Posted by foxburg on 09/26/2012
Why do we laugh at a joke?
One of the remarkable things about laughter is that it occurs unconsciously. You don’t decide to do it. While we can consciously inhibit it, we don’t consciously produce laughter. That’s why it’s very hard to laugh on command or to fake laughter.
Local History is a bit like this, students acquire local Historical knowledge unconsciously, but we find that use of this knowledge is inhibited by its unconscious acquisition; it is not ‘learned’, thus, it seems, students regard it to be of much lesser value than knowledge acquired more formally. On the other hand, I have found many students to be insular, most would find it difficult to place people and events in their correct Historical context, as they did not have sufficient knowledge of the world beyond their local area. With a keen interest myself in Local History, I found this enabled me to build strong relationships with students, as I was taking an interest in them and the places they were familiar with.
This chapter aims, therefore, to overcome students usual inhibitions, and help them use their local knowledge to drive forward their Historical understanding, to expand their knowledge and horizons.
I have found that people in general, and students in particular, are interested in anything that has a local angle, we like to see the familiar linked to extraordinary people and events, This chapter will present a journey, where the ordinary becomes the extraordinary, allowing teachers to inspire and sustain students interest.
A further incentive for looking at local History is the access to resources. Not only are the resources close geographically, but it is highly unlikely that the resources you will look at will have been studied previously. For example much has been written about the ‘Christmas Truce’ in 1914, but little has been written about the bombardment of the North East coastal towns a week earlier. Local History provides the opportunity to study unique and, mostly, fresh resources, something that has in the past motivated my students, it will inspire your students knowing that they are trailblazers, knowing that they are the experts, that they know more about the topic than anyone else.Combined, these factors have a huge impact on the motivation of students. As a reassurance I feel that I must point out that the ideas and activities presented here were developed using limited ICT resources, with access to ICT facilities restricted I was only able to use ICT sparingly, thus I feel that the ideas presented here can be replicated whatever ICT facilities are available to you.
An Overview – Significant Features
For over a decade, whilst explaining change and continuity I had used the images of 1750, 1830 & 1890 from Expansion trade and industry( J Cresswell and P Laurence, 1993, Oxford History Study Units ISBN 0 19 917197 1), my students have used, variously, MSword, MSpowerpoint & MSpaint to annotate each image, then used the product to complete an assessment on change and continuity. As I had been doing this for over 10 years, for me it had become stale. Further reflection also found that it did not relate well to the student’s prior knowledge, for example no student could identify the significance of the extra windows on some cottages, as they could not identify, and had no knowledge of weavers cottages outside the activity I presented to them.The activity did not really allow for Historical skill progression.
What I really wanted was an actual view of the student’s home town, Stockton, or Middlesbrough, in 1750, 1830 & 1890, this would allow me to expand the assessment to build a scheme examining, in detail, how an actual town had developed. The use of ICT made this more possible, as it enabled me to produce resources specific to the aim of the series of lessons. Using ICT for this activity had two advantages over taking the activity from a Textbook, firstly the activity can use resources specific to our local area, rather than generic resources, and secondly the cost, Textbooks are costly, especially if one uses only one activity from the book, I would not need a class set of Textbooks for one assessment.
I managed to get hold of three images, and was surprised to find that, as well as looking at change and continuity, students also began to question and examine the provenance of the images, and to discuss why particular views were chosen at specific times. The activity evolved from the original description of change and continuity towards assessing interpretations of change.
With the assistance of the Geography department, who were looking at urban renewal, we began tasking students to taking photographs of Middlesbrough, and found that we were taking pictures similar to those taken 100 years earlier. This led to the two departments combining their schemes, students would study Middlesbrough from 1830 to the 1960s in History, then look at Middlesbrough’s development and future renewal in Geography. We found this worked well, we were flexible, because we were developing new schemes, this enabled us to change and review various methods and activities, depending upon the changing circumstances. For example when we could no longer take students out of the school to take photographs, we set the activity as a homework, as a result this lead to a greater variety of images we could use. Many other challenges actually improved the outcome, for example; I had visited the local archives to see the old photographs available, I wanted the students to choose the photographs to be used in the enquiry, from the ones the archives could make available, It would mean taking away hard copies of the photographs and scanning them in school, before we could use them. When the visit was cancelled, students e-mailed the archives and received digital images in reply, giving us higher quality images to work with, and speeding up the process.
On further reflection, a drawback of using photographs exclusively was that we could not examine every aspect of Middlesbrough’s development, this limited in the changes we could access, restricting the student’s achievement in the assessment. I then looked at using maps also, as these could give another context to the development of the town. It could also mean that we could focus on a very specific area of the town, looking in greater detail and measuring the changes more accurately.
Using ICT students annotated and marked various maps, we scanned the maps, then using Macromedia Fireworks I then produced them in different colours, for example I used blue for 1782 and yellow for 1831, this allowed the blue to be seen through the yellow. I also found at that the transparency tool in the image manipulation software, worked very well in showing changes, I also found that in adding more maps of different dates, the students could also examine the speed of change. Differentiating I fed students additional statistical data, as additional research resources, using ICT I could focus these on individual students without losing the focus of the enquiry, or the interest of the students.
I wanted to improve the quality of the students learning experience, thus, influenced by Michael Riley’s article in Teaching History (TH99 http://www.history.org.uk/shop/product_993_37.html) I decided to follow this depth study with an overview, I now aimed to get students to challenge Historians’ views of Middlesbrough’s most significant dates, to ask students to develop another Historical concept, Significance. For this development study I needed to expand our enquiry a little, from a focus on Middlesbrough to an enquiry looking at the whole of Teesside.(see additional note 1)
It was at this stage that I realised I had come full circle with the original activity, now I was using the original activity with Y7s, I was using Prezi to present the three images, as I prefer Prezi to MSPowerpoint especially as one can easily zoom into and out of images. The Y8s were using photographs and maps for their change & continuity activity, and were also looking at significance, which continued into Y9, this one activity had provided continuity throughout the KS3 scheme of work.. Following M. Riley’s work on a thematic approach (http://www.schoolshistoryproject.org.uk/ResourceBase/ThematicApproachtoKS3.htm) I enhanced this continuity by developing more rigorous, and linked, enquiry questions for each enquiry.
I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Imperial War Museum Fellowship course in Holocaust education. As part of this course, we visited many places, carrying out activities, but it was in Krakow that one activity inspired me to develop my Local History scheme further. Like all high quality activities, the depth of understanding is enhanced by the simplicity of the task. Paul Salmon, the course leader, separated us into groups of four, each group were given identical sets of photographs of the Krakow Ghetto, our task was to find the view shown, and then take a modern photograph of the view, with the old view in shot. The task made us look closely at Krakow’s buildings, and also orientate ourselves within the area of the Ghetto.
At the time I thought this activity would be ideal for local History, as it would enable students to study in detail their local area. It was only one return, and on reflection that I realised the depth of understanding the activity could create. One image of the activity in particular demonstrated the power of this activity. It showed the deportation of Jews from Krakow in 1943, as Marshall Mateer, who took the photograph, says, “what has happened in addition to the matching is that the rest of the student group, on the left-hand pavement, have become, in the new photograph, observers of the scene of 70 years ago; they are caught by the camera as time-traveling bystanders of the events of 1943.” ( http://www.shapesoftime.net/) Our group, to the left of the image, became unwitting witnesses and bystanders to the deportation, creating a powerful emotional stimulus to classroom discussion. I realised that we were doing more that just taking photographs, I realised that, if my students carried out this activity in their local area, this would develop their Historical understanding. Speaking with Marshall I was struck by his comment “While some photography is a matter of snapping – quick response style, a lot of photography is about reflection, patience and absorption over time.” These were the Historical skills I wished my students to develop, knowing if they could do this with photographs they could, eventually do this with other evidence and record.
It was shortly after this that I had stroke of luck, I was asked to produce some educational Materials for the National Trust site Ormesby Hall ( http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ormesby-hall/) . Here I was given the freedom to produce the dynamic active learning activities that were so frowned upon in my school. We produced two activities; the first was to plan and produce a ‘Heritage Railway Trail’ for Ormesby Hall and present it to a panel, using the notoriety of the TV programme ‘Dragon’s Den’. Without Wi-Fi at Ormesby Hall, students felt limited by their lack of access to the Internet, but we found that this made the students much more creative. We also found that by making the students ‘request’ resources from the Internet (the NT office had Internet access) there was a better structure to their planning, which fitted well with the ethos of the activity, in fact we later developed the activity by restricting resources, students were given a ‘Research and development budget’ and all items they used had a cost, how they used their allocated budget became one of the criteria upon which the ‘Dragon’s’ judged them. Each group of students were provided with a laptop, with MSOffice software, they has access to digital cameras and could request internet searches and images which were printed out for the group. We found that the limiting of ICT resources became a real talking point, teachers who brought students to Ormesby Hall for the activity commented upon how focussed and engaged the students were, they were not as distracted as they usually were when dealing with ICT.
The second activity was a ‘Mystery Activity’, using Peter Fisher’s model (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thinking-Through-History-Peter-Fisher/dp/1899857443) we gave the students a main enquiry question, we asked students to explain ‘Why did the Pennyman family build the township of North Ormesby’ (see see my CPD presentation http://prezi.com/n-spy08h7cyz/mr-pennymans-north-ormesby/) after an initial sort activity to set the context and challenge misconceptions, students planned and researched before presenting their conclusions. We found that during both activities students requested maps of Ormesby Hall and North Ormesby for annotation, thus we added Macromedia Fireworks, as the image manipulation software to the laptops, this led to some interesting use of images, which inspired further activities. We came across a weakness with MSPowerpoint during the presentations, the students found it difficult to zoom in and out of images. At school, with internet access I could use Prezi to overcome this problem, but at this time producing ‘Prezis’ offline had not become available. I was pleased to find that this enquiry led towards a number of different enquiry threads, I therefore developed further activities based upon the story of North Ormesby.
The use of maps on the laptops enabled students to demonstrate the similarities between North Ormesby’s village centre and nearby Middlesbrough Town centre; for example both were built with four roads leading from a central square, the students discovered for themselves that the towns were ‘planned’.
From this we looked at North Ormesby in more detail, using the same enquiry question we looked at the buildings. I had recently visited Saltaire (http://www.saltairevillage.info/) thus I asked students to compare North Ormesby with Saltaire, to get across the concept of a ‘model Village’, again we annotated maps. The 1895 map of North Ormesby shows the two schools, a church and a hospital, all built by the Pennyman’s for the community, students commented that they now saw the philanthropic side of James Pennyman, which added complexity to the students answer to the main enquiry question.
Having an electronic copy of the 1895 map, I could not resist comparing the 1895 map to the current map of North Ormesby, I overlaid the 1895 map, as a Google Earth template, over the satellite image. I found the controls very easy to use, but found that it took an age to get an absolutely perfect fit, as one had to use multiple reference points, and it was this that gave me the idea for another student activity. Put simply I asked the students to produce the North Ormesby Overlay, asking them to identify, on the satellite image, the sites of the schools, church and hospital. In the plenary discussion after this activity I found that the students now had a surprisingly detailed knowledge of North Ormesby, they found the labelling of the streets in Google Earth very useful for lining up the map correctly, but subconsciously they had noticed the street names, pointing out to me street names relating to the Pennyman Family, that they had retained from a previous activity (Pennyman St. and James St. being the most obvious). I discovered that whilst the students were lining up the maps, they had to examine the map and the satellite image in detail, zooming right in, this meant that they examined the site in a great deal of detail, and gained knowledge of North Ormesby, which I could then use and place in context. This is where the activity was starting to gather a momentum all of its own, for this gave me many more ideas for further activities; to explain the street names of North Ormesby would be just one, unfortunately the Headmaster’s policy of no out of school activities, and the difficulty in gaining access to ICT resources, restricted the development of these ideas.The experience did, non the less, led me to experiment with Google Earth and overlays, the most successful was setting a Year 7 homework, asking students to use a map of Wharram Percy (http://www.abandonedcommunities.co.uk/WPPlan1.JPG) as a Google Earth overlay, this would instigate an enquiry into Medieval Village life.
It was at this watershed point that I had some luck. The Head of Humanities at another Middlesbrough school, invited me to participate in their ‘Y7 Humanities Day’, with the aim of highlighting local History. As I had left my previous school I jumped at the chance, I only had ten days to plan an activity, thus I suggested that; one group visit Ormesby Hall to participate in the activities I had helped design, and now they provided, and a second group I took on a walking tour of North Ormesby, using the resources I had developed earlier. The students on the walking tour were given copies of the 1895 map, the overlay, information about the Pennymans, and school digital cameras. The students were tasked with producing a presentation entitled ‘What remains of Mr Pennyman’s North Ormesby’, essentially looking at change and continuity. We looked at the History of North Ormesby whilst visiting the sites of the two schools, the church and the cottage Hospital, finding that one school and the church remained, we examined the changes, we visited various streets, taking photographs of buildings and the street names. I had laminated copies of old photographs of North Ormesby, thus I tasked the students with an adapted version of Paul’s Krakow Photo activity ( http://prezi.com/n-spy08h7cyz/mr-pennymans-north-ormesby), the alteration I made was to cut the photographs, to allow more of the current view to be seen. I also had the complete image for students to refer to, and found that these were helpful. The walking tour demonstrated the advantage of digital cameras, for students could check the photograph they had taken instantly, and if it was not perfect they could take another, this was particularly evident during the photo activity, as students debated how best to get the perfect shot, with reference to the buildings they were photographing. They were able to compare the image shown by the camera with the original, we found that the activity made the students really look at their surroundings, they examined the context of the buildings as well as the buildings themselves.
On return to the school, the students had numerous photographs, but almost every group, of four from the class of thirty, focused upon the ‘then & now’ photographs they had taken using the cut up old photographs I had provided, they said they were the most useful. I wanted the students to do more than show views of North Ormesby, thus we asked them to annotate the images using Adobe Photoshop. Inspired by Sergey Larenkov (http://sergey-larenkov.livejournal.com/tag/leningrad) I also asked the students to develop the ‘then & now’ photographs, I gave them additional old photographs, and asked them to merge them with the photographs they had taken, either using the transparency tool, or the mask tool. I found that the students became very enthusiastic, also that they had developed a sophisticated understanding of Historical change. For example, although the Cottage Hospital was the first in the country(http://www.hospitalartstudio.co.uk/gallery/first_cottage_hospital/index.html) the site was now a Health Village, students showed, using Prezi, that this could demonstrate both change, and continuity, they did not see 1895 as a starting point and 2009 as the end point, they could describe the speed of change. The Hospital was founded in 1860 and operated until its demolition in 1982, Nothing of the original building has survived except for some stain glass windows, which were taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, but in August 2011 were given a permanent home at the North Ormesby Health Village, just metres from the site of the original building. Students placed the local cottage Hospital in context, using it to show the change in emphasis in Health provision, from small local ‘homes’ to the modern multi-site hospitals. Prezi was used as it allowed the students to zoom in on a specific part of an image, to highlight a point. For more detail see http://thenandnow.edublogs.org/
We were pleased with the students presentations, as most were far more than simply showing old photographs and then current photographs, many showed the significance of the buildings, and the innovative grid layout for the village. We gave the students a choice in presentation software, many chose to use Prezi as they had not used it before, and the novelty appealed. Some used Powerpoint, some used Moviemaker or Photostory. We found that the ‘videos’ were the least successful presentations, as they did not really answer the question, the audience and the presenters were passive, whereas those using Powerpoint and Prezi could present an argument, and field questions.
On reflection the ICT resources used to present the end product needs to be considered, the presentation should be appropriate to the learning outcomes. Discussing the activity with students a few weeks later, I found that some wished to continue the activity, I suggested that they could produce a ‘walking tour’, using Google street view but we found this impractical, as the image on the screen cannot be annotated. I did work with one student who annotated screen grabs of North Ormesby in Google street view, but I felt the end product was not as dynamic as the documentary another pair had done voluntarily in their free time.
We were aware that the activity had grasped the imagination of the students, firing their enthusiasm, we were surprised to find that the Year 7 students wished to continue, they wanted to share their knowledge of North Ormesby more widely, the students were eventually given a page on the School’s History department website, to blog their new findings, this proved useful, as it showed collaboration between the different groups; something not possible on the day. What was positive was that the students continued to demonstrate knowledge they acquired subsequently, for example a couple of students wanted to enquire into why the War Memorial appeared to be on consecrated ground, something we had noticed but not discussed on the day.
The culmination came when a school contacted me to say that the students had written to the elected Mayor of Middlesbrough; this was because, on our walking tour, we had found that the Northern part of North Ormesby was being re-developed, Pennyman Street no longer existed, a new housing estate was being built, changing the layout of the roads. The students proposed that one of the new roads be named Pennyman Street, ‘to recognise the contribution of the Pennyman family’, I was sent six carefully argued letters from students, I added a letter of my own, explaining the context; that the students had studied the heritage of North Ormesby. This was delivered to Middlesbrough Town Hall. It was a bit of luck that the school decided to do this through me, as we received a rude and objectionable reply. I let the teacher know, but we decided not tell the students there had been a reply. The students’ letters were, however, later used by their teachers as evidence of a high level of achievement in Humanities, we felt that they had demonstrated an understanding of significance, as well as change and continuity. The initial photo activity had led to a range of outcomes, inspiring both students and staff to produce more and more.
I had been using Peter Britton’s Interactive Map of World History for a number of Years, and had used his The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany( http://www.amazon.co.uk/TimeMaps-Rise-Fall-Nazi-Germany/dp/0954797108) with my GCSE students. It was about this time that I had a lucky encounter, the school had just purchased IWBs for every classroom, but had provided no training or budget for software. Speaking to Peter at the 2008 SHP conference he told me about the Dynamic History Maps Timemaps were just about to produce, they were still in the initial stages, but the concept seemed ideal for my needs. After seeing a sample I told Peter that this was the best software I had seen for years, I subsequently wrote a review which can be found on their website http://www.timemaps.com/reviews . What was so impressive was that “The maps clearly show change and continuity, as well as chronological development, within specific time periods.” Of all the Interactive history map modules they have produced so far the Black Death one ( http://shop.timemaps.com/products/the-black-death) has proved to be the most useful, the organic nature of the spread is most striking, I have used it with KS3 and KS4 students. These dynamic interactive maps got me thinking about the presentation of Historical information. With the Timemaps interactive maps, students can see changes; they are given enough information to begin to explain some of the major changes, as well as setting a strong chronological framework for my units of work. Since 2009 I have come across a range of products that aim to replicate some element of the Timemaps resources, some have been useful in parts, for example http://www.conflicthistory.com/#/period/1940-1946 which I found useful in introducing a topic, but I have not come across resources equal to Timemaps, as Peter and Jonny have focused their resources, to developing Historical understanding in the classroom, and continue to produce dynamic maps which fit into the curriculum. What I found particularly useful is the depth study approach, the dynamic maps do not try to cover too much, thus they can be used to give an overview, they can also be used to frame an investigation, giving sufficient information for a short enquiry, or providing the basis for a more detailed enquiry. Students of all ages could navigate freely, and I gradually used them less and less for introducing topics, and began to integrate them into my schemes and activities. These maps made me think about how I was presenting information, the dynamic maps are a useful student tool, I found them most useful when students used them independently, students used the maps to structure their enquiry, as the main resource.This became my next aim, to produce resources that students could use, rather than consume, moving from presentations for students, towards students producing multi-media representations for themselves.The products are flexible enough to use with individuals or whole classes, without being prescriptive. The Dynamic maps led me to re-evaluate my planning, to raise my expectations for the end product from a scheme.
In 2009 I was asked to produce educational resources for an exhibition to be held in Newcastle’s Discovery Museum, this expanded to become the Siege and Storm exhibition, which was held in Newcastle and Sunderland, it looked at the English Civil Wars period in the North East. The focus of the exhibition would be the siege of Newcastle in 1644. http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/discovery/thingstoseeanddo/exhibition/2011/02/12/siege-and-storm-civil-war-in-newcastle/
After the North Ormesby project, I had continued to use Googlemaps, thus I found it relatively easy to transpose a map of Newcastle’s city walls in 1644, as a template, over the Googlemap of the current city. I set this as an initial task for students, finding, as I did with North Ormesby, that this simple task brought out a lot of contextual information, for example, we saw that the one bridge across the Tyne in 1644, destroyed by the defenders, was located on the exact spot of the iconic Tyne Bridge. This allowed us to link to Geography, to discuss location and settlement, and to discuss change and continuity. Siege of Newcastle Image Overlay
I trailed the educational resources with KS3 and KS4 students, usually in ICT lessons, as the museum felt that electronic resources would be more accessible than a ‘Teachers Pack’ filled with worksheets, thus I looked at software which would be freely available or relatively easy to acquire. The students began to take on a more active role in resource production, moving from consumers of to producers of, activity ideas
After a brief demonstration students found it relatively easy to place a template in Googlemaps, but found it time consuming to get it placed exactly, but this led students to examine the area carefully, especially the Gallowgate area, as it has a large part of the remaining city walls. I was lucky in that there are number of descriptions, but very few visual representations, thus I felt this provided me with a wonderful opportunity to create reconstructions using ICT.
I used Googlesketchup as it was installed on the school computers, students were also familiar with this software as they had used it in ICT lessons, they only needed a quick refresher. Students attempted to create a 3D reconstruction of parts of the wall, I had intended to separate the city walls into sections, and allocate sections to different students, to result in a complete reconstruction of the city walls of 1644, but lack of evidence made this almost impossible, therefore we focused on the East, and Close gates as these were attacked, as well as the Sand gate as the wall ran along the river bank here.
Googlesketchup has a lot of pre-set, pre-designed components, but I wanted students examine the walls in detail, to get their interpretations as accurate as possible, thus they studied the photographs of the remaining walls that I provided, we had to use the paint tool to ‘paint the walls’ with large brick texture, but other than this we found we could produce a reasonable interpretation. I used this activity to explore interpretations, showing how different interpretations arose from using the same evidence. The fact that these were ‘computer generated’ seemed to aid this, as students were more willing to accept that there were differences between the sketches. It was relatively easy to guide the discussion towards Historical Interpretations. This was especially useful for the KS4 students examining a site for their controlled assessment, as part of the assessment was to look at the English Heritage interpretation of the site.
With their own interpretation of the walls, students began to take ownership of the study, I wanted to take this further. A graphic novel had been produced for the Siege and Storm Exhibition, using this as the template I tasked students with producing their own documentary, most students had experienced this task with me previously. Some students had their own video cameras, and consequently had access to some sophisticated editing software, others used MS Moviemaker to produce the documentaries. We used the images from the graphic novel heavily, as well as some of the Google maps and Googlesketchup products. The basis of the documentaries was ‘The Great Siege of Newcastle’ by Rosie Serdiville and John Sadler, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-Seige-Newcastle-1644/dp/0752459899) as I was lucky enough to be given the draft by John Sadler prior to publication. The writing of the scripts helped students to see how selective History can be, a few commented on how much they had to leave out, and worried that this provided a distorted view of the siege. It was at this point that I felt that we had developed a high level of Historical understanding, Students were creating Historical interpretations, where they had carefully considered the evidence and were mindful of how the use of this evidence could be distorted. I had tasked the students with producing a documentary about the Siege of Newcastle, but we found that this was too wide. To narrow it down students focused on a particular group’s view of the siege, for example, a Scottish infantryman, or a Newcastle coal merchant. I was concerned that this approach would lead students away from Historical documentaries towards fiction writing, based on the event, but I found that as long as students avoided speculation they kept the Historical integrity of the documentary. A further advantage of this approach was that students wanted to learn more about their characters, outside of the siege, giving greater depth to the characters. The most pleasing aspect was that the documentaries which focused on the more ordinary characters were more interesting than those on the bigger players, such as Marley and Leven. As a separate activity, some students used Comic Life to produce their own graphic novels, but the lack of relevant and accurate images meant that the results did not really add much to the project.
As mentioned, students felt the short documentaries lacked both depth and breath, after discussion, to enable more detailed description it was agreed that the only solution would be to produce a narrative. I made students aware of the time and effort John and Rosie had put into producing this book, therefore in the short term they required something which would provide more immediate results. As most students had a Facebook ( and at this time sometimes Myspace) accounts I found it easy to introduce students to blogging, I used Edublogs http://edublogs.org/ as this site is specifically set up for use with students. Students wrote about their research, and presented some of their work. What was noticeable was the self-editing by students, they did not put everything up, they carefully selected the material to be put up on the site. It was at this point that I realised that it was the students weredriving the project forwards, they were coming up with new ways to present the stories of the siege. One of the plugins for Edublogs was Twitter. One student planned to set up a multiple character Twitter account, with different characters ‘tweeting’ about their experiences before, during and after the siege, this was quite complex, requiring difficult chronological planning, alas, as the SLT were unwilling to unblock Twitter this idea was not pursued, although I do think the idea has potential. ( see http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=14406&hl=twitter) One interesting aspect of the siege was the correspondence between the Earl of Leven, besieging the city, and John Marley, the Mayor defending it. We used the animated movie making site Xtrnormal to demonstrate this, with the two characters reading out their correspondence, this site was useful in getting students to analyse the correspondence, it may have lacked historical accuracy, but did present the information in a fun and interesting way.
It was at this point that I felt that he project had lost focus, we appeared to be using new applications to present information about the siege, but had lost the connection to the exhibition. In the initial planning of the exhibition a virtual tour was listed as a desirable element of the exhibition, but costs preventing one being produced, I decided to task my students with producing a close approximation. As students were familiar with Google maps the first task was to add photographs to the Google maps we had produced, we used the ‘My Places – Create Maps’ aspect of Google maps and set them to Unlisted, but without narrative explaining the image we felt this was unsatisfactory. At this stage the applications and technology could not match our ambitions, the freely available software was not powerful enough to create the types of product we were coming close to producing, thus we consolidated what we had achieved by producing a virtual Siege and Storm exhibition. Using HTML software as the base students produced a multi-media exhibition, using aspect from the exhibition itself and their own products they produced an electronic exhibition. With very little guidance students replicated most of the elements we included in the exhibition itself, with educational resources and activities on their sites, as well as links to the accompanying materials, such as the graphic novel. As well as giving a nice focus for the activities we had been carrying out, the virtual exhibition allowed the students to examine Museum exhibitions, to look at some of the limitations placed upon exhibitions, to see them as historical interpretations. The final exhibitions were informally matched against the ICT NC levels, with surprising results, we were confident that most students were proficient at using evidence and communicating about the past, I added an assessment of the exhibition, to be conducted during a tour of the actual exhibition, to enable students to clearly demonstrate a high level of Historical interpretation, but as we could not conduct a school visit, this was confined to assessing the virtual exhibitions, I found, in fact, that I almost had too much evidence. As I was teaching ICT on supply at this point, I decided not to formally assess the students ‘work’ as they clearly enjoyed the project immensely, finding it engaging and enriching; they spoke of seeing themselves differently, as team-members, as contributing to the exhibition as equals. This helped me, and the museum, examine the use of educational materials, we moved away from prescriptive worksheets, towards suggested activities, looking along the lines of more active learning, and giving more open ended activities. Making the students part of the production process benefited the students, I felt that the added responsibility and freedom I had given them, accelerated their learning. An added bonus was that I collaborated with the students, I had people to share ideas with, and discuss new strategies or activities with. It would be this model that I would try to use in some future enquiries, to partner the students in their enquiry, rather than lead them. More detailed planning is needed for this model to be transferred to the classroom, it does require a lot of effort from students, thus they need to be motivated. I feel that my students were motivated by success in simple activities which grew more and more complex, as well as being given freedom to explore avenues of enquiry beyond the initial task, and to find lines of enquiry that did not lead to success, without penalty. For example, we looked at using Foursquare, to give visitors ‘badges’ for visiting sites associated with the siege, but as this had just been launched we felt it would have limited appeal, it would be just a gimmick. This was also true of monster milktruck which was fun, we enjoyed travelling around a 3D landscape of modern Newcastle, but became distracted by the modern 3D buildings. It was rewarding to see students rejecting ICT applications that could not provide relevant or worthwhile activities, demonstrating their understanding of the task as well as the importance of producing a high quality product for the museum service.
The Siege and Storm exhibition opened in both Newcastle and Sunderland in February 2011, one of the most successful additional resources was a map produced by the museum, giving a walking tour of existing sites relating to the siege. We had wanted to do an electronic version, but at the time of planning, in 2009, Googlestreetview had limited coverage, thus when Googlestreetview began to extend it coverage in 2010 I looked at how it could be used. It is useful to visit places which would be beyond the budget of a school trip, but without context I find Googlestreetview little more than a provider of still images of buildings of interest. During the exhibition Historypin came to my notice, this site effectively copies the ‘Then and Now’ photo activity, using scanned photographs and Googlestreetview, the ability to provide provenace for the images is a real bonus, it has potential to allow student to conduct the then and now Photo activity virtually, avoiding the difficulties imposed upon school visits, but, I feel, without the collection of old photographs and the physical link to the site, it will be much less rewarding and motivational. A Colleague of mine, Maurace Savage, set up Video History today ( http://www.videohistorytoday.com/) initially he aimed to just show short videos of Historical sites, but realised that they had educational value, and, after discussion we agreed that his videos could be used in students documentaries, or could be used as an alternative ‘virtual tour’. Although not ideal I feel that tools and resources are becoming available that will enable students to produce multi-media virtual tours of Historical sites that they have not physically visited. I would argue that a site visit is essential, especially for such assignments as the History GCSE controlled assessments, the virtual tours can be used as practice, to refine enquiry and presentation skills in preparation for assessed projects. We did continue to experiment with new technology and software, with one success. We have experimented with QR codes. These Quick response codes are a black pattern arranged in a square, on a white background. It is a simple matter to download QR code reading software for mobile devises, leading to students pointing their mobile phone at the code, to receive data, and this data can be anything, from text, to URL addresses. We experimented with treasure hunts in school, in preparation for a site visit, especially if the site has little interactive information on site. The QR codes can be placed on a Google map enabling a close approximation to a ‘virtual tour’, with the added advantage of size, as the QR codes do not clutter up the screen in the same way images or text can do. I have not used QR codes during an actual trip yet, but feel that this idea has potential.
One aspect of Google Earth that I have found inspiring is the Historical Imagery, although very limited, the Warsaw images are impressive, obviously I focused upon the pre-war and war period, giving me a resource to aid the teaching of pre-war Jewish life, as well as the stories of the Ghetto and Warsaw uprisings, the extent of destruction can be clearly seen in these images. I was planning to use maps in a series of lessons about Ghettos ( Vilnius Ghetto ) when Jonny from Timemaps put me in contacts with Mark, the CEO of Pocket tours ( http://pockettours.wordpress.com/ ) as he was in the process of developing a virtual tour app for the iphone. This application takes my QR code idea to a totally new level. A maps and GPS will guide the user to an exact spot, where they will be provided with information, this is similar to the audio tours that English Heritage and others provide, except that the information is text, images, audio and video, and is triggered by the GPS. To see it in operation, even for someone like myself,who has a little technological knowledge, it appeared magical. Mark, as a soldier, focused upon military campaigns, and I could put him in touch with a few academics who could provide the narrative for tours. I persuaded him to allow me to produce some tours for his app, thus I am in the process of producing tours for the Nazi extermination camps.
Once I had the basic chronology for the camp I needed a current map, therefore I returned to the google maps and Created a map in ‘My places’, as this was fairly easy I decided to plan for a student task, asking students to create maps, but I was unhappy about the use of icons for exact locations, I wanted to show areas, this is why, with students we used WikiMapa as this combines Google Maps with a wiki system, allowing students to add information, in the form of a note, to any location, as it allows students to placemark any location by marking out a polygon around the location and then adding a title, description and category it has a few advantages over Googlemaps. I also found the ability to embed images and YouTube videos useful, as Googlemaps allows just a link. Combined with whatwasthere.com we had some powerful tools that would enable us to produce some useful and detailed virtual tours.
I have been lucky enough to get involved with the Beyond the School Project the project originated in the Czech Republic and has now spread to ten European countries, this work relates to my http://thenandnow.edublogs.org/ website, as, in the majority of projects ‘Young people research their local areas using old and new photographs and recording the memories of local people.’ I must admit that this was my chief aim when I began my journey, I have been luck enough to be able to expand and develop upon this, using technology and innovative software to explore new ways of presenting the local area, showing change and continuity, and exploring the significance of people and local places.
Additional note 1
As the basis of my schemes of work are the assessments, I developed a Homework project assessing students interpretation of what Historians’ see as the significant features and individuals of Teesside. The main reasons for asking students to use ICT for this assessment were: to reduce the marking load; we could use peer marking alongside teacher assessment. I also wished to include parents in this homework, knowing that when the best presentations were posted on the school website, family members would contribute opinions and additional resources. Adding a blogging and comment option to this page of the History department’s website proved to have a huge impact, it was a talking point at parents evenings and open evenings, giving the assessment a life beyond the Homework deadline. The advantage of the notoriety of this assessment came when I developed the students understanding of significance in the next depth study, in this we studied the significance of a local anti-slavery campaigner; students, and, to some extent parents, were now familiar this type of assessments, and what I expected, on reflection I felt that, generally, students produced a higher quality and more detailed assessment. The continuity continued further into the next year, as the assessment for the Great War unit looked again at significance, and memorials(these were also the concepts for the Slavery assessment). By now I had developed a culture of parent and student contribution to the website, and this was, I felt, down, mainly, to the choice of local History as a topic, the parents felt that they had something to contribute, because of their local knowledge, they felt included, I was taking the parents on the journey of enquiry along with the students.
Additional note 2
At the 2006 SHP conference I had demonstrated some of the videos my students had produced , as well as some I had produced for History Lessons. As this was not new, Dan Moorhouse set up a Youtube group, History teachers added their videos to the group and shared ideas. In December 2007 Myself and Dan were invited to be interviewed by the BBC, about this work, unfortunately we could not travel to London, but Roy Huggins kindly agreed to attend on our behalf. See http://youtube.com/watch?v=zpLd1cN0_Iw