Hi-Story Lessons: Teaching and Learning about Europe

Audio-visual elements are being added to this international digital project for history education.

Digital and interactive teaching tools are moving into European classrooms at a rapid pace, making it more important that ever that they convey well-grounded, accessible and aesthetically pleasing material that piques pupils' interest in history. To be successful, such tools must vividly bring history to life.

This demanding task was precisely what the Georg Eckert Institute and its main Polish partner, the ‘European Network Remembrance and Solidarity’, set out to accomplish through their joint project. From November 2015 to September 2016, the team working on the project ‘Hi-Story Lessons: Teaching and Learning about Europe in the 20th Century – Timelines’ developed six interactive timelines about each of the participating countries (Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Romania). Interactive infographics add depth to important moments and far-reaching events in the 20th century histories of these six Central European countries, helping to explain complex historical connections and relationships. Integrating primary-source material, the historical narratives of the participating countries are presented in a broader European context. The timelines offer interesting insights – often neglected in the history classroom – that demonstrate how closely the individual memories and stories about historical events are entwined with experiences in neighbouring countries.

In cooperation with its Central and Eastern European partners, the Georg Eckert Institute, a recognised name in the field of school media research, regards this project as an important contribution to the development of complex digital education tools.

The project’s results, in the form of six interactive timelines and infographics on historical events in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania, can be accessed under https://hi-storylessons.eu/timeline.

Duration: 01.11.2015 to 30.09.2016

Project leader: Dr Robert Maier

Associate: Dr Marcin Wiatr

Results: Research for and online publication of six interactive timelines and infographics on historical events in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania for teachers and pupils to download.


Sub-Project 2: Hi-Story Lessons for inclusive teaching. Expanding the web platform to include animations with soundtracks

This part of the project ran from November 2016 to March 2017 and its goal was to expand the hi-storylessons.eu web platform, in particular through the addition of innovative animated and audio-visual material.

Two audio-visual animations were added to the digital products addressing history education:

Specific target audiences, such as pupils and teachers as well as the general public, are thereby granted access to new, high quality products. An animation with voice-over and acoustic material describes the mounting panic among shareholders and documents the concerns of migrant workers and others seeking work following the stock market crash in New York, and outlines the global scale of the economic crisis.

The project took advantage of past approaches followed by the Georg Eckert Institute to encourage the use of sensory perception and to incorporate acoustic effects in the communication of the ‘sound of history’ within digital educational media products and to reflect upon the extent to which the collective recollections of societies and generations are shaped by acoustic memories. The material strives to include pupils with disabilities and special educational needs. The acoustically enriched aminations also cater for pupils with visual disabilities by making open-access educational online resources that are suitable for them to use and therefore allow them to more fully participate in the mediation of complex historical issues. This material therefore stimulates lessons that actively seize upon and implement the potential offered by digital media, in order to achieve better learning outcomes – especially in the target groups named. These innovative, digital and audio-visual methods for communicating history lend our project a truly ground-breaking significance, demonstrated through its goal of using the potential of digital teaching material for inclusive lessons.

Duration: 01.11.2016 to 30.03.2017

Project head: Dr Marcin Wiatr

Results: Addition of acoustic material and audio-visual animations to the six interactive timelines detailing events in Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.


Sub-project 3: Animations depicting the history of the twentieth century

The goal of this project, which ran during the final quarter of 2017, was to further expand the audio-visual animations and acoustic material on the multi-lingual web platform hi-storylessons.eu.

The project implements interactive teaching methods and focuses particularly on how historical processes are presented to and adopted by pupils between the ages of 14 and 18. One of the project’s main aims in this respect is to stimulate a discourse on European history that reaches beyond national perspectives. For this reason the animations focus on historic turning points of the twentieth century; looking at their significance at the time and their consequences for Europe today.

Three animated narratives have been added to the digital products for history education; on subjects that all have current significance within the memory cultures of 2017 and 2018:

1. The social and political revolution that took place in Russia in 1917 and its impact on Europe’s political and historical landscape. See: https://hi-storylessons.eu/events/bolshevik-revolution-in-petrograd

2. The Marshall Plan and the start of the Cold War. See: https://hi-storylessons.eu/events/marshall_plan,

3. The protest and reform movements of 1968. Se: https://hi-storylessons.eu/events/peak_of_the_sexual_revolution_in_the_west_and_the_end_of_prague_spring

All three animations are available in seven languages: English, Polish, German, Hungarian, Slovakian, Czech and Romanian. Each is accompanied by an MP3 audio file containing selected historical material related to the individual events. This enables the material to be used by those with visual impairments or, for a change of emphasis, the images can be used as background material supplementing the audio tracks.

The use of images and pictograms, the reduction of text and the increased integration of sound and tone all reflect recent tendencies in education and in lesson practice when teaching history and developing historical awareness; a shift that requires innovative educational media. Sequences of specifically commissioned illustrations are used in the animations and synchronised with professionally edited scripts. This allows important historical events to be brought to life, both visually and aurally.

Duration: 31.08.2017 to 31.12.2018

Project head: Dr Marcin Wiatr

Results: Development of six interactive timelines and infographics depicting historical events in Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania using additional sound files and audio-visual aminations.


Sub-project 4: Twentieth century cultural trends from the perspective of political history

The aim of this project, which was launched in December 2017, is to create further sound files, audio-visual content and animations for the multi-lingual web platform hi-storylessons.eu.

This project clearly, understandably and attractively presents connections between historic events and cultural movements of the twentieth century. Pupils (aged 14–18) and teachers will be able to trace the cultural context of historic events within wider culture through appropriate material, which will also illustrate the cultural determinants of active political agents. The content of the project is founded on knowledge relevant to an academic context, namely that far-reaching historic events arise from complex interrelationships within which cultural factors play a not insignificant role, and that those events, in turn, are often reflected within the cultural realm. It is therefore important to convey the sense of culture as a historical element that penetrates society, politics and economics. Considering individual historic events from a cultural history standpoint can frequently result in a more comprehensive and rational representation.

The project’s key methodological approach is to chronologically depict selected currents within twentieth century European culture. The countries selected include Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Romania, but the project also incorporates a more comprehensive international context. Particular attention is also paid to political and social motives and to the inspiration and limitations of those working in the creative arts. The project examines painters, authors, poets, philosophers, architects and composers. Important cultural movements are discussed, such as art nouveau/German Youth Movement, the Decadent movement, expressionism, surrealism, modernism, fascist cultural forms, socialist realism, pop art, consumerism and post-modernism.

Relevant graphics and source material will be added to the texts, which will then be available in seven languages: English, Polish, German, Hungarian, Slovakian, Czech and Romanian. The texts will be published on the www.hi-storylessons.eu website, accompanied by information on the historic events they address. They will also be available in a separate location dedicated to their individual topics.

Duration: 01.12.2017 to 31.08.2018

Project head: Dr Marcin Wiatr

Results: Development of interactive timelines and info-graphics covering interlinked historical events in selected European cultural movements of the twentieth century in Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.

Funding: Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien, BKM)

Cooperation Partners for all sub-projects:

  • European Network Remembrance and Solidarity (Poland)
  • Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the secondary school Fazekas Mihály Gyakorló Általános Iskola és Gimnázium (Hungary)
  • Ústav pamäti národa – The Nation’s Memory Institute, (Slovakia)
  • European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO),
  • Post Bellum, (Czech Republic).



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