Boosting High School Digital Literacy

Mapping the History of New York at the Graduate Center
This past spring, students from Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) honed their digital literacy skills and shaped the story of their city through the Mapping Time, a project jointly run by BHSEC, the Graduate Center’s Center for the Humanities, and the New York Public Library.  
Working with the library’s staff, the high school students spent a spring semester course researching archival materials about their school’s neighborhood and creating a digital platform to share their projects online. GC Teaching Fellows Joseph Goodale and Zachary Lloyd, Ph.D. students in comparative literature, helped the students evaluate their findings and give them context within the larger history and culture of the Lower East Side.
“One of the main points of the project was to emphasize that anyone can contribute to the study of history; one is inevitably a part of it,” Lloyd said. “Having high school students, rather than just professional historians or even grad students, doing this kind of research was great, especially because for these students, it had a very personal, real element.”
To learn the newest archival and digital research techniques, students accessed the NYPL’s new NYC Space/Time Directory, its digital collections, and holdings that included photographs, maps, building plans, oral histories, government records, newspaper articles, and literature. Students also made personal visits to Lower East Side sites of their choice.
The course culminated in early June with a celebration at the NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building during which the students presented their final projects. They used mixed media to explore topics such as gentrification in the Lower East Side, the neighborhood’s drug epidemic in the 1970s through 1990s, and Nuyorican poetry. Each student focused on an urban structure, creating a narrative history of a place.
“The goal was to have high school students immerse themselves in primary material — the better to uncover and ultimately narrate the history and evolution of the city,” said Distinguished Professor AndrĂ© Aciman (Comparative Literature), who directed and designed the course. “In essence, high school students were writing history — and, in most cases, a history that has never been written before.”
Aciman collaborated with deputy director and Ph.D. candidate Claire Sommers (Comparative Literature); Maggie Jacobs, director of educational programs at the NYPL; and Michael Lerner, principal of Bard High School Early College, on the project.
“It was very rewarding to see the students’ enthusiasm as they presented their final projects,” Sommers said. “The course has taught them to think critically about the neighborhood they walk through every day and has allowed them to forge a greater connection with their community and its residents.”

Bard High School Early College students hone digital literacy skills.

Submitted on: JUN 23, 2017

Category: Center for the Humanities | Comparative Literature | Faculty Activities | General GC News