It’s been done before. You create a Twitter account and “live tweet” a past event as if that event were actually happening.
TwHistory has done Gettysburg, Waterloo and is busy with the assassination of Lincoln. The Washington Post launched a Civil War Twitter list in 2010 — using letters, newspapers, journals and records to tweet the U.S. Civil War. We Choose the Moon goes way past Twitter and recreates the whole Apollo 11 thing. There’s even a John Quincy Adams live Twitter feed out there.
But I’m not sure it’s been done before at quite this level. Alwyn Collinson, an Oxford University history grad student, plans to keep it up for six years as he relives World War Two via Twitter.
The account, @RealTimeWWII, features up to 40 tweets each day and has attracted more than 70,000 followers as German forces tear across Europe in the autumn of 1939. It covers major military and political developments, as well as featuring eyewitness accounts from the battlefield, contemporary photos and newsreel footage.
Collinson believes that it breathes some life into past events:
When you read a tweet and it’s breaking news, like the whole Occupy movement or the Arab Spring, you get a feeling of being on the breaking wave of events that are incredibly important . . . I wanted to give that feeling to history,
The first tweet?
SS Troops dressed as Poles are attacking radio transmitter in Gleiwitz, to provide pretext for Germany to attack Poland.
Pretty sweet. This sort of thing can help us make history seem more real to our students. And what I really like is that it helps our kids start to understand that events such as World War Two or Gettysburg or the assassination of Lincoln were not forgone conclusions. Things could have, and sometimes should have, gone a completely different direction.
Use these sorts of things as hook activities during your unit on WWII or Lincoln. Borrow the quotes, maps and other primary sources as instructional tools. Better yet, use the Teacher’s Corner at TwHistory to have kids create their own Twiiter feeds based on their research.