At James H. Moran Middle School in Wallingford, CT, things are not always as they seem. From 8:00 a.m. to 2:25 p.m., students taking Mr. Paul Bogush’s social studies classes may look like students, dress like students, and act like students, but once school hours have come to an end, some of them take on an entirely new identity…
They become web archivists!
Take a look at this amazing video from a few years ago that talks all about web archiving at James H. Moran Middle School:
Since 2008, Mr. Bogush has faithfully guided groups of students at James H. Moran Middle School in an after-school program dedicated to web archiving. These students, who engage in the program of their own volition, have had a huge hand in making the Archive-It K-12 Web Archiving Program what it is today. From being one of the first schools to participate in the program, to getting filmed by the Library of Congress, to archiving a whopping fifteen million documents (and it’s still growing!), students at Moran Middle School have proven themselves to be some of the most wonderful student web archivists of our time. Earlier this week, I enjoyed a great conversation with Mr. Bogush about web archiving at Moran Middle School. Here are some pieces of our inspiring conversation:
How long have you been an educator, and what subjects/grade levels have you taught?
Mr. Bogush has been an educator for about twenty-five to twenty-six years. For the last twenty-four years, he’s enjoyed teaching eighth grade social studies. Last year he transitioned to seventh grade social studies.
What initially made you interested in the Library of Congress/Archive-It K-12 Web Archiving Program?
“It seemed like a one-of-a-kind program that would get my kids involved with the Library of Congress,” Mr. Bogush said. It was the “cool factor.” At the time, there were only about six schools involved in the program, so Mr. Bogush knew this would be a “prestigious thing for students.” He said, “essentially, they would be writing history, interpreting what history is for this age group.”
How supportive was your school as you embarked on this new venture?
“The school was supportive,” Mr. Bogush confirmed. He said it is always good when teachers get involved with really neat things that few others schools are doing.
The first year you became involved with the program, how did you introduce it to students?
“As a social studies teacher, you talk about who writes history, from what perspectives … who’s history are we actually reading?” Mr. Bogush said. So he asked his students, “One thousand or even five thousand years from now, what are people going to think about you?” His students began to realize, “people who don’t really know us are going to be deciding what to save [and] what was important to us.” Mr. Bogush then asked his students, “what if you were given the opportunity to write your own history?” Students began to understand the web archiving project as something akin to a time capsule.
How do students select which websites to preserve?
Unlike some other educators involved in the program, Mr. Bogush takes a very hands-off approach. “I totally and completely stay out of the process,” he said. He simply emphasizes to his students, “You’re not saving what you think other people think is important.” Mr. Bogush further explained that his students are not web archiving to preserve the most important events of their time, which will probably be saved anyway. Instead, his students are “saving who they are.”
Do students enjoy creating metadata?
“They find it kind of quirky,” Mr. Bogush responded. Students find it awkward to explain simple things like baseball in a description because these activities are so familiar to them. Mr. Bogush helps his students understand that writing metadata for future researchers is equivalent to explaining something to a foreigner.
What do students enjoy most about the web archiving process?
“The exclusivity of it,” Mr. Bogush said. “One time we did the math, and they are one of about three hundred kids in the entire world writing history.”
How has web archiving affected your students personally and socially?
Mr. Bogush said the web archiving program has given his students a sense of pride and a higher level of self-esteem. His students relish the fact that “this is something for the country … much bigger than just their locale.” Mr. Bogush also made a candid observation about how different the web archiving program is from traditional school work. “We mostly give kids ‘fake assignments’—things that will be given a grade and then go into the garbage. For the first time, students are being asked to be a part of something that is permanent. ”
How have you benefited from the program as an educator?
“I include more primary sources in the units I’ve taught,” Mr. Bogush mentioned. Web archiving has also made Mr. Bogush consider historical perspectives and biases more. It has made him more aware of his responsibility to document his perspective of the world. “For the last five years, I’ve been … keeping a record of what is going on in our school,” he said. He takes his camera everywhere, snapping images and categorizing photos. He and his students have even made videos documenting events that have happened in the school. “We realize we are historians, not just participants.”
What was it like for the Library of Congress to interview you and your students a few years ago?
“Awesome! It wasn’t as big as a Hollywood film, but for the kids, it was Hollywood to them.”
Want to see collections from Moran Middle School? I thought you would! Follow these links: