We are in the midst of a media frenzy, and have been for several years. Innovations in technology are constantly changing the way average people must operate in a modern society. Literacy is no longer a sufficient measure of social functionality – one must be technologically savvy as well. Podcasts and video presentations, once reserved for those with unique resources, are now the regular avenues through which products or personal interests are developed.
Here to help with this technological push are a plethora of informative websites and tutorials. Although currently outdated, three years ago I had the opportunity to create one of these tutorials for “Windows Movie Maker.” A quick search on YouTube reveals that this is the top video on the subject, with almost 650K views. It seems that the presentation was helpful.
Perhaps more surprising than the number of views, however, is that I was not a student in a technologically-oriented program. In fact, I was a history major in a history internship learning from a prestigious history professor.
History and Technology
In addition to video editing, myself and another colleague created both tutorial and content related presentations using almost every media source available (SoundCloud, Wordle, Google Maps, Blogger, FaceBook, etc.). The goal of the project was to make history teachable for a modern audience – a task that my professor was well ahead of his time in promoting.
The information that I garnered from this brief internship was invaluable, and I continue to use much of it today. Yet I cannot help but feel that I am only one of a privileged few – a small minority of history majors who were lucky enough to learn these skills. While this may indeed be the case, it should not be so. Technology should be thoroughly integrated in every history classroom.
Technology as Storytelling
While technology is important for all humanities majors, it remains especially so for those concentrating in history. The art of history is the art of storytelling. While articles and books are essential, and will always have their place, they are no longer the dominant form of knowledge dissemination in our world.
It is possible, I believe, to adapt as a relevant storyteller while still remaining a faithful historian. In fact, it is faithful historians who must be telling the stories. It is not enough for historians to appear on history documentaries and videos – we need more historians to be creating them.
Society at large, and consequently much that is produced in the media, is devoid of sound historical thinking. Perhaps the reason for this is twofold: First, technology is not adequately used to teach history at lower levels, leading to disinterest, apathy, and a declining number of history majors. Second, those who do become history majors are not taught how to use technology as a storytelling device.
Reforming the History Classroom
History classes are in need of a reformation. While research and essay writing should remain a key ingredient, they should no longer be the only focus. Professors often spend a great deal of time critiquing and fine-tuning the writing abilities of their students through personal feedback and peer reviews. However, what if they engaged in this type of thoroughness with blog writing, podcast teaching, and video production as well? What if there was a specific course required by all history majors that taught them these skills?
Historians and history majors adapting to this technological arena may be the only way that empathy, contextualization, and complexity are restored in regularity to social discourse.