Tag Archives: Web 2.0

Six Sites for Primary Source Materials

It is officially August and most educators are beginning to feel the pressure that is the beginning of school. As we start to look at rosters and enrollment, we start to pull out and revamp old lesson plans and search for new material. As a History Teacher (with a background in archaeology) I understand the relevance and importance of primary sources in the classroom. Primary sources are not solely essays or primary works, but art, photographs, and other avenues of popular culture.

Finding primary source documents on the web can sometimes be a bit of a scavenger hunt. I know that I have spent hours scouring the web for good translations, excerpted texts, or relevant materials. Additionally, incorporating primary source texts can be a challenge with high school children. My youngest kids are ninth graders and often, when I distribute an original text, it is the first time they have seen a document of this type. Additionally, as much as we educators do not like to admit, sometimes it is a challenge for us to come up with ideas and activities to effectively incorporate this material into our classrooms. How do we make this interesting? How do we make this comprehensible? How do we make this relevant? Bringing in an original work and simply tossing it into a classroom environment is a sure-fire method for failure – students will often be confused, bored, and overwhelmed. Teaching with primary sources requires preparation and method.

In this article, I am focusing on six websites that focus on providing primary sources for educators and students. These sites are all excellent resources for educators in the Social Studies with a broad range of topics: American History, World History, World Religions, Language, Literature, Art, and Politics. There are many more amazing resources out there and I encourage you to add yours as well! So, here are my favorite five (presented in no particular order):

1. Milestone Documents  (Subscribe to their Facebook and Twitter feeds (all free) for regular highlights of documents in their catalogue as well as lesson plan ideas.)

  • Cost: $106.20 for an annual subscription
  • Grades: High School and College  (the material is too sophisticated for elementary and middle school).
  • Subject(s): History
  • Geographic Focus: Milestone focuses heavily on American History, but includes a solid library of texts for all of World History (Ancient, Western, African, and Asian).
  • Additional Subject Focus: In addition to organizing the material by date and region, Milestone has sections of Social History including politics (heavily focused on American political history), religion, and women.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents
  • Navigation: The content area is easy to navigate and great for “browsing.” The search feature is excellent for when you know exactly what you need.
  • Teacher Resources: lesson plans, rubrics, and assessment material.
  • Web 2.0 Focus: Many of the lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements – Google Maps, Mind Mapping, etc.

What sets Milestone apart from the free resources listed below is that each document is predicated with a succinct contextual/historical statement. Students and educators are provided with a solid background for the text. Most works are also followed up with a critical analysis essay as well as provocative questions. Milestone is an excellent investment for teachers and students alike.

2. EDSITEment – Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities,

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Culture, Foreign Language, History & Social Studies, as well as Literature & Language Arts.
  • Geographic Focus: World
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, politics, religion, popular culture, and more. There are many sub-categories that merit exploration.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

3. Smithsonian Education – Sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, Language Arts
  • Geographic Focus: World (US History most thorough)
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, art history
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

4. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

  • Cost: Free for Educators and Students (private citizens pay per use), must register for access to materials. Gilder Lehrman encourages schools to register as Affiliated Schools (numerous benefits and access to more resources)
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: American History
  • Geographic Focus: The United States of America
  • Additional Subjects: Social History, Politics, Civil Rights
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content
  • Teacher Resources: some lesson plans and ideas, collaborative weblog, sponsored Teacher Seminars
  • Web 2.0: very little web 2.0 focus.

5. The Library of Congress

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: History
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on the Americas (national and regional histories), limited resources for World History
  • Additional Subjects: Folklore, local histories, veteran history, literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse and search, requires adaptability
  • Teacher Resources: Some sections have extensive teachers resources in the form of lesson plans and activities, others are more spartan in their construct. LOC offers grants for professional development.
  • Web 2.0: Some sections readily incorporate web 2.0 activities, others are more limited and traditional.

6. Perseus Digital Library – Sponsored by Tufts University

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: 9-12, College, Graduate
  • Subject: History, Art History, Archaeology
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on Greco-Roman (founded as a Classical Library it contains all Latin & Greek works), Arabic, Germanic, 19th century America, Renaissance Europe, Egyptian Papyri
  • Additional Subjects: Humanism, Literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material; the Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser provides High Definition images of thousands of artifacts.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse, excellent search capabilities. This is an fabulous tool so long as you know what you are looking for.
  • Teacher Resources: No lesson plans or activities, purely material resources.
  • Web 2.0: No web 2.0 incorporation.

As you can see, there are numerous and extensive resources readily available to educators. The six that I highlighted are a good start, but hardly an all encompassing list. If you have suggestions or additions, please add them here! In the meantime, get browsing for some great material and lesson plan ideas!

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Students – the Connected Learning Model

Tomorrow I present at TVS’s SummerSpark on the Connected Learning Model for Students. I’ve been wracking my brains and trying to organize my thoughts. I created a Prezi to guide my discussion – hoping that will keep me on task. I’ve got so many thoughts, it’s putting them together coherently that’s problematic.

Here are the main topics I’m planning to address:

Should Students Be Online & Involved in Social Media?

It’s a rather redundant topic. To be fair, this is like asking “Should the horse be outside of the barn?” when the door’s been open and it’s been wandering around the pasture for a few days. The internet isn’t a ‘fad’ and it’s not ‘the future,’ it’s the now. It’s like asking “Should students learn how to use a typewriter?”

What Are the Benefits?

When students are connected (via social media like twitter, wikis, facebook, etc), it facilitates communication, provides a platform for creativity, writing, and assessment skills. Can it be abused? Of course. You can use a hammer to bash in someone’s head, but it’s also really handy for hammering in nails.

What are the risks for students engaging online?

There are some very real and some more ‘perceived’ threats. The first one that comes to mind is online predators. The reality is that the risk from online predators is significantly smaller than we originally thought. Children seem to be quite savvy and understand the stranger in the darkness. The reality is that they are at greater risk driving in the car to school than they are in participating in Facebook or Twitter.

Another very real danger is cyber-bullying. It is a very true and sad reality that bullying, with the aid of social networking, cell phones, and other devices is on the rise. Children and, in some disturbing circumstances, parents have attacked teens online. The outcomes in some cases have been devastating. However, along with the rise of cyber-bullying, we’ve seen a counter-wave – the media, peers, and educators are aware of the problem and taking proactive stances to address it. My school is implementing the Olweus program, which includes a component that addresses online bullying behavior. Another more prominent force is the “It Gets Better” campaign, that has picked up support and interest.

Another key element, for both children and adults, is the production of digital fooprint – which can be positive or negative. Your digital footprint is your online self. Have you googled yourself lately? Try it, see what comes up. I try to keep on top of what I put out there. Teens are less likely to do so and ‘funny pictures’ or comments now aren’t so amusing when it shows up in a job interview.

Students are already on Social Media

Really, the decision isn’t ours – they’re already there. Students are on social media websites, it’s up to us as educators to help guide them to use them responsibly. One study found that 96% of students are already using Facebook. One-third of students report having their own blog (the majority of which update them at least once a week). Surprisingly, 59% of them report that they use social media for school related projects or to talk about school – I’m just going to pretend that none of that time is used to complain about class.

However, even though students are ahead on the curve, educators and teachers are not. The majority of school districts and administrators do not provide any type of direction or tools for students or educators to use. Most teachers are on their own in exploring this platform and face difficult navigation when it comes to interacting with their students online.

The reality is that this is a platform with which young people are comfortable. Most of them get their news via Facebook or Twitter. Before you jump all over that, I learned about the repeal of proposition 8 nearly twenty minutes before the formal announcement and the death of Osama bin Laden forty-five minutes before President Obama announced it on television. Let’s not forget watching the uprisings in Libya and Egypt rolling out before us via Social Media platforms. Their ease of use and intuitive interface provide such a low learning curve that almost anyone can self-teach and be up and using within minutes.

What barriers do we face using these platforms for education?

No one needs to convince me that social media is a powerful learning tool. However, that doesn’t belie the fact that there are numerous barriers to employing them in the classroom or even at home.

One key elements is parents. How do we convince parents to allow their child online? While most parents are okay with their child having a Facebook account or even a twitter, many are still nervous about ‘strangers’ online and the ‘stranger danger’ phenomenon still has many of them in death grips.

Another element is access – not all students have ready access to the internet at home. While few families do not have internet in the home, it does happen or, more commonly, it could be limited to one machine. Additionally, children may be in a home where parents limit access to the internet. I have had a few students whose parents only allowed them online when they were at home and present. Even those of us in the most privileged schools may also have limitations to access on our campuses. I’m a ‘floating’ teacher – most of my rooms did not have computers and the computer lab was not always available.

Another consideration, even if you have computer access, is web access. Most schools have some form of restriction placed on their network. My school’s network is so restrictive that if a vulgar word shows up in the comment of a news article, it can trigger the ‘porn’ barrier. Facebook and twitter are commonly barred as are many other sites that create and publish wikis, YouTube videos, and the like. Some of these are barred due to issues of bandwidth or abuse, some (like facebook) are barred because they’re viewed as a distraction (ignoring the fact that cell phones and proxy sites allow ready access). Some schools have no restrictions, but these are far and few between.

And another strong concern is the issue of monitoring. I know that I for one don’t like to think about what my students get away with now in the classroom (and I’m sure it’s far more than I would like to know). Twenty-five or more (sometimes a lot more) students in a classroom with computers, it can be a problematic classroom management issue. If you have children in your class that are prone to chat with their friends, pass notes, talk out of turn, etc, then they will be more than a handful if you give them access to a machine. However, many will excel and focus when allowed to pursue their passions in the classroom on a platform they find fun…

So, these are the highlights of my presentation. It’s primary objective is to introduce ideas and pitfalls with the hopes of provoking discussion and thought. If you have any thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear them.