World History Teachers' Use of Digital Primary Sources: The Effect of Training

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Queensland University of Technology]On: 19 October 2014, At: 23:05Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

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    World History Teachers' Use ofDigital Primary Sources: TheEffect of TrainingAdam M. Friedman aa University of North Carolina , CharlottePublished online: 31 Jan 2012.

    To cite this article: Adam M. Friedman (2006) World History Teachers' Use of DigitalPrimary Sources: The Effect of Training, Theory & Research in Social Education, 34:1,124-141, DOI: 10.1080/00933104.2006.10473300

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  • 124 Winter 2006

    Theory and Research in Social EducationWinter 2006, Volume 34, Number 1, pp. 124-141 College and University Faculty Assemblyof National Council for the Social Studies

    World History Teachers Use of Digital Primary Sources: The Effect of Training

    Adam M. FriedmanUniversity of North Carolina, Charlotte

    AbstractThrough surveys, interviews, observations, and field notes, I examined the beliefs and practices of six high school world history teachers regarding the use of digital primary sources and the potential added value of formal training in technology as a tool for instruction. Access to equipment (namely computer projectors and school computing facilities) was paramount in terms of digital primary source use; teachers with high levels of access to computing equipment were high-frequency users of digital primary sources, while those without access were not. While formal training did not necessarily result in an increased use of digital primary sources, it did affect the manner in which they were used. Teachers with low levels of technology training tended to use digital primary sources as an additive to their instruction instead of as a vehicle from which to engage students in historical thinking.

    Introduction

    In his 1984 book A Place Called School, John Goodlad described his-tory teaching in terms of teacher-centered lectures, work assigned from a textbook or worksheet, and tests at the most basic level of Blooms Taxonomy. More recent research suggests that little has changed (e.g., VanSledright, 1995; Martorella, 1997; Lee, 2001; Risinger, 2001). While it is certainly important for students to know and recall basic history content, instruction that emphasizes this type of knowledge does not necessar-ily promote the evaluation of different types of evidence, which Barton (2005) and others deem essential for understanding past events.

    A growing body of research on best practices in history teaching advocates a focus on historical thinking as an alternative to traditional teaching methods (e.g., Wineburg, 2001; Booth, 1993; Levstik & Barton, 2001). Booth (1993) describes historical thinking as a process by which

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    meaning, or potential meaning, is abstracted from a discrete source of evidence and drawn to a common center (p. 116). Certainly, it is dif-ficult to quantify historical thinking; the study of history is not an exact science (Booth, 1993). Rather, Greene (1994) offers that it is an act of judgment made on the basis of historical evidence and a historians interpretive framework (p. 92). This includes the investigation and interpretation of primary sources and is referred to as the doing of history (VanSledright, 2002; National Center for History in the Schools, 1996; Levstik & Barton, 2001).

    Historical inquiry is an instructional approach that brings together new understandings about the discipline of history as well as recent developments in cognitive research, especially in regard to childrens historical thinking (Hartzler-Miller, 2001, p. 672). Levstik & Barton (2001) advocate the use of inquiry in teaching history in order to help students to understand historys interconnectedness, rather than emphasizing isolated trivia (p. 14). In a K-12 social studies class, the use of primary sources might provide opportunities for students to accomplish this task if such sources help students to experience history through examination and exploration of particular issues (Cremer, 2001; Levstik & Barton, 2001; VanSledright, 2002; Kobrin, 1996).

    Nonetheless, a logistical question remains as to whether and how social studies teachers are able to acquire and use these sources. In their 2004 study of high school social studies teachers around the country, Hicks, Doolittle, & Lee found that the teachers valued primary sources and that the majority of those surveyed used these sources on a weekly basis. However, the teachers in their survey used classroom-based primary sources (those derived from texts, ancillary text materials, and primary source packets) to a much larger degree than they did web-based or digital primary sources (sources that could be found on the Internet) (Hicks, et al., 2004, p. 223).

    In the past decade, there has been an increasing push to infuse technology into all levels of the K-12 curriculum (Berson, Lee, & Stuckart, 2001; Cuban, 2001; Cuban, Kirkpatrick, & Peck, 2001). Researchers studying the use of technology in the teaching and learning of history have noted that technology in general, and the Internet in particular, offers access to difficult-to-find primary sources (VanFossen & Shiveley, 2000; Warren, 2001). While a growing body of research is documenting teachers use of the Internet to find and use primary sources for United States history, few studies have examined world history teachers use of primary sources, especially in the context of technology.

    This is a particularly important issue in world history, because the Internet can make available sources and material (such as pho-tographs and speeches) that it would otherwise not be possible to use (DenBeste, 2003, p. 492). Because 99% of public schools had an

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  • 126 Winter 2006

    Internet connection as of the fall of 2002 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003), it could be assumed that the majority of world history teachers have access to this material. However, the mere availability of the technology needed to access digital primary sources does not guarantee that teachers will actually use these resources. In a study of secondary social studies teachers in Indiana, VanFossen (1999-2000) discovered that even though most teachers in his survey (95.8%) had access to the Internet in their schools, the overwhelming majority used the Internet for little more than collecting information, and almost half of the teachers surveyed were low-frequency users of the In-ternet (p. 99). Cuban, Kirkpatrick, & Peck (2001) affirm this finding, asserting that even in schools where computer hardware is available, many teachers do not necessarily use technology in their instruction. The authors explain that teachers do not have the time to find and evaluate software (Cuban, et. al., 2001, p. 826). Hicks, Tlou, Lee, Parry, & Doolittle (2002) agree, stating that a great deal of preparation is necessary for both the teacher and students if the Internet is going to be used to support inquiry (p. 2). Furthermore, training in how to use different technology resources is seldom offered at convenient times (Cuban, et. al., 2001, p. 826). However, VanFossen (1999) also found that if teachers are given training, they are more likely to use the Internet, thus alleviating this potential barrier.

    Another potential hindrance to teachers use of technology is lack of technical support (Diem, 2000). Bowman, Newman & Masterson (2001) concur that it is critical to give teachers extended time, support, and training when they are first planning lessons that integrate technol-ogy; they contend that teachers adopt technology into their curriculum through a gradual process involving high levels of support and con-sultation throughout. This finding is also reflected in Hsu, Cheng, & Chious 2003 study, which found that a supportive school administra-tion was integral to increasing teachers Internet use.

    In this study, I examined the beliefs and practices of six world history teachers regarding digital primary sources in order to discern factors that facilitated and inhibited their use, as well as the extent to which the teachers used digital primary sources to support historical inquiry. Although it was not my initial focus, it became clear to me through interviews and observations that the world history teachers in this study perceived either a high or low degree of access to computer hardware (such as computers, projectors, and laptops), and a high or low degree of training not only for hardware and software but also for specific applications of the technology to the teaching of world history. Teachers with a high level of training had participated in a social stud-ies-specific technology integration undergraduate course, in which they learned how to use various hardware and software such as computer projectors, digital primary sources, web design, and PowerPoint in

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  • Winter 2006 127

    order to plan historical inquiry lessons. On the other hand, the teachers who had a low level of training had not participated in such a course, nor had they received training from their school (this distribution is further illustrated in Table 1). Therefore, the research question in this study was: How did formal technology training as an instructional tool influence world history teachers use of digital primary sources?

    Table 1. Access to Equipment and Training

    Access to Equipment and Technology Training(Please note that the names of the teachers and schools are fictitious.)

    Access Low Access High

    Training-High

    Ms. Lewin-Lakefront High School (suburban)

    Mr. Mitchell-Eastside High School (urban)

    Ms. Mather-Plains High School (rural)

    Mr. Lukas-Mountainview High School (suburban)

    Training-Low

    Mr. Clark-Lakefront High School (suburban)

    Ms. Pullen-Eastside High School (urban)

    Methods

    To identify a selection of teachers utilizing digital primary sources at different rates, I surveyed thirty-four World History I (pre-1500) and World History II (post-1500) teachers from five public high schools in Virginia about their frequency of use of primary sources and how these primary sources were acquired. I surveyed teachers from five high schools to obtain variability in terms of school size and socio-economic status of the surrounding region. Including variety in the schools studied increased the likelihood that results from this study would adequately describe supports and barriers that were experienced in different school environments.

    The survey asked the teachers to rate their use of primary sources on a scale from 0-3 for each Virginia Standard of Learning (SOL) for World History I or II, where 3 was every day, 2 was at least twice dur-ing a unit, 1 was one time during a unit, and 0 was never. In addition, I asked teachers how they acquired this primary source(s). If a teacher indicated that s/he acquired a primary source(s) from the Internet, s/he was considered to have used a digital primary source for that particular SOL (see Table 2 for a sample SOL from this survey).

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    Table 2. Sample SOL From Survey

    WHII.14The student will demonstrate knowledge of the influence of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism in the contemporary world by

    a) describing their beliefs, sacred writings, traditions, and customs;b) locating the geographic distribution of religions in the contemporary world.

    3 2 1 0

    ___ Textbook (print) materials ___ Other print resources___ Textbook CD-ROMS ___ Internet resources ___ Other

    A wide range was evident in teachers use of digital primary sources. Some teachers did not use digital primary sources for any of the SOLs, and at the other extreme, some teachers used digital primary sources for every SOL. Teachers who used digital primary sources for at least 90% of the SOLs were considered high frequency users, those who used digital primary sources for less than 15% of the SOLs were considered low frequency users, and a middle-frequency user was defined as a teacher who used digital primary sources on 54% of the SOLs (see Figure 1 for a flow chart depicting the participant selection process).

    Figure 1. Flow Chart of Selection of Participants

    34 World History teachers given SOL-based survey on their use of digital primary sources

    Teachers broken into categories of high, middle, and low fre-quency users based on percentage of SOLs in which digital primary sources were used

    Six teachers (3 high-frequency, 2 low-frequency, 1 in the middle) chosen to be interviewed and observed

    From these survey results, I chose six teachers (three high-fre-quency digital primary source users, two low-frequency, and one in the middle) to participate in one in-depth (1.5 hour) interview, one or two unannounced observations (dependi...

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