Presenting The Past

What challenges do we face as history educators presenting the past in the digital world?

The internet can be a double edged sword when it comes to the history profession. We have access to multiple sources at our fingers tips that were not present before the digital world became so accessible. However, we have to be cautious of the sources we do use and have access to. So many resources become available every single day and as scholar continue to research and write on these resources, information changes. As history educators we have to be aware of ever changing resources and information. The digital sources we now have access allow us to expand upon the knowledge we have and interact with historical materials in new and interesting ways.

An extension of this, is also the digital platforms themselves. If we look at digital platforms like Scalar or Omeka that are pretty well funded and maintained we dont have to normally think of maintaining a website of that fashion. However, individuals or small research groups that create their own platforms or develop website much constantly keep up with the maintenance of their sites. Just someone would have to worry about cutting their grass, you have to worry about if your website is still functioning. I first came across this issues when I developed on online project that dealt with the use of Knightlab digital storytelling tool. I had used the prototype version of the tool naively thinking that I would not have to worry about my project. However, a year later when it came time to submit my work as part of my skill set for job applications I realized my project was no longer functional as the Knightlab storytelling tool had been updated and changed. It was a valuable lesson in understanding the importance of preservation, the internet requires maintenance if you want something to last.

There is also a discussion to be had about the gaps that become present when we allow students to use digital resources in their historical work. Just as we ask question of the materials we use, we must also do that of the digital materials we use. How and why do the websites have access to these documents or collections? What is missing? History educators have to take into account how we get students to more actively engage with the materials or resources they are using online. It is easy for someone to google and receive quick information to whatever they might be asking or looking for, but that doesn’t provide a well rounded explanation or reasoning. Educators help bridge the gaps that comes along with using digital resources. There are biases that exist in gender and race among these digital resources that have to be acknowledged as well. However, throughout all these challenges, I think that the accessibility that the internet and digital resources has opened up has done a lot of good. And as history educators, it is always important to ask questions of your sources regardless if they are analog or digital.


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