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THE MEDIA CENTER: Expanding the Power of Primary Sources With Web 2.0

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted Jul 1, 2010
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When third grade students in a Spring-Ford, Pa., elementary school study local history, they will engage with digital photos of swords, breeches, surveyors’ tools, and other Revolutionary War artifacts found at nearby Valley Forge. They will access the photos on a Google site developed for the project, use a graphic organizer to organize their observations and “thinking questions,” and collaboratively share what they learned from the artifacts using Edmodo, a Web 2.0 discussion tool designed for education.


The students will learn even more about their history-rich area while participating in a Summer in the City project. Denise Emel, the school’s media specialist, created a Google map of area historical sites that students and their families can visit to learn more about primary sources close to home. Additional information about local history sites is posted on Edmodo, along with a customized Google map so students and their parents can learn and share ideas with one another over the summer. In the fall, students will create scrapbooks to document their experiences. (See Figure 1.)

When the “Young Historians” at history teacher Steve Strieker’s high school in Janesville, Wis., study the Great Depression, they reflect on a current situation impacting many of them. Using Edmodo, students anonymously share how the recent closing of the local General Motors (GM) plant is affecting their families. The plant closing has provided a connection to another avenue for accessing primary sources. Strieker explained: “The recent closing of the GM plant in 2008 sent the local newspaper into a reflection mode and resulted in some terrific interviews with longtime autoworkers’ remembrances of Janesville’s GM history. These are saved, of course, digitally in the local paper’s newspaper archives. I have been involved informally in my classes documenting this history. I have students record their experiences as this transition to life after GM is underway. They are powerful primary sources that I have digitally saved for my future students to look back on for rich Janesville history.” Strieker’s project provides a powerful way to show students that primary sources aren’t just a thing of the past, as young historians are also creating them even now. (See Figure 2.)



This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-to-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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