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First World War Poetry Digital Archive : Education Area

University of Oxford

In 2009 the University of Oxford added an ambitious education area to the First World War Poetry Digital Archive - aimed at a wide range of clearly identified user-groups.

The Archive (created 2007-2009) is an online repository of over 7,000 items of text, images, audio, and video for teaching, learning, and research - freely available from [screenshot attached]. Images of highly valued primary material from major poets of the period, including Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg, is supplemented by a comprehensive range of multimedia artefacts from the Imperial War Museum, as well as a separate archive of over 6,500 items contributed by the general public from a community collection initiative run by the project called The Great War Archive All items may be downloaded for educational use, including the images of the poetry manuscripts, the personal items from the public and the film footage from the War.

In addition, the project has developed educational resources which are freely-available and copyright-cleared for educational use. These have been developed by the project team, or collected from major national repositories like the Imperial War Museum or contributed by teachers at all levels. The Education Area arranges these resources by educational level at A user can browse the resources by these audience levels e.g. school students, lifelong learners, teachers of Key Stage 1-2 (5-7 years old), university undergraduate lecturers – and the material is interpreted differently for each user group. The educational resources prepared by the project team include: 150 audio-visual clips which you can download and play in your classroom, including film footage from the War and interviews with veterans, their families, and those who served the War effort at home; 700 images which you can download and use in your teaching; podcasts from experts and educational videos created by the project which are also distributed successfully through iTunes-U and YouTube; links to online resources chosen by the project team; online tutorials written for students or the public to work through at their own pace; and interactive timelines to find out about the key events from the War and explore what the major poets of the period were doing at the time – the letters they wrote, the diaries they kept and their poetry. You can even upload your own dataset and view it on the timeline,

Freely available to the public as well as the educational community, the First World War Poetry Digital Archive is a significant resource for studying the First World War and the literature it inspired. The education area was further developed by the project team working closely with teachers for the UK and Europe who are experienced educators at all levels from young schoolchildren through to research students, and educating in the community e.g. students who are unable to attend formal schooling, as well as lifelong learners and the general public. Many of the education resources were created during teacher workshops – in which the project would wine-and-dine experienced educators and newly-qualified teachers, and work them extremely hard over two very intensive days. The enthusiasm displayed and the teaching resources for the project to come out of these workshops were staggering – the project team were humbled by the presentations made by the teachers to their cohort at the end of each workshop. Some of the educational resources developed at these workshops by teachers include resource packs with PowerPoint presentations, images, audio clips, teacher notes, lesson plans for specific Key Stages of the curriculum – all zipped up for easy download, for use in the classroom without connecting to the Internet

Curated tours round the Archive (and to anywhere on the Web) were created by teachers using the path creation tool developed by the project (and available as open source). You can easily create these yourself to share your own online tutorial, slideshow, or exhibition. [Screenshot attached].

Mind-maps were used by teachers to visually represent words, ideas, tasks, topics and other information. Samples can be downloaded for use in class, and you can use mind-mapping software to enhance teaching and learning [Screenshot attached].

Also in the run-up to the season of remembrance in November 2009 the project developed an exciting new exhibition to visualize the manuscripts for educators in the three-dimensional virtual world Second Life – further information including a machinima video is available from [Screenshot attached].

Most significant – when you think of the impact a positive educational experience can have on a student - the project has set-up a self-sustaining community of teachers and students from around the world that discuss teaching First World War poetry, online, using a Google Group. This fosters a community that has existed online since Oxford’s original war poetry digitisation project in the 1990s. Most recently (January-February 2010) the group has responded to extremely lively questioning from a class of Flemish 17-year-olds undertaking a (ten week) course on WW1 Literature, described by their teacher when they were introduced as "an active and committed bunch of youngsters". [Screenshot attached].

The feedback about the First World War Poetry Digital Archive received from teachers and researchers includes:

  • "I love the site and my students love using it - only today I had Year 13 group using it to research particular forms of writing for our own war wiki on our VLE. A couple of my students became totally addicted to deciphering Vera Brittain's handwriting and finding out what was next in her letter to Leighton and downloaded the letter to take home!" Natalie Usher, Secondary School Teacher
  • "The Oxford initiative has provided academics and the public with an unprecedented research resource, and is set to provide a model for others in the sector to follow." From "Times Higher Educational Supplement", 17 July 2008
  • "This will not only help to make established poets better known, but bring out all sorts of things that are hidden away, going beyond the established canon to the poetry of the ordinary soldier." Vivien Noakes, Editor of the Poetry and Plays of Isaac Rosenberg
  • "This is one of the most comprehensive (if not the most comprehensive) archival sites on the web." From "Reviews in History", January 2009
  • "The students I demonstrated the Archive to, in a lecture in February, were very interested in it. Most students seem to find online material far more appealing than printed material, but the content of web sites is often less than academic. It's very good to be able to refer to students to a web site of such quality from a sound academic source." Andrea Peterson, University Lecturer
  • "Because the archive excites me it will excite the students." Secondary School Teacher, English Literature
  • "Go and explore The First World War Digital Poetry Archive and The Great War Archive, both based at the University of Oxford. Go even if you don’t care about the First World War, just to revel in the high quality of the thought that has gone into creating such a wonderful resource." Dan Todman, Historian
  • "I can not think of any site which has such useful background and source material as this." Secondary School Teacher, History
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