Just in time for the start of a new school year, the National Archives announces the launch of www.DocsTeach.org, a new online tool for teaching with documents.
“DocsTeach.org is a significant and welcome addition to our popular education programs,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “It will engage teachers and students in new ways and stir their interest in history through the use of original documents in the National Archives. It is also consistent with our goals to make as much of our holdings available to the public as easily as possible.”
DocsTeach combines primary source content with the latest interactive capabilities of the Internet in ways that teachers who have pilot-tested the site are calling “brilliant!”
Not only does the site invite educators to explore thousands of documents in a variety of media from the holding of the National Archives—items such as George Washington’s draft of the Constitution, the cancelled check for Alaska, Chuck Yeager’s notes on the first supersonic flight, and President Richard Nixon’s resignation letter—but it also allows teachers to combine these materials using clever tools to create engaging activities that students can access online.
The seven tools featured on the site are designed to teach specific historical thinking skills—weighing evidence, interpreting data, focusing on details, and more. Each employs interactive components including puzzles, scales, maps, flow charts, and others that both teachers and students can tailor to their needs.
On the site, teachers can 1) browse or search for documents and activities, 2) customize any activity to fit the needs of a unique classroom, 3) create a brand new activity with its own web address from scratch, using one of seven distinctive tools, and 4) save and organize activities in an account to share with students. After participating in an activity, the site even allows students to submit their work to their teacher via e-mail.
Typical online educational tools are prescriptive – they provide a specified set of activities on a single subject. Any interactivity is usually separated from the lesson plan which takes the form of an article or essay. DocsTeach is revolutionary because the interactive is the lesson; teachers can create lessons from scratch, adapt lessons from others, or even let their students create the lessons; and a single suite of tools can be applied to a broad range of subjects and skill levels.
For more than three decades, the National Archives has provided educators with methods and materials for teaching with documents. Working in partnership with the Foundation for the National Archives and Second Story Interactive, DocsTeach is the latest component in this program that advances the National Archives ability to meet its strategic goal of improving civic literacy. The National Archives is not just “providing” methods and materials anymore. Now, the agency is reflecting the philosophy of open government, encouraging educators to participate, create, and share.
DocsTeach is proudly brought to you by the Foundation for the National Archives, with the generous support of Texas Instruments.
(bron : NARA)