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Dave Martin

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  1. At the 2004 SHP Conference I attended a very good seminar by Christine Counsell on this subject. It was very convincing and she provided several examples of how this problem could be tackled. However, she did not use ICT to do this. Could you outline how you use ICT to deal with long sources? <{POST_SNAPBACK}> There are a number of difficulties with longer sources that ICT can help with. If the teacher is using a dataprojector and whiteboard they can very easily signpost where in the text they are looking to help students 'find the place'. It is also possible to use pop ups to provide glossary. Both these aid accessibility. The use of simple highlighting techniques then allows the use of DARTs Directed Activities Relating to Texts. For example find the adjectives in a narrative which give away the author's viewpoint. Was the change quick, precipitate, over due, hasty. It also makes it easier to manipulate the text. eg delete the words that are value laden as opposed to simple statements of fact. These all assume whole class teaching but are also relevant to individual and group work.
  2. How can ICT support the development of students’ historical communication skills? The first section of the workshop summarised the five different strands of ICT use in history that I have been involved with. In each case there are advantages to history from the effective use of ICT. That word ‘effective’ is very important, as sometimes ICT is not the best tool for supporting learning in history. The first four strands were covered very quickly. They are not new ideas, they do work but in some places history teachers have been slow to adopt them. The reasons for history teachers not using ICT are well documented. In the case of databases, the first strand illustrated, the three main reasons are access to ICT facilities, a lack of suitable software and the seeming technical difficulty of using data base software. This workshop focussed upon a use of ICT that will not be so difficult to adopt, the use of electronic whiteboards, an item of equipment that is rapidly becoming available to many history teachers and which is easy to use. The work described took place in schools in West Sussex and the major example, improving students’ historical communication skills in the context of the events of 1066, was led by Kath Tipper of Bourne Community School. The work built upon the existing good practice in literacy work. Students were helped to deconstruct an historian’s written account of the Battle of Stamford Bridge. They were then able to draw up an historians’ toolkit that they could use for their own written account of the Battle of Hastings. This is explicitly modelling the text type. The role that ICT played was very important. It enabled the teacher to accurately focus on features of the text to point out to students or for students to find for themselves. These features were such things as the use of the past tense, connectives, strong verbs, adjectives and adverbs to convey meaning and judgement. It was the precision and accuracy that the ICT supported. In consequence students learning was promoted as is evidenced with the two examples illustrated. These two male students taken from the middle of the ability range of the class in question clearly incorporated some of the explicit writing toolkit ideas into their own writing. Moreover the writing of the class was developing some colour and variety rather than the rather anodyne style that can arise from too rigid a reliance on writing frames and structure for writing. An associated value of the use of ICT was that it helped students to access a long and difficult source. There has been a tendency in secondary history to move to ever shorter sources on the mistaken assumption that they would be easier for students to use. However, sometimes the shortening has the opposite effect as students’ have insufficient context or grasp of the person behind a source. In this case the historian quite clearly viewed Harald Hardrada as an unsuccessful general and students were able to understand this as they had enough material to go on. The work illustrated that students can use a long source if they are given sufficient and appropriate support. Finally the workshop gave a brief example of a different text type, biography, to show the transferable nature of the work and concluded by asserting that the arrival of the interactive whiteboard in so many history classrooms presents us with an excellent opportunity to promote the effective use of ICT in history teaching.
  3. 'The one thing they do like is the emergence of the data projector and the electronic whiteboard'. I think this quote from John Simkin relates to an important development. But it should be emphasised that it takes time for a teacher to learn how to get the best out of the technology. In two recent lessons in West Sussex where I am working on history and literacy the data projector was very well used. In the first lesson in 1 school the teacher was using PowerPoint to help pupils to see how historians convey their point of view whilst deploying their historical information. Each successive slide revealed some of the word types 'strong verbs' 'adjectives' being used for effect, the 'connectives' being used for cohesion and emphasis and the devices such as listing 4 details to support a general point contained in an extract from a published historian. Accompanied by the paper copy of the extract in front of them pupils were able to develop a historian's toolkit. In the second lesson the addition of the interactive whiteboard allowed the pupils to come out and highlight similar word types and devices being used in a dialogue from historical fiction in an extract displayed on screen. These annotations were then readily saved and returned to at various points in the lesson and those that followed. In both lessons the technology allowed the teachers to signpost tasks more effectively, to make their teaching points more clearly and to aid pupils' memory. The consequence was good learning. The pupils are currently moving on to incorporate what they have learned directly into their own writing. All of us involved hope to see some concrete evidence of this. What underpinned the teachers' successes is that they have had the equipment in their classrooms for long enough to be familiar with its use and to have grown out of the distractions some of its features offer. Plus the time to prepare the materials, but having done that they will be ready for use next year. But the final point is that in each school there are other history teachers in classrooms without the technology who cannot yet do this. So resourcing remains an issue.
  4. Dave Martin, freelance history adviser. My interest in the use of ICT has always been how will it improve the teaching of history and there is no doubt that it can achieve that. I have pioneered database materials and written materials and run training courses for teachers, as have other contributors to this area for over 20 years. To me ICT brings new resources into the classroom, just today I have visited the excellent new education site of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission where I saw some new (for me) materials on the use of poison gas. ICT also deepens and enriches the classroom experience as anyone who is good with Smartboard technology will know, the heady mix of sound and video, words and pictures. ICT also serves to supplement students' short and long term memory, whether in the word processing activities produced by BECTa or with the whiteboards ability to pull up some brainstorm work from a previous lesson. ICT can also help teachers more clearly explain and demonstrate tasks and model text types for historical communication. On my travels around schools in England I see many good examples of these sorts of things. When history teachers are given access and time they can be very imaginative. I also see others struggling to get the necessary access and there are some clear steps they can take to try and improve things. For them it is even more important to be aware of what ICT can do for their history teaching to help them try and influence those who control the resources in school.
  5. Dave Martin After 13 years teaching history in the classroom I worked as history adviser for Dorset LEA for 10 years. For the past 6 years I have been a freelance history adviser. I have been involved in the use of ICT to improve history teaching since 1980. My other development interest is in the use of historical fiction in history teaching and I run a web site to support this at http://www.dorset-lea.org.uk/projects/each/each1.htm
  6. Dave Martin is History Adviser in Dorset. He also runs the Historical Fiction site at: http://www.dorset-lea.org.uk/projects/each/each1.htm
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