Old School Meets New School – Best of Both Worlds?

I inherited a complete collection of Time magazines from 1960-1982 when I took over my current position three years ago. They were nicely organized into boxes that I shuffled around the storage room attached to my classroom, until this spring. At some point in the past month, I was clobbered over the head with the most obvious idea – we should use these primary sources to help the 11th grade US history students learn about our more recent past. We started by using a cover story about the Cuban Missile Crisis to help the kids see what the public would have learned in 1962. Then, we decided the magazines would make a great basis for a project.

For the past two days, students have been browsing through the magazines from the 1970s, learning about the decade. They each selected an issue to read. In fact, my classroom has been like a newsstand, as students come back and look at the issues again and again, swapping their original choices out to look at others. I have had kids ask if they could take more than one. They are picking them up on the tables in Junior Hall and reading, then talking about what they are finding. Class time has been a combination of quiet, focused reading time and spontaneous conversations when students just cannot help sharing. They are drawn to the ads, but also interested in the stories.

Students are compiling a list of questions that occur to them as they read their issue, and then they will research the answers to those questions in order to deepen their understanding. The next step will be an Edcafe where they will generate the topics and questions from the decade that they want to discuss and then run the sessions. The final step will be to write blog posts about their insights and observations from this project.

Old school meets new school – students read through magazines, flipping the pages leisurely as they might have done back in the day. They research to learn more about the stories they read, probably using computers. The class discussion piece will be organized by them in an Edcafe style. Finally, they will blog. I expect to be able to tweet out some of those posts.

I admit to having brought three or four magazines home in my bag for the weekend. I plan to go start reading them after I publish this post.


8 thoughts on “Old School Meets New School – Best of Both Worlds?

  1. I was a high school sophomore in 1962, and a first decade high school social studies teacher during the 1970s. I don’t believe that I had a subscription to TIME at any time during those two decades, but I did have subscriptions to LIFE and SATURDAY EVENING POST, and I watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite religiously. During the first half of the 60s I lived in a conservative, military community; while in the last half I was a student at what became a liberal, public university (it was considered a major party school when I arrived in August 1965). From late 1970 through mid 1972, I was a lieutenant in the US Army Signal Corps, spending part of that time with a Signal unit just outside of Saigon. As a new teacher, from Sept. 1972 through the end of 1979, I taught Social Studies in a very wealthy southern California community. All of this is to say that I think I was quite aware of public issues during the two decades you’re looking at in TIME. I also spent much of my time in the 70s studying and teaching about the effects of advertising. Anyway, I’ll be interested, very interested in fact, to look at any material you (or your students) post about the results of your current study. I’m looking forward to it.

  2. By the way, in my opinion, the ads are probably the most important pages in the magazine. I’m happy to hear that your students are looking at, and hopefully, thinking critically about them.

  3. They are fascinated by the sheer volume and also the tone of the ads for cigarettes and booze. They have also noted the call for a shift back to coal, away from oil. We have just scratched the surface, I think.

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