Virtual tours on your iPhone
Rama is a history app for the iPhone that allows readers to walk (or drive) the most significant routes in history. When our team at Crimson Bamboo sat down to create Rama, one important aspect of how we designed the app was its possible appeal to children and use as an educational tool. Many members of the Rama team have a background in teaching, and one thing we recognized immediately is how the medium we were developing—combining the interactivity found in video games with the strong visual attraction of television—could become a strong pedagogical resource.
We are eager to connect our readers with the Civil War, and several authors have contributed tours focused on this captivating era. We asked David Potter, author of “Antietam Battlefield,” his thoughts on Rama in the classroom. Says David:
In order to be an effective teacher, one must be able to paint a vivid picture with words that are easily accessible and relatable. In the modern world, there exists an almost endless stream of stimulation and distraction that obscure an otherwise focused mind.
One key would be to get students to become so excited about a subject that they would see it as “fun”, instead of as “work”, and try to engage that subject matter themselves, rather than wait to be told about it. This, of course, is no easy task. It is a tall order to ask for teachers to speak with the eloquence and intrigue of Ken Burns, Shelby Foote, or James M. McPherson.
Historical images help Rama authors weave their narratives
Speaking from personal experience, it was Shaara’s The Killer Angels that wove the Civil War into a palpable subject. That book transformed the Civil War from a dead historical event into the most interesting portion of our history—something crucial to my appreciation of today’s America. It is through this lens that my tour of the Battle of Antietam tries to relate history not just through words, but through trying to give history a visual and physical presence. The tour combines narrative storytelling with photos taken at the time and place of the battle, and challenges readers to compare and merge the historical image with the modern reality. It is hard to imagine another tool better for transporting readers back to the days when brother fought brother.
While the tours of Rama could never replace the role of a book, classroom, and teacher teaching the Civil War, they do present an invaluable tool for taking a student hundreds or thousands of miles (or years!) away, while sitting in the comfort of a classroom. Rama provides this unique combination of storytelling, pictures and location that is unrivaled in mobile media, and could serve as an unbelievable educational tool to help teachers more easily relate to students the story of the Civil War, just as The Killer Angels once inspired me.
David’s tour, “Antietam Battlefield”, is typically available on Rama as an in-app purchase for $1.99, but will be free to access from January 9th to the 15th. Rama is available for free download at http://bit.ly/iTunesRama. More screenshots from David’s tour and others are available at http://on.fb.me/RamaTourGalleries.
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William Bevins, Rama’s history editor, and Michael Carroll, co-creator of Rama, are both former educators. Between them, they have taught students at every level from kindergarten to college.