Sunday, January 11, 2009

Do History

My love of primary source documents started innocently enough about 10 years ago. I went to a Classroom Connect Conference in California--my first. I signed up for a workshop presented by Jamie McKenzie, I don't remember what the workshop was about but I remember the activity that started my love of primary sources. He showed us this picture of the Coal Breaker Boys (from LOC) and said "Discuss who the leader is in this group". I thought to myself "Wow!"

I used to present at computer conferences, NECC and around my county and state. Designing my favorite workshop, "Using Primary Sources in the Classroom, I ran across one of most phenomenal resources I had ever seen (and may ever see). The website is called Do History, it tells the story of midwife Martha Ballard (1800s) through her diary. From the site:

DoHistory invites you to explore the process of piecing together the lives of ordinary people in the past. It is an experimental, interactive case study based on the research that went into the book and film A Midwife's Tale, which were both based upon the remarkable 200 year old diary of midwife/healer Martha Ballard. Although DoHistory is centered on the life of Martha Ballard, you can learn basic skills and techniques for interpreting fragments that survive from any period in history. We hope that many people will be inspired by Martha Ballard's story to do original research on other "ordinary" people from the past.

You can actually read and analyse the original diary with really snappy decoding tools. The site was developed through a grant, I'd hoped it was only the beginning of more "Do History" projects but alas it was a one and only. Now that's a project which can't be done with a Web 2.0 tool--have you ever seen anything like it? I'll be sharing some other great sites in the next few weeks.


tasteach said...

Hi Nancy,
Thanks for leaving comment in classroom ning. I also love using primary sources and there are many convict records now being digitized in Australia. Also the World War I records in the Australian National Archives are now completed and are great for doing digital storytelling.

Live and Learn said...

Came here from Classroom 2.0...I'm fairly new to technology but have been seaching primary resources with my fourth graders, including an old abandoned family cemetery in our neighborhood. Tombstones are the ultimate primary resource for young students--they are fascinated by them! They are very "concrete" and easy to interpret. We are starting the technology searches now, including, historical archives, etc. If you find any teachers of elementary students interested in using primary resources, I would love to have you refer them to my classroom 2.0 site or blog so we can collaborate!

nbosch said...

Thanks for stopping by, we did a huge project two years ago with local cemeteries called CSI:Cemetery Scene Investigation. You can see it at

Good luck with your kiddos.

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