Information Transfer Exercises

Many years ago when I was teaching English language at a university in Saudi Arabia I shared an office with a colleague from England who was working on a textbook for the Kenya Department of Education. One day he showed me one of the lesson assignments in the text. Students read apage of information and were instructed to transfer the data to a table. It was, he said, an excellant way look at students ability to comprehend what they read. So how does that relate to teaching genealogy?

Here’s a similar learning activity for your genealogy class. From a heritage book or local or county history you provide a copy of a family or individual biography and ask the student to transfer the information to one or more family group sheets and a pedigree chart. Then you discuss the products of their work. Look to see how they seperate facts from assumptions. Discuss possible missing, incomplete or conflicting information.

Ask the students to work from the charts to create lists of clarification questions they would like to ask the informant.

So at this point the student has transferred data from the source to a chart, then examined the data to see what is missing from what they want. Is that busy work or is it learning? What do you think?

And if its learning, what do we teach next?

Your comments are most welcome.


2 responses to “Information Transfer Exercises

  1. Ken,

    It is busy work and learning – it’s too easy for advanced researchers, but still necessary to do; it’s definitely learning for beginners.

    I would have the students list the sources of information that they could tap to find the answers to their questions. My homework for them would be to find repositories or web sites that hold the resources they need.

    Cheers — Randy

  2. I think it’s a very useful means of analyzing data. Just reading something over, I may think I understand it, but sorting it out in a different fashion, for example, taking a census record and making a family tree of it — and showing relationships that way, sometimes reveals facts that are ‘unspoken’ in the document, but which may lead to further research. I just did that with a census record someone said he was at a dead end with — and in so doing I found leads to the wife’s former marriage, found a family that I believe may be the wife with her former husband and children ten years earlier, found a neighbor of the same surname as the second husband living three doors away, and then, continuing to search for the second husband, found a very likely possibility further down the road living with what appear to be his parents and siblings. The neighbor of the wife is of an age to be an elder brother. While all this may turn out to be wrong, it is certainly worth investigating — and not instantly visible when the census record was first examined. Redoing it as a family tree made me aware of research possibilities. I do that often with ‘problem ancestors’ and it often gives me new insight into the family — and a different way off approaching the ‘hunt.’

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