Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

History Detective 101

This week I'm visiting another site selected by the American Association of School Librarians from their Top 25 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning (2012).  Under the category of Content Resources in the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, DocsTeach addresses:

  • 2.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to analyze and organize information.
  • 2.4.4 Develop directions for further investigations
  • 3.1.2 Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners
DocsTeach is hosted by The Foundation for the National Archives.

After browsing the site it became apparent that more access is granted to registered users.  To register select a username, a password and give your email address.  Immediately a link will be sent to your email.  Follow the link to activate your free account.  By registering you have access to more activities, can save documents to use later and create specific activities in sets to use with different groups of students.

Arriving at the home page, users are greeted with several choices.  Near the top of the right-hand corner are two buttons, Activities and Documents.  Activities presents two selections, ready-to-use or create your own incorporating primary sources.  Documents provides the ability to search for items, primary sources, numbering in the thousands from the National Archives.

Beneath those two buttons are three squares with buttons offering the same choices, get started (creating your own), find activities and find documents. Further down this first screen a new page dedicated to the 2013 National History Day has been added.  I decided to click on the Find Activities button first.

This screen offers activities designed by educators using primary resources housed in the National Archives.  Using the National History Standards these activities are placed in categories.  Across the top-left you can browse by historical era (those are also shown below in more visual boxes), by historical thinking skill or tool.  When you search (typing in a keyword), those same categories are present but instead of only being able to select one, you can refine your search by checking boxes in all three columns. Personally I would recommend browsing by historical era first.

I chose to browse in the historical era titled The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945).
From those pages I selected Student Activity; using Primary Sources with The Diary of Anne Frank.  When you click on your selection, the next screen provides you with (top to bottom, left to right):

  • the title
  • a link
  • a start activity button
  • author's name
  • the tool provided on site to create this activity
  • the historical era
  • primary historical thinking skill reflected in this activity
  • place on Bloom's Taxonomy
  • a small screen view of the activity
  • synopsis
  • teacher's instructions
  • list of documents used in the activity
Once a student has completed an activity they will click I'm Done.  A window pops up with spaces for email addresses and responses plus further instructions from the teacher.  As a user you can print an activity or star it for storage in a folder in your account.

Moving to the Documents portion you can again browse or search.  At this page browsing is done by historical era, type of item (audio/video, chart/graphs/data, image, map, written document), featured documents or starred documents.  As with searching in the Activities section multiple boxes can be checked in the three columns with respect to the search term.

Hoping to find some documentation regarding the 1925 Serum Run to Nome, Alaska I went to the search box.  After typing in Alaska and clicking the appropriate era, a screen appears with thumbnails of all the items.  When you click on one, you can go back to the thumbnails or arrow though the resources like a slide show.  This is one of the items which appeared.  Who knew?

The final field to investigate is Create your own interactive learning activity.  The tools used to generate your instruction are:

  • finding a sequence
  • focusing on details
  • interpreting data
  • making connections
  • mapping history
  • seeing the big picture and
  • weighing the evidence.
A small helpful widget on the right side will highlight the tools which best adhere to a particular historical thinking skill, dimming the others.  Those historical thinking skills are:
  • chronological thinking
  • historical comprehension
  • historical analysis and interpretation
  • historical research capabilities and
  • historical issues-analysis and decision making.
Before beginning you can click on any of the tools' titles at the top for a detailed explanation of how each works; a visual slide show numbering all the steps, learning objectives and historical thinking skills met, teaching tips and examples of activities made with this tool.  Mapping History was my tool of choice for my first created activity.  As soon as you select any of the tools a small window pops up informing you that your activity will be saved to your account.

First documents needed to be selected for my topic taking me back to that section. Once I had a group of items I returned to the activity maker.  By looking at this image you can better visualize the work area.

I am now on step two (notice the top of the dashboard).  On the bottom are my selected documents.  At any time I can add or delete.

I chose an image to be placed in the center. The area can be sized.  Next drag the documents from the tray to a position on the list.  Text can be added.  If you so choose, all the items can remain in the tray so students can place them on the map.

This above screen illustrates the placing (or not) of the items on the map.  There are tools along the right side to enhance the documents.  Once you have filled in your introductory and concluding statements you proceed to the final screen.  From there you can view your work or publish it for all logged in users to see.

This site, DocsTeach, hosted by The Foundation for the National Archives is one-stop shopping for bringing history into the classroom in the best possible way.  Not only does it have all the areas I've noted above but at the bottom of each screen there are links to Document Analysis, Why Teach With Documents, Bloom's Taxonomy, National History Standards, Teaching With Documents and NCSS, Sharing Activities and Additional Links.  For history, this site ranks high above all the rest.  It's amazing.

This is my finished activity showing six primary sources relative to the Lewis & Clark Expedition.  The text box holds questions that can be answered by viewing the documents.  The only way to see this is to register but it's free...and fun.

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