Playing with history
Education professor, Stéphane Lévesque, has created novel software to help students think critically about history and develop their own understanding of broader historical themes.
The Virtual Historian is an interactive, web-based program that allows students to develop techniques for learning history by having them track down clues, make decisions and develop their own interpretations of historical events – much like a detective caper.
“We learn far better if we ‘play the game’ instead of being told about the game,” says Lévesque. “Historians don’t always make the past relevant, and for legitimate reasons. As educators, however, we need to make it useful, pertinent and relevant for today and tomorrow.”
Protecting the world
Dr. Margaret Chan (BA’73, MC’77, DSc’99) is leading the World Health Organization’s efforts to combat the bird flu and to prepare for a future human flu pandemic.
As WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Communicable
Diseases and Representative
of the Director-General for
Pandemic Influenza, the Western
alumna and her staff monitor
reports and track down rumours
of respiratory illness as possible
clues to a potential pandemic
of human influenza. Chan is also
closely involved in planning how
countries would respond to a human influenza
pandemic, including the coordination of
pandemic vaccine production.
“Past pandemics took the world by surprise. This time we may have warning,” says Chan. “The challenge, however, is that we can’t predict when the next pandemic will strike. As such, a large part of my responsibility is convincing governments that preparing for influenza pandemic, though costly, is a wise investment.”
Media and genocide
Amanda Grzyb, one of 800 part-time faculty members at Western, is investigating the role of North American media during 20th century genocides. The lecturer in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies has found that inadequate news coverage tends to prolong the crises.“
The real failure rests with television,” says Grzyb citing a New York Times article in connection with the Darfur Genocide that showed ABC, NBC and CBS had a total of 26 minutes of coverage in their nightly newscasts during 2004 while Martha Stewart received 130 minutes of coverage by the three networks.
Nonetheless, Grzyb adds that the public has the ultimate responsibility to become informed, to urge the media to cover stories accurately and to call on politicians to intervene.