Rockford College has won a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Library of Congress (LOC) to help teach both prospective and current educators how to use the library’s vast collection of online primary sources to enrich their classroom instruction. The college is one of only 11 schools in the state of Illinois to be accepted into the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program and one of only 20 nationwide.
TPS is a federal teacher training project that teaches instructors how to access primary sources—actual records that have survived from the past like letters, photographs, articles of clothing and music. They are different from secondary sources, which are written account of events sometime after they happen.
“The teacher education program at the college recognizes that students need to effectively function in an increasingly technological society,” says Debra Dew, project director and associate professor of education at Rockford College. “Technology is changing the way people access and use information. This grant will allow us reach out to both current and prospective teachers to train them in this marvelous resource.”
Some 13 million primary sources have been put online by the Library of Congress, and more are being added every day. The $150,000 grant supports the initial year’s funding for the program, and will be used to pay salaries, compensate workshop presenters, and pay stipends to faculty who integrate TPS projects in their courses. The grant is awarded every year at the same level as long as the program remains in place.
Dew says the project initially will support Rockford College faculty members’ efforts to include primary source learning experiences into their classes. Eventually, education faculty at the college will require that student teachers complete a primary source learning experience during their student teaching semester.
As part of the TPS project, area K-12 teachers will also have a chance to learn more about teaching with primary sources through face-to-face classroom instruction, workshops, and seminars. The goal is to make educators in Northern Illinois fully aware of the opportunities and value of LOC primary resources.
Education experts point to distinct benefits from using primary sources.
“It makes instruction come alive because it provides an unfiltered record of artistic, social and scientific thought from the actual people who lived during that period,” says Catherine Forslund, a history professor who plans to use the TPS program.
For junior education major Haley O’Kraski, the prospect of having more resources so easily accessible is exciting.
“We do have access to a lot of resources through databases in the library, but this opens up a whole new world of possibilities,” she said. “As teachers, I just think it’s going to help us open up new doors for our students.”
For more information on the TPS program, see www.loc.gov/teachers/tps/about/.