The educational portal “Learning from History” addresses teachers, people working on historical and citizenship education outside school contexts, and everyone who is interested in generating ways of learning about twentieth-century history that speak to the needs of the present day.

Learning about history always involves interpretations of the past, perceptions of the present and expectations of the future. Good historical and citizenship education cannot, therefore, restrict itself to delivering information on events, names and dates. Instead, it will stimulate learners to reflect upon their knowledge, creating meaningful links between the past and their own present, between the past and their visions of the future. This close connection with the learner’s individual world is crucial if experiences of history are to take root and be integrated into the learner’s own life in an active, participatory way. It is the educator’s task to develop projects that fulfil these goals: closely oriented on learners’ existing interests yet also challenging and expanding those horizons.

We believe it is important to present controversies, to destabilise preconceptions by introducing minority perspectives, and to focus on historical developments as a way of showing that society is capable of change. “Learning from History” advocates a historical and citizenship education that addresses power and authority, violence and discrimination, but also democratic and resistant action – and, more than that, contributes to way of living together that is based on democracy and equality.

In line with these principles, our contributions on the portal and in our monthly magazine aim to present new or under-researched topics in the learning and teaching of history, and to open up debate on exciting examples of educational practice.

The registered association “Agentur für Bildung - Geschichte, Politik und Medien e.V.” (Agency for Historical, Civic and Media Education) hopes this portal will be a locus for the exchange of ideas and the cooperative generation of knowledge. We see our users and ourselves as both givers and takers, experts and learners. Our portal thus pursues two aims: on the one hand it allows users to search for specific information or to follow particular debates and expert opinions; on the other, it encourages participation and networking, cooperative and collective learning – principles that we believe are the trademark of sound historical and citizenship education for youngsters and adults alike. With your help, we aim to create an interface between scholarship and practice. Bringing together these different perspectives will stimulate a fruitful debate around all aspects of historical and citizenship education, a debate that is theoretically informed but always rooted in educational practice.

You, the users of this portal, are experts on questions of learning and teaching, and as such we cordially invite you to present your own practice. We welcome enquiries and critical comments, a diversity of contributions and details of your projects or teaching, whether in Germany or around the world.

The portal is maintained by a permanent editorial group which puts together content, invites specialists to make contributions, and looks after the texts sent in by portal users. The articles and teaching studies are written mainly by external authors, so as to reflect the greatest possible range of ideas and viewpoints.

History of the portal

The educational portal is maintained by the “Learning from History” association in Berlin, and since 2004 has been supported by the foundation “Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft” (“Remembrance, Responsibility and Future”, EVZ). Our association is closely linked to scholars at the Technical University Berlin’s institute for social sciences and historical and citizenship education. The portal, the members of our association, the Institute faculty, the various cooperation partners and the EVZ foundation keep up a constant exchange of views and ideas on the practical and theoretical issues raised by historical and civic education. Many of these discussions feed into the portal in the form of written contributions.

Our portal grew out of the CD-ROM “Learning from History: Projects on National Socialism and the Holocaust in schools and youth work” (in German) of 2000, which was developed by the registered association “Kulturelle Bildung e.V.” (“Cultural Education”). The CD-ROM presented a pioneering and detailed study of the project work on National Socialism currently being done in German classrooms and community youth centres.

In the years that followed, the portal expanded its thematic range and was continually updated in terms of technology, content and objectives. For example, 2005 saw the launch of a newsletter (in German) giving subscribers the latest information on themes related to the portal. In August 2008, responsibility for the portal was transferred from “Cultural Education” in Bonn to “Learning from History” in Berlin. That year, we were also nominated for the European E-Learning Award. Since January 2010 the Berlin office has been publishing a monthly magazine (in German) that keeps its subscribers up to date on developments in the field of historical and civic education. We want the magazine to reflect on topical themes, including ones outside of the mainstream, and discuss them with you. In that process, we aim to set new impulses for historical and citizenship education. In 2013 we renamed our association as “Agentur für Bildung - Geschichte, Politik und Medien e.V.” (Agency for Education - History, Policy and Media).