A new volume of the award-winning digital learning book series, History Adventures, World of Characters, produced by Northwestern Qatar Professor Spencer Striker, has been published and the series shortlisted for the 2020 Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Award for Best Educational App.
The new interactive book, History Adventures: Empires & Interconnections, explores the world between 1450-1750 through a combination of narration and animated characters who lived through pivotal moments in history and were designed “to inspire an emotional resonance, which will imprint in the mind of our readers, forming long-term memories and an emotional and visual impression of history that they will not soon forget,” Striker said.
The characters depicted in this edition include a young woman of Turkish and Byzantine ancestry living through the 1453 Siege of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire, a vainglorious conquistador trekking through the treacherous mountains of 16th Century Peru, and an adviser in the Medieval court of Tokugawa Japan, trading in secrets and intrigue when the politics could not have been more high-stakes or ruthless.
The project started as a single interactive, audiovisual book, History Adventures: Revolutions & Industrialisation, to teach students about the history between 1750-1900 and has now expanded to include volumes that cover additional historical subjects and time periods.
According to Striker, the project, which combines history education and digital media design, makes knowledge more accessible to students and can also change people’s perceptions of history as a boring subject by finding creative ways to “spark enthusiasm for learning about the past… by bringing the pages of history to life.”
By illustrating historic periods through narrative design, interactive infographics, 3D animations, 360-degree panoramas, data visualisation, original music, and sound effects, “the product evokes for readers a visceral experience of a time in history when the world experienced colossal change, empires rose and expanded, and international trade took hold like never before,” Striker said.
Readers can also browse authentic documents and images from the past and participate in interactive assessments at the end of each character narrative to test their comprehension.
Working with Striker on the project were student research assistants; Rui Xin Oh, Samson Mbogo, and Elissa Mefleh, with support from Professor Christopher Sparshott as the lead history adviser and narrator.
Oh, who served as a project manager, found that the experience reinforced the importance of adapting to digital sources in the midst of a global pandemic.“The project today is more necessary than ever as I believe many students like me find it exhausting to learn through Zoom classes alone. Educators around the world are also challenged to make their lessons engaging and informative. The interactive book presents a solution in the form of a bridge between the needs of both students and teachers," she said.
Mbogo, who was the social media specialist for the project, said the lessons he learned from his experience working on the project showed that it is a great historical narration and that “anyone who has had a chance to review the book can attest to the great work done to put together this project which has become a recognised academic resource in various schools across the US. This is a clear testament that the book is a gem in the world of historical narration.”
The Educational App Award for the Reimagine Education Awards 2020 is organised by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
The book can be downloaded free on Apple Books, and is coming soon to Chromebooks, Android, iOS, and Google Play.