Project Spotlight

Civil War and Digital Storytelling: Perspectives on Abraham Lincoln [Nevada]

website image, unattributed, lincoln and pinkerton

To what extent can digital tools support history education and foster historical thinking skills?

In Clark County, Nevada, the Teaching American History (TAH) grant for elementary school, Inside American History offers an example of the possibilities. The program utilized digital storytelling techniques to study the Civil War era and to focus on Abraham Lincoln. Christy Keeler, Ph.D, Clark County's pedagogy scholar, explains the work of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers involved with the TAH grant:

Their assignment was to script a digital story using a R-A-F-T (Role-Audience-Format-Topic) strategy, record it with an iTalk attachment to their video iPods, and edit/embellish their stories using Audacity. Their topic had to relate to the Civil War era and had to be suitable for use in an intermediate level classroom.

With the exception of two group meetings, the five-week course took place in cyberspace, taking advantage of free, open-source digital tools. Websites were built using Gmail's free blogging tool, Blogger. The audio-editing application, Audacity, served as recording software. The bookmarking tool, Delicious consolidated and categorized primary and secondary resources.

Civil War and Digital Storytelling serves as the main website for the grant. The site includes lectures on the Civil War era (including discussions of Abraham Lincoln) a module syllabus, detailed descriptions of module assignments (these serve as classroom activities for both K–12 and in-service teachers), slides from class presentations, and resources for teachers relating to the Civil War.

Keeler writes, "There are many sample stories posted online at Audio Digital Storytelling. One story about Lincoln, however, is truly exemplary: Lincoln's Pen." Masterfully edited, multiple voices bring the words of Lincoln to life within the context of biography and the chronology of events.

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