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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


The Valley of the Shadow

 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Aug 26, 2002 by History Editorial Board
Overview: An interactive site that has students browse reproductions of records and
documents pertaining to two similar towns in Pennsylvania and Virginia just
before and during the Civil War to determine for themselves how the issues of
the day and events of everyday life affected ordinary people.
Learning Goals: The learning objectives for the module are listed within the variety of lesson
plans provided on the web module. Each lesson plan provides Instructional
Objectives, Materials, Equipment, Student Background Required, Historical
Background, Procedure, Follow-up, Extension and Assessment. Within the
Instructional Objectives the pertinent standards from the National History
Standards as well as the standards from the National Council of History are
listed.

To formulate historical questions from encounters with historical documents.
To interrogate historical data by uncovering social, political, and economic
context in which it is created, testing its credibility, authenticity, and to
detect and evaluate bias.
To employ the process of historical inquiry to reconstruct and reinterpret the
past.
To compare and contrast differing sets of ideas, values, personalities,
behaviors, and institutioins by identifying likenesses and differences.
To consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past by
demonstrating their differing motives, beliefs, interests, hopes, and fears.
To evaluate major debates among historians concerning alternative
interpretations of the past.
To demonstrate an understanding of events prior to, during, and after the Civil
War on the two counties researched in the module: Augusta County, Virginia and
Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
Target Student Population: High School and College.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Depending on the lesson plan, the following concepts/skills have been identified
by the module creator and encapsulated below:
A basic understanding of the difference between primary and secondary sources.
A basic understanding of the difference between an abstract and a transcription.
To possess basic computer competency with the ability to use a mouse and
navigate within a web browser.
To have access to a dictionary to clarify unknown terms.
To understand the baic facts of the events surrounding the election of 1860, the
secession and the political and social environment of the Lower South states
and the Upper South states preceding the Civil War.
Type of Material: A case study.
Recommended Uses: The site should be used in all United States survey courses which cover the
events leading to and including the Civil War. The site should be used in
courses that focus exclusively on the Civil War and/or the The Old South
(referring to the study of the South before the Civil War).
Technical Requirements: Quicktime to view; Macromedia Shockwave for animated theatre maps.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: This excellent website appeals to the history buff and the serious
student/teacher of history. The use of primary sources is exhaustive and
reflects the level of scholarship represented in the web project. The
supplemental learning aids provided to teachers is an excellent resource for
using the source in a United States history classroom for the secondary and
college level either as a supplement to a unit covering the Civil War or as a
source for researching and writing about history. The two communities and the
materials associated with each one are now accessed via three time periods: The
Eve of the War, The War Years, and Aftermath. Each of these includes the old
graphic representation of different archive rooms or data bases for diaries,
newspapers, military records, etc, but links in each area now lead to clear
menus and annotated lists of the specific documents and data included, making it
much easier both to browse the collection as a whole and to locate specific
material.
Concerns: None.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Learning objectives and lesson plans are available for both secondary and
college levels. Archives of primary documents allow for flexibility in how
primary sources and teachers developing their own lesson plans use other aspects
of the site. Expanded lesson plans are now available for grades 7-12 on a
variety of topics pertaining to general American life in the era 1850-1870 and
include occupations, the impact of railroads, German and Irish immigration,
slave holding, Southern defense of slavery, women in the Civil War. Topics are
listed for student papers on these and many additional areas which are linked to
materials in the collection which students can use as primary sources. Both
teachers and students are provided with clear objectives which helps to make the
material on the site much more meaningful as well as easier to access and to
integrate into the course. Reviews of the Ken Burn's series on the Civil War
are offered. This site enables both students and facult the opportunity to move
from the textbook to primary sources to teach Untied States history.
Concerns: None.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The site is well designed and user friendly with banner navigation and virtual
archive made for easy navigation of the wealth of material located on the site.
Load time is fast on T-1 connection. 3-D battlefield movies require Quicktime
to view; Animated theatre maps require Macromedia Shockwave to view. This site
has already won awards from Wired Magazine, The Chroncile of Higher Education,
American Heritage Magazine, The History Channel.com and the e-Lincoln prize.
The Valley of the Shadows was supported by the University of Virginia, the
National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Technology
and the Humanities.
Concerns: None.

Other Issues and Comments: The site contains a wealth of information in the form of primary and secondary
sources, as well as interactive segments that involve the use of geographical
information systems. The site highlights students' projects which is most
impressive. Exemplary work created by students using resources on the site and
elsewhere are showcased and provide an effective tool for teaching various
aspects of the Civil War Era as well as illustrate the final the outcome of the
historical research using primary sources.