Academic journal article Journal of Library Innovation

Producing Tutorials with Digital Professionals: Primary Sources, Pirates, and Partners

Academic journal article Journal of Library Innovation

Producing Tutorials with Digital Professionals: Primary Sources, Pirates, and Partners

Article excerpt


Once accepted as strictly functional, low-key, step-by-step introductions to services, resources, and how to search databases, library tutorials are now branching out into innovative multi-media Web-based presentations to appeal to a wide audience. Librarians and their instructional materials are taking advantage of an increasingly expanding toolbox of modern technologies and pedagogical techniques to capture the attention not only of students and library patrons, but Web viewers in general. This paper discusses the planning and creative processes involved in producing tutorials that address an identified instructional need using new technologies and a storytelling model. Also addressed are copyright issues, finding public domain images, and working with a production partner that is independent of the library. The videos described here were created to help students and others understand the differences between primary and secondary documents using a storyline based on the popular topic of pirates. The project was made possible by a mini-grant from George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida.

Creating library tutorials that engage viewers is a challenge in an era of non-stop distractions and high-end technologies. With television, computers, smart phones, and social media, people are bombarded with fast-paced action and slick production values. To attract and maintain an audience, the tutorials must compete with the attraction of popular culture and meet the sophisticated digital and visual expectations of today's media savvy society (Pressley, 2008; Zhang, 2006). Tutorials should also take advantage of pedagogical strategies that further learning and enable better retention of information, such as a storytelling model. This model fosters learning by presenting information within a narrative that stirs curiosity and keeps listeners' attention by means of plot devices such as hooks, rising action, climax, and denouement.

This paper begins by outlining the authors' objectives in creating tutorials on primary documents and how those objectives were accomplished. The authors will then discuss some of the major issues involved: working with digital professionals, and finding and obtaining the rights to use documents and images for educational purposes. Summaries of the scripts will give a flavor of the content and note particular features added to increase viewer interest. The paper ends with remarks on marketing and assessment.

Why a Tutorial on Primary Documents?

The important research value of historical resources as "eyewitness testimonies" on the past, or accounts created shortly thereafter, is obvious to librarians and other academics. Primary documents are the basis for scholarly interpretations of the past, and are cited as evidence for prevailing views on historical events. Primary documents have also gained attention in the last few decades as useful tools not only for doing historical research, but also for teaching critical thinking skills (Wineburg, 2001). They can be analyzed and compared with other documents to determine veracity and reliability. Historical sources also allow students to empathize with the motives and feelings of people who lived in the past.

In a library orientation for undergraduates, historical documents are generally mentioned as one kind of research material along with articles, dissertations, and newspaper reports. They are briefly defined and examples are given, such as diaries, letters, and oral histories. Nevertheless, many students still struggle with the concept of primary documents. This confusion is surprising, as public schools regularly teach modules featuring historical documents. Since the 1970s, Document Based Questions (DBQs) have been taught in response to national calls for better education practices that emphasize training students how to think (United States, 1983; Boyer, 1998). In the 1970s, DBQs first appeared in Advanced Placement Exams in history (Rothschild, 2000). …

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