Tag Archives: Twitter

What if Twitter had existed in other historical eras? Tweeting historiography.

I recently was tickled to find this piece on (where else?) Twitter: British r Coming. Pls RT! | Foreign Policy.  It’s really funny.  It gets one thinking, too.  Others have pointed out the value of challenging students to make observations in a succinct 140-character medium.  This forces students to use precision about the subject they are evaluating and to prioritize the material succinctly.  This is also a moment of frivolity to share with your class.

Aside from being fun, you could actually delve into some real historiographical issues.   Each set of tweets could be altered based on the different interpretations from the historiography.  For example, assign small groups a different scholar and encourage them to create tweets from the primary documents based on the assigned scholars interpretations.  Then you could compare the results.

It adds an extra layer of education, but it’s still fun!  Done well, this should be a slightly addictive exercise in levity and history.  Students should get addicted because its funny and entertaining.  You may find they actually have a better grasp of the scholarly concepts at the end, as well.  Maybe you throw it in right before or after exams or a big paper due date to get productivity despite the intensity of their coursework.

This is similar to the concept behind making fake Facebook walls.  You are asking students to use the technology with which many of them are well-acquainted as the medium in which to present their findings.  This does not suggest that you abandon papers or other means for testing their knowledge and developing skills, it is an alternative that can give students a bit of break without simply putting in a movie and having them unplug.  These exercises introduce a little levity and they should be fun.  At the end, they’ll be #Twitterstorians!

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Filed under Experiencing History - Project Based Learning, Fiction, Historian's Journal, Tech tools

Turkish Professor Teaches History with Twitter – Guest Post

Originally born in Turkey, Mustafa Gökçek is a successful history professor at Niagara University in New York, dedicated to his students’ education. When he realized that they were having trouble grasping some of the basic concepts he was trying to teach, he came up with an ingenious new method of communicating with them: social media. While the idea might be radical, the system is actually quite simple, and easy to implement for any history course to encourage engagement with the material and student participation.

Gökçek uses a two prong approach in his teaching. First, he created a list of 90 events in history that happened between 1945 and 2005, and began “tweeting” one event per day during the semester using the popular social media platform Twitter. Students might have trouble getting through a textbook, but they don’t need PhDs to read the daily updates from Gökçek. This regular, compartmentalized presentation of information allowed students to internalize the time line of events, because they were experiencing it as it happened. To accomplish the nearly Herculean task of tweeting daily, Gökçek used a software program created by Dr. Murat Demirbaş, which sends out tweets at regularly scheduled intervals. This tool is getting expanded, possibly to include a testing component, which would make the technology easier to adapt to other courses.

Next, Gökçek found links to interesting historical primary documents, helpful articles and websites, and sent them to students. That way, students could gain a deeper and broader understanding of historical events through the Internet—a medium they’re already accustomed to learning from. Often, tweets would be accompanied by links to help students better understand a particular event.

Another goal of Gökçek’s social media campaign was to get students to participate more in class. To accomplish this, he encouraged students to tweet their thoughts from their seats by phone or laptop—things students were often doing in class anyway. Because students must express their thoughts in 140 characters when they tweet, the limited medium forced them to think clearly and concisely before sharing. This method of participation also helps students who are shy about sharing their thoughts out loud, and facilitates multiple conversations at once so that no one student can dominate the limelight.

How else could popular social media sites be used to enhance student learning? Here are a few more ideas:

Facebook profiles of historical figures could help students understand historical characters using a medium with which they are already familiar. Including famous quotes as “status updates” or using their statuses to comment on a historical event would be a great way to illustrate their views and opinions, in a medium students are already familiar with and know how to navigate.

Additionally, YouTube videos depicting historical events in humorous way, such as the Thomas Jefferson musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton rap, “Horrible Histories” videos or any of the thousands of other light-hearted depictions. The more engaging and interesting the video, the more relevant it will seem to students. Plus, if there’s an element of humor involved, students will be more likely to remember it and share it with their friends.

History education doesn’t have to be limited to a stuffy lecture hall. Educators can and should take advantage of technological advancements like social media to communicate with their students, and help them gain a better understanding of their subjects. By using a familiar medium, teachers can encourage students to engage with the material on their own time, and make history really come alive in a uniquely modern way.

About the author: Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

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Filed under Experiencing History - Project Based Learning, Guest posts, Tech tools

#FF recommendations: University Presses

As historians we need to know what’s going on in the academic world.  The university presses are often publishing those works…as you already know if you are in fact historians.  Obviously, this doesn’t replace a good academic review(!), but I enjoy getting the heads up with the tweets–not the only way to get a heads up, I know, but sometimes I catch a discount floating out there in the Twittersphere, too!

Today’s recommendations are all pretty obvious–but you know which presses cater more to your own historical interests.  Listed in no particular order (other than where I found them under my “following”) here are my #FF:

1. #FF @cambUP_History

History at Cambridge

2. #FF @OUPAcademic

Oxford Academic

3. #FF @Harvard_Press

Harvard Press

4. #FF @yalepress

Yale Press

5. #FF @JHUPress

JHU Press

6. #FF @PennPress

Penn Press

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New #FF (Follow Friday) posts

Fridays, I will be adding a new #FF (Follow Friday) post for Twitter.  Even if you are not on Twitter, many of my suggestions have websites and blogs that are worth checking out.  Today, focusing on art and history.  Enjoy!


1.  @alphaomegaarts  Tahlib

@Alphaomegaarts tweets for the Alpha Omega Arts site: a blog and as aggregation site for religious art from any sect.  Some great finds there!


2. @FolgerLibrary  Folger Library

@FolgerLibrary is the Twitter arm of the [Shakespeare] Folger Library in Washington DC.  Shakespeare fans unite!!  There are many great resources for instructors, students and drama lovers!  (Also, a great visit if you are in DC!)


3. @walters_museum  Walters Art Museum

@walters_museum is a great follow!  Tweets include Art of the Day–worth it for that alone!–blog posts, and exhibit or lecture updates.  The Walters Museum in Baltimore is a gem of a museum!  It has an impressive manuscript collection, a wide range of historical art going back to Mesopotamia, a great Byzantine and Medieval exhibits, and religious art from all over the world.  Also, it is a smaller more easily managed museum than the Met or the Smithsonian–though I nevertheless recommend that the makers of Night at the Museum look into it anyway!!  Easily accessible if you live in DC, MD, DE or East PA–and it’s free!


4. @wbdnewton  William Newton

@wbdnewton, William Newton’s Twitter handle, is also a religious art guy!  A Shiite Catholic, he blogs (and tweets) as much about religion and society as he does art, but (both of) his blogs are informed and authoritative commentaries on art.  (His Amy Winehouse post earlier this week was a nice, balanced tribute to the troubled artist.)



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Brush off the Dust Best of the Web – July18-22

This week’s features include art, neo-Nazis (and old Nazis), space shuttles, Neandertals, the British and more! Read on!

Alexander Calder's 113th Birthday. Courtesy of Calder Foundation / ARS, NY.

Alexander Calder’s 113th birthday today

Calder!  It is Alexander Calder’s birthday!  Google noticed, as you can see from the above Google doodle courtesy of the Calder Foundation which has a website devoted to his life and artwork.  The modern artist, famous for his mobiles, would be 113 today.  He is well-represented in Washington DC, with pieces in both sculpture gardens on the National Mall (the Hirschorn’s and the National Gallery of Art’s), in the foyer of the National Galler of Art’s modern East Wing and in one of the Senate office buildings (Hart).  Visit the Calder website and peruse the life and work of one of my favorite modern artists!

How Twitter Was Nearly Called Twitch: Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey on Coming Up with a Name

This is a fun little interview transcript about the naming of Twitter.  With .coms we have come even further from the days of the “Dutch-India Company” when it comes to naming businesses, but in many respects the concerns remain the same.

NASA’s Space Shuttle by the Numbers: 30 Years of a Spaceflight Icon

As we remembered the Apollo moon landing on July 20th earlier this week, we also saw the end of an era with the final landing of the space shuttle.  This article from Scientific America details the 30 year career of the Space Shuttle by the numbers.  So long old friend!

Rudolf Hess in 1937: Hess, who was Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's deputy and...

Town Removes Grave of Hitler Deputy Hess

The German news outlet Spiegel published this article and photo gallery on its English news site yesterday (I found it via an NPR News tweet).  Hess was one of the few Nazi officers convicted to actually serve out his life sentence, committing suicide and being buried in a Bavarian town.  Weary of the town being a neo-Nazi pilgrimage site on account of the grave, the church took steps to remove it.  Fascinating read with a rather chilling photo album–expecially the photographs taken in our own day.

BREAKING 1776 NEWS: First British Report of America’s Declaration of Independence

From one of my favorite blogs to follow in the Twitterverse, Rag Linen, comes this gem out of 1776 London.  Read the brief post about this missive in a London newspaper.  American history buffs, get your geek on!

US Capitol Under Construction, Washington, DC

Amazing Historical Photos Of Washington D.C. Recreated Today

Washington DC buffs and photography-lovers have got check this photo album out!  This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen!  Someone did something similiar a while back with post-WWII photos of Germany, comparing them to today’s pictures, but this is especially neat because DC was still evolving from farmland to capital city when photography first arrived on the scene.  53 incredible juxtaposed pictures of the old and the current!

Ahead of Their Time: Neandertals and the First Grandparents

This Scientific America article (and the one linked in it) suggest that the survival of grandparents may have aided evolution and the increased sophistication of Neandertals:

Having grandparents around in large numbers would have significantly increased population size, thus fostering innovation and self-expression, and it would have facilitated the transfer of valuable knowledge and cultural traditions to the next generation.

This is a pretty fascinating pre-history piece reinforcing the importance of our grandparents and the heritage of our past being passed onto the next generation.


Filed under Brush off the Dust Best of the Web, Historian's Journal