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THE NEW MEDIA CENTER: Students and Local History--Making the Connection

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted Mar 1, 2012
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As a student, I [wrote] a paper about Minnesota Ojibwe Fishing and Hunting Treaty Rights. I was a city kid but I loved the outdoors; it was so cool that I actually had the opportunity to choose my own topic. My research for that paper took me places I never imagined. The History Center research library, the state attorney general’s office, a phone call with tribal leaders and lots of visits to the library. The coolest thing about it was that I realized that there were so many layers to history. What I’d seen on the news and read in the papers had so many stories behind them. Just when I thought I’d uncovered the last layer, I found a deeper story. At the state competition I was the winner of a topical prize from the Minnesota Historical Society for the best Minnesota History project. This was a transformational experience for me even though I did History Day as a sophomore.

—Ron Hustvedt


Hustvedt (Mr. H.) was studying a local history topic he connected with. He now combines his love of history with technology to support and engage his students in his own classroom. He dug into local and regional resources such as the primary sources described in my November/December 2011 Media Center column. In this month’s column, let’s take a look at how local history, primary sources, and a few technology tools can be just the right mix to inspire your students the way Mr. H. inspires his.

Spread the Word

Blogs are relatively easy to create and maintain, making them a natural choice for telling others about those exciting local resources and treasures that are often ignored because they are too close to home. The often-informal nature of a blog makes it easy to write directly to students and teachers. Public library and museum blogs about local history resources and activities are prolific. Why leave this task to others? A media specialist in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula didn’t. She created her own blog to highlight UP local history resources that she discovered and wanted to share with teachers. A teacher at Mountain Lakes (N.J.) High School also didn’t. Posts tagged local history highlight connections between topics of national interest and local history; others direct students to resources in historical newspapers. The media specialist at Saranac Lake (N.Y.) High School created a “Local History and Culture” page. Links draw attention to online and physical resources that may be difficult to find. For example, a link to the local winter carnival draws attention to the longest-running event of its type in the U.S. Resources such as this may be overlooked if educators do not point them out! By pointing the way to resources, you give students more time to use and interact with the information in meaningful ways.

Reflect, Discuss!

Web 2.0 tools can support meaningful, reflective discussion about local history artifacts or events. Wisconsin teacher Steve Strieker has been using blogs to encourage student discussion about the relationship between local history and current community issues and a bigger national picture. In 2011, students studied how the Great Depression affected Americans; through a blog they reflected about the impact of the recent recession on them, their families, and their friends. Student comments were teacher-approved before being posted anonymously.

TodaysMeet is an easy-to-set-up chatlike tool to facilitate meaningful student discussion. It will help you connect with students and direct them to subjects. Name your chat room; indicate when the room should be deleted by saving it for periods of time ranging from 2 hours to 1 year; and click create. Post the URL electronically or project it on the whiteboard or screen. (An automatic short URL is also generated.) Talk away. Ease of use and good questions will promote thoughtful student responses in a friendly environment. A printable chat transcript is available for assessment or renewing the discussion.

Thinglink makes it a snap to add information and links on top of a photo. Teachers can create a free account, upload an image, and create tags that can also be a brief description or question. You can also add a link or record a sound. Embed the completed “thing” in a blog or share it through other integrated features. The “allow anyone to edit” option allows students to add tags or links. Thinglink is free, but registration is required. Media specialists who saw this newer Web 2.0 tool at last fall’s American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference instantly saw the possibilities for not only engaged primary-source analysis but also for prompting critical discussion or written reflection. Kids will love it!

Sharing Community Pride


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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