Students by day, archivists by night

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:

https://archive-it.org/k12/8MoranMS.html

https://archive-it.org/organizations/332

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Brain food! #NomNom

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of traveling to the University of Maryland—College Park for the 2015 Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI) (http://aeri2015.umd.edu/).

aeri 2015 logo

For those of you who’ve never heard of such a thing, AERI is basically one huge brain feast for archival scholars and educators around the world! For the last seven years, the best of the best archival researchers, writers, scholars, doctoral students (and a few fortunate master’s students like myself!) have gathered together for one week during the summer to present research, exchange ideas, agree, disagree, and most importantly, forge a community of scholars dedicated to strengthening archival research and education. This was my second year attending the Institute. This year, however, I came to the conference with K-12 web archiving heavy on the brain. All week, I challenged myself to find nuggets of theory that would frame K-12 web archiving in ways I’d never considered before. Here are just a few of the “nuggets” I gathered:

Food for thought…

Elizabeth Yakel, University Michigan School of Information, “Research Ecosystems and Archival Research”

At one point during her keynote lecture, Dr. Yakel posed the question, “How can research become a part of students’ university experience—can archival research play a role?”

My thoughts: This question makes me think about the larger, general idea of archives in primary, secondary, and higher education. I know I’ve been focusing on the K-12 Web Archiving Program this summer, but incorporating archives into education doesn’t have to be through web archiving, and it doesn’t have to be in a K-12 environment. Archives can support a wide range of activities that students engage in on a regular basis, particularly, research. In fact, I recently obtained a book entitled Past or Portal?: Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives edited by Eleanor Mitchell, Peggy Seiden, and Suzy Taraba. This book provides forty-seven examples of undergraduate programs that involve students with archives and archival research. While it’s neither necessary nor plausible for every implementation of archives to look the same in all student environments, I think it’s important to constantly study, build off of, adapt, improve, and redefine the various methods archivists and educators are using to support student learning through an archival lens.

Carolyn Hank, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, “Break-up Letters and the Cold Shoulder from Blogademia”

During Dr. Hank’s presentation, she mentioned a concept I’d never heard before. It’s called, “lazy web preservation.” Basically, lazy web preservation occurs when no one actively preserves a site, yet no one does anything to remove it either.  Some of the site’s content or text may continue to exist, but hyperlinks, visuals, colors, media, and images often do not. Hence, the site eventually lacks the original look and feel it once had.

My thoughts: So, in a way, web archiving is the opposite of lazy web preservation. Instead of letting sites persist into an oblivion and eventually “die off,” for whatever reason, web archiving takes a proactive approach and preserves these sites before they have a chance to disappear. With lazy web preservation, it’s possible that only the text or other selected content of a site may remain. The original experience of the site is lost. On the other hand, the very purpose of web archiving is to give future users the experience of a site just as it was the moment it was archived—links, images, media, and all.    

Meghan Ferriter, Smithsonian Transcription Center, “PRODUCT OR PROCESS? Creating Pathways and Catalyzing Adventure in the Archives with the Smithsonian Transcription Center”

After Dr. Ferriter’s keynote lecture, I asked her if students are involved in the Smithsonian’s transcription projects. She answered affirmatively, stating that some undergraduate professors get their students involved. She also mentioned that the Smithsonian is contemplating more ways to get younger students involved with the Smithsonian and its materials, perhaps through “digital field trips.”

My thoughts: Whoa … I like that idea. Digital field trips. Hmm … what would a digital field trip look like for a student? Would it be something like an interactive path students could take through special software or a web application, or does it mean giving students carte blanche to explore the Smithsonian’s digital collections at their leisure? But then again, would this new model discourage students from visiting the physical building of the Smithsonian? Is that something to consider? Well, with a digital field trip, at least we would no longer have to worry about anyone getting lost or left behind (hopefully)!  

Patricia Garcia, UCLA, “Beyond Folksonomies: Assessing the ‘Participatory Turn’ in Archival Studies”

Patricia’s presentation focused on the question, “what do we really mean when we say, “participatory archives?”

My thoughts: This is a good question. The term, “participatory archives” can mean so many different things in so many different contexts. It can mean ordinary community members contributing material to archives; it can mean communities transcribing archival material; it can mean everyday users adding metadata to digital collections; it can mean individuals capturing born-digital materials  and altering them to create a new archives, etc. Like I said, it can mean a lot of things. The issue is, archivists haven’t really defined all of the possibilities that can surround the term “participatory archives.” Hence, we are at a loss for understanding the full implications of this emerging practice. I consider the K-12 Web Archiving Program a form of participatory archives. The question is, do YOU?

 I hope your brain enjoyed #nomming on some questions related to archives, research, and education. Mine sure did!

aeri 2015 photo 1

Can you archive like a fifth grader?

The students at P.S. 174 William Sidney Mount in Queens, NY, like to reach for the stars. Literally! As a school whose mission involves “soaring to excellence,” P.S. 174 is not only home to a diverse, talented, and dedicated group of students, but it is also home to a special group of web archivists led by the one and only Ms. Neme Alperstein.

Neme Alperstein and some of her students with author Matt Blackstone
Neme Alperstein and some of her students with author Matt Blackstone

Students at P.S. 174 enjoy the status of being one of the youngest groups of students to engage in the Archive-It K-12 Web Archiving Program, and thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of Ms. Alperstein, they’ve enjoyed this status for many years. “How,” you might ask, “can anyone get a group of fifth graders to do something like web archiving?” For that answer, you’d have to personally talk to Ms. Alperstein. Oh, wait…you’re in luck, because I already did! Check out some pieces of our conversation and see what makes Ms. Alperstein and her students such a special part of the K-12 Web Archiving Program:

How did you get involved with the K-12 Web Archiving Program?

“I got involved with Archive-It through the Library of Congress,” Ms. Alperstein said. Ms. Alperstein is a teacher with a longstanding relationship with the Library of Congress, as she has taken educational summer courses sponsored by the Library and has served as one of the members of the Teaching with Primary Sources Mentor Advisory Board. Right around the time the program was getting on its feet in 2008, Ms. Alperstein was put in contact with Lori Donovan, an Archive-It team member who introduced her to the program. It didn’t take long for Ms. Alperstein to be intrigued.

What age group do you teach?

“I teach gifted fifth-grade students.”

How do students generally react to the web archiving program?

“The children [are] enthralled,” Ms. Alperstein said. Students are surprised to find out that the program asks them “what they want to archive—not their parents.” Ms. Alperstein said her students feel as though this is “their project.”

How do you get such young students to understand a concept like web archiving?

“You have to personalize it,” Ms. Alperstein explained. Even though her students are still in elementary school, Ms. Alperstein gives them a lot of autonomy. In fact, the idea of being young web archivists makes her students proud. “They are very excited to be some of the younger students involved in the program,” Ms. Alperstein said. “Students come to understand the implications of their work for future research.”

How do you incorporate web archiving into your classroom curriculum? Does the prescribed state curriculum make it difficult to do this?

Ms. Alperstein responded, “[web archiving] is actually easy to justify in any classroom according to state curriculum as long as the teacher is not held to a ‘script’ (which I feel is restrictive). I am fortunate in that the leadership in my school (Karin Kelly, P.S. 174’s principal) understands the power and importance of web archiving, and quite frankly, it addresses easily Common Core with the expectation of students developing research skills, analysis skills, reading informational text, collaborative skills, and more.”

What are some challenges you face? How do you work through them?

Even though she works with young students, Ms. Alperstein does not encounter many behavioral issues that affect the implementation of the web archiving program in her classroom. “I never have to embarrass anybody for acting up,” she says. If a student is not acting appropriately, they quickly realize they “lost a chance to keep up with their peers and contribute to history.” As for technological hurdles, Ms. Alperstein is a pro at getting what she needs. She has been able to obtain a combination of twenty-five desktop computer, laptops, and tablets through grants.  She has been particularly fortunate with funding through Donors Choose.

What most surprises your students during the course of the project?

“Students were amazed to see that websites changed even as they archived sites,” Ms. Alperstein noted. She emphasized how much this helped students understand the importance of their work. Additionally, Ms. Alperstein shared an amazing real-world experience that really hit home for her students:

“I had an experience of creating a website of student work over ten plus years on the AT&T server. One day AT&T announced it was ending its web hosting and claimed it would give people a month to move their sites. Twenty-four hours was more like it and the entire body of work disappeared. The students’ work online and documentation of their awards evaporated. The students in my class sat stunned by the story. There was a realization that now THEIR work could disappear…. We immediately (and I mean IMMEDIATELY) archived the school website (http://ps174.org). No kidding.”

Many of us probably consider ourselves smarter than a fifth grader, but do you think you could archive like a fifth grader? One thing’s for sure…I bet the students at P.S. 174 would give you a run for your money! Be sure to check out the wonderful web archive collections these students have created by visiting https://archive-it.org/k12/12PS174.html or https://archive-it.org/k12/13PS174.html. They’ve archived over one hundred and forty sites! Great work, P.S. 174!

An Independence Day history lesson–no textbooks allowed!

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! Well, almost. I didn’t want to wait until July 4th to make this post because I knew that if I did, everyone would be too busy to see it or read it! So before we fire up our grills, marinate our meats, and purchase our fireworks (be good, y’all…check and make sure the fireworks are consumer certified and legal in your state) let’s kick off a celebration of the July 4th weekend with a good old-fashioned study of American history…….NOT!

Today’s look at American history is anything but old fashioned. We’re going to look at American history through the eyes of the web, and guess who’s going to help us do it? K-12 web archivists, of course! Over the years, students participating in the Archive-it K-12 Web Archiving Program have managed to create over two hundred amazing collections that preserve websites for future use. Some of these collections focus on American history, so in honor of the July 4th holiday, I am going to highlight a few of these great collections that both document and celebrate American history, people, and events. So whether you’re an American or not, get ready to experience a “new-fashioned” way of studying history!

School: Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax, VA

Collection title: “History”

Year of capture: 2012

Number of URLs: 8

Link to collection: https://archive-it.org/collections/3000

This collection is exciting because it provides a nice balance of sites that document national current events and local Virginia history in 2012. Some sites document the 2012 presidential campaign and the activities of the White House while others have more of a local focus and introduce users to Virginia’s history. This collection even includes a little international history thanks to a capture of The History Channel website. Here’s a little peek into a couple interfaces you will see in this collection (click on the photos to make them a little bigger):

paul vi photo 1paul vi photo 2

School: New York City Public School 56 Q – The Harry Eichler School, Richmond Hill, NY

Collection title: “Social Studies”

Year of capture: 2009

Number of URLs: 7

Link to collection: https://archive-it.org/collections/1366

I love this collection because it documents history in such a student-friendly way. The archived sites are resources that students can safely access and use to mold their understanding of American history. This collection not only helps us understand American heritage but it shows us how elementary school students in 2009 were learning about history through the web. Take a look at some of the sites you can enjoy as a part of this web archive collection:

nyc 56 photo 1nyc 56 photo 2

School: New York City Public School 56 Q – The Harry Eichler School, Richmond Hill, NY

Collection title: “That’s Not Funny!”

Year of capture:2009

Number of URLs: 3

Link to collection: https://archive-it.org/collections/1427 

Take a look at this collection, and you’ll never view American history the same way again. These sites give us the humorous side of American history by displaying political cartoons and satirizing American people and events. Political cartoons and poking fun at history is definitely an American tradition. If you’re an American, enjoy this collection and get a good laugh. If you a non-American, get a good laugh, but try not to make fun of us too much afterwards! Here’s a sneak peek:

nyc 56 photo 3nyc photo 4

Now who ever said American history was boring??? Happy Fourth, everyone!