With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, History Matters (http://historymatters.gmu.edu) has launched a major expansion of its Website, including a redesign and the addition of hundreds of Website annotations and primary source documents, dozens of online assignments, a new series of Talking History Forums, and more interactive exercises. In addition to new interviews on teaching secrets and strategies, new syllabi, more lesson plans, and an original puzzle every other month, there are hundreds of new images coming this spring. We are also introducing a number of new features this year. For example, we will soon be publishing scholarly reviews of Websites and posting them on History Matters, in collaboration with the Journal of American History. And in partnership with the Visible Knowledge Project, we will present "Learner Guides" for analyzing online primary sources, including photographs, diaries and letters, oral histories, and early films. Our new Reference Desk section provides resources for citing and evaluating digital materials, locating information on standards for history and social studies, and understanding copyright and fair use requirements.
History Matters (created by the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the City University of New York and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, with initial funding from the Kellogg Foundation) assists social studies and history teachers at high schools and colleges around the world by providing a non-commercial starting point for exploring the Web and offering an array of teaching resources that are grounded in the latest scholarship. Visitors to the site will discover depth as well as breadth, with materials ranging from a discussion on teaching labor history to new essays placing capitol punishment and the separation of church and state into historical perspective. You can listen to a blues song on domestic work, view a series of sketches detailing one soldierís experiences in World War II, try out a teaching assignment on jazz and culture in the 1920s, or visit student-collected oral histories.
Here are some current features and additions to look for in the coming months:
WWW.History is our annotated guide to the most useful Websites for U.S. history and social studies teachers. Each Website has a paragraph annotation that summarizes the siteís content, notes its strengths and weaknesses, and emphasizes its usefulness for teachers. There is also information on the type of Website (Archive, Electronic Essay, Gateway, Journal, Organization, Syllabi/Assignments) and available resources (text, images, audio, and video). We currently have more than 350 annotations and the list is growing rapidly. A search feature allows you to quickly locate resources by topic, time period, or keyword.
Many Pasts contains 500 first-person documents in text, image, and audio, primarily about the experiences of "ordinary" Americans from 1876 to 1945. All of the documents have been screened and carefully contextualized by professional historians. For example, you can listen to Arthur Dingle, one of the hundreds of thousands of African Americans who headed North in the Great Migration, talk about searching for work and his eventual employment with the Pennsylvania Railroad in Philadelphia. Text documents include the last words of the Haymarket Martyrs, a petition to President McKinley by Ida Wells-Barnett to protest the murder of an African American postmaster, an interview with a family who lost their printing business during the Depression, and a poem by Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde. Look for hundreds of new documents covering all of American history by summer 2001, including more than 150 images depicting events and opinions about American politics, society, and culture.
Making Sense of Evidence offers Learner Guides for primary sources and interactive exercises that explore the historianís craft. The Guides, available this summer, will provide background and strategies for using various primary sources, including oral history, diaries and letters, and photographs. One interactive exercise challenges students to consider the problem of photographs as historical evidence by examining Farm Security Administration photos from the 1930s. A forthcoming exercise on early film, "Telling Stories on Film: Exploring Movie Narrative" will allow students to investigate the development of film narrative since the earliest days of the medium. Another activity, "Music and the Color Line," asks students to analyze music and race at the turn of two centuries.
Digital Blackboard provides successful Web-based assignments. This section offers more than 50 teacher-tested assignments from individual teachers, new "Teaching the JAH" resources, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives and Records Administration. Look for many more over the next few months.
Past Meets Present contains articles and resources that link the past with current issues and events. A new essay by history professor Saul Cornell, entitled "The Second Amendment Under Fire: The Uses of History and the Politics of Gun Control," traces legal and popular concepts of gun control from colonial times to the present. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian William McFeely analyzes the history of the death penalty in his essay, "Trial and Error: Capital Punishment in U.S. History." McFeely argues that laws, interpretations, and public opinion have been far from static over the course of American history. And political science professor Michael Nelson explores the new film Thirteen Days and its uses in the classroom. Upcoming essays will examine the historical contexts and legacies of hot contemporary topics such as the separation of church and state, national drug policies, and the Electoral College.
Syllabus Central provides annotated syllabi for the survey course that offer creative approaches to teaching, with particular emphasis on using technology. New syllabi will emphasize innovative ways of organizing the U.S. Survey.
Students as Historians presents examples of the kinds of projects history students, from high school to graduate school, have accomplished on the Internet. Topics range from an exploration of the National Capitol as an American icon to essays on life in the 1930s to oral histories of women who lived during the Second World War.
Secrets of Great History Teachers is a series of online interviews in which distinguished high school, community college, and university teachers share their strategies and techniques. For example, Philip Bigler, the 1998 National Teacher of the Year and a history teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Northern Virginia, discusses his favorite classroom assignments and activities for making history come alive, his goals in teaching the survey, and what drew him to teaching about the past. You can also visit an interview with Leon Litwack, the Pulitzer-Prize winning historian who has taught more than 30,000 students at University of California, Berkeley, during the past thirty years. This spring will bring interviews with Vernon Burton, Distinguished Teacher, Carnegie Scholar, and professor of history and sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Beverly San Augustin, a junior and senior high school social science teacher in Guam who recently received the State Teacher of the Year award.
Talking History offers teachers the opportunity to interact with leading teachers and scholars on key subjects covered in the U.S. Survey. Participate in the lively, engaging exchanges in the March 2001 discussion on Labor History with David Montgomery, or in the upcoming April discussion with Alan Brinkley on the Depression and New Deal. Next year, you can participate in discussions with Thomas Bender (Internationalizing U.S. History) and Christine Heyrman (Religious History), as well as Linda Gordon (Family History) and Eric Foner (Reconstruction). You can also explore archived Talking History discussions on topics such as African American History (James Horton), Cultural History (Lawrence Levine), Women's History (Gerda Lerner), the American West (Richard White), and the Constitution (Linda Kerber).
Puzzled by the Past invites visitors to solve historical puzzles and win a prize. Visit our new puzzle and try to match period clothing with the era in which it was fashionable. Or test your historical acumen in the Puzzled by the Past Archive by solving past puzzles (answers are provided). Use current or past puzzles in your classrooms to inspire creative thinking and challenge assumptions about what we see and know.
Reference Desk serves as a gateway to quality Websites for information on using new media in the classroom. In this feature, pre-screened, annotated links lead to valuable guides on citing digital resources, understanding copyright and fair use laws and how they apply to classroom practices, evaluating digital materials, and addressing national and state history standards. These resources will help teachers sharpen their own skills and provide resources for student researchers.
The resources on History Matters reflect our commitment to teaching about the lives of ordinary Americans, to engaging students in analyzing and interpreting the primary documents of the past, and to making the Internet a vehicle for democratizing education. As a non-profit, grant-supported project, History Matters is able to provide a range of high-quality materials commercial-free and at no cost to the user. We hope that you find our Website a rich, engaging resource and encourage you to submit any suggestions, syllabi, lessons, or student projects that you think would benefit other teachers. Find us on the Web at http://historymatters.gmu.edu or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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