I was very impressed by the highly recommended, student film on Henry Spradley. I admire this film for two reasons. One, for the quality of the storytelling, and two, for the way in which it documents the realities and rewards of persistent research.
1. Telling a compelling story in historical context
I teach freshmen and sophomore history students in Chicago, Illinois. Each year our students, at all grade levels, are required to do a Chicago Metro History Fair project. This project takes a lot of time and effort during the first Semester, and most of the laborious work is done outside of class. In the end, students produce either a paper, exhibit, documentary, or performance. Seventy-Five percent will choose to do an exhibit and several will do papers, but only a small handful will attempt to create a documentary. Some will choose a documentary because they have experience with iMovie (or other programs). A few of them are even good at it. But where many of them struggle is making the video compelling to watch, while still being true to the historical content and overall purpose of the project.
2. The rewards of Research
Does it sound silly to say I miss my college library? I miss the feeling of having the world at my fingertips and instant access to countless databases. Research seems easy there. I think avoiding the dangers of search vs. research becomes easier with access to the right tools. I take my students to library or computer lab to show them student-friendly online databases. I harp on the jewels that can be found at local libraries, and try to set them up with a visit to the archives of the Chicago History Museum. I try to tell myself that I’m helping them “research”. I know that probably all go home and just do a simple Google “search” on their computers.