The access that educators today have to videos and images online has had a tremendous impact on the practice of teaching. When compared to past decades, today’s technology can be seen as having greatly altered everything from the planning phase of a given lesson to its very delivery to our audience.
ChronoZoom, a newly created open source timeline project, not only enables the incorporation of historical material into a modern presentation form, it is conducive to teaching our field’s philosophy of big history. Big history is the tenet of our discipline whereby we investigate various happenings within a framework spanning from the appearance of Earth right through to this very moment. The histories we encounter are no longer marginalized and connections between people and events over different times and spaces can be made.
The project-like nature of ChronoZoom supports this outlook for its users and the classroom implications are clear; when smaller histories are woven together online with text and media, the discoveries are part of humankind’s overall history. For students, contributing to World History in this public manner is a feat that renews its importance each time one of the online exhibits is visited by someone else.
As time progresses, there will surely be a list of best practices generated, but the idea of research being completed and sources verified before the uploaded and scripting of virtual tours is a sensible approach. A possible use for ChronoZoom in the classroom would be as project in which a lesser-known history or local history was the focus. A finished product should be modeled and students should be encouraged to meet the criteria set by the teacher that could include oral histories so that firsthand accounts are represented.
Dean Guarnaschelli is a language teacher at Massapequa High School. He is also a Ph.D. student at St. John’s University.