Material Detail

The Valley of the Shadow

The Valley of the Shadow

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


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Shana Jones
Shana Jones (Student)
1 week ago
The Valley of the Shadow engulfs us in authentic and social learning experiences while challenging us to think harder. This interactive ‘library’ tells forgotten stories of life during the era of Civil War. It details life in two American communities allowing users to explore original letters and diaries, newspapers and speeches, census and church records from men and women in Virginia and Pennsylvania (Ayers, 2000). The brief introduction provided before entering the actual archive tells users exactly what they can expect moving forward. This short blurb allows for an ease in transition to entering the Valley archive. Visuals add value to the introduction after entering the archive, breaking down what can be explored into three main sections: The Eve of War, The War Years and The Aftermath. This breakdown ensures navigations to only the information in which the user seeks. As we take another click, there is a more in depth guide that tells us how to use the Valley Project with hyperlinks to guide users that include: What the project is, How to get around and Using the Valley Project - again taking users exactly where they want to go. I found the walking tours included to be very effective. They allow users to further explore each section, defining what one can expect from each. The text is very light only offering what is necessary to get to the desired information. The embedded hyperlinks throughout illuminate the ease of navigability and minimizes information overload. Additional tools are within the section, using the Valley Project, which shows users what others have done with the Valley Project and explains how it was created. The hyperlinks are introduced in every section taking users to easy to read text. As a learner, I often click on links thinking that I will have to search through wordy text to find exactly what it is that I am seeking, but not with this project. Everything is well spelled out and what you click is exactly what you will view. Each page provides users’ access to the Full Valley Archive at any time. This archive breaks down the sections even further allowing for information access a little at a time. This breakdown addresses intimidation concerns as well as navigation challenges. Where there is minimal text, there are visuals with hyperlinks to guide student learning. Specially, tables are introduced embedded with hyperlinks. This project clearly improves the way students absorb, retain and transfer knowledge with the integration of real world relevance, multiple sources and perspectives, interdisciplinary perspective and collaboration to name a few elements. The Valley of the Shadow is adaptable to all grade levels and great for visual learners. What makes it so adaptable is the flexibility of the content to be explored through both Cartesian learning and social learning. With Cartesian learning, knowledge is transferred from a teacher to a student and with Social learning, students construct knowledge collaboratively (Sanger, 2010). Both the student and teacher can be in control depending on how this tool is used. The approaches to teaching and learning are endless with this tool. As we learn in Educause (2013), possibilities are endless when everything is connected and everything is connected in The Valley of the Shadow. Teachers can use information to facilitate US History discussions with students as well as students use for research. The Valley of the Shadow is a perfect example of how students can begin to reconstruct the past, observe phenomena using remote instruments and make valuable connections with mentors around the world (Lombardi, 2007).
Terri Milroy
Terri Milroy (Faculty)
8 years ago

The amount of information here for US History classes in particular is priceless. Primary documentation is rarely so easy to find, or catalogued in a manner that is so user friendly. I see these materials as being valuable both as research sources and as springboards for discussions on a host of American History topics.

Technical Remarks:

The site is easy to navigate, but even better is the link that describes how materials are organized, for those who might be intimidated by the initial presentation.

Time spent reviewing site: 30 minutes
Don Mercy
Don Mercy (Student)
15 years ago
Valley of the Shadows is a web site that deals with primary resources to tell
the story of two towns before, during, and after the Civil War. The wealth of
knowledge that history enthusiasts can gain from this web site is incredible.
The primary information seems endless. Examining the primary information is a
rewarding experience that is made easy with the wealth of information that is
available. The interactivity creates an excellent learning experience for
visual learners.

Technical Remarks:

The maps clearly excel with technical value. The web site is a work of art when
you consider the development of the overall plan of the site. The site map is
unique and easy to use. The information that is available from the site is
clearly laid in such a way that you don?t feel overwhelmed or confused. The
lesson plans that are available will make this work of art, easy to use in a
classroom. The site is geared more for college but those in the secondary
schools that can take the time to analyze the information may be able to use the
material. The web site can be used over and over again to find valuable
information for any topic that deals with this time period.
Used in course? Yes
will simson
will simson (Faculty)
16 years ago
Winner of the 2001 eLincoln award given to distinguished Civil War historical projects annually through Gettysburg College, created under the guidance of the respected historian Edward L. Ayers (and others) Valley in the Shadow is one many University of Virginia anchored historical sites that provide first rate scholarly resources for instructors and students. Not only does this site serve as a window into antebellum and Civil War era lifeways and culture through primary materials from Virginia's Augusta County and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, the creators also saw fit to provide grammar school, high school, and college level learning objects--for creative writing and traditional essay lessons, each with several possible subjects. The materials digitized for the site include periodicals, letters, diaries, photographs, maps, church records, population census, agricultural census, and military records. Women, African Americans, farmers, politicians, soldiers, and families are represented. The site provides for easy navigation and is separated into antebellum sources and those covering the war years. Subjects include death and dying, defenses of slavery, post-emancipation lifeways, attitudes about slavery, occupations of the 1860s, debates over secession and unionism, the impact of railroads, German and Irish immigration, and many others subjects. WS