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Past in pictures

Russel Tarr welcomes a newsreel approach to teaching history

HISTORY LIVE. First World War; Interwar Years; Second World War; Nuclear Age; Cold War; Vietnam War; Troubles in Ireland Nelson Thornes pound;250 per school with a pound;50 annual renewal fee

History Live is an ambitious, innovative software package written by Ben Walsh and built around a vast array of video clips from the ITN news archives to help teachers deliver key topics in modern world history.

The coverage is impressively comprehensive - First World War, Interwar Years, Second World War, Nuclear Age, Cold War, Vietnam War and Troubles in Ireland - each has its own dedicated library of video clips, commentary and questions. The quality of the clips themselves is first rate, and students are encouraged to consider the utility of each with a series of questions and discussion points.

While the increasing speed of internet connections makes it possible to download and run video directly from the internet, the unique selling point of History Live is that it helps teachers create their own assignments for use in the classroom - structured investigations complete with tasks, links and specially selected clips.

These assignments can then be saved for future use and allocated to particular classes or even particular students, making differentiation easy. More able students, for instance, could be instructed to produce their own multimedia presentation on who was to blame for the Cold War, while less able students might find it easier to produce a timeline of key events linked to video clips where appropriate. Similarly, students can set up their own profiles in which they create and store their own multimedia presentations or export video clips into external applications such as PowerPoint.

As well as being powerful, the program is simple to use. Administrators can log in and set up teacher and student users, teachers then log in and can create classes and student assignments, and the students then log in and tackle the assignments which they have been given access to.

The teacher-support pages give plenty of ideas on exploiting the product's potential, although the emphasis is wisely on empowering the individual teacher and pupil rather than providing off-the-peg lessons.

The section on the interwar years, for example, has some suggested classroom tasks on appeasement. While these could work well given enough thought and preparation, I prefer to produce an assignment of my own which will allow me to discuss one particular video clip with my class using the interactive whiteboard.

Following this, pairs of students will then be directed to analyse other video clips and report back to the class.

Within each assignment, students will have access to an introduction which outlines the nature of the task and offers guidance on how to tackle it. As well as details about the relevant period, the background information includes a play list of the clips.

A search facility enables students to view all clips within the topic or search for relevant clips using key words.

This package shows the potential for incorporating ICT into history and provides an exciting way of investigating traditional topics. It also encourages students to consider the extent to which newsreels shaped rather than reported the events they showed.

Russel Tarr teaches history at Wolverhampton Grammar School and is editor of the website

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