By Dale Van Eck
Children today are different! But not just because they mature years earlier than children did even a couple of generations ago. Not just because of the clothes they wear or don’t wear. Not just because they dye their hair and style it differently than we did when we were that age. No, today’s YouTube Generation has grown up in a new digital landscape. For most of them, there’s never been a time in their lives when computers, digital video, cell phones, video games, the Internet and all the other digital wonders that increasingly define their (and our) world haven’t surrounded them. Constant exposure to digital media has changed the way these Digital Natives process, interact and use information. As a result, DNs communicate in fundamentally different ways than any previous generation.”1
— Ian Jukes, “Understanding Digital Kids (DKs): Teaching & Learning in the New Digital Landscape,” 21st Century Fluency Project, 2008.
If children were already “digital natives” in 2008, imagine how much more advanced they are in 2014. To meet digitally savvy kids where they already are, American history teachers are increasingly tapping into that fascination by using technology to convey lessons of heritage and citizenship.
One place they can turn is an online multimedia library containing American history stories told in Emmy Award-winning fashion. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has been telling those stories in Electronic Field Trips (EFTs) since 1995. During that time, Colonial Williamsburg has produced 69 distinct field-trip programs. Seven programs are aired each school year. Through broadcasts on public television, educational access stations and live webcasts, the field trips now reach a national audience of students, teachers, parents and lovers of American history. Public schools, private schools and home-school students, parents and teachers use this multimedia history resource.
Two arms of the Foundation ‒ its Educational Outreach department and its production staff ‒ write, direct and produce these programs, which chronicle historical events using the voices of the people who lived at the time.
Now those stories have been collected in a new online repository called HERO, a service that offers additional features to schools that subscribe.
The Education Outreach department began a research project in 2010, with generous support from Peter L. and Patricia O. Frechette, to discover how EFTs were being used in the classroom. The information gleaned from face-to-face interviews, surveys and phone interviews indicated a shift in how teachers are implementing history content utilizing available technologies.
“The results clearly showed that while EFTs were the ‘cutting edge’ in their first 15 years, that they were no longer in the format that today’s teachers preferred. Those results started the pathway to the ‘next generation’of EFTs to meet the needs of the current and the near future generation of teachers and students. It was clearly time to bring EFTs into the 21st century,” said Frances Burroughs, Theresa A. and Lawrence C. Salameno director of Educational Program Development.
Delivering the programs through a live video-streaming delivery format is one way to achieve that goal. Now anyone, no matter where they are, can watch live EFT broadcasts on television or live online – for free. The archived video and teaching resources, meanwhile, have been moved to HERO’s online media library, which is available to schools.
WANT TO HELP?
Please consider supporting the HERO initiative, which allows teachers and students access to resources which can inspire the next generation of American citizens .
You can support a local school or allow the Foundation to select one for you.
Learn more here.
Through HERO, students can do more than simply watch the EFT broadcasts. They can email the main character or a historian, take part in a moderated message board, and phone in or use social-media channels to pose questions during the live broadcasts.
Instructors, meanwhile, have access to the teacher guides, literacy materials, web activities, program scripts and pre-recorded video segments for every program.
Teachers can access all these resources online and on their own schedules to build lesson plans that fit their topic or theme. These resources can be used in concert with the digital technologies that are already used in their classrooms.
The HERO library now contains 14 topics based upon EFTs that address most national and state standards in American history, social studies, media/technology and language arts. As more EFTs are created, they will be added to HERO in the coming months.
Nonsubscribers to the HERO service can still watch the live program and participate via a Twitter feed and Instant Polling features.
WANT TO LEARN MORE? See how EFTs demystify complicated concepts.
Dale Van Eck is the Manager for Educational Partnerships for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.