COLLABORATE serves as the virtual meeting place for members of the National Archives education team in Washington, DC, and colleagues from schools, institutions, and organizations across the nation to share innovative ideas and best practices. These conversations will serve as a basis for an exciting new web site and will also offer important feedback and commentary on the site as it develops.

An Invitation to Preview DocsTeach

February 24, 2010

Thank you for the interest you have shown in our project to build a new web site for teachers from the National Archives! We have received input from many of you along the way here on Collaborate and via phone and email.

Our new web site is going to be called DocsTeach and will be available this spring. Currently we are in the beta phase of the project. At this point, we’d love for you to take a look and let us know what you think!

If you are interested in previewing DocsTeach, please email and let us know. Our preview and feedback period will last until Monday, March 8.

Written By: Collaborate Team, 5:29 pm

Students as Historians: Doing What Historians Really Do

November 30, 2009

DocsTeach is really starting to take shape! We’ve been working on the design of the new site and have been writing lessons that teachers will be able to grab and use right away with students.

We’ve also decided on the basic structure for six different lesson or activity templates that teachers will be able to plug primary source documents into to create customized lessons. We designed these lesson templates around historical thinking skills. They were made to help students practice the kinds of activities that historians really do. Now we need to come up with a name for each template that reflects the skill being practiced.

What names for these activities would reflect that historians really do these things?

  • Analyzing primary sources including charts, graphs, and tables of data to form meaning and understand history through data analysis.
  • Sorting through primary sources and finding documents that relate to one another to tell a broader story.
  • Pulling apart primary sources, zooming in on specific content, and encountering a document cold and trying to make sense of what is going on.
  • Making sense of history by connecting events and the primary sources that describe them, linking documents together to formulate the whole story.
  • Locating historical events spatially in order to understand history in a way they could not have without thinking geographically.

Written By: Collaborate Team, 3:00 pm

Writing Lessons and Real Life

November 4, 2009

We think that one of the most exciting features of the new web site will be that most of the lessons on it will have been created by educators who use DocsTeach in their classrooms.  The site will provide the tools and primary sources to every teacher to create lessons.  To give the site a jump start, we’re writing some lessons for the launch.

On Monday, I spent the morning wrapping up a woman suffrage lesson I have been working on.  The lesson will prompt students to use the interactive tools on DocsTeach to analyze and arrange a set of documents related to woman suffrage in the correct chronological order.  Some of the documents I chose include a form letter from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone asking friends to send petitions in 1865, Susan B. Anthony’s 1873 record of conviction for voting when it was considered illegal to do so, a memorial from the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage in 1917, and a 1919 ratification of the 19th Amendment.  Creating this lesson caused me to reflect on the road to suffrage and at the same time raised questions about the struggle - just as I hope the lesson does for students.  With the lesson fresh in my mind, I headed to the polls yesterday morning to perform my civic duty and vote.  My experience seemed different this time, and I was reminded once more how primary sources can help connect us - and our students - to the past like nothing else in our studies.

-Stephanie, Collaborate Team

Written By: Collaborate Team, 10:21 am

Documents for DocsTeach

October 16, 2009

The education team at the National Archives has been spending time considering what great, teachable documents there are in the holdings of the National Archives that we want to make available on the new DocsTeach web site - to analyze with students and to incorporate into the customizable lessons.  Are there documents that you use in class that you can’t teach without?  What are these must-have primary source documents?

Written By: Collaborate Team, 4:34 pm

Programming for DocsTeach Web Site

September 17, 2009

We’re thinking of using the program Flash to design the process through which teachers will go to find and create lessons on DocsTeach.  Do enough teachers have access to Flash in their internet browsers at school or would this be restrictive?

Written By: Collaborate Team, 9:29 am

Invitation to a Special Opportunity to Critique New DocsTeach Web Site

September 4, 2009

We invite you to contribute to the design of DocsTeach by being one of the first educators to review the features of the site and give feedback.  DocsTeach is a one-of-a-kind web site for educators, being developed by the National Archives and teachers participating in the Collaborate community. Please email or call to participate.  Teachers who contact us will have an opportunity to learn about  the current version of the project and sample the lesson activities that will soon be available for educators.   Reviewing the site and giving your suggestions should require approximately one hour of your time and will consist of your reading through a packet of material and participating  in a follow up phone call to let us know what you think.


Stephanie, Collaborate Team

Written By: Collaborate Team, 12:07 pm

Collaborate Featured at Gov 2.0 Symposium

On August 26, the National Archives’ Stephanie Greenhut discussed Collaborate at a session about engaging the public in conversation at the Gov 2.0 Symposium.  Visit C-SPAN to learn more or watch the presentation.

Written By: Collaborate Team, 12:02 pm

Math and Science Lessons on DocsTeach

August 27, 2009

DocsTeach will include a lesson template that math and/or science teachers can use to create lessons.  The National Archives has many, many records containing data - charts, tables, graphs, etc.  Here are just a couple of examples.

What tools will math/science teachers need inside the lesson template to be able to create engaging math/science data-analysis activities for their students with documents such as these?

Grain Production

Document Including Grain Production Statistics from the Federal Reserve

Frequency of UFO Reports

Document Showing the Frequency of UFO Sightings from Project Blue Book

Written By: Collaborate Team, 11:23 am

Example Lesson Template: Composite History

August 24, 2009

As mentioned in previous posts, DocsTeach will feature several lesson templates that educators may use to create new lessons or modify existing ones.  “Composite History” is one type of lesson template.  In “Composite History” teachers select one primary source photograph/document that shows an event that can be considered a culmination of several historical events. The teacher creating the lesson will then select pairs of similar or complementary events that helped make the main image possible. When a teacher uses this activity with students, the students are presented with the main image in a grid and are challenged to flip over the squares of the grid to find the historical documents that contributed to the main image/event. A close examination of the hidden documents is required to understand their importance and determine which other documents they are most likely paired with. Once all of the images have been matched, a new image or phrase can be revealed.

Image of Composite History Culminating Event Screen

Image of Composite History Culminating Event Screen

Written By: Collaborate Team, 3:27 pm

Introducing “DocsTeach”

Up to this point, we’ve repeatedly referred to “the new web site we’re building.”  Thanks to your ideas and lots of internal brainstorming, we can now call this site by its new name: “DocsTeach.”  It will feature:

  • the ability to use thousands of National Archives documents, not just those on exhibit but many more from our online catalog
  • lessons that connect to National History Standards, including Historical Thinking Skills as well as Historical Eras
  • lessons suited to both classroom instruction and individual student assignments
  • easily customizable templates that add an interactive component to any lesson
  • the potential for teachers to share and collaborate with each other and grow an online community

Written By: Collaborate Team, 3:16 pm
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