Microsoft founder Bill Gates is backing a new cross-curricular course, ‘Big History Project,’ that uses video to survey history

BillGates-historyThe future of high school history classes might look a lot like a class being taught right now at Northville High School in Michigan, at least if Bill Gates has his way.

The Microsoft co-founder is the leading backer of a course called the Big History Project that is being developed by education experts, including a professor from the University of Michigan. The course is being tested in a growing number of school districts across the nation, including in 14 Michigan schools.

The course is breaking ground by wrapping a number of academic subjects—especially science—around a history class that intends to survey the entirety of history, all while using technology to keep the course free.

At first glance, the class meeting in a Northville High School classroom doesn’t seem much different from any of the dozens of classrooms in the building. History teacher Joseph Cislo has his ninth-grade students read a handout, underlining the key points in it. He then walks them through the handout.

(Next page: How does the history class work?)