The Future of History: Reviving Primary Sources in the Age of Wikipedia

Fall, 2011

Source: The Jewish Educator – Fall, 2011


Adam Soclof writes about how Jewish online primary source historical databases such as the JTA Jewish News Archive can be used to help develop students' critical thinking skills and undertake creative significant project-based learning.

He writes:

"Rather than place limitations on students’ independent exploration for information, educators and digital information specialists should partner to help students develop the critical faculties necessary in order to assess the quality of the information they discover outside of the classroom.

Ultimately, students should feel comfortable retrieving and interpreting primary sources in conjunction with their classroom learning. A growing number of online Jewish archives present several possibilities to help educators guide their students through this process.

Released on May 3, 2011, the JTA Jewish News Archive is a free online database featuring more than 200,000 articles from around the globe dating back to 1923, searchable by keyword and date. This new resource presents teachers with an opportunity to incorporate primary sources from the twentieth century -- one of the most momentous in Jewish history -- into their lesson plans. The archive offers a wealth of reporting on significant events through a Jewish lens; its “Browse by Topic” section offers a good starting point for topics such as Israel, the Holocaust, Sports and Women’s Issues. Through this lens, teachers can ask students to research the history of their local Jewish community or assess the validity of historical claims (e.g., the claim that Americans were unaware about the events of Holocaust.)

The value of primary sources as a tool for intellectual development has been given significant attention over the last decade. Use of the archive promotes “inquiry based learning,” which encourages students to analyze historical events based on the information that was available at the time. For high school students, exploration of primary sources in the JTA Archive can serve as effective training for the reading comprehension component of standardized tests."

See the entire article in the online Jewish Educator.

Updated: Jun. 20, 2012


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