The Anne Arundel County Public Schools-Maryland State Archives Teachers' Institute "Teaching in the Age of the Internet" seeks to provide teachers with the skills to use original source materials in humanities classes and to take full advantage of Internet technology in the process. Four central ideas shape this program. Teachers need staff development opportunities to learn more about historical content and to develop technical skills and teaching strategies for the modern computer- equipped classroom. Students need original source materials in their classrooms to master content and improve thinking skills. Modern educators are eager to teach computer operating skills, but more high quality social studies materials are needed for those who use computers. Learning is a cooperative process between teachers and students. This program will prepare social studies teachers by providing both excellent content and useful teaching techniques for new electronic classrooms.
A thoughtful appraisal of the past improves comprehension of the present and offers guidance for the future. "To develop judgement and perspective... historical study should provide contexts for facts and training in critical judgment based upon evidence, including original sources." These words of the Bradley Commission have been echoed by the Goals 2000 initiative and the national standards for history and government. The state of Maryland has identified High School Assessment Core Learning Goals for United States History and American Government, and High School Assessment "Skills For Success" Goals that include the use of technology. In addition, elementary and middle school students need to demonstrate knowledge and ability in performance assessment activities mandated for grades 3, 5, and 8. Together, Anne Arundel County Public Schools and the Maryland State Archives have developed a program to meet the challenges presented by leaders in educational policy-making.
Teachers and scholars alike acknowledge that primary sources are essential to understanding the past, yet few original sources are readily available for classroom use. This program seeks to provide teachers and students with access to facsimiles of archival material in their own schools. The use of original sources promotes higher level thinking skills by replacing rote memorization of facts or passive reading with active analysis and interpretation of the documents. National themes can be illustrated through the study of local events, creating a sense of immediacy for the students. Because students are more engaged with the materials, they retain more basic content information and gain a deeper understanding of the past. Experience in the county schools and at the Archives has shown that as history comes alive, the students relate to their subjects, develop a personal interest in the story and its outcome, and see the importance of the lessons to their own lives.
Before teachers can effectively use original source materials in their classrooms, they must master the content and context of those sources. By meeting with scholars, historians, and those who lived through important historical experiences, teachers will gain the necessary background to present primary source materials to their students. Staff and scholars will insure that the teachers understand the most up-to-date historical interpretations. The best teaching experiences in an electronic classroom often involve more than one instructor. Participating teachers will be assisted in the program and the classroom by student assistants. With new knowledge and skills, these teachers and students will, in the words of one veteran instructor, "do history" in their classes, not just read it.
Mastery of computer skills is essential to the teacher of today and the citizen of tomorrow. "Teaching in the Age of the Internet" imparts technical skills and intellectual strategies that enable teachers and students alike to maximize the educational potential of the Internet, local computer resources, and the materials provided by this program. The Washington Post recently reported on the challenge of computers in the classroom where there are machines, but no training to use them or materials to use on them. This program supplies both the necessary new materials and new skills.
"Teaching in the Age of the Internet" is solidly based on accepted modern educational principles. Traditional textbook presentations are decreasingly effective in today's classroom and do not stress important analytical skills. Seminar-style cooperative or collaborative learning systems are now essential teaching techniques. The electronic classroom designed by the Archives and in operation throughout Anne Arundel County Schools embodies the most modern teaching approaches, both from an instructional and a technical viewpoint. The electronic classrooms not only deliver original sources, but involve new ways for teachers and students to organize and present materials in an interactive mode. A National Endowment for the Humanities grant to this collaborative project will facilitate placing this model for an ideal learning environment into the Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
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