July 21, 2009 — PrimaryAccess, a Web-based tool created by the University of Virginia's Center for Technology and Teacher Education, which allows students to create short documentaries using a collection of more than 20,000 primary source images, has been recognized as one of 25 "Best Web Sites for Teaching and Learning."
The American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association, devised the list of the top sites for enhancing learning and curriculum development. All are free, user-friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover, according to the association's Web site. The Top 25 sites also support the association's "Standards for the 21st-Century Learner."
PrimaryAccess draws on a collection of primary source images from archives such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute and others.
"PrimaryAccess was designed for middle- and high-school students to create mini 'Ken Burns-like' documentaries that are narrated in their own voices," project director Bill Ferster said. Since it is completely Web-based, students can work on their movies anywhere and can share them with parents and others.
A recent study was funded by the Jessie B. duPont Foundation to test PrimaryAccess' efficacy. "We wanted to assess the affect of using multimedia to incorporate primary source documents into social studies teaching to see if it influences learning outcomes," said Glen Bull, co-director of the Curry Center for Technology and Teacher Education and professor of instructional technology.
The study looked at experimental and control groups in middle and secondary social studies classes. Students using PrimaryAccess did just as well on a test of historic content knowledge as students who received traditional instruction, but the engagement in the movie-making was much higher.
"The task force worked very hard to target Web sites that support learner-centered, inquiry-based curriculum," said Pam Berger, who chaired the American Association of School Librarians task force that selected the top 25 sites. "In the hands of knowledgeable educators, these innovative and versatile Web 2.0 tools and resources can be used to engage and motivate students in the learning process and to develop 21st-century skills."
The list will be updated annually based on feedback and nominations from members, she noted.
PrimaryAccess was developed by the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education at the Center for Technology and Teacher Education and funded by grants from the Jessie B. duPont Foundation and the Library of Congress' PrimarySource Learning project. PrimaryAccess is freely available for students and teachers. An example of a student-produced documentary can be found here.
About the American Association of School Librarians
The American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association, promotes the improvement and extension of library media services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library media field.