British Pathé recently released over 85,000 historical films on YouTube. Spanning a century from 1896 to 1976, these films include Queen Victoria’s funeral, Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile, Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and approximately 84, 997 more.
These films can bring these events alive in a way like never before, aiding all learners to visualize history and connect with content and ideas. Beyond just viewing these events, we could begin to think about ways to make student engagement more active. How? By making and curating topical playlists, pegging videos to maps, or remixing, reinterpreting–even recreating–them. Students could use video editing tools like YouTube video editor, iMovie, WeVideo and Green Screen by Do Ink! For photos and stills, they could use image editing Photoshop, Illustrator, Google Drawing, Green Screen by Do Ink! In all these cases, past and present come together in both the events being presented and the media coverage.
It occurs to me that treating current events in newsreel-style coverage or historical events in modern quick-cut, split-screen style could be fun. It could become a lesson about modern world history and media awareness and digital citizenship. Who is on screen? Who is not? Whose voice and narrative are presented? Whose voice and narrative are missing? Who seems to be making the decisions? What styles and and language are still common? What styles and and language seem stale? How far have we come in terms of insightful, inclusive coverage? How far do we have to go?
Now, speaking of digital citizenship, one would be wise to look carefully at the licences connected to these films and images. As I tell my own students: just because images or videos are available doesn’t mean they are free for use without payment or attribution. I push my students towards Pixabay, where it’s easy to find high resolution images for free to create mashups like this one.
Once we have the material, imagine the newsreel of Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile treated with SportsCenter style graphics. This is pretty easy to do with iMovie. Imagine Usain Bolt’s triple-double (triple-triple?) treated in black and white with an old-school voiceover and fanfare music. This one would take some creative thinking and teamwork, but it’s reasonable to think students could get it done.
I think these concepts of remixing, reimagining, reframing and reinterpreting work on many levels. First, they speak to what students are doing on their own on sites like SoundCloud, Tumblr and Imgur. Second, they help cultivate and/or activate creative, marketable skills for students. Third, they speak to where learning and technology may be heading in their lifetime. Fourth, they trigger conversations about politics, power and presentation-style in media.
I think my students can benefit from all of these. Can yours?