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S.C. Digital Academy becomes a reality

Oct 3, 2011 12:00 PM

A wealth of digital resources is now at South Carolina teachers’ fingertips.

The new S.C. Digital Academy incorporates primary documents from the special collection libraries into K-12 lessons, and then makes those documents and lesson plans freely available to teachers. The project uses digital resources that are offered by the University Libraries and libraries across the state.

The project is headed by Connie Geer, a National Board- and South Carolina-certified social studies teacher. Her efforts incorporate a growing bank of lesson plans, teaching strategies, school workshops and field lesson opportunities for teachers in South Carolina.

“The Digital Academy is accessible online, it is free, and it directly helps students with what they need to learn,” Geer said. “We’re not just creating random lessons. We are strengthening teachers’ practice in what they do in the classroom. The end result is better results for students in South Carolina.”

To spread the word, Geer is leading workshops and offering field lessons upon request.

“I’m leading workshops for teachers – about 12 so far this year. I take one lesson from the Digital Academy and go through the whole lesson. I show them how to use it and get them involved,” she said. “I also will come into the classroom to teach the class and teach the teacher how to use the online materials.

“There are lots of resources for teachers available online,” Geer said. “What makes this different is that it’s not just another Website that gives teachers ideas. The lesson plans are directly standards-driven. It is classroom-ready and produces results in the classroom.”

One of the first lessons Geer created utilizes the South Carolina Railroad Photograph Collection, a South Caroliniana collection and part of the University Libraries Digital Collections. A third-grade teacher might introduce her class to the collection through a lesson where students act as advertising agents. Students are asked to use photographic evidence and Google Maps to track the existence of rail lines throughout South Carolina towns. With additional research, students explore the history and necessity for rail lines in South Carolina. With research and photography, students develop ads that promote this once-booming industry.

Another lesson plan suitable for many grades has students take a trip from Chicago to Mississippi using “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book” and Google Maps.

“USC’s South Caroliniana Library has a copy of the African American Green Book (1956), a travel guide that  listed lodgings, tailors, beauty parlors, restaurants, gas stations and other businesses that welcomed African American clients during the Jim Crow era,” Geer said. The author of the book was Victor H. Green, a New York postal worker.

Using the Green Book as a guide, students are asked to investigate the traveling patterns of African Americans during the civil rights era, create a travel itinerary through the United States for an African-American family. And students are asked to explain the effects of racial discrimination on African Americans as they traveled throughout the United States during the civil rights era.

For more information, and to see all the lessons, go to