In light of our upcoming project, we were invited to watch several videos of students who had previously taken this class as they introduced the projects they had competed for this class. For me, this was both helpful and intimidating. To begin with, most of the students featured in the videos created learning modules for a entire semester long class, while I (and many of my peers it seems) have really focused on creating a sample unit or activity. Even so, the advice they gave and the educational principles they used are very valuable reminders of some of the basic ideas that I want to incorporate in my project.
First of all, I really liked Erin Bush’s focus on the “uncoverage” method supported by scholars such as Wineburg and Calder. When I first read about this method I was a bit skeptical about how it might play out in the classroom, but after reading more articles and seeing sample projects like Bush’s, I am convinced of how important it is teach students the skills they need to uncover the information for themselves. Bush’s video only confirmed my intent to use the uncoverage method in my own project. One of my other favorite parts about her work was the way she took a step back and really tried to think like a non-history major. She did this so she could discover what resources she would have to produce in order to make historical thinking make sense to people without a strong historical background. Since my project is targeted for 4th and 5th graders who presumably have very few historical thinking skills and limited historical knowledge, I am having to take a step back and really think about how basic my lessons need to be in order to reach my audience.
Next, I was really fascinated by Nate Sleeter’s project and his quest to model how a historian might begin a research project. His project showed students how one might look for sources and how one might investigate the sources he or she found. I again, find myself intrigued with this “investigation” approach and I keep wondering how I can utilize this in my project. I believe that 4th and 5th graders might better understand what it means to be an investigator (like a crime scene investigator) than to be a historian. In reality, these two jobs are more similar than one might think. I am now considering framing my lesson as an “investigation” and inviting the students to becoming better history investigators by learning new skills which will help them analyze the evidence (primary sources).
Finally, I appreciate what Jeri Wieringa and Celeste Sharpe had to say about their thinking going into the project. It seems like they put a lot of forethought into this project and created multiple drafts before they even started the digital part of the project. I too, am finding out that there is a lot of preparation work that must go in to every project (in thinking through the pedagogical methods and the figuring out the organization) before I can execute my ideas in a digital format. Another central part of their project was the deciding how to teach the historical thinking skills themselves. Again, like Bush, they emphasized that for students, learning the skills to uncover the material for themselves is much better for students than just learning content. They believe that when creating a teaching and learning project it is best to begin by deciding what skills you want students to learn, instead of what information you want them to learn. While I have already picked a broad content area for my project, this reminded me to pick the skills I want to teach and then find sources that can help me teach them, instead of the other way around. Finally, it was encouraging to hear Jeri Wieringa say to dream big and then reign it back in, as I always feel like I have a much bigger scope for my project than is feasible for the given project.
Overall, it was nice to see what other students had produced and watch how they applied the concepts from this class in order to make successful teaching and learning tools. I will continue to tweak my project, focusing on the process of uncoverage, the teaching of specific historical thinking skills and also think about how to include an investigative framework that would help my students make better sense of how historians do history.