About this Site

Over the last ten years, we have worked with more than a dozen teachers experimenting with digital documentary projects in 5th through 12th grade social studies classrooms. While there were clear successes and promising results from these projects, we also identified significant challenges and issues to consider.

Perhaps the most problematic and fundamental challenge we encountered involved the class time required to implement a digital documentary exercise. While the variety of content skills learned or reinforced in developing a digital documentary (history content, writing process, inquiry, synthesis, communication, etc.) are certainly valuable, in an era of high-stakes testing, it is difficult to devote large blocks of time to a single project – particularly given the ever-expanding scope of the social studies curriculum. For this type of project to be more easily implemented in the history classroom, we need to find ways to pare down the time required for implementation. As we tinkered with the process in primarily history classrooms, we found that developing and then loading on to each computer an archive of images and music helped students more efficiently develop their movies. While this required “up-front” time, the anticipation of possible student choices, and careful attention to providing multiple perspectives in the archival resources, significantly reduced “in class” time and, even more importantly, encouraged more interesting historical work.

By providing digital moviemaking kits on Digital Docs in a Box, we hope to address the issues that have arisen within our research. The current structure of the site includes a link to the current documentary kits: Civil Rights Movement, The Great Depression, Age of Imperialism, Presidential Inaugurations and Women’s suffrage. Each kit is anchored in a question. For example, the question students investigate within the Civil Rights kit is: How did the actions of young people after the Brown decision help continue the struggle for civil rights? Within the kit, there are a collection of annotated documents, images and audio clips primarily from the Library of Congress. Additionally, there is also an overview of the kit and an introduction to the collection.

Funded with a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program, Digital Docs in a Box was designed for teachers who, like us, find the digital documentary process in social studies rewarding but time consuming. Currently on the site are eleven digital documentary kits *. Within each kit, there are a collection of annotated documents, images and audio clips primarily from the Library of Congress—all resources are copyright free and easily downloadable. To orient both the teacher and students, we have also provided both an overview of the kit and an introduction to the collection. Our hope is that by providing this resource, we can assist teachers to efficiently and effectively engage their students in the documentary process.

A partnership between the College of William & Mary School of Education, the University of Kentucky College of Education,
and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program