Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Five: Create, Express, Learn with Primary Source Material

This week, I'd like to share some powerful web resources that use the increasing amount of primary source materials online and have the power to engage students using digital tools and their desire to express themselves.

As an educator who believes in teaching students to honor intellectual property, I'm always looking for sites that include materials students can use to create multimedia projects. Fair use guidelines gives us some flexibility in using multimedia inside our classroom. But in the world of Web 2.0, the audience for these media projects has expanded outside our classroom, with more and more interest in publishing for an authentic global audiences. All one has to do is look at the popularity of You Tube and other video sharing sites to know that young people are highly motivated to express themselves to audiences outside the classroom. Thanks to the Creative Commons license, more and more materials are available online that students can use to create and publish their multimedia productions for a global audience.

This week, I'd like to share 5 sites that go one step further than Creative Commons materials. These sites host primary source materials and encourage young people to use them to produce and publish their own creations. Some even include online tools to help students with the process.


This site was created by a voter registration organization who wanted to keep the young people they registered involved and engaged. To do this, they provided them with free online tools and raw materials through “America Now” and “America Then” playlists. Remix America encourages students to draw parallels between the present and the past. They hope that viewing seminal speeches and events from American History will inspire young people to express themselves and take action on the issues that matter to them.

Teachers around America have stumbled across Remix America and incorporated the materials in their classroom. One teacher asked her students to take a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and apply it to the 2008 election. Another asked her students to create PSAs on the issues that matter most to them – censorship, war, civil rights. You can browse through “Favorite Remixes” section to see some of these great remixes!


    NASA has done something similar to engage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The NASA's Do-It-Yourself Podcast activity provides students with audio clips, video, and photos related to space. Students can use the NASA materials to produce their own audio or video productions.


PrimaryAccess is a web-based tool that offers teachers and students access to digital images and other materials that enable them to construct movies using tools provided by the web site.

Although many of the primary source materials are photograph and still images, the tools provided on the website allows students to add motions to create a movie effect. I first learned about Primary Access while listening to Glen Bull's presentation during the 2008 K-12 online conference.


    This project is slightly different in that it not only provides the raw materials for students to produce a video, but also complete an advocacy event. The project requires schools to register and the topic is more focused. According to the project web site “Each year, Take 2 shoots 2-3 months of high definition footage in a different conflict region and creates extensive supporting and background documentation then licenses the package free of charge to qualified educational institutions. Participating schools will complete one small task to help grow Take 2’s infrastructure and undertake at least one advocacy event upon completion of their projects


    This website is not yet populated with lots of materials, but has promise in offering students free, educational, copyright-friendly media resources. According to the project website “Students and teachers around the world can access pre-made collections, or "kits," of various digital assets - still images, background music, narratives, video and text. Each kit is built around a common theme, or curricular topic. For students, this becomes the construction paper of the 21st century --allowing them to create reports and projects filled with rich, immersive media for communicating their vision of whatever subjects they chose. AS they master the technology, they will progress from building projects with supplied materials to projects where they find or create their own resources -- a strategy that results in truly authentic assessment as measured by the projects produced."

Have you discovered similar collection of primary source raw materials and tools that encourage students to create and express themselves? I'd love to find more of these.