Education Blog Posts

Presenting the Past


History educators face many obstacles when presenting the past in the digital world. The two main issues that historical educators encounter today are the validity of sources and the number of sources available on the internet. Both issues affect the other. It can be difficult to find credible and reliable sources due to the number of sources available online.  Many history educators have difficulty finding reliable sources or receiving assignments from students that included unreliable sources. Teachers are now given the task of educating students on what makes a source reliable. According to Sam Wineburg, this includes researching and questioning the author, the context/ nature of the source, and the evidence provided within the source.[1] The internet has a vast collection of both primary and secondary sources. This can be incredibly dangerous for teachers attempting to present history through the digital world. Evaluating a source’s credibility can lead to the spread of false information. Today, we are polarized to the extreme. It is very easy for people to accept false information as the truth. People still believe that if something is on the internet that it must be true. I learned from these readings to also be wary of printed/published sources. It is more important now than ever that we are taking the time to evaluate the sources we see on the internet. “Reliable information is to civic intelligence what clean air and clean water are to public health.”[2] I can only imagine the amount of stress history educators endure while trying to teach history through the digital world.

As we learned in our last module, search engines can have their own personal agendas when suggesting information. This is also seen in some other information providers such as Wikipedia. Growing up, I was told to stay away from Wikipedia, never cite it, and to never trust any information that was posted. However, once I got to college, I was told that I was able to use it as a jumping off point and nothing else. Sites such as Wikipedia have grown to be controversial. Not only in the information provided on the website but also the authors who post research to the site. According to Sadie Bergin, “A Wikipedia user survey reports that the average “Wikipedian” on the English-language version of the site is male, formally educated, and from a majority Christian, developed country in the Northern Hemisphere.”[3] Not only are their publishers often located in one category, but their topics are also as well. It has also been discovered that Wikipedia has little history concerning Black history, Women’s history, Latino history, and African American history.[4] This lack of inclusion of other histories limits the full perspective of certain events and other historical figures. This ties in with another issue historians have with Wikipedia. Wikipedia and historians do not share the same definition of historical significance. Michelle Moravec said, “Wikipedia does a poor job of matching ‘historical significance’ and what historians think is significant.”[5] This is an issue because Wikipedia and historians have different standards and criteria to determine the significance of a topic, person, etc.  These different standards can lead to the spread of misinformation.

[1] Wineburg, Sam. “Why Historical Thinking is Not About History.” History News 71, no. 2. 2016, pg. 4

[2] Ibid

[3] Bergen, Sadie. “Linking In: How Historians are Fighting Wikipedia’s Biases.” Perspectives on History (blog). September 3, 2016.

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

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