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Using the PrimaryAccess Teacher's Tools

Primary Access was designed for classroom use. Therefore a suite of Teacher’s Tools facilitates use with a classroom of students. These tools currently allow the teacher to:

  • set up Primary Access accounts for a classroom of students,
  • collect and catalog multimedia resources for use in digital documentary making,
  • assign the resources to lessons and activities and
  • browse activities and movies already created by other teachers and students.

The initial logon screen for the Teacher’s Tools is found at:


Creating an Account

The first you need to do is create an account with Primary Access. You can do this by clicking on the link in upper right corner labeled: Register.

Note for PrimarySourceLearning users: If you already have created a Portfolio with PrimarySourceLearning (http://primarysourcelearning.org), you should use the login for that account in Primary Access.

  1. You will be prompted to enter some user information.
  2. After you have done this, click the Create Account button. This will show you the information you entered.
  3. After you have verified this information, click on the Back to Browser button in upper right corner.

Adding an Activity

After you have created you account, you can add an activity for your students to complete.

  1. Click on the Add new Activity button in the upper right corner.
  2. A text box will come up, and you will enter the name of the activity you want your students to do. If multiple classes will be doing the same activity, you only need to do this once.
  3. You will need to do this for every activity you do with your students.

Creating a Class Account

The next step is to set up an account for each class that will be using Primary Access. You do this by clicking on the link in the upper right corner titled My Classes.

  1. In the text box named Choose Class, choose the Add/Edit a Class option.
  2. You will then be prompted to enter the name of the class, e.g. Third Period VA History. You may enter some notes about the class in the Class Information text area, but this is not required.
  3. Once you have done this, click on the Add Class button. If you are using Primary Access with multiple classes, you can repeat this process until each class has an account.
  4. When you are done, click on the Back to Browser link.

Next, you will click on the My Classes link in the upper right corner. From the Choose Class box, choose the name of the class to which you would like to create student accounts. Your information will come up first in the list. You will now add student accounts. This may be done by following the directions below:

  • Adding text to the prefix box will automatically add a prefix to the user name, making it easier to create unique user names. For example, if you add the initials BF in the prefix box, all new student names you add will automatically start with BF-, such as BF-JohnDoe.
  • This can be used to automatically add numbered student names for fast class setup.
    Leaving the first and last name blank will automatically create a numbered list of
    students, i.e. BF-1, BF-2, etc.
  • Once you have added an account for each student, click on Back to Browser.

Note: if you leave the password as the default (“blank”), students will be prompted to enter a unique password when they log in to the Primary Access student tool. Should they forget their password, the teacher can change it back to “blank” from the Teacher side, allowing them to enter a unique password again.

Viewing Student Work

One of the unique features of the Primary Access Teacher tool is the ability for teachers to view each student’s account from one location. After an account has been created for each student (or team of students, if that is how you are grouping them for the activity), you can click on the “View” button to enter that student’s account, as well as leave comments on the script. It is important to tell students which version under which they should save their work because when you enter their account you will have to load the correct version to see their most recent changes. Once you have loaded a student’s account, you may write comments suggestions to add to the script.

Adding Comments

Once you in a student’s account and have loaded the appropriate version, you can click on Save and choose Add a Comment to leave feedback on a student’s script. When you click on Add a Comment, small yellow box will come up. You can then write your feedback to the student. In order to close the comment box, click on the “X” in the corner of the box. This will leave a small “N” in a red circle on the timeline next to the script. To read the comment, students will click on the red circle and drag it right until the yellow box pops up.

Note: You need to Save as the same version you loaded in order for your comments to be saved. For example, if you loaded Version 1, you will need to save as Version 1 in order for the student to see the comments.

Adding Resources to an Activity

Use the Search box in the top left corner of the page to search for any resources teachers have already catalogued. Clicking on the underlined title will show or hide the image below.

Check the boxes of any resources you want to add to your activity and click on the “Click to add resources to activity” button to add them to the box to the right.

Clicking on any added resource will bring up it's image. The Remove button below will remove the resource from the list and the Move Up button will move it higher up.

If, after entering in a keyword in the Search box, no results appear that you want to use, you may search for a new resource in one of several databases. At the bottom of the search results is this text:

When you click on the link, you will be given instructions on how to add a resource to the Primary Access database.

To add an image to the catalog

  1. Choose the archive you want to search through (i.e. LOC, PBS,
    Anywhere on the web) and put a search phrase in the Google
    Image Search box.
  2. Clicking on the image will show it full-size in a new page.
    Clicking on the green link will show the page the image was on in
    a new page. This is useful to get the title, description and date.
  3. Drag the image into the box labeled "Drag Image Here" and its
    URL will be copied into the "pic url" box. Fill in as much information
    as you are able, but at least the title.

    Clicking on the "Add resource" button will add it to the catalog
  4. Repeat this process until you have selected all of the resources you want to make available to students for this activity.

Some Final Thoughts on Creating an Activity

Before you make this activity available to students, there are some final steps to completing the class activity. Once you have created a new activity and added resources, you will need to fill in the Activity Information, such as the activity title that you want the students to see, the NCSS era, a description of the activity and start-up page instructions.

Once you have entered this information, click the Save button in the upper right corner.

Browsing Activities

In some cases you may wish to search for activities that other teachers have created for their classes. This can save valuable time and effort rather than reinventing what other teachers  have already done. In order to search activities, type the following URL in your browser window:


This will bring up the following screen:

You can browse for activities by typing keywords into the search box. You may also limit your search by choosing an NCSS era and/or browsing for activities which have received a certain rating from other users.
If you wish to use this activity, simply make note of the activity number, which is found directly below the activity title.

When students log into their Primary Access account, they can choose “Load activity by number,” type in the number for the activity you have chosen and those resources will appear in the Find tab.

Browsing Movies

Many teachers also find it helpful to show movies to their class already created by other students. If you have never done a Primary Access project before and have no examples to show, you can browse movies created by other students by either following these steps:

Go the main Primary Access page (www.primaryaccess.org)

Click on the Community tab

Click on the Find a Primary Access movie button

or you can simply type the URL in your browser window:


Either process will bring up the following screen:

You can browse for movies by typing keywords into the search box. You may also limit your search by choosing an NCSS era and/or browsing for movies which have received a certain rating from other viewers.


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