Digital Academy: Here to Help

By John Quirk

WWI Letter
WWI Letter

As we all get used to this “new normal” of working-from-home: trying to find a balance between working remotely, juggling ever-present domestic demands…or just trying to keep the cat from walking across the keyboard while we respond to emails.  Many parents are finding yet another hat they are forced to wear, that of teacher. In the midst of everything else going on this additional demand can be especially challenging.

We here at UofSC’s Digital Collections in conjunction with the South Carolina Digital Library (SCDL) are here to help.  We can offer some additional resources that will help keep your home-bound student engaged — at least long enough for you to get through that next Zoom meeting! Digital Collections’ website and the SCDL’s website offer thousands of primary source materials that compliment many K-12 lesson plans. These primary sources, like photographs, newspaper articles, letters, audio clips, moving images all have a unique way of bringing course content to life. These resources offer a welcome supplement to traditional textbooks.

Whether it is photographs of agrarian life in the Upstate, images of the aftermath of the Charleston Earthquake, letters from a WWI soldier or movies of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, there are a great number of engaging primary source items available at your students’ fingertips.

In fact, it is possible that there is so much content in these collections across the state that it might be daunting to find just the right materials. To make the search easier, the University of South Carolina, in collaboration with professional educators, created the S.C. Digital Academy. This website offers easy to find, standards-based lesson plans that link directly to digitized materials on the web that will support many K-12 lessons.

The S.C. Digital Academy is easily searchable by grade level and Standards-Based topics. The Document Based Questions were originally designed for professional educators, but for newly ordained Parent/Teachers, they provide direct access to useful materials. We hope you will find these resources helpful and that your “students” will find them engaging and even entertaining.

SC Digital Academy
SC Digital Academy

Fresh Batch of DBQ’s!

By Kate Boyd & John Quirk

Calling all Social Studies Teachers! As you begin to think about returning to the classroom, please consider using a document-based question from this Fresh Batch!

Those of us working in Digital Collections spend our days providing access to rare and unique materials from the various Special Collection libraries on campus. We often marvel at the potential educational value of the digitized primary source materials. We have long sought to broaden the awareness of our digital collections to elementary school and high school teachers and encourage them to incorporate some of these materials into their lesson plans.

In 2017, Digital Collections and the S.C. State Department of Education’s Social Studies Coordinators received funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for a Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records grant. This grant funded three workshops for a total of forty-five teachers to write document-based questions using the Libraries and SC Digital Library’s digital collections. The workshops were conducted during the Summers of 2017 and 2018 with great success.

Thanks to a lot of support and help from Social Studies teachers, coordinators, and outside reviewers, we are finally at the stage of making these resources available online. The S.C. State Department of Education’s Social Studies Associates assisted throughout the project. Carolina Yetman and Lewis Huffman wrote the grant with USC Libraries’ Digital Collections. Jeff Eargle and Elizabeth King conducted the first workshop; and Stephen Corsini assisted with the last workshop and final stages of the grant. Three outside reviewers (Greg Grupe, Fay Gore, and Franky Abbott) with pedagogical backgrounds in K12, reviewed all the DBQs to ensure their integrity and Elizabeth King made sure they are up to the 2020 Social Studies standards. We were lucky to have the same excellent teacher, Matt Rose of Lexington Richland 5, teach the teachers for all three workshops.  Thank you, Matt! Also, thanks to those teachers that attended the Middle School and Social Studies conferences to share their work. We hope teachers across the country will use these to engage students in learning about South Carolina history.

The DBQ’s are presented in the South Carolina Digital Academy, a web-based resource, hosted by the University of South Carolina, that makes it easy to browse by grade level and subject matter. The lesson plans incorporate a wide variety of digitized materials such as maps, correspondence, photographs, moving images, posters and more. These types of primary source materials can bring history to life for students, giving them a window into the thoughts and feelings of generations past. By providing divergent view points and opinions in contemporary materials they encourage critical thinking. These tangible connections to the past can also create empathy for students who might otherwise feel distanced from it.

The S.C Digital Academy portal acts as a detailed catalog for the DBQ’s featuring easily accessible standards, vocabulary, time required, questions, contextual information and support materials. Each entry links to downloadable pdf documents that are designed to help make it easy for teachers to incorporate digitized primary resources into their classroom activities.

We are in the process of adding forty-four DBQs to the site, so check back frequently to see what is new. Some of the ones just up: