If you were a K-12 student, which websites would you want to save for future generations? What would you want people to look at 50 or even 500 years from now? These questions are at the heart of the K12 Web Archiving program, sponsored jointly by the Library of Congress and the Internet Archive, beginning with a pilot program in 2008.
Students select born-digital content from the Web to create collection “time capsules.” Students select the specific websites to be captured, writing a brief description for each so that people in the future will know why they chose this content.
Why is the work important? The collections become primary sources of information for future researchers.
Teachers use the program to help students see connections between historical primary sources and the primary sources documenting their own lives. The students’ experience of archiving primary sources leads them to consider the authenticity and value of other primary sources. The teachers reflect:
- “I like that it allowed them to see and examine their lives and Internet content as history in the making.”
- “I think the biggest gain was their personal investment in preserving their own history for future generations.”
- “Now they realize with every source that they use there’s a bias with that source. And there’s a perspective that somebody had either in the preserving of it or in the writing of it.”
For a close look at one teacher’s perspective, watch Web Archiving: Preserving the Present.
Collections reflect both age differences and community differences. While some results are predictable, others might hold surprises. For example, students from Whitefish Middle School, in Whitefish, Montana, created two collections: “Shopping and Retail” (predictable) and “Food and Restaurant Madness.”
There’s nothing unusual about adolescents thinking and talking about food, but I was surprised by their focus on nutrition, organics, and healthy community in the Food and Restaurant Madness collection. The students explain in the collection description, “We … want to let people know the nutritional facts of their food, ways they can help keep our food healthy, and places we can go to find those good foods. We see the news reports of overweightness [sic]…” The collection includes local businesses and restaurants, but close study reveals wider trends and concerns.
- Trace the history of one local business. Compare, for example, web captures from Mar 1, 2012 to Mar 29, 2012. What changes do you see?
- Study a series of web captures for the Montana Organic Association on Nov 28, 2011, Jan 26, 2012, Mar 29, 2012 to see trends in organic agriculture not only in Montana, but also in the U.S.
Invite your students to pretend to be future researchers looking at the websites selected by one student group. What can they learn about the students from looking at the websites they selected?