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May 30, 2007

Social Studies and Technology




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In the classroom there is an increasing use of databases for teaching purposes. Information in a data file offers students the opportunity to query it for relationships which would be difficult to establish in any other way. Take a look at an example of a presidential database.
For example, in a presidential database, the basic ability to sort by "state" of birth yields some interesting comparisons between Virginia and Ohio. This in turn leads to other questions concerning the field "number." Why are so many presidents from each state centered in a particular time period? This is a limited database, but it can lead to higher level thinking skills. The comparison of birth "state" with the field "number" can lead to an analysis of circumstances in geographic/political areas and time.

Standards to consider for an effective database:

number of records

20 records out of a potential of 1,000s leads to distortion; what constitutes a "sufficient" amount?

number of fields

limited comparisons, distortion

quality of information

it might be interesting to know the eye color of the presidents so that a candidate could play the odds with colored contact lenses but perhaps knowing the religion of each would be more revealing

date of material

presidential DB needs to be updated at least every 4 years

sources of information

bias and depth of information presented

to create your own database - regardless of platform! - try this out.
My attempt

To construct a database presents one kind of challenge; using an exiting database with students or for our own research presents an entirely different kind of challenge. Here is a great site that will help with both - Landmarks for Schools, David Warlick's website. This is a site where you will want to spend a lot of time. For our purposes today we will concentrate on the section on Raw Data and how to publish web assignments. Social Studies @Landmark

 Locating a good database is becoming easier; finding interesting and relevant lessons that use these databases for more than simple information retrieval is the challenge. - this represents a trial membership from ProQuest for "jersey." Big Chalk

Here we have the Art ImageBase from SF Fine Art Museums - searchable, lesson plans there also and the Metropolitan Museum of Art - searchable, create your own gallery - The lesson plan ( is aimed at the Met but the idea could easily be adapted for the SF site or another art database.
The NY Times maintains a wonderful database of lesson plans ( and because the actual URL was far too long, I suggest that you type in the keyword "database" and then select the subject and grade. I used "Language Arts", 9-12 and found 9 great lessons that ranged from creating a database to help with missing persons, another one on the topic of National Identity cards, one on Iceland's genetic pool, and one on Justice Harry Blackmun with links to the databases on law and Supreme Court decisions.

Other related sites and ideas:
• Lesson Plan - Humanities - Uses database of images, Native American culture -
• The Perseus Project from Tufts -
From this site you can head to various databases on Papyri, Greek vases, the Renaissance, etc., etc. One of the site's best features is the Tool area where I found the Atlas Tool. I typed in "Rome" to search for all the cities in the world that had "Rome" and found one of my favorites, City of Rome Dark Swamp. You can then zoom in and in and in to learn that City of Rome Dark Swamp is located in Pennsylvania, not far from us! The information and map comes to us from yet another government databse - the Tiger Map Service and American Fact Finder. a collection of Medieval Databases: Chaucer, music, poetry, the Vulgate, etc. Here is the database. Below is a lesson plan. Classroom-tested Lesson Plans and Handouts Created by Master Teachers

Other Resources
    The History Data Service: a user friendly service,providing and preserving computer-readable resources for research and teaching
    Legislative Database, part of Library of Congress - THOMAS
A database of the New Deal (and my personal favorite site of the moment), part of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (
    Census Bureau databases
    These are links to only a selected number of U.S. and Texas government databases that are available on the Web. The only databases included are those which are considered substantial research sources; almost all have some kind of search capability unless otherwise noted. Consult links on the Government Information Home Page for additional sources of electronic government information.
    Tutorial on how to find materials from the "Deep Web" or the "Invisible Web". Use Google and other search engines to locate searchable databases by searching a subject term and the word "database". If the database uses the word database in its own pages, you are likely to find it in Google. The word "database" is also useful in searching a topic in Yahoo!, because Yahoo! used the term to describe searchable databases in its listings. EXAMPLES for Google & Yahoo!: plane crash database, languages database, toxic chemicals database

    Deep WebThe so-called "deep" or "invisible" Web consists of content stored in searchable databases mounted on the Web. These databases usually cover a targeted topic or aspect of a topic. Search engine spiders cannot or will not index this information. There is a huge number of searchable databases on the Web. not exactly a database but too good to overlook even though it is from
Collection of resources for undergraduates, graduates. Try the primary sources. Economics - Psychology, searchable by date or keyword

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Copyright 2007 by E. M. Douglass
Updated - May, 2007