This post is part of a December 2013 presentation at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in Manchester, NH.
As I prepare to return to the Advanced Placement U.S. History classroom after an eleven year hiatus as full-time librarian, I have been exploring and experimenting with the links, software, web tools, and content of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM). Located at George Mason University in Virginia, the Center maintains digital archives, develops software, and organizes professional collaborations such as THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) and One Week | One Tool, a summer institute where participants build an open-source digital tool for the humanities community. Further, in a team effort with the Stanford History Education Group, the RRCHNM has developed Teachinghistory.org, a popular educational clearinghouse that profiles free, quality tools and websites useful in history education. While the Center offers much for teachers, some things are newer and more useful than others. And while I’m not an expert in any of the products listed, in the following links I highlight what I consider to be the best, as well as a thing or two that might be avoided. RRCHNM content is organized into three categories: Collecting and Exhibiting, Research and Tools, and Teaching and Learning.
Collecting and Exhibiting
Omeka and Omeka.net
“Omeka is a next-generation web publishing platform for museums, historical societies, scholars, enthusiasts, and educators. Omeka provides cultural institutions and individuals with easy-to-use software for publishing collections and creating attractive, standards-based, interoperable online exhibits.” — http://chnm.gmu.edu/omeka/ My rating: ✓+ | My reasons: I did not install Omeka, but found Omeka.net to be easy to use and useful for uploading and organizing classroom materials and documents. The templates, while simple, look clean and can be customized with plug-ins and changes to the header. Numerous meta-data fields for uploaded files could be better described, but the fields needn’t be fully completed for use with classroom materials. Used for a class project, Omeka could give students lessons in curatorial thinking. Other uses might include an art class exhibit or maybe a student eportfolio. Here’s a basic tour of Omeka.net and here’s a site by teachers for teachers. I started this site in no time at all.
Research and Tools
“Zotero is an easy-to-use yet powerful research tool that helps you gather, organize, and analyze sources (citations, full texts, web pages, images, and other objects), and lets you share the results of your research in a variety of ways.” — http://chnm.gmu.edu/omeka/ My rating: ✓+ | My reasons: While it’s like delicious, which allows for tagging and bookmarking of online information, Zotero is much more powerful. Whether you use Zotero stand-alone software or the Zotero browser plug-ins for Firefox or Chrome, storing and managing digital sources is easily accomplished, as is sharing sources privately or publicly. It’s not only useful for manually cataloging websites and PDFs, but Zotero can use meta-data within online documents to automatically store source info. In research databases like those from EBSCO and Gale, for example, Zotero captures bibliographic information with one click. Here’s a small shared Zotero collection that I just started. 2-minute video overview. 3-minute video tutorial. 14-minute video tutorial.
“Want to use WordPress to manage your class, publish research, or collaborate on a conference presentation? ScholarPress develops a variety of WordPress plugins for academic and educational uses, bridging the gap between technology and pedagogy.” — http://chnm.gmu.edu/scholarpress/ My rating: ✓- | Here’s why: While ScholarPress promises to be a multi-course learning management system, complete with calendars, discussion forums, grade books, and lecture note modules, it currently seems to be unsupported and incompatible with new WordPress BuddyPress plugins on which it runs. Its current name (or former name, if it’s no longer supported), is BuddyPress ScholarPress Courseware.
“Anthologize is a free, open-source, plugin that transforms WordPress into a platform for publishing electronic texts. Grab posts from your WordPress blog, import feeds from external sites, or create new content directly within Anthologize. Then outline, order, and edit your work, crafting it into a single volume for export in several formats, including—in this release—PDF, ePUB, TEI.” — http://chnm.gmu.edu/anthologize/ My rating: ✓+ | My reasons: It does exactly what it claims to do. Easy to use and useful for making ePub files divided into book chapters from your site’s content. Great for handouts or larger documents for iBooks. Here’s a screenshot sample.
“Serendip-o-matic connects your sources to digital materials located in libraries, museums, and archives around the world. By first examining your research interests, and then identifying related content in locations such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Europeana, and Flickr Commons, our serendipity engine helps you discover photographs, documents, maps and other primary sources.” — http://chnm.gmu.edu/serendip-o-matic/ My rating: ✓+ | My reasons: After extracting keywords from your research collection, the search tool presents an interesting reflection of your sources. It never fails; there’s always something in the results that makes you wonder about its connection. Consequently, Serendip-o-matic offers the serendipity of an old-time search in the stacks, where stumbling across something unexpected, interesting, and perhaps useful made for a nice distraction and sometimes a good source. Full disclosure on this rating: I was part of the team that launched the tool in July 2013. It’s now in its second release.
Teaching and Learning
“Teachinghistory.org (National History Education Clearinghouse) is the central online location for accessing high-quality resources in K-12 U.S. history education. Explore the highlighted content on our homepage or visit individual sections for additional materials. Return often for new content and to join in the vibrant conversation about teaching history.” — http://chnm.gmu.edu/teachinghistory-org/ My rating: ✓+ | My reasons: The vast site is divided into four categories: Teaching Materials, History Content, Best Practices, and the Digital Classroom. The homepage addresses the historian’s work and includes videos on developing historical thinking skills. This documents-based approach to studying the past is further illustrated and expanded in the site’s lesson plans, teaching guides, and directory of primary sources. Within the Digital Classroom section, visitors find tool reviews and strategies. Of those presented, I found these to be of greatest potential use in the AP U.S. History classroom:
- ThingLink – “Make your images come alive with … video, notes, or even music from YouTube.” Annotating documents and images is made easy, as is sharing. Here’s a sample of mine and a better one on interpretations of the Boston Massacre.
- Lucidchart – “Lucidchart provides the easiest and most powerful flowchart software in the world. Create professional diagrams and flowcharts to help you communicate visually.” Useful for things like tracking cause/effect, chronology, diagramming essays, charting continuity and change, flow charting. Here’s a sample and video promo.
- Padlet – “We give you a blank wall. You put anything you want on it, anywhere. Simple, yet powerful.” Useful for virtual discussions, group research, and group brainstorming. A sample from APUSH teachers.
- Zoom-in Inquiry – In this video a history teacher illustrates the teaching/learning technique of “zoom-in inquiry,” where students are led through a primary sources piece by piece in order to build a full understanding of the full source.
- Dipity – “Dipity is a free digital timeline website. Our mission is to organize the web’s content by date and time. Users can create, share, embed and collaborate on interactive, visually engaging timelines that integrate video, audio, images, text, links, social media, location and timestamps.” A good review tool. Here’s a sample.