Product Review of StoryCorps
One of the largest oral history projects of its kind, StoryCorps.org is a free online resource that houses more than 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants, and supports the recording and uploading of interviews from other contributors. Interviews are on a range of topics, from universals like love, friendship, and loyalty to historic events like 9/11 and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.
All are organized in a variety of easy-to-access ways, depending on user needs or interests. Users can choose from five tabs — Featured, Popular, Shuffle, Locations, and Themes — or click Stories and choose from Featured, Animated Shorts, or Podcasts. Some interviews are in Spanish; some are animated. Should you want to record your own interview, simply click Record Your Story and you’ll be linked to support materials to assist you through every step of the process.
Teachers of most any grade level or subject area could use the interviews on StoryCorps as a community-building activity at the start of the year. For example, play one of the interviews on a common theme like friendship, romance, or family, and then use it as a discussion or writing prompt.
To focus more on listening, educators could lead learners through a discussion that evaluates the questions asked, their timing, and the responses and then ask them to create their own interviews. For social studies, educators can use the historical-event interviews as curriculum supplements as well as models for how to interview elders about key events from in their lives.
Though not a curriculum-specific platform, StoryCorps can be used to support the new Common Core Speaking and Listening standards, provide witness to historical events, and demonstrate the craft components of memoir and narrative. Students will find the interviews both powerful and accessible — the interviews that center on specific events, especially, will help learners understand history as a lived, intimate experience. The option to record one’s own stories and interviews enhances learners‘ experience, as well as the site’s potential as a learning tool.
On a separate note for educators, the site also hosts a section for the National Teachers Initiative. This series of recordings highlights interviews between educators and their (oftentimes former) learners — they’re bound to be both fascinating and affirming to most any teacher. Also, some of the recordings — if played for learners in class — could offer great opportunities for conversations about the nature of teaching and learning.
Overall User Consensus About the App
The opportunity to listen in on others’ conversations has a magnetic pull. Students will appreciate the range of relevant topics — friendship, romance, and family, for example — and the honesty with which these subjects are discussed.
Curriculum and Instruction
Many of the interviews focus on witnesses to historical events, and thus offer powerful firsthand accounts. No matter the topic, each interview models excellent questioning strategies, and an extensive list of possible questions is provided.
Recording tips are provided, as are multiple lists of recommended questions tailored to specific, sometims challenging, scenarios.