History Comes Alive for K-12 Students Using Historic Footage

A unique collaboration between media giant NBC News and online learning environment, HotChalk.com, is giving students and teachers what they’ve been longing for: an interactive educational tool that is informative, engaging and relevant to the YouTube generation.

The NBC News On-Demand Archives make over 10,000 video clips of historical footage and news broadcasts available to K-12 students around the world. Rather than simply reading about the non-violent movement of the civil rights era, teachers are able to show video of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to the media about sit-in demonstrations.

NBC Chief Financial Officer, Adam Jones, came to HotChalk.com with the idea to delve into the NBC archives and make them available for educators. They started with 60 producers who were given the task of finding content related to the following subject areas: U.S. history, English language and composition, government and politics, decision ’08, science, global studies, African American studies and women’s studies.

HotChalk.com has about 400,000 teachers subscribing to the site worldwide, with 93 percent of those being in the United States. By the end of this calendar year there will be at least one teacher using HotChalk.com in the classroom at every school in the United States, says Edward Fields, CEO of HotChalk.com. The Web site has become so popular that they have stopped marketing it because of a dramatic increase in subscribers.

Although the NBC News On-Demand Archives were designed for sixth through 12th-graders, Fields says, the company has seen interest in the content from third grade educators to higher education professionals. Fields says HotChalk.com does not plan to market to postsecondary institutions at this time because the company is intensely focused on K-12.

“It’s a largely underserved market,” he says.

NBC News plans to expand its educational efforts to postsecondary education in the near future, says Nicola Soares, the vice president of marketing and educational initiatives for NBC.

“This is one of the most unique things we’ve ever done,” Soares says. “This national treasure is being put in the hands of educators. We’re delivering education in the way our students want it. There’s nothing else like this.”

Soares, a former McGraw-Hill executive, calls the archive “phenomenal” with its historic footage and newscasts.

Soares says it is important to NBC that all students benefit from the material, including minorities, women and English as a Second Language students. For this reason, NBC News has included “African American Studies” and Women’s Studies” sections to the archive and plans to launch a Hispanic American studies section during Hispanic Heritage Month and an American Indian studies collection this summer.

“This resource includes all students,” she says. “We’re trying to level the playing field.”

Soares says the multicultural content is not isolated because it is all a part of the American experience. “Much of the approach is interdisciplinary,” she says. For instance, women’s studies content can be found in the U.S. history section as well as in the women’s studies section. “We want the collections to be all inclusive,” she says.

The presidential race and content related to the electoral process is covered in the “Decision ’08” section of the site. Soares says the upcoming presidential election is probably one of the most important elections ever for Americans, and the rest of the world is taking note. She says that on a recent trip to South Africa, the election was a hot topic among South Africans.

The “Decision ’08” section is offered in Spanish via the NBC affiliate, Telemundo. “We wanted ESL students to be a part of the conversation,” Soares says.

During the election season students are given the opportunity to ask questions of NBC anchors about the electoral process in the “Ask NBC” section of HotChalk.com. “We want young people to feel involved and be able to understand the electoral process,” Soares says.

The NBC News/HotChalk.com collaboration does not only focus on diversity within the United States. Teachers are using the site in 188 countries. “There is an enormous demand for U.S.-style education,” Field says. “HotChalk brings teachers together in a new way.”

HotChalk.com’s presence in so many countries was a factor in NBC News’ interest in partnering with it for this project, Soares says.

The HotChalk.com/NBC News partnership is proving to be a growing success, especially in metropolitan school districts. “The feedback has been exceptional,” Soares says. “The biggest response has been from urban school districts.”

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