The Wayback Machine solves a major teaching problem

Picture this: you’re planning a new lesson to teach, come up with a great way to engage learners and activate their burgeoning brains, and there it is: a great video. Chances are, you found it on Youtube or somewhere on Google, but it could also be on BBC Bitesize. Either way, you hit play, students are wowed, and the learning has well and truly been brought to life.

One year later…

You come to teach that same lesson from last year. Obviously, it’s time to check that the resources are still all okay, and if anything needs updating from the amount you’ve learned about teaching and learning over the past year. That one video pops up again, so you hit play to make sure it still works and-

Page not found.

Resources vanishing from the web without a trace is a huge problem in teaching. It’s derailed my planning a number of times, where I’ve been forced to find or create alternative resources that satisfy the same aims and objectives in a different way. If this happens to every lesson that you teach throughout the week, you could find yourself recreating thousands of resources, adding hundreds of hours onto your working life throughout the year. Sure, you could make copies of everything you find online, but storage space isn’t infinite and – come on – sometimes you could just forget to do that.

Plus, you could scrap all of that and read my solution below.

What is the Wayback Machine?

The Wayback Machine is a great online tool that makes copies of pages all over the web. Think of it as some sort of an archive for the internet. It won’t create copies of every page, every day, but lots of popular webpages are indexed and stored from many years ago.

So, basically, those ten-year-old tweets of yours that you deleted probably won’t be resurfaced through it.

I first learned about this brilliant (free!) service when I was still at University, and we were discussing the permanence of what’s posted on the web, and it’s been invaluable ever since.

How the Wayback Machine solved my problem

While I did make use of the Wayback Machine when studying for my Undergraduate degree, my expertise with it went kind of dormant until the last academic year. I was preparing a lesson that I’d taught the year before and noticed that BBC Bitesize had revamped its design on the link that I’d once used.

Don’t get me wrong, the designs look a lot more user-friendly, but much of the content that was crucial for my lesson had changed. What a bore.

Instead of hunting through textbooks that could be used as alternatives, I copied the URL that I had used in the previous year, pasted it into the Wayback Machine, and – voila! – the original resource, right before my eyes. It’s saved me many hours since reintegrating it into my profession, and I plan on using it for years to come.

What hacks have you discovered through teaching? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.


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