NURFC Tackles Slavery Education Through K-12 Digital Media Program


The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, an organization focused on historical and contemporary slavery issues, is expanding its reach through a new agreement to distribute educational videos electronically to K-12 schools. Through the Safari Montage video on demand platform, NURFC will make its standards-aligned educational content--digital media and supporting materials--available to students and teachers across the country.

The Freedom Center (or NURFC) is a museum and organization that provides resources on historical and contemporary slavery. Through its new digital media program, the organization will deliver a range of programming targeted toward four subject areas: American History, Global Issues, Civics, and Social Studies. The content is aimed at students in grades 7 through 12, and supporting teachers' guides are being made available for the programming. Supporters of the program include Ariel Capital Management, the Ford Foundation, and the General Mills Foundation.

This digital media initiative is an attempt to push its educational content beyond the walls of NURFC's physical building in Ohio, according to Ernest Perry, chief technology officer for the Freedom Center, who explained the goals of the initiative to in an e-mail interview.

"We have two major goals that our e-learning strategy is designed to achieve," said Perry. "Firstly, we are ambitiously pushing beyond the walls of our institution to take the core themes, concepts, and inquiry-based approaches to learning guiding our on-site student experience to a much broader audience. We have used the Underground Railroad as a starting point to teach the enduring importance of securing and preserving Freedom, and evaluating our roles as agents within this struggle, to hundreds of thousands of students and educators who have visited us since opening our center in 2004. Technology provides us with a platform for engaging an even greater audience in the Freedom Center experience by eliminating the barriers of time, geography, rising fuels costs and shrinking school budgets for field trips, etc. It also facilitates a more individualized approach to learning, which really is what the Freedom Center is all about--transforming individuals and connecting them with other like-minded people who find common cause as members of a global community committed to the principles of Freedom.

"Secondly," Perry continued, "the Freedom Center believes strongly in the ability of informal learning centers--like us--to be a hub for regional economic development by becoming a part of the educational links powering urban revitalization in so many cities, like Cincinnati, across the United States. Centers of Learning--museums, libraries, historical societies, etc.--are vital components of the 21st Century learning ecology. Traditional boundaries that have long separated formal learning from informal learning are becoming porous as the need for individuals to become life-long learners and have any-time access to an increasing range of information pushes them to seek educational value in every experience they have."

This is not the first time NURFC has made an electronic push into K-12 education. Back in February, the organization partnered with Chicago Public Schools for an educational program that combined distance learning technologies with digital media. NURFC content is also available through the iTunes U Beyond Campus portal, a repository for multimedia educational resources within Apple's iTunes U.

Perry said that, based on NURFC's experience with the Chicago Public Schools initiative, a number of new K-12 projects will be developed--not all of them technology-driven. These include a "Freedom Riders" teachers institute in which educators will take a bus tour exploring "unequal access to technology-driven learning experiences and media opportunities for students and educators in our nation’s urban schools."

Other projects in the works include an initiative with local school districts (the details of which should be released within a month or so) and a partnership, led by INFOhio, with state educational media centers and libraries.

"We’re just in the beginning stages of this partnership," Perry said, "but have already delivered some big, early wins in demonstrating the potential of partnerships between institutions like the Freedom Center and state educational technology organizations, boards of education, and governments. There is definitely a model for collaboration in the works here."

We'll bring you more details on these additional programs when they become available. Further information about NURFC's electronic learning programs can be found here.

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About the author:David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at [email protected].

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at [email protected].

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .