Technology as a Time Machine

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. replayed their broadcast from that day as it happened.  You got to see how the news played out that day and how people reacted initially.  Watching this I did wonder how many teachers showed this to their students.  How many used this as a teachable moment versus how many just mentioned it or had the students read something from a textbook.  Our students had the opportunity to be taken back in time to the moment that Walter Cronkite confirmed what many were fearing, that the President had died from a gunshot to the head.

There is no way that I can see it, that a textbook can help students understand this as well as watching it happen “live”.  Some teachers may use some other text, a handout, or even a newspaper from that day but to watch it happen and use that to create discussions in class can create such a more engaging experience.

The video feed is not the only way that we can make this event real to our students and create an opportunity for them to learn.  A post at Edweek ( lists many different ways teachers are using this moment to teach and help their students learn.  There is so much that we can do when we combine technology with our methods in the classroom, so many ways to help students understand what the world was like then and how this was such an important event.

This was not just about the assassination, it gives students a chance to see so many differences between now and 50 years ago.  At one point they use language that would definitely not be used on television today, when referring to the racial identity of one person.  The way that information travels back then pales in comparison to today.  If President Obama got a paper cut today, millions would know right away by viewing a tweet.  Walter Cronkite is seen holding up printed pictures from time to time that the cameraman has to zoom in on.  Today we could use a 3D simulation to zoom in on the actual location and show what happened.  Students could even create their own 3D models to help support the conclusions drawn about the lone shooter or to defend their own conclusions as to what happened that day.  The amount of resources and activities that can be used is almost never ending, but almost all of them are much more effective than a worksheet.

We have to stop seeing technology as an add-on and see it as a way to really change how we teach and setup our classrooms.  We can use technology to show our students so much more than what we can with a textbook or a handout.  Technology can even take us back in time, if we let it.

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