Back in “Times” with Google

I’m sitting in the Hampton Inn in historic Elizabeth City, North Carolina.  I’m leaving our room quiet and without a glaring desk lamp, and escaping to this spacious lobby (and the ubiquitous Law & Ordewr in the background) to prepare for one of my first-time presentations for next week’s NCETC, my states largest educational technology conference.  Later this morning, Brenda and I will go to The Museum of the Albermarle, to see a unique collection of Ansel Adams photographs taken during a trip down the Intercoastal waterway.  These are photographs that were never developed by the master, so we will be looking at proofs.  Not really sure what we’ll see, but there will certainly be much more to learn about culture and life during the early days of the eastern part of my state.

Google Archive Search WindowWorking here, and testing some of the components of the online handouts I’ll use for one of my presentations, I discovered something new at Google.  …at least it was new to me.  I was testing a news search for the “Great Depression” — thinking of my daughter who will be teaching history next year. 

I did the search at Google News and received 5,652 hits.  Then I glanced down to the left panel to see the expected RSS feed link, that enables me to subscribe to ongoing news searches for my phrase.  But I also noticed, for the first time, a reference to archived news, for dates: 2001-04, 1997-2000, 1990-94, etc.  There was also a link for Other Dates, which I clicked.  This gave me a web form where I could enter a beginning and ending year.  I entered 1929-1934, and got access to 68,100 articles.  They are all from the New York Times, and the complete article costs $4.95 according to Google, and $3.95 according to the NYTimes.  Also, according to the digital news service, Home Delivery customers get archives for free.

It’s just another of those discoveries that force me to think back to my days as a history teacher, and the incredible scarcity of content that I had available to me, and how that scarcity defined what and how I taught. 

How has information abundance redefine what and how we teach?

How should it redefine education?

4 thoughts on “Back in “Times” with Google”

  1. I was a social studies teacher in the pre-web days of the 1980’s. I thought I was hot stuff because of the Mac-SE I hooked up in my classroom. I could play various audio files that I digitized from other sources. No projection capabilities at that time as they were too expensive.

    I think that back then what I taught was often influenced by the materials I had available. Often times it took me copious amounts of time to collect the materials I wanted. Hours after school with a light stand taking pictures from history books that I could then turn into slides for a lecture.

    The one that stands out in my mind the most was going to our city planning department and buying aerial blueprints of a local neighborhood. Those cost me ten to twenty bucks a pop. Then I went out with my Poloroid to take snapshots of various locations on that map. I used those items in an activity where the students created a map starting with concrete artifacts and then turned it into an abstract drawing with lots of symbols. It was a good lesson but it took me several weeks to gather the materials and set it up. At the time I was limited because of access and cost as to what I could do. Today with Google Maps it would take a fraction of the time and the kids could have picked pretty much any neighborhood in the world.

    This abundance of information has made the teacher more of a filtering agent. Used to be the “what” was largely determined by districts and text book publishers. Now with so much material, it is the instructor that acts as a gatekeeper in some cases and a tour guide in others.

  2. Today, I set aside hours to create a lesson on Lincoln’s choices on how to handle the situation at Fort Sumter. I knew with Google I could find the primary sources I needed. I knew the basic questions Lincoln would ask himself and was determined to simulate a cabinet meeting.

    One Google search and the an National Endowment for the Humanities site comes up with the basic structure of the lesson and all the primary sources I’d need.

    Hours saved and a Sunday left intact. It’s a wonderful time to be a teacher.

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