History Matters is designed for high school and college teachers of U.S. history courses; however, teacher education majors will find this site very helpful. Features within this site include the Digital Blackboard, examples of web-based assignments to serve as models for integrating new media into the classroom; Secrets of Great History Teachers, a collection of interviews with teachers who share strategies and techniques; and Syllabus Central, which features syllabi for courses that offer innovative ways to teach U. S. history. History Matters also has an annotated guide to useful Web sites for teaching; a collection of primary document in text, image and audio; and a reference area for links to resources on standards, citation methods for Web sites, and copyright and fair use law information.
Type of Material:
This site has many unique uses. The use is limited only by the creativity of the instructor. At first observation, one would see this site used for research.
Macromedia (link provided on site for convenient downloading) is needed. Real Audio 5.0 is needed to hear the oral histories (link provided on site for convenient downloading). Works best on Internet Explorer 5.0 or better, and Netscape 4.5 or better. Download of pictures and sound need a 28.8K modem or faster.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Emphasizes materials that focus on the lives of ordinary Americans and actively involve the students in analyzing and interpreting evidence. This site also provides ideas for integrating new media into the classroom.
Target Student Population:
The site is designed for high school and college teachers of United States History survey courses. It is a gateway to Web resources and offers unique teaching materials,
first-person primary documents and threaded discussions on teaching U.S. History.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
A background knowledge of the period of United States History under study would be helpful. Reading is extensive and the instructor, particularly the high school instructor, must know the instructional reading level of the students. The text is written at a high reading level.
This site has been developed from funding by the National Endownment for the Humanities, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. It is a project of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at City Univeristy of New York and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.
The material is historically accurate, clearly written, and presented in such a way that it engages the student in the thinking/learning process. The presentation of information represents best practices and is a departure from the traditional lecture associated with history courses.
The site includes an extensive list of features. Among the features are www.history, and annotated list of useful sites for teaching history and social sciences. Many Past, a primary document in text, audio, and immage is also included. Making Sense of Evidence provides learner guides and interactive excerises that explore the historian's craft. The Digital Blackboard is a database of successful web-based assignments and Syllabus Central provides annotated syllabi representing creative approaches to teaching. Interviews with distinguished teachers, located in Secrets of Great History Teachers, reveals strategies and techniques employed by these recognized educators. Other features include Past Meets Present, Talking History, Puzzled by the Past, and The Reference Desk.
Links are provided to National History Standards. This will appeal to historians and to high school teachers who are required to link instruction to national and state standards.
None noted by the reviewers.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The material is straight forward and easily understood. The site includes clear and concise descriptions of the features. The site is extremely useful as a teaching tool for both high school and undergraduate and graduate college classes. Two features of the site that were reviewed in depth are the Digital Blackboard and Secretes of Great History Teachers. The Digital Blackboard features full searchs for teaching ideas and student projects. The instructor can search by topic, time period, and key words. This page has links to both teaching ideas and student projects. The teaching ideas are detailed enough that an instructor can easily follow them when giving assignments to the sutdents. There are also some ideas that give specific instructions to the students as to how to carry out historical research and completion of unusual projects.
Secretes of Great History Teachers includes interviews with distinguished teachers. The stated goal of this section is to identify and honor teachers of excellence, dedication, and distinction. The feature is an excellent discussion stimulator for social science methods students. These teachers have wisdom to share with pre-service teachers and in-service teachers alike. Although only six interviews are currently provided on the page, the information shared and the personal insights show the diversity and dedication of those who influenced many students. It is hoped this feature will continue to expand with additional nominations. Visitors are given information for nominating great teachers.
A concern expressed by the reviewers is that of potential misuse. With the demands on instructors time, overcrowding of the classroom,
and limited resources, it is of concern that the instructor will simply adopt the material on this site without regard to the specific needs of their students and the knowledge and abilities of their students.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
This site is easily navigated and includes hyperlinks to assist the visitor in moving through the site's features. Visually pleasing and engaging, History Matters includes material not often included in textbooks found in high school or college classes. The audio and visual materials are of excellent quality and represent much research. Students will find the diversity in the materials motivating.
The site requires Macromedia and Real Audio plug-ins. The site provides links for free downloading of the necessary plug-ins.
While most of the web site is easy to read and visually appealing, a few of the documents that are included in the hyper link material are difficult to see. For example, the student project found on Dr. Schulkin's syllabus page used lime green type on a parchment background. This combination would be difficult for a student with low vision to read.
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