• University of Leiden (map)
  • The Netherlands

Augmented reality: how we transformed a reality show into a unique teaching and learning opportunity

The new National Geographic series, The Great Human Race, represents an innovative approach to making television.  By merging reality TV with the most up-to-date interpretations of human evolution and technological innovation over the past 2.5 million years we attempted to create something different and significant.  This presentation will highlight the goals, obstacles and triumphs we faced in our struggle to accurately depict our shared ancestral past while simultaneously grappling to preserve the entertainment value necessary to catch and keep viewers.  The result was the formation of a unique teaching and learning opportunity that will reach millions of people in 171 countries.

Short bio (from the National Geographic Website) Bill Schindler likes to get his hands dirty. Although he’s a professor of archaeology at Washington College, you won’t see him standing behind a podium. Bill prefers to take his students out to the forests of Maryland, where he teaches them to make stone tools, pottery, and process food like our ancestors did. Bill is what you call an experimental archaeologist. He attempts to fill gaps in our understanding of the past by combining archaeology, primitive skills, and experimental research. Essentially, he recreates prehistoric technologies to understand how they were made, how they were used, and how they functioned. He makes tools and weapons out of the same materials early man used. He skins deer and tans hides to make and wear the clothing they wore. But, this passion goes beyond research and teaching – he actually utilizes these skills and knowledge in his everyday life. 

Bill rarely goes to the grocery store; instead he makes use of the bounty of natural resources in his area. He gets meat by hunting, and vegetables by foraging. Bill began to learn these skills at a very early age, and as a teenager, he began to turn his attention to everything primitive. That passion turned into a PhD in anthropology with a specialty in experimental archaeology and primitive technologies. For Bill, this adventure provides the perfect laboratory to put his skills to the test, and to learn firsthand how primitive humans survived throughout history.