The following is an updated post I wrote years ago for an experimental blog on instructional technology and the idea to connect yesterday's media for today's kids.
When you were in school, many of the courses that you had to take may have seen miles away from your everyday life and interest. When the lesson did seem to connect to you, suddenly the information had more meaning. Ask yourself this; when your teachers or professors tried to explain the many great wars of history, did you remember the statistics, or did you memorize the posters, music, and images of those events.
History can be exciting with movies, audio recordings, movie posters, book covers, reenactments of forgotten history facts, and exhibit items from and about different time periods. Visuals, audios, and dramatizations can give you a better understanding of the beliefs, attitudes, fears, hope, and dreams of a past generation.
In this post, I will present random ideas about how to use digital and traditional media to enhance a history lesson for learners of all ages.
It's Adventure Time with Little Orphan Annie
Every holiday season millions of people love to watch "A Christmas Story" (1983) a movie based on the works of Jean Shepherd. Taking place in a mixture of the 1930s & 1940s culture a viewer can pick up on the popular entertainment of the times. Little Ralphie's favorite juvenile radio programs like Red Ryder, The Lone Ranger, and Little Orphan Annie are mentioned and we get a feel for how exciting and a huge part of life they were for him. A child today can get this feeling if they heard one of these programs in context (before television, first electric broadcast media in the home, decoder rings, etc.)
Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, wartime propaganda ideas spread to every medium: comic books, box-office blockbusters, songs, and radio "the theater of the imagination".
Image from Comic Vine http://www.comicvine.com/little-orphan-annies-junior-commandos/49-36002/
Almost every popular hero of the time faced off against the Axis powers. Radio and comic strip heroine Little Orphan Annie led the fictional Junior Commandos. This concept of young people making a difference on the home front was so popular that many local Junior Commando units were initiated throughout the country. The Associated Negro Press praised Annie's creator, cartoonist Harold Grey, for including an African American in the comic version. The projects that young Americans contributed to included metal scrap drives and paper collections to add to resources overseas. An idea like the Junior Commandos can lead to a project in which young learners compare volunteering of the past to the present and create a new community service project.
HERE ARE SOME DISCUSSION TOPICS.
- Media always shapes how we feel about the past, present, and future. How does the media from the past make you feel about that time period?
- Is the media portrayal accurate and if not why any exaggeration?
- Are there any similarities between the media of this time period and the media you are experiencing now?
- Is there anything you would like to see re-emerge in our society? Not re-emerge?
- What do you think about the technology of the time?
- Use Radio broadcasts of historical events to re-create the surprise and wonder of Americans. For example, you can download the news bulletins of John F. Kennedy's assassination, the moon landing, and Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have A Dream Speech" for a study of the 1960s.
Many radio programs are in the public domain (although for the best quality it much better to order from a radio drama company). The Internet Archive http://www.archive.org/ has hundreds of wartime broadcasts including news broadcasts, music, and speeches which can be downloaded and incorporated into a presentation, or a blog.
- Audio clips can be mixed with visuals to create an effective presentation.
- Projects can be planned to recreate the entertainment style of a time period like recreating war-time news or entertainment broadcasts using Voice Thread or Microsoft PowerPoint.
Internet Archive Old-Time Radio Page
Radio Spirits - America's leading seller of high-quality old-time radio broadcasts.
Don't' Touch That Dial: Radio Programming In American Life: Wartime Radio 1939 -1945.
This is an impressive history that covers programs that adults would have also enjoyed.