As we’ve seen throughout this course, there are various ways to connect the public to history using digital resources. Along with this, teachers are progressively acknowledging the significance of using online tools in the classroom to keep up with today’s generation of tech-savvy students. Perhaps a resource they may find useful is the National Archives’ online teaching tool for educators called DocsTeach.
DocsTeach allows teachers to create their own interactive activities, using primary sources from the National Archives digital vault to do so. Teachers are encouraged to create interactive maps, make sequential timelines based on primary documents and images, build connection-strings, match certain documents to a specific concept or topic, etc. These activities are especially valuable because teachers can assign activities for students to do themselves and later share with the classroom.
DocsTeach also offers multiple existing lessons created by the National Archives. Each lesson pertains to a certain historical era in American history, ranging from 1754 to the present. Within each are several activities relating to that lesson. For instance, the lesson Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877) contains six different activities in which students can compare civil war recruitment posters, assess the effectiveness of the Freedmen’s Bureau, use the Emancipation Proclamation and historical congressional records to solve problems, and search other documents to find out what else was happening during this period. Each activity is entirely primary source-oriented. Teachers are also given the option to reformat, or skin, each existing activity to create their own prototypes.
Each primary source is also categorized under a certain historical era to help teachers better find them to include within their activities. These categories consist of written documents, images, maps, charts, graphs, audio and video. There are thousands of sources to choose from, allowing teachers an even greater opportunity to create multiple activities for their disposal.
Thanks to the creation of DocsTeach, the National Archives has given educators an invaluable resource to connect students to history using digital tools. This is a fantastic resource that anyone hoping to enter the academic field should consider using in the future.