I work for a small education program that focuses on taking groups of home-schooled children out to various historical sites and museums in the DC area. During these trips, the students usually have a writing prompt and must right a few paragraphs about their experiences and their observations. The program itself is fantastic; getting these kids out and about is always fun for both the students and the educations. Unfortunately, while I get read and enjoy the student’s short essays, there’s really no interaction between the kids themselves. Sure they talk to each other and generally socialize while we’re out, but since there is no true classroom environment, they don’t get to experience each other’s writings. It’s a shame that these kids are interacting and engaging in history, yet have no outlet to share their writings.
This isn’t just an issue for home-schooled children; kids in the traditional school system don’t have an audience beyond their classroom. When you went on a fieldtrip to the Lincoln Memorial as a kid, you were in awe, right? Wouldn’t it have been cool if you could have shared this experience with peers beyond your classmates? That’s why I want to create a resource that will allow students to share and discuss their experiences with history and historical sites in an online environment. When kids are in a classroom or talking to a teacher, they’re always under the pressure to be “right.” Why not give them the ability to engage each other in a more relaxed environment?
I’ll be Google Maps as a starting point. I like the idea of allowing the kids to add annotations (such as their brief essay about a specific historical site, their experiences, etc) to a map of DC, but at the same time I want to allow for dialog as well. If I were to link to this annotated map on a WordPress blog, the students could use the commenting feature to discuss the essay or experience at hand. By using an annotated Google Map in conjunction with the blog, there will be both a centralized community as well as an interactive visual component.
Right out of the gate, I’ll have an audience in the home-schooled kids I work with on a weekly basis. However, I mean for this resource to be available to all students and educations interested—education both traditionally and at home. High school aged students will most likely be my targeted audience demographic wise.