In this seminar I will suggest how history teachers can be encouraged to make use of ICT in their lessons. The fundamental approach is not backed up by the notion"because they have to", but rather the infinitely preferable "because of the benefits". I do not believe there is a single history teacher in the country who is not excited by a new method or approach to teach an issue or topic. If we always consider the implications of history first, and ICT second, the beneficial use of ICT becomes much clearer. Ask not what history can do for ICT, ask what ICT can do for history!
History teachers should only make use of ICT when they can identify clear benefits. There is no point at all using ICT just for the sake of it. For an ICT competent teacher, it is very easy to get students in the ICT suite, but what is actually done there is key. Good practice will stimulate interest and a keenness to get involved. Those history teachers who are keen to use ICT can encourage others through good practice. From personal experience I have found that successful ICT-based work I have tried with students has been talked about by other students themselves, who in turn enquire why they didn't get the opportunity. Very soon, they all were getting the opportunity. Thus good practice stimulates interest and in turn encourages teachers to use ICT.
The major issue for many teachers is confidence in using ICT. Having battled to gain control of 9XY on a Friday afternoon, it is going to take something with huge benefits to encourage the teacher to uproot from the relative comfort of their own classroom and take a risk in the ICT suite. Added to this if a school network is unreliable or computer support unavailable, the majority of teachers will quite obviously feel it isn't worth the risk.
So, what can be done to encourage teachers to use ICT? Small steps are the key. If teachers are not confident to use ICT, hold a department meeting in an ICT suite and lead them through an example lesson. Help illustrate how effective ICT can actually be incredibly easy to teach and hold significant teaching and learning benefits. The use of basic ICT applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access is the best way in. There are many such examples from the sites connected with this forum, or indeed the burgeoning number of history publications and high-quality courses. Using a blank or pre-prepared frame in one of the generic ICT applications can provide students with an excellent lesson. It is a simple use of ICT, but can lead to higher level history work. As Ben Walsh now famously wrote in 19884, Word isn't a typewriter, "it is an awesome tool for handling information".
There is a large bank of ICT-based history lessons produced by teachers. The sites connected with this forum, and the Association of Teachers' Websites have many pre-prepared lessons that have been tried and used in the classroom. There is an awesome number of online resources, many of which I have tried to link to in the topic sections of my SchoolHistory.co.uk site. It has been referred to before, but the teachers' guide available from the Public Record Office's Learning Curve website offers excellent, extensive and practical guidance.
An immense amount of work has been done to help teachers make effective use of ICT within history - and naturally this work is continually developing. Criticially assess the ICT-based history lessons you come across. Do they help you achieve your historical aims and objectives? Can you identify how they will benefit your students? If so, use them - if not, post on this forum or feedback to the site owners so the activities can be appropriately developed.
So, in short, the way to encourage history teachers to start using ICT is to lead with good practice. Make sure that any ICT-based lesson is history using ICT rather than the other way round. Very often low-level ICT tasks encourage high-level history. Make sure the historical objectives of the ICT use are clear, and highlight how ICT helped achieve these objectives. Simple ICT, effective history would be the key thing that can encourage history teachers to use ICT. They don’t have to be involved with complicated programming, they simply need to know and see the benefits of using ICT.
As this seminar progresses I would like us to explore some of the best ways we have done this so far. Is there an activity that you have found that has stimulated members of your department to get involved? If you haven't found such an activity, you will have by the end of this seminar. I have a few additional ideas to suggest, but would like to stimulate discussion on the issue.
1 Cox M., Preston C. and Cox K. (1999) 'What factors support or prevent teachers from using ICT in their classrooms?' Paper presented at the BERA Conference, University of Sussex, September.
2 Haydn T., Computers in History - Rhetoric, reality and the lesson of the past chapter in Haydn T., Counsell C., (2002) History, ICT and Learning in the Secondary School, London, RoutledgeFalmer.
3 DfEE (1997) Connecting the Learning Society, London, DfEE.
4 Walsh, B (1988) 'Why Gerry likes history now: the power of the word processor', Teaching History, 93: 6-15.
Edited by Andrew Field, 21 May 2003 - 08:38 AM.