Make History Come Alive by Combining Apps and Primary Sources

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Make History Come Alive by Combining Apps and Primary Sources

Technology has allowed educators to make history a more exciting and relevant experience within the confines of the classroom. What was once relegated almost exclusively to large textbooks has rapidly expanded to rich immersive opportunities bringing history alive. When combined with carefully curated primary sources, the subject of history becomes a more immediately relevant and interesting experience than in previous years. Even those with an existing passion for history are likely to learn something new and find their personal interest taken to the next level.

Value of Primary Sources

images-5Primary sources are the gold standard for historians. They provide firsthand evidence about an object, event, work of art, or person. Primary sources can include legal and historical documents, experiment results, eyewitness accounts, creative writing, video or audio recordings, statistical data, art objects, speeches and more. There are many historical documents for sale that can be added to a teacher or academic institution’s personal library to be used with students. 

Many teachers and administrators do not consider the importance of building a private collection of primary sources to be utilized by the students because of their worry for the integrity and safety of the item. However, with proper storage and handling, many primary sources can be kept secure and the risk of damage mitigated. Even if the item is encased and displayed it can provide an invaluable link to the past for students who may have never been exposed to something with historic significance. Being close to a document which was signed hundreds of years ago can help develop an understanding and appreciation for the past that is simply not possible with a reproduction or image in a book.

The Future of History

download-4There are a number of ways teachers have tried to make history a more immersive and interesting experience. Tours, documentaries, and fictional stories based on actual historical facts have been the most popular. While those are still excellent options, they are far from being the only way to engage with students.

One of the most exciting innovations in the world of technology and mobile apps has been the development of virtual reality and augmented reality applications. Students can now explore the tombs of pharaohs, look through museum collections, experience concerts of music composed hundreds of years ago, or visit foreign cultures all without ever leaving the classroom. This represents an astonishing opportunity for educators, students, and technology stakeholders who are rapidly expanding the library of options available for Android and Apple devices.

images-7The question then becomes how to integrate this new technology into the current curriculum. At some point in the not too distant future, it may be possible for teachers to provide lessons in an entirely virtual environment. Imagine being able to teach about the Silk Road with an immersive and interactive experience that exposed students to the different languages, cultures, and items that were traded to clearly illustrate the interconnectivity of the world thousands of years ago. Many students believe the world has only been connected in a meaningful way since the development of the internet, but the Silk Road clearly demonstrates the fallacy of this. Admittedly, the technological and creative skills necessary to create this type of app are still in the future but it is an exciting prospect.

It is possible for teachers to begin using the technology in a more immediate way by using it to supplement their current lesson plans. While students will typically view the ability to interact with apps as a reward, it can easily become a way to more fully explore the designated topic.

As more schools begin to invest heavily in technology, teachers have a greater number of resources with which to work. Since the majority of the cost associated with this technology is the upfront cost of the device itself, departments can spend only a fraction of the cost to purchase an app that will provide immense benefit to their students. In many cases, some of the best apps are free. By combining physical artifacts of a time period with digital manifestations, it will be possible to bring the past to life in a way which was completely unimaginable even a decade ago. 

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