Animated History: Allowing Students to “Play” History

Teaching the Civil War is a favorite of mine. I grew up near a major Civil War battlefield. In hindsight, I credit that to my current passion for history. I think many teachers can share in that sentiment and that passion for their subject. Our students however, are another story. How do we as educators, make our subject “pop” for our students? For History teachers; how do we make the past come alive? Here is one such way.

I’ve recently stumbled across a website entitled History Animated. This website gives students a narrative history for the major battles of the Civil War, Revolutionary War, and World War II (both Europe and Pacific). A narrative of these battles is nothing new but History Animated takes it a step further. Each narrative is wonderfully displayed through the use of maps and graphics that take the readers through each stage of the battle. In History Animated’s own words:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good animation is worth ten thousand. After reading book after book about the Pacific War and finding only complicated maps with dotted lines and dashed lines crisscrossing the pages, we decided to depict the key naval and land battles using animation technology.

The use of animation is an intriguingĀ  concept to use while teaching. Teachers can narrate the battles as they happen before the students’ eyes; or teachers can simply assign an independent study of the battles using the website. Included with the narrative are assorted facts of history that allow students to click off of the battle and explore more micro concepts. The animation puts the students in control essentially. Which allows the students to advance at his/her own pace as they progress.

With this assignment, a great RAFT project can be assigned by having students keep a “Civil War Diary” and write from a soldier’s POV at the conclusion of each day.


4 thoughts on “Animated History: Allowing Students to “Play” History

  1. Pingback: The (Flawed) Culture of Education Today | The Art of Education

  2. I really like this platform to bring history alive for students. In many charter and private schools that I have met up with recently, the students are given their own laptop/ipad. For classrooms already technologically enhanced, incorporating digital media like this helps bring the class together while individualizing the learning process.

    This program, to me, can be used in other interesting ways. I like the maps and animation because they cater to the visual learner (which I am). To elaborate on this concept, students could create their own physical reenactment of battles/events using school supplies. What this does is allows the creative/artistic students create instruments of warfare and/or generals/regiments/etc. while forcing the students to look at the map and battle away from the internet Students can gain a lot from this program and understand aspects which may be by-passed if shown to them in a different form. But allowing the students to produce their own reenactment would give them a better understanding of the material within a collaborative, project-based classroom that promotes creativity and (if done right) higher levels of thinking.

    • I can agree with that. I think put together, the animated history and the students’ reenactment, will allow them to build a foundation and then create.

      • Absolutely. The animated history site is a great resource for providing a solid foundation of information, no doubt. Allowing students to synthesize the information through interpreting events/figures into their own model produces higher thinking and (possibly) increase student increase. Perhaps another way to synthesize the animated history is to have students question the motives/tactics of a force and then place it in relation to its historical context using the site.

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