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"Beyond the History classroom"


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#1 Simon Ross

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:40 PM

The web is changing

The web is changing; we are now in the age of the ‘read write’ web or ‘web 2.0’. There is a shift in emphasis towards the web being an interactive space where knowledge is shared, argued over, and added to dialectically. Unlike the “information silos” of the past, the latest generation of web services, such as blogs, podcasts, and wikis, are built through collaboration and information sharing. In my presentation I tried to explain how my colleagues and I have been using these services to extend and improve their students’ learning of history.

What is ICT in the history classroom for?

Christine Counsell in the editorial to Teaching History 101 suggested that teachers must ask “what is ICT in the history classroom for?”. As a number of contributors to that edition stressed, the use of ICT needs to be driven by history: ‘ICT is the tool, and not the master’ as Atkin put it. Counsell suggested that the benefit of ICT is not just in motivation, or ‘speeding up’ of tasks. Rather, she suggested that ICT should be used to clear the way (reducing some effort) for students to engage in higher level thinking (increasing effort).

For some time, history teachers have been using the internet to encourage students to engage in discussions about history. Wilson and Scott wrote in 2003 about a role play looking at appeasement which had been conducted through e-mails between two classes at different schools. This, they suggested, was primarily “a speaking and listening activity” with the technology providing “spontaneity” and a “sense of reality”. At the same time, Thomas and Cole were using online message boards as a place to encourage their sixth form students to engage in historical debates. For a broad range of students their work allowed “real engagement, and…genuine pleasure in learning’ to develop.

What is ICT beyond the history classroom for?

I suggested that the question that we needed to ask had now changed: we should be thinking about what ICT can offer beyond the history classroom. I warned the associates and members that as soon as a teacher thinks about this question, there is an explosion of buzz words from senior management as they see the opportunity for distance learning and franchises. Neither my seminar, nor this article really considered the wider debate about this. Indeed, I suggested that there was no need to as there was a strong history rationale for using these new technologies. ICT, I argued, now offers a great opportunity to engage students in meaningful dialogue about history in, and beyond, the history classroom.

What is podcasting and how can I do it?

In this section of my presentation I explained what a podcast was: an audio file on the web, that can be subscribed to so that it downloads automatically onto computers, portable music players and phones. I hopefully showed that it was relatively straight forward to record and edit these files using a free program such as ‘audacity’. These files could be placed on the web as a useful resource. I explained that to enable people to subscribe it was necessary to have a blog (with rss feed). I explained thtat at www.ilovehistory.co.uk I used a wordpress blog with the podcast feed being created by a website called www.feedburner.com I also recommended reading Doug Belshaw’s detailed guide at http://teaching.mrbe...dcasting-part1/

Problems and possibilities

Finally, I suggested that although I was proud of what I had achieved in a short space of time at www.ilovehistory.co.uk, it was ultimately very limited. Having argued for this new technology as a means for engaging students in dialogue I had produced a very didactic, teacher expert, pupil passive resource. I recognized this problem, and linked it to similar problems with the use of teacher led class blogs, which frequently just reinforce this traditional model. I suggested that the solution lay in:
  • Student created podcasts which are then published as the students prepare for their final exams;
  • Student created podcasts which are then published as the students prepare for their final exams;
  • Student created podcasts which are then published as the students prepare for their final exams;
  • The use of comment functions to allow students to comment on and assess each others work;
  • Class wikis, to involve the students in independent research, shared work, and possibly awareness of interpretations.
One thing I didn’t mention, as it was very much preaching to the converted, was the use of these new technologies by teachers. It has been suggested that “interactions are perhaps the single most important element” in informing professional practice. Away from the knockabout banter of the TES forums, there are real opportunities for European teachers to engage in meaningful dialogue with a global network of educators. The wonderful discussions that I had at Toulouse, and on the forums before and after it are a testament to that. In this way, for both pupils and teachers, these technologies are offering new opportunities for discussion in, and beyond, the history classroom.


______________________

1 Taken from ‘Wikipedia’ at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0 on 6/04/06
2 Ibid.
3 Christine Counsell Editorial Teaching History 101 (2000) Historical Association, London p2
4 Alf Wilkinson ‘Computer’s don’t bite! Your first tentative steps in using ICT in the history classroom’ Teaching History 101 (2000) Historical Association, London p.17 – 23; Dave Atkin ‘How do I improve my use of ICT? Put history first!’ Teaching History 99 (2000) Historical Association, London 42 – 49; Jayne Prior and Peter D. John ‘From anecdote to argument: using the word processor to connect knowledge and opinion through revelatory writing’ Teaching History 101 (2000) Historical Association, London p.31-34
5 Op cit.
6 Maggie Wilson and Heather Scott “’You be Britain and I’ll be Germany…’ Inter-school e-mailing in Year 9” Teaching History 110 (2003) Historical Association, London p32-35
7 Denise Thompson and Nathan J. S. Cole ‘Keeping the kids on message… one school’s attempt at helping sixth form students to engage in historical debate using ICT’ Teaching History 113 (2003) Historical Association, London 38 - 43
8 Simon Letman ‘Engaging with each other: how interactions between teachers inform professional practice’ Teaching History 118 (2005) Historical Association, London 13 – 16
9 Excellent examples of this include www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum and the http://educationforum.ipbhost.com education forum.

Edited by Simon Ross, 19 June 2006 - 11:48 PM.


#2 David Richardson

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 12:43 PM

I've been having great fun doing team podcasts, using Gizmo (one of these voice-over-internet programmes) to record a conference call between several teachers in different places. One hit this spring was when Jon Clark in Valladolid, Spain and I in Kalmar, Sweden linked up to discuss how students typically tackled various tasks on the Business Writing course, and what sort of things the tutors were looking for. Bryan Carter and Kathy McCormick in Warrensburg, Missouri and I have regularly linked up to discuss different aspects of writing academic essays for our students in Warrensburg and southern Sweden respectively.

I'm a distance teacher more or less all the time … and I'm amazed at how many misconceptions there are among non-distance teachers about what is actually involved. I usually have to point out at some stage in the conversation that if all your pupils are in the same room more or less all the time, then it isn't a distance course! What you are doing with team podcasts, for example, is bringing resources from where they happen to be in the world into your classroom in particularly vivid ways. There are advantages to both 'real time' systems, like desktop video conferencing systems (I've written quite widely elsewhere on the Forum about this), and of 'asynchronous' systems like podcasting. My aim as a teacher is always to make the pedagogical activity going on decide what technology is used and how, rather than the other way round.

#3 John Simkin

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 06:23 PM

Christine Counsell in the editorial to Teaching History 101 suggested that teachers must ask “what is ICT in the history classroom for?”. As a number of contributors to that edition stressed, the use of ICT needs to be driven by history: ‘ICT is the tool, and not the master’ as Atkin put it. Counsell suggested that the benefit of ICT is not just in motivation, or ‘speeding up’ of tasks. Rather, she suggested that ICT should be used to clear the way (reducing some effort) for students to engage in higher level thinking (increasing effort).

For some time, history teachers have been using the internet to encourage students to engage in discussions about history. Wilson and Scott wrote in 2003 about a role play looking at appeasement which had been conducted through e-mails between two classes at different schools. This, they suggested, was primarily “a speaking and listening activity” with the technology providing “spontaneity” and a “sense of reality”. At the same time, Thomas and Cole were using online message boards as a place to encourage their sixth form students to engage in historical debates. For a broad range of students their work allowed “real engagement, and…genuine pleasure in learning’ to develop.


I agree with Christine Counsell about the need to ask this question. Ever since the early 1980s creative history teachers have been asking the same question. That is why most of the successful history computer programs developed by classroom teachers were simulations. These were highly successful with the profession and despite being published by the teachers themselves, they sold extremely well.

This approach was adopted by the early pioneers on the web. I for example, created web simulations as early as 1997. We also made full use of forum software as soon as it was available. This enabled students to interview witnesses of important past events. This is something the E-HELP team helped to pioneer.



The web is changing; we are now in the age of the ‘read write’ web or ‘web 2.0’. There is a shift in emphasis towards the web being an interactive space where knowledge is shared, argued over, and added to dialectically. Unlike the “information silos” of the past, the latest generation of web services, such as blogs, podcasts, and wikis, are built through collaboration and information sharing. In my presentation I tried to explain how my colleagues and I have been using these services to extend and improve their students’ learning of history.


I do not agree that with ‘web 2.0’ there has been "a shift in emphasis towards the web being an interactive space where knowledge is shared, argued over, and added to dialectically." This took place in the early days of the web. Although it was not called a wiki my Y9 created a web encyclopaedia of East Grinstead in the First World War as early as 1998. Each student was responsible for one entry and it was uploaded onto the school website.

I am yet to be convinced that "blogs, podcasts, and wikis" are anymore about building "collaboration and information sharing" than websites and forums. That is not to say it won't be. I just have not seen the evidence so far.

#4 Simon Ross

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 07:19 PM

I do not agree that with ‘web 2.0’ there has been "a shift in emphasis towards the web being an interactive space where knowledge is shared, argued over, and added to dialectically." This took place in the early days of the web. Although it was ot called a wiki my Y9 created a web encyclopaedia of East Grinstead in the First World War as early as 1998. Each student was responsible for one entry and it was uploaded onto the school website.


Cheers for the comments John. I agree that there has been collaborative work on the web since it started. However, I would suggest there was a period around 2000, after the web had become mainstream and the big media companies had moved in, that this element was being sidelined. This is not to say that it ceased to exist, but in the last couple of years blogs, podcasts and wikis have facilitated a "shift in emphasis": a reinvigoration of the web as a collaborative space.

Similarly you are right to note that very often history teachers have been using the web in a spirit of collaboration and information sharing. I referenced a couple of published examples, and your East Grinstead encyclopaedia is clearly another. You go on to say:

I am yet to be convinced that "blogs, podcasts, and wikis" are anymore about building "collaboration and information sharing" than websites and forums. That is not to say it won't be. I just have not seen the evidence so far.


I would agree that forums are just as collaborative as any wiki, and quite possibily more so that a single blog or podcast. I would disagree that most traditional html websites are. The point here is not that people have never collaborated before, electronically or otherwise. Rather, I am suggesting the prevalence of blogs, podcasts and wikis on the web means that we should use them because they offer a great opportunity to engage students in dialogue about history because:

1) They are designed for the average Joe and are generally straight forward and easy to use;
2) They can offer more than just a space to talk, but a hybrid website/discussion;
3) They connect with the media world in which our students live.

#5 John Simkin

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 07:32 PM

I do not agree that with ‘web 2.0’ there has been "a shift in emphasis towards the web being an interactive space where knowledge is shared, argued over, and added to dialectically." This took place in the early days of the web. Although it was ot called a wiki my Y9 created a web encyclopaedia of East Grinstead in the First World War as early as 1998. Each student was responsible for one entry and it was uploaded onto the school website.


Cheers for the comments John. I agree that there has been collaborative work on the web since it started. However, I would suggest there was a period around 2000, after the web had become mainstream and the big media companies had moved in, that this element was being sidelined. This is not to say that it ceased to exist, but in the last couple of years blogs, podcasts and wikis have facilitated a "shift in emphasis": a reinvigoration of the web as a collaborative space.


I agree. The multinational corporations left the web alone in the early years. Mainly because they could not see how you could make money from the venture. Then during the dot com boom, they attempted to dominate these new medium by investing billions. This pushed a lot of the small players out of the market. This included a number of teacher run websites. The main reason for this was the government’s e-learning credits scheme that helped large corporations that had invested heavily in the web.

This is a repeating pattern. In the first ICT boom in the early 1980s, classroom teachers played a pioneering role in its development. They had been largely destroyed by the emergence of CD-ROMs. Each one cost about £100,000 to develop and this was beyond the means of all classroom teachers.

I hope you are right that classroom teachers make use of this new technology to improve the quality of education in the classroom. However, as I argued in Toulouse, you will probably need to take on the government imposed educational system to achieve your objectives.

#6 Anders MacGregor-Thunell

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 08:38 AM

Thank you Simon for a very engaged seminar about different possibilities "Beyond the History classroom". I share your enthusiasm for the possibilities with the different tools available. It's good to have several ways of reaching our students and getting them involved in History. After all we want them to get the lifelong interest of our topic which we take for granted.
I'm just now especially interested in trying out podcast. I see some great opportunities in my classroom. Quite often when I asked some of my students to "dramatize" a certain event they use a video camera and set up "History News". Just like any news they let a "reporter" explain the background and then they go to the specific event "live". A few of these videos are good but the students spend a lot of time trying to stage perfect pictures as well as sound. With podcast I see the possibility of cutting that time - they would just have to focus on the audio take and then mix it together with some real broadcast. That's appealing. I also see it as another possibility of using a tool for our weak readers. Other possibilities lies in letting a student choose a specific problem and present it in a podcast which the class responds to in a short taped debate. After that they would get to form the main arguments from that debate (makes it easier then having them take notes in our pro/contra debates), etc... I see many possibilities which will be tried out during the next school year. :D
As you pointed out - both wikis and blogs are easy to use and therefore it could be another great tool to get both students and teachers involved in the ICT process. Teachers around us are very busy and they often feel that another thing to learn is one thing to much. That's the advantage with wikis and blogs. It takes no time at all to create a blog and publish on an existing wiki. That's one of the beauties with it. Another one is of course that by doing this they have taken a step into a few electronic tools available and some of them will be curious of other opportunities which will make them more open for other ICT ideas: In our project we must be aware of these opportunities to spark an interest among an audience that normally can be a bit hostile to anything that seems to add to their normal workload. :hotorwot

#7 John Simkin

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 10:46 AM

The web is changing

The web is changing; we are now in the age of the ‘read write’ web or ‘web 2.0’. There is a shift in emphasis towards the web being an interactive space where knowledge is shared, argued over, and added to dialectically. Unlike the “information silos” of the past, the latest generation of web services, such as blogs, podcasts, and wikis, are built through collaboration and information sharing. In my presentation I tried to explain how my colleagues and I have been using these services to extend and improve their students’ learning of history.


How much do you think the web has changed since you wrote this in 2006? How has it influenced your teaching? I notice that you make a great deal of use of your blog. What about podcasts and wikis? Have you discovered ways to make use of the very popular "social networking" sites in your teaching.

#8 Terry Haydn

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 08:56 PM

A bit of the problem is that not all the people who do podcasts think about making them interesting, they are sometimes just thinking of the technical 'being able to do a podcast' side of it. I have come across some which could reasonably be used as punishments for naughty pupils - this does not mean that they don't have potential, it's just that (as with PowerPoint) it's not [/just[i] about technical expertise, it's the quality of thinking and ideas tha go into them.

#9 Andy Walker

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 03:10 PM

I have seen a few interesting examples of history teachers creating music and video files which students can then listen to as part of their revision.
How to make them and make them easily downloadable to students would be a useful addition to the course.

#10 John Simkin

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 04:32 PM

A video of Simon's presentation can be found here:






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