CyberFair Project ID: 2452

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Differing Perspectives of the Vietnam War
Category: 2. Community Groups and Special Populations
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Dakota Meadows Middle School
    Mankato, Minnesota, USA

24 students, ages 13-14 years worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 31, 2003. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2

Classes and Teachers: Beth Christensen, English 8, period 5

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

The combined communities of Mankato and North Mankato, Minnesota, with a combined population of just over 40,00 are located in south central Minnesota, USA, near the confluence of the Blue Earth and Minnesota Rivers. The "twin" towns, connected by the two bridges crossing the rivers serve as an education center for the agriculturally-based economy of south central Minnesota. Dominant in the bluff overlooking the towns is the University of Minnesota, Mankato with an enrollment of over 13.000 students. Dakota Meadows Middle School serves these communities and is located on the plains above the Minnesota River Valley.

2. Summary of Our Project

America’s memories of the Vietnam War continues to haunt us. The extremes in viewpoints our citizens felt, the political and social upheaval of the time and the indifference and ill treatment veterans received when returning to civilian life continue to shadow our actions. Locally, the conflict tore this town apart, pitting individuals and groups against one another. Lingering effects and misunderstanding still exist for some. My students, who see the reverence with which W.W.II vets are regarded, don't understand why Vietnam vets are treated differently. Our web site explores the difference perspectives through oral histories. We sought out volunteers. Students made an appeal for volunteers on the local TV station, and spoke on a live radio program. Interviewees gave other names to contact. A network among the veterans,the college and peace groups was utilized. Interview times were scheduled, and students worked their classes around the interviews. Finally, the students used all the information from their interviews and research on the war years to create their web site.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:4-6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):

Dakota Meadows Middle School Internet access is provided by Independent School District 77, Mankato, Minnesota. Our service provider is Envoy. A grant from the state of Minnesota facilitates the use of technology in the district's schools. All district buildings are connected by fiber optics. Much of the funding for technology and technology-based learning is from the district. However, due to the cut in state funding, and the failure of our school district's local referendum, most of the funding for the computers in our school is a direct result of the fundraising efforts of our parent-teacher organization.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Students accepted the CyberFair challenge in January, 2003. They knew they would have to work, hard, fast, and smart to complete the project on time. Students elected to work on the project after school and on weekends. Students also had to gain an understanding and knowledge of the history of the Vietnam War, of the various other movements of the 1960’s, of Hmong culture and of military terms in a short period of time. Detective skills were used by students to hunt down pictures and internet links. New technical skills had to be learned to transfer old family pictures and memorabilia to a digital format. Students called on technical experts to provide advanced training on computers and new software programs incorporating audio and video clips. In some cases, students found out they knew more than anyone else and were on their own to solve technical problems. Most interviews were scheduled during school hours, and many students missed classes, resulting in additional make-up work and extra time spent after school, not only on this project, but on tests and additional work for missed classes. Senator Moua’s interview was held at a different site, the capitol building in St.Paul. We needed to plan around her busy legislative schedule.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

At the start of the school year, the Vietnam war was a foggy term to my students. By having my students interview local residents, this period of time came alive. History has a face; it is the face of their neighbors. Veterans' stories resonate with the students, and connect a part of our country's history to their own community. Ordinary people become experts, a living textbook. After September 11, 2001, the stories of these veterans become even more relevant and poignant to my students and to all Americans. The impact of war, and its lingering effects on both soldiers and civilians became more significant and provoking after March 19, 2003. Many oral histories have been preserved electronically as a result of this community-based project. They are now available to family members and to the world at-large. Without my students' efforts, they may never have been preserved.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

The project met the state and school district's non-fiction reading and writing Profile of Learning requirement. Students improved their research and writing skills. Although students brought a variety of computer skills to the project, each student was introduced to new software and techniques in web site construction. Student teamwork was supported. Students decided to enter the International Schools CyberFair contest by enumerating the pros and cons and voting to join the project. Students knew it would take the entire class working as a team. They knew there could be no slackers. The organizational skills of 13 to 14 year old students were tested, but the students never faltered. As a result of the project, students developed an understanding of what it takes to work as a team member with an end product against a deadline. Students learned to resolve conflicts in short order so they could move forward. Students also learned new technology quickly and how to share it with others. This web site stressed high-level thinking skills. Instead of writing "about" something from a textbook, students experienced the complexities of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War firsthand, and then communicated it to the world. Suddenly students moved up on Bloom' taxonomy from the knowledge level to application, inference, analysis and evaluation. These English 8 students wrote for an audience other than the teacher. A student constructed web site motivates students to write clearly, without error, and to use a vocabulary understood by a worldwide audience. Students are more motivated and learning is more effective when their product will be viewed by someone other than the teacher. When produced for distribution on the Internet, student know they have to stand behind their work before the world.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

A wide variety of information tools and technologies was used in producing the web site. Most tools and technologies used in the web site construction were provided by Independent School District #77. District personnel were available to assist students in their use. Telephones were used to contact people and set up interviews arrange for class presentations. These interviews were invaluable in putting a human face on history. Video cameras and digital cameras were used by students to film parts of the interviews. Often students recorded the complete interview on audio tape. (When interviews were conducted at a different site, a Macintosh IBook was used, and the scanner was taken along so all personal pictures and memorabilia would not have to leave the volunteer's possession.) Digital cameras and scanners were of prime importance in this document, as they were used to capture historic photos and personal memorabilia which are the heart of this web site. Recordings of Vietnam War era songs were rediscovered and favorite tunes were recorded into the computer. E-mail was used to ask permission to use audio clips. Students learned to edit Imovies. Students worked on 24 Macintosh I Macs and used a wide variety of computer software and programs, such as Photo Studio, GIF Converter, IMovie II, QuickTime movies, and Claris Home Page 3.0, in building the web site. The class looked for web-based references on the topics. The Dakota Meadows Middle School media center, the MSUM Reporter newspaper archives at the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus, the Mankato Free Press, and the county historical museum provided information and graphics. Some of these documents were available on line.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

My students have gone beyond the school walls. For some students, these projects provided their first experiences visiting outside their families. Students suddenly found new friends. I often overheard them discussing their volunteer's opinions. Many conversations in class compare the different perspectives interviewees had from one another. Students were no longer memorizing dry textbooks, they were quoting the real thing. There was a renewed interest in 1960’s and 1970’s music. Many students came to school with new people for me to contact. One student had it put in the church bulletin. The interview volunteers often returned to school to drop off more information, video tapes or books to help the class. One veteran gave us a private tour of the historical exhibit, which was paid for by his veteran’s group. I am on the mailing list of several service organizations. Veterans helped spread the word of our project and recruited others to volunteer. State organizations are aware of our site. I constantly hear from veterans, "Why aren't more schools doing this?" I only hope our site encourage others to do just that.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

We have just finished our web site, so the impact will be happening in the future. However, based on past experience, it will be powerful. The number of "hits" we have recorded on our previous web sites tells us thousands of people all over the world visited our community's W.W.II memories because our interviews answer real questions. The memories of their lives are as fresh and exciting to others as they are to my students who interviewed them. This site shared with people who care and respond. With our new site, we expect a larger volume of "hits" since our site provides a variety of experiences and our Imovies add a unique and special touch. We also anticipate local interest will be heightened after media coverage of the site's presentation at our open house on April 6, 2003. We will have both TV and print coverage of the event. With this site students have sought to provide a user-friendly and informed resource to persons around the world who are interested in American experiences and perspectives on the Vietnam War. In addition, students have given back to the community by sharing their knowledge. The student-constructed web site serves as an added reference and resource in our community. More importantly, Dakota Meadows Middle School students' web site is a focal point of community pride. As such, these students will be ongoing community ambassadors. The site will be an added reference and will complement resources already in the community.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

This project brought together students and experts on various subjects, families, members of the community, peers not involved in the project, and teachers not involved in the project. Faculty and staff at Dakota Meadows Middles School provided students with assistance in completing the project. Mark Rorem, Steve Johnson and Mark Traynor acted as our troubleshooters. Virjean Griensewic provided immense technical assistance, as she helped us with a final check of our pages, and loaded them onto the district server. Dakota Meadows' teachers graciously agreed to release students in order to conduct interviews within the community. Pete Steiner of KTOE radio and KEYC TV helped publicize our appeal for volunteers. However, this site would not have been possible without the help of the people who agreed to shared their memories with us.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

One of the surprises during this project was the number of times veterans stated, "I haven’t talked about this for years. No one wanted to hear about it. They ignored us when we returned and we just learned to keep our mouths shut and only talk to other veterans.” As the result of this project, my students have become more aware of the human costs in any military conflict.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 2452)

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