Listening to Teachers: Delivering Digital Primary Sources Differently

Shana Crosson, USA , Rose Sherman, USA

The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) has long delivered curriculum and content for the K-12 audience. Recently, significant changes in the needs of this audience has resulted in major initiatives to improve services to 21st century learners, focusing on the K-12 audiences of teachers and students. These initiatives have meant revisions to field trips, curriculum, programming and online resources, to name a few. Another major area of focus has been the delivery of digital content, including the delivery of digital primary sources. Teachers were constantly asking for digital primary sources. We had our collections online, wasn’t that enough?

It definitely wasn’t enough. As we talked to teachers, we learned there was quite a bit more that we could do to make our resources accessible and usable for the K-12 audience. The research for primary source delivery intensified with a four-day intensive workshop with teachers, user testing and ongoing collaboration models with teachers. Questions we wanted to answer included:

  • Do teachers and students need different access points?
  • How much contextual information needs to be delivered with the resource, if any?
  • How do we decide which resources to select for digital delivery?
  • How do teachers and students decide which objects to use?
  • How do students interact with images of resources?
  • Does the choice of resource change based on the age of the student? Were the needs of younger students the same as older students?
  • Does a K12 teacher want access to all sources? or a curated set?

The findings from this research led MHS to develop a new model for delivering digital primary sources to  K-12 students and teachers, as well as to a paradigm shift about what  resources we presented, how many resources presented and the information presented with the resources.

To test the model, we have established a pilot project with a well-defined set of resources for starters. The project is having a major impact in the following areas:

  • What primary sources will be delivered online,
  • How the resources are delivered,
  • What information is available about the resource, and
  • How the resources are discoverable.

This new model requires significant cross-departmental cooperation and  changes to the traditional workflow in the organization. Staff from many departments are involved, including collections processors, digitization, IT staff, curators and educators. A key component of the project is continuing collaboration with teachers at all grade levels and multiple subject areas.

While the project is still in the pilot stage, we are testing workflows, time commitments, roles and budgets. The response from our ultimate audience, the teachers and students, has been very positive.

This paper will present the research findings as well as a progress report of the pilot project to date.