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Thursday, March 3 • 2:15pm - 3:00pm
Using Digital Personas to Teach Primary Source Reading Comprehension

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My overall goal for this session is to expose high school Social Studies and English teachers to digital persona generators that will aid in student comprehension of primary sources (Mural.co, personagenerator.com, and UXPressia.com). Digital personas are a way to classify a group of people based on their key characteristics, wants, and needs (“Personas,” 2021). The typical use of personas is for product designers to understand the needs of their future users; however, I believe this tool can be applied to a classroom setting in teaching students to read while thinking about the point of view of the primary source author. Research has shown that activating students’ schema, or background knowledge, about a topic before reading can help aid in their reading comprehension (Anderson, 2018). Through this conference session, teachers will learn about the creation of digital personas as a tool for activating schemas before reading and interpreting primary source material. For a Social Studies classroom application, digital personas will help students with Document Based Questions because they will be able to quickly classify the point of view of the primary source based on the catalog of personas they have created. Students will only need to assess if the source is in line with the persona of the person writing the source or not. For example, if a student has created a persona for a pro-slavery Democrat and they are confronted with a primary source from South Carolina, the student will only need to assess if the point of view reflected in the source aligns with the pro-slavery Democrat persona, or if the point of view is divergent from the norm. This is a much easier method to approach reading primary sources. In an English class, students can create personas for the characters in the novel they are reading or teachers can lead them through what the societal norms for groups of people were at the time the novel of choice was written.

Session Outline:
5 minutes: Theoretical framework for activating schemas/background information and sharing the struggles of primary source reading that students face
10 minutes: Read the 5 prepared personas of key groups of people related to the Civil War. There will be a persona for a Southern Democrat, a Northern Republican, a former slave, a slave owner, and an abolitionist writer. These personas will outline a general description of what each persona group believes, their common attitudes, their goals, hypothetical quotes of what we predict they might express in the source, and a portrait of a famous person from the category. Each persona will also have a short primary source excerpt for the session attendees to read through.
5 minutes: Session attendees will then receive a document- based essay question and will outline their answer in groups.
5 minutes: As a full group, session attendees will discuss the activity and if/how they found the personas to be useful when analyzing the primary sources
10 minutes: In groups, session attendees will explore the persona generating technology on 3 different websites: Mural.co, personagenerator.com, and UXPressia.com and discuss the pros and cons of each site
10 minutes: As a full group, session attendees will share ideas they have for other classroom applications for the digital persona generators.
Attendees will also leave with a pamphlet of suggestions for additional classroom activities that use the persona generator platform.


Thursday March 3, 2022 2:15pm - 3:00pm EST
  Concurrent, Digital Content and instruction
  • Grade Span 44904
  • Devices Chromebooks, iPads, Tablets, Macbooks, PC Laptops, SmartPhones
  • Diversity My session will include primary sources from multiple perspectives and will provide students with skills to interpret primary sources on their own and form their own opinions. Although I am presenting a digital platform for teachers to implement in the classroom, the activity can be modified to be done on paper if teachers and students do not have access to digital tools in their classrooms. Digital personas will also provide special needs students a more concrete tool to approach primary source reading to aid in their reading comprehension. The use of group work throughout the session will also provide an opportunity for more voices to be heard.
  • Level Beginner
  • Room 306C