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Teaching History Blog

Worst Historical Villain Ever! Multimedia Biography Assignment

As we see in popular culture and movies, people are fascinated by the lives of the “bad guys.” Our students get excited when they learn about Billy the Kid or Al Capone, so let them explore the lives and history surrounding some of history’s worst villains. In the last assignment students read a biography and composed an essay on what they learned. However, there are many ways to demonstrate learning and in this modern age, students are familiar with flip camera’s, multimedia editing tools on their home computers, and are inspired by TV and the internet to create more dynamic and engaging content than just an essay. In this assignment, individual students will create their own biographical history clip about their favorite "worst" villain and the class will compile these into a "show" about the worst villains in history.

Title: Worst Historical Villain Ever! Assignment
Objective/s: Learner will create a video/audio clip about their favorite historical “bad guy.”
Assignment type: Summative
Assignment Details:
1. Student will select a historical bad guy. The instructor may want to provide a list and include some details that might entice students to choose individuals appropriate to the course or time period you are teaching. No two students should do the same person as the projects will be compiled later into a cohesive class project.
2. Using library and web resources, students will collect biographical information and open source images or even news footage about their "bad guy".
3. The learner will compose a well organized, grammatically sound one page summary based on their research about the individual’s life.
4. The learner will develop a slide show, video, or other multimedia piece that is approximately 5 minutes long and illustrates the villain’s life and why he or she was a “bad guy.”
5. Discuss as a class some qualifiers on what makes the “bad guy” the worst. Is it their ruthlessness? The number of people impacted by their actions? Is it the kind or number of crimes committed?
6. Class will watch/listen to each clip and vote for the “worst” historical villan. Then the class will use the rankings by the votes and compile the clips in order from least to most voted for villain to create a cohesive class project. Schools, students, and instructors may have various tools at their disposal for students to use to create this multimedia project. The instructor may want to take class volunteers to lead the technical aspects of this project and/or make necessary tools available. (A face to face classroom might just have the instructor video a live presentation, but I encourage all instructors to think more creatively and not underestimate students.) Encourage creativity and teamwork among the class. Consider breaking the class into production groups. (Production groups will be discussed in the next blog post.)

This rubric focuses on phase one of this project which is the individual student creating a multimedia project for their research on a historical villain. We will discuss the class project in the upcoming blog:

Composed a one page summary of biographical information about the villain - 20 points
Summary and project contains minimal grammar errors - 20 points
Cited Biography used for assignment in proper APA or MLA format-10 points
Created a detailed, well organized, engaging, and creative multimedia representation of their villain - 50 points

The rubric is purposely vague for the actual multimedia project as what your students have available and what you might expect varies dramatically. I encourage you to consider building an evaluation rubric for the multimedia piece with your class. Once you have some examples, you should share them from term to term to help students think about what they could do. Brainstorm with your class how they might develop their project. Do they have access to video cameras? What tools do they have on their computers at home and at school to build this project? How do TV channels like the history channel convey events and history? Can the students reinact an event? Would small scale replicas work? Can students offer each other assistance? For example, John owns a video camera and Julie has an editing program for video on her computer. How can they help each other get their projects completed?

Most importantly have fun and don’t let yourself or your students get lost in the technology and lose sight of the history. The overall quality of the multimedia product in the end may be poor or vary greatly from student to student but the content and learning will be rich!

How to Create a HippoCampus Playlist:
A four-minute tutorial video
Library of Congress:
United States House of Representatives:
National Archives:
United States Senate:
U.S. Federal Court:
U.S. Supreme Court Media:
National Constitution Center:
Virginia Historical Society's Virginia History Explorer:
Virginia Historical Society: The Story of Virginia:

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