History in the Making – Creating Digital History Techbooks

So, I have to say I have had lots of fun this fall.

Out of nowhere, I was offered a chance to teach a history teaching methods course at the University of Ottawa. For ten weeks I got to talk about one of the things I really love – the study of history. It has been many many years since I actually taught history and fortunately, the methodology for the teaching of history has changed dramatically since I taught the subject.

The last assignment we worked on was called History in the Making. I had this idea that it would be really cool for students to develop a digital textbook along the lines of what Discovery Education has created for math, science and social studies.

I have done lots of work on Discovery Education’s Science Techbook and I know it is an amazing learning tool. While there is a social studies techbook, it doesn’t have the features of the science version and there is no Canadian version.

The digital techbooks are incredibly versatile learning tools, but I don’t really know any good examples outside of the Discovery Education material. So, why not create our own?

We just did a gallery walk of the completed Canadian History techbooks and I have to say they were amazing. We ran out of time in the ten weeks to present the techbooks individually, so one of the students had the brilliant idea of doing them all in one day in the form of a gallery walk.

the basic idea

I really believe that this is the future of educational publishing (in my humble opinion!). As more and better technology becomes standard in the classroom, we will begin to see the value in having excellent, properly curated digital resources to support students and teachers.

The key word here is curated resources. It is simply not good enough to expect educators to Google topics for the classroom without making sure the chosen sources are reliable and accurate. Teachers don’t have the time to do this themselves, but relying on a standard textbook is (again), in my opinion too limiting. Even in a field like history, perspectives and viewpoints change on a regular basis. What was significant a few years ago may not be relevant today.

Screenshot of one of the digital techbook assignments – Canada and the Cold War

I think that new teachers will be faced with a different reality from teachers in the past. As we move away from reliance on textbooks, teachers will have to become their own publishers. They will need to put together their own collections of documentary evidence, essential questions and credible sources to engage and inform their students. With so much material out there this will become a formidable challenge.

The selection of topics chosen by the class is a response to this challenge. There is an amazing and incredibly relevant techbook on the Oka Crisis. There is another one – Women and the War Effort that ties Historical Thinking Concepts – a relatively new idea – to curriculum focusing on the contribution of women to the war. There is so much more!

All of the techbooks have links to curriculum and many have additional resources for teachers. This is important. If we are going to create excellent curated resources for teachers, we need to make sure they are linked to relevant curriculum. If we don’t, no one will see them as credible. We also have to make sure the resources include ideas for interactive activities and opportunities for students to create their own content.

Cover page – Women and the War digital techbook

So, all to say, our last class was an exciting one. Students presented to other students what they had created and then the techbooks were shared with me. I have spent the last few days reading through them and I really think that this is important work that needs to be shared out and developed.

students presenting during our gallery walk

I have created a Google Doc here that contains a summary of all the history techbooks that have been shared with me. The class has editing privileges so that they can go in and add to my summary. The reality is they probably won’t be doing much of this in the next few weeks as they are all back in the classroom until Christmas.

However – they have done some great creative work that needs to be shared. This work deserves an audience and I hope people, especially history teachers will take a look and give us all some helpful advice on where to go with this project.

Thanks to all the students in PED 3183. It was great learning with all of you. Here is me hoping that many will benefit from all of your creations! I leave you with one last activity from the Oka Crisis techbook.

Take a moment to consider the image (above) and consider the following:

  • What do you notice about this image?
  • What questions do you have about this image?

Jot down your answers individually, then pair up with a classmate to share your ideas.

Activity: Engaging with Primary Sources Padlet

Click anywhere on the image (Padlet link) below to type your thoughts and ideas regarding the iconic image above. Your response will appear pending approval.

Made with Padlet

Make it a Story – Climb for Kids Kilimanjaro

So yesterday I got this encouraging note from Allan Neal of CBC Ottawa.

This was in response to my tweet about wanting to get some media coverage for Climb for Kids – a pretty difficult thing to do in the very crowded stage of radio and television coverage. I do agree, telling the story is what it is all about. Having a hook that will get people’s attention is a challenge, when there are so many stories out there in our city.

Elia Saikaly, an Ottawa native shot this video of the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro using a drone – this is where we plan to be in early August 2020

So, here we go. Here are some of the stories:

  • in 2017, middle -age, freshly retired and very tired principal climbs Mount Kilimanjaro with an organization that has raised over $1 Million for Ottawa organizations;
  • family decides – in collaboration with Christie Lake Kids Foundation (CLK) – to initiate Climb for Kids combining philanthropy with travel adventures and personal challenges;
  • over $67,000 is raised in two years;
  • 17 climbers ranging in age from 21 to 72 trek Apu Ausangate (Rainbow Mountains) in Peru reaching heights of 5200 metres; the next year, 14 trekkers trek 170 km around the Mont Blanc Massif, walking for 11 days through difficult terrain and heatwaves;
  • kids living across Ottawa, ranging in age from 8 – 16 years, benefit directly from the fundraising in sports and STEM programs;
  • local bands, businesses and individuals contribute time and money to Climb for Kids, including “Barry and the Blasters”;
  • in 2019, a growing group of new and old trekkers prepare for the climb to the Roof of Africa, July 2020.

The full story we wrote for CBC can be found here.

There are so many ways to start a story like this. From Paul’s perspective, he comes at this from a few angles. First, the climbing. “I am 61 years old and I fell in love with trekking in 2017 when I joined a group of 31 trekkers who climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for programs for local charitable organizations here in Ottawa. The climbing was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I was able to raise over $9,000 for local programs. “

The following year, my partner, Heather Swail, and I decided to develop our own program so we could channel money and support to Christie Lake Kids (CLK) – an organization here in Ottawa that supports children in low-income families across the city. CLK has been and continues to be an important part of our own family story.

We know Christie Lake Kids through many perspectives: all three of our own kids have worked at the camp; Our eldest, Liam, currently is the associate director of the organization; Heather and I have taught and worked with many of the CLK kids who attend recreation programs and summer camp. We know firsthand what a difference caring adults and skill-building programs make to kids and their families.

Poverty and bad luck are situational: they should not define and restrict opportunities for kids. Through truly transformative, recreation programs – e.g., hockey, music lessons, cooking, leadership programs, they are doing something unique – day by day, trying to break the cycle of poverty firmly entrenched here in Ottawa and empower children to change the direction of their lives.

Because Christie Lake Kids is really a social justice venture we are propelled to recruit people every year to bring them trekking. We help them with their training, we pick the routes and we put on a series of great fundraising parties throughout the year.

Our year I team at our first fundraiser at Fatboys in the Market

We know we are going in the right direction, every year we pick up new partners and friends who are helping this to become a really dynamic project here in Ottawa.

Our group members really make this special. We have some people who have been with us for three years now, others join us for a year but continue to support us and spread the news. Our group members support each other and learn to work together, not only to train but to raise money. In the first two years of Climb for Kids, we have raised close to $60,000. This year, we plan to raise an additional $40,000.

Here is a short video from Tara Howlett, one of our trekkers in Peru – Year I of Climb for Kids

Our climbers are great. The video above was taken by Tara Howlett, one of the trekkers who joined us in Year I. Tara took many more videos like this during the five-day high altitude trek in the Ausangate Range in Peru. Her journal became the basis for the film we created about the first year journey.

On the Year II trek around the Mont Blanc Massif, another one of our climbers, Jodie Beyer actually broke her foot on the fourth day of a twelve-day trek. She kept on trekking in incredibly hot and dry conditions and only realized she had broken her foot when she returned to Canada.

These treks are really hard. Our first trek in Peru was over 4800 m for five days. Many suffered through the cold and high altitude, but everybody made it. Last summer, we trekked over 170 km through France, Switzerland and Italy, camping the whole way. It was simply beautiful but many times it was also a real struggle.

A video
paul took at the top of the Col de Tricot – one of the hardest climbs we did on the TMB

So this year we are taking on Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be another great challenge. Kilimanjaro is very hard for a regular trekker. It is a long seven to eight-day trek, all at high altitude. We will climb through five ecological zones. While we start in the rain forest, by summit day we are living in arctic tundra. The summit is at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) and as we climb altitude sickness becomes a real concern for everyone.

Our group in 2017 – scrambling up the Barranco Wall

I know this will be a very challenging climb and we are hoping to bring lots of trekkers with us. This is not for everyone and the process of recruiting people to take on the trek is a very slow one – one that drives me a little crazy! Right now we have 13 climbers and we would love to eventually have 20 people on the journey. We want to make it to $40,000 this year so we can reach the $100,000 mark for Christie Lake Kids.

In all of this there is lots of adversity, but maybe this is just a reflection of the challenges many of the kids CLK supports face every day. There needs to be change, there needs to be hope – this is why we do this – Communities Move Mountains.

Paul McGuire, Heather Swail Ottawa, November 2019

Climb for Kids Year II TMB

A Day at the Museum

Last Friday we tried something a little different. I am teaching a class in History teaching methodology at the University of Ottawa and Heather Swail continues to teach her grade 7 students at Vincent Massey Public School. On Friday, we brought them together at the Museum of History in Gatineau.

This was a great day. It allowed us to do something unique, bring a group of second-year education students together with grade 7 students on a full-day field trip.

VM and PED 3183

Any chance we have to bring teacher candidates into contact with students in school is a really good thing. While every Friday I have my students for three hours to teach and discuss how to do history, the real learning continues to be in front of students wherever we can come into contact with them.

Heather and I thought this would be a good experience. Bring the two classes together on a field trip to see how they would interact and see what they would notice. Next week, when I see my students for the last time, we will debrief the experience to see what they experienced.

I think they saw lots. It is really interesting to watch an intermediate teacher take a class to the museum. Most if not all of these students had not been to the museum before. Even though the museum is only 20 minutes away by bus, these students do not get the opportunity to do things like this. Some of the students are so new to the country that the experience of taking an escalator is a novel and challenging task.

One of the most interesting moments occurred when we all gathered around the iconic sculpture by Bill Reid, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii. I had been asked to talk about the significance of the sculpture, but instead, I turned this over to the teacher candidates to stand in front of the grade 7s to talk about the piece.

This was a really interesting moment. Five students came forward, a little hesitant at first, to talk about the meaning and significance of the work. The grade 7s learned something and the teacher candidates got another all-important opportunity to interact with intermediate students on their learning journey.

Grade 7 student working on an interactive exhibit at the museum

I think it is really important for teacher candidates to see and absorb as many different teaching situations in their two years as possible. They don’t always have to be doing something. Simply taking in the atmosphere of a student field trip and watching the teacher responsible is certainly enough.

Because Heather’s students had never been to the museum and probably, more importantly, are bombarded with media messages all day long, Heather actually gave them a fair amount of time simply to look around and draw what they were seeing.

A VM student drawing sections of a First Nations exhibit

Teacher candidates all got a copy of the assignment and were encouraged to ask VM students what they were recording. Almost all the grade 7 students wrote or drew something from the History Hall. Here is a copy of Heather’s assignment:




R7A MUSEUM OF HISTORYCURIOUSITY HUNTNOVEMBER 22, 2019
NAME:___________________





CANADIAN HISTORY HALL
Describe three exhibits you found interesting or were surprised by in the History Hall and why:
Page 2 GRAND HALL AND FIRST PEOPLES OF THE PACIFIC                NORTHWESTSketch or describe one of the totem poles you see.



Explain, with detail, one of the artifacts you learned about in the exhibit.














Page 3 MORNING STAR by Alex JanvierLook up at the work of art painted in the dome, 27 metres above your head..yellow (a vibrant society and European contact) blue (European contact and conflict) red (awareness of the harms)white (reconciliation). Describe what you see:


A great day of learning. Teaching is a very complex art. So much can be learned by listening and sharing and experiencing. It is not all theories and approaches to practice. We learn the most by being aware and present to what is happening at the moment. Thanks everyone for a great day!

Walking in a New Way – the Ottawa Indigenous Walk

Yesterday I walked through an Ottawa that is now new to me.

As part of our Urban Communities Cohort experience at the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa, our group of first-year teacher candidates took part in one of the Ottawa Indigenous walks that are available throughout the city.

Ours took place around City Hall, the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument and Confederation Park. The tour was 90 minutes long and our group was led by Jennifer David (Chapleau Cree First Nation), a journalist and consultant who has an incredible depth of knowledge and a gift for story-telling.

It is amazing how a tour like this can take you through familiar places and at the same time open ones’ eyes to new perspectives.

Some snapshots – A memorial to the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812. Indigenous peoples fought in this war and made significant contributions to the British side. Their hope was that a separate homeland would be carved out for them after the war. Considering the important role they played in the war’s outcome, this was a reasonable expectation.

Instead, no land was granted and they only received what they already had before the war.

A Hundred Years Peace by artist Amedee Forestier, 1914 – although
First Nations played a key role in the War of 1812, they are missing from
this portrait of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent

Another stop – we finished our tour at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument. Here a reading that we did by Cynthia Chambers entitled “Where do I belong?” Canadian Curriculum as Passport Home resonated. In this article, Chambers writes a personal story about her journey to figure out her own Canadian identity. Her story intersects with the struggle of Canadian Indigenous People to establish their own narrative.

As we looked at the monument, I recalled a passage where she quotes George Erasmus on enfranchisement and the Indian Act. Looking at the war memorial, I was struck by the fact that the act of joining the Canadian military once resulted in people losing their status under the Indian Act:

When the option of enfranchisement, trading
Indian status for voting rights, failed to attract
individuals, more coercive measures were enacted,
enfranchising Indians if they lived away from their
reserves, joined the military, obtained higher
education, or, in the case of women, if they married a
non-Indian.

“Where do I belong?”
Canadian Curriculum as Passport Home
JAAACS: Journal of American Association for Advancement of Curriculum Studies

“To Aboriginal War Veterans in Canada and to those that have Fallen
This monument is raised in sacred and everlasting honour of the contributions of all Aboriginal Canadians in war and peacekeeping operations.”
– inscription on National Aboriginal Veterans Monument

When you really start to think what it is like to teach in a Canadian school, experiences like the Indigenous Walk and the article by Chambers really are foundational. Chambers wrote this article in 2006 and already things have changed a great deal in this country. A walk of 90 minutes really does alter ones’ perspective on how we approach teaching in a Canadian context.

Walking, listening, reading, talking can change the way you look at the world. Learning can change behaviour, can begin to right wrongs that go back centuries. As we work with a new generation of teachers, it is so important that we take the necessary time to orient ourselves to an approach that focuses on justice and a new world view.

We walk and we learn. We begin to ask ourselves new questions. Where do I belong may take a lifetime to answer. For Chambers, this is a question that remains unresolved; it is a question that is a part of our character. It is a question that informs what we are doing as educators.

The Algonquin land claim
The largest land claim being negotiated in Ontario. If successful, it will be the province’s first modern-day constitutionally protected treaty.
The claim covers a territory of 36,000 square kilometres in eastern Ontario that is populated by more than 1.2 million people.
If successful, the negotiations will produce the province’s first modern-day constitutionally protected treaty.
The Algonquins of Ontario assert that they have Aboriginal rights and title that have never been extinguished, and have continuing ownership of the Ontario portions of the Ottawa and Mattawa River watersheds and their natural resources.

Launching Climb for Kids Kilimanjaro for 2020

Great video short by Elia Saikaly of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Climb for Kids 2020 has launched!

We met on Friday to meet people interested in coming with us to Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is part of the process we need to go through to attract a group of people to make the commitment to train, fundraise then climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

We have such great support from Tony Perdomo of Exodus Travels and Monique Perras of Club Aventure here in Ottawa. It was a great presentation and we had lots of people out, many of them new to us. This is the key thing for us right now. If we want to really launch the Climb for Kids project into the future, we need to expand our base and attract people who are outside our own social networks.

So, now again we wait to see if the great people we met for the first time will sign on for the big adventure.

We are still waiting to raise the profile of this project beyond the scope of our social media posts. We can’t make it on local radio, no matter what we do. Planning a big fundraising trip to the roof of Africa just doesn’t make it. Even if it did, would it really make any difference? I don’t know, I think the personal contacts really make all the difference.

So we continue to try different things all the time. In two weeks, Heather and I will be heading off to a big gala to promote the trip. We are thinking of dressing up as climbers – trekking poles and gators included just to attract the attention of the crowd.

You never know who is out there looking for a new adventure, looking to help out in unique ways.

One thing I have been doing is putting out an Instagram post every few days. I am using the Flickr photos we took in 2017, the first time I climbed Kilimanjaro. I am not sure these are a good promotion, but it is fun to put these photos out there.

Soon we will have Tony’s presentation out there for people who couldn’t make it to the launch. I may also make another video short – really short – to add to the material we have out there.

Our shortest promotion video

The creation of new videos and a new ESRI Story Map are really creative ventures and there is something new to try almost every day. This is such a great story to tell and there are soo many ways to do this.

Then you get the phone call or email from someone who wants to join up. We are now in that zone where the new people who join up will come outside the groups we have already travelled with.

The big question here is, what will be the social media post, photo, email or video that brings in that new person? What word of mouth message will introduce us to someone else?

Our ESRI Story Map – a great way to collect all your media in one place.

So, we will keep posting and sharing and spreading the word. We will make it to a bigger group – hopefully 20 climbers!

Maybe this will be you??

Communities Move Mountains – looking for more climbers

 
I have kept almost all my promotion for Climb for Kids Year III on Facebook and Twitter, but on this Thanksgiving Weekend, I am sending out one note to long-term supporters via email and here on my blog.
 
We have 10 trekkers for July 2020 and we want to get 10 more. A group of 20 seems right for such a big climb. It also means that we could reach a new goal of $40,000 this year, making our total for the three years of Climb for Kids over $100,000.
 
Maybe this climb is not for everyone – physically and mentally it is a great challenge. However, word of mouth is still the most effective way to get new trekkers so we are hoping that the good news will reach the right people and we will pick up 10 more people. If you are reading this and happen to know someone who might be interested, I would like to ask you to share this note with them.
 
There are several things people can do if they might want to come with us:
 
  • First, share this post with your network
  • Second, if you live close to Ottawa, come to our launch on October 25th at the Senate Tavern (Bank Street) – Tony Perdomo, from Exodus Travels will be there to talk about the trip and all the details.
  • call Monique Perras, our travel agent at Club Aventure – 613-789-8000
  • email me (mcswa1@gmail.com) and I can answer any question someone might have about the trip.

 

We have a large and growing network of supporters who continue to help us raise money for Christie Lake Kids.

Somewhere out there is a trekker who will help us get to a climbing group of 20 people and who will push us over the $100,000 mark. Maybe your job is to pass this note on to them!

 
Communities truly Move Mountains, and we really want to make this our biggest year yet! You can be a big help.
 
Who is out there waiting to join us?
 

When your plan is no longer the plan

What are the dragons we need to address every day in our classes?

Sometimes the irritating thing about learning is that learning is tough and somewhat uncomfortable.

I am continuing my learning journey by teaching an Intermediate History course to second-year students at the Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa. It is a new experience for me. Although I have done lots of PD with adults, it is different when you are teaching a class at a faculty of education. It is a new challenge.

Life needs to be all about challenges. That is how we learn and grow. Just because I am now retired doesn’t mean I can’t grow! Not for a minute do I believe that!

On Friday I was looking forward to my third class with my second-year students. I had spent hours (many hours) of developing a lesson on Historical Significance, one of the six concepts of Historical Thinking. I am really excited about these concepts, it gives a framework for the study of history that didn’t exist when I taught the subject.

Historical Thinking concepts

After some presentations and a group work session, I was ready to launch into my slides, full of activities and material that I hoped would convey why this concept was important to the study and teaching of history.

This is where the plan moved in a direction I hadn’t expected.

One of the students in the class had a legitimate concern about something that had gone on in the previous class. It related to a much wider concern about how we are approaching the teaching of indigenous issues, the inherent racism that exists in Canada when it comes to First Nations peoples and how these issues are being addressed.

The student approached me during the break and asked if he could address the class. He did and what transpired was an incredibly powerful and at times challenging conversation that involved the entire class. It was pretty amazing and students brought up stuff that had been percolating for over a year. I have to say, I felt privileged and certainly humbled to be in on the conversation.

I hope they found it useful. You never really know. It is not like anyone is going to come up and say – ‘thanks for that really difficult conversation’. No one plans for these conversations. If one tries to, the conversation will be disingenuous and forced.

I am not a historian nor an academic.  The one thing I think I can contribute to a class like this is 31 years of teaching. Sometimes when something is bubbling just under the surface, a teacher has to know it is time to throw the lesson out the window and just let the learning happen.

That is what I tried to do on Friday. Everything I have learned about teaching and working with students led me to the conclusion that there was a more important lesson out there that had to be experienced by all of us. I know I learned lots, not just about the topic of the discussion, but, more importantly, I learned so much about the students I am working with.

I encouraged the class to write about their experiences in the class on Friday. I don’t know if any of them will – they are really busy people! But no matter, I had to and I hope my writing clarifies things for me at least.

Maybe next week I will get to my lesson on historical significance, but I think we have already gone much further down a different road.

In ancient times unknown areas on maps were labelled ‘Here be Dragons’

The Urban Communities Cohort – What is the Urban School?

the necessary changes in urban and suburban schools will have to appropriate adequate space for a re-examination of leadership that is collaborative,
transformative, socially just, and moves beyond the hierarchical construction of the individual leader role.

Beverly-Jean Daniel, Reimagining the Urban: A Canadian Perspective

What is the urban school? What does it look like in Canada? How is it studied and what should educators learn about before working in an urban school? This year, I am working with the Urban Communities Cohort at the University of Ottawa and I am asking myself these and many other questions.

As part of our learning, teacher candidates need to develop a digital hub or, in other words, some platform where they can reflect on what they are learning. I figure that if I am working this year with these students the least I can do is add this blog to the collection of reflective pieces that will accumulate as the year progresses.

St. Anthony School, where I learned most of what I know about urban schools

I have said this before but it certainly bears repeating. Reflection is an essential component of learning. We all need somewhere to record our thoughts and insights especially when we are on a steep learning curve. The students here at the University of Ottawa are on about as steep a curve as possible, so it is really encouraging to see them put out some of their ideas and wonderings on a blog or wiki or some other platform.

I think it would be really cool if some of these students decided they wanted to start a podcast about what they are experiencing as new teachers. VoicEd Radio would be a great platform for recording these experiences it has been done before, it makes for great radio!

Sarah Lalonde started her podcast while she was a student at the University of Ottawa

One of the foundational readings students have been asked to take a look at is an article by Beverly-Jean Daniel, Reimagining the Urban: A Canadian Perspective. There is a good deal to digest in this article and I am just starting this process.  What an urban school is? Is there really one definition of an urban school?

I am not an academic, but I had the privilege of working in one urban school and have had many experiences of working with poverty in schools. One idea that is really interesting has to do with the whole idea of an urban school. Is there really a precise divide between urban and suburban schools here in Ontario?

There are characteristics of have and have-not schools, but I don’t think they separate out along urban and suburban schools. It might be easier to look at what you might find in have-not schools:

  • a clear lack of resources outside what is granted by the school district or province
  • a higher percentage of children without resources at home to support learning
  • a higher percentage of parents who work several jobs to make ends meet, who have less energy and time for school
  • a higher percentage of health concerns, for example, dental health issues with many students
  • a more transient school population

There is, in my opinion, a real danger when I start to write down characteristics like this. Someone could easily read this and point out that this is stereotyping. One could also point out that my list is incomplete, that it focuses on the elementary panel (it does) and that it is missing so many things. Most of these criticisms would be correct, but I don’t think I am painted with a brush that is too broad. Yes, my list has more to do with elementary, but I am sure you could come up with a secondary list without too much trouble.

What would be much more useful and this is something I brought up in class this morning when I talked about the Daniel article is a careful look at the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study. The ONS is an incredible resource that really tells the story of the places we live in here in Ottawa. From their opening page, the ONS states that it is presenting this data to help people understand our current living spaces and plan for better futures:

Evidence is mounting that the neighbourhoods and communities in which we live affect not only our health but also the gap in health between rich and poor. The purpose of the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study (ONS) is twofold: to better understand the physical and social pathways by which neighbourhoods in Ottawa affect our health and well-being, and to provide citizens in Ottawa with facts that support evidence-based decision-making.

Ottawa Neighbourhood Study

As I rambled this morning, I did say something that might be helpful – I really think that all educators need to carefully read the ONS before they start teaching in a community that is new to them. We all need to realize that we do not teach in a bubble. We teach in a living community and if we teach in a hard to serve or low-income community, we need to know what services are there to help our families, then we need to see how we can best fit in and make a substantial difference for the students we work with.

There is a great deal here to examine and to think about. When we work in a low-income school, do we need to develop a different mindset? Do we need to think even more out of the box than other teachers need to do? Do we need to question our models of leadership and collaboration with the wider community? Does our role as the teacher change?

I started this reflection piece with one of the conclusions from the Daniel article. Yes, I think we do need to re-examine how we do leadership and we also need to re-examine how we teach in low-income neighbourhoods. No, there is not a definitive split between urban and suburban schools here in Ottawa. Yes, there is true poverty and inequality in this city.

So, how do we best prepare our new teachers to enter this world and make a true difference? Can we as educators level this playing field?

Teaching History – We Need to Become FOLES – Thanks to HipHughes!

Tomorrow, I start teaching history again.

Certainly my first love in a long career in education, my time teaching history usually gets obscured by the things I did later in my career. That in some ways, is the great thing about a career as a teacher, there can be so much variety, change and certainly challenge.

It seems impossible to realize that when I started teaching history our best resources were Jackdaws and history scrapbooks – now relics of the distant teaching past.

a cover from the old Jackdaws series – anyone remember these?

Prentice-Hall 1978 – one of the Canadiana Scrapbooks I used in my grade 10 history class – the only primary resources available at the time!

After I taught history both at the intermediate and senior level I moved on to all sorts of other positions like alternative education, guidance, resource then administration. I did get to move back into the classroom for seven months when I went back to teach grade 6 language arts.

That was pretty amazing. Everything had changed while I had been off doing other things in schools. Assessment had changed dramatically, the resources available to a teacher had grown astronomically – when I taught history the internet didn’t even exist!

There is nothing better than the classroom. There is a real thrill in learning and growing with your students. Tomorrow I return full circle to the classroom to start work with year two Faculty of Education students at the University of Ottawa.

I am teaching ten weeks of intermediate history to 30 year-two students. I am ready and I have done lots of preparation to produce my first three-hour session. To me, there is one thing that is really important now. I want as much as possible to give them something that will be truly useful, that will give them a few tools they can use to engage their students and make the learning count.

This can be daunting in history. The old story goes that history is boring and irrelevant and of little use to anyone. Good history teachers really do need to sell their subjects and they need to make it engaging, they have to make history count. For most of their students, after the grade 10 Canadian History class, they will never take another course about their country’s story.

Not too much pressure right?

One of the great Historical Thinking Project posters from https://historicalthinking.ca/ – an amazing treasure trove of resources for Canadian History teachers

Immersing oneself now in the world of teaching Canadian History is a pretty wonderful process. I am certainly not an expert in the teaching of history and I will be very clear to my students that this is the case. What I can do pretty quickly is absorb lots of resources and start figuring out what tools are going to be useful to someone starting out.

I can also use Twitter pretty well. With the help of Rachel Collishaw, I have found lots of great Canadian history teachers!

I am not going to try to do this here, this will be a 30-hour journey lasting three months. I haven’t met my co-learners yet and they will have a significant role to play in this process of discovery.

One big thing though, good history teaching, like any other subject now is all about helping people to think and learn for themselves. It certainly isn’t the recitation of facts –  it is more an exercise in discerning what is significant, what evidence is important, what events have consequence and where the ethical dimension lies.

This is mapped out clearly as the Historical Thinking Concepts and these concepts will frame all our discoveries and discussions over the next few months.

This framework is relatively new as is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action. How do we make reconciliation part of our history? I know this will be a long journey and the great challenge for these students will be to find meaningful ways to make it central to all the teaching they do. Like the internet, this is something that didn’t exist when I started. How will this impact what we do over the next few months?

Finally, something I do know about – what will work for kids. Even though this is a class on the teaching of history, it really needs to become a class on teaching kids. We never really teach subjects in schools, although it probably feels like that when you are in the second year of a teacher education program.

Probably the best resources I have right now, the ones I am most comfortable with are those that talk about teaching kids. I plan to show two videos from HipHughes on the first day (who knows how much you get through on the first day??) – these ones make lots of sense!

This is the second one I plan to show. I think these days, we are not so much teachers (never a professor!) as we are FOLEs – Facilitators of Learning Experiences. This is what we all need to be. Whether we are holding a group meeting with our grade 7 homeroom students to talk about rumours, or we are in a grade 12 class looking at systemic racism in Canadian History – we are all FOLEs! Tomorrow, I want to be the best FOLE possible.

Thanks HipHughes.

 

Teaching about Canadian History – Where do you start?

Sometimes when you start on a totally new project it is a challenge to know where to start.

Last week, I wrote that I was about to start on a series of new challenges, the really new stuff has to do with teaching at the Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa. I wrote last week that my blogging would probably pick up – it usually does when there is new learning going on.

For me, I need to write so I can reflect on what I am learning. I am going to try to be disciplined about this. I am in the perfect situation where I can publically reflect on a very open process – the training of new teachers for a very demanding profession.

I have done lots of training in the past and I have written about it here. I think working on professional development with the teachers in the schools where I was a principal was one of the most rewarding parts of my job. We really tried to develop a model where the teacher as professional was in charge of their own learning.

This was at times a challenge as most school boards hold to the idea that the learning objectives come from the top and while there is some room for individual variation, the scope for individualization is limited.

How will the learning work in this new situation?

For the first time, I am working in a truly academic atmosphere. There are two courses in the history program– I am going to be teaching the intermediate section. How I do this has been left up to me. While this is a bit frightening, it also represents a wonderful challenge. What will I teach these new professionals in the time I have with them? How will I structure the learning? How can I make sure these teacher-candidates have a legitimate voice in the learning process?

How can I be of use to them as they prepare for such a challenging journey?

First, I think I need to catch up a bit. When I first taught history, the internet didn’t exist. All our teaching tools were in the form of books and the curriculum guides were pretty thin if they existed at all. You really had to rely on your own ingenuity and hope that you had a teaching partner who was willing to share their materials.

More recently I went back into the classroom to teach grade 6 language arts, but my time in the classroom was short – I was pulled out by the March Break to become an elementary principal. The learning was intense during this period and it was certainly the best PD I have ever had.

Now I really don’t think this means I can’t teach an intermediate history course. My academic credentials are fine and I will bring 31 years of experience in the education system to my class. I just need to figure out what I can contribute in a meaningful way to help these new teachers with the awesome responsibility that awaits. I know a few things about that responsibility. This is my grounding, this is where I can make a contribution.

The teaching of history in Canada has gone through some dramatic changes in the past few years. A great deal has been written about what is the essence of teaching our story and there are some major streams of thought that will become the basis for what we will be doing in a few weeks.

First, the teaching of history now must focus on historical thinking and the major components of what it means to think like a historian. In Canada, the book that lays all this out is The Big Six. Such an incredible piece of work – it lays out the big six teaching concepts then follows up with a great collection of activities teachers can use in their classes to help students come to grips with each of these concepts.

I don’t think this is the post where I break down these concepts – they are really important and they define how we think about history. They turn history away from the dry recitation of facts into something different, something special, something that can actually change the way you think about things.

But this is only one of the currents that run through this course. The other big one is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission along with the findings and calls to action of the Commission.

Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the
ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts
on Aboriginal peoples’ education, cultures and languages, health,
child welfare, the administration of justice, and economic opportu-
nities and prosperity.
TRC – What We Have Learned

In Ontario, the history curriculum has been rewritten to draw in the story of the residential schools and the larger story of the indigenous peoples of Canada. You really can’t teach Canadian history without making the TRC a major part of what you teach. It is not just a unit in a larger course, it is a narrative that holds a central place in our story. It was not this way before the TRC and this means in our recent past we were not telling the whole story. Now we are obliged to do this and this must be a central theme in anything I do with the teacher candidates.

There is one final stream and it doesn’t really have all that much to do with history teaching. It has a great deal to do with good teaching in any subject. First, before anything, the teacher needs to know who they are teaching. It has never been good enough to be the expert in the classroom. Now more than ever before we need to see and attempt to understand the student.

This video from HipHughes really sums this all up. It is one of two of his videos that I am planning on showing on the first day.

This is certainly only scratching the surface, but my writing here is informing the process I am going through to come up with a meaningful syllabus. I am hoping these reflections will be useful to me and maybe even my students. You have to start with first principles when you take on a big new project and I am I am making a start here.