HM - Technology's Impact on American History

Technology's Impact on American History:
NCHE offers new Teaching with Primary Sources colloquia for teachers
By Laura Wakefield

“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough - it is technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”  -Steve Jobs

Recently, NCHE was awarded a Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) grant from the Library of Congress to deliver teacher professional development exploring the history of government’s role in shaping technology and promoting interdisciplinary links between history, science, and technology. Although technological innovation is often associated with inventors, private corporations, or free markets, the government also plays a decisive role in advancing technology. From the framing of the Constitution to the latest developments with autonomous vehicles, political leaders have both provided resources and helped define the context in which inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs pursue new technology. By issuing patents, providing subsidies for the construction of the Erie Canal or the transcontinental railroad, undertaking massive engineering projects like landing a man on the moon, or regulating the Internet, both the state and federal governments have promoted innovation and enabled technology to flourish in America. NCHE believes exploring the Library of Congress’s primary sources illustrating the role of government in technology will provide a unique lens for teachers and students.  Especially for this grant program, NCHE invited three prominent institutions to share their unique collections and perspectives with teachers; The Astronaut Memorial Foundation, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

In 2017, NCHE will present three colloquia, each focused on a thematic topic illustrating government’s role in shaping technological innovation, and each open to teachers across the country.   The table below shows the themes, dates, and locations for each colloquium.  Teachers unable to attend the colloquia may participate in online content webinars on the same topics to be scheduled in collaboration with the National Humanities Center.


Technology’s Impact in American History: A Primary Source Inquiry (TIAH)


Colloquium Topic/Dates Institution and Location Registration Link

NASA and Flight Technology

March 3-5, 2017

Astronaut Memorial Foundation

Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida

Technological Innovation and Patents

March 16-18, 2017

The United States Patent  and Trademark Office
Alexandria, Virginia


The Army and the Technology of Warfare

June 30-July 1, 2017

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
Carlisle, Pennsylvania


Each colloquium will be led by a historian, education specialist, and master teacher who will guide teachers in creating teaching materials using primary sources for their students.  Teacher stipends will be provided and those interested are encouraged to apply now as space is limited.