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National Archives Education Updates & 58 other NARA social media links

The National Archives has billions of documents, artifacts, and historical resources. And I’m beginning to think that it has almost that many blogs, social media accounts, and RSS feeds.

This morning, I got dragged into the NARA world of social media after discovering the very cool Education Updates blog.

I ran across the Updates blog through one of my Flipboard feeds and started browsing. NARA staffers use the site to share resources for teachers and learners. You’ll find new teaching tools, lesson plans, learning activities, student field trips, professional development opportunities, newly available primary sources, and multimedia and web content.

The National Archives holds all kinds of valuable documents – written documents, images, maps, audio, video, charts, and more – from all three branches of our government. Educational liaisons at the National Archives in Washington, DC, around the country, and in Presidential Libraries work together to share how they use all of these different types of sources in teaching activities.

And just when I thought I was out, they sucked me back in.

I was done. I had gotten my weekly primary sources fix. But Read more – NARA is on fire!

Over the last couple of years, NARA has given us tons of fun goodies – the very cool Digital Vaults, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, RSS feeds, a YouTube channel and wikis. Together with their excellent lesson plans and digitized documents, the National Archives site is a no-brainer for Social Studies and History teachers.

But I really love their latest project.

Called DocsTeach, the project is designed to provide useful document-based lesson plans and activities created by both NARA staff members and classroom teachers.

The process is simple. Create an free account and you’re in. Once you are logged in, you can

  • Create “classrooms” for each of your actual classes
  • Find activities and primary documents from over 3000 already in the database
  • Save your activities and documents by “starring” your favorites
  • Add your newly discovered activities and documents to each of your digital classrooms
  • Create your own online activities that focus on a wide variety of historical thinking skills with the cool Activity Creator
  • Share the URL for each of your digital classrooms with actual students
  • Facilitate the cool Flash-driven teaching activities in your face-to-face class

DocsTeach truly is almost too cool and useful for words. You need to spend some time over there playing with the tool. This is the sort of 21st century tool that we need to be using as a part of our instruction.

The NARA staff has done a great job of focusing on high level thinking skills with a focus on content-specific activities such as:

I also like the idea that the database of activities will continue to grow as teachers create, publish and share their ideas. DocsTeach is an excellent addition to the National Archives stable of useful tools. Let me know what you think!

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NARA sharing the goodies!

Several weeks ago, I mentioned how the Library of Congress is jumping into the 21st century by creating its own channel over at Youtube. Today, going through the latest issue of Social Education, I found out that the National Archives is also stepping a bit out of its traditional box.

NARA is working to digitize millions of its documents and share them with the public. It’s an encredible undertaking and the NARA folks are using 21st century tools to make it a bit easier.

To share textual documents, NARA is working together with Footnote to provide tons of free access to some very cool stuff. Footnote is a great primary source web site with some amazing features. But it has one drawback – it’s not free. I personally believe that every school should pay for a Footnote account but I also understand that’s probably not gonna happen.

So when I found out that Footnote and NARA have created a special free section for recently digitized NARA documents, my first thought was “sweet!” Take advantage of all of Footnote’s cool tools to annotate, share and view some amazing documents!


The special Footnote section has six categories of documents:

  • Papers of the Continental Congress – The correspondence, journals, committee reports, and records of the Continental Congress (1774-1789).
  • Constitutional Convention Records – Journals of proceedings, early drafts, and other papers relating to the formation of the US Constitution.
  • Mathew B. Brady Photo Collection – Brady led a team of photographers who captured thousands of the most memorable images of the Civil War.
  • Southern Claims Commission – In the 1870s, southerners claimed compensation from the U.S. government for items used by the Union Army, ranging from corn and horses, to trees and church buildings.
  • Civil War Pension Index – Index to pension applications for service in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1917, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served.
  • FBI Case Files 1908-1922 – The Bureau of Investigation investigated real and perceived threats to the nation and its citizens before it became the FBI.

NARA has also been working with the Google Video people to host a variety of short films by NASA, the War Department during World War II and the Department of the Interior. It’s a small collection at the moment but NARA is committed to posting more in the future.


You can also go directly to the NARA Archival Research Catalog and simply type “google” in the search box and get a list of all of the videos. (Clicking the “Hierarchy” tab will organize the films by category and makes it a bit easier to find things.)

Both sites give teachers a chance to view, download and use a wide variety of newly digitized primary sources. Give ’em a try!

Primarily Teaching with NARA

We can all use more training on integrating primary sources in the classroom.

I’ve pasted below an announcement from the National Archive folks in Kansas City for their “Primarily Teaching: Original Documents and Classroom Strategies” workshop that does just that.

And, yes, it’s blatant advertising for NARA but you’ll just have to deal with it. I was able to attend a similar session two years ago at the Eisenhower Museum and it was phenomenal.

The National Archives at Kansas City is pleased to announce that it is one of nine locations across the country to host “Primarily Teaching: Original Documents and Classroom Strategies.” The week long institute will be held July 13-17, 2009, at the region’s new facility located at 400 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO 64108.

Primarily Teaching is designed to provide access to the rich resources of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for educators at the upper elementary, secondary, and college levels. Participants will learn how to research historical records, create classroom materials based on the records, and present documents in ways that sharpen students’ skills and enthusiasm for history, government, and the other humanities.

Each participant will research the holdings of the National Archives at Kansas City for documents suitable for classroom use and develop strategies for using these documents in the classroom or design professional development activities to help classroom teachers use primary source documents effectively.

The cost of the institute, including all materials, is $100. Graduate credit is available for an additional fee. Space is limited; interested persons are encouraged to apply early.

An application for the institute is available online.

For more information about Primarily Teaching, contact:
Lori Cox-Paul, Education Specialist
Phone: (816) 268-8017 Email:

It’s a podcast part duex! Darren, Ashley, and the incredible Smithsonian Learning Lab

Last week, we published Part One of my conversation with Darren Milligan and Ashley Naranjo from the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

Today? Part Two.

Quick review:

Read more

It’s a podcast! Darren, Ashley, and the incredible Smithsonian Learning Lab

I had the opportunity to run into Ashley Naranjo and Darren Milligan last summer at the 2016 ISTE conference during their rollout of the new Smithsonian Learning Lab. And I was blown away. Seriously.

And, yes, Ashley and Darren were incredible. They’ve got the chops. But it was the Learning Lab and all of its cool tools that really got me fired up. I was literally writing a blog post during their presentation.

At the time, I said:

This will change how you and your kids collect, organize, share, and analyze primary evidence. It is seriously that good.

And after getting the chance to talk with them via Skype two days ago, I remain blown away. The Smithsonian Learning Lab truly can and should change how we do our jobs. At its core, the Lab is an online storage facility for 2,000,000 Smithsonian primary sources that gives you the opportunity to access those sources, organize them into collections, and share those collections with students.

And wait for it.

Your kids can do the same thing. So whether it’s you who creates the collection or your students do it, the Lab is a powerful way of curating resources. And it’s done in a beautiful, image driven environment that encourages users to make sense of the past and apply it to contemporary issues in ways not possible even five years ago.

So if you haven’t had a chance to experience the sweetness that is the Learning Lab, Read more