Teaching local history through mobile technologies

An iPhoneI came across a really cool article last night, via @librarianbyday Bobbi Newman, profiling the Chicago Public Library project using geocaching to educate teens about Chicago history.

As part of the library’s One Book, One Chicago program, teens read about the impact architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham had on the city of Chicago.  Armed with GPS-enabled cell phones, groups of teens have been scouring the city informally competing against each other to find geocaches containing historical information about that particular spot and clues to the next cache.  Kids are learning history and how to calculate mathematical coordinates using a technology they already embrace, cell phones.

I mentioned the article to my own kids (14 and 11), and even they thought it sounded super cool, particularly since my husband and I just recently introduced them to the joys of geocaching.  And my brain is already churning with ideas to share with my local history colleagues throughout the county.

This particular project reminded me of a somewhat related one I read about last month, by my Cal State Fullerton colleague, Xtine Burrough, assistant professor of Communications.  Xtine is co-creator of a concept that has made it to the second round of the Knight News Challenge, an iPhone/iPad/iTouch app — and eventually, more GPS device platforms — titled What Happened Here?  The application uses an augmented reality map overlay that “allows users to discover historic and current news events and upload personal stories related to a specific location, identified by a global positioning system.”

Imagine how cool (I know, I’ve used that word three times in this post — but I think technology to promote and teach history IS really cool)…imagine how cool it would be to wander through any data-participating city or community, and be able to follow along with historical events tied to a particular place!

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