Making History come alive in the Digital Age

We have all been there and when people ask you what major are you taking and you reply to them History most will feel sorry for you or some in whatever other field they might be in will start talking to you about whatever they feel is the most Historically important to them be it the English Kings or the American Civil War and (in the back of your mind your like, “Ok I got it, I know I have to read too.” Then they apologize, “Oh I’m just a history buff.”

The reason I entered the field is to emulate my High school Social Studies teacher Mr. Smith whom I believe I took four classes with by the time I graduated. Mr. Smith honestly wanted his students to be well informed about the world around them and he prefaced every class with “I don’t want you to take everything I say as gospel, but I want you to question me.” This was a challenged posed by no other teacher I remember in my High school years.

Mr. Smith did an excellent job I remember because many times I would participate in this in my recent classes and remember them from Mr. Smith such as Brooker T. Washington and his Crab bucket quote. I defiantly feel like through different multimedia shown to me that I’ve been able to interact with in Mr. Smith’s class has had the biggest lasting impact when it comes to retaining what I’ve learned from his class. From what I remember he was not a big PowerPoint user at all. Both from his in class lectures and our homework assignments, Mr. Smith always had a hand out ready and always wanted us to write from Historical figures perspectives. Mr. Smith was always ready with a movie or documentary not as the class “babysitter”, but complemented our in class discussions and his lectures. Now it’s my turn as a disciple of History in the digital age to take what I’ve learned from Mr. Smith and roll with it.

How can these digital tool present data to students to both inform them and not create mindless zombies hoards? Edward Tufte in his article claims power point is part of the problem leading its listeners to become mindless and assume they are stupid. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug tell us that the more tricks we can use to make a site more aesthetically pleasing the better the information will get down to the user such as Dr. Anne Rubin’s Valley of the Shadow project compared to her more recent interactive Sherman’s March map. The Valley of the Shadow while organized as a digital museum is not particularly the most user-friendly while her new Digital Map in 2014 takes the user down a multimedia path right along General Sherman’s march to the sea in a powerful emotion evoking sensory  experience.

With tools like these along with being well informed ascetically pleasing web design students I have hope for the students of tomorrow to be able to learn and retain quicker as well still have the ability to question the world around them.


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