Saturday, December 7, 2013

Make Your Students Real Historians

One of the benefits to living near DC is the access to so many places to highlight what we are learning.  Last year, for example, my students got to meet the US Secretary of Education and two days ago we had Robert Costello of the Smithsonian Institute come to my History Honors' Society meeting as we want our kids to actually do some historical writing.  The Smithsonian Institute has literally millions of items they have digitized - so many in fact that they do not even know what everything is yet.  But one thing they have done is make public their numerous journals, letters, etc.  But they need amateur historians to transcribe them which take a little work and sleuthing (nothing new for teachers since we are so used to different handwriting).  But if you go to their Beta site, your students can literally try their hand at reading historical documents and writing out the text which will help other historians who are doing research and make a database which will allow more analysis.  What is great is that you can create an account if you want on the site or if you do not want to you can just let your students do it anonymously.   Robert cautioned our students to not change the spelling as many of the items were written before spelling had been standardized and to remind the students that they may read something with different viewpoints and sensitivities that theirs.  But WOW what a great chance to actually let your students actively be historians.  If you want to help go to the Smithsonian Institute's Transcription Center.   Here are the projects that need transcribing. 

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