America in Class Lessons Project Recognized by Center for Research Libraries
The National Humanities Center has received the 2014 Primary Source Award for Teaching from the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) for its interactive America in Class® Lessons. The award recognizes faculty, researchers, and others in the academic community who incorporate primary source materials like historical documents and literary texts into classroom instruction in innovative ways.
In presenting the award, the CRL described the America in Class Lessons as “an innovative program that embodies an impressive combination of timeliness, collaboration, convenience, and educational excellence.”
The National Humanities Center has supported precollegiate teaching since 1984. Its America in Class Lessons are part of its extensive suite of digital resources for teachers. “In creating these new lessons, we’ve tried to bring e-learning software to bear upon the interpretation of texts,” said Richard Schramm, the Center’s vice president for Education Programs. “As far as we know, this is a novel application of digital technology to the humanities.”
Developed by the Center’s Education Programs staff in consultation with leading experts in American history and literature, each lesson positions a single document or key excerpts for detailed study. “We scaffold each text with a framing question, a background note, an essential understanding, and teaching advice,” said Schramm, “but at the heart of each lesson are challenging analytical questions and engaging interactive exercises.”
The interactive exercises highlight particularly important features in a text by giving students the opportunity to select among various interpretative choices. In a lesson on a speech by the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, for example, interactive exercises challenge students to thread their way through the logic of his argument and add their own ideas to his case.
“Our lessons are an ideal resource for schools that are integrating technology into teaching, especially for those adopting tablets,” Schramm said. “We’ve designed them so that they can be used for individual instruction, whole-class, or small-group work.”
The Center for Research Libraries — an international consortium of university, college, and independent research libraries — supports advanced research and teaching by preserving and making available to scholars critical primary source material. It inaugurated the Primary Source Award for Teaching in 2009.