Hi I’m Rob Scordino and I am a doc student at UT Austin in the Learning Technologies program. I’m actually from Florida, about and hour southeast of here. My background is in History and social studies ed, both of those degrees I earned at UF up in Gainesville. So even though I am now in instructional technology, I still have an interest in social studies ed, which hopefully gives me enough cred to hang out here. i am going to talk about some research I recently conducted. This is sorta in progress work, because this study served as a pilot for my dissertation. I haven’t nailed down the whole dissertation thing yet, though.
The benefit of being in instuctional technology is that we are able work in the context of any subject area, anbd because I am still interested in social studies education and love history, I have involved myself in the intersection of technology and social studies education research. Easily the most discussed topic in this little niche is the promotion of historical inquiry aided by technology. Because there is nothing I enjoy more than beating a dead horse, The title of the presentation is “factors influencing teachers’ successful use of online primary sources to promote historical thinking.” That title is kind of long, but I have heard much much longer, so I don’t feel too badly. The purpose of this research is to learn from history teachers who are following best practices when teaching with online primary source documents.
I know that this audience is more aware of the theory and research behind historical thinking, however I think it is necessary to first talk about historical thinking in order to place my study in context. So I am going highlight a couple of benefits of historical inquiry. Next, I will briefly note the theorized impact of the web on historical thinking in the classroom. I will then give a brief overview of the study itself and my findings and finish with some potential next steps.
This is a visual representation a common experience in high school history . Essentially, the hope for promoting historical thinking is to move away from the passive teaching of history which amounts to little more than rote memorization of names and dates.
The purpose of thinking like a historian is not to prepare students to become historians. I ’m sorry, but not all kids are going to be interested in history. Historical thinking involves not only learning historical content, but also developing the skills used by those who study history. These skills include: critical thinking, identifying bias, research, negotiating multiple perspectives, among others. These skills are important in other academic disciplines, but also important for being a citizen. By “Thinking like a historian,” it is thought that through historical content, students will develop skills that will be helpful no matter what path they choose after they leave secondary school.
Moving from a passive to active learning of history, it is hoped that students will also be more engaged. By having to actively investigate primary sources, students are hopefully creating their own understanding through critical analysis. Students might be able to make personal connections to the content or to the people whose stories are represented, or see that issues of hundreds of years ago can still be seen today.
A final potential benefit to historical inquiry is that it broadens the over simplified heroic march towards progress narrative of our collective understanding of history. IT helps diversify the often dichotomous portrayal of historic events. By adding multiple contemporary voices, the complexities of history become a little more apparent.
I know we all hate standards, but to their credit, some mention of historical inquiry is addressed in state standards. Of course, the description of these standards is vague, and state tests don’t do a very good job at assessing this, but regardless, the idea is that teachers are supposed to be using document analysis in their classes.
Despite all of the reasons and requirements, promotion of historical thinking remains far from ubiquitous in our classrooms. Textbooks remain the dominant way through which history is taught. To address standards, textbooks often now come with supplemental primary sources, but these tend to enforce what is taught in the main text, rather than be the focus of learning.
Almost since the beginning of what we know as the world wide web, there have been Cheerleaders of the Internet who have talked about the potential of the web to revolutionize K12 education. It has been said that the social studies is the most suited subject area for the internet’s impact. Recent digitization and high speed has made access to documents to support historical thinking more available than ever. However, investigation has found that the Web is still primarily used for information gathering and has in some ways solidified the ways of the old, rather than contributed to student-centered inquiry.
Technology use in social studies, although most often attributed to the use for online primary sources, has not lived up to the potential. Although access to content has greatly improved, simply providing primary sources can ’t guarantee the promotion of historical thinking. Research investigating teachers use, or lack of use, of historical inquiry has found a number of barriers that teachers face when trying to use primary sources. Barriers include external issues, such as time restraints, technology issues, and pressure to teach to standards, as well as internal issues, such as teachers pedagogical misconceptions of historical inquiry. As usual, researchers have to be a buzz kill.
Research on the subject is pretty negative. In hopes to be a more optimistic, my study is atakes another approach research on the same topic. I selected my participants through purposeful sampling, targeting teachers who were actively using online primary sources to promote historical thinking. I think it is well documented why these best practices don ’t work-- I would like to focus on when they do work.
For this study, I had four participants- three who teach at the high school level, and one who teaches upper elementary. They were of varying educational background and teaching experience. They also represent different educational settings in terms of demographics and socio-economic status of their student populations.
This was a qualitative study. Specifically, I conducted in-depth interviews with the participant teachers to better understand their experience with using primary sources. The barriers to successful use of OPS found in previous research- such as time restraints, pressure to teach to standards, technology problems and pedagogical misunderstandings- were the basis for my interview questions. To support the data collected through the interviews, I also collected lesson plans and materials the teachers use for their lesson with primary sources.
The questions targeted the domains of knowledge within the Technological Pedagogical Content Model, which is an extension of Schulman ’s Pedagogical Content knowledge framework. The purpose of TPACK is to identify the complex interplay of tech knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge needed by teachers to use technology in their classrooms.
The first of my findings was that is that in each case, the teacher was aware of the pedagogical importance of historical thinking. In one extreme case, the participant was more versed than I in the theory and research on historical thinking. At the other end of the spectrum was a participant who was not versed in literature, but knew from experience that students are more engaged and develop important skills when learning through documents.
Another finding is that technology is important, but teachers tend to make the best use of their technology. One teacher was skilled with technology and had 1-to-1 laptops available to her, while another only had his computer, a document camera and projector, and a couple of old Dells for student use. In all cases, though, teachers made due with what they had, making necessary modifications to teach with documents.
Finally, teachers all gave control to students over their own learning. This was also done at varying degrees, depending on what the teacher could expect with his or her students. While one teacher was able to front load the students and let them on their own, other teachers needed to provide continuing support and scaffolding. In each case, students were actively learning and making discoveries, rather than having the teacher or other entity tell them the answer.
To summarize, there is not a silver bullet implementation to teaching through historical thinking. Teachers will approach this differently, addressing the limitations that they face based on their expertise and knowledge of their students. This type of teaching is possible in a number of settings, but teachers must be aware of the importance of historical thinking as well as aware of resources that can use.
That is my research so far. I hope that from my research, we can learn ways to improve teachers abilities to promote historical thinking skills in their students. Improving history education has the potential to help kids become civically engaged critical thinkers and provide them with skills that will serve them throughout their lives. IT IS possible to do enhance historical thinking in classrooms through technology, it does happen.
This study served as a sort of pilot for my dissertation. This is a topic that has been investigated from a variety of different angles, so in thinking about what gaps might need to be filled I came up with a more specific direction. Instead of a Social Studies guy looking at technology, I guess I involved into a technology guy looking at Social studies as my context. So, while TPaCK is a useful framework, I think it focuses too specifically on the user and not the technology itself. OR at least it looks at technology too generally. I think another appropriate model is the Technology Acceptance Model, which looks at perceived usefulness of a technology. This model might be too technology-focused so perhaps a mediation between the two (TPaCK and TAM) is appropriate. I think it is important to look at the resources that teachers are using to investigate designs issues that contribute to successful integration of online primary sources in the classroom. Perhaps finding a model based on highly usable sites could help designers when creating these resources.
Presentation outline!• Historical thinking• The Web and historical thinking• Overview of study• Findings• Future research plans