Friday, December 5, 2008

Digitally Ours ...


On December 1 and 2, a group representing "heritage professionals" and "users" of digitized resources convened at UBC at the West Beyond the West: BC Digitization Symposium . Heather Daly's In Circulation blog for December 3 provides a report on how teacher-librarians came to be involved and on the keynote address of Ian Wilson, Canada's Chief Archivist and Librarian.

Let's start with the question that Ian Wilson left us with: How will this affect education? What might we find if we were looking for made-in-Canada resources (that is, Canadian creators using Canadian primary source materials and reflecting current Canadian values and understandings about our history, culture, and education) to use in classrooms, and why is this an important consideration?

Your tour of online projects incorporating digitized artifacts includes:

The History of the Hudson's Bay Company: this site has timelines, people, and sites and draws on primary source documents

Manitobia: Life and Times is a really deep website, available in both French and English, provides free access to historic documents and publications. (Manitoba + Utopia) is perfect for finding information about the province and its people and includes a rich archive of newspapers, first-hand accounts from letters, memoirs and diaries, drawings, maps and photos - all of which record the early development of the province.

Exploration, the Fur Trade, & Hudson's Bay Company uses primary source documents, maps and images, and includes links to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Available in both French and English, this website provides insights into the history of the fur trade, Hudson's Bay Company and the exploration of Canada, so intertwined that they cannot be separated.

How about some Lesson Plans for Early Canadiana Online, including ideas for teaching information and historical literacy skills as well as content?

Have you been to the VMC (Virtual Museum Canada), which too is available in French, to see the exhibits, image gallery, teacher resources, and so much more? There are some amazing resources for use in classrooms here, including the amazing VAG Virtual Emily Carr Exhibition with ESL, elementary and secondary teacher resources.

LAC (Library and Archives Canada) has amazing activities to support student learning about Canada's history, culture, and geography, including the horrors of arrival in Grosse-Ile or the customs of love in Canada during the Victorian years, enslavement and the road to freedom, other immigrant experiences, and lessons in historical literacy, The Evidence Web.

More digitized Canadian primary sources have been fashioned into displays, exhibits, collections, and learning resources for teaching both content and the multiliteracies in places such as:

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History where students are invited to check their preconceptions about "History" at the door: I saved this to last as these are surely worth the secondary TL's time, and they are what won our dynamic Digi-Symposium speaker Dr John Lutz of UVic's History Department his recent Pierre Berton Award for Disseminating Canadian History information. Students are told as they set out to solve the history mysteries that "Doing History" is not memorizing dates, politicians and wars. That is all just context. "Doing History" is the work of the detective, the gumshoe, the private eye. Students are invited to take on this job. When all that is left are traces, artifacts, clues, hints and allegations, putting those together, weighing the evidence, assessing the credibility of witness accounts, sorting out contradictions, and finding the best solution to the mysteries -- that is "Doing History," and so begins the "gumshoe" work for our students.

Choose from 12 different history mystery quests about Vinland, the burning of Montreal, the Chilcotin War, a killing on Salt Spring Island and another in Montreal, the discover of gold in the Klondike, the death of Tom Thompson, and the mysterious deaths of a Doukhobor leader in the 1920s and a Canadian diplomat in The Cold War. Find also student-friendly lesson plans and discussions of methods of teaching for historical understanding. Read more about using web-based archives to teach Canadian history in this 2004 article by Ruth Sandwell.

All these sites build students' historical literacy; they select and build on digitized source material, construct an account or use displayed artifacts within a narrative. These sites build students' skills with additional multiliteracies as visual, critical, information, and technology literacies, as well as reading; they "integrate technology with teaching and learning" as well as with curriculum, creating engaged learning in a context that students like. Again, as per Henri, TLs can meet teachers in curriculum (and students, of course) in truly exciting and innovative ways.


Last week's posting included an invitation to look at the Cedar Cottage Walking Tour. All grade 10 Social Studies classes at Gladstone "walk" the curriculum here with teachers and the teacher-librarian, studying the landscape and heading to the VPL special collections to dig for the history. Can this project provide a template and a challenge for other schools to turn their own communities into "neighbourhoods for learning"? How much more could be made digitally accessible to enable our students to learn about their communities, histories, and landscapes?


Teacher-librarians invited some Social Studies and English teacher colleagues to the Digitization Symposium. We listened to digital experts from other provinces and our own. This event was, for educators, a unique opportunity to think “big picture” about a new topic with new and unfamiliar partners and to consider questions of knowledge creation in BC, authority for knowledge about BC, as well as issues of information management and resource promotion, for British Columbians, over time. From the BCTLA In Circulation blog:

For the youth of today, knowledge has become something that hangs around their necks on strings, Wilson suggested; they no longer memorize the facts but have a search strategy and expectations of access. While American content is readily available as authoritative source material, we need to expand this base in sustainable ways that are ours, that are reflective of Canadian goals and values, and that provide the tools and support to enable equitable access. How do we “converge", Wilson asked, to work with each other and to teach people what they need to know. The national myth that our history is boring is being re-shaped as history is personalized, made first-person, and singular. And what is this doing to education in the schools?

We the assembled invitees, the archivists, librarians, curators, teachers, technologists, writers, historians, academics, aboriginal community leaders, genealogists, and educators, including Ministry of Education representatives, are the “stewards” and have common interests in what constitutes enduring knowledge here in Canada and in BC.

There is lots to be done to "digitize" BC, but it would seem an important project for us to support.

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