Welcome to PROFILES



Profiles is modeled after MySpace.com, the online system for developing personal profiles and social networks that is all the rage with young people. We would like to harness the tremendous enthusiasm and creativity they are investing in developing these personal pages for learning about history and historical research. Why not let kids show off their computer skills, develop new skills, and have fun with history?

How does it work?

Students must research a historical person to complete a profile on Profiles. We will provide access on this website to the 1900 U.S. census data that provides basic information about all of the people who lived in the Old Seventh Ward: name, age, sex, marital status, household members, place of birth, parents' place of birth, schooling, occupation, and ability to read/write/speak English. Eventually, we will also make available historical photographs and records relating to housing, health, and crime. Students will be expected to develop their profiles based on the information from the website, from the book, The Philadelphia Negro, and other historical sources they identify.

For each piece of information they post on their profiles, students will need to identify the specific source that they consulted and whether this is a primary or secondary source. In most cases, there will be limited information available about an individual, but based on the information from the census, students may conduct research to find out what that person may have been like. For example, they might know that their person was a domestic servant, but they may not know exactly what kind of work they did or for whom they worked. Using historical sources, they might determine that it was likely that the domestic servant did laundry, cleaning, and cooking for a wealthy family that lived nearby.

Once students have developed profiles, they can start to network with other historical people. These might be friendships among peers, working relationships with colleagues and bosses, or other social ties. Students will be able to describe their daily life and relationships through a blog. This will require historical imagination and historical sources. It will allow them to imagine being a resident of the Old Seventh Ward at the end of the 19th Century. As students imagine other representations of daily life, such as videos and animations, we will try to keep up.

What are the benefits for students and teachers?

Profiles provides teachers with all the material they need for a homework assignment that teaches students about the lives of everyday people. It will also help teach historical research skills, including background reading, data collection, proper citations, and recognition of primary and secondary sources. Profiles presents students with a fun outlet for their creativity and computer skills, combining 19th Century historical content with 21st Century technology.

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