Magazine article Internet@Schools

The New Media Center: Digging Deeper into DPLA

Magazine article Internet@Schools

The New Media Center: Digging Deeper into DPLA

Article excerpt

The Digital Public Library of America is comprehensive enough to be valuable for educators without being overwhelming or intimidating.

In my last column, I introduced readers to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA; and to primary source sets for educators. DPLA is a completely online library that provides access to almost 12 million historic and cultural primary source artifacts. Launched in 2013, DPLA provides educational tools and resources through its own site and in partnership with 1,800 diverse institutions. As a public library, DPLA is free and available to everyone.

My graduate students explored DPLA this winter. They were impressed by how much DPLA offers and excited about the primary source sets students can use in the context of a curricular project. O ne of them, a higher-education instructor, plans to use the set Road to the Revolution in a module she is developing for pre-sendee teachers. A teacher who works with English language learner (ELL) and immigrant middle school students was excited about immigration and migration resources such as American Indian Boarding Schools and Mexican Labor and World War II: The Bracero Program Boarding Schools. She noted these and much more tie in to many of the subjects they have covered or do cover in class.

Teaching guides that accompany each set have written higher-order-thinking, text-dependent questions. One of my graduate students noted the teachers guide asks students to compare and contrast points of view and methods. Students are asked to explain connections and relationships between sources, support conclusions with evidence from the sources, and identify questions for further inquiry. Questions also include convenient links to the resources represented in the set. Teaching guides also offer suggested activities and quick access to Primary Source Use and Analysis Guides from the National Archives and The Library of Congress. DPLA does not itself provide full lesson plans and detailed teaching activities, but the guides will help teachers and media specialists develop their own customized lessons and activities.

My grad students found DPLA big enough to have material that excited them personally and accommodated their classroom needs, but not so big as to be overwhelming and intimidating. So in this months column, I am pleased to share more information about DPLA with you.


DPLA has added additional primary source sets, bringing the total number to 100. Topics represent history, American literature, fine arts, performance arts, cultural movements, science, and technology. Selecting a set for your curriculum is easy with filters for historic time period and subject. Sorting by "newest or oldest" makes it easy to discover what's new. New tech features allow for more fluid movement between the different sets and sources within a set. The set sources are displayed in a scrolling carousel. Figure 1, a portion of the Hudson River Art School set page, is an example. Suggestions for further research and related sets are displayed at the bottom of the set page.


Searching and browsing are available through a basic search box, a map, and a timeline. The timeline search is a convenient way to locate resources pertinent to a specific year or decade and to generate ideas for unique or not previously considered topics for study. Exhibitions on popular topics and particular curriculum topics offer another approach.

The visually clear and appealing landing page for each individual resource includes an artifact icon, usage rights, a description, and helpful bibliographic information, including subject headings to help locate similar materials. More details are viewable by selecting the View Object link to see the detailed bibliographic record on the contributing institutions site. (Note that each contributing institution-which may be something other than a library or museum, such as a public radio station-has its own unique format. …

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