The University of Houston’s Digital History Project, a dynamic, database-driven website that harnesses technology to enhance the teaching and learning of U.S. history, has been recognized by the Computerworld Honors Program as a Laureate of 2012.
The Digital History Project received the award in the Digital Access category and is one of 200 individuals, programs and entities to be honored in the Annual Laureates Medal Ceremony & Gala Awards Evening in June at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
“Digital History provides a wealth of extraordinary resources for American History teachers and learners at no charge and without advertising,” said Sara McNeil, UH College of Education Associate Professor and Program Area Coordinator for the Instructional Technology Graduate Program. “Many schools and colleges use our online textbook as their textbook of choice for courses.”
Founded in 1988 by International Data Group (IDG), Computerworld Honors is the longest-running global program to honor individuals and organizations that use information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change.
“History need not be boring. All it takes is active, hands-on learning, and the Digital History website provides the tools that bring history to life,” said Professor Steven Mintz, co-creator of the site and currently the director of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center at Columbia Teachers College.
The Digital History Project began 10 years ago, on the cusp of the new digital revolution, as a way to meet the needs of financially stressed teachers and students of American history in middle school to 12th grade, as well as in college. The high-quality resource, www.digitalhistory.uh.edu, is free to use, and includes U.S. history textbooks, essays, multimedia exhibits, historical maps, speeches and images. It also includes primary source materials on slavery, Mexican American, Asian American and Native American histories, as well as audio-visual resources, including historic music, photographs and art works, and film trailers. Teachers also have access to lesson materials and resource guides. The website is supported by the UH Department of History and the College of Education.
“While Digital History has an intricate technical infrastructure—load balancers, fault-tolerant databases and robust, dynamic web code, among other things—what enthralls me about the project is that technology is never used for technology's sake, but to advance an educational goal,” said Michael Rapp, information security officer and infrastructure/data applications manager. Rapp has been working on the project for the past 10 years. “That goal is to take advantage of the technology so that we can enhance the teaching of United States history at a myriad of levels.”
Digital History also is listed as one of the top five resources in U.S. History according to Best of History Websites. More than 25,000 unique visitors use the website every school day.“Resources and professional development offered through Digital History encourages improved teacher training,” said Angela Miller, manager of Secondary Social Studies Curriculum at the Houston Independent School District. “Because these materials are accessible via the web, they can have a broad impact on all our students and teachers.”