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alf wilkinson

Helping the terrified use ICT in history teaching

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My seminar focused on a simple practical example of how we might encourage history teachers to use ICT in their lessons. If we start from the history, and not from the ICT, then we can show how we can actually do history, only better, using ICT.

I started from my local war memorial. Many teachers do use their local war memorial to look at names, events etc. If you coup e this with a visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website – www.cwgc.org.uk you can find out about each soldier, where they are buried or commemorated, and a little about the campaign they were killed in.

Follow this up with a websearch for the war cemeteries and/or memorials, and you put the soldiers’ deaths in context, and help to make the war more human. Another websearch explored the battles/campaigns they died in. You only need a few names to link the First World War very firmly to the local area – many of the names will be familiar to local pupils from the newspapers and the local cemetery. In my case the two were killed at Gallipoli and Passchendale – significant battles in WW1.

Both my casualties were in the Lincolnshire Regiment, which no longer exists. A couple of judicious searches produced the story of the Lincolnshire Regiment – they were called ‘Yellowbellies’ not because of cowardice, but because of the yellow mess waistcoat of the dress uniform!

So, starting from the local I can explore most of the significant events of WW1, linking local to national to international, in a way that brings home the war. I can also do good history – searching, finding out, selecting, presenting information – only as soon becomes apparent, better using the internet and perhaps’ powerpoint’ for pupils to present their work, than by using textbooks and libraries.

You don’t have to be hi-tech to effectively do history using ICT, and for many teachers, that is the way into becoming effective users of ICT in history teaching and learning.

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An approach I have used with success on local history and the First World War is to explore examples of local men who have won the VC. See these two websites:

http://www.victoriacross.net/default.asp

http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/vcross.htm

You can also look for local air aces here:

http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/

I have also created a directory of First World War websites for the classroom here:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/REVhistoryFWW3.htm

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I think that Alf's seminar made an important point; our project should not just be about developing things at the 'cutting edge' of ICT and history, but persuading the massed ranks of history teachers, not all of whom are confident in the use of ICT, that if you are a history teacher, ICT is your friend and ally. Alf's ideas are excellent examples of ICT use that will make lots of history teachers think i) I'd like to be able to use that in my teaching, and ii) it doesn't look scary or difficult.

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If we start from the history, and not from the ICT, then we can show how we can actually do history, only better, using ICT.

(...)

So, starting from the local I can explore most of the significant events of WW1, linking local to national to international, in a way that brings home the war.

I found your presentation very interesting and I agree with Terry that you made an important point. We sometimes tend to forget that the starting point is teaching and that some fundamental ways of using ICT can make it accessible to every teacher. Another aspect I consider important is the way you start from a local event to develop historical exploration. As I live in a region where many of the events of WW1 took place, I kno this an approach which is often used in our local schools, from which it is very easy to go and visit the trenches and the real battles sites which are preserved in very good conditions.

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I felt a bit humbled during Alf's presentation. I tend to use ICT for the sake of it, whereas Alf was advocating making something good even better - i.e. using ICT as a means rather than an end. This is exactly as it should be and we shouldn't lose sight of that. Thanks Alf. :D

:plane Doug

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What surprises me is that despite many such presentations as Alfs, made during last ten years at my school or at different other meetings I do not find many teachers working in this way around me.

So we do have excellent presentations which show in a simple manner how simple it is, we have the smiling and nodding teachers around you leaving the presentations and then we almost never see these same teacher actually to practise this way of teaching.

You may object that I should not bother about all these who continue to teach in the same way without trying the new way. You may point out that I should look at it from the positive way and be happy about every single one won for using internet in this simple way described by Alf.

Nevertheless I do have to ask what more do we have to do than to make such nice presentations at meetings that actually change teacher’s habits?

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Nevertheless I do have to ask what more do we have to do than to make such nice presentations at meetings that actually change teacher’s habits?

It may be a matter of "carrot and stick". Many teachers, including me, have attended courses on a Saturday and come away brimming with enthusiasm and detemined to put the new ideas into practice on Monday morning. Come Monday morning, events thwart our best intentions. The ICT room is booked up, the data projector in the room doesn't work because the last person in has pulled all the cables out of the back of the computer or set everything to Video when you want RGB to show a presentation. Or suddenly a test appears on the horizon and teacher and class have to buckle down to some last-minute revision and the whiteboard marker is the easiest tool under the circumstances.

Get the school's culture right first. In my school, we register our classes via the computer. We post our assessments on our intranet. We write our reports using report software. Every classroom has a data projector and staff are expected to use it, if for nothing else than displaying the lesson objectives. Our lessons are observed by a senior member of staff once a year and if we don't use the technology, we would be asked why. Each teacher has a remote control for the projector. The school network has a bank of commercial presentations, in our case Boardworks, which provides me with instant native-speaker German speech, a merciful release from bygone days of winding and rewinding the wretched cassette recorder while the the class "hangs from the chandeliers" and the head teacher stares in disbelief through the window. Showing how technology can SIMPLIFY normal teaching is the key - that and not stinting on ICT training during staff in-service days. Oh yes, and technicians available immediately when we can't get the technology to work. Fortunately my school has all this. It's a well-equipped technology college. Because the school invests in the proper equipment for our school use, most teachers invest, out of their own pocket, in their own computers at home and spend hours on them preparing computer-based lessons. It's the absolute minimum for getting staff started on ICT. If the school's not prepared to fund and encourage all this, what's the motivation for teachers to change? We need both top-down (senior management!) and bottom-up (innovative classroom teachers!) measures to get ICT adopted as the teaching & learning norm.

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

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What surprises me is that despite many such presentations as Alfs, made during last ten years at my school or at different other meetings I do not find many teachers working in this way around me. 

So we do have excellent presentations which show in a simple manner how simple it is, we have the smiling and nodding teachers around you leaving the presentations and then we almost never see these same teacher actually to practise this way of teaching.

What Dalibor is in fact emphasising here is that the importance of the work of the E-Help Project.

I overheard one member of the team during the Toulouse meeting suggest that we could run our Trainee teachers course "tomorrow". Whilst I admired the confidence I disgreed with the content for three reasons:

Firstly the nature of the technology means that there is much out there that is excellent but as yet undiscovered.

Secondly there is currently a lack of reference point or powerful place of support for the enthusiastic teacher embarking on experimentation with ICT and learning.

Thirdly we are yet to organise and present coherently the powerful educational reasons for using ICT. To these ends this post in John Simkin's thread is an important start

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