Published in Social Education, Volume 69, Issue 3, April 1, 2005, pages 151-154. Copyright © 2005 National Council for the Social Studies. The definitive version is available at http://www.socialstudies.org/socialeducation.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Jane L. Lehr was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
Today's students are generally accustomed to seeing timelines of events, lists of names, and bulleted items, yet they lack an understanding of the complexity of historical analysis. Learning to read historical information from charts, for example, teaches students to evaluate the significance of change. Comparing related primary sources can enhance understanding of historical patterns. Having students consider changes in terms of options, choices, and consequences, helps them develop a sense of history as a process shaped by individuals and communities. This article describes three models for developing these skills in an online format: a cost of labor calculator that allows students to compare slavery and indentured servitude in colonial America; an animated graph that charts European unemployment during the Great Depression; and a dynamic analysis of photographs of a student protest in 1968. In each case, educational technology makes it possible to provide students with innovative ways to understand complex problems in history, while addressing national and state standards for the social studies.