Nick Dennis—History Teacher

“Timelines are a staple of History teaching.”


Dr. Nick Dennis is the Assistant Headmaster as well as a History teacher at Felsted in Essex, England. Dr. Dennis has been an enthusiastic BEEDOCS customer since June 2009, and he uses Bee Docs Timeline 3D in his classroom to help illustrate complicated historical events. This summer Mr. Dennis will be chairing Teachmeet: SHP Edition at the National Schools History Project Conference.

BD: Tell us a little about your classes, and the subjects you teach.

I currently teach History to Year 9 to Year 13 (not sure what that is in US education). My students are lovely and are genuinely interested to learn about the past. They are also willing to engage in whatever crazy scheme I have planned for them, which helps. I have also taught Classics (Greek and Roman History and culture) and Government and Politics.

BD: Have you always been interested in new technology?

I have a lifelong love affair with technology from my Spectrum computer as a child to the Macs I use at work. What has changed for me is the reason to buy/use the technology. Before, it used to be about how ‘cool’ it was. Now it is whether it will help improve the classroom experience and progression of the students. This usually stops me using something just because it is new.

BD: How do you use timeline charts in your classroom?

Timelines are a staple of History teaching as they help teach chronology which is a vital skill for Historians. Timelines can also be used to show different interpretations of events but they can be boring visually. I use Timeline 3D to create simple but visually stunning timelines to aid historical understanding. A great example is the one I used last year with my students and presented at Cambridge University. It illustrated the changes between 1919-1939 in international relations and supported the work my Year 9 class were doing on E H Carr and whether his interpretation of the period was correct. The students thought it was a great tool to remind them of the sequence of events. Next year I plan to get them to make the timelines.

BD: What do you like about Bee Docs Timeline 3D?

What I like about Timeline 3D is that it allows you to present timelines in a visually engaging way without being complex to create. Some of the additional features within Timeline 3D are stunning too. My school is an Apple Regional Training Centre in the UK and I will be showcasing Timeline 3D in the sessions focused on History teaching.

BD: What other software programs do you use in your work on a regular basis?

Personally, I use a lot of Mac based software to create/present ideas. I use iLife and iWork as well as Comic Life Magiq and Google Apps for Education. I also use a variety of web 2.0 tools in the classroom. On my iPad/iPhone, I use eClicker as an assessment tool and Todo. Twitter/Tweetdeck keeps me up to date with other educators in the world too. I am looking forward to using scvngr when it is released in the UK as it will improve my visits to museums etc.

BD: From your students’ perspective, what makes an educational software program/product successful?

To be honest, I think if they can see it has a purpose for furthering their skills, they will be engaged. It also helps if it is cheap!

BD: How do you see technology changing the classroom environment, both now and in the future?

I’m not one for crystal ball gazing but I think the most important technology will allow students to connect with other teachers/students easily. Education is really about relationships and any technology that allows this to develop will succeed. I also think if the technology is based around thinking rather than just content delivery, it will prove to be more successful.

BD: What are the most important lessons you would like your students to walk out of your class with?

A terrible question for a History teacher! I think one of the things I strive to make my students understand is that change is constant and history is full of examples where humans have struggled with this. I would also challenge them with Immanuel Kant’s maxim – dare to know!

BD: Do you have any favorite websites to share?

  • I always visit Doug Belshaw’s blog as he always has something interesting to say about technology

  • Louise Duncan in Australia has done some great work using the iPod Touch in education

  • Chris Harte’s blog is really focused on Teaching and Learning and I have a lot of sympathy for his ideas

  • I always go to the History Teacher’s Discussion Forum for the latest information and there is a great community there

  • Finally, is a great site as there are so many great activities there based on getting students to think substantively about History as an event and a concept.