One binary pairing we never seem to tire of in education is the knowledge/skills division. Lately, the prominence given to ‘knowledge’ has become fashionable in the media and as a History teacher, I find it puzzling because both are necessary to do well. The following task created by myself with the help of the Library team at Berkhamsted shows that we should really talk about skills and knowledge as two sides of the same coin when it comes to great historical learning.
The first part of the task was to evaluate the BBC Black Death website and then also the Wikipedia page and they were asked to evaluate the websites with the following questions:
- Who wrote the website and why?
- How accurate is the information on the website?
- Who is the site aimed at?
- Was the information on the site useful to you?
- Would you go back to it?
After using these research questions, students were let loose on a dummy site created by myself and the library team. You can see it in all of its fake glory here.
Apart from the obvious historical errors, we also added links to a variety of things including Susan Boyles’ website (where we substituted the word ‘Buboe’ for the word ‘boyle’) and a merchandise shop.
Using the historical knowledge from their previous lessons and these new questions, students were asked to evaluate the site and answer the following:
- What is wrong with the content of the site?
- How would you improve the site?
The first question demands recall and use of their knowledge to make a judgment about the validity of the content. It also demanded careful reading. They could ‘Google’ information to check facts but it was far easier for them to think carefully about what they have learned and use their exercise/texts books as the authority. The students were outraged at the obvious mistakes but then had to think very carefully about the things that seemed plausible. The answers for the first question were marked according to the following mark scheme:
L1 1-4 marks Can identify basic historical errors (dates, sequence of events)
L2 5-7 marks Explains the errors and links to own knowledge via explanation about why the content is wrong
L3 8-10 marks Is able to provide a balanced critique of the site with examples supporting both sides
The second question was marked according to the following:
L1 1-5 marks Provides factual correction in relation to sections/talk of layout
L2 6-8 marks In addition to the above and provides one example of research/content to be included
L3 9-10 Identifies what should be kept, adds additional pointers for improvement/uses the research questions to help shape their answers links.
All the Year 7 students have completed the task and it has improved/sharpened their knowledge of the Black Death and improved their digital literacy skills. As a great side effect, they also seem to be increasing their cultural literacy by singing Susan Boyle songs.