Digital Projects

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Hard Work in Happy Valley


Hard Work in Happy Valley is the capstone project of an introductory labor history course at Penn State University, entitled History of the American Worker. Conducted over the course of the Spring 2015 semester, Hard Work asks students to put the lessons they learned in class to work by making documentaries and podcasts spotlighting the working lives of people at Penn State and in the larger State College, Pennsylvania community.

‘Resident Assistants’ by Emily Arnold

The result is a collective portrait of the people and work that keeps the Happy Valley community up and running. In the documentaries and podcasts assembled as part of the project, Penn State undergraduates ask tough and trenchant questions about what it means to work in twenty-first century America, while drawing thoughtful, substantive links between work in their community and the larger history of American labor.

Hard Work also showcases the promise of digital pedagogy. By asking students to present their findings in the form of documentaries and podcasts, the project requires them to develop transferrable, real-world technical and project management skills that will be useful in their future careers. The project website, meanwhile, enables them to put their work before a broader audience, in a format better suited to public outreach than the conventional essay or in-class assignment. As such, it allows the impact of students work – and the conversations started in class – to continue long after the semester has come to a close.

‘Late-Night Food Workers’ by Anna Lewis and Austin Tingley

Supported by a generous grant from Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts, Hard Work in Happy Valley is a collaboration between the students and instructor of History of the American Worker and Penn State’s Office of Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship. Special thanks are due to Casey Fenton, who provided outstanding project management and technical advice to students throughout the Spring 2015 semester.