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The Big History Project Teaches The Story of Humanity with Game Based Learning

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big history project

Master 8 Periods of History with The Big History Project

What do you get when you cross a maverick historian, a tech legend, and game based learning techniques?  You get The Big History Project, a revolutionary online initiative that challenges the way history is traditionally taught.

The online project, formerly only available to educators, is backed by Microsoft and championed by Bill Gates himself, is in its third year and is being used in over 100 schools across eight countries.  Now, in conjunction with a new television series released by History Channel’s H2 Channel, the educational initiative is free and open to the public.

The Big History Project (BHP) was developed by a range of educators, writers, scientists and curriculum writers in an effort to bring the full story of humanity (from The Big Bang forward) to the people.  By viewing history not as a straight line, but as a complex, interconnected web, David Christian of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, has challenged the way we look at everything from horses and salt to atoms and galaxies.

the big history project curriculum

The public course takes about 8 hours to finish and divides history into 8 “thresholds,” periods in which critical events happened to alter the course of all history.  Each threshold module contains multimedia elements to fully explore the time period from a variety of disciplines, especially science.  The public user has the option of taking quizzes and earning badges for each module passed.  At the end of the course, the user can earn the title of Certified Big Historian.  (The first 10,000 users to do so get a free sticker.)

By combining gamification elements with fascinating (sometimes mind-blowing) content, BHP manages to achieve something a lot of history teachers never could–it makes history fun.  The videos are engaging, with excellent graphics and music.  The material is presented with a minimum of jargon and the site is easy to navigate.  And while we won’t say the quizzes are easy, the user does have a chance to retake them until they reach a high enough score for the badge.  (Don’t ask us how many tries it took to score 100% on the Big Bang badge….)

the big history project

If there is anything that might trip up users, it’s that the questions on the quizzes don’t completely match the information in the modules.  For instance, there were questions on the Big Bang quiz that were not covered until the second module, Stars Light Up.  But this is a minor quibble for an otherwise amazing site.

In an age where schools are cutting funding on even the basics, the BHP is a dream come true–an engaging, multi-disciplinary, challenging course that encourages deep thinking and true comprehension.

The Big History Project could be a sign of things to come.  We sure hope so.

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  • Bruno Forgiarini

    Nice article!

  • RodKing

    Great! And thanks for sharing.

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