Teaching and Learning History with Technology
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Series: Digital Humanities
Title Page, Series Page, Copyright
“I think you’ve missed your audience.” The speaker was a digital humanities colleague, and an amiable guy. His intent was to broker a peace, and perhaps save me from myself. I had been invited to present to a group of scholars and graduate students. All were humanists, some historians, and all for the most part interested in digital technology. The conference had been impeccably organized, the graduate students passionate and interested, and the host a paragon of hospitality...
Teaching and Learning History
1. What Has Mystery Got to Do with It?
Ruth Sandwell and John Sutton Lutz
Should history be playful? Fun to do? If it should be, at least as presented in secondary schools, it is not. Most students would be sympathetic to James Joyce, who said, “History is a nightmare from which I must awake!”1 In our enthusiasm to cover the syllabus, to show the big picture, the vast canvas of history, we have squeezed both the fun and the fascination out. To go from “Plato to NATO” we take the flesh from the stories and deliver only the skeleton.2...
2. “Why can’t you just tell us?” Learning Canadian History with the Virtual Historian
What do students learn from educational technology? What expertise do digital history applications develop in computer users? Surely, for most educators web entertainment and serious game skills are inadequate answers to these questions—and for sound reasons. For today’s secondary school and university students, technology plays an integral part in their learning experiences.1 Students are “digital natives” and savvy.2 No longer does it suffice for a history teacher to present an overhead and have students take notes...
3. Interactive Worlds as Educational Tools for Understanding Arctic Life
Richard Levy and Peter Dawson
Interactive 3D worlds and computer modeling can be used to excite interest in the many unique traditional dwellings constructed by indigenous groups in the Canadian High Arctic. General cultural trends toward the use of digital media show greater acceptance by students, teachers, and the public. Beyond mere representation of past architectural forms, digital reconstructions can be used to delve into the behavior and performance of unique structures. In research and teaching, it is now possible to model and investigate the response of these structures to the extreme environmental conditions of the North...
4. Tecumseh Lies Here: Goals and Challenges for a Pervasive History Game in Progress
Timothy Compeau and Robert MacDougall
Imagine a game that takes as its raw material the actual record of the past, and requires its participants to explore museums, archives, and historical sites. Imagine a series of challenges where students and others perform the genuine tasks of practicing historians—collecting their own evidence, formulating their own hypotheses, and constructing their own historical narratives. Imagine a large-scale, ongoing activity that ultimately connects hundreds or thousands of players across the country and around the world in a sustained encounter with the past...
5. The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Dowith a Million Books
According to the world wide web, the phrase “So many books, so little time” originates with Frank Zappa. I do not believe it, myself. If I had had to guess, I would have said maybe Erasmus or Trithemius. But even if I am right, I am probably wrong. This is one of civilization’s oldest laments—one that, in spirit, predates the book itself. There has never been a time when philosophers—lovers of wisdom broadly understood—have not exhibited profound regret over the impedance of mismatch between time and truth...
6. Abort, Retry, Pass, Fail: Games as Teaching Tools
Sean Gouglas, Mihaela Ilovan, Shannon Lucky, and Silvia Russell
Games and play have always served an educational function. Computer games are only the latest incarnation in a vast history of playful learning environments and educational game tools. Three particular threads interweave in this general introduction. First, play and games are ancient elements of human learning. The former instills basic social cues that facilitate human interaction and group cohesions, while the latter improve complex skill acquisition, abstract thinking, and peer cohesion...
7. Ludic Algorithms
Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver, on the aerial leg of his Travels, finds himself in the lofty scholastic community of Laputa. There he encounters a professor with a strange device. The mechanism consists of a series of rotating blocks on which are inscribed words in the Laputian language and which, in use, resemble nothing so much as a mystical foosball table (figure 7.1). A few vigorous turns of the crank (for which the professor employs a team of undergraduates) produce what Robert de Beaugrande might call a “combinatoric explosion” of information: words combine randomly to produce sense and nonsense, the finest fragments of which are diligently recorded as the “wisdom” of Laputa...
8. Making and Playing with Models: Using Rapid Prototyping to Explore the History and Technology of Stage Magic
William J. Turkel and Devon Elliott
At sites around the world, self-identified makers, crafters, hackers, “edupunks,” and DIY (do-it-yourself ) fabricators are forming a community that is in the process of taking on all of the hallmarks of a new social movement.1 The campaign is probably best summed up by MAKE magazine: “we celebrate your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your will.” MAKE is published by O’Reilly Media, whose motto is “spreading the knowledge of technology innovators.”...
9. Contests for Meaning: Playing King Philip’s Warin the Twenty-First Century
The historian Jill Lepore’s summation of King Philip’s War (1675–76)—a conflict many white Americans have never heard of—was again proven prescient in March 2010 when the Providence Journal in Rhode Island ran a seemingly improbable story about the plans of a small, Maryland-based board game publisher specializing in historical simulations to release a product based on this oft-overlooked episode in colonial New England history.1
10. Rolling Your Own: On Modding Commercial Games for Educational Goals
Members of online communities dedicated to the modification of commercial games debate and develop scenarios with fine attention to authenticity and realism, practices that we seek to cultivate in the students taking our history courses. While self-organized modding communities succeed at creating and playing history, the same activities, approached by educators, have not shown the same degree of success. In this chapter I explore why enthusiasts experience a high degree of success in their modifications, while formal classrooms do not—in this case, set in the context of an online, undergraduate, distance-education classroom...
11. Simulation Games and the Study of the Past: Classroom Guidelines
What does an effective use of a simulation game in a history class look like? For too many interested in the games and learning field, it is not entirely clear. While the theory delineating the potential of games as learning tools is growing steadily,1 discipline-specific practical applications are still too few and far between. Developing practical uses of games as learning tools requires two components: the formulation of discipline-specific theories and classroom-specific implementations...
12. Playing into the Past: Reconsidering the Educational Promise of Public History Exhibits
Throughout its history, the public museum has been a powerful educational institution. As one of the most prestigious of public spaces where valued material objects serve as essential forms of evidence of art, culture, history, and science, the public museum mediates the knowledge produced by its exhibitions and displays with the various attending publics, as a means to define, educate, and impress its citizens.1...
13. Teaching History in an Age of Pervasive Computing: The Case for Games in the High School and Undergraduate Classroom
Kevin Kee and Shawn Graham
Historians have always been interactive with the content that we study, constantly challenging, reworking, and indeed, remixing information to “do history.” And we have incorporated that interactivity into our teaching, analyzing primary and secondary sources with our students in seminars, and helping students draw on those sources to craft their own historical narratives. The arrival of computer technologies has provided new ways to support interactivity in our teaching...
14. Victorian SimCities: Playful Technology on Google Earth
Patrick Dunae and John Sutton Lutz
The best vantage point for viewing a landscape is from above. That is the premise of Google Earth, which opens from a vantage point high in space, and then zooms down through the atmosphere to a point on the earth. Nineteenth-century visual image makers also knew that high places offered the best perspectives on the landscape. In a pre-airplane era, they imagined how landscapes would appear if they were seen from the perspective of a bird, flying high in the sky, or from a balloon floating over the land. They developed their imagined perspectives in panoramic lithographic views, which are commonly called bird’s-eye views...
15. True Facts or False Facts—Which Are More Authentic?
T. Mills Kelly
It is a safe bet that every History Department in North America requires undergraduate history majors to take a course in what is most typically called “historical methods.” In such a course students learn a variety of skills—how to distinguish between primary and secondary sources, how to do research in libraries and archives, how to analyze source material, and how to write analytical or narrative history. Many History Departments, mine included, also attempt to introduce students to historiography at the same time they are learning historical methods on the premise that one cannot write good history without knowledge of methods and of historiography...
In the introduction to this volume, we asked: “how might we playfully use technology to teach and learn history?” To explore possible answers was the goal of the small conference from which this book emerged. It brought together, as the preceding pages show, academic historians, public historians, digital humanists, undergraduate and graduate students, and teachers. Despite the diversity of our occupations and skills, everyone mixed freely. While the level of computational expertise at the conference was high, the gathering included people on a spectrum of proficiency, from dedicated hackers to those who rely on off-the-shelf tools...