Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

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Student Discovery Set

Student Discovery Set

I’m excited to see the new Student Discovery Sets from the Library of Congress Teachers Page and available free through Itunes/IBooks.

Teachers familiar with the Library’s Primary Source Sets will recognize the topics and set organization. They will  be excited about  the interactive capabilities the 6 eBook sets provide. Teachers new to these resources will quickly see the possibilities enhancing teaching and learning.  Students can individually view primary source photos, maps and documents, and listen to audio. They can engage with the artifacts by zooming or simply tapping on the image to draw or analyze. Analysis prompts use the familiar Observe, Reflect, Question and Investigate prompts and a place to write.  Analysis notes can be copied/pasted into other apps; screenshots of images or drawings images can be saved to photos for future use.

Each set includes a page with  a thumbnail  version of the primary source and citations.  The Teachers Guides that have teaching ideas and additional resources are not included in the eBook versions of the sets, but remain available through The Teachers Page version.

These new eBooks escalate  LOC Classroom Materials to a different level, providing intuitive, engaging learning opportunities for students to learn individually following teacher introduction. They are easy to find in the iBooks Store; simply search for Student Discovery Sets. Learn more or access the ebooks directly at www.loc.gov/teachers/student-discovery-sets/.

The six sets offer learning activities for all ages and a variety of content areas.

  • Immigration
  • ’The Dust Bowl
  • Symbols of the United States
  • Understanding the Cosmos
  • The Constitution
  • The Harlem Renaissance

Free Ebooks from the Library of Congress Put History in Students’ Hands, Teachers Page Blog Post, September 2014.

Classroom Ready Materials on the Library of Congress Teachers Page, Internet@Schools September 2013.
More about Primary Source Sets and other materials for teachers.

Making Learning Interactive (The New Media Center, Column,  Internet @ Schools, March/April 2015)


CD Rom Encyclopedia

I loved being an early adapter and introducing technology to students when technology first became available for school media centers. We piloted a circulation system on an Apple II, the text only CD-ROM  version of World Book on CD-Rom, and Gopher Internet with its text driven commands.  We explored software, collaborative initiatives and multimedia.  We  tried out a few non-computer innovations such as video disks and created a video production studio with a mix of scavenged old and new technology.  Cutting edge technology was not without it stress and there were a few failures But, through trials, errors, and frustrations we learned what works, what doesn’t work and what’s best for real learning.  We expanded possibilities for students and the media program. We were part of change and it created change.     The Verge post of photos and animated GIFs of old-school technology (including a few audio visual items) are worth a few seconds of reminiscing. Be thankful for wireless, and no longer hooking up zip drives or pry jammed floppy disks out of drives.
Enjoy  Reboot: these stunning still-life photos will take you back to the future

Photo: The CD-ROM still worked after a  dunking in a boys’ bathroom toilet!  Remember making signs with Print Shop?

The May 2012 post Google’s Information Literacy Lesson Plans ranks high on Random Thoughts’ stats list. Is there is quite a bit of interest in these practical tools?  I tried to find out by making a personal contact and by posting requests about usage on LM_Net. I was surprised to hear from only a few people.

Several said they are considering using one or some of the 15 lessons.  A high school librarian explained:  I am in the process of systematizing the research process in our district.  I’m meeting with the Elementary, Middle and High School to get a handle on exactly what is being done at each level.  Ideally I’d like to scaffold the process, building each year.  We will be using NoodleTools as our citation making program and that has a note taking component, but we all know there is so much more than that involved.  I would like to involve all the disciplines, and have found that sometimes teachers in disciplines other than English feel intimidated with the research process.  I believe that if we can document a system it should ease their fears, (we’ll train the Teachers as well as the students) . . .  Lessons are more geared towards Middle School but I was wondering if the advanced level could be used as a refresher at the High School level.

It was great to hear from two librarians who use the lessons with my fifth grade students to teach them how to be better Google searchers.   It’s good to start young! Even primary level students prefer Google to many “age appropriate” resources.

A library director uses Picking the Right Search Terms with 6th grade.  Students “race” to find the correct answers and share their search terms with the class. I have selected 10 searches that utilize various skills, and placed them in a presentation on my Google Drive account, and the presentation is projected on the board. The kids, especially the 6th graders find Google alluring and a little mysterious, so they feel like they’re peeking behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.  She also uses Narrowing a Search to Get the Best Results with 9th grade history students.  They’ve had plenty of experiences with finding too many or not relevant results and are eager to learn. It’s discussed in terms of making their desired results “rise to the top” among all the muck. We continue to refine search strategies so they are typing keywords, not full sentences or questions, and then we limit the results in various ways. She also uses some lessons with older students, including some now in college, who rated themselves as better searchers than their peers. She plans to expand more to the high school level said by incorporating lessons in future web evaluation lessons.   These are skills that adults use in their daily lives, and we want it to move from explicit lessons to implicit understanding.

Have you discovered  Google Literacy Lesson Plans?  Are you using any of the 15 lessons?  Share your experiences by commenting on this blog.  Thank you!  

Google Literacy Lesson Plans: Way Beyond Just Google It.  Internet@Schools, Sept/Oct 2012
May 2012 post

A special thanks to: Christina Pommer (Florida); Marianne Kerrigan (New Jersey) and Mary Catherine Coleman (Virginia)

This post was first posted as a guest post on  A Media Specialists Guide to the Internet, Julie 17, 2013 Julie Greller’s award-winning blog.

A. Lincoln watch fobI think it’s an incense bottle.   Could this be an old coin?

Teachers attending a workshop are asked to select a photograph of a digital artifact to examine and share with the group. Within seconds they are sharing what they see or wondering what the item is.   A group of teachers and media specialists in an online class shared photos and maps of their hometown; a teacher from Wisconsin  wrote:  these 37 miles of river have been part of my life for the past 50 years.  The Fox River runs through my hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin.  [The river] is massive and drew many settlers to this area due to its ability to support a variety of industries.  The river specifically attracted many paper mills to build on its banks.  My grandfather worked at Fox River Paper Mill as a pipe fitter. Ten years ago I lived in the old mill, which had been converted to apartments.  . . .I would often wonder if I was walking in the same spot my grandfather walked or looked upon the river out the same window he once had so many years before I was even born. 

A Louisiana history teacher used photos and documents to introduce a topic the first day of school. She shared her excitement: I allowed my first period class today to start the {activity} I had assigned for homework.  They got so into it!  Between mocking Burnside’s facial hair, talking about the names, talking about the autographs – they really – without knowing it – started to get excited about primary documents!

Students and teachers in all three of these groups instinctively shifted into photo analysis, reflection, and discussion when they viewed the photos.  Photos, maps broadsides, posters, drawings and other visuals are powerful tools to stimulate our senses and thinking.  Photo analysis activities can be used to introduce a topic, as a discussion icebreaker, a writing prompt, or research catalyst.

The incense bottle is actually a watch fob; the coin is a button.  Both are part of Lincoln’s Pockets, a Library of Congress Teachers’ Page professional development activity.  Participants examine artifacts found in Lincoln’s pockets the night of his assassination and discuss how primary sources engage and motivate students.  The Teachers Page has a multitude of classroom-ready materials to help busy teachers and media specialists get started using photo analysis and primary sources in the classroom quickly.  Primary Source Sets, another Teachers Page feature are designed for busy teachers who want to use primary sources but are short on time for searching and selecting resources.  Over 30 sets provide  “ready to use” PDFs and MP3 files of primary sources on topics commonly taught in schools. Sets include Japanese Internment, the Dustbowl, the Harlem Renaissance, Baseball Across a Divided Society, Assimilation through Education (Indian Boarding Schools), Civil War Music, the Spanish American War, and Symbols of the United States. Teachers’ guides for each set provide background information, teaching ideas, links to related classroom materials, and other Library of Congress resources.  Reproducible primary source analysis tools are part of with each set.  The observe, reflect, question, and investigate further model is used in a generic analysis tool. Students can use it with a primary source in any format.  Teacher’s analysis guides for a diverse primary source formats (interviews, text, manuscripts, sheet music etc.) have question prompts and suggested teaching activities. A self-paced online professional development module “analyzing photos and prints” has a built-in analysis tool which can be completed online and printed out.

I keep discovering that too few people know about these wonderful tools and resources. The quickly approaching start of the school year is a wonderful time for media specialists to share these wonderful tools with teachers or use them during their own instruction!  It won’t take long before you see photo analysis and engaged discussion!


Teachers quoted: Susan Buss, Appleton, Wisconsin; Robin Vogt, New Orleans, Louisiana

Library of Congress Teachers Page, Professional Development Plan Builder, “Lincoln’s Pockets “ http://www.loc.gov/teachers/professionaldevelopment/tpsdirect/pdplanbuilder/

Library of Congress Teachers Page, Take Online Module http://www.loc.gov/teachers/professionaldevelopment/selfdirected/

Library of Congress Teachers Page Teachers Page Classroom Materials   http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/

Library of Congress Teachers Guides and Analysis Tools http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/guides.html

Library of Congress Teachers Page Blog: Primary Source Sets  http://blogs.loc.gov/teachers/2013/08/blog-round-up-primary-source-sets/

Absolutely! A media specialist just asked about the logistics of using Library of Congress professional development resources to deliver professional development in her own school!  The Teachers Page Build and Deliver materials and the Interactive Online Modules were both developed for that very purpose.

The PDF Build and Deliver files, along with the highly interactive multimedia materials, will help teachers and media specialists learn how to search and use The Library of Congress American Memory Collections effectively.   Both PD formats have  extensive selections of professional development resources that educators can use individually or to teach others. These resources are ready to use and free!

Engaging Students Through Photos, my guest post on Julie Greller’s  Media Specialists Guide to the Internet blog, describes adult learners participating in a photo analysis activity using Lincoln’s Pockets, a Build and Deliver Module.  You will also learn a bit about ready-to-use Primary Source Sets and Primary Source Analysis Tools.  The Power of Primary Sources tab above has journal articles on these PD  tools.



Sometimes there’s no better way to learn about something than to just simply dig in, explore and then share what you learned with others.  I spent a few winter days exploring Noodle Tools new citation and literacy features in order to help others learn about this comprehensive package.   It was a fun and very interesting experience.  It was great discovering how Google Docs and Noodle Tools are integrated into one logical package. A just published Internet@ Schools article,  Noodling around in the New Noodle Tools  will be helpful for media specialists considering an upgrade or acquiring a citation and information literacy tool.


What do we collect? Why do we fill our desks, cupboards, and shelves with jewelry boxes, athletic event tickets, or matchbooks?

Curious Collectables, a Winona County History Center exhibit, tells us that people have been collecting for centuries; museums were started so people couldBedpans show off what they collected.  This current exhibit includes items from the Historical Society’s own collections and others dressbrought in by Society members. Collectables displayed include  yardsticks, thimbles, chain breakers, gnomes, postcards and coffee mugs from all 50 states, canning jar lids, malformed hardware, and Native American snowshoes. Clothing includes beautiful gowns such as one from the 1850’s, some from the Jazz Age, and army helmets.  Porcelain bedpans are especially unique and attention getting!

Minnesota State University professor and archivist Terry Stoptaugh said we collect to stimulate memory. It was fun to playbillsreminisce as I sorted through my personal collection of theatre playbills. Several from local professional, community and school productions are displayed for others to enjoy. It’s fun to share and perhaps evoke memories in people who  see their own name in a playbill.

What do you collect?  What stories would  your personal display tell?

Credits: Winona County History Center, April 2013.
Create a personal display in an online class: Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources 

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