As a first post I want to share a little bit about myself, as a way of reflecting on where I am coming from and analysing my motivation, my Personal Learning Environments and my ambitions.
I remember when I was a kid after several hours driving through a dirt road in the middle of the Mexican jungle, I could feel my mother’s excitement rising, we where approaching Palenque, the ancient Mayan ruins. The car stopped at the feet of a mountain, and I could see the ancient city peeking through the jungle. This is one of my most vivid memories from my childhood, It was 1994 and I was 5 years old, without knowing I was about to presence an event that would transformation me forever; it was the discovery of a tomb that belonged to an ancient Mayan Noblewoman nicknamed the Red Queen, I can’t remember what was going through my mind, but I remember what I felt. I felt awe, and happiness; my love affair with History had just started.
My parents used to take me to the ancient Mayan and Aztec ruins around Mexico, where I played and learned with archeologists pretending to be a young Lara Croft, by the time I was 9 I could differentiate several Mayan glyphs and was an avid collector of what I deemed to be the most important rocks in the archeological sites. During that time my bedtime stories involved historical characters, from Pancho Villa to Winston Churchill; I used to spend hours playing Indiana Jones videogames and I have to admit that my first romantic crush was Maximiliano de Habsburgo, the dead Austrian-Mexican Emperor.
Throughout my childhood the past was very much alive and present, but sadly when I was a high school student I hated my History class, the teacher usually read complete chapters from the textbook out loud and then made us copy and memorize them word-by-word to answer the exam. This was excruciating, how could something as amazing as History be so painful to endure in a classroom? I felt betrayed by the educational system, so much that I decided to take matters into my own hands.
That was the reason why, while in college, I completed several research studying people’s view and understanding of History. By doing so I realized that most people hate History because they have an erroneous idea of what it means, thinking it is all about memorizing names, dates and events. They don’t see a practical use for it in real life. My conclusion was that one main reason behind this erroneous ideal was the way that History was taught, which lead students to assume that there was nothing more to it, when in reality there is much more. History and historical thinking is what allows an individual to understand life from another perspective, to go beyond one’s limit as a human being, gasp with awe at humanity’s limitlessness and reflect on one’s identity. In a more pragmatic approach, History and Historical thinking teach us to curate tons of information, to determine the type of sources and it help us understand a complex chain of reasons and conclusions.
Considering the research I conducted, the solution I proposed was the introduction of technology in History teaching, as well as the use of Digital Media for its divulgation, this are the central arguments of my college thesis: History and Digital Media: approaching history in the 21st century. Using my thesis´s framework I collaborated with the development and launch of AtlasMx, a Travel iPad App that enclosed the ideas of my research in a practical way. However I felt the necessity to go further and understand the point of view of an educator, experiencing a classroom environment from the other side. That’s why I decided to become a History teacher, with a mindset of developing a brand new approach to History, taking advantage of all the material I could find online, aiming to create a class ambiance that actively integrates History with the use of technology resources, all the tools that I could integrate and any other platforms that could bring students closer to History.
Of course it was easier said than done. The school where I thought was a very traditional one, where the idea of using Internet was equivalent to having fun, and the use of smartphones or computers by students was prohibited. Moreover, I was a newbie teacher filled with ideas but not a lot of theory, it took me a year to figure out a way to start integrating tech into the classroom, and it all started with a simple experimental assignments where my students had to create a Twitter account in which they would become a historical figure from Mexican History. They had to interact with each other through twitter in a way that their character would if he or she were alive. The students loved the assignment; they became involved with the lives and history of the different iconic figures, performing a surprisingly profound research and developing skills that were useful in their everyday life. With out knowing it, I had opened a Backchannel with my student through twitter; they would interact and collaborate after class hours. Through out the following years I was able to integrate more technology into the classroom, and the school even allowed students to use computers in some lessons, where they would create videos, podcast and other amazing digital content
This is when I understood that it is possible to bring History back to life with the use of technology, and I felt I could make a positive change and transform my reality, and where my dream began: If I could manage to change the way History is being taught in a national scale with the help of emerging technologies, I could create a lasting and positive impact in my country’s Educational System. By contributing with the creation and development of both official and unofficial education platforms and tools based on a 21st century framework, that bring History alive. Helping students to understand History in an active and vivid way, going beyond facts and figures, and promoting historical thinking, will enable them to reflect about their identity and grow as conscious citizens, turning my country into a better place.
Bellanca, J. (2010). 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.