Can we teach history in a social media world?

At a time where credibility is measured by how many upvotes you get, is it possible to teach one history and expect our students to accept this as credible?

I don’t have an answer to this question, but in a world where what is credible is often decided through community consensus I think this is a good question to ask. Jason Steinhauer asks this and other questions in History Disrupted: How Social Media and the World Wide Web Have Changed the Past. (2022)

History is no longer the purview of the professional historian or even the history teacher. Public history captures the imagination like no textbook ever could. Where do teachers go now to teach their students? It could be one of the Crash Course History videos by John and Hank Green. The course commits to help students to become more informed, engaged and productive citizens of the world. It could be Hip Hughes History whose videos are engaging forays into a vast collection of historically significant topics. History Cool Kids @historycoolkids on Instagram offers daily engaging photographs of the past with background information and links for more information.

From August 2020 post – For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

Steinhauer offers many examples of how social media offers so many sites, blogs and podcasts mostly produced by public historians who do not come from an academic background. But, any history teacher reading this post could offer a plethora of other sources of on-line historical information that they use to engage their students in recounting the past.

What is now considered credible is a community consensus on what holds value. History Cool Kids is credible because it has over 1.4 million followers. Wikipedia articles have credibility because there is a community that rejects what is unfounded and promotes what can be cited.

Xavier de Petta, one of the creators of @Historyinpics points out the importance of social media history – “you no longer need to read 140 pages, you can read 140 characters” and most importantly, “you don’t need expertise to be heard”. (Steinhauer, p. 47)

This is something important to note. How relevant are academic historians if they have no voice? The road to academia is a privileged one taking many years and thousands of public dollars to achieve. Once granted the Ph.D. the newly minted academic gains the right to produce material that is rarely read by the general public or educators charged with teaching history in our schools. Steinhauer points out that there is a deep and ever growing rift between academic history and the public history created on the web.

This is real and we should recognize this. When I taught history teaching methodology at the university, all the sites we looked at would be categorized as public history. Some were produced by academics like the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History series that is written by Canadian professors thus bridging the tenuous gap between the university and the public realm. I hope this is not the exception, but most of the material we looked at came from public, not from professional historians.

This leads me to another question based on Steinhauer’s arguments. Does the professional historian play any role in the education of students? Is history a subject that could actually be self-taught utilizing the material that is currently being used in the classroom. Has social media destroyed our traditional approach to teaching history textbook in hand or has the internet opened us all up to new interpretations and viewpoints outside the exclusive realm of the academic?

What is relevant, what is credible, whose voices do we actually listen to?

What is credible? How do you know?

In an increasingly complex post-truth world, people in general – students and teachers in particular – struggle to discern credible sources of online information. Their ability to judge multiple sources of information has and will have a major impact on their collective ability to make decisions in a modern, democratic society.

This is the area of research I have been working through over the past month.

We need to better understand the challenges presented by a post-truth. As a term, post-truth is relatively new. Most of us probably became aware of post-truth with the 2016 election of Donald Trump. He didn’t invent post-truth but Trump and other politicians have used alternative facts as an every day tool with impunity.

What strategies and techniques can be developed to provide educators and students with appropriate tools to effectively evaluate what is credible and what is baseless information? Is this even possible to do?

In a world that possesses an abundance of information, more readily available than at any other time in history, we swim in a sea of disinformation, suspicion, and confusion (Chinn et al., 2021). Accordingly, our ability to make decisions that affect our everyday life is severely hampered (Barzilai & Chinn, 2020). This is the world of post-truth; here, the forum of political debate can be filled with half-truths and outright lies. What is ‘true’ is up for debate on every news channel (Buckingham, 2019). The challenge of acquiring information has been complicated by several factors including the increased prevalence of misinformation; the outright rejection of established claims; the discrediting of facts over personal beliefs; a declining trust in the institutions that provide us with information and the fragmentation of that information (Barzilai & Chinn, 2020). 

 

This is not a new situation. Many generations have had to contend with information sources designed to distract and misinform. Thomas Jefferson witnessed the increased flow of political pamphlets brought about by the advent of movable type. While this technical innovation allowed for the spread of cheaply produced rhetoric and opinion, it also opened the door to a more questionable collection of reading material. Jefferson’s solution then is as relevant today. Rather than ban the half-truths and false claims of the pamphlet, Jefferson argued that people needed to be taught to discern truth from fiction (Wineburg & McGrew, 2019).

What are some features of a post-truth world? One common theme focuses on the inability of people to spot unreliable information. They may rely on a single source for their information or have little experience with fact-checking sources (Chinn et al., 2021). The widespread availability of digital information can also make it a challenge for people to decide who possesses expert information (2021). It cannot be taken for granted that the public has the skill set required to assess the trustworthiness of the experts they are reading. There exists the tendency for people to ‘choose’ their own expert opinion, especially when the information confirms previously held beliefs (Barzilai & Chinn, 2020).

This is an area that I would love to learn more about. Authors like Sam Weinburg and Jason Steinhauer who recently wrote History Disrupted: How Social Media and the World Wide Web Have Changed the Past are writing for a non-academic audience. Both, I think, would call themselves Internet entrepreneurs (Weinburg, p. 8, 2018). Both write for a general audience because it is this audience that needs to acquire the tools to assess what is credible information and what is a potentially dangerous fantasy. This is not an academic debate.

These few paragraphs were written as part of a doctoral paper. The more time I spend with academics, the more I am convinced that we need to have this debate outside of the academy. Over the next few posts, I will include more from this paper in the hope that someone finds this discussion important. Maybe this will encourage more discussion. Otherwise, what value does this piece really have?

This is a problem for everyone, but for educators how we develop 21st-century critical thinking skills is becoming an essential feature of their professional lives. How well do we understand this?

Reflections on “Sometimes it is enough to look back to see the Future clearly” presentation by Dr. Georg Marschnig


This post is a reflection on a presentation I attended on June 27 by Dr. Georg Marschnig, Ph.D., University of Waterloo. The post has been supplemented by additional online sources along with the presentation notes kindly provided by the author.

On the morning of March 4, 1945, a B-24 bomber the Strange Cargo took off from its base in Italy. Their mission was to bomb the rail lines in Graz, Austria. The crew was in a good mood, they were scheduled for a few days at a rest camp after the mission  (“Former Army Pilot Recalls Little-Known WWII Tragedy, the Mates Who Didn’t Make It,” 2017)

The Strange Cargo was last seen shortly after 1:00 pm by fellow airmen. Around 15 seconds after dropping its bombs, the plane was hit in the nose and wing by flak and burst into flame. Eight of the ten crewmen were able to parachute out of the plane before it crashed. (“Operation Graz, Austria March 4, 1945,” n.d.)

Two of the crewmen were quickly captured by the local police. A major in the SS arrived on the scene and ordered one of the police officers to shoot the Americans. The police refused. A soldier on medical leave Max Karl Lienhart then arrived on his bicycle, pushed through the gathering crowd and shot the two fliers. 

A third airman was captured by the police and was transferred to SS custody. Lienhart followed the SS soldier and shot the American. A fourth aviator was found by German soldiers, and he too was executed. The two pilots were smuggled out of Graz by Austrians and survived the war.

In the summer of 1945, a memorial was erected to the murdered airmen, no one knows (or will admit) who erected the monument.

The original monument with a close-up of the inscription

Why this project?  

  • What new insight did you gain about schooling;

The talk was presented by Dr. Georg Marschnig, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for the Didactics of History at the University of Graz. His lecture was part of the History Education in International Contexts series organized by the Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future project. Professor Marschnig is a former high school teacher who conducted a local history project starting in 2016 to investigate the origins of the war memorial erected in Graz (Georg Marschnig, 2022).

Over the years, the memorial has been vandalized and remained half-hidden on the side of a busy roadway. Dr. Marschnig, then a high school teacher, worked with his students to uncover the story behind the monument. The research was conducted by the students over a two-year period and stands as an excellent example of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). The students undertook an extensive study of World War II air warfare, held town meetings with the residents of Graz and interviewed local residents and former fliers. As a concluding activity, the students proposed remodelling the memorial in order to tell the full story behind the deaths of the Americans (“Operation Graz, Austria March 4, 1945,” n.d.)

community meeting held by the students
  • How do schools frame notions of citizenship;

The project really is an attempt to redefine the story of a community at the end of the Second World War. It reframed citizenship through their investigation. Citizens were obliged to look back to a time long forgotten. Their work showed that members of the community were complicit in war crimes, something the town was not interested in resurrecting. The story is well documented in the records of war crimes trials and Lienhart was found guilty of three of the murders and was hanged in 1946.

  • What kind of relationships in schools and in educational decision-making processes foster real learning;

Because this is an action research project, the students along with their teacher became actively involved in uncovering events in the past that the community preferred to forget. In doing this work, the community became engaged in looking at their own stories and was obliged to reflect on the actions of some of their neighbours. 

  • How do power structures affect learning?

This is a question that I asked during the presentation:

It seems that the students were revealing a dark past the community wanted to forget. In essence, they were revealing an important truth. Has this had any impact on how the students look at modern-day politics and the post-truth environment?

Professor Marschnig responded by focusing on the relationship between power and truth:

They learned a lot – some stories are told some are not – [there is] a strong connection to power. It is always important to look and double-check the information that they have. (Georg Marschnig, 2022)

In the notes to his presentation he also writes:

For the young people, it became crystal clear that cultures of remembrance in the public sphere are always linked to questions of power and are embedded into a field of discourse, which responsible citizens can influence and change. The first, authentic steps in this field were taken as part of the school project and it should not come as surprise to you that some of the young people are now actively involved in local politics (2022).

Some elements of the community did have a vested interest in keeping these stories quiet and the students were publicly confronted when they presented their findings to the community. They were accused of dragging up the past, something that no one wanted to do. City politicians also pushed back against any proposed changes to the monument but were eventually obliged to agree to changes that illuminated the dark history behind the murders.

  • How were race, class, gender differences framed in the event?

The YPAR project brought to the surface old animosities that had laid dormant for 60 years. While the old memorial did state that four American airmen had died on March 4th, 1945 in Graz, there was no mention that the airmen had been executed by local community members following a Nazi policy called Fliegerlynchjustiz in English –  “lynch justice for fliers”. Rather, the old monument stated that the aviators had been killed by “cowardly Nazi-fascist murderers”.

The stories about the murders are available from a few sources (Baltimore Sun, Mar 04, 2017 ; Archive Report US Forces 1941-1945), however, there had never been a local examination of the event. It is important to note here that the students were the ones who chose to work on this project. This closely follows the methodology outlined in YPAR.

  • What connections can you draw with readings, lectures, and discussions we have held in the class?

Notions of citizenship are fluid. How we define ourselves as citizens can change when new information comes to light. The investigation of the students centred on a forgotten war-time memorial. Their work led to public remembering of a war crime committed in March of 1945. The students also participated in rededication plans for the memorial to make clear what had happened.

plan for the remodelling of the memorial – now including the names of the murdered airmen
  • What creative ideas or astute analysis about education did you encounter in the event?

Youth Participatory Action Research is a powerful tool to examine local issues of interest to the researchers. One of the key principles of YPAR is that young people become active participants in the work and play a large role in researching the truth. (Petrone et al., 2021)

This is an important technique that can be used by students and teachers to combat the miasma of post-truth that we struggle with today. By completing this work, the students were able to gain a greater respect for the truth and the challenges that come from confronting stories that have been buried in the past.

The methodology (YPAR) used by the students has been suggested as a way to gain a stronger affiliation with the truth, so important in a post-truth world. (Chinn et al., 2021)  Students involved in this project have now become involved in local and regional government. It would seem that YPAR is good preparation for anyone who intends to enter a political career in the post-truth future.

The project provided the students with a way to start conversations with parents and grandparents about the war. Family stories can differ greatly from what the official stories present. The students best sum up why it is important to understand a community’s past:

“’What’s the point now?’ We were asked more than once. ‘They’re dead
anyway!’ Well, ‘they’ may be dead, but we’re not. […] Why does this affect us
now, although it has happened so long ago? It affects us because we live and
our present and future are built on that very past that we wonder what it has
to do with us.”

Anna B.

Bibliography

Archive Report: US Forces 1941-1945. (n.d.). Aircrew Remembered. http://aircrewremembered.com/crockett-james.html

Chinn, C. A., Barzilai, S., & Duncan, R. G. (2021). Education for a “Post-Truth” World: New Directions for Research and Practice. Educational Researcher, 50(1), 51–60. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X20940683

Former Army pilot recalls little-known WWII tragedy, the mates who didn’t make it. (2017, March 4). The Baltimore Sun. https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/bs-md-world-war-ii-pilot-saga-20170304-story.html

Georg Marschnig. (2022). Sometimes it is enough to look back to see the Future clearly.

Petrone, R., Mirra, N., Goodman, S., & Garcia, A. (2021). Youth Civic Participation and Activism (Youth Participatory Action Research). In J. Z. Pandya, R. A. Mora, J. H. Alford, N. A. Golden, & R. S. de Roock, The Handbook of Critical Literacies (1st ed., pp. 50–60). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003023425-6

Researcher’s Journal – Learning is Hard

I am writing this for me, but you can read this if you want.

Whoever said that failure is good, that’s how students learn. Have you tried it? It is good learning, but it is really hard.

So, I want to read this post in January when my comprehensive exams are over. I did a mock version of my research question and I failed miserably. I think there is probably a comment on every paragraph I wrote. And I appreciate every comment. Two very busy academics took the time to go over every word I wrote, the fact that I came up short is good, it gives me something to work on.

It is hard after a long and pretty successful career to start over. It is like learning Spanish in downtown Consuelo (in the DR) you feel a little like a baby, each step is tentative, and everything is risky.

taking baby steps again

I certainly didn’t have to do this, but I have to take the long view right now. The courses were the easy part, the comprehensives are really serious and no one is going to give you a break here. I have six months to get ready for the comprehensives. My original research question was too much, it was a bit like flying in the face of a hurricane. I winced, so I need to move on.

My old question is gone, I don’t think I even understood what I was asking. I am going back to something I have experienced – how does one assess and use digital resources as a credible learning tool when there are no rules? Textbooks were easy, they were written by credible publishers and they have been approved by our provincial government.

starting with words and pictures

Web information is different – this is a totally unregulated field. Does anyone understand how dangerous this can be? What is a good source? Who is behind the site? What is available at 8:30 in the morning when you have a 90-minute class to teach?

I think I was focusing on themes that were not my own. If you are going to spend four years studying something, you better choose something that you care about deeply. My advisors gently moved me away from a theme that really didn’t resonate. Digital literacy and the curation of learning resources for teachers and students is something I am passionate about. While textbooks are still produced for schools, people (school boards) don’t want to invest as much in digital materials. The temptation is to use Google – Google is free, Google will tell you what you need to know.

When I worked on a committee that advised the school board on digital implementation this attitude was shared by many. When something is free and it looks good it is very hard to convince people to invest in content and staff training to effectively use this content. This was shocking to me, but it makes sense. Digital curation is really hard and it costs money. School boards still focus on expensive textbooks. The idea that you should pay for digital content is still a bit of a reach.

So here is my new question:

Digital literacies and the teaching of history – the development of critical thinking skills to assess and curate learning material for the classroom.

This is my old question, not answering this well has taught me a great deal:

Drawing on existing history education scholarship, how have different writers sought to critically address the teaching of history education in Canada? In your response draw on the scholarly literature to show 1) the role of historical thinking concepts in Canada; 2) the tensions that currently exist; and 3) how these relate to settler colonial narratives about Canada’s past.

Thanks very much to my course prof and my academic advisor for taking the considerable time to go over my work. I am sure this was not easy to do and it took lots of time. Yes, in the trial run I didn’t do very well, but I will keep and read again every comment that they have written. Failure is tough, failure is liberating and it can be a wonderful teacher.

This where I start again. I am getting really good
material on comprehensive exams and new resources!

My Academic Life (continues)

At the beginning of this year, I started work on my first assignment for the second semester. We were asked to develop a schedule for our academic work over the next few years – what would the day-to-day look like?

I wrote this assignment as a blog post and here it is.

Eleven days after I wrote this post, my mother died. We were then under the ludicrous convoy occupation and soon after that in an act reminiscent of the Second World War, Russia invaded Ukraine.

My schedule looks a little silly now.

Being in school; being a principal had some semblance of order. This calls for a different sort of calendar.

I do try to write in the morning. It sounds like a lovely idea, but that always doesn’t work out. I am writing this now at the end of a long day and a long week of writing and researching every day. Learn something new – work when you can, be more flexible, schedules crumble. (but, I am writing the final version this morning – much better)

I have done it. Three very demanding courses along with lots of thinking about what I will be writing about and researching for the next three years. The elements of the new plan reside in the questions I have been writing about for the past two weeks:

Some fragments

Choose a qualitative methodology – OK Critical Participatory Action Research (PAR). This was a true revelation for me. In PAR the actions and research are situationed in the real world. The product does not necessarily return to the academy, instead it is left in the hands of the participants. This type of work shows the ultimate respect for the subject and breaks down the barriers that usually exist in qualitative research. This reseach has true meaning and that is an inspiration. PAR is framed in social justice and focuses on revealing truth – truth with a plan – to the people who are part of the project. This kind of work offers so many incredible opportunities!

(Source: P. McGuire 2011. What an adventure it would be to return to San Jose Las Flores to take part in a PAR project with these teachers!)

how have different writers sought to critically address the teaching of history education in Canada? – Here is a question that will stay with me. I wonder what people in our country think about their history? While it seems to be different in Quebec, most Canadian students have to take only one course in Canadian history while in high school. I have taught this course and have seen it taught many times. Most students see it as something they have to get through. Most probably come out of the course with a rudimentary understanding of their country’s history (Gibson & Peck 2020). In most cases, the teaching of history remains unchanged and relies on old, tired, and outmoded methodoligies. Barton and Levstik write:

One of us, in fact, has a daughter currently enrolled in eighth grade U.S. history, and she analyzes exactly as many primary sources, reads exactly as many works of historical literature, takes part in exactly as many inquiry projects and simulations, and considers exactly as many alternative historical perspectives as her father did nearly 30 years ago: zero. We wish this were an isolated example, but we know that it isn’t. (Barton & Levstik, 2004, p. 3)

how do tensions in this work these lead to a disruption of settler-colonial narratives about Canada’s past? The tensions are so interesting. Historical Thinking Concepts remain the accepted methodology, but there are questions – how many teachers actually use this in their classrooms? As a more scientific approach to the study of history – what qualitative features of our narrative are sidelined? We live in a society informed by the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we are also more and more a diverse, multicultural society, especially in our urban centers – how can one methodology address all of these challenges?

This is a very rich experience. There are so many interesting questions I want to work on, and I just love the experience of exercising my mind and working on my writing. I have one course to go and then I get to start preparing for my comprehensives. I want to get this done by the fall.

So, next – a little reading for the next few weeks:

New Possibilities for the Past: Shaping History Education in Canada – Penny Clark (Ed.)

Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts – Sam Wineburg

We Want to do More Than Survive – Bettina Love

History Education and the Construction of National Identities Carretero, Asensio, Rodriguez-Moneo (Eds.)

Beyond History for Historical Consciousness – Levesque and Croteau

Colonialism/Postcolonialism – Ania Loomba

Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan

This list comes from my profs and the research I have been doing. They are the foundation of the next step and I will be working through all this until the summer.

Next – I really need to figure out how to organize all this information. Some people are using Zotero, others NVivo some Dedoose. People speak with such authority about these programs, but I really need to do my own research and figure something that will work for me. In case I haven’t listed enough tools here are nine more.

What’s next?

I have to sort through the tangle of ideas to come up with questions for my comp question. Am I any closer to figuring this out?

And, finally another thing I have learned, it would be good to do this:

Song of the Day

References to texts mentioned

Barton, & Levstik, L. S. (2004). Teaching history for the common good. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781410610508

Clark. C.,(2011). New possibilities for the past shaping history education in Canada. UBC Press.

Gibson L., Peck C.L. (2020) More than a Methods Course: Teaching Preservice Teachers to Think Historically. In: Berg C., Christou T. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of History and Social Studies Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi-org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/10.1007/978-3-030-37210-1_10

Lévesque S., & Croteau J.P., (2020). Beyond history for historical consciousness : students, narrative, and memory. University of Toronto Press.

Loomba, A., (2015). Colonialism/postcolonialism (Third edition.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315751245

Love, B., (2019). We want to do more than survive : abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Beacon Press.

MacMillan, M., (2010). Dangerous games : the uses and abuses of history (Modern Library paperback ed.). Modern Library.

Wineburg, S., (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts : charting the future of teaching the past. Temple University.

Researcher’s Journal – Coming up with a question

This is my third journal entry. I think I am getting close to a question, so it makes sense to keep a record of this here. I am not sure what happens next, but this is my thinking and the resources I have collected so far.

A start.

Developing a National Identity through the teaching of history

What is history education for?

What are the elements of the master national narrative taught by Ontario teachers through the Grade 10 Canadian History curriculum? 

Who remains invisible in this narrative? (ethnic, transnational, diasporic, and Indigenous—)

How do Ontario teachers develop students’ national identities through the teaching of Grade 10 Canadian History?

What role does the teaching of Historical Thinking Concepts play in deconstructing these national narratives?

How do teacher candidates perceive their role in teaching the only required Canadian History course in Ontario high schools?

How is this master national narrative disrupted by some teachers?

Given that scholars agree that state-sponsored history classrooms are complicit in perpetuating the master national narrative templates, how is history education in Canada responding? (Anderson p.5)


The Stories Nations Tell: Sites of Pedagogy, Historical Consciousness, and National Narratives Stephanie Anderson

Introduction

What is the purpose of teaching history? What is our intention when we teach national narratives to students in our schools? Is it possible to explore our motivation when we develop a standard curriculum for the teaching of Canadian history? Barton and Levstik (2004) write that one of the considerations we must make when choosing what historical topics to teach is how this selection promotes the enhancement of the common good. One could ask – whose common good? Is there a common good or as Kendi (2019) writes there is no real mainstream world or school system. There are instead multiple real worlds and perspectives that need to be respected.

What are the stories that we tell? What goes missing? How has this statue changed over the years?

When it comes to teaching Grade 10 Canadian history – the only history course Ontario high schools students are required to take – how do we do this in a society that is made up of multiple world views? How do we engage students in such a way that the telling of the national narrative does this in a way that encompasses the multiple perspectives that make up our pluralistic society?

This is what I want to explore – What are the elements of the national narrative taught by Ontario teachers through the Grade 10 Canadian History curriculum? Who remains invisible in this narrative? How do Ontario teachers develop students’ national identities through the teaching of Grade 10 Canadian History? In this paper, I plan to do this by surveying the research on the teaching of national narratives to students. There are a variety of approaches to dealing with this challenge and various calls to change the way we teach a course that plays such an important role in developing students’ evolving sense of nationhood. In my conclusion, I will point out some practices that offer the most hope for ensuring that the telling of our national narrative(s) respects the diversity and multiple world views of our students.

Reading Themes and bibliography

These are the articles I can use for my bibliography. I will read all of this and much more. The section on teaching national narratives will grow, this is the latest category I have added. Each category is linked to a google doc. For this piece, the links are unactivated. If you have any ideas for resources please let me know!

Historic Agency and Consciousness

This is a complex subject that I don’t really understand, but I do have some good resources

10 articles

Methodology

15 articles

Teaching National Narratives

Depending where you are, who you are we tell different stories

8 articles

Teaching Historical Thinking

I don’t think teaching historical thinking skills is enough anymore

10 articles

History teaching methodology – teachers and teacher candidates

17 articles

Students’ ideas about history

To this category, I should add teacher candidates’ ideas about history – this would be interesting!

5 articles

Continuity and Change

1 article

Alternatives to historical thinking concepts

2 articles

Understanding the ethical dimension of historical interpretation

1 article

Cause and Consequence

2 articles

I think you can tell just by my collection of articles what areas interest me

Kent Monkman is a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry who works with a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. He has had solo exhibitions in numerous Canadian museums have including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. 

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Researcher’s Journal – Looking for a question

It is time to get back to my researcher’s journal. The semester has been so busy with assignment work that there has been little time to think about anything else. Now after a great session with one of my profs – Dr. Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, I have some great material to work with!

First – I need a question. This is certainly a challenge, you would think this would be easy, but for my comps exam, I will need three questions and I write on two of these. The point here is to choose something that your committee will agree with and it is also important to come up with questions you can actually answer.

Where am I now?

So, I am starting with this – What would a poststructural or critical theory approach to examining grade 10 history teachers’ classroom practices look like?

This is probably the most challenging question that I am going to come up with. There needs to be something on epistemology or methodology so this is a theme to explore. But it is also grounded in reality – I am most interested in cataloguing how teachers are teaching the only mandatory history course in Ontario high schools. How is our national story being told in the classrooms of this province?

Two authors to look at – Petra Munro and Ania Loomba.

Thanks to VoicEd Radio and Dr. Ng-A-Fook there is an interview with Petra Munroe. This might help me with this first question.

Dr. Munro Hendry draws on curriculum studies, history, and philosophy to share her wisdom on the practice of history in relation to the COVID-19 Pandemic, curriculum history, and a history of education from a transatlantic perspective.

Nicholas Ng-A-Fook Twitter August 9, 2021
Fooknconversation Episode 29 on VoicEd Radio – this is where I will start

So far, I have a collection of reading themes where all the articles I have found so far have been organized – this is what it looks like now:

Historic Agency and Consciousness

(7 articles)

Lévesque, S., & Croteau, J.-P. (2020). Beyond history for historical consciousness: students, narrative, and memory. University of Toronto Press.

Teaching Historical Thinking

(9 articles)

Allender, Clark, A., & Parkes, R. J. (2020). Historical thinking for history teachers : a new approach to engaging students and developing historical consciousness. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

History teaching methodology – teachers and teacher candidates

(17 articles)

Use these 10 tips to make your lessons engaging and relevant to your students.

Students’ ideas about history

(5 articles)

Continuity and Change

(1 article)

from the Historical Thinking Project

Alternatives to historical thinking concepts

(2 articles)

Understanding the ethical dimension of historical interpretation

(1 article)

Cause and Consequence

(2 articles)

Cause & Consequence – from Historical Thinking Projects ppt.

Methodology

(1 article)

There is a bit of a pattern here. The methodology of teaching history and more specifically, the teaching of historical thinking concepts are the two themes that are of the greatest interest right now.

Posters are still available on the historical history concepts – you can order them here.

My next step will be to look for more articles from Canadian researchers like Heather McGregor, Lindsay Gibson, Carla Peck, Stéphane Levesque and Dwayne Donald.

What I need to work towards is a comprehensive knowledge of a particular topic. The topic revolves around the teaching of history in Ontario schools and the impact (if any) of historical thinking concepts. The question will be something like this – What are current history teaching methodologies used by history teachers and taught to teacher candidates? How are historical thinking concepts beginning to enter the school system?

This is probably still too unwieldy, but this is what I have right now. The next step – spend the next two weeks adding to the articles I have found and honing my question!

In all this I need to remember to keep this practical, make this something that is useful to teachers. For me this is essential. If I am eventually going to create something of value, it has to be situated in the classroom, it has to be grounded in reality.

Year One of Graduate Studies – Finding My Way

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

In the first year of a doctoral program, one of the most important things to learn is who your supervisor(s) are. I am very fortunate to have two people working with me – Dr. Marie-Hélène Brunet and Dr. Cynthia Wallace-Casey. Marie-Hélène was suggested to me by Dr. Lindsay Gibson, a professor at UBC. I had messaged Lindsay to get some ideas about starting a Ph.D. I don’t know Dr. Gibson all that well, but I have read some of his work and I take part in the Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future project where he is on the executive committee. He suggested I contact Marie-Hélène and ask her to be my supervisor. Here, I have to stop to note what an incredible academic community I am now a small part of. I had only spoken to Marie-Hélène over Zoom, but she agreed to be my supervisor and carefully coached me on my letter of intent for the University of Ottawa. Pretty wonderful.

Incredible what one conversation on Twitter started!

I love this graphic from the Historical Thinking Project!

This year, Marie-Hélène introduced me to Cynthia Wallace-Casey, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa; she is now supervising me with Marie-Hélène. Dr. Brunet started out as a high school and CEGEP teacher in Montreal and after four years went back to school to get her Master’s and Ph.D. She has been an Assistant Professor of social studies and history education at the Faculty of Education since 2018 and her current work focuses on understanding the historical consciousness of teachers and students. Her work enriches the literature on Historical Thinking Concepts (2014); she is currently a co-investigator on the Thinking Historically project (2020).

Dr. Wallace Casey

Dr. Wallace-Casey has worked in the field of public history and heritage in New Brunswick for the past twenty years. For her Masters, she studied the contributions made by women weavers in 19th century New Brunswick and how they contributed to the economy of Queen’s County (2011). Cynthia also has an incredible blog – Cynthia’s Heritage Education Blog – A View from the Picture Province… (2022) started in 2009 and updated on a regular basis. Her latest post includes a webinar (2021) outlining ways to bridge the gap between educators and museums to facilitate student learning.

Dr. Marie-Hélène Brunet

Both of my supervisors have a keen interest in Historical Thinking Concepts, as do I. This is a methodology for teaching history that focuses on key concepts like cause and consequence, historical significance, ethics and the development of a historical perspective (Seixas et. al., 2013). They both write about this methodology and I am looking forward to working with them; there is a great deal I can learn. Dr. Wallace-Casey writes about the development of the Canadian History Hall in Constructing Patriotism: How Canada’s History Hall has evolved over 50 years (2018). She has also written about how students can develop historic consciousness through work with adult volunteers at community museums (2017). Dr. Wallace-Casey has followed up on this inquiry with a recent piece that investigates student learning at the Museum of History and their development of ‘Big Ideas’ in Canadian history (2019).

Tracing the story of the History Museum is reveals the evolution of our historical consciousness

Dr. Brunet writes about historical consciousness and students’ and teachers’ sense of agency. In a collaborative piece with high school teacher Scott Pollock, they analyze the historical understanding of feminism held by different groups of female high school students. The surprising results of their research led them to examine why girls were hostile to feminist ideas. Their inquiry examines the students’ sense of historic consciousness and their personal theories of agency (p. 12). They conclude that in the mind of the students, the past has no connection to the present. While past struggles for the vote and legal recognition by women were understood by the students, these struggles have no present-day meaning. 

Both of my supervisors see this concept as the key to understanding how people understand history. Both also reference Jörn Rüsen who writes about historical consciousness:

The basic category for understanding historical learning is that of historical consciousness. Its widespread definition sounds as follows: a mental activity of interpreting the past for the sake of understanding the present and expecting the future. Thus it combines past, present and future along the line of an idea of what temporal change is about. (p. 523) 

Forming Historical Consciousness – Towards a Humanistic History Didactics. Antíteses. 5(10), 519–536.

After conducting separate studies, Brunet and Scott concluded that most of the students were operating at a level of historical consciousness that views history as a steady progression towards the good. The past battles for justice, are now over; there is no need for a feminist movement  (p. 18). This in turn leads to a false sense of agency where the individual believes the past has no impact on the rights and privileges they currently enjoy. 

The works of Drs. Wallace-Casey and Brunet are linked by the concept of historical consciousness. In Dr. Wallace-Casey’s research, she recounts a narrative describing the development of an inclusive Canadian consciousness through the slow evolution of the Canadian History Hall. In this piece, it is important to remember that the weaving of Canadian Indigenous stories into the main narrative only happened in 2017 (2018). 

Historical consciousness – a mental activity of interpreting the past for the sake of understanding the present and expecting the future

Both Drs. Wallace-Casey and Brunet agree that a sense of the past is something that must be developed over time. Both use the same categories of historical consciousness to situate the students and teachers with whom they work. Dr. Wallace-Casey sees a strong role for local museums in helping students to develop personal relevancy to the past – something that was lacking in the high school students in Dr. Brunet’s study.

Dr. Brunet also examines ways to develop a greater sense of historical consciousness through teacher-candidate workshops that examine how traditional male-dominated narratives are still told in our current textbooks (Brunet & Demers, 2018). By analyzing the stories that are missing from our current historical narrative. Dr. Brunet attempts to deconstruct the traditional narratives still held by new teachers. In doing so, there is a chance that these educators will be able to develop new narratives in their classrooms. In this sense, both of my supervisors are examining how we perceive our stories and what can be done to develop a more inclusive look at the past.

Author’s Note: This video explains a lot about Dr. Brunet’s work

a great interview with Dr. Samantha Cutrara and Dr. Brunet – all about agency, teaching history in meaningful ways and the progress narrative. Part of the series Pandemic Pedagogies: Imagining a New We

Referenceswhat I read to put this together. Yet another challenge, figuring our APA!

Brunet, M., Demers, S., (2018). Deconstructing the history textbook to (re)construct more accurate knowledge: account of practice in initial and continuing teacher training. Erudit. 31(1), 123-140 https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/rf/2018-v31-n1-rf03912/1050657ar/

Cutrara, S. (May 20, 2020) In conversation with Dr. Marie-Hélène Brunet {Pandemic Pedagogy convo 21} Imagining a New ‘We’. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJVgrBH3g9s

Cynthia’s Heritage Education Blog – A View from the Picture Province (2022) http://nbheritage.blogspot.com/

Pollock, S., Brune, M., (2018). “When it became equal”: How Historical Consciousness and Theories of Agency Can Explain Female Students’ Conceptions of Feminism. 

Canadian Social Studies, (50,1), 11-24.

(Rüsen. P., 2012). Forming Historical Consciousness – Towards a Humanistic History Didactics. Antíteses. 5(10), 519–536. https://doi.org/10.5433/1984-3356.2012v5n10p519

Seixas, P., Morton, T., Colyer, J., & Fornazzari, S. (2013). The Big Six: Historical Thinking Concepts Toronto: Nelson Education.

The Historical Thinking Project (2014) https://historicalthinking.ca/about-historical-thinking-project

The History Education Network (2011)

http://thenhier.ca/en/content/cynthia-wallace-casey.html

Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future. (2020) https://thinking-historically.ca/

Wallace-Casey, C.  (2017). I like to take everything and put it in my own words: Historical Consciousness, Historical Thinking, and Learning with Community History Museums. Canadian Journal of Education, 40(1), 1–28.

Wallace-Casey, C. (2018). Constructing Patriotism: How Canada’s History Hall has evolved over 50 years. History Education Research Journal. 15(2), 292–307. https://doi.org/10.18546/HERJ.15.2.10

Wallace-Casey, C. (January 20, 2021). Museum Collections and N.B. Social Studies: Bridging the Two. Association Heritage New Brunswick

https://amnb.adobeconnect.com/p2x51jb1n1g1/

Wallace-Casey, C. (2019). ‘I want to Remember’: Student Narratives and Canada’s History Hall, Yearbook of the International Society of History Didactics. (40), 181-199. https://jhec.wochenschau-verlag.de/back-issues/#40

My Researcher’s Journal – an introduction

This is a different type of post, it may go on for years.

One thing I have been charged to do is to write every day. One of the writing challenges is to start a researcher’s journal. Everything in a Ph.D. program focuses on the end goal, the completion of a dissertation. There are many layers to this process, I am unpeeling one of them here.

I am very grateful for the writing prompts I have been getting over the past two weeks. My writing had dried up and while I love to write, I really did not see much to write about. Now I have a focus and I need to reserve time every day for writing.

I have two supervisors which is wonderful. I met with both of them last week to start work on this journey. Very slowly I think, I will develop some ideas on what I should focus on in my research.

What do I know so far?

I got into all of this because of historical thinking concepts. I love the idea that as teachers our first task is to help our students to think.

While much has been written over the past 20 years, some areas like the ethical dimension have received less attention. This gives me a clue on where I can start.

One of my advisors told me to read everything by Peter Seixas, the preeminent writer on historical thinking concepts in Canada. So, I need to go back and follow the train of his writing for the past 20 years. I can’t see how I am going to truly understand the philosophy and epistemology behind historical thinking without this deep dive.

Peter Seixas

As I learn new things and read more articles, I will have to find a system for keeping a record of all this. Over the summer I used this chart along with summary notes to start documenting the articles I am reading. The chart is a good way to clarify my thinking so I will start using this again with some modifications.

content or topic with matching
photo article on gallery walk – pedagogy,
methodology, epistemology
text – big ideas/concepts
  ← relates to my thesis?
← applications for own teaching/inspirations
I have added epistemology and Methodology to the chart, also changed other resources to relates to my thesis
I have to look at articles critically – what is the epistemology, the methodology? the method?

The chart will continue to change and eventually there will be hundreds of articles, but putting down something here helps me to commit.

Apart from historical thinking, I am really interested in how we choose the stories we are going to tell our students and how this changes over time. This week, I am going to work on Reverberating Echoes: Challenging Teacher Candidates to Tell and Learn From Entwined Narrations of Canadian History (2011)
by Kent Den Heyer and Laurence Abbott. Narrative is something I am really interested in, so this is another clue.

I am learning about qualitative research, and this is something I want to understand better. There is more of a story-telling approach in qualitative research and this immediately appeals to me. I am also learning about oral history which is fascinating.

Can I combine oral history with qualitative research?

I also have to work on my academic writing and how to do citations and references properly. The only way to do this is to keep writing and listen carefully to all the advice I get.

These are early days, so my journal is a collection of random ideas. I have decided to put this out on my regular blog so that I can keep this process visible. I also hope that along the way I will get some sage advice that might help.

This is the introduction, the next post will be a chapter 1.

My Academic Life (so far)

When I put things down on paper or in a blog I make a public commitment. Right now I am working on developing an academic schedule that will take me through the next four years. Yes, this is an assignment for one of my courses, but this is really a letter to myself. I understand the importance of committing to a plan. When I was working as a  principal I would plan ahead all the time, even though the job by its very nature, was unpredictable. Despite the chaos in running an elementary school, every week I would write weekly plans in a school blog to parents so that they would know what was intended to go on at the school. On some Sunday afternoons, this writing would take hours. I never resented the time. This was an opportunity to reflect on what had happened the week before and plan for upcoming events.

My last school blog post – December 2016

I never worried that the school schedule did not follow what was set down on Sunday. Writing was a  way for me to take a longer view and celebrate what was going on with our parent community. This also made the learning more visible for the community.

Six years later I find myself planning again: this time for a Ph.D. which will consume my time for the next four years.  The first year in a Ph.D. program is probably the most straightforward. I am in the process of taking six courses – two last semester, three right now and one in the spring. After this I will be starting work on my comprehensives. This begins with the development of my bibliography and continues on following the schedule below:

StepsExpected completion
Courses completed Spring, 2022
Committee Member List 
Comprehensive Exam: Bibliography
Written component
Oral presentation
1) October
2) spring
3) fall 2022 
Thesis proposal  winter 2023
Ethics approval spring 2023
Recruitment and data collection summer – fall 2023
Thesis winter 2024
Defense December 2025
my first draft at a long-term schedule

To get to 2025, I need a detailed schedule. I am sure this will evolve as I learn more about the Ph.D. process. However, on this cold January afternoon in 2022, there is comfort in editing a draft schedule that sets a future path and supposes order to a very busy four years.

The challenge will not only be managing a busy writing and reading schedule, it will be finding ways to balance this work with many other interests. The foundation of the week will remain exercise. If I have learned anything through the Pandemic it is the importance of keeping body, mind and spirit healthy. The activity can change from the Peloton to hiking to biking, but this is where I have to start, I simply can’t afford to let this go no matter how busy things get.

one thing we did regularly during Covid was to take walks and photos

At the heart of all this will be the thesis and defense. These are the end goals and I have to keep these in mind all of the time. Over the past summer I started to collect articles and write summaries of what I was reading. This has fallen off with the amount of work I have been doing, but now I need to get back to the process of preparing for my end goal. To do this, I will reserve one morning a week – Wednesday for reading and summarizing articles that I can start using for my comprehensives and beyond. It is a challenge to block out time for a goal that is so far away, but by the fall I plan to produce a bibliography of 20-30 pages that will prepare me for my comprehensives.

Every article – one-page images – can be single entry or represent a folder with hyperlink; text in different fonts – synthesized big ideas; icon for connections – your own and/or other articles or sources; photo scan – original written notes; ideas – applications for your own teaching.


content or topic with matching photo article on gallery walk – pedagogy
  




 text – big ideas/concepts


                   ← other resources







applications for own teaching/inspirations
the summary chart I started using last summer – designed by Heather Swail

The summary chart above was really helpful last summer and I plan to start using it again this Wednesday. I have known for a long time that I write best in the morning, especially after an exercise session, so I am going to reserve time every day for writing – summary notes, assignments, reflections, and revising.  I plan to put in two hours in the mornings each day to get something down. This semester, my goal is to improve my academic writing. Last semester I learned that while I write well, I am a little careless with my grammar and I need to brush up on my APA and academic style.

This leaves afternoons free for reading –  a highly necessary Ph.D. activity. Right now, I am working through Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life by bell hooks (hooks, 1997). She writes that when researching her first book hooks would read up to three books a day, sometimes getting only one line she could use for her own writing (p. 102-103). That will not be me. I am a slow reader; sometimes I need most of the day to absorb one article. I will read every day, otherwise, I will never keep up.

bell hooks (Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

It is one thing to write a schedule, it is another to live it. I will need to weave in the work I continue to do at the university and for Discovery Education. I won’t give up my work with Discovery, I love working with them. The assignments are always different and interesting. Whether I am writing or editing for one of their digital science books, there is a great sense of accomplishment in getting this work done. Without doubt, they are the most positive and affirming people I know, so why would I leave that behind? It is hard to add this work to my growing schedule as I never know when another contract will come up. When it does, I can easily put in 15 hours a week working on their material. Because there is always a deadline, I will have to estimate and portion out my hours throughout the week.

Right now I have one meeting a month with the graduate student committee for Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future. I am definitely the junior member of this group, but I am starting to meet some great people, so I need to find ways to become more involved.

I also want to keep up my teaching at the University of Ottawa. Right now the responsibilities are light: we work as faculty advisors to second-year teacher candidates, but we haven’t been able to visit their schools since the beginning of the Pandemic. Next year I hope to get either another section of this course or even better, a section of the history methodology course that I taught three years ago. I am certain that this experience led me to this PhD journey. I can’t really schedule this time yet, but when the fall comes I will have to restructure my days. For now, I will reserve one morning a week to work on our current course.

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
exercisexxxreading for
comps
xxx
writingAMAMAMAM
readingPMPMPMPM
DEwhen
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
University
work
AM
classes5:30 – 8:30pm11:30 – 2:30 pm
free
time
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm – 6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –
My schedule – first draft

There will be adjustments to this schedule over time, but the daily reading and writing will remain the foundation of my schedule. I am leaving some events out like meeting with my supervisors and committee work, but as these become more frequent I will have to find space.

My schedule is seven days. Since my days as a principal, a seven-day schedule made more sense. There is less pressure and at times when there is no Discovery work I can get ahead on my assignments. I really hope to keep my nights free – there needs to be time for fun, just as bell hooks said (p. 122).

What is missing right now is something I love to do. If I mention it here I know I will get back to it – our regular radio shows – Old Fellas New Music. Bob Kennedy, a very long-time friend and I started doing this show in the spring. Work took over and we gave the show a bit of a rest. We got two episodes done over the holiday break and we hope to get another one in next week. This is a great creative outlet and I am determined to work this in, let’s say Wednesday afternoons for now.

You can find our shows on Mixcloud – https://www.mixcloud.com/paul-mcguire3/

What is also missing are some of the activities that were so important to us before Covid. In 2017 Heather and I developed a fundraising campaign for Christie Lake Kids, an Ottawa foundation that provides recreation programming for children throughout the year. Our campaign – Climb for Kids has raised over $100,000 over a three-year period. We raised this money by carrying out group climbing trips in Peru and the Alps. Our next trip was to be Mt. Kilimanjaro, but this has been on hold because of the Pandemic. Our whole family has been involved in this venture and all of our children have worked for Christie Lake Kids. The family is not on the schedule, but in all things, family comes first.

Our first Climb for Kids trip – The Ausangate Region of Peru

If I write it down, I will do it. If I publish this, I have to do it! Thanks professor for giving me the push to get all this down. I am writing again and it feels great!

References

hooks, b. (1997). Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life. Holt.