We’re spending more time online, reading and researching with our students. We often need to print out these online resources for use as handouts or review materials. One of the problems with online research is that if you or your students print out a news article, a blog post, or just about anything on the web, the print job ends up being multiple pages that include ads and other things you don’t need.
And as more districts move to mobile devices such as iPads, the rules change even more. I often work with teachers and students who are struggling with how best to access and use online materials as learning tools. How can we use online resources such as primary source documents without using paper?
But wasting paper and time aren’t the only concerns. Ed tech folks often talk about the powerful impact that appropriate use of technology can have on learning, especially with online tools. The assumption is that web use by kids increases brain wiring—that being online makes students smarter. But we need to be careful with those sorts of assumptions.
A 2010 Wired article by Nicholas Carr does a great job of documenting what happens in our brains when we’re online. And it’s not always good. Carr discusses a wide range of research claiming that hyperlinks, especially those that live inside text, cause comprehension problems.
- “People who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links.”
- “It takes hypertext readers longer to read documents and they were seven times more likely to say they found it confusing.”
- “Comprehension declines as the number of links increase—whether or not people clicked on them.”
So while online resources are powerful tools for learning, they can waste paper, be awkward to use in a mobile environment, and decrease understanding if not used appropriately. What to do? Read more
There are lots of online archives out there. Heck. Sometimes it seems as if that’s all I write about.
But the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is different somehow. It’s bigger. More intentional. Specifically designed for the 21st century. Searchable in handy ways. But it’s different in one very big way. It gathers tons of online stuff all in one place:
The DPLA brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. It offers a single point of access to millions of items—photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more—from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States.
It does this in two ways:
- The DPLA uses an easy-to-use portal where anyone can access America’s collections and search through them using novel and powerful techniques, including by place and time.
- The site uses a sophisticated platform that will make those millions of items available in ways such as smartphone apps.
You can browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, format, and topic; save items to customized lists; and share their lists with others. The site also also explore digital exhibitions curated by the DPLA’s content partners and staff. Once you find what you’re looking for, you get a link back to the original item.
The cool thing is that,
In my world for the next few weeks, it’s all social studies, Common Core, state standards, and best practices all the time. I get to lead and be part of a wide variety of sessions and trainings that focus on integrating our new state standards with high quality social studies instruction.
Yeah. I know. Great times!
So I’ve been looking around for ideas and examples and resources and just whatever else might be useful for teachers. Some of us were looking for a nice way to help teachers meet the following literacy piece that is part of both the Common Core and the Kansas state social studies standards:
analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
Primary sources should be a part of every social studies teacher’s toolkit. They encourage and support high levels of thinking, help develop context, and can be very engaging for students.
But one of the things I hear from teachers as I travel around is that it’s not always easy selecting primary sources for inclusion in instruction. So . . . with a little help from the Library of Congress folks, three things to think about when selecting your next set of primary sources.