The Future of the Past

By Sandy Planisek

Technology and teaching history don’t often cohabit the same paragraph but twice this month they made a joint appearance in history news.

AHA’s Perspectives on History magazine introduced a series of online digital textbooks being created by West Point Academy that feature hyperlinks and moving battle maps.  These amazingly rich books, designed specifically to teach West Point students war strategic and tactical thinking, make it possible to actually follow troop movements during battle.  When accompanied with extracts from leader thinking, it is possible to follow the goals, implementation, and outcomes of classic historical battles.  University faculty can test drive one of these books by going to West Point History of Warfare

PBS Digital Studios has just released a new virtual-reality movie shot in 360-degrees about the famous Battle of Antietam.  Focusing on two brothers on opposing sides and dying simultaneously during the battle, this cutting-edge, short movie emphasizes the emotional strain of war.  The entire movie entitled My Brother’s Keeper is only 10 minutes long. (Watch it using Google Chrome or Firefox and use the 360-degree arrows at the top to look around.)

While cultural history may dominate in our classrooms, it is war history that can attract the funding for cutting edge technology.