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Interactive Teaching Tool Helps High School Teachers Bring History to Life in the Classroom

Getting students interested in studying American history is a challenge for many teachers. Thanks to Columbia Digital Knowledge Ventures (DKV) teachers have a new resource to aid them in this process -- Columbia American History Online.

This multimedia, interactive teaching tool combines e-seminars, taught by distinguished Columbia faculty such as Casey Blake, Alan Brinkley, Eric Foner and Kenneth Jackson, with original historic documents, thought-provoking questions, classroom simulations recreating historic periods, interactive maps, audio slideshows and more.

The idea for Columbia American History Online came from the educators themselves. Over the years, Professors Brinkley and Foner have heard from high school teachers searching for primary sources -- such as original manuscripts and speeches by Presidents -- to enhance their lessons.

When the staff at DKV was approached with this information, they decided to bring AP high school history teachers on-board. They created teacher focus groups that offered examples of the resources needed to bring history to life and helped to formulate the discussion questions and teaching tips.

"We found that the key is to get students to think like historians," says Kate Wittenberg, director of electronic publishing at DKV. "By incorporating primary sources found in CAHO, students can read slave narratives and view interactive maps depicting the changing status of slavery. The students then interpret the material and offer reasons why slavery spread in a particular pattern over a period of time, rather than reading an historians interpretation in a textbook."

Slavery is only one of the Columbia American History Online topics. Other categories include: Intellectual and Cultural History of the United States, 1890-1945; Post-New Deal Order; Kennedy, Johnson and the Great Society; the Vietnam War, and "History as Destiny: The Case Study of New York City."

In all, Columbia American History Online comprises 17 e-seminars, 236 primary sources, 24 document-based questions, 16 multimedia tools and 13 classroom simulations. Click to learn more about this online resource.

Published: Apr 28, 2003
Last modified: Apr 28, 2003

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