Project lets K-12 students archive websites


Students are creating collections of archived websites for future generations.

Students from schools across the country are participating in a project that archives important websites in an effort to save important digital content for future generations.

The K-12 Web Archiving Program, a partnership between the Internet Archive and the Library of Congress, explores archiving the web from students’ perspectives. Students use Internet Archive’s Archive-It service to create “time capsules” of different websites and digital content that is important to the students or that illustrates the students’ world.

“Stimulating young people to think about history in the context of their own lives will enrich their study of history, provide an opportunity to actively engage in selecting the matter of history in the future, and help students begin to grasp the tremendous challenges presented by a world in which information can be both generated and removed with a key stroke,” according to the program’s description.

Internet Archive and the Library of Congress worked together for about 10 years archiving digital content from adults’ perspective, but the groups realized they had not consulted children, said Kristine Hanna, director of archiving services at Internet Archive.

For more information on using primary sources in the classroom, see:

Ten great sites with free teacher resources

New online tool helps teachers use primary-source documents

“We were interested in how they would make those decisions,” Hanna said. She added that the teams determined students would need collaboration skills, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills to successfully navigate a web archiving project and select digital content for inclusion—skills that are in high demand from employers.

Twenty-five percent of the websites selected by participating students had never before been archived, she said.

Hanna said one of the most memorable student collections came from a group of fifth graders in Queens, New York, who, because they did not have flower gardens nearby, created “Flower Power”—a collection of web content consisting of floral drawings and pictures.

Another school in Iowa created an entire collection focused on Iowa’s place in the “heartland of America,” and the students examined how the 2008 Iowa floods affected their lives and their communities.

Camille Kavon, an eighth-grade English and American history teacher at California’s Camarillo Academy of Progressive Education, first learned of the archiving project through the Library of Congress website, which she uses as a regular resource with her students.

Kavon said her students collaborate on which websites they’d like to include in their archived collections and hold small group discussions to discuss websites, write informational paragraphs, and check information as it developed.

For more information on using primary sources in the classroom, see:

Ten great sites with free teacher resources

New online tool helps teachers use primary-source documents

“Because of our work with primary sources in the classroom, they felt like they were leaving something of value for posterity,” Kavon said. “The fact that the project was implemented through the Library of Congress made them feel like their efforts were valued.”

One day, Kavon and her students had a conference call with Archive-It and several other schools involved in the project. Kavon said her students were encouraged by the program’s widespread reach.

“I think the ability to learn about the interests of kids across the country put our little dot on the map in to perspective. I am always talking to the kids about global awareness, and this seemed to highlight that topic,” she said. “The kids started asking themselves: Why is this important to us and not them? Did the different regions have anything to do with their special interests and subsequent website selection? This discovery was a great benefit, and one I hadn’t expected.”

Her students use primary sources quite frequently in the classroom, and their work with the K-12 Web Archiving Project made them realize they are creating primary sources for the future, Kavon added.

Her students’ collection can be seen here.

Program requirements

Students participating in the program must identify primary source sites, work with their teachers to define and provide descriptions for those collections, briefly describe each site chosen and why the students chose the site or how it reflects their lives or interests, and answer a short online survey at the project’s completion.

For more information on using primary sources in the classroom, see:

Ten great sites with free teacher resources

New online tool helps teachers use primary-source documents

Teachers leading the students should identify and mentor student leaders for the program, serve as facilitator for the student collection, and help students establish a process for evaluating and including sites. They help students create descriptions for the collection and enter selected sites’ URLs into Archive-It.

Teachers also attend training and check-in meetings, which usually occur once a month.

After the project is complete, teachers and students are encouraged to revisit the sites they’ve archived to see which have disappeared from the web and how the sites have changed. Teachers might also be asked for input in developing a broader student-based web capture program.

“Throughout the years, the students’ responses have been amazing—they’re incredulous that other people care what they think,’” Hanna said.

It is important that teachers are the facilitators and coaches, but that the archiving efforts remain the students’ projects.

“These kids aren’t librarians or archivists yet, but we think that being able to add some sort of description, and being able to catalog their collections, is important,” Hanna said.

“The program and kids have inspired us all and motivated us to work a little harder at the Internet Archive,” she added. “We can talk on and on about the importance of keeping our cultural and historical records as adults, but some of these kids … the clarity is so profound.”

For more information on using primary sources in the classroom, see:

Ten great sites with free teacher resources

New online tool helps teachers use primary-source documents

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