Carlinville Students Use Technology to Capture Stories of WWII Vets

 


Students at Carlinville High School are making a personal connection with American history thanks, in part, to an Illinois Broadband Innovation Fund Award.

“We wanted to be able to work with high schools to interview the remaining World War II veterans with their own personal stories of how and when they served during WWII,” said Vicki Dewitt, Director of the Area 5 Learning Technology Center.  “We felt it was a good idea because it puts (students and veterans) together face-to-face.  It was an intergenerational project.”

Dewitt’s agency has partnered with the WWII Memorial Board to help high schools develop the program. Students are provided with video equipment to record interviews with local WWII veterans. The edited videos are shared online at http://ilvets.ltc.k12.il.us/ilvets/ and raw videos are archived at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Carlinville School District was awarded $35,000 from the Illinois Broadband Innovation Fund to help fund it’s participation in The Illinois Veterans Classroom Project.

“The Innovation Fund will allow this project to expand to four other project schools and create online professional development modules that will ensure quality and consistency of the training offered to project teachers and their students statewide and/or nationally,” said Gayla Waters, Computer Technology Coordinator at Carlinville School District.

The program has already made a striking impact on the way Carlinville High School students view WWII.

Whitney Boehm, a senior, said speaking to veterans who served in WWII gave her a new outlook.

“You don’t really stop and think about the people there who were on the front lines fighting for what you have now,” she said. “You don’t really think about it until you hear their personal stories.”

Ellen Young, also a senior, agreed.

“For me, it’s hearing all their stories,” she said. “You don’t really realize the sacrifices they made until they tell you about it.”

Young added that her grandfather also served in WWII, but died before she got the chance to speak to him about his experiences.

Marty Hammann, computer technology teacher and librarian at Carlinville High School, praised the project for its ability to educate students while giving them a personal connection to history and the local community.

“I’m a big proponent of project-based learning, because I feel like students learn best when they’re in that kind of an atmosphere,” she said. “This project has really confirmed all of my initial feelings about it, because I have never, ever, seen kids so enthusiastic about learning, knowing more and finding out more.”

Hammann said the project not only allows students to learn history in a dynamic atmosphere, but also how to produce quality video using high-tech equipment.

“It’s been an amazing experience watching them learn all of these things from the ground up,” she said.

Denver Kunz, a local WWII veteran, was one of many interviewed by Carlinville High School students.

“I was surprised the kids were so interested in me,” he said. “I had relatives who particularly care about any of it, but these young people were interested.”

Kunz served in the Air Force Infantry, and recalled spending five days hunting snipers.

“That was an experience, and not a good one,” he said.

Kunz added that he still wakes up in the middle of the night with dreams and thoughts of his time in action.

The veteran praised the program, and said all of the veterans who have participating in interviews have enjoyed sharing their story and having it archived for anyone to see.

Watch the video feature Kunz's interview here.

Dewitt said the program has captured student interviews from nearly 400 veterans statewide, and she hopes that between 50 and 100 more will be added this year.

“The biggest thing that I think comes out of this is they make a personal connection – not just the veterans, but the kids who are interviewing them,” Dewitt said.

Tags: archives, carlinville, education, fund, IBIF, innovation, students, technology, veterans, WWII

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