Project:  Cyber-Reunion: Creating One's Family Heritage Online
Project web site:
Team members:  Warren Yarbrough, Forest Mahan and Georgianne McGee

Our project is for technologically-oriented students taking an "Introduction to Humanities" class. Delving into their family backgrounds through oral and written research, they will find patterns in their personal cultures and present these on individual web sites, using various media to present stories, photographs, important written documents and a family tree.

We developed a detailed, action plan:

Spring Semester--2000 (Preliminary to Academic Semester)

  • Presentation of project to Area Commission, President, Vice-President of College (January 4, 2000)
  • Develop web site format (January 5, 2000)
  • Construct student guidelines for web construction (January 6, 2000)
  • E-mail progress report (January 7, 2000).
Spring Semester 2000 (Academic Semester) 
  • Week One (January 10, 2000):  Present the guidelines for the project to the students; E-mail progress report (January 14, 2000).
  • Week Two (January 17-21, 2000):  Provide overview of FrontPage; Provide overview of fundamentals for researching oral history; Present construction of a genealogical profile from a genealogical record; i.e. family tree; E-mail progress report (January 21, 2000).
  • Weeks Two-Six January 17-February 21, 2000):  Students will be research their family stories and genealogy and posting the results to the individual web pages.
  • Week Six (February 24, 2000):  Students will present a minimum of three family stories and a rough draft of their family tree; E-mail progress report (February 25, 2000).
  • Weeks Seven and Eight (February 28-March 13, 2000):  Overview of scanning and photo scanning; Student compilation of family photos and photos of family heirlooms with narrative explanations; E-mail progress report (March 14, 2000).
  • Weeks Nine-Twelve (March 20-April 24, 2000):  Compilation of family letters, recipes, and other important written documents; Revision, proofreading/editing of the individual web sites; E-mail progress report (April 28, 2000).
  • May 2, 2000, Presentations of individual web sites.
  • May 4, 2000, Saving sites to individual CD's.
  • May 5, 2000, E-mail progress report.
  • Compilation of genealogical construction, as well as the informational use of a web board will be an on-going effort throughout the semester.
Summer Session 2000
  • May 8, 2000:  Prepare and present outcomes assessment of family culture project to humanities faculty; E-mail progress report (May 8, 2000)
  • June 5-8, 2000:  Conduct training seminar for humanities faculty interested in using the web-based approach to the family culture project in their HSS #101 classes with mentoring assistance from humanities project leaders.
  • E-mail progress report (June 8, 2000)
Fall Semester 2000
  • August 14, Mentor site visit and presentation of project to the full college faculty during the fall conference.
  • September 15, 2000, Site visit report.
  • August 21-December 14, 2000, Serve as mentors to humanities faculty using the web-based approach for the family culture project.
  • December 1, 2000, Completion date of written report.
Goals and Objectives:
  • To develop an argument for including a family culture project in a humanities course.
  • To develop the components of a sample family culture project and explain how they can be used to make the concepts in a humanities course relevant to students.
  • To stress the need for using technology in student projects as a means for capitalizing on student interests.
  • To create a web-based project based on family culture research.
  • To use technology to enhance student retention and success.
Cognitive psychologists maintain that we learn best when we connect new information with prior experience. By having students complete a family culture project, we were able to draw from the experiences of the class members to illustrate course concepts and make connections. Furthermore, by having students produce this project in a web-based format, instructors may capitalize on the interests of technologically oriented students, as well as take advantage of the research and presentation capacities of technology.

This project has significantly impacted how we approach and handle this course. First, there is a great deal more involvement with technology insofar as the presentation of the course material. It is as if doing the project became an ice-breaker that has led to PowerPoint presentations, web-quests, etc. "virtual" tours, etc. In other words, it has given those of us who teach the class the confidence to expand into technology as a significant component of our methodology. This has even carried over into classes other than the HSS 101. Second, it has shown us that the students can use technology to create and present information, thereby allowing them to become more engaged with the topics at hand. For example, as a result of the project, I have introduced more web-based exploration and presentation or a more minor scale. One thing that I have done is to have the students create a web page called "Car Culture." The main highway that runs through our community was a key thoroughfare for people traveling from the northern United States to Florida during the 1940's and 1950's. The interstate highway re-routed these travelers, and, as a result, seriously impacted the community. In the "Car Culture" project, the students explored this impact through oral interview and photographs, both of which were presented on this page.

The retention rate in these classes has improved. In the sections using the project, there was a retention rate of 80%. In the past, my retention rate in the HSS 101 classes that I taught was around 60%. This has been the case with everyone else. Also, the overall grades improved. What I found is that the students actually like coming to the class, and their interest in their projects carried over to the class at large. While the aspect was not "quantifiable," it was definitely the most significant to me. There has been a great deal of increase in student interest. I actually had them to stick around after class to ask questions rather than make a mad dash for the door. They called me at home to ask about things as they were preparing for tests. These things were unheard of before working this project into the course.

We received excellent feedback from our mentors. They provided us with regular input on our efforts, as well as freely responded to any questions. In our opinion, the site visit of April 2000 was successful. It allowed us the opportunity to show our mentors the classroom, to review our work, to meet the students in the class that semester and get input from them, and to interact with our administrators.

The following is a list of activities that we have done to disseminate the idea of our project.

  • September 2000, Overview and Training Sessions for College Humanities Faculty
  • September 2000, Presentation of the Project to the Area Commission of Our College
  • September 2000, Presentation of the Project to the College Faculty
  • September 2000, Presentation of the Project at the College "Community Appreciation Day"
  • October 2000, Presentation of the Project at the Annual CCHA Southern Division Conference
  • April 2001, Presentation of the Project at the College "Community Appreciation Day"
  • Summer 2001, Presentation of project to Other Humanities Faculty from the Other State Technical Colleges
  • October 2001, Presentation of the Project at the League for Innovation Conference
  • November 2001, Presentation of the Project at the Annual National Council of Teachers of English Conference
Lessons Learned
Throughout the course of working with the project, we had numerous lessons that we had to learn. The following is a list and explanation of these.
  • Train the students earlier in the technology: At the beginning of the course, I developed a timeline for the students in which they would complete the various components of the project. The training for the students insofar as the technology was concerned was done on a "just in time" basis. This was not effective, and I had to modify it the second time around. Each student worked at a different pace, so they all needed the training for everything up front.
  • Pace the Course Over the Semester: As I said earlier, I created a timeline. However, I was not as diligent about making sure that each component was completed by the projected date. Thus, there was often overlap. This made for a confusing situation, and, at the end, some students were still rushing to complete everything. Thus, I learned to make the students stick to the schedule.
  • Accommodate for Student Skills: As with anything, the students had varying skills in regard to the technology. Some could barely turn on a computer; some showed me a thing or two. Most were in between. The lesson that I had to learn here was to make use of classroom mentors in a kind of "Train the Trainer" approach. With this, I would show selected students who seemed to have heightened skills what we were doing next. They, in turn, would assist with the students who were weaker in technology.
  • Allow for "Ownership": The first time that I did the project, I kept myself too involved with the minutiae of each person's work. Thus, the final results each bore my thumb print. I found that this approach seemed to stifle the students' creativity, and, just as important, decrease their actual involvement in the project. In other words, it was more mine than theirs. The key lesson here was to learn to "back off" on the control.
Warren Yarbrough,
Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College

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