Contact: Library of Congress: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217; Center for Children and Technology: Margaret Honey(212) 807-4209

August 22, 1995

K-12 Teachers Discuss use of the Library's Digitized Collections

Twenty-four teachers and school librarians from across the country attended an Educators Forum at the Library of Congress July 27 and 28 on how to make its historical collections of primary source material more accessible to K-12 educators.

The Library's National Digital Library Program, in collaboration with other major research institutions, plans to digitize 5 million items and place them on the Internet by the year 2000.

"Our success -- and the country's success -- will depend heavily on the ability of educators and librarians to make full use of the high-quality cargo we put on the Information Superhighway. We need your advice to ensure that you, your colleagues, and your students will be able to use the material we will digitize. We want to know what kinds of collections are most useful to you and your students," said James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress.

"The Library's collections are especially rich in the documentation of American history, creativity and culture. These collections tell the multimedia story of America through photographs, diaries, musical scores, sound recordings, personal papers and much more. We hope to make these treasures available to all," said Laura Campbell, director of the National Digital Library Program, in addressing the teachers during a luncheon.

The Educators Forum was facilitated by the Center for Children and Technology (CCT), a division of the Education Development Center, an education consulting firm in New York City. CCT is working under a $615,000 contract with the Library, made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to determine how K-12 teachers can use digitized versions of primary source materials from the Library's collections. CCT identified teachers who use primary source materials in their classrooms from schools across the country representing a range of settings.

The forum addressed such issues as the types of primary source materials appropriate for use in the classroom, how teachers use primary sources, their accessibility, and how the Library's archival collections could be packaged and delivered to schools most effectively. "The teachers' creativity in viewing the historical materials, combined with their knowledge of curriculum and classroom dynamics, provided stimulating discussion," said Martha Dexter of the educational services area of the National Digital Library Program.

The teachers and school library media specialists said they were eager for access to digital versions of documents such as papers of the Founding Fathers, famous speeches, ship manifest lists, historical photographs of people and places, maps, sound recordings, films and drawings. The teachers stressed the need for primary source documents, saying they receive scant attention in textbooks. A computerized facsimile version of a document would allow students to look at the original lettering in order to develop critical thinking skills, the teachers said. "I had two fifth-graders reading [a copy of the original] Constitution and they got very excited about decoding the Ss," then written like lower-case Fs in some instances, said Minna Novick, a Chicago-area elementary school teacher who plans to use the Library's digitized version of a draft of the Declaration of Independence in her classroom this year.

Kim Ford, a junior high school English teacher and media specialist, noted that period photographs would help her inner-city students visualize the past. Social studies teacher Agnes Dunn from rural Fredericksburg, Va., concurred. "The way you teach critical thinking is to present students with source material and then let them think," she said. Forum participants stressed that although parts of the digital historical collections are currently available for free on the Internet via the World Wide Web (Uniform Resource Locator:, they should also be made available on CD-ROM, videodisk and videotape.

During the next eight months, CCT will make recommendations to the Library about how its historical collections can be made more accessible and useful to the K-12 educational community. These recommendations will evolve from working with practicing teachers, who, like those who attended the Educators Forum, regularly use primary sources to teach history, social studies, geography and language arts.

"It was remarkable to watch these teachers at work," said Susan Veccia of the educational services area of the National Digital Library Program. "If there ever was any doubt that primary sources are the foundation of historical inquiry, that thought was put to rest during the course of this forum."

The following teachers and library media specialists attended the forum:

  • Kirk Ankeney, Muirlands Middle School, La Jolla, Calif.
  • John Arevalo, Harlandale High School, San Antonio, Texas
  • Jim Bennett, Shoreham-Wading River Schools, Shoreham, N.Y.
  • Barbara Braithwaite, Pocomo Mountain Intermediate School, Swiftwater, Pa.
  • David Baumbach, Woolslair Elementary Gifted Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Ruth Cattani, Glenbrook Middle School, Longmeadow, Mass.
  • Peter Cheoros, Lynwood High School, Long Beach, Calif.
  • Linda Clark, St. Thomas More School, Brooklyn, Ohio
  • Jenny Cox, Smithton Middle School, Columbia, Mo.
  • Agnes Dunn, Stafford High School, Falmouth, Va.
  • Gretchen Fairley, Newton South High School, Newton Centre, Mass.
  • John Fischer, Fifth Avenue Alternative, Columbus, Ohio
  • Kim Ford, Cypress Junior High School, Memphis, Tenn.
  • Sue Gunter, Emmett High School, Emmett, Idaho
  • Lisa Hirsch, Red Rock High School, Sedona, Ariz.
  • Bernard Hollister, Illinois Math and Science Academy, Aurora, Ill.
  • Linda Johnson, Kingsley Elementary, Evanston, Ill.
  • Lem Martinez-Carroll, New York City Lab High School, New York, N.Y.
  • Judy Morgan, Harrison Middle School, Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Minna Novick, Andrew Jackson Language Academy, Chicago, Ill.
  • Jeanne Rice, Harmar Elementary, Marietta, Ohio
  • Kate Roberts, Henderson Middle School, Starkville, Miss.
  • Heidi Roupp, Aspen High School, Aspen, Colo.
  • Gloria Sesso, Half Hills East High School, Dix Hills, N.Y.

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PR 95-113
ISSN 0731-3527

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