Cheryl Davis is a technology specialist and coordinates professional development for teachers in the Acalanes Union High School District. She is also closely involved in the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program.
What do you teach, and where?
I’m a technology specialist in a public high school district in the San Francisco East Bay, the Acalanes Union High School District. As a former history and photography teacher I now coordinate professional development for teachers focusing on blending technology into lessons and activities across the curriculum.
How do you use Library of Congress materials with your students or colleagues?
Primary sources have always been front and center in our history classes and the online collections of the Library of Congress hold a wealth of resources for our teachers. As we continue to embrace digital content and focus on primary source analysis, we appreciate the wide variety of media that is available online through the Library’s services and we integrate that material frequently into our classroom lessons. Both teachers and students use the Library’s rich digital content for research and project-based learning. Students analyze, create, collaborate, and share information from the Library’s Web site using educational Web tools and apps. The possibilities are endless when teachers engage students with rich content available at the Library and guide them as they learn, analyze, and create with digital tools.
Tell us about an item from the Library’s online collections that you love to show to students.
I like to show students Library of Congress search tips so they can find the items that will help build their research or answer their questions. Pointing out how to best find that one document, digital image, audio file or map that helps answer a question or supports an argument in writing gives students a skill that will be helpful in their current learning and in the future. And I let both teachers and students know about the Ask a Librarian feature that gives them a personalized answer to their research questions and also provides tips on how to find what they need.
Describe an “Aha!” moment for you with teaching with primary sources.
Aha! It is easy to use Library resources with mobile devices and to access diverse media! The rich array of video sources found in the Library’s iTunes U collection, online website collections and video channels makes it easy to connect students to those resources via their mobile devices. Some of my favorites are the historic film collections in iTunes U. Students participate in inquiry, learn history content and understand context and perspective when using a variety of multimedia and multimodal tools to access the Library’s materials. Students also can become historians and curators with their mobile tools by researching and collecting Library of Congress materials on topics of study driven by their own curiosity and learning.
What would you most like to tell your fellow educators about teaching with primary sources like these?
Educators can provide students with an engaging and powerful learning experience by using Library of Congress primary sources combined with digital creation and curation tools. I like to engage students in the study of history by connecting current events or topics of interest with historic primary sources and then encouraging students to use digital tools (podcasts, video, collaborative writing, screen casting, photo montages, eBook authoring) to meet learning goals. There are many ready made online lesson plans and primary source sets provided by the Library of Congress in the Teachers section of the Web site that match state standards and the Common Core. And it is also easy for educators to build and create their own lessons or activities around primary sources specifically targeted to their own student audience. So I advise teachers to encourage students to visit loc.gov frequently to build research and questioning skills, to help them develop as independent learners and questioners, and to encourage their creative voice.