Given the huge amount of information available online now, I’m interested in ways in which teachers can use existing databases and resources within their teaching.
There’s an interesting post over at Ancarett’s Abode about how she uses the Old Bailey Online database in her teaching.
The Old Bailey Online site is ‘A fully searchable online edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing accounts of over 100,000 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.’
For the vital aspect of the website for my teaching application is not so much the materials of each individual account or the excellent bibliography, it’s the chance to let new scholars play in a historical database akin to a virtual sandbox. The function of generating reports in tables, bar charts or pie charts allows my students to try out all sorts of interpretive questions on for size: are women more likely to get off charges of murder than men? Are young people accused more often of property crimes or older people? Do violent crime outbreaks correlate to peacetime with the release of soldiers and sailors? The database is an engrossing tool that seems to suggest more avenues of enquiry the longer you tinker with it.
She further goes on to discuss how this activity is used within the limits of the program, and how she related the task of generate and analyzing two statistical searches from the Old Bailey Online database to the rest of the course and the required readings.
I firmly believe that activities using resources such as these enable students to actively engage in the discipline, rather than being observers. In the case of history, it enables history students to become historians. Which is a far more interesting approach, and a more in depth learning process, than many traditional learning tasks.