2017 News Stories

Education professors launch app that helps students explore Congress, civic participation through primary sources

KidCitizen Homepage Screenshot

Thanks to the work of two College of Education professors, a newly launched resource will help young students engage with history through primary sources in the Library of Congress.

TAMPA, Fla. (November 30, 2017) – A new online resource that helps young students engage with history through primary sources is now available thanks to the work of two USF College of Education professors.

Early Childhood Education professor Ilene Berson, PhD, and Social Science Education professor Michael Berson, PhD, are part of a team that developed and launched KidCitizen, a web-based application that provides students in grades K-5 the opportunity to interactively explore Congress and civic engagement through historical primary sources and connect what they find with their daily lives.

The application includes a growing set of interactive episodes where students work with primary source photographs from the Library of Congress. Through the KidCitizen Editor, educators can use cloud software tools that allow them to create their own episodes and share them with students.

The Bersons have almost 20 years of research experience on using primary sources with young learners and the integration of technology into social studies education. Ilene Berson studies the intersection of technology and the pedagogy of inquiry in early childhood with a focus on children's affordances of digital innovations. Michael Berson has served as an advisor to companies and organizations throughout the world on cybersecurity and the integration of technology into education.

The centerpiece of each KidCitizen episode, the Bersons said, is a photograph from the Library of Congress that is complemented by other primary sources representative of the application’s topic of focus. The development team selected images based on research into the qualities of artifacts that are developmentally appropriate for early childhood and elementary-level students. With a mentor character, children investigate images in detail using age appropriate techniques and scaffolding. They then zoom in, find, collect and match image elements.

Drs. Michael and Ilene Berson Headshot

Drs. Michael and Ilene Berson

“While investigating, students collect evidence from images in their journal, then use that to think about what they are seeing – what is happening, and why?,” the Bersons said. “These learning experiences provide a strong foundation for inquiry-based learning that builds young students' literacy, critical thinking skills and content knowledge.”

The project is part of the Congress, Civic Participation and Primary Sources Project and is funded through a $336,000 grant from the Library of Congress. The Bersons are co-principal investigators on the project along with Bert Snow, Vice President of Design for the project’s developer, Muzzy Lane Software.

The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts. The Teaching with Primary Sources Program is the Library of Congress’ premier educational outreach program for teachers. The goal of the program is to provide professional development for teachers focused on enhancing their ability to embed digitized primary sources from the Library of Congress into inquiry-based instruction.

KidCitizen and the KidCitizen Editor are available free of charge thanks to support from the Library of Congress. Learn more about the project and access online resources on the KidCitizen website.

About the USF College of Education
As one of the top 100 colleges of education in the nation, the USF College of Education is committed to preparing the next generation of leaders in the field of education. Through innovative research opportunities, hands-on field experiences and community partnerships, the College of Education provides the resources students need to be world-class educators, researchers and leaders. The USF College of Education is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and is fully approved by the Florida Department of Education.