"Brennpunkt Geschichte"

Vergangenes in der Gegenwart betrachtet

Google explains how strong passwords with 8 characters, symboles etc. are created and – most important – how they could be remembered.

“Helping passwords better protect you” – gloogleblog.blogspot.de http://googleblog.blogspot.de/2013/05/helping-passwords-better-protect-you.html

This paper gives an overview about pedagogical research and already found empirical evidence in the field of so called massive open online courses (MOOCs). It’s posted as starter for the “will be read” (wbr) category of my blog.

“The pedagogical foundations of massive open online courses | Glance | First Monday” http://feedly.com/k/ZMYvpV

In the fifteen years that I have been teaching history, the potential of using technology as a learning tool has progressed at a dizzying pace. In 1997 the cutting edge was Encarta and Microsoft Word, and opportunities were sorely limited. However, within a couple of years the internet had come into its own and I still remember the excitement of making materials available online for the first time on the site which eventually developed into www.activehistory.co.uk. Suddenly, the possibility of Interactive Historical Decision Making Games  allowed for truly personalised learning in a way that had previously been inconceivable. The next big step was the emergence of Flash, which allowed for arcade-style animation and sound effects in game simulations. It took rather a leap in programming to learn Actionscript, which is why I created www.classtools.net to help other teachers design their own interactive resources simply and effectively for their students.

Then there was the leap into social networking, in particular Twitter, which has allowed for hundreds of history teachers to connect and converse in a way that was previously impossible (the hashtags #historyteacher and #sschat are indispensable for the History teacher using Twitter, and I have collated a full database of History Teachers on Twitter. Facebook too has proven to be immensely popular, and in order to latch onto students’ enthusiasm for this I developed the Fakebook Application which helps students create fake Facebook profiles of historical characters, for example these characters from the American Civil War.

However, things are moving on again, with mobile technologies such as IPhones and IPads in particular starting to become more and more prevalent in schools and homes.   My first foray into their use in the history classroom was through the use of QR Code Treasure Hunts, which have proven to be immensely popular with my students. Crucially, however, this is the first time that new technologies are emerging partly in opposition to, rather than on top of, existing ones. By this, I specifically mean the fact that Apple mobile devices do not support Flash (which is owned by Adobe). As a result, teachers keen to develop innovative new resources need to find new ways of doing so. Necessity being the mother of invention, there are lots of exciting new possibilities available. “HTML5” – the new web browser standard – has all sorts of new features that can be utilised, in particular the ability to add animation and sound to web pages and thereby create effects that were previously only available in Flash (I am currently experimenting with ways to create a HTML5 mobile alternative for classtools.net users, for example). When used with a programming package like JQuery Mobile there are all sorts of things that can be achieved. Phonegap is also opening up the possibility of developing ‘native’ phone applications without having to learn a completely new computer language. And last but not least, the Apple IBooks author program is allowing teachers to create effective, interactive EBooks for use in the classroom.

All in all, these remain exciting and interesting times for teachers of all subjects who are keen to harness the enthusiasm of students for technology in the classroom, although it’s sometimes exhausting trying to keep up with the pace of change!

@russeltarr (www.activehistory.co.uk)


Recently, I found on YouTube this wounderful speech by Daniel Cohen, director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University (here), delivered at the CNI conference  in 2010.

While the german discussion about the need of rethinking history education in the digital age is at the beginning (see e.g. here, here and here), an inspiring academic discourse spreads in the US.  In this post I try to sum up five interesting key points Daniel made in the first 20 minutes of his speech.

  1. The potential of the web isn’t understood by many professional historians. They think of the web as another channel to distribute their research papers and to publish their findings.
  2. The web isn’t noticed as a space for new ways of thinking and creativity – a space to build up different forms of scientific community and communication.
  3. The “vernacular web” shows interesting insight into the web, how it works and how it could (potentially) be used. The web can be understood as a space to live in (here).
  4. The process of knowledge building in the “vernacular web” differs fundamentally form the classical academic way of research. Academic scholarship is deliberate. The process of academic work is hidden, while  processes on the web are open.
  5. Everyday new genres and formats emerge in the “vernacular web”. The question is: Can these innovations be adopted for academic purposes (here)?

Manuel Altenkirch of the university of education Heidelberg (PH Heidelberg), well known through his blog “studienfutter”, is collecting resources and webpages about “Digital History” on scoop.it (here). He offers a workshop about that subject in this semester at the university of education in Ludwigsburg (PH Ludwigsburg) (here). I guess, that during the workshop Manuel will develop the journal further. You can fetch the RSS-feed  here.