History in the 21st Century

Education and teaching have evolved for centuries. This is a natural progression as more resources, information, technology, etc. become available. So, how have history teachers responded to technological change in the 20th and 21st centuries?

History has been a subject of a lot of negative stereotypes. History teachers and professors have worked to address some concerns when it comes to education. For one, in higher education lecturing has long been the method of teaching students. However, many professors have realized that this not only exhausted them but also the students. Lecturing doesn’t provide the students with the necessary tools to help flourish critical historical thinking methods. Mills Kelly makes the argument that digital tools help to introduce new ways to approach teaching historical thinking for history students. His belief is that technology is not a solution but rather another resource that teachers have in their tool belt.

Testing, or standardized testing, is another issue many teachers have faced. Sam Wineburg explains in his article Crazy for History that standard testing like the SAT or  History NAEP cannot accurately provide a students learned outcome. With tests like the SAT, his piece of his argument and as many know, it’s hard for even the smartest students to score within the top percentile of this test no matter their background. One of the effects of teaching is to make sure that information is learned. Teachers are having to confront how to measure learning in a way that is beneficial, productive, and fair for all students.

Through these readings we also come across the issue of textbook histories used within course to teach historical study. Several of the authors take issue with how history is presented, and rightfully so. So many of the books have to condense events, eras, wars, and more into small sections that can be easily understood. But part of being a student of history is tackling one event at a time, putting it under a microscope, or not, and finding context and reason. To study the social effects or political effects, the list could go one for whatever reason one might have to look at a particular era or event. There is biases and persuasion that lie within the textbooks. A teacher of history has to dissect and allow the student to draw their own conclusions. Provide them with more materials beyond the textbook to paint a much more clear picture of the study.

Teachers of history and students are history are all caretakers of the field. We live in a day and age in which news, media, and loads of information are available at our finger tips. We are constantly overloaded with it.  This makes it possible to connect with people across boarders and professions and give students the opportunity to engage with material more fully. As I said before, paint a clearer picture of history that goes beyond particular biases or agendas.

So, how have history teachers responded to technological change in the 20th and 21st centuries? There is no single answer to this question, as I managed to provide a few. I also think that this is changing constantly. The history field is broaden by other fields like the digital humanities that ensure the interaction of new technologies and professions are available. This is something that teachers will continue to battle with as new technology and information is introduced everyday. We have seen the breakdown standardized testing and the questioning of textbooks, as initial combatant efforts. It might be a rather slow change, but change nonetheless.



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