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Student Stories of Free Speech Acts on Campus: a Digital Documentary Film

Written by Maria A. Moore, Associate Professor and Mass Media Program Coordinator in the School of Communication at Illinois State University

free-speechI was thrilled to receive a SoTL Research Mini-Award for June 2016 funding in support of my documentary film exploring the lived experiences of students committing Free Speech Acts at Illinois State University. The grant allowed me to complete eight segments for this documentary and to prepare it for exhibition. Funded work involved additional scripting, voice tracking, graphic design, and final editing for the documentary.

The documentary follows the Free Speech Act experiences of twenty undergraduate communication students in the School of Communication at ISU. The speech acts were based on a topic of the student’s choosing and were conducted in person and in public. Topics included testing on animals, body image, Black Lives Matter, the misrepresentation of women in the media, mental health awareness, and various aspects of state and federal politics. The students spoke about the context and experience of their speech acts, as well as participating in interviews about their topic and about the learning they gained about Free Speech itself.

The documentary will be publicly screened for the first time in Los Angeles in October 2016 at the annual conference for the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (ISSoTL). The conference Telling the Story of Teaching and Learning, accepted the film for the topic threads of ‘learning to tell stories’ and ‘student stories’.

The project may have implications for other SoTL scholars. While this particular digital documentary film specifically follows a variety of student participants in Free Speech Acts at one Illinois State University, this model of inquiry may be practical or inspirational to others who wish to infuse their institution with a different campus-wide Free Speech concept or to document student story and voice through documentary filmmaking techniques.

Questions? Contact Maria at mmoore2@ilstu.edu

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