Using photos to understand history.

We had some geography units for our students based around how areas have changed over time. Many of our students enjoyed comparing historical photos I found for the local areas they knew and current photos that I took of the same places.

There are a few opportunities to make this a real life project and add to a global history project.

The tools below could be  useful for either history of geography if they were focusing on local studies.  I also see potential for the information to be used in our language classes where they also look into the culture of the country.

 1. History Pin 


Back in 2010 I wrote about a tool called History Pin. It was created  by “We Are What We Do”, a social action movement based in the UK (London) which is now known as Shift. History Pin was created in partnership with Google and is a tool looking at history with a timeline of photographs.

Still supported, it allows users to upload photographs, date them and then slide the timeline through history to see the changes over time. Whether you are interested in buildings, transport or “life” from a particular time, History Pin offers you a glimpse into the past.

It offered our students a great opportunity to do their own research and spend time with older members of their family, talking about the old photos in their family and making sure the stories they hear are kept for posterity. Some used it as a basis for family histories as they did the technical work and the older generations telling their stories/history.

Getting started 

To begin you will need to:

  • collect your own photos and it is recommended that they be outdoor shots.
  • know the location for each photo (the street rather than town or suburb)
  • scan your photos onto a computer

You can register by going to the homepage and clicking on the join button. You will need a Gmail address (you can get one from here) and once you have joined you use will use Google’s Picassa site for sharing photos.

2.  What Was there?


What Was There is a free online tool that makes use of Google Maps and the ability for people to upload old pictures of any location, add the date, and then pinpoint the location on a map and match it to the same view today. It provides a brief history of buildings that have long gone or still exist today. You can even look at a building or street via ‘street view’ and then it will overlay the old photograph on top, allowing you to fade the photo to reveal what it looks like today.

It is simple to adjust the view to match the view in the old photograph as it uses eye-level street view tools. When uploaded you can fade from one view to another so you can see the changes appear before your eyes.

This would be useful for pupils to see how streets around their home or school may have changed over time. They could contribute photographs or link from those elsewhere. It is being updated constantly with new photos.  There is also an iPhone app available as well.



IWitness: Holocaust Archive for students and educators

Many of the students in my school are fascinated by military history. It is not just the weaponry or the battle descriptions but they love to research the idea of strategies, the personal stories, the heroism and the villany. The ethics of warfare is also a topic debated by the boys. Themes are covered in the history classes and in English, when in Year 10 they read “All quiet on the Western Front”. Novels set in times of war are perennially  popular and in RE the boys undertake studies on morality and ethical decision-making.

Always looking for resources to assist in our students’ education I was very interested to look through the IWitness site which I found from the AASL’s Best websites for Teaching and Learning. This is a good list if you are looking for useful sites/tools to use in schools

IWitness is a testimony archive that allows students and their teachers/educators more than 1,000 video testimonies to view, search and learn from.

The video clips offer very rich and comprehensive accounts told by Holocaust survivors. The videos allow the survivors talk use “their own voice” to describe a number of Holocaust topics. You can search for videos on 52 topics including: Anti-Jewish laws, Antisemitism, Auschwitz, Choice/dilemma, Courage, Daily life (wartime), Fear, Hitler Youth, Justice, Kristallnacht, Prewar life, Postwar Life, Reflections on the Holocaust, Stereotypes, War Crimes Trials to name just some. Click on the topics listed and you get a description and thumbnails.

Open up a video and you can listen to the subject recount their experience. Each of the videos has information about the person talking and, below the video, a list of related links. Each of the clips are usually about one-minute long and are part of much longer testimonies given by the subjects.

You can search a topic or concept, for example Bergen-Belsen. This search brought up a lot of hits and had various options for me to filter or refine my search.

At the moment IWitness is still in Beta form so if you want to go further in this part of the site you have to be able to login. Educators can apply to gain access to the fuller version of the site.

There are additional links to information via the resources page and a useful FAQ page.

The testimonies available on IWitness are part of around 52,000 testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses archived on a website that is maintained by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute, which was established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg.

I like that the voices of survivors will be able to be heard into the future. I believe it is important that our students will be able to hear real-life stories of people from many countries, both the survivors of and witnesses to, the Holocaust. Students need to be able to understand how many different ways, large and small,  people were impacted by this major 20th century occurrence. Personal stories help our students better comprehend the impact on both the individual and society.

Useful links (Weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Useful Links (Weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Useful links

Ken Robinson on creativity by ecastro, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  ecastro 

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Useful sites (weekly)

  • 10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports – The post offers alternatives to the more traditional book reports. “Writing book reports are often dreaded by students after reading a book. They can kill a book or kill a love of reading. Alternative include: creating a cartoon, creating a short video clip about the book, or advertising the book in their own way.

  • Article on 7 Jun 2011 by John Hattie (Director of the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education) He was formerly a Professor of Education at Auckland University where he produced the high influential book ‘visible learning’ “Finally we need to consider alternative ways of teacher education. The current teacher training model is bankrupt and a disruptive model is needed to show a better way. Maybe it is the Melbourne MTeach model, but whatever the new model there is a need for more exciting and effective ways to educate teachers across their teaching life. After school sessions, warm tea, and cold seats are a poor basis for learning. Perhaps those claiming to be involved are funded only if they can show, with the teachers, that they have demonstrable gains on the students’ learning from the professional development provided. John Hattie is the Director of the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education he was formerly a Professor of Education at Auckland University where he produced the high influential book ‘visible learning’.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Useful sites (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.