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Digital Historical Narratives in the Classroom

Teachers can use digital historical narratives in the classroom in a variety of ways. First, teachers may decide to show the narratives that we have posted on the Documenting the American South site to their students. The best way to do this is by projecting the narrative from a computer to a large screen via a LCD projector. These narratives can be used as an introduction to a new unit of study or for review. They can also be used to teach a skill such as perspective taking or critical interpretation of historical accounts.

Another way to use digital historical narratives, is for teachers to create their own digital historical narratives to show their students. Again these may be used to highlight a particular event or supplement the course text. Teachers who choose this option will want to combine a variety of the primary sources available in on-line collections such as DocSouth. Presenting a historical narrative of an event in the past that the teacher lived through might not only serve to teach history but also help the students get to know their teacher better.

A third way to use the narratives in the classroom is student centered. Students can create digitial historical narratives in groups or individually with the teachers' guidance. It is suggested that teachers first orient students to the goals of historical narratives (including the component parts) and the on-line collections they will use to "mine" their primary sources. Students also need adequate time to complete their projects. Teachers should encourage students to plan their movies and create a production time table. By creating a story board at the beginning of the project students can better manage their time and divide up the labor if they work in groups.

Creating a narrative is a great way to enhance student understanding of a unit of study. Students are often very excited to share their work with each other and enjoy the opportunity to design their own movies. A helpful teaching tip is for social studies and English teachers to pair up for an interdisciplinary unit. Teacher may choose to use digital historical projects as an end of year project only or to go along with several units of study. They could be viewed by a variety of audiences including peers, parents, younger students, and community members. The best part is students enjoy working with the technology and learn in the process. The depth of the movies they produce and the variety is often impressive. Students develop an ownership not only of their production but also the information they learn.