The medium can be the message

Roshen Dalal

devaraya-script Every history teacher must keep in mind that history consists of those aspects of the past that we consider significant, and that therefore, no two historians, write history in the same way. However, when teaching in school or college, there is usually a fixed syllabus, without much choice in what can be taught. Despite this, there are various ways in which different types of media can be used to make history more interesting.

Traditional media
Though there are several new forms of media, even traditional media can be effectively used in the classroom. Traditional media includes books, magazines, journals, and newspapers, all of which can be used in innovative and exciting ways. Some of these ways are described below:

Quotes: Choose a significant sentence or passage from a book. Enlarge it by scanning, photographing, entering it into a computer, or in the old-fashioned way, by writing it out in large letters on a chart paper. Put this up in the class and have a discussion on it. The sentence should be related to the topic being studied. It can be from the textbook, from any other book, or even from a magazine or newspaper. ‘Recent research suggests that the Mughal emperor Akbar was dyslexic’, is just one possible example that could lead to an interesting discussion on Akbar, as well as an awareness of dyslexia. ‘War is inevitable’ is a controversial statement that through discussion, could lead to an understanding of social, economic, and other factors that contribute to a war.

Pictures and photographs: Pictures, maps, and drawings from magazines or newspapers can be cut out, pasted on cards, and mounted on the wall, or passed around in class. They can be a focus for discussion, or can just add interest to a topic being taught. For instance, if the Delhi sultanate is being taught, photographs of their monuments can be used. If it is Ashoka Maurya, pictures of animal capitals, pillars, and rock edicts, can be used, along with a large map of all his monuments.

Television: Television can be considered part of traditional media, though the number of channels has increased greatly in recent years. There are innumerable programmes on historical events of the past and present, and these can be recorded and replayed in class. Students can also be encouraged to record programmes that they think are relevant or interesting, and to share them with others.

Movies/films: Fictionalised versions of events or films made based on historical events, also help students get interested in the past.

The author is a full-time writer with eight published books on history and religion. Her books for young people include the best-selling two-volume Puffin History of India and the Puffin History of the World. She lives in Dehradun. She can be reached at roshendalal@yahoo.co.in.

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