Amy Burvall is an American educator known for her innovative teaching videos produced jointly with her colleague Herb Mahelona which describe historical events in song to the soundtrack of pop music hits. The videos were originally produced just for school use but have been viewed over one million times since they began to be published on YouTube.
Career[edit | hide all | hide | edit source]
Burvall received her BA summa cum laude in humanities from Hawaii Loa College (now Hawaii Pacific University) in 1991. She studied European history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She worked as a history teacher at St Andrew's Priory school in Honolulu (2000–2008) and then at Le Jardin Academy International in Kailua, Hawaii. She comes from a family of teachers but says, "I didn't always want to be a teacher. I wanted to be a spy — with all of my costumes you can probably see why." She credits her interest in combining music and learning to the influence of television programs she watched as a child such as Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock!
History for Music Lovers[edit | hide | edit source]
Around 2004, while she was working at St Andrew's Priory school, Burvall came up with the idea of setting historical facts to the tunes of pop songs in order to provide an aide-memoire for her pupils at the end of a course. The first songs she created specifically for her history teaching were Civilization, to the soundtrack of Gwen Stefani's "Harajuku Girls", and Henry VIII to ABBA's "Money, Money, Money". Both were composed after Burvall heard the songs repeatedly in her car. She originally planned to sing to her students but her colleague at St Andrews, Herb Mahelona, a musician and expert in Flash animation, suggested that they create a video to accompany each song. In January 2010, they began to publish the videos on YouTube as part of a series titled History for Music Lovers, under the "historyteachers" username. They have since produced over 50 videos which have had more than one million views on YouTube.
Not long after the first video went online, Burvall was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her chemotherapy treatment caused her to lose her hair, which she explained was the reason why she used so many wigs in her videos, and caused insomnia which gave her plenty of time to work on new compositions. She has described how the whole project served as an escape from the worries of her illness. Her cancer has since entered remission and her hair has grown back.
The videos mostly relate to pre-1900 European history as that is Burvall's area of interest. She has been asked to create videos about American history but says "it's hard to write something in a forced way." Burvall says that her songs are not meant to replace more detailed instruction, rather they are a survey of the main points and vocabulary of a topic in a catchy but factually accurate way with a little artistic licence over the exact wording.
Renee Hobbs and David Cooper Moore in Discovering Media Literacy: Teaching Digital Media and Popular Culture in Elementary School say "Many educators have benefited from the work of these remarkable teachers" while learning technologist Steve Wheeler pays tribute to their ability to "represent vivid moments in history through music, animation and drama".
Other activities[edit | hide | edit source]
Selected publications[edit | hide | edit source]
References[edit | hide | edit source]
- Educators' Videos Become YouTube Sensations. Cara Bafile, education world, 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- Amy Burvall & Herb Mahelona: History rock stars. Rebekah Allen, dailybrink. From archive.org. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
- Amy Burvall's history lessons set to pop songs are a smash hit on the web. Claire Connelly, news.com.au, 20 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- History for Music Lovers Project, aka "Historyteachers" on YouTube. amyburvall. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- Going Gaga for history. Elena Burger, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- Historyteachers videos in the classroom: interview with Amy Burvall. artrav.com 18 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- Teachers Gaga over history on YouTube. Mary Vorsino, Honolulu Star Advertiser, 2 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- Learning the French Revolution with Lady Gaga: Teachers sing history lessons. Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, 30 December 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- Learning to Rewrite History. Stuart Huggett, SQ. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- Honolulu Teacher Becomes YouTube Sensation. Martha Cheng, Honolulu Magazine, 28 September 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- Hobbs, Renee & David Cooper Moore. (2013) Discovering Media Literacy: Teaching Digital Media and Popular Culture in Elementary School. Thousand Oaks: Corwin. p. 202. ISBN 9781483306292
- Wheeler, Steve. (2015) Learning with 'e's: Educational theory and practice in the digital age. Crown House. ISBN 9781845909611
- About. amyburvall. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- Amy Burvall to Keynote 2014 eLearning Strategies Symposium. CUE. Retrieved 31 August 2017.