Electronic Outreach: Cutting Edge of Title VI Outreach to the K-12 Community
From the inception of the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI National Resource Centers (NRCs) for International and Area Studies in the early 1960s, outreach services have been the absolute priority for the program, with special emphasis on teacher training at the K-12 level. Traditionally, NRCs have conscientiously fulfilled the outreach mandate by providing a variety of services to the K-12 community, including:
In-service teacher training workshops and seminars. These can range from half-day to four-week specialized summer seminars and overseas study programs such as Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad;
Development of specialized curricular and teaching materials: curricular modules, lesson plans, thematic slide-tape presentations, and newsletters that are available to educators;
Development of resource materials and specialized library collections such as texts, maps, photos, music-tapes, CDs, films, and videos;
Simulation programming for students: model United Nations, model Organization of American States, model Organization of African Unity; and
Classroom presentations by international students and professional outreach staff.
Title VI outreach programs extend to and have a positive impact on many teachers and students throughout the United States. Benefits of quality Web-based outreach, the World Wide Web, and the ready availability of computers in most U.S. schools allows Title VI centers to significantly expand and diversify their outreach efforts through the relatively inexpensive development of quality resources for K-12 educators and students that can be shared widely with virtually no geographical limits.
The thoughtful and careful development of Web resources for K-12 educators and students has already demonstrated benefits, among them:
Web materials provide the opportunity to share quality resources beyond local and state constituencies to national and even international audiences of educators and students. NRCs which have developed Web resources for the K-12 community report widespread national and international use of their resources and services.
The Web provides for detailed assessment of materials by clients and for the direct contribution of educators to existing materials, resulting in the improvement of resources offered on the Web.
Creatively developed Web resources and programs facilitate students’ engagement with the vast body of knowledge available on the Web. This interactivity provides students with the opportunity to be personally engaged in the learning process (the construction of knowledge) resulting in a sustained commitment to learning in general, and to international engagement, in particular.
Through digitization, a relatively inexpensive and user-friendly technology, existing outreach materials such as curricular modules, lesson plans, newsletters, maps, photo/slide collections are shared nationally with the K-12 community.
Web-based materials are easily modified to meet specific needs of a particular K-12 audience or client.
Web-based materials and programs are readily modified to meet changing demands from state and national curricular standards, guidelines, and benchmarks.
Digitization allows an NRC to highlight and share on the Web a Center’s particular or unique resource collections.
The Web provides educators and students with the opportunity for direct access to alternative perspectives from around the world. Through their outreach Web sites NRCs provide the K-12 community with links to online newspapers, magazines, radio, and occasionally television coverage from countries on which the center focuses.
Many universities, foundations, and not-for-profit research organizations are engaged in projects for digitizing a wide variety of primary texts and cultural resources, including written and recorded narratives, documents, art, and music recordings. The digitized documents and artifacts from these projects are becoming readily available to the scholarly community. Outreach Web initiatives link to appropriate online archives providing K-12 educators and learners with direct access to primary sources that would otherwise not be available to them.
Guidelines for Developing Quality Web-Based Materials for the K-12 Community
Despite the tremendous potential of the Web as a way to deliver international and area studies outreach, it is essential that institutions think carefully when developing and designing outreach materials for the Web. The following suggested guidelines are not exhaustive, but come from the experiences of NRC outreach programs that have developed extensive Web-based materials:
Actively engage and seek the advice of K-12 educators who are the intended users of the materials. Most teachers and curriculum specialists actively engage the Web as part of their work; therefore their experience will inform what will work and what teachers and students need. In addition, educators who have responsibility to teach area and global studies (world cultures, world history, world geography, etc.) will know what type of Web-based curricular resources will be most helpful to teachers and students.
Build in mechanisms for easy feedback and assessment from educators and students who use the site.
Prior to developing materials become familiar with national and state level standards and benchmarks for the social studies, language arts, and humanities courses for the grade levels that the materials target. Remember that no matter how wonderful the materials are, teachers are not likely to use materials that do not relate to required standards and benchmarks.
Work closely with campus experts on Web design, particularly those who have experience with Web-based, online instruction.
Insure high-quality links. There are a multitude of sites that have international and area studies content, but not all are appropriate to K-12 students. Thoroughly vet sites before linking to them.
While many of the interactive features of the Web have exciting educational possibilities, it is important to resist the temptation to put technology ahead of substance. Including too much technology will limit the number of students and schools who will be able to access the site because cutting edge technology requires users to have powerful, memory loaded computers, a luxury that many schools do not have.
Approaches to Web-Based Outreach to the K-12 Community
Over the past decade an increasing number of NRCs and Language Resource Centers have developed Web sites oriented specifically to the K-12 community. Centers have used a number of different approaches to developing these projects. These approaches include:
Digitization of Existing Curricular and Teaching Resources: Many NRC outreach programs began using the Web as an outreach tool by digitizing and mounting on the Web existing outreach materials such as curriculum modules, model lesson plans, special map and photo collections. Dr. Ali Ali-Dinar, of the African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania, is the pioneer among NRCs in digitization and systematic presentation of extisting outreach materials on the Web. http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/K-12/AFR_GIDE.html
Digitization of Special Collections: Many universities with NRCs have special international or area specific collections of texts, photos, music, and art work that, prior to the development of the Web, were not readily available to the K-12 community. A number of NRCs in collaboration with libraries, archives, and museums, have undertaken projects to digitize collections and to make the collections available on the Web to this community. For example, Africa Focus: Sites and Sounds of a Continent, a collaborative endeavor between the African Studies Program and the University Libraries at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, systematically presents thousands of digitized images and original music recording. http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/AfricaFocus/.
Other NRCs have collaborated with art museums to digitize art exhibitions that students can tour virtually. The Michigan State University Museum has digitized a number of special exhibits including, Drinking the Word of God: Expressions of Faith and the Search for Well-Being in Two West African Communities, http://www.museum.msu.edu/Exhibitions/Virtual/
DrinkingtheWordofGod/, and Ethiopia: Traditions of Creativity, http://www.h-net.org/~etoc/.
Clearinghouse for Quality Teaching and Learning Resources: A number of NRC outreach programs have developed comprehensive Web sites that serve as clearinghouses for international and area studies Web resources that are relevant to K-12 teachers and students. An excellent example of this approach is the Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC) developed by the Institute for Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin. LANIC provides educators and students with systematic, user-friendly links to resources on Latin American and Caribbean culture, history, economics, politics and current affairs, in addition to teaching resources developed by a number of other Latin America NRCs. http://lanic.utexas.edu/.
Development of Comprehensive Web-Based Curriculum: Another approach to the use of the Web for K-12 outreach is the development of comprehensive area-focused curricula that make use of the benefits of the Web and which correspond to national and state standards and benchmarks for the social studies, humanities, and language arts. Exploring Africa, a collaborative initiative of Michigan State University’s African Studies Center, the College of Education, and MATRIX (Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online), is an example of such an endeavor. Exploring Africa, is developing an original, five unit, 30 module interactive curriculum on Africa for middle and high school educators and learners. Development of the curriculum project began in 2001 and is currently online. http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/.
Pan World Archive of Outreach Materials: In 2003, under the leadership of Jonathan Friedlander of the Center for Near Eastern Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, all NRCs and LRCs are contributing Web-based materials to a central clearinghouse for international and area studies educational materials for the K-12 community. The Web site is called Outreach World: A Resource for Teaching Kids About the World. When completed this resource will provide educators with a one-stop clearinghouse where they can search for resources on all world areas. http://www.outreachworld.org/.
Specialized Electronic Databases: A number of NRCs are engaged in developing specialized electronic databases that provide the educational community with access to information to enhance teaching and research. One such project, the Africa Media Program’s Electronic Data Base developed at Michigan State University, is comprised of more than 10,000 Africa related films and videos. The searchable database allows educators to search for films and videos by topic, region, country, audience (e.g. K-12 students), and it provides a critique of the film or video and an assessment of the suitability of the film or video for a particular audience. http://www.ngsw.org/~afrmedia/.
Digitization of Primary Sources: There are an increasing number of university and foundation-based projects involved in digitization of primary resources including original historical documents, oral interviews, historical photographs, specialized historical maps, music recordings, etc. While the primary objectives of these projects are preservation and increased accessibility within the scholarly community, these Web projects provide opportunities for K-12 communities to also access these collections. For example it allows high school students to undertake research projects that make use of primary source materials that would otherwise be inaccessible.
An example of digitization of primary resources which can be accessed and used by the K-12 community is the Africa Online Digital Library, a collaborative endeavor of the Michigan State University and the Dakar-based West African Research Center, which is digitizing historical written, oral, and photographic materials from West Africa. http://africandl.org/.
Computer technology and the World Wide Web play a central role in the lives of many American youth, and computers have become increasingly important in the U.S. classroom. In addition, the Web provides students with direct access to an incredible array of international and global information and data. Combined, computer technology and the Web provide international and area studies specialists with an unequalled and unprecedented opportunity to constructively engage K-12 educators and students in learning about our world with its great diversity and complexities. However, the full potential of the Web as a learning resource can only be realized through thoughtfully and carefully planned programming that is based on sound pedagogical principles and that is responsive to the curricular needs and realities of U.S. classrooms.