Values & Collaboration

The work to be done in 2019–2022 is daunting, but we’re excited! #PlainTalkHistory is seeking to collaborate with scholars or educators who have done important research (or a bold reframing) that can open readers up to a broader way of thinking about events that form the multitude of experiences in the history of the United States.

And if you read this far, you probably agree that ALL of history is fascinating and valuable. We think so too.

The #PlainTalk Model

Yet the goal of #PlainTalkHistory is not a curation of all existing digital resources out there. Other efforts already strive to achieve such a web directory for teachers. And to limit our focus, our goal is not to create new digital humanities that are interesting for their own sake: the academy does that well already.

Instead, #PlainTalkHistory unabashedly contemplates what is it that every young citizen ought to know today, in an era where the challenges and debates are as great as ever — and, arguably, the stakes are higher, our peers groups are broader, and incoming media is noisier than at any time in human history.

We’re moving past words in PDFs — to create interactive explorations that work on any tablet, and even on the students’ cell phones. This means formatting the stories differently to meet students where they are. auut studio believes in this so much, we are hosting this site and prepared to work pro-bono: You bring the scholarship, we’ll bring the design.

Content on this site is designed for the lay public. In practical terms, lessons are written at or below a 9th grade reading level, whether those people be high schoolers or parents at home. These are thoughtful readers even if they may not, or never, pass again through the higher ed system. Yet we do not believe this means that nuance must be discarded. The world is complicated today; the world was complicated before. Young readers can grapple with multiple ideas beyond the “good” and “bad” side.

Lastly, this site demonstrates that good design is one tool in the pursuit of educating: we are not satisfied with yesterday’s lesson mold. What readers will find at #PlainTalkHistory is meant to surprise, engage, and inspire them to learning.

Projects to prioritize

Like any organization, we must prioritize a set of limited resources. auut studio is working to expand the cadre of designers who will contribute their digital skills for free or low-cost.

In the meantime, the Advisory Board helps #PlainTalkHistory choose collaborations which will lead to new lesson modules like these:

What makes it ‘good history’?

The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) has perceptively articulated a set of characteristics that helps them to identify exceptional work. The AASLH uses these guidelines in granting their “Leadership in History” Awards every year.

We believe these guidelines capture our aspirations for everything to be posted on this site. To paraphrase slightly from the AASLH, good history is work that:

Embraces difficult topics

by reflecting current scholarship, grounding the work in primary source research, and providing a genuine contribution to the understanding of history.

Cultivates an experimental and creative spirit

as a source for imaginative problem solving, exploring new approaches, and resourcefulness — while also looking to others for inspiration.

Acts to build diversity and inclusiveness

through interpretation that considers race, ethnicity, gender, social class, and geography, and is provocative through presenting contested history and multiple perspectives.

Demonstrates the relevance of history

and showcases how the public can make use of the past in discussions of the present and the future.

Attempts to be accessible to wide audiences

with differing learning styles, abilities, and interest in history.

Propose a new collaboration:

Do you have a project in mind, or the research & storytelling already developed? The first step is reaching out! Let’s start a conversation about how to build something amazing together that hundreds of thousands of readers will explore.

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