Useful Tools or Distracting Sideshows

The HMS Dreadnought (1906)
The HMS Dreadnought (1906)

Prompt: Write a blog post in response to our class on digital history.

In our last class we went over the many different uses of technology in a classroom that were ways for students to deepen their inquiry into a subject without having to accumulate the information they needed to sift through our selves. to show this exploration we used Twitter.

My problem with Twitter isn’t that it it constrains users to 140 characters in a single thought, or that you have to use those infernal hashtags in order to determine what groups receive the message you created. My problem with using Twitter in the classroom is rather that it constrains those who use it to shotgun information to each other. In the Eng/SS chat that we participated in the volume of information that was communicated to each of us was overwhelming. I would rather have the chance to read a detailed response that had the teachers involved explain their reasons in order to further examine the material presented to other teachers. I think moving the SS chat to another venue that supports the development of collaborative ideas rather than having teachers shotgun their response to a question would better model what we expect from students in this changing world.

I found the tools of Ngram viewer and NYTimes Chronicler to be great ways for students to explore the modern era of literature and popular culture. If the focus of a unit is to explore the history of a phrase or ideas then I can see a great way to enter into a unit or lesson where students are going to link the rise and fall of certain words or phrases with historical events. An example would be linking the usage of the Great war to World War I, where the term Great War was used before the second World War once the second begins the term World War I appears in the lexicon of the New York Times, without the background knowledge that people never thought that there would ever be a war as awful or all encompassing as the first World War then the lack of World War I as a term before the second would make little to no sense. The tool provides a way for students to aggregate a large amount of information without having them to know what they are looking for allowing them to make the connection between the terms searched without outright telling them.

The many different applications and uses of technology provide a myriad of ways for students to interact with each other and their teachers. At the same time technology is changing the ways that teachers are able to interact with each other. These are some exciting times for the usage of technology in the classroom, but the challenge of how to use these applications will remain.

Image Credit: English: HMS Dreadnought (British Battleship, 1906) underway. Taken July 1906. From the U.S. Naval Historical Center. Licensed in the Public Domain Retrieved from:

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