Over 250 Ideas for Using Primary Sources and Technology from NCSS

Well we started with 10 ideas and once we multiplied it with primary sources we loved, and great tools to use, we ended up with over 250 ideas for using primary sources in the classroom! History, Art, Historic Preservation, Science...it's all there!

We are thrilled to be presenting at the National Council for Social Studies (#NCSS14) and even happier that we can share our love of primary sources and technology with participants and friends at the conference in Boston.

We are deeply proud to be part of the team from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Regional Center in Colorado who are presenting in Boston and will be tweeting out resources this week (and next) to showcase ideas on how to merge Web 2.0 and Social Media tools with the rich collections and digital resources from the Library of Congress.

If you don't know about the Library of Congress TPS program check out their links here: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/tps/

Here's a list of great tools and ideas! Check some of them out and bring non-fiction, primary sources, critical thinking, and 21st century skills into your classroom!Check out the links below for social studies, literacy, student engagement, science, math, art, architecture, and historic preservation ideas using primary sources from the Library of Congress (LOC.gov )

Enjoy...and ask questions and contribute your thoughts at #psgeek and todaysmeet.com/psgeek. We will be answering and continuing to share! 

Teaching Strategies: 

We brainstormed, piloted, tried them out, and worked together on harnessing the power of Web 2.0 Tools and Social Media to bring learning alive with primary sources! Each link will take you to a page filled with resources and ideas using that particular tool and primary sources you select. 

Take it Live with LiveBinder


Ok, Livebinders are kind of amazing!!!  So think about the binders you have in your classroom that hold all of your resources.  It’s just like that, but web based!!  You can access those resources from any computer, anywhere!  You need to create an account, but it’s F-R-E-E!    You can view other people’s binders as well!  

Using This Tool With Primary Sources:

Click on this link to find a Livebinder full of lesson plans, rubrics and student examples that utilize primary sources in all grades K-8.  

Livebinder lessons, rubrics and student examples K-8


Skype: Expertise with Primary Sources and Scholars


Ways to use this tool with Primary Sources:

  • Skype with a curator or librarian or expert on a primary source to learn more and have your questions answered.

  • When studying Archaeology, Skype can be a great way to speak to an expert in the field and bring them into the classroom. Although stduents on a dig many not be able to see the artifacts in the field, they can experience some of the same results with the interaction.

  • Use Skype with a curator to "see" artifacts that have meaning to your unit of study

  • Use Skype to document oral histories. Consider creating oral histories of people discussing their heritage and history, but also of them documenting historic places and what a place looks like today and how it has changed ( Or not! ) from the past.

  • Use Skype to document a historic speech or event in real time so a classroom can participate in an event and then create their own primary and secondary sources.

  • Mystery Skype allows you to sign up and skype with a classroom in a mystery location.  Students have to use their geography skills, maps, Google Earth and critical thinking to try to determine where the other class is from.  In my class, I have specific jobs for each student, map reader, google map reader, photographer, questions, answers, etc.  Each table group gets an atlas, computer and has to come up with at least one quality question that makes sense with the clues that they hear to narrow down the location.  Once they determine the location they can ask the other class questions and discuss real world events and primary sources!
  • Schedule an expert from Skype in the Classroom! We have scheduled computer programmers to speak during the Hour of Code!
  • Global Read Aloud is a great way to harness the power of Skype! We have been talking to classes all over the world and discussing the shared reading that we are doing!

Blabberize: Adding Voice to Primary Sources


Ways to Use This Tool With Primary Sources:

  • Metzgar Farm Examples  We partnered with a local historical farm and had our kids meet with the local experts to find out more about the farm, animals who live there and plants that grow on this farm.  The students created a Blabberize for each animal that lives on the farm and we placed a QR code on the Metzger Farm signs to lead community members back to the student-created site to learn more about the farm, animals and plants they might meet on the farm!

  • Have students use the mouth tool in Blabberize to tell the story of a primary source in first person.  They can “become” an historic figure and tell about their motivations, speeches or actions during their lifetime.

  • Have students use Blabberize to give a speech from a particular point of view after they have analyzed and synthesized multiple documents.

  • Have students take on the role of a historic building and have the building tell a tale of the inhabitants and history to use as a way to attract visitors to the historic site.

  • Students can also tell the story of a group using multiple mouth tools.  Tell the story of a Civil War Battle from multiple points of view.

*** One note on Blabberize - we have found that it works best if you use Internet Explorer as your browser.

Tweet Away!


Ways to Use This Tool With Primary Sources:

  • Have students collect a series of primary sources which highlight an important day in history (Today in History is a good example from the LOC.gov site.  http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/today.html ) and create a Twitter post using the primary and secondary sources to share with their audience to let them know what is important about a particular day. If this was done with planning, these videos could be shared throughout the school year as part of announcements etc.

  • Students have to be critical thinkers in order to promote or teach about a primary source in 130 characters.  Promote great writing and authentic audience!

  • Speed dat with a primary source asking questions of the primary source. Assign one tea of students to research the primary source and take the role of the people in an image or text selection. Then have the rest of the class use Twitter to ask questions of the "primary source." Students assigned to that primary source can then answer them through #twitter.

  • Use Twitter to brainstorm an appropriate caption for a primary source after analysis.

  • Use Twitter to call out unclear vocabulary in a primary source.

  • Students can share their other Web 2.0 creations through twitter to expand knowledge and exposure to primary sources.  Share your Animoto about the presidential elections for example!

  • Use Twitter as a backchannel in the classroom collecting ideas about a set of primary sources. Use those ideas to formulate a context for a topic that fits the primary sources.

  • Use Twitter and a primary source and question away posting on twitter with a determined hashtag that allows the class to review questions for next steps in researching.

Adobe: A Building Block For Learning and Literacy

Adobe Reader

Check out this Adobe Infographic with more ideas: 

See a teacher explanation of an Adobe Reader annotation with a National Register Nomination here: 

Use This Tool With Primary Sources and...

  • Have students learn about a historic site and it's significance on the National Historic Register by annotating the nomination using Adobe Reader. After finding the significance, write a summarizing statement about how this site played a role in local, state, or national history and share that with colleagues.

  • Have students upload an architectural drawing from the HABS Collection in the LOC.gov collection and using Adobe Reader circle and annotate the architectural features of the site demonstrating their knowledge of important architecture vocabulary and concepts. 

  • Place a primary source in Adobe Reader and have students use the drawing tools to annotate the source with their analysis.

  • Share a set of primary sources in Adobe Reader with a scholar or expert and have that expert provide comments and context for the source with students. Better yet, have the students comment on the source with key questions  and comments they have after analysis and get a response from a scholar.

  • Using a government document from Congress.gov have students deconstruct the portions of a bill or resolution looking for key acts and statements that will affect them and their community. Annotate and highlight these items using Adobe Reader.

  • Have students use Adobe Reader to take a primary source document and put it in their own words as a collaborative group to better understand the meaning of it.

SpicyNodes: Powerful Mind Mapping for Learning

We LOVE using SpicyNodes as presentation tools and a mind map for students. We feel that it is a great interactive tool for planning research, collaborating online, and presenting content and visual thinking. Try it out with primary sources! 

We have used it with the fantastic LOC.gov Primary Source Analysis Tool connecting the analysis columns in a visual way for learning. Take a look at this example: SpicyNodes: Mystery Photo Billings

Students use it in learning as well: 

Geography: Europe
Tying Literature to Geography and History: Revolutionary War and Johnny Tremain

Here are some other ways to use this tool with primary sources: 
  • Have students brainstorm questions about primary sources using the RQI (http://rightquestion.org/) protocol. Using the tool have students separate out their questions and work with them during the activity.
  • Flip your classroom and have students collaborate on a SpicyNode and analyze a primary source BEFORE class online and then bring the discussion into class the next day. 
  • Have students collect primary sources in a SpicyNode and use them for planning and inquiry
  • Upload a series of primary sources into SpicyNodes and use them as a presentation tool in the classroom annotating them with comments from students as you go. 
  • Use SpicyNodes to plan research
  • Use SpicyNodes to document elements of a historical building's architecture and then use these elements to provide a narrative description about the significance of the site

We feel that Spicy Nodes gives a great description of their tool and have included it below: 
Visualize your thoughts.

Thoughts are rarely linear, and SpicyNodes can help you organically map them in a way that maximizes flexibility. Nodes capture your thoughts, and the connections between nodes give you the opportunity to see both the big picture and the tiniest nuances. The result? An ideal tool for anyone to improve understanding, brainstorming, and planning — especially for multifaceted issues.

Give them a structure.

Your concept map is limited only by your imagination and can be used for almost any purpose — from expanding upon a single topic to exploring a broad set of ideas or processes. Your map can be published on your web site or blog, allowing you to share and collaborate. SpicyNodes can aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, planning and writing.
And share them.

Spicy Nodes are interactive and allow groups to collaborate zooming in to small details and out to see the big picture.  

Minecraft for Mind Building


Where to start. Minecraft is the jewel in many a student eye and a nightmare to many a parent and teacher who know that students live for this tool. Harnessing the power of this tool and primary sources began a fruitful collaboration between the History Colorado Preservation Education Team and Hulstrom Options School in Adams 12 School District. 

Using historic places and National Register nominations, students researched historic places in their state of Colorado and put their research and building skills to use using Adobe and Minecraft.  the results continue to be worked on and samples are below. The project met state and national standards in Social Studies as well as ISTE(s) and ISTE(t) standards and resulted in student understandings around the significance of historic places, building architecture, and cultural heritage.

Examples of Using This Tool With Primary Sources:

Below are links to lesson plans, student examples and ideas for using Minecraft in your classroom with Primary Sources.  We focused on Colorado Historic Places!

Student Examples of Finished Projects Pinned on a Google Map

Animoto: The Power of Video and Primary Sources


Great Student Examples of Animoto and Primary Sources:

Primary Sources Animoto Using MIT's Visualizing Cultures Website of Primary Sources: 

Ways to Use This Tool With Primary Sources:

  • Have students collect a series of primary sources which highlight an important day in history ( Today in History is a good example from the LOC.gov site. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/today.html ) and create a short Animoto using the primary and secondary sources to share with their audience to let them know what is important about a particular day. If this was done with planning, these videos could be shared throughout the school year as part of announcements etc.

  • Have students collect a series of primary sources on a historic site and create a PSA for that historic site using those sources that the site could then use to attract visitors.

  • Using a series of primary sources, create a multimedia presentation about that series. Animoto allows students to input pictures, video and small amounts of data into a storyboard template.  Students can arrange and rearrange their storyboard.  Students must communicate about their sources in a succinct way.  

  • Create a public service announcement about a local agency or community resource using primary sources to showcase their work and persuade people to get involved.

  • Use Animoto to document teacher professional development activities for your portfolio. Primary sources that show your learning in action as an educator.

  • Use Animoto to collect primary sources and then use them as a video writing prompt for classroom reflection or background context on a subject of study.

  • Use a collection of text an annotate them in Animoto for a visual record of research using primary sources.

Make it GREAT Using Primary Sources and Easelly


5 Ways to Use This Tool With Primary Sources:

  • Have students use an Easelly to showcase their thinking process around a set of primary sources using the Stripling Model of Inquiry. Students can use the graphics and text to explain how they came to their conclusions, what they researched, and their plans for using the information they have found.

  • Students can use an Easelly to document their work in a RQI session (Right Question Institute) and the investigation questions and resources they will be using to study a topic at hand.

  • Students can compare and contrast a historic picture with a more recent picture and evaluate changes that have taken place and determine why things changed or why they didn’t.  

  • Have students collect primary sources from a current election on candidates. After analyzing the primary sources, students can create a series of infograms which highlight the platforms of the candidates based on their research and then they can compare and contrast the candidates statements with the local, state, and national party platforms.

  • Analyze a series of primary sources that include data and create a graphic to show the results.  For example, study the employment rates of a geographic area through primary sources and show the history of job growth or decline.

Tellagami: What's Your Gami?


Great Examples of Using Tellagami:

https://tellagami.com/gami/49SK0N/ (see Tellagami in action in my library!)

5 Ways to Use This Tool With Primary Sources:

  • Upload a primary source and have the students create an avatar that “stands in” the primary source and acts as a tour guide for that source. Student must be critical thinkers and be able to apply their studies to the presentation through their avatar.

  • Ask student groups to collaborate on a location or historic event  and have them each tell part of the story of the location or event using primary sources.  Put the Tellagami videos together to create a multi-media presentation.

  • Upload a before and after picture of a site using primary sources and have a local or historic “avatar” tell about the change over time.  

  • Upload the picture of a historic landscape or a historic site. Students can have the Tellagami tell the importance of the historic site and describe the features of the site of landscape that make it significant and important in the local, state, or national story.  (Analyze, Create, Evaluate, Apply )

  • Have a Tellagami analyze a document for another student so that the other students can then see the thinking behind analyzation from a partner and model critical thinking.

  • Upload a primary source and have the students create an avatar that “stands in” the primary source and acts as a tour guide for that source. Student must be critical thinkers and be able to apply their studies to the presentation through their avatar.

Microblogs: Little By Little for BIG Effect and Learning


Ways to Use This Tool With Primary Sources:

  • Colonial signs - add a sign to Tumbler and add 4 other sources.  Why was a cobbler important to the economy, why was the cobbler important to the local economy.  Tag with the whole class and create a whole pictures of the colonial economy for the students to follow.

  • Have students create a Tumblr post with 5 connected textual documents on an event in American or world history. In the tumblr blog have them describe how the documents are connected, the importance of the event and how these documents contribute to an understanding of the event calling out quotes and any other pertinent information.

  • Have students use a historical broadside and using tumblr connect photos, music, letters, etc to that broadside explaining WHY the broadside was created, the point of view, and the impact the broadside could have had during the time it was created.

  • Have students create a Tumblr post highlighting change over time in a particular theme using historic photos. Use the annotation tool to provide context for the theme and key information.

  • Use Tumblr to create a group of primary sources that highlight a contemporary conflict or event in a student’s community to provide a local connection to history.