As technology constantly changes, it provides teachers with new opportunities for fostering critical thinking skills and engaging students more effectively. For social studies teachers, digitized primary sources have become more important than ever. When used correctly, primary sources allow students to think, question, and act like true historians by compeling students to think about point of view, biases, and why some accounts of an event might vary. Primary documents allow students to begin to understand the complexities of the past and develop a relationship with the time period or event they are researching. Issues and people that seem distant in a textbook become important and authentic in a primary document.

Digitized history documents can help educators teach students to use technology in a way that promotes active habits of mind (Tally and Goldenberg, 2005). Students will be observing the document and its features, activating prior knowledge, hypothesizing, making personal connections, and gathering evidence that either supports or conflicts with their hypothesis (Tally and Goldberg, 2005). Furthermore, not only are primary documents easily accessible, educators can now reach students with different learning styles by using sources that range from textual, audio, and image.
external image letter_000.jpg


Primary sources don't have to be confined to the social studies classroom. Other content areas such as English and science could greatly benefit from the use of primary sources. Digitized primary source documents on American history are available from the following websites:

The National Archives
This website is maintained by the Nation Archives of the United States and has many teacher resources including sample lesson plans. Here, you can find documents from 1754 to the present time.
Library of Congress National Digital Library Program
The Library of Congress has a myriad of digital primary resources ranging from historic newspapers to audio history. This website also provides searchable archives of historic web pages.
The Supreme Court of the United States
The SCOTUS website provides primary source information on Supreme Court cases, including oral testimony, which makes it a great resources for addressing multiple learning styles.
George Mason University's History Matters
This website was created as a collaboration between George Mason University and the City University of New York. It contains many teacher and student resources, including how historians use primary documents to learn about the past.

Happy hunting!

Sources:
Tally, Bill and Goldenberg, Lauren B. "Fostering Historical Thinking With Digitized Primary Sources."Journal of Research on Technology in Education 38, no. 1 (2005): 1-21.