Impact of Digital History on Historians and on the Practice of History

           The first article I read was “The Digital History Reader: Teaching Resources for United States and European History” by E. Thomas Ewing and Robert P. Stephens.  After I saw “teaching resources” in the title, I knew I needed to read this piece.  The reader itself is a group effort, which historians, secondary educators, and education technologists collaborated on in order to help universities teach students historical critical thinking skills, even in large classroom settings.  The book is inquiry-based, and each section focuses on a central question that can be answered by analyzing the attached set of primary sources.  These sources reprint copies of things such as photographs and speeches, but also include links to other information such as songs and video clips.  There is also a resource section, which provides students with more sources to look at to learn more about a given topic.  After reading this article, I felt disappointed I had never used this in my college classes.  As a future teacher, it would have been beneficial to receive additional training with primary sources before I have to teach it to my students.  But, I can still get a copy of this reader to add to my teaching repertoire, and this book mirrors an emerging trend in the field of education, which is the Inquiry Design Model (IDM), so I think it is still relevant for my purposes, even though this article was published in 2007.  Another reason I like this reader is because it already provides the sources so educators do not have to go hunting for things.  In Dr. McClurken’s article, he said that many times educators and students will spend hours searching for appropriate, accurate, and reliable primary source material online, so this reader will help decrease the time spent searching and increase the time spent actually working with the documents.


            The second article I read was “Is (Digital) History More than an Argument about the Past?” by Sherman Dorn.  Dorn states that digital history has challenged traditional history in the sense that research as well as publication norms have changed.  Physically visiting a library is no longer the primary way that historians do research because there are plentiful electronic resources, such as those housed in online databases.  Furthermore, because many people, not just professional historians, can publish their work online, the prestige of university presses has somewhat eroded.  However, digital history also has its advantages.  The one that stood out most to me was the ability to engage the public in the process of history.  As Dorn points out, history is messy and even though an author may finish with an argument, that argument is never truly complete and is always changeable as new evidence is uncovered.  By publicizing this process, historians can show how subjective the discipline is.  To accomplish this task and to make historical projects more accessible, Dorn lists several resources historians can use.  Is there a place to find historical works in progress as examples for my future students?  I think this would be beneficial to share with them because before I began taking classes for my history major, I never realized how extensive a research project could be, and as such did not have as much appreciation for the subject as I do now.  I suppose a somewhat acceptable variation of an actual historical research project could be Wikipedia because the pages are constantly being written and revised.