This week began by investigating the digital tools and resources available to help students of history use critical thinking skills to conduct and manage their own research.
I began, then, by referring to EdTechTeacher: Best History Websites at http://besthistorysites.net/research/, which offers educators tools for History Research and Writing Guides, Internet Search Tools, Primary Source Collections and Activities, History Databases, Museums Online, and Website Evaluation Materials. Dr. Bates warns teachers must be sure not “overload” students, or present them “with too much information at too complex a level or too quickly for them to properly absorb it” (section 6.6.3), so I evaluated each tool individually to better ascertain how I would directly teach its use.
As I dug into each section, I was particularly struck by The Center for History and New Media (CHNM), which seeks to produce historical works in new media forms to test their effectiveness in the classroom: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/. I have already used their History Matters website a few times in my own classroom; its Many Pasts section has primary documents in text, image, and audio that importantly trace the stories of ordinary Americans. The CHNM also features a Research and Tools section, which details how to use Zotero, a free Firefox extension used for managing and citing research sources. Additionally it offers a Making Sense of Evidence section, which provides students with strategies for analyzing online primary documents, and contains interactive exercises designed to guide the use of traditional and online sources. Lastly, CHNM’s Reference Desk offers students information on how best to evaluate websites and understand copyright and fair use.
CHNM’s History Matters website what Dr. Bates would define as a “rich media source,” offering students many ways to interact with its tools inside and outside of the classroom. As Bates warns, however “rich media may contain a great deal of information compressed into a very short time period and its value will depend to a large extent on the learner’s level of preparation for interpreting it,” (section 6.3.3.) so direct instruction in how to use each feature of this informative and varied website would be absolutely essential to explore its full and rich potential.
Another integral part of using rich media is educating students on how to do so responsibly. Students must be able to make informed decisions on the appropriate use of digital resources, and while History Matters offers some great suggestions on the matter in their Making Sense of Evidence and Reference Desk sections, students should know a thing or two about digital citizenship before even embarking upon such complex digital research.
I found a website called Digital Citizenship, which offers a “Nine Elements Section” that provides students with a list of commandments, if you will, that are easy to remember and will help guide students in their individual digital research projects http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html. These nine elements remind students what it is to be a critically thinking historian who uses their digital resources carefully and responsibly. Being responsible digital citizens, after all, allows students to make full educational use of the rich media at their fingertips.
Bates, A.W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. In Teaching in a digital age (6). Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-1fundamental-change-education/.