As naïve as it might sound, I have come to the acceptance that there is no magic bullet to education. There is no single activity or method that will improve education and increase student engagement. I’ve tried it all. As a high school history teacher since 1999, I’ve jumped on board every new educational promise. I practiced everything from cooperative learning to role play and from learning centers to writing across the curriculum (which I actually thought was useful). I’m starting to realize that the key to student engagement is a mixture of activities that students should take part in during the lesson. The high school classroom cannot be a bell-to-bell lecture. Chalk-and-talk is long dead my educational paisans.
One such promising activity for students in a history class is Chronozoom. On September 28, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at the St. John’s library on a new digital tool that can provide students and teachers with hands-on instruction. The workshop was led by Andy Mink. Mr. Mink is the Vice President of Education Programs for the National Humanities Center. He is also the founder and owner of Mink’ED.
Chronozoom is a brilliant tool that allows students and teachers to amend a beautiful timeline of historical events that link to primary documents across the internet. The primary sources can be something as simple as a letter John Adams wrote to Abigail or a news clip reporting on the fall of Saigon. The focus of the Chronozoom workshop was to connect family history with migration. This would be an outstanding project for my students since I work at a diverse school. Every student has a story and they can now tell it with history evidence.
This program could be used inside the classroom as an excellent tool for project-based learning or as an afterschool research project. As with all things involving project based learning, the details need to be ironed-out and the logistics need to be coordinated but the potential for Chronozoom in a modern classroom is limitless.
John Ronzino is a NYC DOE teacher at Flushing High School since 1999, and he is a PhD candidate at St. John’s University.