Skip to main content

When UNC History Professor Miguel La Serna decided that he wanted to assign students in his class about guerrillas and revolution in Latin America the task of creating documentary shorts, he quickly realized two things: first, he didn’t really know how to make documentaries. Second, there was enormous potential in this project – for students, certainly, but for his own pedagogy as well. Dr. La Sera partnered with Sound & Experience Designer and Media Producer Michael A. Betts to determine how exactly they could use the art of documentary filmmaking to transform how students learned history.

Professor La Serna stands in the middle of a classroom of students gesturing and seemingly mid-sentence. Students in seats around him take notes and we can see three screens projecting documentary footage around the classroom.
Professor La Serna teaches a session of his Live Documentary course.
Michael A. Betts, an Afro-indigenous man, smiles for a headshot. He is wearing a red sweater and glasses.
In addition to his work on sound design and experience, Professor Betts now teaches at UNC-Wilmington.











In this episode of The Past Presented, we talk to Dr. La Serna and Betts to learn more about their innovative ‘Live Documentary’ style. We talk about how the two collaborators and friends imagined this ambitious project, how they and a team of graduate students collected audio and visual materials to make the project possible – and quickly transformed it when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the middle of their first semester. This conversation is a fascinating introduction to multi-media pedagogy and the power of sound (perhaps most importantly Wu-Tang). We were thrilled to get to talk to them about how this new technique both engages and empowers students as learners and active contributors in the classroom.

You can check it out on Spotify. 

This episode was directed & recorded by Madeleine McGrady and Sarah K. Miles. Cameron Neale produced and mixed the sound for the episode.

Comments are closed.