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Northern Lights Blog

Resources and updates about the Northern Lights curriculum


Northern Lights is a comprehensive curriculum for teaching Minnesota Studies at 6th grade. This blog highlights resources, opportunities and teaching tips related to Northern Lights.

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Tech Tips

Updating your Microfilm Reader's computer to use Firewire

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | Tech Tips | February 17, 2021

Note: this blog post is an adaption of the solution provided by SpotImaging

Microfilm reader/scanner manufacturers discontinued using Firewire back as late as 2013 going forward with USB ports instead. This has begun to leave users of these old Microfilm reader/scanner machines with obsolete machines that are less than 10 years old.
Unfortunately, microfilm reader manufactures have been less than responsive with a solution to update their machines with some sales teams instead recommending complete replacement with a new and expensive machine. 

While Microsoft has officially discontinued support for Firewire (IEEE1394) with the introduction of Windows 10 OS, there is a workaround. 
It involves installing the legacy FireWire drivers into the Windows 10 OS. 
The procedure and links to the legacy drivers are provided below for your convenience.

The Fix for Windows 8 and 8.1 and for Windows 10
In Windows 8 and 8.1, plus Windows 10, Microsoft left out the Legacy driver. Just go to this page on the Microsoft Support page and download the Legacy driver. Then follow the installing directions on that same support page.

If you are running Windows 10, you will need to use the Windows 8/8.1 Legacy driver. So follow the same steps as for Windows 8/8.1.

Then Reboot your computer.
You will now be able to import video via the FireWire port on your computer.
If you are still having a problem after you have switched the FireWire driver to Legacy, then the problem may be with the FireWire port.

The fix is simple:

  1. Install a FireWire card into one of the open slots in the computer
  2. Using the instructions above, set the drive to Legacy.
  3. Reboot the computer.
  4. Then connect the FireWire cable from the video camera, into the new FireWire port that you just added.

Note: If you’re having a problem getting the FireWire port working on a Dell XPS 8100 or on a Gateway computer with the drivers from above. Get the driver.

If you have a Dell or a Gateway computer and the above fix doesn't work for you, then you might want to try the above link.
This fixes the problem most of the time. FireWire cards are not expensive; they run from $10  and up, depending on any extra features the card may have.

NOTE: Sometimes when Microsoft has issued certain updates, it can cause Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 to switch back to use the original 1394 OHCI Compliant Host Controller driver. If you notice the FireWire device is transferring slowly or
not working, then just repeat the above steps and reinstall the Legacy driver.

Solution page to Win 8.1 & 10 OS support of Firewire cards:
3rd Party Work Procedure for Legacy FW Driver Install-WIN 10 OS

Telling Stories with Maps

By: Shana Crosson | Tech Tips | March 7, 2017

Maps are a fantastic tool to tell stories. Their visual storytelling style works so well for students and it teaches map reading skills at the same time. ESRI's Story Maps Gallery is a great place to find Story Maps. Explore two of our favorites:

Screenshot of the Interesting Facts about Minnesota Story Map

Check out the Minnesota Facts Map Journal for maps and text showing many aspects of the state, from the Mall of America to the watershed districts.

screenshot of Justice Deferred, a Story Map about Japanese Internment Camps

'Justice Deferred' explores Executive Order 9066 and the Japanese Internment Camps during WWII. See how geography and map exploration help answer questions about historic events.

Immigration Resources Online

By: Shana Crosson | Tech Tips | January 31, 2017

Are you looking for resources about immigration?  The theme of immigration runs through Northern Lights, from the fur traders in Chapter 5, the Swedish farmers in Chapter 7, the Finns to the Iron Range in Chapter 12 to current immigration trends in Chapter 20. 

Here are a few places to find additional online resources about this topic.

Screenshot of Animated Map Shows History of Immigration to the US

13 Maps and Charts

Geoawesomeness compiled a series of maps and charts that visualize the history of immigration into the United States over time. Data includes country of origin, unemployment rates, jobs and more.

Screenshot of The Uprooted

The Uprooted

The Uprooted is a site with integrated maps, charts and visuals about the current refugee crisis.

Screenshot of Immigration Syllabus


The University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center launched the #ImmigrationSyllabus with resources to “help the public understand the deep historical roots of today’s immigration debates.” While many of the resources are not at a 6th grade reading level, there are some excellent interactive web resources and primary source depositories listed in the Multimedia sections.

Screenshot of Two Centuries of Immigration

Two Centuries of American Immigration

Watch 200 years of American immigration history in an animated map. Each colored dot represents 10,000 people.

Using Google Sheets to make Maps

By: Shana Crosson | Tech Tips | January 27, 2017

Here’s a fun Google trick to get your students using maps to show data. (Hat tip to Geoawesomeness for this idea.)

  • Start with a Google spreadsheet  
  • Enter your data. This works best with states, countries and cities. You must use a numerical value. I tried two types of data: one for the status of the states in the Civil War and one showing country of origin for immigrants in 1890 (page 12.04 in the eBook).
  • Select the data to map.
  • Under the Insert menu, select “Chart.”
  • Under Type of Chart, scroll down to Map. Select the type of map you want to use.
  • Use the Customization tab to designate map view and colors.
  • Click Insert. The map will appear in your spreadsheet. You can copy it to use elsewhere.
States during the Civil War

Map of states during the Civil War. To create data for this map, I assigned a numerical value to each category:  Union=1, Confederate=3 and Border=2. I did not assign a value to states that were not yet admitted to the United States.

Map of Immigration Data from 1890

Mapping the numbers of immigrants from certain countries in 1890. Data from Northern Lights, page 242. The size of the dot reflects how many people immigrated from each country.

What’s new with the Northern Lights Interactive eBook for this year?

By: Shana Crosson | Tech Tips | November 11, 2016

If you use the Northern Lights Interactive eBook, you’ll notice a few things new this year. We’ve been listening to the issues with the eBook, and are trying to make it work better for you. Fortunately, our eBook vendor (Adobe) has introduced a new platform that makes it easy for us to address a few issues.

The Same

Don’t worry - the content is exactly the same. We haven’t changed anything there. We’ve just updated the interface and improved some of the functionality. Your login remains the same username and password.


Browser Version

  • Fresh design
  • The pages flow vertically, like a website.
  • Login from the home page or from a chapter page
  • Links open in new browser tabs, making it easier to keep your place
  • Easy access to the Page Number Correlation Chart that lets you see how the print pages align with the eBook pages
  • Easy access to the Annotated Teacher’s Edition (if your school purchased it) through the Teacher login
  • Content is broken down into smaller chunks, so you don’t have to scroll through four chapters at a time

iPad App version

  • Content can be streamed through the app, like a website. You no longer need to download those big units!
  • Content is broken down into smaller chunks, so you don’t have to scroll through four chapters at a time
  • You can still download the chapters or four-chapter units if you want.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

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