Am I a geek or a nerd?

The History Channel in The Classroom
February 2, 2012, 9:37 pm
Filed under: curriculum | Tags: ,

I think they are just called History now, not the History Channel, but I’m pretty sure we all still call it by the latter rather than the former. But that’s neither here nor there.

I have a long running beef with History Channel, stemming from work they did on Star Spangled Banner preservation education materials in the late 1990s. I worked on the original version of that website (WOW! It’s so much better now!) on some resources and ideas for classroom use. One of the Smithsonian historians’ goals was to dispel the Betsy Ross myth regarding the first American flag; it’s not that she didn’t make flags, it’s that no one really knows who made the first one. Its kind of like Washington and the cherry tree, Lincoln and the log cabin…Betsy Ross and her flag. In any case, the History Channel education folks created some materials for elementary schools with this very Betsy Ross looking figure on the front, kind of defeating some of the efforts of the Smithsonian folks to get kids to move beyond the myths. No biggie, it was annoying at the time, and there are certainly plenty of resources from that I would use.

I also take issue with the broadcast selection on the History Channel. Pawn Stars? Swamp People? American Pickers? I’m not sure how these are history but I can see that they make money for the network and ideally allow historians to produce the kind of stuff I hope to see on their cable stations and website.

So. Last week I’m editing/proofing/reviewing the latest 5th grade unit (Road to Revolution) for the Michigan Citizenship Collaborative Curriculum and, per a discussion with the writer and another reviewer, looked for a video that might enhance the unit. Enter I found a brief clip that would be great for 5th grade: short, clear, repeated use of words like ‘repeal’ both aurally and visually, boiled down the content without dumbing it down too. AttheB, Carol and I agreed it would work well in introducing students to some of the taxes/acts that led colonists down the road to revolution in lesson 3. We also decided to revisit the clip in lesson 6, once students have done a more complete study of the causes of revolution, to have students address what the video left out as a review (formative assessment, anyone?). All is well, the unit is done. Except. Some teachers point out that the video will be blocked by school filters. What? It’s, not youtube! I went there on purpose! And its short, so now crazy download times. What!!

Because the video clip leads in with a commercial. When I first found it the ad was for Turbo Tax. Today its for Susan G. Komen (another can of worms there…). 15 second ads. I thought the point of Pawn Stars and Swamp People was to make the money to make these educational clips available. How much are you getting from Turbo Tax? Should Susan G. Komen even pay for ad time? What?

Okay. Not that big a deal. Annoying to me, probably not to anyone else. In any case, I told the teacher to use to download the video and all would be fine.


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