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New Technologies and Social Media: A Historical Education for the Twenty-First Century

This section of the chapter outlines some of the more positive attributes of new technologies and social media. It suggests ways in which they can contribute to improving teaching and learning in history classrooms, and respond appropriately to the challenges and problems posed by the threats to public history detailed in the previous section.

‘Building learning packages’. (Walsh, 2003)

The combination of the data projector, the memory stick and the Wi-Fi equipped classroom has made it much easier for history teachers to make use of some of the most vivid and powerful historical sources which can be found on the internet. This has reduced history teachers’ dependence on textbooks, teacher exposition and teacher produced worksheets and made it much easier to incorporate a wider range of images, sounds and moving image clips into their lessons. As well as increasing the range of resources which can be used in the history classroom, it could be argued that this has made more vivid and powerful resources available to the history teacher, compared to those which can be found in traditional history textbooks.4

In a sadly under-cited chapter written in 2003, Ben Walsh suggested that the most influential attribute of ICT for history teachers was not sophisticated and expensive ICT equipment such as interactive whiteboards and voting technology, but the facility it offered to make it easier to collect and share high quality resources which could help them to teach topics and make particular points about historical thinking, historical knowledge and historical concepts more effectively (Walsh, 2003). Astute use of the best history education websites, blogs, wikis and Twitter feeds can make it much quicker for a history teacher to build up a powerful collection of high quality resources which (together with high quality teacher exposition and questioning) can help them to teach particular topics effectively. These collections can include images, prose, graphs, maps, datasets, moving image extracts and sound files. The key issue is not quantity—it is about securing and deploying the most powerful and apposite resources which will help to get across a particular idea or point to learners.

In addition to collections which focus on a specific historical issue or problem are more general collections which offer a quick, free and time-saving service to history teachers to enable them to update their subject knowledge. In some cases, other history educators or organisations have spent considerable time putting together a useful collection or resource on a particular aspect of the past or a particular problem related to historical thinking and understanding. The best-selling popular history magazine, BBC History, has recently made available all book reviews in the magazine publicly available (www.historyex- tra.com/books). As well as the major history education websites and blogs, there are a number of ‘niche’ sites of interest to history educators, for example, Google n-gram (https://books.google.com/ngrams) provides a useful tool for looking at cultural change over time. The digital archives of broadsheet newspapers also provide access to the writing of many of the world’s most eminent historians, who often contribute to newspapers and blogs (see http:// historyandict.wikifoundry.com/page/Newspapers for some examples of such contributions).

 
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