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Grant Summary

In Appalachia, the need for "Moving History" abounds. To put this in motion, a mobile
lab – in a customized van – will be used to raise the level of digital literacy among cross-
generational students as well as teachers in underserved rural populations. Our objective
at the outset is at least three-fold:
• To establish a digital learning environment in which past, present and future of
the community merge as students use contemporary technology to document
aspects of local history, art and culture that are, on a daily basis, vanishing.
• To provide cross-disciplinary field-work and teaching opportunities to graduate
students in public history, sociology, anthropology and documentary studies,
allowing them to teach, learn, and model the vast reach of digital learning
applications.
• To showcase participants’ work and demonstrate a project model that can be
replicated, in both cases using a website that will remain viable and updated.

For the long term, this project can support the growing, but still far too limited,
opportunities to introduce high-tech skills that might ultimately lead to placement in
high-demand jobs.
Appalachia was chosen for the initial project not only because there is a demonstrated
need for digital literacy and training, but also because the partners, Middle Tennessee
State University, Duke Center for Documentary Studies, and Berea College in Kentucky,
have links to the people and communities in the area.

Grant objectives

• To create a mobile history lab – in a customized van – that will be used to raise
the level of digital literacy among teachers and cross-generational students in
underserved rural populations in the South.
• To establish a digital learning environment in which the past, present and future
of the community merge as students use contemporary technology to document
aspects of local history, art and culture that are, on a daily basis, vanishing.
• To provide field-work and teaching opportunities to graduate students in public
history, sociology, anthropology and mass communications, which will allow
them to teach, to learn, and to model the vast reach of digital learning
applications.
• To showcase the work of the participants and demonstrate a project model that
can be replicated, in both cases using a website that will remain viable and
updated.

Workshops
This initiative will sponsor digital workshops in participating rural communities. The
workshops can serve 20 participants for four days of intensive learning. The result will be
a short documentary produced by the participant telling a story of their choice. We will
encourage them to tell a story for which they have primary sources. Cameras, computers,
scanners, and facilitators will be provided. There will be enough facilitators to help
participants step-by-step in the process. On the fifth day, a Friday night, we will invite the
community to see the films. Each participant will receive $200 to offset the time required
to participate in the workshop.

*12 computers note: 20 can participate in teams of 2.

The workshops will have one primary instructor and 4 student intern facilitators from
MTSU and 4 or more students from Berea College.

Simultaneous field-work
While the workshops are being conducted, several students will work with local historical
groups or libraries to talk to residents about local history and culture. The students will
document their findings and produce digital products that are appropriate to the stories.
Documenting and preserving local history is the goal. The students may visit immobile
residents who have a story to tell, or they may set up in the local library and work with
local leaders to recruit residents to come share their story. They may scan photos, do oral
histories, or develop cultural landscape interpretations. When the workshop participants
show their films, the field work students will share their work with the community. There
will be no cost to the participants.

This initiative will be conducted in cooperation with local historical societies, libraries,
and schools. Copies of the work product will be left with the local libraries.

The fieldwork team will consist of at least one faculty member and 4 graduate student
interns from MTSU. These interns can be divided into two teams of two. The faculty
member will coordinate, direct, and assist the students in their field work.

Web component
An initiative website will house all of the field and participant work for the public. One
goal for the website is to encourage replication in other rural areas. We will post lesson
plans, workshop handouts, and guides for any group interested in pursuing a similar
model. We also want to share the stories that are told in many different formats.

An example we are using as a model is the Capture Wales initiative by the BBC. See
http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/capturewales/
A special thanks to Chad Berry for sharing this fine example of digital storytelling in a
regional context.

We also want to record the field work data and publish it for access by the communities
themselves, but also by historians for use in a larger context.

Regional Focus
We plan to focus the work in Southern Appalachia, creating a partnership between
MTSU, Duke Center for Documentary Studies, and the Center for Appalachian Studies at
Berea College in Kentucky. We will conduct 4 workshops next summer in 4 different
towns. Dr. Berry will assist in the town selection process.

In addition to Appalachia, we hope to focus on the Mississippi Delta in subsequent


summer programs. Also the van will give us a vehicle for history field work in the course
of the spring and fall semesters. A class could be developed that uses this model in rural
middle Tennessee, introducing students to a new model for public history.

Grant Narrative
Southern Appalachia has been studied, observed and sometimes exploited by
journalists, historians, anthropologists, filmmakers, politicians and missionaries. “Moving
History” will bring academics into the region in the summer of 2008, but they will come
not to present the culture to the wider world, but to bring the wider world to the culture.
A mobile lab equipped with 12 MacBook Pros, a server, scanner, cameras, and lighting
will provide a digital learning environment in which the past, present and future of
communities specially selected Appalachian communities. In these small towns, lack of
funding, facilities and technology has left gaps in educational, social and economic
advancement just as the geography of the landscape once did.
We call our project “Moving History” because it is designed to move, quite literally,
into the Appalachian communities; to move students of all ages beyond the obstacles to
non-traditional learning; and to move generations together in workshops to document
aspects of local history, art, and culture that are disappearing with the aging population.
In these interactions via technology, the students will not only preserve the stories that
have shaped their lives, but also have the possibility to be interactive in shaping their
futures in a world driven by technology.
The significance of this effort cannot be overstated: The obstacles to the digital
learning that is the foundation of the future – indeed the present in much of the nation –
are not solely in Appalachia; they are in rural areas across the Deep South and in the
West, they are in the five poorest counties in the nation, four of which are predominantly
Native American reservations; and they are in cities where income segregates as much as
race or ethnicity. This is not to say that “Moving History” is a political mission; it is to
say, however, that it recognizes that the future of digital learning must address those for
whom it is least accessible in ways that value and preserve their culture.
The workshops of this initiative will serve 24 participants for four days of intensive
learning. The result will be a short documentary film produced by the participant to tell a
story they have chosen. After finding primary sources, they will use cameras, computers,
software, and scanners to produce the final product. There will be enough facilitators –
graduate student from Middle Tennessee State University, and undergraduates from
Berea College – to work with the participants step-by-step in the process. On the fifth
day, a Friday night, the films will be shown in a venue publicized and accessible to the
community. There is no cost to workshop participants or the audience.