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Ben Walsh

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  1. I would very much like to add my voice in support of Richard. Anyone who has met him or seen his work cannot fail to be impressed by his passion for history and for teaching history. The positive comments from former pupils are an eloquent testimony to his qualities. Taking on the E-Help project ought to have been a source of prestige for the school as well as being a noble duty undertaken by Richard. Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding, perhaps other factors are at work. Whatever the background factors, if IST loses a quality individual like Richard the school will be a poorer place for it.
  2. Beyond Multiple Choce

    Thanks for these points Chris, especially the one about the formidable cost of this kit. I think your online solution is a very sensible way to go. It ties in with a lot of the current mania for online polls, apart from anything else. It's also worth remembering that most VLEs will either have polling tools built in or should be easily adpated with add ons which allow you to do this.
  3. Beyond Multiple Choce

    Beyond multiple choice A Historical Association project which is investigating the uses of voting handset technologies in school generally and in history in particular. • Context • Approaches • The HA Project • Progress so far Context There are three main contexts for the Historical Association setting up this project on the use of voting handsets in the history classroom. The first is the phenomenal spread of these technologies in secondary schools in England and Wales. At present there are 12 different systems in use across the UK as a whole. That alone is an indicator of the size and value of the market to manufacturers. They range in price from around £800 for second hand systems to £4500 for a class set. One of the reasons for their spread is that distributors of whiteboards usually have an interest in these systems as well and package them together. Clearly with such large investment going in to these systems it seemed appropriate to consider what use was being made and whether there were differences in different subject areas and between platforms. This brings us to the second context, which is the current evidence on how these systems are used. Having spoken to many students and teachers it is very clear that they are used predominantly for factual recall quizzes in a range of formats. In some subject areas this is well and good. However, it leaves many history teachers feeling a little uncomfortable on two counts. The first is the danger of trivialising our subject into simplistic yes/no answers or multiple choice tasks. Users of this forum have been at the forefront of harnessing technology so that it does not do this but the general use of Fling The Teacher and its ilk is often far from what its creators had in mind. The problem is arguably greater with voting handsets, and a flavour of the concerns was raised in a thread on the Schoolhistory forum June 2006 (http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=7079&hl=qwizdom) – here is an extract Our Science department has just invested in a set of these and are raving about them. They showcased them in a cross departmental meeting and I raised the point about them being good for pub quizzes and recall of knowledge (which is all the Scientist cares about!) but not what we were trying to draw out from our kids in History. These things do not really test the skills we teach in History, although the Science department did not let on that you could do ranking exercises, as independent thought is not their forte! This does sound like a more positive use although perhaps not worth the grand plus that they cost to purchase The third context element is the perception of History. This is worrying, in England at least. We know that in England and Wales a large proportion of students give up History at 14. Research commissioned by QCA has shown that they do this not because they do not rate History highly. They generally see it as interesting and well taught. However, they do not see it as relevant to their later lives. One factor among many in this is that the use of handsets and other technology in other subjects creates an impression in student minds of these subjects as modern and relevant. The challenge for History teachers is therefore to embrace this technology without compromising the essential method of the subject. Again, this is familiar ground for users of this forum but it is a message which needs spreading. It seemed to the HA that a constructive use of voting handsets could be one small part of the wider solution to this issue of how students perceive History. Approaches The direction taken with regard to the project was to try and explore voting handsets as tools for student feedback rather than for testing student knowledge. The basic principle was to ask students not ‘What do you know?’ but rather ‘What do you think?’. Thus typical questions might look at issues and focus on sampling opinion, or even helping to form opinion. One example question was whether or not the Treaty of Versailles was fair. The options given to students were 1. Yes 2. No 3. Yes if you were on the Allied side 4. No if you were German The real function of this was to open up discussion, but the initial stimulus question encouraged all students to think about the question and to take part in forming the class’s opinion. The discussion was not dominated by one or two keen and articulate individuals. From this basic pedagogical platform plenty of other possible approaches were explored. • Counter factual history – or holding / recreating inquests, trials etc • Students deciding the direction of a story by advising an historical character at certain points in time • Decision making – if X happened, would you … or … • Instant ad hoc reactions to sources / stimuli (modelling thinking by suggesting which is the most appropriate reaction to a source eg acceptance, scepticism, value for a particular puprpose but not for another) • Video clips – what happened next? • Source analysis – does this source suggest, imply, prove … • Categorising events, causes etc • Relative importance of causes • Relative significance of events The Historical Association Project Taking these principles, the HA Project has enlisted a range of schools and colleges from across England but mainly in the North West and North East regions. The premise is simple. They will explore the ways in which they can use voting handsets to create resources and learning experiences which take students beyond the multiple choice quiz. The teachers have met once, and will meet again in March 2007. From that point they will then write up their experiences and publish the resources they created on the HA web site. The work will be free to all Historical Association members. Perhaps the most exciting prospect is the opportunity for a wide ranging participation. BBC History Magazine and BBC History Today have made their past online poll results available and are interested in holding polls which students and the general public to share in. The potential for students to vote in their own classroom, then compare their votes with votes of other classes, and other user groups in the general public should open up fascinating possibilities for debate and discussion abut the historical issue in question but also about how and why the opinions of different groups differ. Progress so far So far we have seen some interesting and stimulating ideas. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the project is seeing teachers enthused about using technology to good effect, as shown below … Period 7 Year 9 managed to vote twice on why slavery was abolished!! It needed the Maths voting set, two techies and the Head of Maths to sort me out but it was dead easy once it was set up and the kids loved it. I need another lesson to try it further. Does it store the graphs?? Triumph of the will! Teacher in Newcastle upon Tyne We have also seen examples in which the voting system has built student confidence. In an investigation into representations of Archbishop Becket we asked students to comment on how Becket was portrayed in a series of film clips and gave them some options … 1. Very badly 2. Badly 3. Average bloke 4. Well 5. Very well 6. I can think of a better way to say this The last option was taken up by only 7% of the sample, but those who voted this way were asked if they were prepared to explain their choice. Interestingly, in the next slide students were asked to comment on how Henry II was represented, and they were given the same option. In this case 33% of the sample chose the final option and offered up a better summary of the representations than those made available. Finally, in a very different context older students were asked to grapple with the thorny issue of whether justice was done at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials in 1946. One of the difficulties with an issue such as this is disentangling emotion from rational analysis. In order to help with this students were given information about three figures associated with the Nazi regime – Heinrich Hoffman, Leni Riefenstahl and Julius Streicher. In each case they were asked : What would you do with him/her – 1. Let him go free? 2. Short prison sentence? 3. Long prison sentence? 4. Execution? What do you think happened to him / her? Students were then presented with what actually happened to each individual. The final follow up task was to write a judicial review analysing whether all were treated fairly. The follow up was, of course, a final vote on whether justice was done at Nuremburg. We can only scratch the surface in a forum such as this, so anyone who would like to know more about the project or would like to contribute to the bank of resources which is developing please feel free to do so.
  4. Mastering the Moving Image

    Mastering the Moving Image Part 1 How digital technology has opened up new access to film archive sources In the UK, particularly England, considerable resource has gone into creating digital film archives. Just a small selection of these will include: • British Pathe (www.britishpathe.com) • BBC Creative Licence, Class Clips etc (http://creativearchive.bbc.co.uk/index.html) • Film and Sound Archive (www.filmandsound.ac.uk) • British Film Institute Screenonline (www.screenonline.org.uk) There are many more worthy candidates for inclusion in addition to the above list. The Internet Archive (www.archive.org) is a must for anyone teaching American history whether they want film or any other kind of archive source. Back in England again, the National Archives is gradually working away at its huge film collection. There are some gems in some of its mainstream resources such as The Art of War (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/theartofwar/films/) with films ranging from the stirringly patriotic to the somewhat surreal. The National Archives education site Learning Curve will soon be publishing Focus On Film, which will contain an archive of film with ‘biographical’ details about each clip, an online editing tool and a range of activities which combine film used as source material with other types of original sources. Thus, students will soon be able to play the role of WW2 censors. They will watch WW2 propaganda films, assess them against the British government’s own criteria for such films (provided in its original form) and decide whether or not the film will be fit to broadcast. The energy, commitment and finance which is going into such resources is surely recognition of the value of film in a digital format. In this digital form it is easily accessible to a wide range of audiences. It is also in a format which is easy to store, carry around and ultimately engage with in the process of authoring and re-authoring material. Richard Jones has already written most eloquently about the processes and pedagogy of digital video http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5947 and it is not the aim of this seminar to replicate what he has already covered but to complement it. Here the emphasis is not so much on the digital video which pupils create and edit, but in looking at moving image sources as historical sources, just like text and still images. Moving image sources may well be interpretations in their own right as well, of course. In fact it is this area of thinking which is developing into an interesting new field in historical research, that of film history. Of course film historians have been around for a long time but their numbers are now increasing and film history is becoming increasingly an interdisciplinary field. This has huge potential for the history teacher, as cultural analysis techniques used by students of film are adapted by historians to develop new insights into film as source material. We have traditionally looked at the end product of film for its meaning and intention. However, film historians can point us to issues such as budget, exposure qualities of film types, mechanical and technological issues and even the funding source of the film maker which expand our understanding of film as a source and allow us to develop more rounded and sophisticated analyses. There are many excellent sources of reference for the history teacher interested in exploring the ways in which the methodologies of the cultural and the traditional historian can complement each other. Some recommendations are: BFI Education http://www.bfi.org.uk/education/ • Mitchell and Kenyon Teaching Notes (free) http://www.bfi.org.uk/education/teaching/mknotes/ • The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon (book) • Electric Edwardians (DVD) http://www.bfi.org.uk/booksvideo/video/det...nyon/index.html • Moving Images in the Classroom – really excellent free resource http://www.bfi.org.uk/education/teaching/miic/ Film Education http://www.filmeducation.org/ Resources and study packs based on latest film releases eg Oliver Twist (http://www.filmeducation.org/olivertwist/index.html) Useful books • Films and British National Identity by Jeffrey Richards (Manchester University Press) • History of Film by David Parkinson (Thames & Hudson) • British Historical Cinema by Claire Monk and Amy Sargeant eds (Routledge) • The British At War: Cinema, State and Propaganda 1939-45 by James Chapman (IB Tauris) Mastering the Moving Image Part 2 How digital technology has opened up new opportunities to work with film in the history classroom So how does all of this fascinating and worthy information help us as teachers in the history classroom? I would contend that it faces the history teacher with a heavy burden which will nonetheless be a welcome one. The burden is essentially that we need to make our students aware that film representations of historical events are not necessarily full and accurate accounts of events as they unfolded. In fact they rarely justify this description. Despite this, that is precisely what most young people (and older people) think film accounts are. In an age where the boundaries between media are becoming increasingly blurred, I believe that our commitment to educating our students makes it increasingly important that we attempt to instil a culture of critical awareness in all forms of media, not just the political cartoon and the source gobbet. So why might this be a welcome burden? In short, because it involves almost no shift in our basic practice. We can continue to get students to think critically about historical sources. The welcome element is that our sources now include film, arguably the most accessible format for most students. At the simplest level this is because in digital format film is now easy to store and retrieve. A CD ROM with a few choice clips is far more convenient than winding and rewinding through a VHS tape. In addition, digital media gives us crystal clear screen shots, or at the very least the image is clear and still when we hit the pause button. Better still, with clips digitised and placed on a network, VLE or web site the students gets his/her own TV player and can watch and re-watch a clip at his/her own pace. This was impossible before digital technology. So how to make it happen? There are plenty of interesting techniques to make students think about the nature of film as a document of the past. Attentive observation One of my favourites is a technique I call ‘Attentive Observation’. It is pretty simple – play a clip to a class, almost casually. Then ask them to work in pairs and recount every last detail, in the correct order. Ask some of them to act out parts of the scene. Then hold a feedback session, show the clip again and ask students to assess their own performance. I usually conclude by asking two questions: • How would you have performed as a witness in a court case? • Are you still sure that an eye witness testimony of an event is the most valuable and reliable type of source there is? It’s usually an effective way of getting students to stop and think about the nature of evidence. Another example used in the seminar was a clip which is available from the British Pathe web site. The clip is titled Adolf Hitler Assumes Bismarck’s mantle and its catalogue number is 695.31. In this clip we can ask the viewer to assess what it tells us about how powerful Hitler was in 1933. It contains familiar sequences of Nazi marches and Hitler campaigning. However, there is a fascinating sequence which shows Hitler’s first cabinet meeting. In our seminar we devoted a good few minutes to analysing his body language, the attitudes of the other cabinet members towards Hitler and the general impression he gave (which was of a man out of his depth). The clip allowed us to identify sequences which suggested strength and others which suggested weakness – just as we would ask students to work with a text. The final twist was to use QuickTime Pro (the upgraded version of QuickTime) to then select the contrasting sequences and paste them into a new QuickTime file, effectively using QuickTime Pro on video as we might use a word processor on a text. Such examples show us the importance of applying the same methods we use on text and image sources to moving image sources. Whether we are looking at the British Pathe collection, the US Prelinger Archive, German Archive video (http://www.dhm.de/lemo/suche/videos.html) or any similar resource. Film interpretations – the bumps in the carpet In this section of the seminar we used an analogy known as bumps in the carpet. If you lay a covering on a completely smooth floor then the new covering will also be smooth. However, if there are bumps in the original floor then when the covering goes over the bumps show through. If we apply the analogy to history, which is more appropriate? How often does an historian work on a topic or theme which has never been visited before? Consciously or subconsciously, previous versions of a story have an influence on those who write the next version. In a medium such as film this process is usually stronger and quicker than the accumulation of historical ‘bumps’. Study some film versions of Oliver Twist. In 1948 David Lean’s version of Oliver Twist created a dark world of mean, twisted Poor Law officials and a workhouse regime which was compared to Nazi camps. This image was then replicated in the 1968 and 2005 films. This is in stark contrast to what modern historians such as Professor Derek Fraser (The Evolution of the British Welfare State) say about the Poor Law: Most research suggests that when we look at the overall picture the authorities usually… gave relief (food, clothes, money) without forcing people to enter the workhouse. Indeed in the mid Victorian period something like 5 out of 6 paupers received relief without going into the workhouse. Novels such as Oliver Twist … created an image of the workhouse as an instrument of cruelty and of the Poor Law authorities as being determined on crushing the poor. When we look at the big picture there is little evidence to support this view. Paupers were better housed, better fed, and better cared for than the poor outside the workhouse. Poor Law officials were usually trying to raise living standards rather than make them worse. Where scandals occurred they were usually the result of local officials abusing the system. Perhaps it is not the end of the world if a film creates a distorted popular interpretation of an historical event. But I would argue that it is a very serious matter if students are not aware that a film can achieve this effect. It can be countered relatively easily by looking at the film and studying the ‘real’ history and analysing the motives of the film maker. But without the guidance of teachers it is hard to see how students will reach this level of critical analysis themselves. Documentary interpretations Finally, there is the question of how serious films might create and or perpetuate a particular view and whether our students are aware of this. We have seen the recent phenomenal success of the feature film length documentary The March of the Penguins. Most young people probably see this as a cute film about penguins. However, its success in the US has been at least in part rooted in the fact that a Christian Right element has decided that the familial strength of the penguins in adversity demonstrates, through nature, that the nuclear family is natural and right. How far is the leap from here to deciding that any other kind of social unit is wrong and then taking measures accordingly? We have seen Morgan Spurlock’s diatribes against McDonalds in Super Size Me play up their scientific credentials in order to support the attack on big business. The motivation is different but is there much difference in technique between this and the Nazi film I Accuse in which a doctor murders his genetically ill wife but is cleared in a court for having done the right thing. It is not hard to trace this process. Through Blackadder or films such as All Quiet on the Western Front we have seen the creation of the interpretation in which British commanders in the Great War were incompetent buffoons. How does this sit with the hundreds of thousands filing past Haig’s coffin in 1929 to pay their respects when the general died? This footage can be seen in the Pathe clip 714.31 Britain Mourns A Great Soldier. There are similar contrasts between portrayals of the Women’s Suffrage movement at different times. Latter day portrayals tend to be made by admirers of the movement. As a result they play up the bravery of the campaigners and the obstruction of the government in achieving women’s suffrage. A look at contemporary film suggests that the major opposition to women’s suffrage was public hostility but even more prevalent is the sense that the general public simply did not take them seriously and saw them as a fringe bunch of cranks. An excellent example of how a latter day layer has been placed over a film can be seen in the Pathe film 2261.01 Emancipation of Women . The opening 40 seconds introduce the subject and present us with the assertion that the women in the clips shown are more subdued. But are they? Watch the footage without the commentary and it is hard to see this. There are many more examples of approaches and insights which can be developed along these lines of course, and it would be an interesting exercise to start collecting them on the threads of this seminar.