This assignment is based on an
assignment titled "Gather Your Own History: Oral History Project" in
Finding Katahdin: An Exploration of Maine History, by Amy Hassinger,
University of Maine Press, forthcoming, 2000.
What was it like to live without electrical power?
How was electricity used when it first started? Did people take
it for granted, as we do now? In this assignment, you will have
a chance to find out the answers to these questions, as well as
many more of your own.
1. Choose someone to interview. The person you choose
should be over 60 years old. He or she can be a relative, a friend,
or a community member. Make sure you ask the person you choose
if he or she would like to be interviewed before you prepare your
2. Prepare a list of questions to ask your interviewee.
You might want to watch Power Lines again to help you get
some ideas. Think about what kinds of things your interviewee
will know about. Did they live in a time without electricity?
Do they remember if they used to save energy, or what tools they
used electrical power for when they were kids? Your questions
should be thought-provocative and should get your interviewee
talking. Have your questions approved by your teacher before the
3. Set up an appointment with your interviewee. Make
sure it is a convenient time for him or her. Let him or her know
approximately how long the interview will last. Write down the
date and time.
4. Make sure you practice using your tape recorder
before you get to the interview. Practice some of your interview
questions with a parent or friend, using the equipment. Make sure
you know how to work the machine, how loudly you need to speak,
and where the microphone is.
5. Make sure you have everything with you before
you leave for your interview (tape recorder, blank tape, extra
batteries, notebook, pen or pencil, prepared questions). Sometimes
technical problems can arise (and they often do at the least convenient
times), so it's important to have a pen and paper, in case your
tape recorder isn't working.
6. Listen to the interview after you've finished
and mark down any interesting moments. Use what you learned in
the interview to write a paper comparing the use of electricity
in the past to the way we use electricity now. Your paper should
be 2-3 pages long, typed, and double-spaced, and should include
quotations from your interview to help support the points you
make. You may need to replay the interview several times to make
sure the quotes you use are accurate. Once you write your paper,
fill out your evaluation rubric.
7. Hand in your tape, your paper, and your evaluation
rubric to your teacher by the due date.
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