When teaching in a modern world, educators have to get creative when we use digital media. Over the course of this semester we have put a lot of information and resources into our digital toolbox. Teaching with New Media has opened up a world to technology in the classroom that both informs the user and engages them in history. From story maps to social media, digital tools can be an important resource for history teachers teaching their students, especially when teaching online is sometimes the only option. As the world is ever changing, so should our classrooms; by using digital resources, teachers can enhance student engagement, create interesting lesson plans, and make lasting impacts on students media literacy.
Engaging Students Through New Media
In Teaching with New Media, we have explored a broad number of topics. One of my personal favorite subjects was how to approach digital storytelling. Julie de Chantal at Georgia Southern University described the process of using digital storytelling in the classroom in detail, utilizing documentary making as well as blogging to get her students engaged in history. Like many students, Chantal’s learners were hesitant about history and even outright about their dislike of it, yet over her course many experienced a renewed love for the subject. By engaging students in a way that can feel relevant to them, it can only help their scholarship.
Another way to engage students in the classroom is through lessons that include social media. Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada described using social media as a replacement for traditional lectures during the pandemic in their classes. Instead of using long recorded lectures, Maldonado-Estrada was using things like Instagram for both lectures in their class stories as well as individual students using Instagram posts to substitute discussion forums. I found this to be a really interesting course setup, especially as the feedback that Estrada received was overwhelmingly positive.
Using shortened lectures like this is essentially using the flipped-classroom model of teaching, where the student participates more with discussions and activities, and where lectures are there to provide the student with necessary information that they can use to further engage themselves into the subject. Social media provides an interesting middle ground between a completely online classroom and real world applications, as the student will most likely use some social media later in their life.
Lesson Plans In a Digital World
Another aspect to educating is creating lesson plans. During this course, I decided to make a lesson plan that was student centered, and focused on making a plan that would utilize digital storytelling in the form of WeVideo, a free video editing platform. However, an important piece of feedback I received initially was providing more scaffolding for both the students and in case there was a substitute teacher. This is something Christopher Saladin and Shana Crosson at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities touch on while creating lessons centered around StoryMaps.
Crosson and Saladin talked in depth about their lessons, but a big take away for me was the way the approached scaffolding the lessons, so while the lessons were student led (they chose the subject of their own projects, etc.) the educators also had to provide the structure of the lesson. Letting students be guided in the process by describing the steps of the lesson and the questions they should focus on allows for a more smooth lesson for both the learners and the educators.
This idea really helped me create a more in depth lesson, and I started thinking more about how I would’ve liked the lesson I was creating when I was in high school. I created a google drive and worksheet that would help the student’s stay on track, and created a rubric that would allow the students to see what they would be graded on. Overall, I believe that this lesson is easily moldable to different subjects and allows for students to engage with documentaries in an active way rather than just putting on a History documentary for them to watch.
Not Just the Content: Teaching Media Literacy
When we use digital tools in the classroom, the lessons we teach are not just about the subject at hand; we are also teaching students their way around technology. When using technology in a scholarly setting, we are also setting a precedent for how students may use it in the future. Mills Kelly wrote about using things like Wikipedia as a way to get students writing history, and I think this can help students both actively use history while also learning about how sources like wiki’s can change. Wikipedia itself is unique, as Kelly points out that banning the site from the classroom is not helpful; however, getting students to use the platform but thinking critically about where and how the information got there is just as important as reading it.
I personally really thought about this while we were doing our Omeka sites, as when I was doing background research on jazz I came across a variety of sources. While I could easily only use things like the Smithsonian magazine, I found a surprising amount of sources through blogs. I used these blogs as guide, using critical points to make sure the research they did was accurate and through and checked out the sources they used as well. One of these blogs also led me to a digital archive on Louis Armstrong, which was invaluable when I created an item on him.
The internet is an incredible source of information, but we have to teach our students how to use it. Simply banning a site or source from your students will only teach to avoid that site, rather than teach about critically choosing sources. As the internet continues to expand it’s resources, our students will have access to more and more information. It as our job as their teachers to ensure they know how to find which ones they can trust.
The Digital Tools we have added to our toolbox this semester have really helped me as a prospective educator. I’ve learned how to navigate lesson plans and archives, as well as a variety of teaching tools. Overall, this class has been vital in teaching me about using social media, scaffolding lessons, and critically media usage has been a big change for me in this class, and I plan on using the thing’s I’ve learned in my future classroom.
Chantal, Julie de “Digital Storytelling: A Beneficial Tool for Large Survey Courses in History,” The History Teacher 54, no. 4 (August 2021): 709–29.
Kelly, Mills T. “Presenting: Capturing, Creating, and Writing the Past,” in Teaching History in the Digital Age, Online, Digital Humanities: Digital Culture Books (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013), Chapter 4.
Maldonado-Estrada, Alyssa. “Distance Learning on Insta: Using Instagram Posts & Stories to Co-Create and Share Student Ideas,” Teaching Commons – Kalamazoo College (blog). August 25, 2020. https://teachingcommons.kzoo.edu/2020/08/25/distance-learnign-on-insta-using-instagram-posts-stories-to-co-create-and-share-student-ideas-alyssa-maldonado-estrada/.
Saladin, Christopher and Shana Crosson, “Spatial Approaches to the Past: Story Maps in the History Classroom,” The History Teacher 55, no. 1 (November 2021): 35–59.
Images drawn from the public domain and courtesy of: Andrew Krizhanovsky and Animated Heaven. Last image provided by Melissa McElwee.