Andrew Field looks at "TV-Roms" which bring history to life using video, photos, maps and text.
These five "TV-Roms" from 4 Learning, which present film clips from ITN's news archive, are standard CD-Roms packed with television and film footage relevant to significant events in the last century and selected to support the secondary history curriculum.
I've used World War I, Nazi Germany and Europe 1919-39 recently in class. The format is praiseworthy. Simply insert the CD into your computer and it will run - no installation, download or rebooting is required. The interface fills a standard computer screen with a clear and easy-to-follow menu system.
Topics are listed on the left, with icon links to the available resources. Although the main attraction is the video footage, the resources built around these are text, photographs, maps, interactive biographies and dictionaries. The footage covers most areas related to the topic with short, accessible clips. For World War I, it was excellent to be able to show students film of Lord Kitchener inspecting the troops at the front or the huge artillery used at Verdun. The quality of images and sound is extremely good, although you are limited by the age and initial quality of recording - but that adds a certain charm. Often the commentary alone is worthy of historical interpretation.
With around 30 to 40 minutes of footage per CD, these resources are not a replacement for existing materials, but they can help enhance existing teaching. The clips can easily be paused to allow analysis of what is going on.
One of my Year 10 pupils said: "It was amazing to see real troops marching through a village." Another pupil was delighted to detect flaws in some footage - "When we paused and rewound it, you could see this film was a fake!" - giving him a critical perspective on the Ministry of War at the time.
The World War I TV-Rom also covers the rise of Hitler. In this section, there is some remarkable footage which has not been dubbed over by modern commentators. Students can study original film of the Nuremberg rally, accompanied by Hitler's speeches - these are genuinely moving primary sources.
The additional features are not mere add-ons. The accompanying summaries built around the clips provide a good basic background.
The text includes words in bold, hyperlinked to appropriately detailed glossary definitions. Stills can be accessed through the "gallery" icon, allowing students to use the images in their own ICT work. The "weblinks" icon takes you to the Channel 4 website.
As my head of faculty commented, they are "great for short, sharp enrichment activities". With a digital projector, most clips are visually clear and quick and simple to navigate, although I would like to have been able to bookmark different clips directly from the software to queue the video clips up for lessons.
The disks are also being promoted for use on a school network or a single PC but, unless headphones and sound are available in your ICT suite, their use is more limited and it's unrealistic to use a TV-Rom with a class huddled around one PC. These resources really have the potential to bring the subject of history alive. My Year 10s even commented how similar they were to news reports of today.
Andrew Field teaches history and is ICT curriculum co-ordinator at Neale-Wade Community College, March, Cambridgeshire