GISA 2013

On Monday, November 4, I attended the Georgia Independent Schools Association Conference at Woodward Academy in College Park, Georgia. It was my first GISA conference so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but learned quite a bit. I was able to attend two other sessions in addition to presenting, and it was great to connect with a wide variety of educators.

Session 1: Making the Leap to a Digital Course

The presenters were Mary Chuboff and Mike Callinan from Athens Academy, and here was the session description:

In spite of the structure that a traditional textbook can provide, rising costs, the increasing weight of student backpacks, and frequent updates and revisions have spurred many resourceful teachers to seek a more flexible alternative. Assembling an array of the best electronic resources available–articles, videos, simulations, interactive guides, etc.–requires considerable time and energy, but it is also consistent with what we should be asking of our students in the 21st century. We can no longer rely on a single source for our information; instead, we must consult a variety of sources and synthesize in order to draw conclusions. This presentation will demonstrate how you can gather resources into a single, easily-updated and potentially interactive electronic space that will make students, teachers and parents more than willing to toss the textbook!

I decided to go to this session to see if there were tools that I might be able to use in educating the students here about Archives. I conducted a few classes last year as an “Introduction to the Archives,” but perhaps I could reach more students and teachers by using educational tools. Here are a couple of concepts that I thought were interesting:

  • Flipped Classroom: The idea is that the students will watch videos and take notes at home, so that while they are in the classroom, they can immediately apply what they’ve learned. There’s a variety of tools out there to help teachers “flip” their classroom. Here’s one of the primary teachers behind this speaking on his methods:
  • Creating your own textbook: One tool is called CK12, and is primarily geared towards the science and math classes. However, searching for this topic brings up a variety of tools for teachers to create their own textbook and arrange it in the order that suits their teaching style best.

Most teachers now have an interactive website where they post the lesson plans, homework assignments, etc., and the presenters mentioned how easy it is to update from year to year. My thought as an archivist is trying to figure out the best way to systematically capture that information every year. It will depend on how long your records retention schedule says to keep a syllabus (or a teacher-created textbook), and in what electronic format is that syllabus/textbook is being kept.

Session 2: Need Primary Sources? Call Your Nearest Archives!


The DocsTeach website from the National Archives (

Here was our session description:

Bringing history to life within the classroom means partnering up with your archives, whether at the school, city, or federal level. Through technology, teachers have a rich supply of original sources at their fingertips to enhance the student’s educational experience. This session will describe two current projects, DocsTeach at the National Archives and teacher workshops at the Atlanta History Center, as well as present a pilot project at the school level -a partnership between the school archives and the History Department. Here you will be able to take away practical skills to use in your classroom, as well as a means to provide your students with ways to research and evaluate primary sources.

My co-presenters were Sue VerHoef from the Atlanta History Center and Joel Walker from the National Archives-Atlanta regional branch. Both of them have very active teacher/student programs, and I feel that was very beneficial for the educators to learn about these programs. I spoke on the pilot project I am working on here with two AP US History teachers where we will bring students physically to an archives in order to provide them with a full researcher experience.  We had lots of questions after the session was over, so perhaps we might do a variant of this session again next year.

Session 3: Creating Historical Fiction

This session was taught by one of my co-presenters, Joel Walker from NARA, and he discussed the work he has done with Cindy Rittenhouse, an English teacher at Rivers Academy in Alpharetta.  Here was their session description:

Since 2012, Rivers Academy has explored original documents at the National Archives at Atlanta for creative inspiration. Cindy Rittenhouse, English teacher at Rivers Academy, and Joel Walker, Education Specialist at NARA Atlanta, discuss ways they have collaborated and explore other ways high schools can put the documents of the National Archives at Atlanta to use.

It will be an interesting idea for me to explore with our English department here at Westminster. While I may not have much in our archives before 1900, we could certainly use the images, documents, and artifacts as an inspiration for creative writing. It’s also a wonderful way to reach out to students (and teachers) who might not really think of using the school archives for their classroom assignments. It’s certainly worth exploring.

Final Note

It was also wonderful to meet other local school archivists and history teachers, and l look forward to continuing our conversations outside of the conference.


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