Imperial China on Your Tablet: Technology and Visual Materials in the Teaching of Chinese History

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This paper describes the use of technology to deliver an undergraduate history module taught and assessed substantially through visual materials. The module aims to develop historiographical and transferable skills in digital and visual literacy, as well as to make Chinese history research accessible to undergraduate students.The convenors taught similar material to postgraduate students and to undergraduate interns through direct access to thousands of rare historical photographs of China held at Queens. We observed that using the photographs gave students confidence to explore Chinese history, and enabled them to develop visual methodological skills which were otherwise not well covered at either UG or PGT. To scale up this approach into a Level 2 module technology was needed, to provide access to photographs held all over the world and to give the students convenient access to the photographs. We also saw this as an opportunity to develop studentsȍ transferrable digital skills, building on the interests and experience of a generation exposed to technology since childhood. The module is research-led for both staff and students, since it arises from the convenorsȍ ongoing research project and is taught substantially through group workshops and independent student research. Studentsȍ learning for each unit begins with a selection of visual materials curated and annotated by the lecturers in Microsoft Sway. Staff guide students through each unitȍs materials in a workshop in the Flexible Teaching Space, where students use tablets to work collaboratively exploring the assigned photographs and beyond to photograph databases around the world, including the lecturersȍ own database on ContentDM. The module includes training in both using and creating digital visual materials, and the assessment includes the creation of a digital poster. The module therefore develops both digital and visual literacy, accompanied by traditional historical knowledge, but delivered through a more engaging and immediate approach.
Period12 Apr 2017
Event titleQUB Annual Learning & Teaching Conference: Embedding Digital Literacies in the Curriculum
Event typeConference
LocationBelfast, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionLocal


  • China
  • digital literacy
  • visual material
  • photography