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Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

Tag: Doug Belshaw

Using new technologies to enhance teaching and learning in History

Using New Technologies book coverA brief update to publicise a book that I have contributed to and edited by Professor Terry Hadyn of UEA. Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Learning in History (Routledge) is now available in paperback and a ebook friendly version will be available within the month.

I recall a few years ago being told by someone very prominent in the History teaching community that ‘ICT had been done’ and did not require any more thought. This book indicates that the judicious use of technology is still an issue to be grappled with especially as the thoughtful use of technology stems from careful thinking about subject knowledge, skills and literacy.

The ebook version will have links which will be constantly updated and may come with additional chapters. My contribution includes how iPads can be used to enhance History teaching and also the use of iBooks Author. I hope you find it useful and let me know if you have any questions.

Contents are below:

Professor Terry Hadyn What does it mean to be good at ICT as a history teacher and We Need to talk about PowerPoint),

Neal Watkin The history utility belt: getting learners to express themselves digitally

Ali Messer History Wikis

Arthur Chapman Using discussion forums to support historical learning

Dan Lyndon Using blogs and podcasts in the history classroom

Richard Jones-Nerzic Documentary film making in the history classroom

John Simkin Making the most of the Spartacus Educational website

Ben Walsh Signature pedagogies, assumptions and assassins: ICT and motivation in the history classroom

Johannes Ahrenfelt Immersive learning in the history classroom: how social media can help meet the expectations of a new generation of learners

Alf Wilkinson What can you do with an interactive whiteboard?

Nick Dennis and Doug Belshaw Tools for the tech savvy history teacher

Janos Blasszauer History webquests

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TeachMeet Mozilla #TMmozLDN2012

I am sold on the model of practitioners sharing their work in informal settings. I have attended and helped steer a number of TeachMeets over the years (and will be hosting a few in the near future) and I love the natural, easy conversations that occur between the presentations. With this is mind, when Doug Belshaw, announced that there was to be a TeachMeet in London on the 7th October hosted at Mozilla’s London headquarters, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

As usual, Doug’s organisation was spot-on and I enjoyed the presentations (especially a ten year old Mr Ross showing us how to use Mozilla’s ‘Hackasaurus‘ tools) and I was eager to learn more about Open Badges as an idea. Essentially, Open Badges are ways of displaying achievements and skills for all kinds of things, especially the things that are not paid attention to in the normal progress of education. I was keen to hear Zoe Ross’ experience about the use of Badges in her school. You can find out more about the work Zoe and her students have done towards the creation of their own badges here.

One thing that struck me in the conversation about Badges was the thought that they can operate on three levels. On a micro/Classroom level, they can be a great mechanism to structure expectations. In one sense, this is similar to merits/points but with slightly more specified in terms of behaviours. What was great about Zoe’s work was the students identifying and creating the badges for the attributes they expected of good learners. I can see a lot of ways this could be very useful within individual classrooms and especially with boys with ideas of ‘levelling up’ and being part of a larger structured learning game (see Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys with the Latin lesson example to see what I mean).  An effective school is full of effective lessons and this would be one tool which could really help create the right atmosphere for progress.

The second level would go beyond one classroom. It would tie in to an existing framework of educational achievements such as Guy Claxton’s work around Building Learning Power (with a useful badge type system similar to the implementation at Cramlington Learning Village). Another example is the International Baccalaureate Middle Years/Diploma Programme learner profile. The attributes identified by these systems would be useful for any school to aspire to and moves us to a more rounded view of education.

Were it to be successful in an institution, I think the third (macro) level would really offer the opportunity for Badges to be of value to the rest of society by considering the boundaries beyond the school.  It was Tony Sheppard who suggested that Badges could be like the Duke of Edinburgh Award, validated by an external body that has status and continually refines the expectations for the award whilst being mindful of its core values. Imagine Badges for IT skills validated by the Chartered Institute for IT but designed by teachers in schools. The day gave me a lot to think about in terms of my new role.

Beyond the discussion of Badges in education, I was very interested in Miles Berry’s presentation on using HTML5 to create presentations; something I think I will try with my IT student this year. I also had the inevitable ‘iPad is terrible’ conversation which I found entertaining as I use an iPad, Kindle, Chromebook, Mac and PC in my daily working life. No one device can rule them all (in my honest opinion and possibly another blog post).

I can only recommend that you get yourself to a TeachMeet soon; they really do help you to look at education (in all its forms) from a different point of view. Thanks once again to Doug and the Mozilla team for hosting a very interesting event.

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Coming up…

Now that term has started, it is time to dust off the blog for the new academic year. To kick things off, below is a list of things that are helping the working process, I am working on and events coming up…

  1. 4Matrix – Results analysis software with the emphasis on tackling in-school variation. Really pleased with the product so far and hope they can include options for independent schools/Sixth Form analysis.
  2. Due – task reminder app on iPhone and iPad. Very handy when you need to note something down quickly. This app has quickly become one of my favourites.
  3. Xobni for Outlook – I run Windows 7 on a Mac Mini and this makes Outlook ‘bearable’ (copyright Doug Belshaw). Especially after using the Mac version of Outlook.
  4. Planbook for iPad/Mac – great teacher planner.
  5. Felsted MIS – really pleased with the development this year and if I say so myself, the grade book is a thing of beauty. If you visit the school, we will be happy to show you how it works.
  6. Visit from Belgrano Day School, Buenos Aires 15th September – I had a great time visiting this school in the summer and look forward to returning their great hospitality. Steak not included.
  7. Mobile Learning: Now and the Future event, 28th September – one day conference with Steve Molyneux and some guy called Doug Belshaw.)
  8. Meeting with the GSMA about a potential mobile learning project…
  9. Apple Regional Training Centre at Felsted 20th October – sign up coming soon. We will be looking at ePub books for iPad amongst other things. Get in touch if you want to come to the Tatler and Financial Times cited event.
  10. London History Network at the National Archives, Kew 21st October – premier event for History teachers in (and around) London. Ben Walsh, textbook author and researcher, will give the keynote and we will also be hosting a TeachMeet session.
  11.  Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence. Read it. Now.

Also working with Square Code on a few things. Welcome back to the new term!

Image by Monkeyc.net. 

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Breaking cover…

Climbing a wall

Nearly there...

Now that I am on my Easter break, I have a chance to catch up with everything I was supposed to have done during term time. One thing that I said I would do is write about my visit to Turkey with Doug Belshaw to give a presentation and two workshops. We were invited by the European Association of History Teachers (EUROCLIO) to give share our ideas on History teaching and ICT with Turkish History educators including university professors, textbook writers and teachers. We were very pleased to accept the invitation and saw it as an opportunity to build on the work started by Michael Riley in his workshop in January. The main thrust of our discussion was that ICT should support learning and should not be thought about in an ‘add ICT and stir’ approach. I think the opening presentation went really well with lots of questions at the end. As a result, we decided to change the focus of our workshop and although it was acceptable, we both felt that it was not as sharp as it could be. The second workshop was far better from our point of view (the smiling faces gave us some clue!) and we think the delegates got a lot from seeing the ‘theory’ of historical learning put into practice using technology. The presentation and accompanying notes and video (they are in Turkish) can be found here.

From a personal point of view, the real highlight was seeing the work carried out by the educators since January. Despite being relatively experienced, I still struggle with key concepts/skills when planning a lesson or sequence of lessons and it really was fantastic to see how much work the delegates had put in since the previous meeting. Some of the ideas needed just a little development to be outstanding and I came away with a few really good activities to try out in my lessons (there was one great time line activity I will definitely use next term). What was particularly engaging for me was that nearly every single conversation was based around learning and it caused me to reflect deeply about my own work. Sometimes being an Assistant Head doesn’t leave you much room for reflexive thinking about your own teaching but I certainly left Turkey with a renewed purpose. Doug and I have been invited to work with EUROCLIO again I am looking forward to it.

Since coming back from Turkey, historiography has weighed heavily on my mind. I teach 19th Century Chinese history at IB and have been looking around for different lines of thought on the downfall of the Qing Dynasty. I have many great quotes from different writers but as I was looking around, I found that unless I was in a university department, I could not gain access to the latest research in the areas I teach. Sure, I can provide quotes from Gray, Spence and Chesenaux et al but I personally have little sense of the debate about the Qing downfall in comparison to the debates about the place of the Nazis in German history or Mao’s role in China. It may be my lack of reading (I’m sure it is) but even with the topics I just mentioned, why is there no helpful place where it is all together in a clear format I can use with my students? I can see another project being formed… 🙂

iPhone 3GS times 2

Boxfresh Apples from Orange.

Finally, the school is looking at doing some really exciting things with mobile technology in the next few months. Orange and Apple are helping with the set up of a trial project and once we have consulted the students about what they think is useful, I hope we will have a clear steer about where we should be going. I have realised that discussions around innovative technology take time and demand very good planning and the views of the students are absolutely essential (and neatly links with my other responsibility at school). One thing I will recommend they look at is the work at ACU. They have been a great source of inspiration for me and some of their faculty have set up network to foster debate about mobile learning. I suggest you take a look to see how the debate breaks cover from the usual arguments about mobile learning…

Lead image by Sam Judson @ Flickr

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The conference/learning season approaches…

With the exam crush looming ever closer (especially for my lovely IB class) and the need to consolidate learning that has taken place over the last year/two years, I often neglect the fact that I also need to reflect and learn about my subject. Two upcoming events this year should help me stay on the path of classroom refinement/enlightenment…

Next month Doug Belshaw and I are going to give an address and two workshops on History and ICT to Turkish History educators as part of the European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO) which is funded by the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The way how History is taught in Turkey is being rethought and there is a desire to incorporate/develop more innovative methods;  our role is to suggest how this can be done using examples of work in the UK. Doug and I will stress in our presentation that ICT is more than an ‘add water and stir’ approach and that it should support the work in the classroom rather than become the determining factor. This may seem pretty obvious but I sometimes lose sight when I come across a new/exciting tool and articipating in the conference reminds me to keep asking questions about what I do in the classroom and what direction my school is heading in.

The second event is the TeachMeet Doug and I are organising at the Schools History Project (SHP) conference in July (we are also presenting a workshop at the main event). This conference is THE conference for History educators and sessions are always informative with ideas that you can take away and use on the first day back in school. If you haven’t come across a TeachMeet before, it is a fantastic way to share teaching ideas through volunteers giving two or seven minute presentations in an informal and supportive atmosphere. This video made by BrainPop UK for another TeachMeet will help:

My experience of the TeachMeet at BETT was fantastic and I found out some really useful tips that were too ‘small’ for a seminar but very practical which stimulated much discussion at dinner and this is what we hope to achieve with the SHP version. We are currently looking for volunteers for the SHP TeachMeet so if you are intending to go and want to share your ideas and get involved in the conversation about teaching and learning in History, please get in contact via the TeachMeet page or Twitter (me or Doug Belshaw). Details on the conference can also be found on the schoolhistory.co.uk site. The outcomes of both of these events will now doubt appear on these pages and I look forward to creating exciting (or crazy depending on which student you ask) activities for my students as a result of the conversations!

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