Closing the Gap

Last week, the VVMF conference room was filled with teachers from across the country through a program with the Smithsonian EdLab. Their discussions included how to connect people to The Wall and how to bring the stories back to their students and communities.
One teacher remembered her high school classmates who had gone to Vietnam. Some came home, but they were different. The teachers shared their connections with Vietnam or current veterans to further the discussion of how to bring these lessons home to their students.
National Park Service volunteers, who are Vietnam veterans, joined VVMF staff and advisory council member, retired Lt. Col. Jerry Martin, and the teachers for a walk to The Wall to learn about the history of the memorial and also to look for photos and stories as part of the project they worked out throughout the day.
The program is a run through the Smithsonian Mobile Learning Institute, focused on mobile learning and incorporating technology into the classroom.
The educators were given images of items that had been left at The Wall and are now part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, administered by NPS. The goal was to use those items as starting points to share larger stories about the Vietnam War, veterans and The Wall.
At The Wall, the veterans shared their experiences in Vietnam and stories of the people they meet. The educators took photos and video and also interviewed people they found at The Wall that day.
Back in the VVMF offices, they spent the afternoon creating mobile presentations. They used tablets, laptops, smartphones, iBooks, photo, video, Twitter, Facebook, Google Maps and more to produce their projects.
They discussed how storytelling can share the experiences of these veterans and their families and also break down stereotypes. Students may not be able to travel to Washington to see The Wall, but they can interview Vietnam veterans in their own communities, people they dubbed “living historians.” They can also use media and technology to capture and share these stories on a much larger scale.
We’ll be keeping in touch with these teachers and bringing you more from them in the near future as they head back to the classroom.