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Teachers Make History Together at Annual DocSouth Workshop

Nineteen middle and secondary school educators from twelve schools in as many North Carolina counties gathered for Documenting the American South's third annual Summer Institute on June 16, 17, and 18. This year's event focused on "digital narratives," multimedia collages that explore facets of history. Digital narratives are generally short digital movies (a few minutes) that combine a montage of images and text with music or student narration. To kick off the workshop, two students from Chapel Hill High School presented digital narratives they had created in their Advanced Placement United States History class. These students explained that the project engaged them in ways that a more traditional history project would not have. While the narratives required more work than a traditional poster presentation, students felt more involved in their work and were eager to make a polished product.

At this year's workshop, teachers learned how to incorporate digital narratives into lesson plans and activities as well as to create digital narrative assignments for their students. Finally, teachers were introduced to movie-making softwares, and they created their own digital narratives by incorporating text and images from DocSouth. The teachers' digital narrative topics included wartime propaganda, child labor, Confederate currency, Lumbee Indians, tobacco in North Carolina, pioneering African-American women, the last truce flag of the Civil War, and others. A listing of all digital narratives produced during the workshop is also available.

Though some expressed frustration at the technological obstacles students might have to overcome to work with these tools, all were optimistic about using this activity with students at all grade levels as well as with community members in other educational settings. They expressed that DocSouth's collections not only provide a wealth of images and text, but also help contextualize information to allow students to create more meaningful narratives. Phillip Little from Northwood High School explained, "One of the greatest strengths of DocSouth is multiple perspectives" and that digital narratives would allow students to explore and engage with these perspectives.

To learn more about digital historical narratives and using them with students, visit the Digital Narratives section of the DocSouth Classroom page. The Classroom page features sample lesson plans, citation guides, and valuable excerpts from the DocSouth materials.

The DocSouth third annual Summer Institute was organized in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Education and UNC-Chapel Hill's University Library Instructional Services. The Institute was funded by the University Library and by funding administered by the State Library of North Carolina under the Library Services and Technology Act.

Jennifer L. Larson