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The History of History Teaching

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  • 3 minutes read
  • May 05, 2022

What elements of historical thinking have remained at the heart of history teaching over the decades?

There are some elements of historical thinking that history teachers have used as the tried and true methods for teaching history over the years. One of these methods is having students analyze sources, both primary and secondary. This element is essential to historical thinking to get students to think about events, people, and places in history in a broader context, while understanding history from multiple perspectives.  In the past many times these sources have been found in the physical form in places like archives and museums. Using these sources then to think about questions about the past, and then the act of researching is also at the core of historical thinking that still rings true even in the changing times of the digital world. The American Historical Association cites this element as the following; “Create historical arguments and narratives. Generate substantive, open-ended questions about the past and develop research strategies to answer them. Craft well-supported historical narratives, arguments, and reports of research findings in a variety of media for a variety of audiences.” The AHA Tuning Project is an evolving document that is meant to change with how historians feel fit on the discussion of teaching and learning history. This specific quote from the document shows that this is an element that remains as an important part of the process of historical thinking.

How have history teachers responded to technological change in the 20th and 21st centuries?

Over the last century there have been many technological changes that have affected our way of life and even the way one teaches history. The invention of the radio, television, and of course the internet have dramatically impacted the way history can be taught. History teachers have adapted to these technological changes throughout the past 100 years by embracing the new technology and what it can offer. Teachers can now use media in their teaching to be able to connect with more students by making the content easier to reach students with different learning styles. Students that are visual can learn from a video, or students that are audio learners can listen to a podcast, which these options for delivering content were not possible a century ago. History teachers have more flexibility now more than ever to reach more students using these advances in technology. The internet also adds a whole new layer to the technological changes, digital history can now be used in the classroom. Digital history projects have been used by teachers to engage with history content in a new way, often in ways that are interactive for the students. With the advance of the internet, history teachers have also been able to add in an element of interdisciplinary work into the way that they teach history. The internet has made it more possible than ever to collaborate with others even across disciplines. From the readings and my own experience as a classroom teacher/museum educator, people that teach history have embraced all of the changes in technology within the last century and it is now more possible than ever to teach history in a variety of ways.

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