Sound Portraits' radio documentaries (broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered and Weekend Edition) are audio profiles of men and women surviving in the margins. Told with care and dignity, the work depicts the lives of Americans living in communities often neglected or misunderstood. Sound Portraits frequently collaborates with people living in these hard-to-access corners of America, giving them tape recorders and microphones and helping them tell their own stories.Sound Portraits is known not just for its cutting-edge radio documentaries but also for its innovative approaches to disseminating ideas, sparking discussion, and broadening the national debate on such issues as poverty, juvenile justice, prison, and race. After broadcast, their documentaries live on through extensive education outreach in classrooms across the country. In 1997, Sound Portraits was awarded funding from the MacArthur Foundation to bring the documentary Ghetto Life 101 into thousands of classrooms in collaboration with the national education outreach organization Facing History and Ourselves. This was just the beginning of an effort to make Sound Portraits work available as a learning tool, a mission that has grown with the company.Sample assignment:Read one of the documentary projects series and write a comprehensive analysis on the story using sociological perspectives. These are very interesting and captivating series. Key Questions to Consider: Identify the story and source. How would sociologists interpret the story? Identify the sociological issues discussed in the story? Identify the theoretical perspectives used in the story? What are your strategies for action: Creative solution to the problem? What did you learn from listening or reading the story? Feel free to add additional remarks.
Type of Material:
Assignment. Website includes podcasts, transcripts, and animation.
In class, instructors could have the class listen to the audio together. Out of class, instructors could assign relevant recordings or have students locate relevant recordings to listen to and share with the class. It could also be used to facilitate classroom discussions, group discussions,and reflective homework assignments. These assignments could be integrated into face-to-face; hybrid and online course work.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Students hear how individuals experience social problems and everyday life. Students will develop their sociological imagination through listening to stories from people with diverse experiences. This site has an educator page that has 5 lesson plans: 1. Why do our stories matter; 2. Tips for effective interviews; 3. The Power of Active Listening; 4. Strength in Our Stories; and 5. Power from the People of Our Past. Each has a list of learning objectives and detailed descriptions of the assignment.
Target Student Population:
Depending on the assignment, this could be used at all educational levels. For example, for more advanced sociology students, it may be an excellent source for a qualitative analysis of a particular topic. The Story Corps is designed to increase an awareness of our commonalities.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
General internet skills.
This material provides educators with the ability to use/modify existing lesson plans or to create new assignments that are focused on particular topical area. This resource can be used in a variety of sociology courses. StoryCorp is supported by NPR, the MacArthur Foundation, among others which helps maintain quality and consistency of the product.
The user will have to use the search function to locate relevant audio. Audio is not tagged for key terms that would be helpful for instructors. It may take some time to locate relevant segments to demonstrate particular sociological concepts but it may be well worth the time.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Students learn by listening to stories. This site provides thousands of short stories (3 minute) to review and analyze. It is an educator's responsibility to guide students to explore ideas from these stories from a scientific (more objective) perspective. The more students are able to practice observing the social world via stories, the better social observers they become.
It can be difficult to find relevant stories. They have been creating "collections" that might assist finding relevant stories -- latino stories, lgbtq stories, love stories, 9/11 stories, Story Corp U, Veterans Stories. It may be that, in time, they will add more collections. If an educator develops a collection for an assignment, StoryCorp may be happy to add the collection to their website.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Technically, this site is easy to use. Students can listen to the story, read the transcript or both. The podcasts include transcripts/summaries of the recordings so that they are accessible.
It would be nice to have more collections that group stories by topic.
Other Issues and Comments:
This is an ongoing project. Students can also participate in contributing their own stories. As sociology educators modify the assignments, they may have to incorporate more appropriate sociological concepts. For example, the assignment - Power of the People from the Past could be adapted to address socialization, reference groups, etc.
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