Our reptilian part of our brain is about 300 million years old. It makes sure we feed and reproduce, and decides between fighting and running. The second oldest brain section is our limbic area which influences our emotional stage. Isolation isn’t the key here. Staying in touch, socializing, being part of a collective is important. Lastly, the Neo-cortex developed about 4 million years ago on the evolutionary calendar. It is responsible for, among other functions, our intellect and curiosity. You are using this part of your brain to understand what I am typing right now (although the limbic part may be engaged in joyous celebration of this post ;).
The defined brain sections/functions above, however, fail to emphasize the wholistic properties of our brain. Learning, for example, is impacted by all three areas (ever try to learn while hungry or emotionally unengaged?). By learning, I also include educator professional development and networking. Last weekend, the 128th annual conference of the American Historical Association was held in Washington D.C. The AHA conference was indeed a wholistic brain experience.
Interview with Dr. James Grossman, AHA Executive Director at AHA 2014:
Below I have assembled notes, links, comments etc on the presentations and sessions I attended. In addition, check out the twitter feed #AHA2014. I hope you are able to harvest much from what is provided. I found the conference to talk directly to a passage in a text I am reading for work:
“By “impact resource”, I mean something that makes a particular teaching point in a vivid and powerful way; something that stays in a learners’ minds long after the lesson has gone. It is often something that disturbs learners previous understandings, or which problematises the issue or concept in a way that makes learners think further about it. It also encourages dialogic learning, whereby learners are sufficientily interested by the resource that they are willing to clarify and modify their understanding through discussion with others. It intrigues learners to the extent that they are prepared to play an active part in constructing meaning themselves.” Terry Haydn - Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Learning in History
The impact resources Haydn notes came in a variety of forms last weekend. Conversations, posts, handouts, presentations…the conference should be on history educators radar. The AHA’s efforts to provide sessions to secondary history teachers is also noteworthy. I look forward to future developments and opportunities in this arena. Overall, this year’s conference was (besides the puzzlingly long line for coffee) a whole brain experience which exemplified conference professional development. Next year the conference is in New York City. See you there. Enjoy.
Central Question(s): How can historians and history educators best communicate with the public?
Talking Points: The democratization of historical information production is alive and well. Digital publishing, academic blogs, online journals and the like regularly reach larger audiences, can utilize social and multi-media components, and can engage the present with an “historical voice” in real time. Digital history, in short, is not a constrained like its “cookie cutter” journal and book bound counterparts. Still, digital historians are using the same skill set as paper historians, just in a new medium. This presentation was a great way to start the conference as it framed history education in a dynamic 21st century frame. Check out the digital history resources below.
- The Appendix: The Appendix is a quarterly journal of experimental and narrative history; though at times outlandish, everything in its pages is as true as the sources allow. The Appendix solicits articles from historians, writers, and artists committed to good storytelling, with an eye for the strange and a suspicion of both jargon and traditional narratives
- Ultimate History Project: The Ultimate History Project, an online history journal for history lovers. The site encourages faculty members to write for the general public and it provides a forum for academically trained historians to work alongside independent historians, curators, preservationists, and others.
- History News Network: Our mission is to help put current events into historical perspective. Given how public opinion is shaped today, whipsawed emotionally on talk shows this way and that in response to the egos of the guests, the desire for ratings by the hosts and the search for profits by media companies and sponsors, historians are especially needed now. They can help remind us of the superficiality of what-happens-today-is-all-that-counts journalism. Each week HNN features up to a dozen fresh op eds by prominent historians. Our archives, extending over the past decade, include thousands of well-researched pieces.
Central Question(s): When is teaching an intellectual act? When is lecturing an effective instructional method?
Talking Points: Teaching should be a meaningful act, an intellectual act, a reflective act, an intentional act. My second session at the conference was outstanding. It celebrated the community that exists around teaching and learning and, more importantly, invites educators to enter and contribute to that community. Cognitive and neuro science developments are changing our practice. Those who stay in tune with those developments separates the wheat from the chaff, the pearl from the oyster. A final note about the concept of the lecture as an instructional practice. When asked about its utility, panelists noted that the best lectures will be short and dynamic, introduce a new idea/concept and inspire/challenge listeners to ask how they will engage with that idea (think TED presentations not powerpoint presentations that are designed to convey items ‘you need to know’ UGH!).
- “The End of the History Survey Course: The Rise and Fall of the Coverage Model”: Over the past several decades, history instructors have faced what one scholar has called “a steady enlarging of what historians have included as history,” a phenomenon that has pushed our textbooks and courses to “the breaking point.”
- Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey: History professors say the darnedest things. Like the one who summed up his teaching philosophy declaring, “If I said it, that means they learned it!” Or the colleague who scoffed at “trendy” educational reforms because, as she put it, “You can’t teach students how to think until you’ve taught them what to think.”
- Carnegie Academy for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: The CASTL Program sought to support the development of a scholarship of teaching and learning that: fosters significant, long-lasting learning for all students; enhances the practice and profession of teaching, and; brings to faculty members’ work as teachers the recognition and reward afforded to other forms of scholarly work.
- International Society For The Scholarship Of Teaching & Learning: serves faculty members, staff, and students who care about teaching and learning as serious intellectual work. The goal of the Society is to foster inquiry and disseminate findings about what improves and articulates post-secondary learning and teaching.
- History’s Babel: Scholarship, Professionalization, and the Historical Enterprise in the United States, 1880-1940 Robert B. Townsend, a longtime deputy director of the American Historical Association (AHA), has written a perceptive study examining the growth and fragmentation of America’s historical profession. He begins by reminding readers that professional historians once saw their enterprise “as a vast panorama of activity” encompassing “popular history making, school teaching, and the work of historical societies.”
- When Teachers Talk Outside of School: In 1927, a schoolteacher in Secaucus, N.J., named Helen Clark lost her teaching license. The reason? Somebody had seen her smoking cigarettes after school hours…Today, teachers can be suspended, and even fired, for what they write on Facebook.
Session: American Academy of Arts and Sciences Report on the Humanities and Social Sciences
Presenters/Panel: Earl Lewis – Susan Griffin - Anthony Grafton - James Grossman – Claire Bond Potter – Estevan Rael-Galvez
Central Question(s): What were the achievements and shortcomings of “The Heart of the Matter.” ? How critical is the state of humanities in education?
Talking Points: Panelists reflected on and discussed the tone and substance of Academy’s 2013 release (video below). Where some questioend the context of the data set used in the report about humanities majors (recognizing the 1980s as a more dire period) they were hopeful in the ways the report can be help stimulate conversations about and the practice of history education. Of note was the potential of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s role in communicating the benefits of historical inquiry with the public. Another key point emphasized teachers’ expectations for their students and the role of assessments’ impact on pedagogy. Educating employers about the benefits of history education has led to an awareness of the tranfersabiltiy of historical thinking and skill sets to a myriad of occupations. Where the panel was preaching to the choir at the conference, it is now imperative to continue to evangelize the humanities’ benefits to the public at large.
- College, Career, and Civic Life Framework:
- Video By Kathy Swan Presenting the C3 framework:
- AHA Tuning Project: History is a set of evolving rules and tools that allows us to interpret the past with clarity, rigor, and an appreciation for interpretative debate. As a discipline, history entails a set of professional ethics and standards that demand peer review, citation, and toleration for the provisional nature of knowledge.
- Article on the Harvard Humanities Report: “The report is informative and reasonable, and its suggestions are constructive. But its impact has not been what its authors probably intended.”
- The Longview Foundation: “At the dawn of the 21st century, knowledge of other peoples, economies, languages and international affairs has become a necessity for every child. The skill set required to prepare tomorrow’s citizens for the global age must go beyond the “the basics” and even beyond the growing emphasis on science, math, and technology skills. Today’s students need opportunities to gain broad and deep global knowledge and the language and intercultural skills to engage effectively with people around the corner and around the world.”
Central Question(s): How are debates about the past relevant in the present? What historical theories are used in classes?
Talking Points: The presentation made explicit connections to the demands of the Common Core on history education. In fact historiography and historical theory are required by the standards. Just take a look at a sample of standards:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
One presenter described teaching historiography to students this way: It is like a party where groups get together and are talking about their view of the past. We can go over to each group and listen in on the Marxists, Post-modernists, Environmentalists, Globalists, Annales etc. Occasionally someone may walk to another group and chime in or synthesize an idea. The point emphasizes that we construct our understanding of the past, and argue about…it also clarifies that history is not an exercise in memorization. Assessments are mega-important in reinforcing this practice.
One lesson suggestion: Have students write their own biography in a short essay. Then have them write it again using a different school of thought or perspective. Both are equally true, but what was emphasized changed. People and events were marginalized or silenced. Agency changed. So it is in learning, constructing, and evaluating historical understanding.
- ChronoZoom: an educational tool for teachers and students who want to put historical events in perspective. Use ChronoZoom to get a perspective of the extensive scale of time and historical events relative to what happened around the world.
- Historiography The research interests of historians change over time, and in recent decades there has been a shift away from traditional diplomatic, economic and political history toward newer approaches, especially social and cultural studies.
- Different schools of historiography:The link refers to a brief glimpse of the definitions of the different schools of historiography.
- Schools of history flashcards: Vocabulary words for Schools of History. Includes studying games.
- Prezi on Historiography: A comprehensive presentation
- Another Prezi on Historiography: Good for a flipped approach.
Central Question(s): What is the potential of digital resources?
Talking Points: The textbook is a curious thin. Classes still assign them and teachers, students, and parents still argue their utility. Digital resources, personalization, and information access all make the print copy rather obsolete. Augmenting the textbook with multimedia and interactive features is possible now. Moreover…they can be cheap, or free. So, what role does the textbook take in your class? Is it THE resource, or A resource. This is a central question for teaching and learning. Another one is… do you still assign reading, tell students to take notes, and then go over them in class? If so, it is time to rethink what you are doing as an educator.
- The Big History Project: BHP works with a wide range of educators, scientists, writers, curriculum experts, and artists to bring the ideas of big history to life and provide students of all ages with unique views into different fields of knowledge
- Flat World Knowledge: You can create the perfect book for your course in minutes with our fast and easy online editor. Add, delete and rearrange content to match your syllabus and improve student success.
- Merlot: is a free and open peer reviewed collection of online teaching and learning materials and faculty-developed services contributed and used by an international education community.
- College Open Textbooks: is a collection of colleges, governmental agencies, education non-profits, and other education-related organizations that are focused on the mission of driving awareness, adoptions**, and affordability of open textbooks. Our focus is on community colleges and other 2-year institutions of higher education and the first two years (lower division) of 4-year institutions. Some of our activities also apply to K-12, upper division, graduate school, and life-long learning.
- CK-12: Services like CK-12 make it easy for teachers to assemble their own textbooks. Content is mapped to a variety of levels and standards including common core. You can start from scratch or build from anything the the FlexBooks library.
- College Open Textbook: the first open-licensed U.S. History textbook that follows the course for the College Board Advanced Placement exam. It addresses the needs of one of the most popular courses at two-year colleges in a very affordable format.
Session: The Historical Enterprise: Past, Present, and Future Collaboration between Secondary History Teachers and University History Professors
Presenters/Panel: Robert Townsend – Timothy Greene – Linda Symcox
Central Question(s): Why, how and for what purposes should secondary and higher education be bridged?
Talking Points: Teachers and professors engaging in projects, dialogues, and research about history education is a powerful exercise. Whether this is done in person or virtually, such collaboration expands the classroom context and yields opportunities for teachers and students alike. TAH was a watershed, bridging the K-12 and higher education, with intent, for years. My experiences with two TAH grants were indeed positive. Those times are gone… now it is up to you to seek out, nurture and apply collaborative efforts fore your students sake.
- Bridging the Gap: On Ways to Improve Collaboration… Interesting paper on the topic.
- The California History-Social Science Project: is a K–16 collaborative of historians, teachers, and affiliated scholars dedicated to the pursuit of educational excellence in history and social science. The organization exists to improve and advocate for history education, promote teacher development, and facilitate leadership opportunities.
- History Blueprint: The History Blueprint aims to revolutionize history instruction. It combines innovative curriculum, assessment tools, student literacy support, and teacher professional development, aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
Central Question(s): What Professional Development is available for high school world history teachers? How is the Alliance for World History learning impacting secondary history education?
Talking Points: Resources for history education are bountiful. Finding the best programs, resources, and opportunities can be daunting. Well, get ready to put these guys on your radar. The Alliance Project is poised to set the bar high for World History professional development. They provide the resources, you and your school provide the context and implementation… as you see fit. The Alliance provides support and a network of educators. Your school system doesn’t have to hire a consultant! Your department and/or central office just needs the leadership to carry the program through. The Alliance is still developing its resources, webpage, and other features. Keep their contact information close . You won’t want to miss out on this PD program.
- The World History Center at U Pitt: The World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh emphasizes research, teaching, and international collaboration on the global past, with attention to policies for the global future.
- “Why Study World History”: by J. Bentley- Practicing world historians rarely address the question ‘why study world history?’ This is unfortunate because world history is one of the big intellectual issues of our times.
- World History: The Big Eras: World History: The Big Eras is a fine example of how widening the lens through which we view the human past helps students and teachers make sense of all the myriad details and events of history in a way that is not overwhelming, but refreshing and enlightening. The authors are all very experienced at considering the whole of the past, not just fragments of it, and in their introduction offer powerful endorsements the “big history” approach.
- World History for Us All: World History for Us All is a national collaboration of K-12 teachers,
collegiate instructors, and educational technology specialists. World History for Us All is a powerful, innovative model curriculum for teaching world history in middle and high schools.
- Our Shared Past Grants: Together, the five winning projects will help lay the foundation for a growing coalition of scholars and teachers committed to improving and promoting the teaching of world history in schools throughout the US, UK and the Mediterranean region. Through curriculum development, course assessment and teacher training, the projects will help shift from an “us and them” approach to teaching world history to one that focuses on the rich economic, scientific, social and religious interplay between diverse cultures.
Central Question(s): How has the College Board embraced historical thinking skills? In what ways are AP history courses changing?
Talking Points: The College Board is on board with Historical Thinking Skills! I love it. The US and Europe course revisions include a theme placing those national/regional histories in a global context. Well done indeed. These are praiseworthy changes and set a tone for advancing the possibilities of historical inquiry and argumentation. I ask my students to identify a skill/skill set they want to develop in our history course. Often, this is a new request. Students typically enter the course feeling history is a luxury/requirement they will engage with via memorization and cute stories. They come around, mostly. Likewise, teachers should be able to identify what skill/skill set their lessons are targeting for development. In a content-first profession, this is a paradigm shift. I agree… it is. And it is a much needed one.
- AP US History Redesign: The redesign of the AP U.S. History course and exam accomplishes two major goals. It maintains AP U.S. History’s strong alignment with the knowledge and skills taught in introductory courses at the college level. It also offers teachers the flexibility to focus on specific historical topics, events, and issues in depth. The redesigned course begins in fall 2014, and the first AP Exam based on the redesigned course will be administered in May 2015.
- AP Euopean History Redesign: AP European History’s strong alignment with the knowledge and skills taught in introductory courses at the college level. They also offer teachers the flexibility to focus on specific historical topics, events, and issues in depth.The redesigned course begins in fall 2015, followed by the revised AP Exam in May 2016.
- AP History Thinking Skills: New exams will assess students’ application of the historical thinking skills (chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative) valued by colleges and universities as central to studying history.