My experience and training as an academic librarian have equipped me with the skills to assess different types of content, including websites. One of the many criteria that I have presented to students in library instruction sessions is the CRAAP test, an acronym that stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. This test has served as a way to appraise sources’ accuracy and reliability and during my review of sites for the World History Commons platform. I have made sure, for example, that content from sites such as, Mediateca INAH, Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, and Project Vox (forthcoming), is timely, important for user needs, well-researched, and truthful. But the CRAAP test can only take me so far, as it was developed for users engaging in initial phases of library research. While this test examines content, it does not examine vital components that should be observed when reviewing online history sites, like ease of navigation, design and aesthetics, data description, accessibility, a strong “about page”, and audience-content engagement.
Throughout my Digital Public Humanities coursework at GMU, I have expanded my librarian toolbox by incorporating elements from criteria developed for evaluating online history projects. Scholar and co-creator of the World History Commons, Kelly Schrum, describes web review guidelines that are currently used for both the Journal of American History and History Matters. As she conceptualizes digital history websites, Schrum places them in three categories: archive, electronic essay/exhibit, and teaching resources. Understanding the particularities of these three genres has allowed me to adopt a new disposition about reviewing websites, one where I get to appreciate platforms that concentrate on primary sources, historical interpretive content, and pedagogical activities and materials for the teaching of history. But even though I have gained a level of comfort when applying this new set of components, I have encountered a learning curve when it comes to the genre of online teaching resources, which is key to the mission of the World History Commons.
Challenge: Developing a Wider Understanding of World History Education
I want to pose myself even more comprehensive questions when reading and viewing these particular sources. In addition to appraising the quality of content, the organization and presentation of sources, the ease of navigation, I want to provide answers to the following inquiries: how useful is this site to high school teachers and students? Can this content also be appropriate for early-college world history majors? How can I, as a non-expert in the teaching of history, provide the best guidance to teachers on the usefulness of this site, without deviating them from the course units they need to cover (especially when working within a limited amount of time and resources)?
To address this challenge, my mentor recommended that I begin studying the curriculum of the AP World History: Modern course, which offers a course framework that world history instructors use to create content for their curricula. The AP World History: Modern Course and Exam Description, which focuses on the investigation of major events, people, and processes (1200-present), could afford me with the insight of the skillset that students of world history are developing. Its framework includes two components: (1) history thinking skills and reasoning processes, and (2) course content.
This document encourages me to continue selecting and reviewing digital collection platforms that contain sources for students to develop the following skills, practices, and methods employed by historians:
- Analyzing primary and secondary sources
- Developing historical arguments
- Making historical connections
- Utilizing reasoning about comparison, causation, and continuity and change over time
Through my website reviews, I would like to shed light on platforms that intentionally explore the major themes of world history curricula, as defined by the AP World History course framework:
- humans and the environment (ENV)
- cultural developments and interactions (CDI)
- governance (GOV)
- economic systems (ECN)
- social interactions and organization (SIO)
- technology and innovation (TEC)
It would be interesting to see how these themes have been applied to the variety of contexts presented in digital history sites, and how they can serve as the connecting thread of typical units covered in world history curricula (i.e. global conflict, empires, revolutions, transoceanic interconnections, industrialization, decolonization, and globalization). Hopefully, this fine-tuning of my selection process will pay closer attention to platforms that are built in with effective and efficient activities that help both learners and teachers deepen their content knowledge and cross the passageways to a greater understanding of the discipline of world history.
Blakslee (U of California, Chico). Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP Test Meriam Library California State University, Chico. https://library.csuchico.edu/help/source-or-information-good
Kelly Schrum. Web Review Guidelines: Journal of American History and History Matters. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/jahguidelines.html
College Board, Advanced Placement. AP World History: Modern Course and Exam Description: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/pdf/ap-world-history-modern-course-and-exam-description.pdf?course=ap-world-history-modern