Digital Technology and the Twenty-First-Century History Classroom

AHA Session 105
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Chicago Ballroom VI (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Peter Wosh, New York University
The Future Is Here: Digital Methods in Research and Teaching in History
Peter Wosh, New York University

Session Abstract

Digital archives, websites, documentaries, virtual museum exhibitions, wiki-based encyclopedias, and geospatial visualizations have altered how we conceptualize and teach history. In the classroom, these platforms and tools have triggered a remarkable flourish of creative student output.  From video mash-ups, to personalized blogs, to web presentations, students now have a tremendous capacity to produce an historical argument or perspective that history educators are only beginning to consider and implement.

This panel explores the use of digital technologies in the history classroom at the primary and secondary levels.  The three presentations provide a balanced perspective of both the theoretical and methodological challenges that lie ahead in developing digital-based curriculum.  Dr. Sternfeld’s paper proposes a set of three pedagogical principles that together lay the groundwork for a new theory and methodology called digital historiography, which is defined as the interdisciplinary study of the interaction of digital technology with historical practice.  Dr. Sternfeld argues that digital historiography can provide a flexible framework for learning how to produce, use, and evaluate diverse digital historical works that promotes awareness of historical context and other core values in the historical field.

Dr. Reiff and Dr. Snyder’s presentations move the discussion of digital pedagogy from the theoretical to the methodological.  Dr. Reiff’s presentation discusses the creation of an experimental course that brought UCLA history students together with community high school students to study, record and document Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown.  Beyond using digital technologies to capture an historical record, students also learned to present their media content through sophisticated geospatial mapping techniques, including the advanced Hypercities platform developed at UCLA.  Dr. Snyder will describe efforts to use three-dimensional computer models of historic architecture to explore, annotate, craft narratives, and build arguments.  Drawing upon virtualizations of the Colombian Exposition of 1892 and the Egyptian temple complex of Karnak, she will discuss ongoing development of a real-time software interface and content repository intended to provide a mechanism for exploring highly detailed three-dimensional models in educational settings.

All three presenters will discuss their conclusions in the context of the development and execution of experimental curriculum.  The use of digital technology in the classroom represents truly a new frontier, but as the presenters agree, one that need not abandon altogether tested historical practices and theories.  This panel, therefore, is intended to broaden the discussion of pedagogy to history professionals at all levels of new media and digital proficiency.  As will become evident through all three presentations, digital pedagogy demands strong collaborative ties between historians and outside disciplines and practitioners, especially those in the information and computer sciences.  For these reasons and other common themes to be elucidated in a brief commentary by the panel chair, Dr. Peter Wosh, this panel will appeal not only to history academics and educators, but also librarians, archivists, and museum professionals, who share a commitment to experimenting with digital technologies for educational purposes.

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