The Belle Époque – Digital Storytelling (LS-FI-520)

This learning scenario, created by Juha-Pekka Lehtonen and Sari Halavaara, explores the shift of European way of life in the turn of the 20th century. The rise of the class society amid industrial and urban Paris is studied by analyzing the images of the city and “Exposition Universelle” found on Europeana.

The learning scenario is part of upper secondary history course unit 1 “Human in environmental and societal change”, and it also crosses the following course of unit 4 – “Development of the European world view”. Originally designed for face-to-face learning, due to COVID-19, it was implemented online.

Inquiry-based learning and flipped classroom

The Belle Époque of Paris was used as a case study for students to learn about the characteristics of the middle class and bourgeois culture that emerged in the 19th century in Europe.

First of all, working in groups, students read about the rise of the class society in 19th century, in France. They gathered information on specific topics of the epoch like housing and homes, leisure activities (cafés and cabarets), family life, gender relations, sexual morality, shopping, fashion, transportation and other aspects that identify the characteristics of the middle class and their culture in that time. The Exposition Universelle of 1900 and its significance for society was also among the main topics.

Guiding questions were:

At first, students explored the topic and found answers to guiding questions individually. Then they worked in small groups, in a virtual lesson held on Google Meet.

Digital storytelling method

During the second virtual lesson, students were introduced to Adobe Spark video editor and taught how to navigate in the Europeana web portal. We set up a separate online meeting room for each group where students could work collaboratively.

Digital storytelling is a method when students create a short video, using the information they have gathered. Students combined the information they collected and transformed it into a story, i.e. their interpretation of the Belle Epoque. In the short videos (max. 5 minutes) students used the images from Europeana, accompanied by voice-over narration. Students were required to use their own narrative voice.

Distance teaching

Despite the exceptional situation caused by COVID-19, everyone got their job done. In the last lesson, peers evaluated each other’s videos, focusing on the content and overall structure of the work.

Learning and teaching outcomes

The students liked the way of working, although they described the process as “intensive”. Students’ recognized that, in the situation of lockdown, this task brought variation to their daily work compared to traditional homework.

From the teachers’ point of view, the project was a success. With two teachers being involved in it, it was easier to guide students – one teacher was able to help with technology and the another with content.

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

Public Domain: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

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