by Terri Wagner
I happen to glance through what passes for a textbook in today's schools. Unfortunately, most of the material is composed of articles written by or dictated from decidedly slanted information, especially history and even geography. I remember when geography was simply what is the biggest country in the world populations wise? land wise? education wise? When I was taking a wonderful media class for education, I was delighted to discover that technology brings a much needed diversity in information. The following was a blog entry I made for that class. Now that I am in the school system, I think I was more right than I knew. So I'm re-posting this, hoping that's ok by ya'll.
Is there a difference between history and social studies? If so, what is it? What would be the most technically effective way to teach history? How is it being taught today? Evaluate The Center for Teaching History with Technology and Teaching History with Technology by Dr. Steven Hoffman comparing and contrasting their methods. Which is closer to your idea of teaching history?
edtechteacher, an organization with a mission to "...help teachers and schools leverage technology to create student-centered, inquiry learning environments." This site links to the site specially dedicated to history. The edtechteacher also has a blog I am now following, accessible from either website. The history center contains a page dedicated to why teach history with technology with the most important reason being the one I share...teaching students with the tools they are already familiar with in a way they like to learn. Few students today have the desire to slug through outdated dusty old journals to find gems of knowledge; however, they will search for hours on Google. It just makes sense to follow their lead. The site also contains multimedia presentations, lesson plans, blogs, chats, mindmapping, and word clouds. Each item is explained. You can also access teacher assessment tools to evaluate learning progress.
Dr. Hoffman's philosophy about his decision to utilize simulation software is much the same as the Center's. Both believe in tapping into the student's familiarity with the computer and using it to teach them critical thinking. To me the whole point of history is to learn what has worked and what has not. I cannot think of a more effective way to demonstrate that than experiencing it...and now we can virtually. I wholeheartedly embrace technology learning for a history class.
My beef has been and probably will continue (until and unless I can change it) that what passes for history in K-12 is actually a mixed grouping of social, economical, anthropological, and historical information, some and much of which is geared to a predetermined conclusion. For example, a historical perspective would be: did the windmill hill people actually exist? Where were they located? Critical thinking could be: could they have been the builders of Stonehenge? Today, for what passes as history, the footnote would more likely be: 4,752 years ago, a group of nomadic people settled near what today is Stonehenge. Most likely, they were hunter/gatherers who decided to stay on the grassy plain and become the farmers of the ancient world. Since such people were deeply religious, they used the stones to make a circle to determine the seasons, the time, and to serve as a place of worship. The windmill hill people were most likely the ancestors of the pagan Druids.
Am I alone here in suggesting (gasp) that we just study what we may know about the windmill hill people, and acknowledge the rest is speculation? That to me is the joy of history. Learning what is really factual and what is interesting speculation. As long as these are labeled correctly, learning from history can be fascinating.