Much has been made about technology’s ability to better facilitate a wide range of educational opportunities. With the advent of tablet computers in classrooms, ever-growing internet resources, and cloud computing platforms that help school administrators go wireless, there are boundless instruction possibilities when it comes to making use of new technological advances. This applies just as much to the second grader as it does to the graduate student, to the person learning to be a lawyer as to the person taking radiography courses, for instance.
Despite its wide educational applicability, however, technology in the classrooms is usually just touted for its uses in several major areas: math, science, and elementary education. While these areas offer some very clear and practical ways for new technology to be used, they overshadow other educational subjects that have, in recent years, been benefiting just as significantly.
History is one such subject, particularly in the realm of research. While the historical research was once a venture confined to dusty archives and under-funded historical societies, it is now an increasingly digitized business. And, in the process, it has become far more convenient, accessible, and reliable, too.
This has mainly happened alongside a growth in online historical archives. Documents and files that were once almost impossible to access are now readily available online. These days, researchers can easily pull up century-old census data or court cases online. Such information is not just more convenient to find, but it is also easy to use: by being searchable, a researcher can look for a particular person or case without having to scroll through hundreds of pages and files.
The digital ability to conduct a search also has positive implications for other aspects of historical research. For example, with a growing number of secondary sources digitized online thanks to Google Books, the historian can search an appealing book for a specific keyword. If the keyword does not show up then the book can be quickly discarded. What once might have taken several hours can now be accomplished in a matter of minutes.
Furthermore, technology helps reduce research time by combining a collection of relevant databases. The area of genealogy provides an appropriate example; while public records, birth certificates, and marriage licenses were once all separate entities – entities that had to be examined one at a time – there are now websites that draw information from all relevant sources to create the most comprehensive genealogical picture of a person possible. And with Web 2.0 tools like Evernote, Scribble or Zotero, the tasks of annotating, collecting, citing or organizing the ongoing research are even more facilitated.
The influence of technological advancements cannot be overemphasized on any level, and history is no exception. By making it easier to learn from and interact with historical documents, students can gain a greater appreciation for the subject – and, at the same time, for the study of the past.