The Technology of History

Classroom Technologies

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

During the week of 10/26 we explored digital means that can be used to diversify our lesson material.  Of particular interest in this class was the use of websites and engines designed to show trends over time.  Such websites include the following: GapMinder, NGram Viewer, and the NYTimes Chronicle.  The trends that these programs are capable of showing are of use to us as educators because it allows show some of the material we would otherwise lecture about.  For example it is one thing to say that the use of various racially charged words spiked during times of strife; however, by using utilizing NGram Viewer to search the collection of digitized literature available through Google it is possible to show this.

I can see these sites being of particular use in an social studies inquiry class because of their ability to coalesce data into an easy to understand format for the students to digest.  An example of this would be if a student wished to examine the origins of certain controversies.  By searching the language of various forms of literature (books, newspapers, magazines and journals) NGram Viewer and NYTimes Chronicle give the students access to what seemed to be hot topics from various periods in our history.

Personally, I greatly enjoyed the use of these tools in class and am going to incorporate them where I can in my various placements.

Despite the amazing things that technology can bring to the classroom we must be wary of its ability to take control of the classroom.  Technology can make things easier but its use needs to be regimented so that it supplements not instructs.  Like I said before, being able to show what you are talking about is a great idea.  That is what technology should be for the classroom.

Image Credit: Hets Virtual Plaza

The Trends of Technology


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

This week in class we discussed digital history. We have been focusing a lot on how we can use modern technology within the classroom in order to teach history. This particular week, we looked into resources that reveal historical trends. Technological tools can be a powerful source in teaching history to our students. Not only do they provide an alternative visual, but they are also often times hands-on, allowing students to interact with the tool and discover trends on their own agenda. I think that there are many benefits in allowing students to use different technological tools. First of all, provided with the proper resources, students can use these tools individually, instead of one visual up on the board. These days there are excellent hands-on tools that students can interact with on their own. Therefore, instead of the teacher showing students what they want their students to get out of the graph or visual, students can come to their own conclusions and create their own ideas about what they see. In the GapMinder for teachers page, we watched a video about students exploring a GapMinder graph called “Wealth & Health of Nations.” These students reflect on their own conclusions and conjunctions about what the graph is revealing to them.

I am a firm supporter in emphasizing trends throughout history when we teach history. It is a crucial aspect of looking at stories of the world. It helps students to make connections and to see the bigger picture. History doesn’t only need to be viewed and taught by time periods. It can also be taught by specific topics and factors that we can explore throughout time. Sources like gapminder, Google nGram Viewer, and New York Times’ “Chronicle” allow students to explore trends throughout time. Chronicle is an excellent source that shows how often a specific word was mentioned in New York Times newspapers throughout American history. For example, the frequency of which the word feminism was mentioned spiked during the1910’s and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and then was barely mentioned again until the 1970’s. This can help students to infer a lot about feminism in American history. However, I think that this is a limited source because it only refers to the frequency of words in this one newspaper, therefore Ngram Viewer is a good alternative, featuring all written literature.

All of these tools provide teachers with alternative sources. Teachers nowadays are no longer limited to their own sources and ideas, as these tools are created and shared online. Furthermore, technology also opens up the doors for professional collaboration. The internet is now an ever-updating source of useful tools shared by fellow teachers. The possibilities for teachers now seem to be endless as they share and benefit from each other’s sources and ideas.

Photo: January 15, 2012

Alan Levine. It’s Cool Here

On the web in the class

Technology in the classroom


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

As educators it is our responsibility to take advantage of every tool at our disposal that can benefit our students and their education. At this point in time we are able to access and demonstrate a lot of information using a variety of tools online. Although I see a much greater use for the internet in terms of professional development, there can be some advantages to the flipped classroom.

Professional development:

Twitter is an excellent tool for extending your community for professional development and advancement. It can be an opportunity to share ideas, concepts and lessons that can benefit students. It is also of great use for students preparing to become  teachers. It allows us to learn from more experienced educators. Additionally, it can be a great way to demonstrate your involvement and personal drive to better yourself and your classroom curriculum.

In the classroom:

I enjoyed playing with and using GapMinder as a visual aid to demonstrate changes over time. This would be of a lot of use to me in a class on Word History to narrow in on specific nations over time even when we have to bounce between nations in the same time period. Additionally, I think this is an excellent way to make thinking visual for students working to make connections over time and to help students make meaningful connections.

This leads me to nGram Viewer and NYTimes Chronicle. I would use this in my classroom to demonstrate trends, changes in diction and priorities over time. My first thought was to measure three words that mean the same thing but are more or less politically appropriate at any given time. It was incredibly interesting to play with and that may be the way I encourage my students to use it, as a tool for investigating their own interests and hunches about trends and connections between time and language. I may use it occasionally as a visual aid.

Ultimately, I think that the most important tool for learning history is discussion, dialogue and analysis. These tools are worthless without that. I am not fond of students spending more time in front of a screen but it can be an interesting beginning of a class discussion.

#Education: Learning to Teach with Today’s Tools

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The percentage of New York Times articles in which the word “blogosphere” appears, by year. Created at

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

I enter the teaching profession at an interesting and tremendously exciting moment in history. Barriers are evaporating left and right and educators have access to more powerful, inexpensive resources than ever before. Last week’s class gave me an opportunity to explore some of these new tools and I really liked what I saw.

I had a great time participating in my first #engsschat on Twitter and enjoyed e-meeting my future colleagues from around the country. Twitter seems like a terrific venue for collaboration and I am excited to use it to continue a dialogue with other social studies educators. A planet’s worth of classroom innovations are just a hashtag away.

I was particularly impressed by some of the big-data tools freely available online. The New York Times’s “Chronicle” language usage visualization tool is an elegant and simple way to perform powerful analyses of discourse. Google’s Ngram Viewer is a similar resource that reveals patterns of word or phrase usage in books. However, there is no doubt that the coolest addition to my teaching toolkit was GapMinder. Gapminder empowers visitors to easily test sophisticated hypotheses using a treasure trove of datasets. The inclusion of a “time slider” is especially useful and could shed light causal relationships that aren’t otherwise obvious to students. I’m certain that this website has enormous potential to help students recognize and analyze complex social phenomena and I plan to incorporate it into future lessons.