Digital history is getting very, very real

Posted on: 07/10/2018 00:00

(By Chris Sharp) If it’s okay with you – or even if it’s not so okay with you – I thought I would just ask myself questions about how digital form has revolutionized the teaching of American history and world history in our schools today.  This would be instead of finding some so-called expert to talk about the subject, when I can be just as much of a so-called expert as anyone else.  So here goes:

Mr. Sharp, what do you think it is now being said that digital technology is said to be making history suddenly have some kind of new sex appeal?

Well, I would never use that kind of terminology personally. But since that term has now fallen into our court, I would have to assess history as it used to be as two dimensional as any old book.  Digital history on the other hand is coming very close to virtual reality of history, making it fully four dimensional, with the added dimension of depth that can use websites within websites.  This is much like Alice of Wonderland’s wonderful looking glass that could find mirrors within mirrors.  Plus the fourth dimension of time that we all remember from watching The Twilight Zone can be mixed into our study of history with the plethora of video that digital technology has to offer now on every student’s desk.

Exactly what kind of history teacher are you that qualifies you to make this assessment about the new digital history?

I am an erstwhile history teacher actually, and I have been one for almost twenty years now while I have taught a lot of other subjects in addition to history in public school as well as private education.  But it is the state of California qualifications for teaching history that I keep in my portfolio.  And I have taught history at a very interesting time toward at the twilight of textbook history and then into the dawn of digital history.

What do you think created this “twilight of textbook history?”

It was obviously the limitations of the textbooks.  History was developing so much of itself that there was no textbook big enough to do history justice anymore.  Plus textbook history was more markedly leaving schools at the mercy of prejudices at a time when prejudices were getting even more dangerous.  Let me give you just one personal example of that now

Every history teacher every year has to deal with teaching about Hitler.  For some reason, there always seem to be some boys or some boy in the class who thinks that somehow Hitler fits a heroic mold. But I have never encountered a girl in a classroom who has expressed any kind of admiration for Hitler, and I am thinking that may be because an instinct to sense evil in a man is much more urgent in a girl.

Read more here: A Sharp View: Digital history is getting very, very real


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