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Using the TPS Teachers Network album feature to make your kids smarter

Most of you are already aware of the vast amount of resources, lesson plans, and teaching materials available at the Library of Congress. You can spend hours and hours browsing through their Teacher page with its standards aligned lessonsprofessional development tools, and their primary source sets. Or on their blog designed for teachers.

Or their 15 other blogs, their ten Twitter accounts, seven Facebook accounts, and other social media tools. Or Today in History. Maybe their interactive digital iBooks. And if you get really lost, you can always just Ask a Librarian.

You get the idea. They have tons of stuff.

But you knew that already. But . . . what do you know about the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources program? The TPS program is designed to “deliver professional development programs that help teachers use the Library of Congress’s rich reservoir of digitized primary source materials to design challenging, high-quality instruction.”  It does this by funding all sorts of projects around the country through three regional offices that help train teachers and students in the use of LOC resources.

(So . . . side note. You’re looking for some loose change to provide professional development in your district? This would be the place to go. Seriously. As in . . . your district or organizations needs a few or more thousands of dollars to help teachers integrate historical thinking skills into their classrooms using primary sources kind of seriously.)

One of the programs created by the Western TPS regional office is a cool little something called the TPS Teachers Network. Think Facebook, Pinterest, and an modern email listserv all rolled into one and you get the idea of what they’ve got going on. It provides a way for you to connect with other social studies and history teachers to talk, share, and basically just nerd out about social studies stuff.

Joining the TPS Teachers Network is as simple as pie. And once you’re in, check out these handy Getting Started tips.

At its most basic, the TPS Teachers Network provides an opportunity to join groups discussing a variety of topics such as teaching English Language Learners, using videos in the classroom, the student as historian, and supporting literacy through the use of primary sources.

But my new favorite tool on the Network is something even more basic than all of this great conversation. As a member, you’re able to create online albums of Library of Congress sources as well as other primary and secondary resources. Once your album is created and online, you are able to share it with students and other teachers. This feature alone is worth the trip.

Think about the power here. You get easy access to all of the Library of Congress goodness. You can upload your own stuff. With all of those resources into one online place that can be quickly shared with your students. Boom. Instant digital text sets.

Here’s how to do it:

Go to the TPS Teachers Network. Create an account if you haven’t already.

Once you’re in, you’ll see a row of tabs across the top. Click on TPS Commons. The Commons is a generic group that you’re added to when you create an account.

You’re now in the TPS Commons group page. You’ll see two rows of icons – click the photo icon on the first row to create an album. Give your album a name, a description, and add user / tag information (using the buttons in bottom right of the text box.)

If you want the album to be collaborative, click the Yes radio button. The default is No. Your students will not have TPS Network accounts, so the No button makes the most sense here. (Unless you want other teachers in the Network to have access. Then . . . Yes.) Click the Add Album button.

You should now see a screen with your album listed first in a long list of other albums. Click the album title. You’re now on a screen where you can add images to the album. (You can find all your albums later by hovering over the Images tab at the top of the site and selecting My Albums.)

You have the choice of uploading your own resources or using LOC resources. Adding your own is the easiest. Select that option. Use the drag and drop or the Choose File option. Upload your file. Add any reference info or notes. Click Proceed to Next Step until image is added.

It would be nice if the Network let you search for LOC stuff directly in the Network site but you will need to go off site to the LOC page to get image URLs. The cool thing is that searching the LOC just got a lot easier. Open another tab in your Chrome browser. Type this URL – – in the URL box. Hit your Spacebar.

Yes. Your Spacebar. Trust me.

Your URL box will change to this:

Type in your search keywords and, voila, LOC search results. Find the image you want. Copy the URL. Go back to TPS Network and select the Import image option. Follow the steps and paste in the URL. Proceed to Next Step until the image is added.

Continue this process until all of your images have been added. The cool part starts now. At the bottom of the album page, you’ll see a few options. You can export the album out as a PDF that can be shared but even more powerful is the URL sharing option. Simply copy the URL and send to students, paste in Google Classroom, tweet out with your hashtag, paste into your website, or whatever tool you use with kids. You also have the standards social media buttons to choose from.

Check out what it looks like by viewing my quickly created Kent State Shooting album.

Once students have access, you can facilitate all sorts of historical thinking activities. Analysis. Writing prompts. Small group discussions. Annotating. Classifying. Ranking.

So use the TPS Teachers Network for your own professional learning but don’t be afraid to also take advantage of some of its features for instructional design.




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