Primary sources are the building blocks of history, for researchers and students, and providing access to them is pivotal to our attempts to develop our students as researchers and their skills through research-like pedagogies such as inquiry-based and active learning. But providing students with access to primary sources can often prove problematic. Hard-copy sourcebooks are necessarily selective and often focus on providing students either with ‘snippets’ of sources or a series of ‘greatest hits’. These problems are exacerbated for certain chronological periods and geographical areas, while linguistic differences add another layer of complexity to the picture.
This project, which was funded by the Higher Education Academy and took place in summer 2013, explored how we might use online learning environments to construct primary source repositories. There are a lot of primary sources available online and some of them have been collated into substantial websites that many university teachers make use of (e.g. the Fordham University Internet History Sourcebooks Project), but more could be done to tie these different source banks together, to publicise the sources that are already available online and to enable students to engage more actively with the wide array of sources that are available on the Internet (i.e. to find their own primary sources rather than being directed to specific sources by their tutors).
We developed a number of resources as part of this project, including:
- A series of case studies on good practice in using online tools and repositories to teach history.
- Guidelines on using Scoop.it!, an online social bookmarking tool, in (a) teaching, and (b) as a tool for collecting resources.
In January 2014 we also submitted a case study on the project to the Higher Education Academy’s Flexible pedagogies: preparing for the future project which contains a number of reflections on the project and how our learning might be developed further.
Finally, we experimented with using Scoop.it! to collect different source repositories in History, creating a Studying and Teaching History ‘topic’. You can see the results of this exercise here: