A Library of Congress grant will support the work of USF professors Ilene and Michael Berson on KidCitizen, a focus on government and civics
TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2015) – Teachers of students in kindergarten through fifth grade are on the verge of gaining access to new apps to help children become more engaged citizens thanks to the work of two innovative USF professors.
USF College of Education professors Ilene Berson and Michael Berson are working with a distinguished team of software developers and educators on the project “KidCitizen Expandable Mobile and Online Apps for Elementary grades on Congress and Civic Participation,” which is being funded by a $336,000 grant from the Library of Congress and developed by Muzzy Lane Software.
The Bersons are co-principal investigators on the project.
The apps, which can be used on iOS and Android devices and web browsers, will provide authentic, age-appropriate interaction with primary source materials, based on strong research and pedagogy. They will engage children in exploring civics and government concepts through historical sources, and connect what they find with their daily lives.
“Every component is being designed to build student literacy, critical thinking skills, and content knowledge,” said Michael Berson.
Together they stated, “The combined power of technological innovation and democratic ideals opens opportunities for greater access to information and offers a medium for young children to be heard and express their voices. It is essential for educated citizens in the 21st century to be engaged in activities that require them to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, creative visionaries, and accurate appraisers of information. The project team is filling a critical void in the currently available resources.”
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’s 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.
The Bersons are professors in the USF College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning. Their prominent work on the intersection of technology and pedagogy of inquiry in the early years will provide a critical focus on this project to promote children’s engagement with primary sources through the affordances of these digital innovations.
The Muzzy Lane App Design and Development Team includes Dave McCool, Ralph Gerth and Tyler Vogel. Other partners on the grant will provide important leadership and expertise.
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Peter Levine and Abby Kiesa from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Education (CIRCLE) will guide the project focus on embedding research-informed strategies to promote the civic and political engagement of young students with primary sources.
Noted Historians Edward L. Ayers of the University of Richmond and Spencer Crew of George Mason University will advise the team on issues related to content selection, historical accuracy and public representations of history. Barbara Kirby, director of teaching with primary sources at Waynesburg University and coordinator of the Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region, will provide valuable insights on primary source selection and teacher professional development and dissemination.
Supervisor of Elementary Social Studies Daryl W. Saunders, Hillsborough County Public Schools, will serve on the project advisory board to guide content selection, developmental appropriateness of the design, and alignment with educational standards for the elementary grades. Cynthia Char of Char and Associates will lead the evaluation team.
The mobile and online resources the team develops will be freely available for use by educators, and the tools and templates will enable users to add new content and create new episodes for use in instruction.
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 50 research university among both public and private institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving nearly 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.5 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.