Resources for Educators
Our workshops, institutes, and courses use a wide variety of free online resources that engage learners in inquiry-based assessment and instruction. Many of these resources are listed in the sections that follow, and educators can find these and additional resources at our blog.
Click on the topics below for resources in variety of disciplines.
GIS for History
At gisforhistory.org, students (and teachers) are provided with four full lessons: Slavery in America, The Great Migration, The First Census: America in 1790, and US Expansion. In each module or unit, students work with primary source documents and an interactive map to explore certain questions such as "What factors made this migration possible?" (Great Migration Question). Scoring guides are provided in the teachers section. Click on the graphic below for more information on how to navigate these incredible maps.
Storytelling with Maps (ESRI)
An excellent resource is ESRI's Storytelling with Maps. There, you can explore topics ranging from Fracking /Shale Gas Boom to The Real Pirates of the Caribbean to Health Care. You can even explore costs by state under the Federal Healthcare Exchanges initiative (i.e., Affordable Care Act/Obamacare). Exploring these topics digitally through time and space is a great opportunity for students to begin learning how to interpret data and maps.
Time and Place (ESRI)
The "Time and Place" modules include topics such as the Dust Bowl and the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Students are provided maps and documents as a way to integrate information from a variety of sources to form an argument. (Notice the potential Common Core connection here?)
Worldmapper is a great site to help students visualize basic statistical data about the world. Go to the "Browse Maps" tab to find the various types of maps available, including categories such as Connectivity, Economy, Education, and Environment, to name few. For example, under "Environment-Hazard" you'll find maps that depict the proportion of the population killed by storms compared to those killed by droughts. Or look under "Connectivity-Travel" for instances of airtraffic fatalities. For "lighter" topics, compare the population of 1500 to 1900. There are myriad opportunities for exploration here.
Choices Curriculum (Brown University)
From the Choices Program at Brown University you will find several text series related to American History and Current Events topics, to name a few. This website also offers an amazing collection of videos of scholars discussing the issues presented in the series. Keep in mind these readers were originally developed for secondary students, so your teachers would want to review them to make sure they are appropriate for your students before ordering.
Digital History Textbook (Chicago Historical Society)
A FREE copy of an updated secondary source/textbook can be found at Digital History, a collaboration that includes the Chicago Historical Society. There you will find a link to a free online textbook as well as numerous supplementary sources.
Documentary Source Problems Collection (The History Project)
A collection of documents readily available for American history topics is The History Project's "Documentary Source Problems Collection" at the University of California, Davis. Lessons range from topics related to Colonial America to Watergate. What's particularly helpful about this site is that the lessons include ideas for essential/critical/central questions and excerpts of sources related to specific inquiries. Granted, no historian would limit her search to the set of artifacts neatly packaged for her review; however, for the student, these "bracketed" lessons can serve as an appropriate introduction to analyzing and corroborating sources.
Finding World History (George Mason University)
The Finding World History link from the George Mason University site mentioned above has history resources organized by regions and time periods. The emphasis here is World History, so searches for conventional U.S. History resources need apply elsewhere. An example of an exception is under the category "Cultural Contact," which includes links to 63 websites, including a link to one devoted to the slave narratives. In other areas, you can find over 100 sites devoted to this history of Industrialization. Each site is annotated with a review of what's offered in terms of primary sources and background. In a word, this resource is a gem.
The First Thanksgiving (Plimoth Plantation)
Historical sites such as Plimoth Plantation are providing diverse perspectives to traditional narratives from history and (even better) are giving students the opportunity to examine the evidence for themselves. Since few students outside of the New England area get the opportunity to visit the historic site, Plimoth Plantation has created an excellent online learning module that lets students sift through facts and myths to re-envision the history of the First Thanksgiving. Activities such as the "Path to 1621" let the user examine how the Wampanoag and the settlers viewed similar events quite differently. More importantly, in the section, "The Evidence," students get to examine the only source that mentions (and vaguely, at best) the First Thanksgiving.
Historical Thinking Matters (Stanford University)
One of the best free websites available that adequately scaffolds students' evaluation, corroboration, and synthesis of multiple conflicting sources (yes, the full package of historical thinking) is the Stanford History Education Group’s digital project, Historical Thinking Matters. Thus far, the four units include: Spanish American War, Scopes (Monkey) Trial, Social Security, and Rosa Parks/Montgomery Bus Boycott. Be sure to check out the Teacher Materials section for printable resources such as graphic organizers. (This link is an example of the resouces available for the Spanish American War exercise. The links that follow are also for the Spanish American War unit.) Also under the Teacher Materials section is a tab for sources, which include full, modified, and Spanish text to increase the accessibility of the written sources for diverse learning needs. Finally, be sure to check out different interpretations of each topic in the resources tab under the Teaching Matierals section.
Picturing Modern America (Education Development Center)
Several inquiry-based modules are available at the Picturing Modern America, 1880-1920 site. A particular highlight is the Image Detective modules that allow students to select or identify questions to help them analyze images from the Library of Congress. For example, learners can collect clues in an 1909 political cartoon to determine whether or not the cartoonist supported woman gaining the right to vote.
Throughout the Ages (New York State Archives)
The educational materials available at the New York State Archive are amazing, and--as the presenter shared during the session--the result of the archives being part of the state's department of education (a rarity in the US). The point is that the site's resources are some of the more accessible ones I have seen for teachers.
Decoding Visual Language Elements in News Content (Kate Brigham)
Kate Brigham, created this fantastic interactive website for her thesis project concerning media literacy. A great way to teach how advertisers, photographers, and general media editors use creative techniques to sway opinions or catch your attention is to let students manipulate sources. Several activities on Kate's site allow for this exploration. The learner can see firsthand how zoom, color, font size, and image selection, to name a few, present a point of view. These somewhat subtle techniques often go unnoticed but are key to critically evaluating any type of source, text or image.
George Washington: A National Treasure (Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)
The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery has provided an excellent online tool for analyzing Stuart's (1796) famous portrait of the U.S.'s first president. When the portrait is launched, the user can explore the painting through features highlighted as symbolic, biographic, and artistic representations. For example, a symbolic feature of the painting is the clothing Stuart selected for his subject. For this topic of clothing, the online tool provides a revealing look at another portrait from the same time period, that of French King Louis XVI. With a little guidance, the juxtaposition of these two portraits can help students compare and contrast the ideals of two (somewhat) abstract concepts: democracy and monarchy.
As a way to teach critical thinking, the Center for Media Literacy has built a curriculum around five key questions. All of these queries apply to analyzing any source--an advertisement, a newspaper article, or a political cartoon--but an important question is #2, "What creative techniques are used to catch my attention?" The curriculum ideas provided on this site give educators a chance to help their students be savvy media consumers.
No Laughing Matter (Library of Congress)
The Library of Congress has created a web-based activity, "No Laughing Matter," to help students evaluate cartoons with five basic concepts: Labeling, Irony, Analogy, Exaggeration, and Irony. I point out these concepts because they provide a helpful framework students can apply to any cartoon (or written source, for that matter). For example, "How does this cartoonist use irony to illustrate her point of view?"