Magazine article Internet@Schools

Making Learning Interactive

Magazine article Internet@Schools

Making Learning Interactive

Article excerpt

When Tom Bober was looking for resources to help 5th grade students understand a science topic, he used Understanding the Cosmos, an ebook primary source set from the Library of Congress. The Missouri media specialist realized students didn't understand different models of the solar system; he thought specific examples depicted in primary sources would help them better grasp selected geocentric models. He downloaded the ebooks to iPads and assigned each student a specific primary source to examine.

They marked and annotated the image using built-in tools and recorded handwritten notes on paper copies of the Library's Primary Source Analysis Tool. Bober notes: "Students, for the most part, had a great deal of focus on their analysis. They loved the pinch and zoom feature, [using it] to see details that couldn't be seen otherwise. They used the draw feature purposefully, circling things that they found interesting, unusual, or important. They used their finger to write 'Why?' about some of the writings around the models. ... They were engaged [and] wanted to continue to interact." Bober provides these and more details, plus photos, in a post on his Captain Library blog entry: "Heliocentric, Geocentric, and Primary Sources" (

Understanding the Cosmos is one of six interactive ebook primary source sets available from the Library of Congress. The sets offer learning activities for all ages and a variety of content areas:

* Immigration

* The Dust Bowl

* Symbols of the United States

* Understanding the Cosmos

* The Constitution

* The Harlem Renaissance

Educators will be excited about the interactive capabilities the LC's ebook sets offer. Students can view primary source photos, maps and documents, and listen to audio. They can engage with the artifacts by zooming or simply tapping on the image to draw or annotate. Online analysis prompts encourage higher-level thinking. Students can copy/paste their notes into other apps and save screenshots of images or their drawings for future use.

Symbols of the United States focuses on six symbols. The Liberty Bell, the U.S. flag, the bald eagle, the National Anthem, Uncle Sam, and the Statue of Liberty are presented through posters, sheet music, cartoons, and photos from across the centuries. A recording of "The Star Spangled Banner" by the Sousa band will perk up listeners. Students will enjoy discovering multiple symbols in the "All American Medley" quilt or in the "Uncle Sam's Coffee" engraving. Comparing the 1884 image of the Statue of Liberty with a 1968 image will encourage closer looking and careful thinking.

Children like to look at photos of other children. There will be many questions when they interact with photos from The Dust Bowl. Examples in the set show children riding a train and in a truck jammed with their belongings, children standing by a FSA (Farm Security Administration) camp sign, and children with a model airplane at a farm labor camp. They will wonder if the piles of sand are snow and be concerned about the animals by a rural building. Depression-era poems and songs included in the set encourage close listening, singing, discussion, and creativity.

While students can enter analysis notes directly in the built-in tool, it may be more efficient and hassle-free if students record their thoughts on a paper copy of the tool. Bober did not use the built-in analysis online tool because he wanted to give students a chance to have all of their writing in front of them at once and wanted to see their writing himself. He further explained: "While engagement is incredible, writing out observations, reflections, and questions on the Primary Source Analysis Tool, in my opinion, helps to focus their attention and allows later conversations with each other to be elevated because they have concrete evidence of their own thinking." The Student Primary Source Analysis Tool can also be used online. …

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