over his wife's shoulder while she's on
Facebook or Twitter, rather than get his own accounts. He has a good friend who recently got a
Flip camera and posted some videos on YouTube of his father's stories. This got him thinking
about his oral history project.

General User: Barbara
Forty-eight year old Barbara is a stay-at-home mom to two high-school
aged children, Nate (15) and Katie (18). Her hobbies include
scrapbooking, baking, and meeting with her book club once a month;
she bakes a cake for every book club meeting and has considered
starting her own baking blog but doesn't feel she knows enough about

Barbara's husband, John, works at a bank, and the family lives a
comfortable, though not extravagant, middle-class lifestyle. The family
has a computer, a camcorder, a digital camera and a video game console, plus cellphones for
each member, but that is the extent of their technology. Before leaving the workforce to raise her
children, Barbara was a nurse, and she has considered returning to work after Nate graduates
high school. Right now, however, her priorities are her children's health and education.

Every Friday morning, Barbara visits her seventy-seven year old father, Don, in his retirement
home an hour and a half from her house. Her mother passed away many years ago from cancer.
Barbara sits with Don for a few hours and helps him tidy up his living area. Since his stroke last
year, Don has been opening up about his experiences in the army during the Korean War, and
Barbara worries that she doesn't have much more time with him. She would like to record his
stories but doesn't think she has the skills.

5. Clickable Wireframe Usability Study

We will create clickable wireframes for the site using information from the survey, website
evaluations, personas and card-sorting activity. A wireframe is the general layout of a web page
that identifies all of the important elements. It is not a design. For this exercise, it will be
assumed that the wireframes are drafts. A wireframe usability study will help us see how people
respond to the layout, if they are able to identify and define important page elements, and what
problems they encounter when using the site.

The study participants will use wireframes to complete sample tasks. Sample tasks will include:

• Searching for a video of a Hungarian Holocaust survivor
• Creating a general user account
• Uploading a video as a student user
• Creating a class page as a teacher
• Finding information about how to interview a subject
• Finding sample lesson plans

Participants: Seven to 10
Time: About one hour
Setup: A room with several chairs and a table
Technology: Laptop, projector and video camera

A staff member will lead participants through the sample tasks. The participants will behave as a
new user and a registered user in each of the different audiences - students, teachers, and general
users. The study will be videotaped and studied later. The subjects will be encouraged to talk
aloud as they make their way through the tasks.

After the initial participants, we will make modifications to the study as necessary to refine the
process. We will create a detailed written analysis based on the wireframe usability tasks,
identifying time it took to complete a task, problems encountered, as well as questions the
participants asked.

6. Design Usability Study
The design usability study will test the website design to identify problems with color, layout and
usability. For this exercise, it is assumed that the designs are drafts.
The study participants will use the draft designs to complete sample tasks similar to the clickable
wireframe study. Sample tasks will include:

• Searching for a video of a Hungarian Holocaust survivor
• Creating a general user account
• Uploading a video as a student user
• Creating a class page as a teacher
• Finding information about how to interview a subject
• Finding sample lesson plans

In addition, participants will be asked their opinion on different colors and layouts.

Participants: Seven to 10
Time: About one hour
Setup: A room with several chairs and a table
Technology: Laptop, projector and video camera

A staff member will lead participants through the sample tasks. The participants will behave as a
new user and a registered user in each of the different audiences - students, teachers, and general
users. The study will be videotaped and studied later. The subjects will be encouraged to talk
aloud as they make their way through the tasks.

After the initial participants, we will make modifications to the study as necessary to refine the
process. We will create a detailed written analysis based on the design usability tasks, identifying
time it took to complete a task, problems encountered, as well as questions the participants
asked. We will also note participants' opinions.

Designs will be changed based upon this feedback.

7. UI Prototyping

The designer and developer will create an initial user-interface prototype. A prototype usability
study involves bringing in users and stakeholders in short study, with the designer and developer
making edits on-the-fly. It doesn't require the same analysis as the previous usability studies -
rather, it is based on direct feedback with quick changes. Changes are based upon whether a user
encounters a serious issue or problem or confusion relating to the functionality or layout.
Specifically, these questions will be asked of the participants:

• What do you like about the prototype?
• What don't you like or what do you think is bad about the UI prototype?
• What is missing from the UI prototype?

UI prototyping can take several rounds; however, it is important to keep an eye on the feedback
and know when it is no longer useful.

Participants: Three to five
Time: Two weeks to one month
Setup: Laptop, projector, interviewer and stakeholder/user.

8. Alpha and Beta Tests

Alpha test

An alpha test is typically an internal test of a designed and finished website, meant to get the
final bugs and fixes in before it is released to the public and users. It helps identify problems or
missing items that haven't been identified by the product team.

Participants: Employees or a group of employees at the organization. It can also be a smaller
group of actual users.
Time: Two weeks
Setup: A link sent to the internal team, along with a request for feedback or identification of

Beta Test

Unsurprisingly, beta testing comes after alpha testing. During beta tests, the website is released
quietly to the public or privately to a larger group of users and the designers/developers await
feedback. Fixes and changes can be made based upon feedback or problems that arise. Once the
site has been reviewed and the team is confident, an announcement can be made that the site is

Participants: The whole wide world, or the entire organization
Time: One to two weeks
Setup: Making the site live, sending the link to the larger group of users, and responding to

Alpha and beta testing often reveal neglected functionality (for example, what happens when a
user clicks on "Search" when the search field is empty?) that the team simply missed, as well as
small, but crucial usability issues. When an organization needs rapid turnaround, a website or
software can be released to the public, who will perform the beta testing (Amazon does this, for
example). However, it is not considered an optimum methodology.


The following is an estimation of the time, as well as the project tasks, we will need from now
until launch.

Task Time

Detailed Review of Other
Two weeks
Oral History and Video
Community Sites -
Requirements gathering

Planning, building,
Teacher Survey One week
recruitment, analysis

Planning, building,
Student Survey One week
recruitment, analysis

Card-sorting Planning One week

Recruitment & scheduling Three weeks

Execution Two hours

Analysis One week

Wireframe testing Planning One week

Recruitment & scheduling Three weeks

Execution One hour

Analysis One week

Design & branding Home page Two weeks

2nd level pages (Create,
One week
Explore, Resources)

3rd level pages (Tutorials, tips,
Three weeks

Audience pages/dashboards
(Teacher, Student, General
User (logged in), General User
(not logged in)

Design usability Planning One week

Build One week

Recruitment & scheduling Two weeks

Execution One hour

Analysis Two weeks

Prototyping Design Two weeks

Building One week

Testing Two weeks

Fixes One week

Development Build Four months

Review & edits One week

Fixes One month

Alpha testing Two weeks

Beta testing One week

Total 56 weeks

Team members

The following are general team member roles needed to complete this project. Some positions
can be held by a single person (for example, the producer can act as the project manager director;
the designer can also do art production.)

• Project manager
• Interactive / web producer
• Designer / art director
• Art production associate
• Business analyst
• Developer
• HTML Developer
• Database developer

Future Plans: Proposed Partnerships

Partnerships with teachers and organizations will lend credibility to our website and help
establish an initial audience for the site. To begin, our website could partner with history teachers
in Seattle and with the University of Washington. Ideally, partnerships would then expand to
related organizations, such as the National Council for Social Studies, a group for social studies
educators, or the Oral History Association. Partnering with more established organizations would
lend additional credibility to our site. In addition, the partner organization would help us provide
good tutorials and instructions about creating video histories.


We believe that OurStories has the potential to fill a needed gap. The site will facilitate in
bringing untold stories to light. OurStories will empower young and old alike to dig for history in
their families and communities and to preserve stories before it’s too late, as well as teach media
literacy to a variety of people in different demographics.


David, J. (2009, March). "Teaching Media Literacy." Educational Leadership. P 84-86.

Federal Trade Commission (2006, December). "How to Comply With The Children's Online
Privacy Protection Rule." Retrieved November 14, 2009, from

Hoekman, R. (2007) Designing the Obvious: A Common-Sense Approach to Web Application
Design. Berkeley, CA: New Riders. P 33.

K'Meyer, T. (1998). "'It's Not Just Common Sense': A Blueprint for Teaching Oral History." The
Oral History Review, Vol. 25, No. 1/2, Practice and Pedagogy: Oral History in the Classroom

Knobel, M. and Wilbur, D. (2009, March). "Let's Talk 2.0" Educational Leadership. P 24.

Library of Congress (n.d.). "About the National Digital Information Infrastructure and
Preservation Program." Retrieved November 14, 2009, from

StoryCorps (2009). "About Us." Retrieved November 14, 2009, from

Trowbridge, T. (2004). PBS American Family: Multimedia Storytelling. Retrieved November
14, 2009, from

Walbert, K. (n.d.). The value of Oral History. Retrieved November 14, 2009, from

Websites Referenced

Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling:

"How to use a Flip video camera":

My Teacher My Hero:
National Council for Social Studies:

National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program:

Oral History Association:

PBS American Family:

Quantum Shift TV:

Roots TV:

Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History:



The Urban School of San Francisco's Telling Their Stories project:

USC Shoah Foundation Institute:

Witness to War:

Appendix C: Sample Tutorials

Preparing For The Interview

• Check and test out all of the equipment.
• When you contact your subject, be certain to clearly explain the purpose and nature of the
• Remember to bring paper and pens, an extra memory card or tape, batteries, battery
chargers, your questions and research materials.
• Conduct a brief pre-interview by phone and research your interview subject’s life and the
historical periods you’ll be discussing in the interview. This will help you determine what
questions to ask during the taped interview. Use written histories, journal articles,
autobiographies, diaries, scrapbooks, newspapers, trade journals and family histories to
research the interview subject and the time period. You may get inspired and find new
topics and events to talk about during the interview.
• Brainstorm and write up your questions. Plan and write out your questions in logical
• During a video interview, the best questions are conversation starters. Avoid “yes” and
“no” questions and instead ask about things that require more explanation and detail.
• To elicit stories, try these question starters:
o Tell me more about…
o What were you doing when…
o How did you feel about…

Setting Up For the Interview

• Choose a location that helps tell your story. Location can help reveal character and
theme. The best location will often be a subject’s home or workplace.
• Make sure the location has ample sunlight or indoor lighting.
• Make sure your location is quiet. Listen for any problems such as traffic or other sounds
that will affect your audio.
• Adjust the location to create a better background. Avoid busy or distracting backgrounds
or boring white walls.
• Ensure the background contrasts or compliments the subject’s skin and clothing.
• Set the camera at the subject’s eye level. It’s generally a good idea to place the camera at
a slight diagonal angle to create a more interesting composition.
• Frame your subject. Be careful that the framing doesn’t cut off the subject’s body parts.
• Beware of clothing and accessories that aren’t friendly to the camera. Avoid clothing
with patterns that produce a moiré effect as well as dark classes and caps that can shade
their eyes.

Conducting The Interview

• Relax and have a real conversation with your subject. This will help your subject relax
and open up during the interview.
• Remind the subject not to worry about making a mistake or muddling words. The
audience won’t notice. You can also point out that any serious mistakes can be cut during
• Once the tape is rolling, ask your subjects to state their names, date and place of birth,
and where they’re from.
• Ask open-ended questions to avoid short answers. Questions starting with how, why,
what and where will elicit stronger, in-depth answers. Questions beginning with did, are,
will and was often produce shorter answers.
• Remember that your questions are just guidelines. Be sure to follow up on interesting
things that your subjects mention.
• Respond to your subject with verbal feedback and facial expressions. But make sure not
to step on your subject’s words. You want to be able to isolate your subject’s answers in
the editing process.
• Listen carefully to the interviewee. Follow up on leads in the conversation. If the subject
gets off topic, gently bring him or her back to the focus of the interview. You may need
to restate your original topic and lead into the next question. However, tangential stories
can reveal great news details. Know when to move on to the next question.
• Pace yourself. Make sure not to exhaust your guest or yourself.
• Stay focused on the goal of your interview.
• At the end of the interview, ask your subject if there is anything else he or she would like
to talk about.

Using a Flip Camera

Flip cameras are relatively inexpensive tools for capturing video and are fairly simple to operate.
To capture video:

• Press the button on the side of the camera to turn it on.
• View target through the viewfinder until it's satisfactory.
• Press the large red record button in the center of the back of the camera to begin
• To zoom in, press the button below the red button.
• When you have finished recording, click the red button again to stop.
• To upload video, flip the switch on the opposite side of the on/off switch to flip out the
USB port. Plug into your computer; the required software will pop up if it is installed. If
not, install before using.
• Delete the video from the Flip once it has been uploaded by hitting the trash can icon to
open up space; the Flip can only store 60 minutes. You can now record more footage.


• Using a tripod to stabilize your camera will provide more consistent footage.