'I've never really been interested in history before but...' Young peoples; views of online digital archives

Authors: Crossen-White, H. and Turner-Wilson, A.

Start date: 26 June 2017

Digitized collections are ‘a rich source of instructional material for history teachers’ [1, p. 314] but it has been noted these ‘remained largely underused’. There is ‘a growing interest in both improving the user experience and in justifying the creation of digital collections to multiple stakeholders’ [2, p. 339]. Within the UK an estimated £130m has been invested in digitisation projects [3]. Recent changes to the UK National Curriculum for history have placed greater emphasis upon the importance of understanding methods of historical enquiry and the use of evidence. Therefore, the digitized collections created by this investment should be a vital classroom tool. This study set out to investigate within the UK the level of awareness of these resources and their value to young learners aged 8–16 years. There were two stages to this qualitative study. Stage one was the delivery of a workshop which introduced young learners to a range of digital archives. After this the young people were given a period of time to use the online archives and explore the different forms of historical evidence. Stage two involved focus groups with a sample of the young people during which participants were asked to discuss their end-user experience. Key findings included enhanced personal learning experience, development of a personal connection to the past, and identification of issues related to usability and practical application in a classroom learning context.

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