SSHRC Storytellers: research impact caught on video


- Suzanne Ahearne

Two UVic graduate students have been rewarded for their creative use of video to tell the story of how their academic research is impacting the world.

Genevieve von Petzinger and Bernadette Perry are among 25 winners of the national Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) video contest Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers Challenge, involving universities across Canada. The challenge required students to distill their research into a compelling three minutes of narrated video, describing how their SSHRC-funded research is making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

Bernadette Perry—a linguist and master’s student in the French language, literature and culture program—created a mobile app called Explorez that allows more French-language learning to happen outside the classroom. Explorez bridges the gap between education and gaming through quest-based learning and augmented reality. Perry’s video describes the GPS technology that turns the UVic campus into a virtual francophone world as a learning aid for first year French students–and, she explains, it’s adaptable for high school French students.

Perry describes the app as a “virtual treasure hunt” where the player is hired as a personal assistant to a fictional Francophone celebrity. Players interact with game characters who give them clues and choose-your-adventure type options for game play. These interactions take place in the form of written text, audio or video, encouraging students to develop both their written and oral language skills.

As Perry’s video explains, the app provides language students with an immersive and fun experience that makes new language acquisition more relevant and engaging.

Genevieve von Petzinger’s research goes all the way back to the beginnings of human civilization. With video camera in hand, the PhD anthropology student and TED Senior Fellow has spent years crawling through caves of western Europe, speculating on what the ice age drawings of ancient people might tell us about some of our biggest questions: What does it mean to be human and why is it so important to us that we share our ideas with other people? 

In her video, von Petzinger takes viewers to see some of the oldest cave symbols in the world. “What makes film such a wonderful medium to work in,” she says, “is that it allows me to take people with me into places they normally never get to go, and it gives me a chance to show them what I’m doing in my research. It’s very important to me that I share what I do with the public.”

The Storytellers competition uses online video and social media sharing to excite young people about the kinds of research being done at universities all over Canada, and for the students producing the videos, communicating their research this way “will act as a catalyst for forging important relationships and future partnership around the globe,” says Jennifer Corriero, executive director of TakingITGlobal and 2014 Storytellers judge. 

The top 25 receive a prize of $3,000 and trip to the Congress 2014 of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Brock University. They will also compete in the Storytellers Showcase—with the final five winners featured at SSHRC’s 2014 Impact Awards ceremony in Ottawa this fall. 


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Keywords: research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, linguistics

People: Genevieve von Petzinger, Bernadette Perry

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