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A groundbreaking Web site has been launched for A Biography of America that enables the entire world to experience the PBS TV series and telecourse spearheaded by Donald L. Miller, Lafayette’s John Henry MacCracken Professor of History.

The lead scholar and on-air host of the 26-part series airing throughout the country, Miller conceptualized and named the series and helped recruit the other nationally-known historians who participated. He wrote 17 of the scripts, edited the others, and hosted on-air interviews with numerous historians and novelists.

The Web site features content developed by Miller and the team of scholars he assembled for the series.

“It will have many millions of visitors,” says David Pelizzari of Annenberg/CPB, which funded A Biography of America. “, where the Biography of America site is housed, is one of the most-visited educational sites on the Web, according to statistics published in the September 2000 issue of eSchool News.

“We’ve always been proud of the way was taken to heart and put to use by educators across the country — put to use at an average level recently of 1.5 million hits per month,” he continues. “The recent eSchool News statistics show we’re up there with the White House, the Library of Congress, and NASA among the sites most used by K-12 educators.”

Pelizzari says Annenberg/CPB is promoting the Biography of America site aggressively with the nation’s top education and technology editors and writers and education trade journals. Journalists throughout the country regularly feature’s activities and resources as top educational picks, he adds. In 1999, the site’s Journey North feature received the Webby Award – the “Oscar of the Internet” – as the best educational site in the nation.

Produced by WGBH Interactive, the site is keyed to A Biography of America’s 26 video programs, but can also be used independently as a rich resource for students and teachers at all levels.

“A primary task of the Biography of America television and video series is to provoke the critical thinking among teachers and students that historians consider crucial to an understanding of history — and the Web site has also taken this is as its chief goal,” Pelizzari says.

Each of the 26 chronological sections on the web provides a listing of key events of the period covered, a map relevant to the era, the transcript of the video program from the Biography of America series, a sophisticated bibliography, and a “Webography” offering an annotated set of Web links. Interactive features of four types help to tell the American story in a clear and authoritative way:

  • “Image as History” activities guide viewers in interpreting historical paintings, drawings, photographs, or maps.
  • “You Decide” activities allow users to participate historical debates where multiple arguments from authoritative, historical sources guide the final outcome.
  • “Interactive Maps” help visitors see geographic, infrastructure, and demographic change over time.
  • “Interactive Timelines” allow users to study the chronological facts of the nation’s history in thematic ways. For example, in “The Reform Impulse” (Program 8), visitors can view separate chronologies for politics, culture, slavery, and economy/technology and see how they overlap and affect each other.

The web site is designed to take advantage of the interactive possibilities of recent browsers and plug-ins, but is constructed so that all content is available for all visitors, even those without the latest software updates.

Categorized in: Academic News