Designing Digital Primary Source Inquiries for Elementary Learners With KidCitizen

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Participate and share : Poster

Dr. Michael Berson  
Dr. Ilene Berson  
Bert Snow  

In KidCitizen’s interactive episodes, K-5 children explore civics and history by investigating primary source photographs from the Library of Congress. Using the free KidCitizen Editor, teachers can create their own episodes using photographs they choose. This hands-on workshop will build the skills needed to start creating!

Audience: Library media specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: In our poster session, we will be introducing attendees to the KidCitizen Editor, a cloud-based editor that enables teachers to create and share interactive primary-source activities with students.

Participants aren't required to sign in to or use the KidCitizen Editor during the poster session, but are welcome to do so. They can simply set up their account during the session, so no preparation is required.

However, if participants wish to explore the Editor in advance of the Workshop, they can set up an account at The KidCitizen Editor is free for teachers to create activities for their students, with support from the Library of Congress.

Topic: Innovation in early childhood/elementary
Grade level: PK-5
Subject area: Social studies
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
  • Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this workshop will be to introduce participants to the KidCitizen resources for K-5 students, and to give them the skills and background needed to start creating interactive primary-source activities for their students, using the free KidCitizen Editor.

Participants will:
- Discuss age-appropriate pedagogy for engaging young children with primary sources and identify historical photographs that work best for elementary students.
- Learn about the KidCitizen interactive episodes and platform
- Explore the KidCitizen Editor, and develop the skills needed to get started creating episodes.
- Get introduced to tutorials and other help resources to further develop skills and support creation of activities

KidCitizen is based on research-informed pedagogy for young children engaging and learning with primary sources. KidCitizen offers a growing set of Episodes for teachers to use, along with the KidCitizen Editor that allows teachers to create episodes featuring primary sources that are relevant to their communities and students.

KidCitizen runs in the browser on PCs, Macs, and IOS and Android mobile devices. It is always free for teachers and students with support from the Library of Congress.
KidCitizen episodes can easily be shared with students via simple links, or embedded into websites or LMS pages.


KidCitizen Editor Workshop Outline
The workshop will be mostly hands-on, with attendees working on laptops using the KidCitizen editor to create a simple primary-source exploration episode with provided digital materials.

1. Introduction and background (7 min)
a.Introduction to KidCitizen project and Episodes.
b. Quick look at one KidCitizen Episode, with discussion of pedagogy and approach.
2. Hands on: Learning the KidCitizen Editor: Attendees will work with provided materials to create a simple first episode, learning basic techniques as they do.
a. Setting up your Editor account. (5 min)
b. Starting your first Episode (attendees each will create a short episode) (5 min)
c. Quick overview of the Editor user interface (5 min)
d. Adding the first photograph (3 min)
e. Setting up selection and “Zoom” areas. (10 min)
f. Creating feedback messages from helper character Ella (5 min)
g. Collecting to the Journal. (5 min)
3. Working on your own: Where to find help resources and tutorials, and a quick look at advanced tools (5 min)
4. Quick tips and tricks for finding great resources in the Library of Congress digital archives. (5 min)

Supporting research

Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., & Snow, B. (2017). KidCitizen: Designing an app for inquiry with primary sources. Social Education, 81(2), 105-108.
Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., Dennis, D.V., & Powell, R. (2017). Leveraging literacy: Research on critical reading in the social studies. In M. M. Manfra & C. M. Bolick (Eds.), Handbook of social studies research (pp. 414-439). Boston, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Ledford, E., Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., & Ledford, A. (2019). Mrs. Mink goes to Washington: The first Japanese American member of Congress. Social Studies and the Young Learner.
Varga, B. A., Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., & Snow, B. (2019). Behind the lens: Sourcing photographs with KidCitizen. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 31(4), 28-32.
Berson, I. R., & Villotti, K. (2019). A position paper of early childhood in the social studies context. Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies. Available from studies-context
Berson, I. R., Bennett, L., Dobson, D., Heckart, K., Bauml, M., Christensen, L. M., Fillpot, E., Palmer, P., & Robles-Melendez, W. (2017). Powerful, purposeful pedagogy in elementary school social studies. Social Education, 81(3), 186-189.

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Dr. Michael Berson, University of South Florida
Dr. Ilene Berson, University Of South Florida
Bert Snow, KidCitizen, Snow&Co

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