On Monday the first year fellows leave the Education Division and move to Public Projects for the remainder of our first semester. Over the last seven weeks, I have learned a lot about the projects in the education division, the project and tools within the division, and the division’s goals of providing teachers with skills and tool to teach historical thinking to students. I’ve come away from this rotation with a better understanding of not only the role of the education division but also with a new appreciation for the challenge of using and creating tools that encourage students to think critically about history.
Although the Education division was our first rotation, it was an excellent starting point and I think we all learned a lot about the division and its role within the center. The division works closely with teachers as well as historical organizations that provide resources for teachers. The division helps to train teachers on both ways to implement technology into the classroom and how to use technology to encourage critical engagement with historical sources. Projects such as Teachinghistory.org offer advice and resources to teachers. Among the resources on the site are website reviews, digital tool reviews (Tech for Teachers), and instructional videos on bringing technology into the classroom. Other projects, such as Historical Thinking Matters, offer a selection of modules and lesson plans that aim to teach students how to think critically about historical evidence and events. I think I often overlook the role, and importance, of historians in assisting with teaching historical thinking skills.
We worked on several projects during the rotation, but the majority of the things we did centered around questions about how to engage students with history using technology and the web. Several times we attempted to put ourselves in the shoes of elementary school students and use the technology as they might have with the goal of populating a new project with examples. It was surprisingly harder than it sounded and it got me thinking about the ways that history in taught in K-12. Many of the tools we experimented with surprised me in their ability to really force the user to think critically about a historical event. I’ve never had any experience teaching history outside of a college classroom and I’ve come away from the time in this division with a new appreciation for those teaching history in K-12 classrooms.