High School Social Studies Students’ Uses of Online Historical Documents Related to the Cuban Missile Crisis
This paper reports on findings of a study conducted to determine the usability and pedagogical qualities of two Cold War-related online collections of historical documents. The study was conducted in three 11th grade U.S. history classes. Data in the form of metacognitive essays written by students as they reflected on their work using the archives as well as interviews with students and classroom observations were analyzed using the constant comparative method. Findings indicated that both online collections were of limited value because of poor design and inadequate pedagogical interfaces. We found that Web sites, which feature historical documents but do not have pedagogy as an integral part of the design of the site, are of limited value in high school social studies classes. Without pedagogical intent in the design, resources are difficult to find, hard to manipulate, and of limited value for students who are doing the kind of closed ended or short-term inquiries that are common in high school social studies.