Friday, May 14, 2010

We are moving

Hello friends,

It's been a few years of writing about a digital history education, and now with the launch of our new website, digital history education is moving.

I'm excited about the change, as the new space should give me more time to write and the ability to write on a wider variety of topics. You can read my first new post about Pierre Berton here.

Thanks for following, and hope to see you on the other side.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

UnConferencing History Education Part 2

Having some success in the bid to get more time for teachers to talk to teachers at annual conferences. I've put together a description of what my ideal (asterisked with the note that this not a full UnConference, but the ideal middle ground that gets things moving).

Take a look through the list and let me know what you think. We could definitely use some feedback.

The History UnConference

830 - 900 Arrival and Registration (possibly some activity to get people started, it would cool to have a power point rigged up to a projector, and people could add thoughts about the day - sort of like a Twitter feed, for the non Twitter users.)

900-915 Greetings

915-930 First lightning round of presentations - five presenters for 2 minutes each, 8 slides timed to 15 seconds each. A quick way to get people going.

930-1030 Keynote about a topic

1030-1045 Lightning Round #2 - 5 more quick presenters

1045-1100 Display and Find your workshop

1100-1200 First Round, Teachers divided by grade level into smaller groups of 15 or so. One moderator leads discussion around theme of the conference in your classroom. Each person talking for two minutes about the theme and their classroom. 15 minutes groups talk about the challenges they face. Poster Paper each group writes out three key challenges that they face in the classroom related to this.

1200-100 Display and Lunch, Poster Paper is posted in the main area for teachers to see what other groups were discussing. (Digital aspect could interview teachers about their experiences, a sort of speaker's corner booth.)

100-200 Regular presentations/sessions which people have signed up for.

200-215 break and display

215-315 Final round related back to the original morning discussion. Teachers could meet in smaller groups again with different people, each tackling a set of challenges posted in the morning. Similar discussion format facilitated by a moderator and secretary. Notes would again be posted afterwards with online component to share results. Teachers asked to come up with solutions to each set of challenges, with specific actions.

Monday, February 08, 2010

UnConferencing History Education

As a seasoned veteran of the History Education conferences circuit each fall, I've been thinking a lot about them lately. My experiences and impressions of the annual teacher conferences has really only declined over the past few years.

From my own impression, numbers are increasingly down and increasing participation in provincial teaching bodies continues to be a struggle. And yet, there really has been little talk of changing the format of the annual conferences or the way in which they do business. For displayers, which is often my own role, it affects how we can get our message out to the education community.

After several conversations with other displayers and presenters this past fall, we put the challenge out to each other to convince our own respective provinces to try something new and look to the unconference movement. An unconference is essentially "a facilitated participant-driven face-to-face conference around a theme or purpose."

It seems strange that so much effort is made to bring together teachers, who all teach the same class and subject material, but not actually provide space and time for them to talk to each other.

Which is why I'm really happy that some preliminary discussions with my provincial teachers conference organizers seems to be going well. I'm putting together a pitch to get some more unconference like events built into the standard day. I would really like to have displayers take part in some Lightning Talks, which I've seen used really well before. I'm also hoping to create some sessions based around getting teachers talking to each other and setting their own agenda.

What kinds of things do you think should be included in this conference. I'm hoping this will be a lot of fun. I'm also encouraged when I see stuff like TeachMeet in the UK.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's a Historian to do

We're working on a new website for Canada's History and I've spent the afternoon working on our New Research section. Academic research - understanding it, writing it, finding it - needs to be a part of high school history classes. It' s just not acceptable that young students should graduate from high school with no real sense of what historians do at the academic level.

But here in lies my frustration. I've been reading the Canadian Historical Review and a great article about Gender and Class in early Montreal by historian Elise Chenier. It's a really interesting piece that I think would be even more interesting given the emphasis on volunteering for high school students. It examines how young elite women moved from debutant balls and high society to more engagement in "volunteering" as economic times deteriorated.

Of course, I've been reading it through my account as a former student at the University of Western Ontario. I also am on campus at the University of Winnipeg so I could read it here in the library. But for the average high school teacher, where are you supposed to go to download a copy of this article. Worst of all, the University of Toronto Press charges $13 to get a PDF of the article. An annual subscription only costs $60 and it is just not reasonable to expect the general public to pay at that level for individual articles.

It's a frustrating experience for those who believe that academic history had an important place in high schools, in particular challenging students and encouraging them to study history at the university level. What's a historian or teacher to do?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teaching Canada's History

Tomorrow Canada's History Society is launching Teaching Canada's History, a special publication of The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine. The magazine explores how Canada's best teachers and educators are sharing the history of our country with young people.

We have terrific features including Peter Seixas discussing historical thinking, Catherine Duquette looking at controversies in the classroom, Eric Langhorst using technology to spark learning, Anne Tenning on the importance of teaching about residential schools, Rose Fine-Meyer on Local History, and Blake Seward on Remembrance in Canada. We also had wonderful contributions from Joe Stafford, Helen Raptis, Charles Hou, and Vicky Lapointe.

What I'm most excited about is the inclusion of links within the print version of the magazine. Many people have put print publications online, but they always lack the interactivity of a website. We jumped ahead by bolding words in the text and tagging images in the print version, letting readers know what else can be accessed through the print version.

Teachers are a really difficult group to crack and we've tried to create an extremely high value product that is uniquely shareable. Selling a lot of teachers magazines is always going to be a challenge, but we hope that by reaching the largest audience possible, this will also support sales on newstands and through our website. It's got the portability of print with the interactivity of a digital magazine.

For the last six months this project has been my main focus. It has been an extreme pleasure and honour to work with these talented educators and the editorial staff at the Beaver magazine to make this project work. A special note of thank you as well to James Gillespie, who has put together an incredible magazine with a terrific look and feel.

Please take a look through the issue and let us know what you think! I'll have lots more to say about the magazine in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Canada's Best History Teachers

Canada's History Society recently announced the 25 finalists for this year's Governor General's Awards for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History. We present the award each year to six teachers from across Canada. I'm always amazed at the new and inventive ways teachers develop to teach young people about Canada.

Take a look through the list here and let them inspire you in your classroom. The six recipients will be announced on November 20th, 2009.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Canada's Steve McQueen

Working on a special magazine over the past few months, I've had a chance to delve into the images at Library and Archives Canada more and more. I'm amazed at the depth of the collection that is available online at the moment. Searching is fairly easy, and you can narrow your search by selecting only those images which are available online.

The photos contain much of the history of Canada, but I wanted to share this picture. Anyone who has every had the Steve McQueen great escape poster on their wall will recognize it right away. I think this is the best World War Two photo of a Canadian soldier I have ever seen. Let me know what you think or if about other images from the collection that you think are pretty awesome.

Personnel of No.2 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps (C.P.C.), talking with French civilians, Fleury-sur-Orne, France, 20 July 1944.