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As 2020 Continues To Make History, Textbook Writers Rely On New Teaching Technology To Keep Up

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If you had to give this year a title what would it be? As you ponder that, consider this: 2020's twists and turns will definitely make it into the history books.

The Morning Insiders wanted to how textbook writers are keeping up. CBS 2's Lauren Victory takes us inside a curriculum company reflecting backwards and looking forwards.


Katie Lauffer's discovered a new-fangled way to teach: transporting students back in time through song, and through audio from old articles.

"History is more than dots on a map and dates on a timeline. It is really about our story, and who we, are and I think that students need to see it," said Lauffer, director of marketing at Chicago-based Savvas Learning Co.

Their immersive new technology is called Project Imagine. It can take kids on a virtual field trip to discover crucial spots from the civil rights movement. Role playing allows students to understand the consequences of immigration to America.

"In other older books, you'd only have space for a few images, where with technology you can keep adding to the story," Lauffer said.

So how about 2020's story? This year's racial reckoning and the global pandemic will need to make their way into the physical textbooks that Savvas still produces. What do their writers look like? Are they constantly pressing the backspace button because something's changing?

"We are not a daily news service," Lauffer said.

Rather, the company's Realize digital program can help Savvas keep up, and put these events into greater historical context, according to Luess Sampson-Lizotte, vice president of product development for humanities.

An example:

"You're learning about the medieval Europeans when the plague was raging, a teacher can bring information about COVID that we have on Realize into the conversation, and really help students understand and make sense of the history," Sampson-Lizotte said.

While technological adaptions can be made anytime, the deadline for the next hardcover book is in a few months; plenty of time to make more history (and re-write it) for 2020.

Savvas materials are used in more than 10,000 school districts, reaching more than 40 million students.

It might surprise you to learn textbook makers don't expect 2020 to be a standalone chapter in future history books.

The events of this year are more likely to be included in a section covering 2010 through 2020.

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