Monday, July 5, 2010

Is There a Time Machine for Digital Natives?

Teaching Digital Natives About History

How do you teach history to digital natives?  My students are very visual, they are used to seeing videos and movies.  A few years ago I had left a typewriter out on the table.  My students came in and wanted to know about the unusual keyboard.  One asked, "Where's the monitor?"

How can we give them the background knowledge to understand different times.  One powerful technique is primary sources.  Teaching students how to analyze and understand them.  I can hear you say. "Great sound bite.  Where do we start?"

Three Resources for Primary Sources

There are over 2,000 images taken by park service photographers, documenting architecture, Native American heritage, nature, transportation and scenic views.  This is a search able database, that brings in a visual element to learning. This site also has maps available for the viewer.

There are over 400 National Parks in the United States.  The National Parks Service has made teacher resources and curriculum materials available for using with students. Teaching With Historic Places is a great gem.  It uses parks listed in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places.  It focuses on history, social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects.   There is even a template for developing your own lessons involving historic places. The National Park Service goals is to bring historic places into the classroom.

American Memory  You can look at webcasts, maps, newspapers, you can browse topics.

Library of Congress Online Catalog  This is where you can find their on line collection.

My Library of Congress  This is really the key to discovering the Library of Congress.  There are virtual tours.  Focus on collections, exhibitions, there is also a section directed at students and teachers.

Teachers  Primary Source Kits.  Classroom materials and professional development.  Information on how to look at primary sources and use them to teaches students how to analyze and examine, photos, documents, maps etc. They have developed themed resources and lesson plans.

This is a database of over 5000 websites describing holdings of - manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photos.  It is primarily used by research scholars.  Great resource for educators looking for background information.

Is that All There Is?

This is only the beginning.  As teachers we need to encourage our co-workers, our students and communities to preserve our local and family history.  Documenting the stories behind the photos are an incredible rich source of information.  For further ways to incorporate photos and history you might look at a previous post 
"Story Maps and the Digital Age".  Primary sources allow students to develop their own understanding of events, people, and ideas.


  1. This is excellent! I know my kids are all very visual learners, and these resources will give me a start on some great ways to make my lessons more media-rich and primary-source laden!

  2. Jason,

    I'm glad you found a great starting place. I have found these resources to be very helpful.

  3. Great resources Ruth! I love the title of your post, I have found myself wishing for a time machine for my digital natives :)

  4. Thank you. I've always felt like it would be cool to travel through time. Primary Sources are probably as close as I will get.