Information Transfer Exercises: The Beginnings of Analysis


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 a page 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?

And if its learning, what do we offer next?

I’ve been thinking abut that today. The reverse process is also valuable. If the student takes the information from a form like a family group sheet, or a standardized vital record certificate, and moves it to a narrative form with comments on source, information and evidence, then adds a lplan to corroborate or substantiate the evidence, is this not also and information transfer exercise?

And at a more sophisticated level, is not transcribing, then abstracting a will or similar lengthy document, an information transfer exercise? Can we add to this and analysis task too?

What do you think?
Your comments are most welcome.


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