Thursday, May 22, 2008

Who Can You Trust?: Websites for MS Social Studies

Staff writers at Digital Directions point to the need for critique and analysis when using Internet sources in your middle school, or any level, social studies classes. For example, one of the first matches in a Google search on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be The site bills itself as "a valuable resource for teachers and students alike." But the site is hosted by Stormfront, a white supremacist organization and is packed with false and misleading "facts" and PDFs and posters that call for the repeal of Martin Luther King Day and promote King as a "liar, cheater and traitor."

This one example shows that along with the excellent and well-vetted comes the spun, the misleading and the outright false:
Sitting at a computer, students can browse collections such as the photographer Mathew Brady’s classic pictures from the Civil War, or watch Thomas Edison’s early films through the Library of Congress’ site. But elsewhere on the Web, they may stumble across sites that deny the Holocaust took place or that propound other wild and inaccurate claims.
The best way to handle this, with middle schoolers especially, is to recommend sites for them to use for research and collaborative organization or interested researchers projects that have been vetted by you, a professional who are reliable. In a bid to help and spread the word, the Library of Congress holds free teacher-training sessions at national conferences and in Washington, D.C., that include "strategies for helping students examine Web sites to determine if information is authentic."

Another big help is a new website hosted by the National History Education Clearinghouse and supported by a U.S. Department of Education grant. The site features "best practices, teaching materials, lesson plans, policy and research, and professional development for instructors" along with a customized Google search to "provide primary sources and places to get primary sources that have been checked for authenticity." Other reliable websites listed in the article include:

SOURCE: "Critiquing History, Social Studies Sites Requires a Skeptical Approach" 03/06/08
photo courtesy of dbking, used under this Creative Commons license

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