Annotated Bibliography: Community-Based Learning and Digital History



CBL and a Counter-Culture of Learning Outcomes in the U.S. History Survey


The project sought a systematic, qualitative strategy that would clarify and document the ways in which innovative community-based research helps students meet complex course and programmatic learning objectives--the fostering of a critical historical imagination, for example--that are resistant-by-design to quantitative measurement. Survey results indicated robust student interest in the value of community-based learning, but as a research instrument, the survey is most revealing in the way that it points to its own limitations.

In the context of what a recent Ontario Council of University Faculty Associations blog post calls the “metric-obsessed” culture of higher education, it is particularly important to recognize that progress toward course learning objectives cannot be entirely captured by the focused language of measurable learning outcomes. The anticipated outcomes of developing critical thinking, historical empathy, and grappling with the interplay of change and continuities over time, all speak of process. They resist the culture of quantifying and the endless rarefying of quality assurance metrics that replicate like fractals through the materials of teaching. Community-based research learning outcomes are most meaningful precisely when they are not measurable. Learning outcomes for the project are embedded in the research outcomes, and both are contextual, creative, and open-ended. 


In addition to course materials, surveys, student reflection papers, and bibliography, project results include two articles based on History at Huron CBL projects, and co-authored with Huron students, available at the links below. w/297

Anderson, I.G. and L.A. Tedd (2005). “Editorial: Digital Histories.” Program: Electronic Library and Information Systems, vol. 39, no. 4: 293-296. (accessed 27 January 2015).

This article provides an introduction to a series of papers for the 2004 conference of the Association for History and Computing UK.   Anderson and Tedd detail the subjective nature of digital history, but agree that new technology is “popularising and democratising history” (294).  A list of questions pertaining to their call for papers is particularly useful for those interested in analysing and evaluating digital sources.  Questions are grouped into such categories as “availability and access” [e.g. “Do commercial interests dictate digitisation?”], “research” [“How is digitisation affecting research activity?”], and “writing and teaching” [“Can historians write a ‘digital history’?”] (295).  These questions may also be helpful for encouraging debate and discussion amongst historians and teachers about the changing nature of the historical discipline.


Ayers, E. L. (1999). “The Pasts and Futures of Digital History.” (accessed 30 January 2015).

  In this article, Ayers explores the countless opportunities offered to historians by the modern digital age.  Although he acknowledges that digital archives may prove difficult to navigate, he is hopeful that the digitization of historical sources will encourage a ‘more literary kind of history’, a history that is written with complexity yet clarity.  In addition, Ayers believes that historians could create webpages that invite users to explore the connections between texts and source materials, or even develop virtual worlds that accurately represent specific historical contexts.  This article is therefore useful in summarizing the value of digital media to the study of history.


Batchelor, B. (2011) “Digital Technology and Teaching American Culture.” The Journal of

American Culture, vol. 34, no. 1: 49-55. (accessed 30 January 2015).

Batchelor hopes to “reveal a new way of looking at teaching American culture in the digital age” (49) by advocating an inter-disciplinary approach to cultural studies.  He argues that digital technology, when used appropriately, encourages students to think creatively and to be more analytical.  These abilities are increasingly sought after in the job market.  Batchelor’s article helps to highlight the potentially positive impact of technology on student learning and the important role of the teacher in this technological learning process.


Billig, S. & Furco, A. (2002). Service-Learning through a Multidisciplinary Lens. Greenwich,

Conn.: Information Age.

 Through a series of concise and informative essays, this book provides an insightful analysis of service-learning (community-based learning) and the research undertaken on this subject to date.  In their second chapter, Billig and Furco expound upon the need to treat service-learning research scientifically and to promote a greater circulation of relevant data amongst researchers.  The other chapters offer information on the theories guiding service-learning, as well as the benefits of this type of education, while the conclusion signals the future of multidisciplinary research.  Although this book addresses service-learning in a broad sense, it is helpful to historians as a guide to initiating and completing accurate and useful studies of community-based learning.


Bryan, B. (2013) “A Closer Look at Community Partnerships.” The Oral History Review, vol.

40, no. 1: 75-82. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 This article explores Bryan’s experiences with creating a digital collection of oral histories and the challenges that arose [e.g. “you simply cannot control access or dissemination [of the project] in the digital age” (80)].  She details the importance of proper planning and how she had to navigate certain ethical dilemmas with her interviewees [“Was there a right way and a wrong way to have conversations within our community?” (77)].  This article can be related to CBL since it provides valuable insight into the potential issues, including that of informed consent, that could arise with students interested in preserving oral histories.


Brown, J. (2004). "Forum: History and the Web – From the Illustrated Newspaper to

Cyberspace: Visual Technologies and Interaction in the Nineteenth and Twenty-first

Centuries." Rethinking History, vol. 8, no.2: 253-75. (accessed 30 January 2015).

This article addresses the problem of how the teaching of history remains largely textual.  Brown references various historical uses of image-accompanied texts (e.g. illustrated newspapers) and promotes a modern multimedia approach to the dissemination of historical knowledge.  He also endorses his collaboratively-produced History Matters website, while acknowledging that digital media is often very fragmented and difficult to navigate.  Nevertheless, Brown is hopeful for the future of digital media.  This article is beneficial in that it encourages historians to approach digital studies from a new perspective.  By examining the difficulties faced by the early pioneers of text-image pairings, historians can hope to overcome the challenges posed by digital archives and strive for work that is both engaging and informative.


Burton, O.V. (2005) "American Digital History." Social Science Computer Review, vol. 23,

no. 2:  206-220. (accessed 30 January 2015).

In this article Burton speculates on the future of the partnership between educators and the use of digitized history.  He reviews websites that epitomize the promise of technology-based learning and provides an overview of what has been done in the past.  Relevant challenges that arise from utilizing digitized history are also explored (e.g. how to peer-review multimedia publications?)  Overall, Burton’s article is useful in providing critiques of current digital databases.  It is also important to note his demand of the historical discipline – it must be reformed if teachers, students, and historiography are to truly benefit.


Clarke, W.G. and Lee, J.K. (2004) “The Promise of Digital History in the Teaching of Local

History.” The Clearing House, vol. 78, no. 2: 84-87. (accessed 30 January 2015).

Clarke and Lee’s article addresses innovative uses of digital media to teach local history to students at both the high school and university level.  They argue that a pervasive problem in historical studies is the disconnect that students experience between their reality and what they are learning.  Local history is the perfect solution; by examining the history of their community, students are able to personally relate to what they are studying while engaging with similar themes and problems addressed by professional historians.  In turn, students develop appropriate tools for self-reflection.  Clarke and Lee specifically cite the case study of a class they worked with that, in conjunction with the local historical society, developed an online resource of local historical research.  Clarke and Lee conclude their article with useful tips for web designers who are interested in making their electronic sites more accessible to students of history.  This article is thus helpful because of the emphasis it places on the importance of local history and the advantages of digital media in sparking students’ interests in history.


Corrigan, J.A., Ng-A-Fook, N., Levesque, S., and Smith, B. (2013) “Looking to the Future to

Understand the Past: A Survey of Pre-Service Teachers’ Experiences with Digital

Technologies in Relation to Teaching History.” Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, vol. 8,

no. 1-2: 49-73. (accessed 30 January 2015).

In this article, Corrigan et al. analyse the results of their survey of teachers’ reactions to, and observations of, digital media in the classroom.  The project was funded by the Canadian government (Insight Development Grant), which sought to educate “digital citizens” with appropriate “digital literacies” (52) so that these students might become more effective contributors to society.  The article is particularly useful because of the depth of its exploration of the problems with technology’s presentation in teacher training programs.  One such problem is the paradox that pre-service teachers frequently use Internet sources for gathering data, yet they perceive the Internet to be an unreliable source of information.  Corrigan et al. consequently argue that their research has implications for the structure of teacher education programs, as well as for classroom education.  Effective ‘technological literacy’ must be taught to teachers as well as to students.


Etmanski, C., Hall, B.L., and Dawson, T. (2014) Learning and Teaching Community-Based

Research: Linking Pedagogy to Practice. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

This book covers a wide range of topics related to community-based learning and pedagogy.  Although several of the case studies do not directly pertain to historical studies, the chapter “On Thin Ice: Managing Risks in Community-University Research Partnerships” is beneficial for teachers wishing to conduct CBL.  The authors navigate the difficult terrain of CBL, which aims to be mutually beneficial for both university and community.  They provide a useful analysis of how the relationship between university and community can be negotiated and adapted to better serve wide-ranging needs (e.g. they include sections on the ‘redistribution of power’, ‘mutual learning in ethical space’, and ‘overcoming binaries of local and expert knowledge’).  An understanding of the challenges and benefits of CBL is essential for all involved in the project; this book therefore serves as a helpful guide.


Groce, N. and Lyons, B. (2013) “Designing a National Online Oral History Collecting Initiative:

The Occupational Folklore Project at the American Folklore Center.” The Oral History Review, vol. 40, no. 1: 54-66. (accessed 30 January 2015).

Groce and Lyons document their experiences with the creation of a digital database of the

oral histories of American workers.  It is innovative in its goal to produce a nation-wide collection, built through the contributions of people across the country.  The authors detail their effective “Interview Data Form” which serves to “walk the interviewer through the submission process” (59) and which could be used as a guideline for designing effective catalogues of interview material online.  This article is valuable since it details a cutting-edge use of digital technology and history.  Although difficult to replicate, the projects provides inspiration for historians wishing to produce a digital database on a large scale.


Larson, M. (2013) “Steering Clear of the Rocks: A Look at the Current State of Oral

History Ethics in the Digital Age.” The Oral History Review, vol. 40, no.1: 36-49. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 In her article, Larson summarizes the main ethical dilemmas that have surfaced for oral historians in the digital age.  One prominent problem is the ethics involved in the digitization of oral histories that were conducted before the rise of the Internet.  Others concern the issue of privacy and accessibility once an interview is digitized, and the seeming ‘loss of control’ over how an interview is used once it is placed online.  Larson then discusses how historians are handling these issues.  This article is helpful for concretely addressing the challenges that digital technology poses for both historian and narrator, and offers insight into the future of information-gathering methods.


Liew, C.L. (2014) “Participatory Cultural Heritage: A Tale of Two Institutions’ Use of

Social Media.” D-Lib Magazine, vol. 20, no. 3/4: n.p. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 In her article, Liew compares and contrasts two cultural heritage institutions which are using social media to “create a culture of participation around their digital collections and services”.  Through social media, community members are able to share and contribute information to museums, including documents and photographs which may be commented upon by the public.  Liew also describes the challenges posed by the integration of social media into heritage institutions (e.g. issues about “authority, liability and credibility”).  This article is useful for teachers who wish to develop a digital community centred on historical studies, as the detailed case studies provide a glimpse into the wide-ranging possibilities that social media can bring to the historical discipline.


Lloyd, T. (2013) “The Civil Rights Oral History Survey Project.” The Oral History Review,

vol. 40, no. 1: 50-53. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 Lloyd summarizes his work on an online database of oral history interviews about the civil rights movement.  He highlights the value of collaborative research and the role that digital technology can play in facilitating the communication and display of individual research.  His article is useful since he provides links to databases of American folklore, which would be helpful to teachers and students of American history interested in conducting online research or in compiling their own collections of CBL fieldwork.

Rehberger, D. (2013) “Getting Oral History Online: Collections Management Applications.” The

Oral History Review, vol. 40, no. 1: 83-94. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 In this article, Rehberger provides a practical guide to navigating Content Management Systems (CMSs).  CMSs are digital tools that allow historians to produce an online collection of oral histories.  There are several CMS options, and Rehberger walks the reader through the benefits and drawbacks of each.  Particularly helpful is the section on defining key terms of the digital age which may be unfamiliar to historians and teachers (e.g. ‘LAMP’, ‘Cloud Services’).  Rehberger’s article is thus valuable to teachers interested in beginning an online database with student projects.


Robert, J.C. (2012) “History, Archives and the Internet.” Culture and History Digital

Journal, vol. 1, no. 1: 1-6. (accessed 30 January 2015).

Although Robert devotes time to analyzing the relationship between historians and archivists, his analysis of the challenges of digital archives is most pertinent.  While he admits that internet archives are definitely space-saving, they continue to prompt questions about the authenticity and quality of materials available.  He argues that it is easy for historical documents to be altered in the transition from physical to digital, and that it remains difficult to document the locations of files when the internet is constantly changing.  His article is useful for reminding historians that even with the benefits of digital archives, there remain issues that must be acknowledged and hopefully resolved.


Shumer, R. (1994) “Community-Based Learning: Humanizing Education.” Journal of

Adolescence, vol. 17, no. 4: 357-367. (accessed 30 January 2015).

Shumer addresses the benefits of community-based learning; he demonstrates that CBL programs encourage greater school attendance, develop responsible citizenship in youth, and inspire an increased love of learning.  Shumer compared students enrolled in a CBL program with those participating in a “traditional classroom-based program” (358), thus providing valuable insight into the impacts of CBL on student learning.  One particular finding concerned how students perceived CBL as eliminating “adversarial relationships so closely associated with traditional school” (362), as students worked with teachers and community members in a more relaxed, informal setting.  This article is helpful because it addresses the ‘human’ aspect of CBL programs through a detailed case study that includes numerous quotes from the students themselves.


Tebeau, M. (2013) “Listening to the City: Oral History and Place in the Digital Era.” The Oral

History Review, vol. 40, no. 1: 23-35. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 This article provides an overview of the “Cleveland Historical Project”, a website which exemplifies how oral and digital elements can combine to produce a “living museum” (23).  The website is accessible through mobile devices, and allows visitors to explore Cleveland “through layers of interpretative storytelling” (26).  Created through the collaboration of students, teachers, and community members, the website is multi-layered and innovative and encourages the public to actively engage with their local history.  Tebeau’s article is useful because it provides a framework for how teachers can bring ‘history to life’ through unique mediums, thus encouraging innovation in the presentation of history.


Valk, A. and Ewald, H. (2013) “Bringing a Hidden Pond to Public Attention: Increasing Impact

through Digital Tools.” The Oral History Review, vol. 40, no. 1: 8-24. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 This article demonstrates the powerful impact of digital archives and history in supporting a community arts and oral history project (the particular case study was the Mashapaug Project, which involved the preservation of a pond in Providence, Rhode Island).   Valk, a university professor, and Ewald, an artist, decided to develop an oral history project about the pond in order to promote environmental awareness, community building, and cross-disciplinary cooperation.  The article is valuable because it reveals how “digital tools, combined with oral history, exhibit methods, and multimedia storytelling, extend the project’s pedagogical and public impact” (11).  In addition, the article offers insight into how CBL proves to be mutually beneficial for students and community partners.


White, A. (2005) “The development of digital resources by library and information

professionals and historians: Two case studies from Northern Ireland.” Program:

Electronic Library and Information Systems, vol. 39, no. 4: 324-336. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 While White examines two digital archives to reveal how library and information science workers and historians may successfully collaborate, he also discusses two major issues that arise from the digitization of sources.  These issues revolve around questions of authenticity and accuracy.  White demonstrates how archival staff have effectively addressed these issues.  This article is therefore useful for outlining problems with digital archives and for suggesting possible solutions.


Wood, S. D. and Samuel, R. (2012) “History as Community-Based Research and the Pedagogy

of Discovery: Teaching Racial Inequality, Documenting Local History, and Building Links Between Students and Communities in Mississippi and Tennessee.” Journal of Rural Social Sciences, vol. 27, no. 2: 32-49. (accessed 30 January 2015).

 Wood and Samuel provide an exemplary study of how community-based research can have profound impacts not only on students, but also the community in which they are working.  This article describes CBL of the history of the civil rights movement and provides valuable material from student journals to better illustrate students’ perceptions of the project.  Wood and Samuel discovered that CBL can be particularly effective for teaching students about race.  This article is also useful from a methodological perspective since it describes the challenges that may arise when student and community needs do not align, and suggests appropriate compromises and possible outcomes.


Zlotkowski, E. and Duffy, D. (2010) “Two Decades of Community-Based Learning.” New

Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 123: 33-43. (accessed 30 January 2015).

In this article, Community-Based Learning is alternatively referred to as both a “necessary revolution” (34) and as an “educational resource whose time has come” (40).  It is important that CBL be regarded not merely as an addition to traditional learning, but rather as an integral feature of the student’s learning experience.  Zlotkowski et al. particularly highlight the need for the ‘civic’ component of CBL programs to be acknowledged by teachers.  They contend that “what makes service-learning truly distinctive is its elevation of the civic to a place of equal importance [with the ‘academic’ and the ‘cognitive’]” (39).  This article is useful, then, since it highlights these three interlinked components of CBL programs and provides teachers with an overview of the ‘history’ of CBL.