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Virtual History: Immersing Students in "Hot" Media

John Maunu


     All teachers yearn to motivate students to be "active learners" as opposed to passive sponges. In 1967 Canadian educator Marshall McLuhan, in The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1976) defined Hot versus Cold mediums, i.e., students actively engaged in their education. Students playing football (Hot) in the backyard as opposed to children "watching football (Cold) on TV" could be an example.

     One strategy to move students into a hot medium is Virtual history. Below you will find references to virtual history tours using on-line media which encourage students to take charge of their learning and explore the world. These resources are organized in three sections that:

  • Discuss the history of "virtual history"
  • Offer examples drawn from the better-known "virtual tours" of historical sites
  • Provide further examples and/or searchable indexes of virtual tour collections.

Virtual history:  A history
1997 perspective on virtual history and it's origins.
August 2007 perspective on serious games, note "building Egypt" virtual tour.
Censorship of virtual world

Some of the "Best of the Best" Virtual History Tours
A virtual tour seigned for young students revealing the social life of early humans in the Americas, including weaving and tool making,
A head-turning three-dimensional walk through an Egyptian pyramid.
The two principal cities of the Indus Valley, Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, are revealed through a guided sequence of photographs.
Opening page of extensive coverage of Chinese Admiral Zheng He offers a digital reenaction of what the Chinese "Treasure Ship" would have looked like under sail.
A virtual version of an exhibit mounted by the Library of Congress and other materials that look at the multicultural dimensions of the events of 1492, the life of Christopher Columbus, and the Colombian exchange his voyages initiated.
This perhaps finest of all virtual tours provides a glimpse into the rich cultural life of the Tokugawa capital of Edo
The glories of tsarist Russia are revealed in a virtual tour of the Alexander Palace at
The life of General Douglas Macarthur and the art and society of the occupation or "Confusion" era in Japan are the subject of a brilliant Smithsonian exhibition. and
These two sites offer a panoramic view of Tiananmen Square supplemented by an interactive tour designed for students

Virtual History Tours and Indexes
Frontline Digital Nation website
World history reference desk with all topics and virtual tours...see
1900 PBS virtual tour, first one, for an example.
World History Digital Library
Virtual Tours and electronic field trips.  Look left for AP History and other
things, such as lesson plans, etc. al..
Virtual Library of World History
World Wide Web History/archaelogy/Economics, etc. al...
Can weave through this site and find many interactive, virtual links...
Virtual Tours via BBC
Note, more BBC history virtual tours, lower right on page.
BBC WW I virtual battlefield tours

Many Japanese sites inc.:
1. Web based educational video on Tokugawa period
2.  "Edo" Japan, A Virtual Tour 9mentioned above)
3.  Virtual Japan—click on "Black Ship Scrolls"
4.  Gregory Smits on-line textbook, Making Japanese—full of visual images
Kyoto, Japan early 1700's and other videos.
2007 production of Inca, Maya, on "icons" on left side of page to
see more on these civilizations...
reconstructions site—Indus Valley
archaelogical virtual tours—Israel, Jordan, etc.
Ancient, Biblical patient, can find virtual sites on this page.
Jewish Virtual Library
Jewish virtual tour of Florence
NHK, Japanese tech company, and 9 pt. Silk Road series....
Kitaro music (Japanese musician) to go with Civilization virtual program.  Note you can play selections of Kitaro's music if you scroll down and look to left...
Video conferencing with Library of Congress
Virtual Tour of Oxford Museum of Natural History...and note, lower left,
a tour of Oxford.
Virtual Finland...
Virtual Marching Tour of American Revolution battles and more...

John Maunu is World History Connected's editor for Internet Resources, is a Advanced Placement World and European history instructor, examination Reader/Table Leader and AP/Collegeboard World History consultant. He has taught for 36 years at Grosse Ile high school, Michigan.  Contact him at 



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