Technology in the History Classroom                                By Bill Kerney –                 Di...
[ ] – MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech:[ ] – I have prepared a list...
[ ] – Multimedia. Showing students primary video footage, or audio recordings, of the past is one of thebest ways of conne...
[ ] – The move up to mid level questions. “What time period do you think this is?” “Where doyou think this is?” Never tell...
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Technology in the history classroom


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Technology in the history classroom

  1. 1. Technology in the History Classroom By Bill Kerney – Distance Education Consultants / Anodyne Professional Development Professional Development ° Evaluation ° Software ° GrantwritingI. Top History Resources[ ] – The best American history resource is the Library of Congress: Be sure to lookat their extensive collections of maps, photos, music, and other primary documents. They also have agreat section for teachers, which include lesson plans, PD, and fabulous classroom materials.[ ] – The other must-visit site is the National Archives: It not only has anamazing number of primary documents available online, but they have also created valuable collectionsof these documents, and have a wonderful teacher resources section, containing lesson plans,classroom materials, and online “exhibits”. They also have three sub-sites very much worth visiting: [ ] – The Prelinger Archives. Rick Prelinger was a teacher that gathered up ephemera fromschools around as they were throwing out their old A/V materials. He eventually assembled a uniquecollection of 60,000 slices of American life (advertisements, public service announcements, etc.) anddonated it to the National Archives. Be sure to watch A Trip Down Market Street and Duck and Cover: [ ] – DocsTeach: DocsTeach is a relatively new site that uses Web 2.0technology in a very powerful way – by letting students interact with primary documents online. As ateacher, you can create online activities for your students, or use their pre-built ones, such as comparingand contrasting recruiting documents for African Americans during the Civil War. They have hand-pickedmany of their most interesting documents on this site, so you don’t need to go through all the archives. [ ] – Digital Vaults: This amazing website is an interactive front-end to the National Archives collection. It shows previews of documents in its collection, and theninteractively explore connections between these documents and others. For example, clicking on thephoto of a soldier in WWII might bring up a hundred photos of soldiers from other time periods. Theseobjects all link back to collections in the National Archives, and you can put them into your owncollections, online activities, and create movies from them.[ ] – CaliSphere: For California history resources, this is the #1 site. It hasoodles of primary documents from California history, and a really fascinating interactive Google mapthat shows you the location of where photos on a certain topic (natural disasters, etc.) were taken.[ ] – Wikipedia: Everybody uses Wikipedia these days – and in general it ispretty good. But it should be used only as a starting place for research, not a final place. It is editable byeveryone, so a certain amount of vandalism and bias exists on the site, so be cautious.[ ] – The Presidents: Everything about presidents, including speeches.
  2. 2. [ ] – MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech:[ ] – I have prepared a list of 204 more of my favorite history resources for you. You can access it at: Technology in the ClassroomIt is very important to use technology properly in the classroom – in other words, only when there’s abenefit to it above and beyond what a teacher or textbook could accomplish without the technology.There’s three main areas that technology shows its worth: research, interactivity, and multimedia.[ ] – Research. Most people know to go to Google, type in the search term they are looking for, and thenclick on the first couple links that come up. (Usually, Wikipedia.) However, when doing research forhistory, modern terms accrete over historic meanings, making it hard to find what you are looking forsome time. Learn the Google “advanced search” options to filter out the dross, especially 1) The minusoperator to filter out terms, 2) Adding more terms, and 3) Using the “exact phrase” operator.[ ] – Interactivity. Web 2.0 sites, such as the DocsTeach site above, allow students who need that hands-on learning modality to be able to go beyond the textbook and really dig into material to learn it. OtherWeb 2.0 sites connect kids with kids, with powerful results. Some wonderful Web2.0 sites for educationinclude: [ ] – Blogging: Edublogs ( for weekly blogging activities. [ ] – Timelines: Create interactive timelines on sites like Dipity ( [ ] – Chats: Use Skype ( or Chatzy ( to connect withother students in the classroom for live discussions, or with people from around the world. [ ] – Wikis: Sites like Wikispaces ( allow you tocreate free wikis for your classroom, which can be a powerful and interactive way to teach history. [ ] – Interactive Learning sites:, or (shameless plug), HistoryAdventure, a 3D website we built that contains a full standards-aligned curriculum for US History at theelementary, middle, and high school levels. Here’s an example museum for 5th Grade Native Americans: (You’ll needInternet Explorer to view the site, and it’ll ask you to download a plugin to run the 3D software.) [ ] – Non-interactive Learning sites: Khan Academy ( or Apple’siTunesU (available within iTunes) are wonderful sources of lectures on history and other subjects. [ ] – Cicero: Run by the American Institute for History Education,CICERO is a wonderful website containing US history lessons, lesson plans for teachers, standardsalignment across all 50 states, materials and handouts for use in the classroom, quiz games, and muchmore. It also has high quality professional development lectures for teachers built into it.
  3. 3. [ ] – Multimedia. Showing students primary video footage, or audio recordings, of the past is one of thebest ways of connecting students to the past and making it “real” for them. As mentioned above, thePrelinger Archives are a wonderful source of primary video footage of the past (to show how differentthe world was, just show them video footage of old cigarette commercials!), and the Miller Center’sPresident Project has audio recordings and transcripts of presidential speeches from the last century. [ ] – YouTube. Although we know YouTube mainly as the place where people go to uploadvideos of their cats, there’s a surprising amount of history content on YouTube. Search for “The Civil Warin 4 minutes” or just your favorite event from history – odds are that you’ll find something useful. Also,be sure to look up the National Archives history channel: [ ] – If you want to download videos from YouTube for use in the classroom, use sites likeZamzar ( or Mediaconverter ( [ ] – United Streaming (now Discovery Streaming): Ifyou have the money to pay for it, this site has more documentaries than you can shake a stick at. [ ] – For an amazing site of people’s personal stories, look into You caneven give your students an assignment to interview people in their neighborhood, and upload them. [ ] – Google Image Search is the easiest way to find historical images, outside of theaforementioned National Archives and Library of Congress sites. Also, you might want to try [ ] – For finding music aligned with history subjects, either Google it directly (“Music from theCivil War”) or go to a site like Contemplator ( which lists anumber of historical songs, sorted by subject. I love Irish music, and so Wikipedia pages that sort themby time period and subject such as: are wonderful.III. VLSOne of the more powerful teaching strategies I’ve seen used in the classroom as an evaluator issomething called VLS (Visual Learning Strategy). It is based on the fundamental principle that the firsttime we experience a work (photograph, movie, song, etc.) we do not fully understand or grasp it.Instead, we need to spend quite a bit of time just on a single object in order to absorb all of theinformation contained within it. After doing VLS with students for a while, they greatly improved theirabilities to quickly analyze and understand historical objects, so I’ll go over the basic method with you: [ ] – Put up a photo on the overhead projector. Don’t say anything about the photo, just let thekids sit there in silence for several minutes, absorbing details about it. [ ] – Start by asking low level, factual questions: “What do you see?” Try to keep them fromguessing the meaning of the photo in this stage, simply have them point out interesting features in thephoto itself, such as the torn sleeve of a character, or the happy expression on a person’s face.
  4. 4. [ ] – The move up to mid level questions. “What time period do you think this is?” “Where doyou think this is?” Never tell them what the right answer is – the purpose is to encourage inquiry andguessing in the students. Acknowledge or praise their guesses when it is based on evidence. Ask “Whydo you think that?” a lot. [ ] – Move up into high level questions. “What do you think the photographer is trying to say inthis photograph?” “What do you think is going on in this photo?” Again, ask the kids for reasons for whythey think that they do.At first, many students will have trouble with the process, as they’re not used to simply guessing (“Butwhat is the right answer??”) or to finding interesting details in photos, but as you do it with them moreoften, they’ll become absolute detectives at pulling out details from photographs and analyzing them.The process also works with video and music. You’ll probably need to play them several times, though,so it can take longer. But video and music can make powerful connections with the past.One of my favorite Irish songs is called Foggy Dew. (Not to be confused with “The Foggy Dew” or “TheFoggy Foggy Dew”, which are totally different.) You can listen to the song here: for a faster version, or for a slower versionwith lyrics (worse audio quality, though).You can read about it here: my analysis of the song is here: is a beautiful song, and wonderfully ambiguous in the morality of the actions described. If you do thiswith your students, finish by asking them: “Was the author of the song in the moral right, or not?”If you like such traditional music, and want to learn more about them, the community on has the best collection of experts anywhere on the planet.Other good Irish traditional songs for the history classroom (all by The Dubliners, since I love them): [ ] – Skibbereen – On the Irish Famine. [ ] – Alabama ‘58 – On the Civil Rights Movement. [ ] – Champion at Keeping Them Rolling – On Unions. [ ] –Springhill Mining Disaster – On a coal mining disaster. [ ] – Spancil Hill – On leaving Ireland for California, and dying there. The author wrote the poemas a last letter to his love in Ireland, who never remarried. [ ] – Down by the Glenside. Beautiful; on Irish independence. in the John Wayne movie Rio Grande to mourn the Civil War dead: