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DBQuest and Case Maker: Two more critical thinking tools from LOC!

Alert your social studies and ELA teacher friends or dig in on your own.  This past week the Library of Congress launched DBQuest and Case Makertwo new web and mobile apps that join a suite of digital resources introduced back in 2016.

The Library of Congress announcement shared that these new interactive opportunities for middle and high school students will engage learners in interactive civics, asking them to weigh evidence and build arguments.

These new applications transport students through primary sources to some of the most dramatic turning points in U.S. history and immerse them in the related debates.

1. DBQuest (developed by iCivics) DBQuest teaches history and civics through the use of primary source documents and evidence-based learning. It offers a platform, accessible on mobile devices, that reinforces evidence-based reasoning and document-based questioning by teaching students to identify and evaluate evidence, contextualize information and write sound supporting arguments.

In this tool, a Big Question guides students’ deep examination of the text of three selected primary resources–texts, images and videos–through document-based supporting questions.  Teachers’ Guides offer step-by-step instructions, timelines, maps and rich support for meeting all learners’ needs. An online glossary of terms supports students’ contextual understanding. Reports are available to monitor student progress.

The Louisiana Purchase, for instance, poses this investigation:

President Jefferson usually gets the credit for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which doubled the size of the young nation. But this ignores one important actor, the U.S. Congress. Nearly every step of the process involved the approval of, and funding from, the Legislative Branch. This DBQuest will walk you through primary sources that show the give and take between the two branches.

Students may attack the prompt in either Freeform Mode, allowing for more creative and independent engagement, or in Guided Mode, best for students new to primary source analysis. Guided Mode offers the scaffolding of pre-selected evidence options and just-in-time feedback.

Students review the three sources by sequentially answering multiple choice questions; analyzing the documents looking for textual evidence; and responding in writing to prompts.

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2. Case Maker (developed by Bean Creative) Case Maker is a customizable system for inquiry-based learning for K-12 students using primary sources from the Library of Congress. Modeled after the “observe, reflect, question” framework, developed under the Teaching with Primary Sources program, Case Maker guides students to challenge a question, collect evidence and make a case.

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 1.36.34 PMTeachers may choose from among the 20 pre-made challenges listed below or choose to customize a challenge to better meet their own students’ needs.

In Anger Against Immigrants, for instance, students are challenged to use evidence from a selection of primary sources to make a case responding to the following prompt:

The U.S. has an immigration process to select people who can make positive contributions to society, but not all Americans want to accept immigrants. Investigate the primary sources. What kinds of evidence can you find to support your opinion that people who are angry about new immigrants often come from families that were once immigrants? Make your case.

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These instructional activities promote critical thinking, analysis and engagement with text. They clearly resonate with today’s headlines. They could easily introduce a lesson in history, inspire engaged civic writing and offer a lovely set of training wheels for AP US History.

You may also be interested in:

(See my post, Library of Congress introduces three new apps and a reminder of some older goodies and note that Engaging Congress was recognized as an AASL Best App for 2018.)

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


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