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May 19, 08

NEWS / Award-winning Web Sites Offer American History Lessons

Great Chicago Stories, Never Lose Sight of Freedom get the prize
Washington -- Online educational Web sites by the Chicago History Museum and the National Park Service have won prestigious awards for outstanding achievement in museum media.

Great Chicago Stories brings history to life by integrating artifacts from the collection of the Chicago History Museum into historical fiction narratives for elementary and high school students. The Web site offers interactive materials including an interactive map of the city that poet Carl Sandberg described as “Stormy, husky, brawling,/City of the Big Shoulders.” Judges awarded the Web site the Gold Medal in the Teaching and Outreach category for its “exemplary use of new technology,”

Never Lose Sight of Freedom, an online “educational resource kit,” documents a critical episode in the history of the civil rights movement, the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This Silver Medal-winning Web site, which the judges called “stellar” in its use of easy-to-navigate graphics, sound and video, provides a “thorough concept-based curriculum that offers thoughtful and flexible ideas for teachers to adapt the website content to their own needs.”

The international competition -- the 19th annual MUSE Awards -- is an activity of the Media and Technology Standing Professional Committee of the American Association of Museums.

Great Chicago Stories enables both elementary and high school students to locate story settings on an interactive history map of Chicago, to explore continuity and change through then-and-now photographs, and use click-to-enlarge and zooming tools to experience artifact details up close. There are full audio recordings of the narratives, available in both streaming multimedia format and MP3 format.

The site promotes reading, discussing and weighing evidence with the aim of becoming informed interpreters of the past.
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Martin Luther King Jr.,
Martin Luther King Jr., (hatless in center) with other civil rights leaders as they begin the 1965 voting rights march (© AP images)
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Martin Luther King Jr.,
Martin Luther King Jr., (hatless in center) with other civil rights leaders as they begin the 1965 voting rights march (© AP images)

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Great Chicago Stories has undergone a two-year evaluation study, which found that students made significant gains in four areas of learning: skill-building, understanding, historical habits of mind and content knowledge.

Never Lose Sight of Freedom provides annotated maps, photos, interviews, activities and seven lesson plans aimed at teaching justice, hope, authority, perseverance, democracy, citizenship, law, courage and economic empowerment, according to the Web site’s creators. The timeline and map are integrated in such a way that students can explore the sites of significant events along the route of the march, see photos and video of those sites and listen to participants in the march discuss what happened.

The lesson plans offer a wealth of resources and links, including freedom songs of the civil rights movement, the Alabama voter registration form used to discourage blacks from registering and Martin Luther King’s speeches.

One of the most valuable parts of the Web site is the collection of 39 oral history interviews with participants in the voting rights march, some of them famous, like Congressman John Lewis or Julian Bond, the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and others not; but all of them eloquent and engaging in the well-selected distillations.

Thirty-eight museum and media professionals acted as judges for the MUSE Awards, and entries came from museums in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Entries included audio, cell phone and interactive handheld tours; interactive kiosks and multimedia installations; podcasts; blogs; games; Web sites; online collection and image databases; videos and e-mail marketing campaigns.

The awards were presented April 27 at the 2008 American Association of Museums Annual Meeting in Denver.

Never Lose Sight of Freedom can be accessed on the Web site of the National Park Service.

Great Chicago Stories can be accessed on the Web site of the Chicago History Museum.

A complete list of winners in the 10 categories is available at the MUSE Awards Web site.
More Coverage

* Education: Technology & Education
* Online Learning Changing the Face of American Education
* Online Resources for Education Information
* American Museums Offer Online Resources for Teachers

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