Build it once, share it many times

I’m in Phoenix, at the WCET annual conference. The theme for this year’s conference is “Celebrating E-Learning’s Bright Role in Transforming Higher Education,” and so far most of the presentations I’ve seen are living up to the title. One of the words I really like using when describing Web 2.0 technologies is “transformative,” because I really think that best describes these technologies. They can absolutely transform how we live and work. The saying, “build it once, share it many times” applies to all three of the following tools that can engage and enhance learning.

The first tool I want to tell you about is called History Engine, a place where students can collaboratively post “episodes” of their learning from using the incredibly valuable The Valley of the Shadow digital archive of letters, diaries, newspaper articles, and other stories. (All of these tools, by the way, were conceived and created by the University of Richmond, Virginia.)

The Valley of the Shadow digital archive can be accessed by anyone and provides a rich and sometimes contrary viewpoint of the Civil War years, based upon the numerous resources. In other words, students can construct their own understanding of the Civil War, sometimes in opposition to what their textbook says, providing primary resources as an argument. Students can become REAL HISTORIANS, researching primary and secondary resources in order to draw their own conclusions.

An extension of The Valley of the Shadow and the History Engine is yet ANOTHER digital project envisioned and designed by this fabulously smart University of Richmond team . . . Voting America: United States Politics: 1940 – 2008. Just go to this website and take a look at the many interactive maps (they partnered with Google Maps on this) that can provide you with a lot more detail and insights into voting patterns across the U.S. Instead of just showing electoral votes (statewide maps), you can view popular votes, with each dot signifying 500 votes. It’s absolutely fascinating.

As teachers, we have so many opportunities to make history and the world come alive for our students, to make it relevant, exciting, and engaging. Let’s make sure we take full advantage of these wonderful resources. As always, let me know if you’ve used any of these tools and tell me how you are using them.

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