Creating a community-based educational tool
This experimental digital humanities project utilizes documentary filmmaking and poetry as tools to contribute one collective, collaborative multimodal account that amplifies and celebrates the diversity of the state of North Carolina, and by extension the United States of America. Positioned as a reclamation of the diversity and beauty of a US state deeply divided by race, class, gender, politics, and ideologies, creators Kelsey Dufresne and Margaret Baker invite a myriad of voices to recount their unique stories through individual installments of interviews and poetry. In the primary piece, residents of North Carolina recite lines from Langston Hughes’s poem, “Let America Be America Again,” magnifying the incredible diversity of the state’s population and offering a unified, cohesive visual narrative of the North Carolina experience. Entering into individuals’ daily rhythms, this project seeks to explore what it means to be a North Carolinian, an American, and what common threads draw us, as a people, together.
PubPub, as a platform, has aided in facilitating learning largely through its accessibility and its media support infrastructure.
In traditional academic knowledge sharing, we see information processed, published, and disseminated through academic-facing/available-for-academics avenues — which largely exclude the broad public. Moreover, the broad public, while not having access to this knowledge, often does not even know that they do not have access — this knowledge and information is pointedly unavailable.
However, with PubPub we have been able to quickly and widely share information, photographs, interviews, and other media with the various folks that participated in this project, but also more broadly to anyone online. In doing so, we have found that accessible knowledge sharing is key.
In appealing to and striving to support a variety of learners, we have also attempted to incorporate a wide array of media.PubPub has fantastic media support throughout its platform utilities— which has allowed our community pubs to include differentiated materials.
Through this, I also developed various teaching and learning resources for classroom and instructional implementation— including activities, discussion guides, lesson plans, and more. In using PubPub, this project is able to compile an ever-growing repository of materials and educational supports.
Moreover, I have found that the best teaching occurs through creative collaboration: we are better teachers when we look to and work with other educators. As such, we encourage anyone to reach out to us to submit lessons, units, activities, and other educational extension opportunities that we can compile and have available to all through our community. In doing so, we welcome more of the collaboration and collective efforts that this project is made up of and dependent upon.
Through this, the project provides multiple opportunities for engagement:
Direct participation in interviews
Engaging with the interviews and media
Utilizing the educational materials (as an instructor and/or student)
Developing and sharing educational materials
With all of these participatory avenues, engagement is centered around learning: learning about the self, about places, about ideas, and about justice.
North Carolina is a state with a notorious reputation for underpaying, undervaluing, and underserving educators — and yet, this is not exclusive to North Carolina and is a much larger, national problem.
As such, our work is offered and designed as a readily and publicly available resource to help teachers if, when, and however they might want to utilize it. Rather than identifying specific teachers and schools to utilize this work, we have aimed to construct a project that can easily be integrated into a variety of classroom settings as needed. Through initiatives like this Pub, academic and public publications, and conferences — we aim to continue sharing this project as a resource to aid in discoverability and utility.
In the initial planning phases of the project, we leaned into our own networks for gathering up connections in various communities and counties across the state — friends, family, friends of friends, social media, etc. As native/current North Carolinians, we were lucky to have a broad range of contacts, who had contacts, who had contacts, and so on.
In areas where we were unable to local a contact, the work turned into researching organizations at the local level to investigate those who are making a difference in their communities. For example, after Kelsey read a news article — we were able to connect with Krystal Sanders French in New Bern, North Carolina who leads Free Mom Hugs, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ youth, in Craven County.
This offered a real variety of interactions in the project, but also diversified the experiences we captured. One of the most surprising elements of this project was how willing people were to discuss hard topics — diversity, inclusion, their own individual experiences and positionalities, and opportunities for restorations at the local, state, and national levels. Organizations, and by extension, people were so willing to share — I found they were just waiting to be asked.
Our interviews (and corresponding questions that we asked during the interviews) were developed to scaffold a discussion that was participant-centered, but inquisitive and reflective on the world around us.
These questions, all open-ended, were developed to start direct and swiftly answerable (Who are you — and where are we physically?) and progress to more introspective considerations (What do you think this county, this place, means to the rest of the state of North Carolina, and why?). In doing so, we tried to ease individuals into the conversation — while centering their experiences. Moreover, as we focused on their experiences explicitly in the first series of questions, we then coupled these with bigger, more abstract questions focusing on their thoughts and opinions towards the end of the interview (What does diversity mean to you and why?). Through this process, we were able to learn about an individual, their life and their context, before learning how they would respond to questions about diversity, America, and healing a hurting country.
In doing so, our community is fostering, collecting, and sharing stories to support multimodal knowledge sharing.
I like to think that anyone can learn, grow, and benefit from discussions and stories about diversity, inclusion, experience, and healing — regardless of how old we are as age is just one piece of who we are. As I hope these interviews illustrate, our state (and our world) is made up of lots of unique people with their own unique experiences, thoughts, ideas, opinions, and lessons. And there is a lot to be learned from listening to someone else and learning about their hometown.
The Social Justice Standards, created by Learning for Justice, provide a framework for anti-bias education. The Social Justice Standards provide a thorough breakdown of the four central anchoring domains (Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action) with corresponding standards and learning outcomes. I first learned about these standards as a much-needed supplement to the Common Core State Standards, as they were developed for K-12 learning environments; however, I strongly believe that they can be considered and implemented in any learning space or situation.
As such, we have included them as a teaching and learning resource within our community, as well as a foundation through which we prioritize discussions of Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action.
Importantly, these domains are unique and provide a scaffold into each other. For example, one must understand Identity to understand Diversity. And Action serves as the culminating domain to actionize betterment and justice. As such, our interview questions strive to mirror this progression to enable the discussion to consider Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action (as best seen with our final question: Something we are interested in is trying to bring together and celebrate the diversity of NC - at a time when the country is facing great division. How do you think we can all help heal?)
The table below further illustrates how we strove to integrate these domains and standards into our work and community.
Project as a whole: Making America Again
This project was born out of a desire, partially, to bridge the gap between people — both physically, but also ideologically, politically, and socially. To accomplish this, we intentionally sought out individuals with different occupations to represent the different individual counties we were showcasing. Moreover, we physically traveled and visited each of the participating counties to meet people in their hometowns, in their places of work, and/or where they felt most comfortable.
However, it is difficult to gather up a room of people for these kinds of conversations, so this project tries to create a digital version. By concentrating together different perspectives and stories, esse quam videri: Making America Again promotes a single repository of experiences from which to draw for teaching, learning, and sharing.
Banner attribution: “Barn located at Louis Stevens Road near Green Hope High School.” Cary, NC. Nimur at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.