As a kid, history baffled me. I floundered in the whirlpool of names, dates, and variably detailed accounts. I saw no pattern, no threads of organization. It was not until college, when I studied “regions” in geography, that the maelstrom of history began to stratify into patterns.
Today’s students have even more chance for confusion. The past grows ever more detailed, more open to cataloguing and endless shuffling. Fortunately, history lends itself to a geographic view, and ArcGIS Online makes it easy for educators and students alike to build their own view of yesteryear, demonstrating that the past can be re-organized infinitely.
Had I a time turner and the chance to re-do my history classes from grades 5, 7, and 11, I would want to bring ArcGIS Online. Not all of history has been converted into databases organized for geographic analysis, though some collections exist. Therefore, students can build their own, constructing and presenting their views, engaging deeply in the past. Even building simple catalogues of events or people tied to places, exposed over time, can help students fathom the past.
We are well into the sesquicentennial of the US Civil War, echoes of which linger even today. Students can view a small collection of data about battles, as one example of organization. An experienced user might take the liberty of revising the popup, or the classification and symbolization. What additional approaches or data might also make sense, exposing alternative views into the past?
John McHale once wrote a powerful little “poem” about time:
- The future of the past is in the future.
- The future of the present is in the past.
- The future of the future is in the present.
He meant that we constantly redefine what we think of the past, and our actions back then influenced the prospects we have today, and the outlook for tomorrow is based on what we do today.
Helping students of today become thoughtful leaders of tomorrow requires that they fathom the conditions, ideas, and decisions of the past. This takes more than memorization. It calls for exploring, grappling, analyzing, and integrating. ArcGIS Online is a powerful tool for encouraging such wrestling with time and space.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager