Jimmy Driftwood, American Edtech pioneer

Good teachers know how to use convenient and effective media to jar their learners out of inattention, and focus them on content or skill learning. And Wikiness readers know of my interest in the technology of music.

Imagine my delight, then, to learn from my friend Wilson Ramsay of Jimmy Driftwood, who in 1936, as a rural Arkansas school teacher, used the convenient and effective media of folksong to engage his students in American history. Jimmy is the man responsible for the song Johnny Horton had a huge hit with in 1959, “The Battle of New Orleans.” which was originally a piece of edu-tainment he prepared for his classes. (Jimmy also wrote the history-inflected “Tennessee Stud,” a country-and-western standard.

The technology Jimmy used to help his students understand an important 1814 episode in US History was a song. One imagines him sharing it with his kids, and getting them to sing along and visualize its vivid battle scenes. When Horton made it a hit, the song extended Jimmie’s teaching to millions of other Americans.

Because I, too, use songs in the classroom to engage kids in relevant material, I claim Jimmy my Edtech predecessor. Before there was John and Hank Green’s CrashCourse, before there were TEDtalks, there was edu-preneurial, edu-tainer, Jimmy Driftwood.

Enjoy these original songs by their composer:

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