October 23, 2008

Hostetler named to Library of Congress panel

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An expert in digital resources and distance learning from Southern Illinois University Carbondale has been named to a national panel aiming to help public school teachers use the Library of Congress’ vast online collections in making lessons come alive.

Jerry C. Hostetler, a visiting assistant professor in SIUC’s College of Education and Human Services, met with 13 other education professionals this month at the library in Washington, D.C., to begin work on Internet-based instruction modules that will familiarize users with the library’s Web site, introduce them to the digitized media most useful to teachers and demonstrate the use of that material in “learning experiences.”

The Library of Congress, a world-renowned repository for books, manuscripts, letters, legal documents, newspapers, pamphlets, films, maps, sheet music, sound recordings, moving images, photographs, posters, prints and drawings, has created nearly 14 million digital files of its 138 million holdings, with more being added all the time.

“It’s a fabulous resource -- there’s everything from a letter written by Mary Todd Lincoln chastising the president for not writing to her to a bird’s eye-view map of Cairo, Ill., when it was a boom town to Edison’s early movies,” Hostetler said.

“Our goal is to get students more deeply involved with these primary (or original) source materials in a ‘hands-on’ kind of way. Many states have adopted literacy mandates, including Illinois, to help students learn to think more critically about things they see every day -- including what’s on the Internet.”

The Library of Congress’ site already has a wealth of Web materials specifically for teachers, but they cover fairly narrow subject areas and grade levels, Hostetler said.

“A lot of them are aimed at social studies and history teachers,” he noted.

“One of the ways the Library of Congress would like to move forward is to expand the reach, to get some material developed and showcased that would be of interest to, say, math and science teachers in different grade ranges.”

School librarians, curriculum directors and technology directors seeking professional development credits will be the end users of the new material, which will meet standards set by the American Association of School Librarians and the International Society of Technology in Education. They in turn will pass what they learn on to teachers in their individual schools.

“Part of the purpose of this group is to create modules that someone with a little training could download and present to teachers to get them started,” Hostetler said.

Although panel members held their initial meeting in Washington, much of their work will take place online and in videoconferences as they work to complete the project next year. Library officials plan to introduce the material developed by the panel during the National Education Computing Conference in June.