My favorite history teacher in high school, Mr. Sanborn, was on the cutting edge.
For our European History class he assigned a group project that required storytelling through videography. I remember setting up a video camera on a tripod and panning across photos taped to a wall in my living room, hoping to create a Ken Burns kind of effect for what I was convinced would be an award-winning World War I documentary. In the background, “Over There,” played on the cassette deck through our stereo system providing a soundtrack.
Challenged Based Learning in the early 90s.
What I remember most, though, was Mr. Sanborn’s passion for weaving current events into his unfolding story of world history. He was the one who would maneuver through the classroom door a sort of scaffolding on wheels holding a VCR on one level and a TV on another. You remember this contraption. There were only so many to go around and you had to reserve one in advance through the library or AV department. He would have some CNN footage waiting in qeueu he had recorded on VHS in his home the night before and would relate it to a current discussion. He did this nearly every day.
We all know that finding last night’s CNN broadcast or any video clip now is nearly instantaneous. A documentary requires a flip, a laptop and a day – not microfiche, someone else’s cam-recorder and two weeks.
Now enter Twitter and Facebook and the ability to engage not with last night’s news clips, but with the people who are making policy – the ones with influence in our world who are shaping history.
Never was this clearer to me than a couple of weeks ago when this tweet fell across a column in my TweetDeck.
Intrigued, I clicked the link, which took me to this.
The social web gives us unprecedented access to – and the ability to converse with – those who we thought a simple Q&A was virtually impossible.
I imagined a Middle East history class or a current events class with students compiling questions to ask the new UK Ambassador to Israel. What would they ask? How would they formulate the question to get a response amongst potentially hundreds or thousands of other participants? Based on the Ambassador’s responses, what would students learn about British foreign policy in the Middle East? What would they learn from listening to a question from an Israeli perspective, a Palestinian perspective, a French perspective or from other Americans all taking part in this global discussion? How would they engage in the conversation with those other participants?
It has never been easier to petition the king. Global citizens can ask questions and explore their thoughts on blogs and comment on others’ posts. They can raise awareness and challenge assumptions. In ways never before possible, human beings can connect, share ideas and contribute in meaningful ways.
Our President’s press secretary is on twitter (did you know the White House has a social media manager?), so are editors from the New York Times, business executives, and professional actors. What does this mean for your government, journalism, business, or theater class?
The advent of social media has changed our world, and it is not going away. It may evolve, but there is no going back. Is it still about taking advantage of these tools in the classroom, or are they requisite?
There is a teacher out there using them. Is it you?
If he were still teaching, I have no doubt Mr. Sanborn would be.