Shana Crosson, Web Content Manager, Minnesota Historical Society


Shana Crosson is the Web Content Manager and Technology Integration Specialist at the Minnesota Historical Society and has been for the last six years.  Currently her job revolves around preparing the Minnesota Historical Society for the digital delivery of K-12 content.  Shana is currently in revisions for a digital text book for use in public schools and her team is also working on delivering digital primary sources to the K-12 audience.

Transitioning to Digital Resources

The Minnesota Historical Society has been publishing a textbook, Northern Lights, since 1988. The Minnesota Historical Society writes, produces, and sells this text to public schools.  It is targeted at the 6th grade and aligns with their curriculum and requirements. They currently are working on delivering a browser-based version of the textbook. Recently curriculum for 6th grade classes have changed, sparking the current revisions and the addition of digital content.  These grade standards, which were released in February, are followed closely by the Minnesota Historical Society website programs. All web programming designed for the K-12 audience aligns with these requirements. The latest edition of the text will be released with a significant amount of digital content.

Local or National Content

The Minnesota Historical Society used to focus their content solely on Minnesota but now maintain that “all history is local.” Their programming and content have shifted from a Minnesota focus to a more national appeal. In their video conferencing program the people running the program are in in St Paul but deliver information all over the country. The text book currently being developed has a chapter that is being developed as an iPad app and will be targeted at a broad national audience.

The Internet Versus Live Teachers

Web programming can’t replace a live teacher, but a teacher has the responsibility to use the information available to enhance live classroom experiences. This content can open the world to students. Teachers can’t bring artifacts into the classroom, but having access to images and information about the objects from a primary sources is beneficial to the learning experience.   Currently, the Minnesota Historical Society has too many objects available for viewing making it confusing for teachers to find correct artifacts. This needs to be narrowed down for easier access for teachers. There are also data visualization programs and mapping resources available, as well as a graphic novel based on primary sources.  All these resources make history more accessible and alive.

Social Media in the Classroom

Social media can assist in learning, if teachers let it. Teachers shut it down for the wrong reasons, but it can be used effectively.  Teachers use Twitter to communicate with classes and to help the communicate about what they’ve read or learned.  Students can develop a Facebook page for characters they’re learning about, which require them to boil down all they’ve learned to the most basic information. Social media allows for teaching students in a medium that they’re familiar with. Social media could really blossom and take off.

Shana speaks to the current trends in education and how the Internet is expanding these trends. Local focuses are broadening to national, paper texts are transitioning to digital versions, and social media is being integrated into classroom learning.  While live teaching will stand the test of time, traditional learning models and the requirements for students will grow and change.  Those looking to step in and assist in informal learning must take notice.

Listen to the interview

Listen to the streaming audio above or download the mp3 file.


  1. joan says:

    When listening to Shana Crosson speak I was interested in hearing about challenges presented by the need to prepare content for different devices. I would love to learn more about virtual field trips. Making a field trip to a real classroom to experience one sounds somewhat ironic! I can see their appeal from administrator’s perspective; cost savings and reduced safety risk. Social media presents new opportunities for connecting with the Old Bard; tweeting about Romeo and Juliet – fancy that!

  2. Matt Eaton says:

    This was a really interesting interview! Shana’s comments on students accessing online content reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine who is a teacher. Our local school district has recently begun providing iPads for every student. He said that this movement has launched many changes in the way his class works, but the message remains the same. Considering the fact that kids use these pieces in their daily lives to a great extent, it makes sense that schools would want to implement more technology. For more and more kids, it is becoming normal to use a tablet computer rather than pencil and paper.

    It’s fantastic that the Minnesota Historical Society provides so many resources to be used in the classroom.

    1. Linda Hruza-Jones says:

      Shana’s remark that the education field is rapidly changing due to the many opportunities provided by technology is so true. Over the last few years, there, indeed, has been a move to decrease the use of textbooks and to encourage teachers to curate their own materials and lessons that fit into the core curriculum standards. Teachers are discovering that by employing a social media platform in their lessons, students are able to demonstrate their knowledge of the content in a fashion familiar and fun to them. By having students text or tweet their responses, create a Facebook page, write a blog, or produce a YouTube video or a podcast, educators are engaging their students and creating a positive learning experience. While an interactive video conferencing class has its limitations, the high costs of taking field trips make it a viable alternative. As Shana pointed out, collaboration between educators and museums can result in a positive experience for the students, the teachers and the museum. Fascinating interview.

  3. Ruth Goerger says:

    I was particularly interested in Shana’s talk, as I used to work for the Minnesota Historical Society, and have followed the museum ever since. (Interesting aside, I was also a board member of the Rosetown Playhouse, though it seems a few years before Shana!).
    I knew about the HistoryLive program of interactive video-conferencing. That is a great idea. And from what Shana said about schools losing field trip funding, HistoryLive is a great alternative to a physical visit.
    I also found her comments about the future of textbooks very interesting. With the decreased use of physical books, I can only imagine that web texts may begin to take their place. With this transition, users will come to expect the content in these texts to be constantly updated; an expectation not seen as strongly in physical publications. I wonder how web publisher will handle this extra work load of having to constantly update their publications.

  4. Brittany Baksa says:

    What I found most interesting about this interview was the incorporation of social media in the K-12 classroom. I was absolutely fascinated that teachers are encouraging their students to utilize platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging as a form of reflection for school readings and projects. I think it makes sense as Shana mentioned, to reach out to these kids through a medium that they are familiar with as a way to assist in their learning experience.

    I also liked how the History Live project creates an interactive experience for the students and the teachers not only in the state of Minnesota but across the nation. It is important to keep in mind that this type of experience was not designed to be linear but to be about critical thinking and problem solving. I think it is great that educators are working with museums to create activities for students that will enhance their classroom learning experiences.

  5. Carly Dykes says:

    Thank you so much for joining me for the interview! It was a delight to speak to you.
    I found the information about the museum – produced text and its transition to digital particularly fascinating. Its hard for me to fully grasp the idea of a classroom without texts and with lap tops and tablets in their place.
    The History Live program also seemed very interesting, I loved the idea that this is a nationally accessible program and that the curriculum for it is developed so that any school across the country may be interested.

    Thanks again, Shana!

  6. Lisa Eighmie says:

    I love the idea that “all history is local,” it seems like a huge endeavor to cast a net so wide and encompass content on a national level, rather than state level. I wish we had access to digital and social media apps when I was in school, I’m sure I would have been more interested in history if it didn’t seem so boring at the time. It’s great that teaches are more contemporary thinkers and willing to use social media as teaching tools; that’s another aspect of learning that was nonexistent or still taboo when I was younger. In fact, any sort of socializing was pretty much discouraged when I was a kid, very sad now that I think about it.

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