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Peer Review

Our Documents



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.9 stars
Content Quality: 4.8 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.9 stars
Reviewed: Jul 13, 2003 by Teacher Education
Overview: This website, which is maintained by the National Archives and Records
This digital learning object provides teachers, teacher educators, and students
of American History, with images, sound, and copies of 100 documents that are
considered to be milestones in the history of the United States of America
during the period 1776-1965. The documents are related to the responsibilities
of the citizenship enjoyed by both natural and naturalized citizens. It is
maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Type of Material: Resource/Reference
Recommended Uses: Social Studies Methods instructors will want to engage prospective teachers with
this website because it provides them access to 100 primary documents to use in
their lesson planning and teaching. These documetns can be used for research
projects that require primary sources, integrated into the of content in a
variety of cross-disciplinary courses, and the activities can be used to
challenge learners with higher levels of thinking and reasoning.
Technical Requirements: Many of the documents are only available in PDF file format. A link to the Adobe
Acrobat Reader is made available on this website.
Identify Major Learning Goals: The authors of this site state that: "We want everyone?students, teachers,
parents, and the general public?to read these milestone documents, consider
their meaning, discuss them, and decide which are the most significant and why."
The goals of this site are (a) to bring together, in one place, the digital
representation of important historical documents, (b) to aid in the
understanding of the historical, social, economic, and political signifiance of
the events that lead to these documents, and (c) to appreciate how these
documents fit into the life of citizens today.
Target Student Population: This website is an invaluable resource for primary documents related to U.S.
History for Social Studies teachers and their students in grades 4-12. The
targeted population includes historians, university, and K-12 students
(epecially middle to high school students), and teacher educators who are
engaged in teaching both content classes and methods classes in the social
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Some knowledge of American History would be helpful, but no technical
rerequisite skills are needed beyond simple web navigation. It would be helpful
for instructors to introduce the content of each document and provide a quick
virtual tour of the website to familiarize students with all its features.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.8 stars
Strengths: The content of this site is exemplary. Examples of the available documents are
The Declaration of Independence, original design of the Great Seal of the United
States, President George Washington's Farewell Address, The Manhatten Project
Notebook, and The Voting Rights Act of 1965. Images of the 100 documents are
available to show how they looked in the original and the full text is also
provided on screen and in a printer-friendly version. There is also a link to
?Learn more about this document? that provides background information about each
of these primary source materials. For some documents there are links to
additional information. Citations for each document are also provided, along
with a link to a page with additional information about how to cite government
and online versions of documents. Information for teachers is also provided on
this site (see below) that is aligned with the National History and Civics
Concerns: The most recent documents included in this collection are the Social Security
Act Amendments of 1965 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is hard to believe
that there are no important documents in the last 35 years that should be added
to this collection. The explanation given for the selection of documents
provided on this website is very unsatisfactory. The decision not to include
milestone documents since 1965 acknowledged the difficulty in examining more
recent history, but all documents are open to interpretation whether they are
100 years old or five years old. The rationale stated in the guidelines for the
National History Standards, developed by the National Center for History in the
Schools stated, ?Historians can never attain complete objectivity, but they tend
to fall shortest of the goal when they deal with current or very recent

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The materials and images on this site are in the public domain and may be
reproduced without permission. The ability to see the image of each document is
motivational, and having the transcript available is invaluable as a learning
tool. Suggestions about how to use the documents on this website are provided
based on an article by Lee Ann Potter called "Teaching With Documents: Our" published in Social Education 66(7), (2002): pp. 390-399 ?
National Council for the Social Studies. In addition, a 65-page booklet for
teachers about how to use these documents is also available for downloading and
printing, as is an Our Documents poster. Links to additional resources about how
to teach with documents, such as NARA?s own Digital Classroom site, are also
provided in the Teacher?s Toolbox section of this website. Some of these sites
lead to additional documents and photos. The possibilities are endless.
Concerns: None

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.9 stars
Strengths: The design of this website is extremely appealing and the navigation is
consistent and flawless. This website is Section 508 compliant and used the W3C
accessibility design guidelines. The viewer is also instructed about the use of
PDF files on this site and given the link for the free download of Adobe. The
user is also cautioned that some of the PDF files are large and may require as
much as 45 minutes for downloading using a 28.8k modem. Not to fear, as one
moves through the site, there is an option to download portions of the documents
so that there is not such a long wait.
Concerns: The print on this website is very small, even when viewed on a 17-inch monitor
and I was unable to enlarge it in any way.

Other Issues and Comments: We hope that lesson ideas and projects from the winners of the National History
Day competitions for teachers and students described on the site will be made
available in the near future.