Tag Archives: education

Access to Rare Historical Materials Makes an Ocean of Difference for Stanford Professor

The kind of materials that Stanford English professor Margaret Cohen uses in her work, including the history of ocean travel in the period known as the “Age of Sail,” can be difficult to find.

Professor Margaret Cohen, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization and Director, Center for the Study of the Novel at Stanford University.

Books and illustrations from the 18th and 19th centuries needed in her research and teaching are often tucked away in rare book collections. For about five years, Cohen has been turning to the Internet Archive for help. And that access was even more critical during the pandemic when physical libraries were closed.

“It’s really enriched the arguments I can make about cultural history,” Cohen said. “The availability of documents and the very intensive work of tracking these down has become so much easier. The Internet Archive is a very user-friendly tool.”

The Biodiversity Heritage Library has been a resource to Cohen in teaching her English class, Imagining the Ocean. She has discovered manuals from Philip Henry Gosse, who created the first public aquarium, envisioning them as beautiful ocean gardens.  Cohen also shares her screen with students to discuss drawings of the sails, seashore and sea-anemones from the Victorian Age that she accesses through the Archive.

Actinologia britannica, 1860, Plate V.

“Access to the history of science is useful to me. I’m a literature professor, but the imagination spans across different areas,” said Cohen, the Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature, and Civilization and Director, Center for the Study of the Novel.

In her own research of oceanic studies, Cohen explores the importance of diversity and reality in marine environments. She tapped into the Internet Archive to fact-check information for A Cultural History of the Sea, (Bloomsbury, April 2021), a six-volume series that she edited chronicling the vital role oceans have played over time.

In researching her upcoming book, The Underwater Eye: How the Movie Camera Opened the Depths and Unleashed New Realms of Fantasy to be published by Princeton University Press, Cohen said the Wayback Machine was critical in confirming sources on websites that were no longer live.

Punch, 1879, Vol 76

The Sci-Fi/Horror collection of the Internet Archive has been useful to Cohen in teaching a course on Gothic film—especially since YouTube recently took down many of its films in that genre, she said.

Much of the material Cohen is looking for is in the public domain (such as Punch, a satirical British magazine that dates back to the mid-1800s ) but the documents are fragile because of their age. She has also  appreciated being able to borrow classic books of literary criticism, such as the collection on novel studies that supports her graduate course, Genres of the Novel. 

 “People’s time is limited and having access to this material facilitates scholarship,” Cohen said of the benefits of digitized documents. “I understand why publishers need to make money and I publish myself, but free access to information, particularly for nonprofit use, is a gift.”

Graduate Student: Internet Archive an “absolutely indispensable resource”

Although Casey Patterson spent much of the COVID-19 lockdown in a dank San Francisco basement apartment, he says he felt lucky in many ways.

The graduate student in English from Stanford University stayed healthy and—despite not having physical access to a library—was able to research his dissertation, teach classes, and prepare for job interviews. This was possible because of online access to materials through the Internet Archive.

Graduate student and educator, Casey Patterson

Patterson, who is entering the sixth year of his doctoral program, offered to teach an online African American literature class to undergraduates as soon as COVID-19 shut down the campus and the university shifted to virtual instruction.

“I just felt a degree of duty to sign up for a lot of teaching. I wanted to be able to support students and knew the transition to online education was going to be rocky,” said Patterson, who also taught an Intro to Black Studies course during the pandemic. “It was chaotic. Obviously, we had a really tough time trying to figure out how to keep students engaged and make education a humane process.”

Instead of expecting students to buy several books, and without the ability for them to check out books in a library, Patterson turned to the Internet Archive. Patterson found works of Black critics such as Toni Morrison and C.L.R. James and their writings about 19th century authors Edgar Allen Poe and Herman Melville to use in class. He downloaded classics including Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn to the Canvas learning management system and made them immediately available to students.

“Using the Internet Archive, I could lay hands on basically everything I needed. It was an absolutely indispensable resource at the time.”

Casey Patterson, graduate student

“It’s super helpful when you’re asking students to read 10 short passages from three different novels,” Patterson said of using the Internet Archive. “It would be cruel to ask them to buy all of the books or track them down to the library. This way you put them right at the students’ fingertips.”

Patterson also relied on text from the Internet Archive for his own research. For his dissertation, he is examining the role of educational history as a way of understanding African American literary studies and the institutionalization of Black studies as a discipline.

This spring, he interviewed for an academic job in which he was asked to prepare a lesson plan syllabus for a teaching demonstration. Having access to The Book of American Negro Poetry, works of African-American poet Phillis Wheatley, and essays by Alice Walker enabled Patterson to put together materials from the convenience of his apartment on a tight deadline.

Selection of poems by Georgia Douglas Johnson from “The Book of American Negro Poetry” (1922).

“Using the Internet Archive, I could lay hands on basically everything I needed,” Patterson said. “It was an absolutely indispensable resource at the time,” he says.

In the summer of 2019, Patterson had used the Internet Archive in his Fandom research, another area of interest. He’d run across a citation to a website that was no longer available online and was able to track it down through the Wayback Machine. But since the pandemic, Patterson says he’s come to value the Internet Archive for its collection of primary sources.

“Knowledge is for everybody. The more we can do to break down the barriers that make it inaccessible, the better off everyone is,” said Patterson. “The Internet Archive is one great example of how we can do that almost with a click of a button.”

Reading Online Books a “Highlight” for Students During Pandemic

Motivating students to stay engaged with online instruction can take some creativity.

Working at a special education learning center in Los Angeles, Luca Messarra found the promise of choosing a book to read for fun after a lesson kept his 9- to 11-year-old kids going. Although access to physical books was limited during the pandemic, he found digital versions in the Internet Archive that made all the difference.

Educator and graduate student Luca Messarra.

Messarra’s individual work with students moved online in March 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. He continued to help them learn to read and write by doing drills remotely, using online instruction materials provided by the learning center. It did not have access to digital works of fiction, but Messarra says those were the books that most excited the students.

“That was the most fun because it was an opportunity for them to see the fruits of their labor. They could read a book, finally,” says the 25-year-old who lives in Palo Alto. “It’s far more entertaining to read a book than to do drills over and over again. That was the highlight for a lot of students—to finally be able to read a book of their own choosing.”

Since wrapping up his job at the learning center, Messarra has been enrolled in a graduate English program at Stanford University where he is specializing in digital humanities and postcolonialism.

Looking back on his teaching experience during the pandemic, Messarra says he values the resources from the Internet Archive. “It was incredibly helpful and quite essential to boost the morale of students. They were bored and frustrated because of the pandemic,” he says. “For one of my students, it was his goal to read Harry Potter. Once he was able to read it, he was super excited and eventually bought the book because he was having such a good time.”

Back to School with the Internet Archive: Fall 2021

Back in March 2020, teachers were asking themselves a nearly unthinkable question: “How are we going to get books in students’ hands with our schools & libraries closed?” We’ve heard from hundreds of teachers about the challenges they faced in connecting remote learners with books during COVID. Here is their story:

And here we are in August of 2021, with another school year about to start, and educators are still asking this same question. As a nonprofit dedicated to Universal Access to All Knowledge, the Internet Archive provides a number of free resources for parents, students, teachers, and librarians around the world. Check out these tools for remote learning:

Curated Collections

  • Our site is packed with free, kid-friendly learning resources
  • Looking for ways to bring diverse representation into your classroom reading? Find books that support the LGBT+ community in Open Library.
  • In 2015, ten-year-old Marley Dias set out to increase representation of books in which black girls are the main character with her #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign. Inspired by Marley, we want to support schools to make learning more inclusive. Find more than 300 of the curated titles in our library. 

Lesson Plans

  • Looking for lesson plans? Browse our collection to find detailed notes on hundreds of books and themes this summer, including Gulliver’s Travels and Don Quixote.
  • Do your students struggle with math? Online tutor The Math Sorcerer has put together a list of math books and resources for self-studying, covering a range of topics and abilities. Borrow the books and help your students gain confidence with math.

Tips for Using Our Library

How long can I borrow a book? How many books can I check out at once? Find all the information you need to know about borrowing books from the lending library in our online tutorials and get reading!

Learn More

Follow #LearnWithIA on Twitter throughout the month of August for additional tips & resources!

Digital Fluency is Key to Learning this Fall and Beyond

By Matt Poland, educational specialist

There’s little doubt that both learning and work require a high degree of technology use. As schooling continues to move online in response to COVID-19, students are expected to be able to access, process, manipulate, and interpret digital content. This has brought to light a significant skill that separates successful learners from those who struggle: digital fluency. Digital fluency is a step above “digital literacy.” Learners now need to know much more than just the basics of navigating the internet, writing an email, and making their way around common productivity applications like spreadsheets. Digital fluency includes skills such as using technology tools for collaboration, marshaling online resources to solve a problem, and evaluating the accuracy of a source.

Despite the “whiz-kid” reputation of Generation Z, an alarming number of high school students lack the appropriate level of digital fluency. This set of skills is part of a larger group of key work and learning aptitudes called 21st Century Skills. A lack of digital fluency can harm students’ futures as they progress into college and careers where these skills are necessary.

Students and teachers can use Internet Archive as a collaborative tool for sharing books and digital content across remote teams or classrooms, removing the physical barriers of access to books and collaborators.

Fortunately, having students complete assignments with the aid of the Internet Archive’s digital library can help build digital fluency. Students and teachers can use Internet Archive as a collaborative tool for sharing books and digital content across remote teams or classrooms, removing the physical barriers of access to books and collaborators. They can use digital libraries like Internet Archive to conduct research for assignments, with access to 20th-century texts that aren’t available from other sources. Finally, they can cross-reference sources to evaluate the accuracy of material they may find elsewhere on the internet.

Other features of Internet Archive’s digital library promote digital fluency for students as well. For example, the site includes advanced search and sorting features that are commonly used on research websites. It is critical for students to understand how to use the right keywords to find what they need, as well as how to find the most recent (or oldest) material, particular authors or publications, etc. On Internet Archive, this can be done from the advanced search options in the left toolbar. Sorting by the number of views, title, date published or the creator is available by clicking the appropriate header at the top of the search results. Even when you have the material you are looking for, you need to know how to find the specific content within it. You can do this at Internet Archive by using the search box in the upper right corner when a particular book is open on the screen.

Nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century, learning is changing rapidly and digital fluency is becoming increasingly important for students. Tools such as Internet Archive’s digital library can help students develop these skills through activities like team collaboration, online research, and verifying sources. With multiple features that support learning in the classroom or remotely, teachers and students should consider Internet Archive a valuable resource for their work and learning.

Matt Poland is founder of MAP Consulting, an educational consulting firm specializing in workforce development.

Digital Librarians – Now More Essential Than Ever

By Michelle Swanson, an Oregon-based educator and educational consultant

It’s time to consider adding another occupation to the growing list of pandemic-era “essential workers”: Digital Librarian.

With public library buildings closed due to the global pandemic, teachers, students, and lovers of books everywhere have increasingly turned to online resources for access to information. But as anyone who has ever turned up 2.3 million (mostly unrelated) results from a Google search knows, skillfully navigating the Internet is not as easy as it seems. This is especially true when conducting serious research that requires finding and reviewing older books, journals and other sources that may be out of print or otherwise inaccessible.

Enter the role of digital librarian. 

The role is not really new—librarians have been going digital for years. School and university librarians are typically early adopters of technology, tasked with training the teachers they serve. In the public high school where I taught during the 1990s, the library was home to the school’s first open-access computers, printers, and computer lab. Our librarian, like countless other school librarians across the nation, was the go-to source for answers to thorny technical questions. By the year 2000, the notion of a digital librarian was already well established in library science literature as a type of information professional who manages and organizes digital resources, provides functionality for information and electronic information services, and remotely mediates between users and resources. 

Using Internet Archive, librarians who oversee physical libraries shuttered during the current pandemic can supplement their digital offerings with a massive digital library of over four million books, including many out-of-print titles from the 20th century. Anyone with an email address can borrow books from the Internet Archive for free. 

Like other digital librarians, the staff at Internet Archive recognize that curation is important for users to get the most out of the collection. For educators, the library makes it easy to find resources by offering lists categorized by subject, author, reading level, grade level, and year published. In addition, advanced search functions are available to further sort the library’s holdings, including tools that let users search the collection for specific text phrases. Schools that want to fully unlock the potential of Internet Archive’s digital books should have school librarians and classroom teachers explore strategies for incorporating this resource into their distance learning plans.

While digital libraries can’t fully replace the important social and civic role that physical library buildings play in our communities, they do provide a critical service to educators and learners in this time of global need. And guiding learners through these online learning landscapes are our essential guides: the digital librarians.

Distance Learning Trends are Here to Stay

By Theron Cosgrave, a California-based educator and educational consultant.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced massive changes upon schools across the world. UNESCO (the education division of the United Nations) recently estimated that over 1.19 billion students have been affected by the pandemic–nearly 70% of the world’s student population. With schools closed, teachers and students have had to pivot from a face-to-face model to an online distance learning approach. And while the results have been mixed, the transition has accelerated key trends that can ultimately benefit teachers and students. 

If you’re looking for a silver lining to this educational experiment, it may be this: students and teachers are learning new skills and routines that can reshape how schools operate. Here are two trends reinforced by the distance learning approach and how teachers can take advantage of the Internet Archive’s digitized books to benefit student learning.

Trend 1: Teacher as Learning Coach

Distance learning has required teachers to shift their role from “knowledge source” to “learning coach.” Teachers succeeding at engaging students are blending flipped learning strategies with real-time interpersonal connections. Books available through the Internet Archive can help teachers guide student skill development as they access online resources.

Ideas for Teachers:

  • Share Specific Books: Teachers of K-2 students can encourage the development of foundational reading skills by directing students to read books to an adult in their home. Stories like Eric Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab or Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together are solid picks. As students improve their reading skills, books like an illustrated children’s dictionary can support vocabulary development and word fluency. 
  • Encourage Supplemental Reading: Once students have learned to read, they can read to learn. Middle- and upper-grade teachers can encourage students to explore topics of interest. For example, teachers can guide students toward collections of books about animals and pets or a set of books that feature black girls as the main character. Older students can be coached to pursue passion projects using the library’s collections.

Trend 2: School Happens Anytime, Anywhere

Over the past two decades, the digital revolution has put history’s most powerful information machine (the internet) in the pocket of smartphone users around the globe. And while some teachers have taken advantage of web resources for years, an army of educators across the globe are now poised to take full advantage of “anytime, anywhere schooling.” 

The traditional daily school schedule has given way to asynchronous teaching and learning. Going forward, more schools–particularly at the high school level and above–are likely to renegotiate how they use time and space. This shift makes learning more accessible to students who struggle with regular attendance or face temporary interruptions (like pandemics and weather-related school closures) in their schooling. 

Ideas for Teachers:

  • Explicitly Teach New Mindsets: Teaching students to view their education in a more holistic manner is essential. Students can be challenged to see learning as something that takes place wherever they are–at school, at home, or out in the community–and at all times throughout the day. Digital libraries like the Universal School Library can be enjoyed wherever internet access is available and at all times.
  • Encourage Reading Habits by Assigning Longer Works: In a world of social media saturation, students need to build their capacity to persist in reading longer texts. The always-on nature of the Internet Archive’s book collections makes it easy for students to access books whenever and wherever using a mobile device. This increased accessibility supports the development of daily reading habits, which teachers can foster by assigning longer texts. Works of fiction targeted to student reading levels are generally good bets for books that can push students to strengthen their reading muscles. 

The pandemic is accelerating the pace of change in education. As our understanding of teaching and school continue to evolve, teachers can take advantage of these trends by using the Internet Archive’s digital libraries to help students adapt to new ways of learning.