You might have noticed that I am a bit of a history and ancient culture addict and that I like to share resources for history teachers here on Fractus Learning. This week, I read two interesting articles that summarize pretty nicely how I feel. This is when understanding and awareness of other cultures and their history help foster learning and spark an initial interest in a topic, especially when that information is presented in a game like scenario.
On the one hand The Guardian explores the different ways to offer students international experiences and the benefits tied to these. Europe is full of historic places and experiencing them in real life, like the battlegrounds of the World Wars or medieval cathedrals and castles, makes learning far more immersive.
On the other hand the New York Times published an article that describes a relatively new discipline known as the digital humanities, formerly known as humanities computing. The aim of this discipline is to recreate long-lost civilizations and to create virtual databases, a form of curation in a new digital age to bring research to a much wider audience than scholars only.
Now, your school might well have one or several international partnerships which is great and allows students to make some real-life experiences in a culture other than their own.
However, in this article I’d like to point you to some projects and websites to use in class, either to prepare for a trip abroad or to have the possibility of exploring when going abroad is not possible. So I took a closer look at some of the sources the New York Times mentioned in its article about digital humanities.
Oxford’s Great War Archive
Oxford’s Great War Archive is a fantastic resource for teachers and students alike. Not only does it show everyday life situations in WWI, shown through authentic photography and memorabilia, but in the education section you will find lots of fine teaching materials to help you setup your history classes around the topic.
If you apply the flipped classroom model there can be found self-study materials for students such as video clips and podcasts they can use in order to prepare for a lesson or do a presentation based on what they learnt.
Last but not least, there are interesting discoveries to be made whether you’re a lifelong learner and generally interested in the First World War or if you’re just looking for study materials in college or university.
All in all, such a rich website with tons of useful material such as lesson ideas, film footage, podcasts, texts, photos and more that could keep your students busy for months without having fancy 3D graphics.
But nothing against 3D though if it makes sense and is put in context! Giza 3D is such an example. As the name suggests, the project brings the Giza plateau back to life in 3D. After ten years of research Harvard University and French 3D company Dassault Sytèmes introduced the final result this May. What you and your students will explore is the most accurate illustration of the Giza plateau during pharaoh Khufu’s reign around 2500 B.C.
Not only does this approach bring a new dimension to archeology but to our classrooms as well. Students formerly not overly interested in history might find this “real-life” approach less abstract and therefore find a new motivation.
A little downer is that you need a broadband internet connection and a powerful machine to get a maximum out of the experience. Also, if you use laptops in class it will be helpful to connect mice as the project involves a lot of scrolling and I personally found it all went smoother using a mouse.
I would definitely recommend the project to give today’s students a near-real experiences of what the plateau looked like more than 4500 years ago.
Uruk Project again takes a different approach. The project is a collaboration of the University of Western Sydney, Australia and the Federation of American Scientists. The teams decided to use the virtual world of Second Life which in recent years found quite some success in the higher education and research community.
Uruk focuses not only on how the Sumerian city looked like around 3000 B.C but also how its inhabitants behaved and worked and interacted with each other and their environment.
The website gives you a short historical reference and it is also very interesting to read about the technology developed that makes the inhabitants of Uruk speak with each other and interact.
What will probably draw your students most to the project are the characters and the story. Under “Agents” they will get introduced to the main characters and under “Demos” you’ll find three episodes as well as access to the latest live prototype if you want (or are able) to take your class into Second Life.
Do you other examples? Have you used some of the examples above in your class? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Flickr, neiljs