“Listen up class! Open your textbook to Chapter 5. Outline the chapter and be sure to pay attention to all important dates. We will be having a on quiz this chapter on Wednesday”. All I could hear from my classmates were groans of torture. This is my memory of history classes during my early education. Fortunately for today’s students, history does not just consist of memorizing rote facts and mindless reading of boring textbooks. Technology and the Internet created the ability to make history “come alive” for our students by creating thought-provoking, reflective and exciting experiences to uncover and investigate. The NCSS (1994) stated, “the primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world”. This vision cannot be accomplished simply through memorization of facts and lecture style teaching. Technology provides students with access to our ever-changing world and gives them the opportunity to discuss world issues globally or use critical thinking skills through world simulations and primary source documents.
This week I have been asked to prepare a history lesson for my students using primary source documents. These can consist of diaries, letters, poems, and newspapers. Other sources can be artifacts, paintings, audio/video, and music. (Heritage Community Foundation, 2002) While sifting through the many recommended websites, I was astounded by all of the interesting pieces of history I stumbled upon that I did not even realize existed. I found it difficult to concentrate on my needed research since I could not stop exploring the fascinating information on my screen. Eye Witness to History gives history accounts directly from the person who lived it. I read the newspaper article printed in 1812 about the sinking of the Titanic, viewed photographs from the great depression and listened to a reporter discuss the news of D-day 1944. This is all from one website.
Colonial Williamsburg had a very informative website depicting colonial times. There, I found information needed for my weather unit. I never knew how the weather was predicted long ago, and this site provided me with an accurate analysis of what people relied upon before the National Weather Service was created. I realize I take certain things for granted after visiting this site. I was able to find maps of the colonies from early America and compare them to America today, all on one computer screen.
My favorite history moment using technology was stumbling upon world simulations. Children are now able to assume the role as a character from history, and make decisions using historical information. They are then able to see first hand what their decisions will do to the outcome of today. PBS.org’s Colonial House allows students to be Governor of a New World Colony of Mayne. Using this site, students journey safely across the sea with their selected colonists. They are scored on their decision making skills. I highly suggest giving this a try.
With state testing demands and pressure about student test scores, many districts tend to put social studies/history classes on hold. Students are asked to concentrate on math, science and language arts in preparation for these exams. I believe this does our children a huge disservice. They are our country’s future leaders! Engaging and thought provoking history lessons enable our children to understand society, empathize with others, think globally, make good decisions using problem solving skills, analyze past events to prepare for the future, and most importantly, encourage good citizenship. If our students learn with these engaging technologies and global communication problem based learning methods, I believe our students will be more prepared for the required thinking for desired test scores, but more importantly, they will be capable and confident to succeed as leaders in this ever-changing global society. Technology and history not only make lessons fascinating, they prepare our children for the demands of tomorrow.
Heritage Community Foundation. (2002). Primary Source Overview. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Heritage Community Foundation Presents Alberta Online Encyclopedia:
NCSS. (1994). Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: I. Introduction. Retrieved April 10, 2010, from National Council for the Social Studies: