Effective use of ICT in history 
Posted 02 February 2005 - 01:08 AM
I, as with the original launch of my SchoolHistory.co.uk, refuse to accept wishy-washy ‘what amazing potential this has’ statements. As this seminar progresses I wish to identify real ideas that work in the average history classroom. Not all of us have access to an interactive whiteboard or projector, few of us are lucky enough to guarantee themselves access to an ICT suite or even a single computer.
One way of ‘showing the potential’ is actually to stop it being potential – instead to make it standard practice. I feel like a bit of a cheat in everything else I have to say here. I’ve been saying the same things for ages. However, I do feel that they are important and should be heard!
It is without doubt that there have been many advances in the use of ICT in history. What is more in doubt is whether there have been many advances in the effective use of ICT in history. Teachers have developed websites, major companies have developed products and some have developed sub-standard products specifically for Curriculum Online certification.
Rather than get into debates about financing and costs, I’d like to explore what you have found to be effective uses of ICT within your history lessons. I do think there has to be one proviso though – and I’m happy to defend it. With our limited access to ICT, combined with our limited time in the timetable, your ideas and suggestions have to work in a maximum of two history lessons, preferably in just one. I believe this because an effective use of ICT will complement, develop and extend your existing teaching. An ICT-based lesson can fit perfectly into a scheme of work. An extended series of exciting ICT-based lessons sounds very appealing to many – but if we are honest there simply aren’t the resources in most schools.
Thus I’d like us to consider what you found to be effective uses of ICT in a history lesson. Any ideas and suggestions are welcome – and it is hoped that a high-level and realistic discussion about the benefits, really how effective using ICT has been will produce some very useful conclusions.
We must, of course, not be afraid of stating the obvious – if the use of ICT does not improve the history then there is absolutely no point. You don’t bother using colouring pens or rulers for the sake of it, so why use computers?
If the ICT element of the lesson takes over, then simply do not bother. There are many history teachers who can clearly see the benefits of ICT for the study of history. However I estimate that for every teacher like this, there are at least four who are running scared. Our job should not be to point and laugh as they disappear into the distance. Instead our goal has to be to show these teachers the benefits. We must welcome them into the risky, exciting, innovative and open-ended world that effective use of ICT in history offers. So – what do we have to offer?
As historians we love to encourage students to explore sources, to search and select what could possibly be of interest. We enthusiastically encourage students to investigate and organise their work. One of our main key concepts is utility – examining fitness for purpose, how useful a particular piece of evidence could be. Historians refine and present information ad nauseam – and are the world leaders in communicating and debating their findings. If a historian is asked to define their role, one could do much worse than suggest it is to “develop ideas and make things happen”. When we suggest and develop our proposals, we encourage debate and discussions – we test whether our historical ‘models’ or theories are appropriate or perhaps ‘operate satisfactorily’
At history teachers most basic level – our standard practice - we’ve just covered nearly every single one of the Key Stage 3 strategy requirements for ICT. These cover ‘finding things out’, ‘Developing ideas and making things happen’ and ‘exchanging and sharing information’. Now, whilst I am taking certain liberties to précis the ICT curriculum, as I've said before, historians teach the concepts of ICT without even trying to.
Everyone in a school in the UK must have access to an office suite. This consists of a wordprocessor, a database, a spreadsheet, presentation software and a desktop publishing package. Often the simplest ‘ICT uses’ of standard software provide some of the best ‘history-uses’ of ICT. Aside from one of the worst sentences I’ve ever constructed, this is actually quite logical.
In a wordprocessor the ability to manipulate text is ideal for history - incomplete sentences, information that needs to be arranged chronologically, or an empty table to cut and paste ideas, concepts or source analysis. Prioritising and categorising tasks provide practical tasks through simple dragging and dropping. Images can be labelled and vocabulary altered to develop or remove bias. Students can be given information to correct and improve and simple tools even allow creation of websites.
Spreadsheet work in Excel is not limited to mere basic numeracy tasks. There are clear opportunities for data handling exercises, encouraging students to produce graphs and analysis of historical data. However, text-based drag and drop exercises are just as easy and an incredibly effective use. With some thought, the graphing features could be used to present data such as the potential for war breaking out and the strength of claims to the throne.
Desktop Publishing (DTP) programs such as Publisher are ideal for use in history lessons. The added bonus of DTP programs is the ability for teachers to set up information around the page. Students can then use this to rapidly create their own work without the need to extended typing. Blank newspaper frames, surrounded by 'bitesize' chunks of text allow interactive writing frames. Just as with Word, the ability to manipulate content on screen is fundamental - both images and text can be analysed, sifted and examined in detail. Higher order history tasks can very easily be set up, encouraging students to edit and develop text but without letting ICT take over they key aims of your history lesson.
Many teachers are somewhat afraid of using databases, but with limited effort effective ICT-based history work can easily be set up. Using pre-prepared census data students can be encouraged the query the database to develop high level historical research and ICT skills. The ability to sort, categorise, manipulate and extrapolate data within a touch of a button allows complex tasks to be completed by students of all abilities. With more developed use, students could make use of a database to record and compare both numerical and text data such as claims to the throne and changing and developing statistical data to allow analysis over extended periods of time.
Presentation software can be used for extremely effective history lessons using ICT. Beyond simple slideshow presentations, PowerPoint is great for picture analysis with the ability to zoom in and easily add annotated notes. As with Word, pre-prepared materials could encourage students to develop an existing presentation to complete analysis, to correct historical and factual errors and to develop their own detailed source analysis work. The ability to easily manipulate the order of slides allows for accessible categorisation and sorting tasks. Similarly, students can easily produce their own spider diagrams or mind maps. PowerPoint as a learning tool is clearly very effective - especially when allowing students access to present their work to the rest of the class.
For me, the greatest success can now be seen in the integration of these ideas into the standard history curriculum. With the concept of ‘embedding ICT in history’ it is no longer a concept that should be seen in isolation. Yet just what are we embedding? What have you found to be most effective?
Posted 02 February 2005 - 08:10 AM
Now this is simplicity in the extreme, I know - but it worked! The sequence that the class agreed on was 1000 BC 750 BC 500 BC 1 BC 1000 AD 750 AD etc... both individually and as a group they had demonstrated that they didn't know it. Moving onto a page with Mathematical symbols and numbers (ie + and -) and the same sequence of numbers with + and - there and the class put the numbers in exactly the RIGHT place.
Pupils then wrote a series of statements about AD and BC on the whiteboard which have been saved, printed and put on display - the annotated file has also been exported to html and stored on the intranet for pupils to refer back to.
The whole thing took about 10 minutes. All of it was interactive - apart from the initial instrction and flicking to the second page with the - and + on it I did nothing. All of the pupil in the class used the whiteboard and the level of positive interaction between pupils as people moved the pieces around was excellent - acceptable shouting out etc.
Nothing particularly bg or clever about that. The same can be one using a projector - simply whack the dates into Word using Wordart and ask pupils to do it on the PC rather than the board. The interaction is still there and the outcomes should be the same.
As a follow up exercise I checked the pupils awareness of periods of time. For this one I used the main content areas from KS2. In very large font I entered the content areas on separate pages of the virtual whiteboard. The board I use has a thumbnail viewer that can be dragged to fill the whole page. When I had 9 periods of time I opened the thumbnail viewer and maximisied it. BY selecting a page in the thumbnail viewer you can drag it around to change the order of the pages. A quick shuffle of the pages before the class arrived and the exercise was simple - again pupil interactivity with the board, sequencing the periods of time. Once the periods were in the right order I went back to normal page view and used each title as the centrepiece of a spider diagram. Essentially a 'what do we know about?' exercise. Simple again but useful. many of the topics overlap with things that will be studied at KS3 and the ability to return to these files and build on them is essentially enabling us to build a massive timeline of world and British history over the course of the year and key stage.
Pupil response to these
- several have downloaded the html versions of the end results of these short activities and edited them out of class. Without being asked to they've taken the opportunity to explore things in more depth and have taken ownership of the activities.
- I also teach these groups E Learning and they've discussed the concept of AD and BC in their class forum. What was interesting was the number of pupils who have started to post links to sites that will expand the content of the period pages.
- one of the little dears has gone away and shown the Maths teacher the activity and told them off for getting it wrong! (Maths teach them about the year 0 etc...)
All simple but they worked! (NB: moving the time periods about can be done in slideshow sorter in powerpoint if there's no thumnbail viewer available).
Posted 02 February 2005 - 06:34 PM
One program that is vastly overlooked is Microsoft Excel. History teachers can get great use by using Excel as a simple database. Students can import statistical data such as from a census. You could just give students an excel document with names, employment information, number in household, age of house owners or household income.
You just use the 'Data' menu. Get students to select ‘Data’, ‘Filter’ and ‘Auto-filter’. This tool can great possibilities - I've used it for castles data, for Native Americans, for census data and for WWI soliders.
These are simple ICT tools, but fantastic for historical investigation and analysis. From the list of census data, students show the ‘top 10’ incomes or sort income in reverse order.
These simple tools allow students to manipulate data with a few touches of a button. The ‘Custom’ option allows students even more power to choose what is displayed. For ages they could select to show ages over 30 and under 40.
Go on - try it out!!
Posted 02 February 2005 - 10:12 PM
I must confess that I was disappointed by the majority of the results:
- too many of the students had simply lifted chunks straight from the various websites that they used
- those who had 'strayed' from the websites that I recommended often went completely off the track - one student ended up writing about Franz Ferdinand!
- There was little thought put into the presentation of the booklets - they are good at making it look colourful, but the layouts were cluttered and ( a personal bugbear) the text was not justified and hyphenated as it stretched across two lines. Some didn't even bother with any colour at all and wrote it in Word - v dull.
- some of the lower ability students found the webquest too daunting and in their words 'too long'! This was despite my attempts to really narrow the resources to a bare minimum with a differentiated page for those who wanted further research
However, there is a light at the end .. the best booklet was done by a dyslexic pupil who really thought carefully about what to include, kept the text to an appropriate amount and in accessible language, clearly presented the work and made good use of images. When I have worked out how to transfer it from the school network onto my flash drive I will put it on my website.
So, my overall thoughts about this series of lessons. Well, like everything I will not be put off because it didn't work first time, I shall continue to give the classes experience of webquests and I am confident that they shall get better at working with them. I also think that our pupils are now so much more ICT savvy that we can really focus on the historical content and allow that to engage and drive the pupils further in their ICT work. One other positive that I can take out of this is that the vast majority of the pupils genuinely were interested in the topic and learned a lot - probably, no certainly a lot more than they would have learned from a worksheet.
Posted 02 February 2005 - 10:33 PM
Links (to the question)
This was all part of teaching them how to write a good essay at AS (See the Seminar on Essay Writing Skills at AS).
It certainly helped especially since they could differentiate readily between good and bad examples.
Posted 02 February 2005 - 11:10 PM
With Carole's idea above - you don't just have to use font colours, you can also use the highlighting tools in Word.
Here is another quick one.
To get students to create their own websites about a topic all they need to do is load Microsoft Word, type and add their content and press 'File | Save as Web Page'.
Nothing more to it. Ideal if you provide a learning framework around this - such as getting students to create a webpage to summarise their views about a topic. For example students could create a website using the key question from their topic - "How effectively did Elizabeth I deal with the problems of her reign?"
Here you simply assess the work as you would any sort of summative essay or presentation, but it is just using ICT. The different medium changes students' outlook entirely. If they know it is going to appear on the internet they become far more reflective. You can even give them a chance to be assessed for an ICT level too - speak to the ICT department.
You get students into an ICT suite. Tell them - ".... this is how to make a webpage. Load word, add your content, then press File | Save as Web Page". Go on - try it!
Please share your ideas!
Posted 02 February 2005 - 11:38 PM
Hardly 'cutting edge' this example, but one of the most effective uses of ICT in a single lesson that I ever did was to present AS students with a number of different essays (on the network) answering the same question and get them to change the font (in 4 different ways)
I've just been on a course run by Malcolm Chandler where he suggests something similar. The pupils are given GCSE level marking schemes (student versions) and a range of answers on the network. They have to change (edit) the Level 1 answers to a Level 2, Level 2 to Level 3 etc. They do this by using the correct vocab/structure given in a previous lesson. They can be printed off and 'moderated' in class.
The above exercise is supposed to improve literacy and exam technique. I will try it in the next few weeks and report back.
Posted 03 February 2005 - 08:40 PM
My Year 9 class were studying Dunkirk. What I decided to do was experiment with the simple sound recorder in Windows. Nothing complicated - just the free Sound Recorder that is in every version of Windows.
I got my class to write their own contemporary BBC radio reports - they had to be in the style of what they thought radio reporting would have been like in early June 1940.
I used a standard PC microphone - a free one that I got when we purchased our last PC. I plugged this into the laptop and then passed the laptop around the class. Each group recorded their report into the laptop - simply by pressing 'record' on the sound player and then saving their file.
It was excellent! The students were then able to compare their versions with a real versions from 1940. We were able to explore the effectiveness of each of their versions - exploring what the government and public reaction have been to each one. This naturally progressed into discussions about the nature of censorship and propaganda.
Again, nothing marvellous, but a sneaky use of ICT to provide another means of exploring a topic. This has all sorts of potential and could be used for any topic at all.
Posted 04 February 2005 - 01:21 AM
The Amazon link below says the publication date was January 12, 2005. However, it also says it hasn't been published yet.
I suspect the actual date of publication is more likely to be January 12, 2006.
Discover how using ICT tools can turn even routine activities into more powerful learning experiences for all your pupils.
Each book in the series is packed with inspiring ICT projects, from simple activities using word processors to interactive whiteboards through to digital video and 3D animation. The text is illustrated with case studies of some of the most exciting and innovative uses of ICT at KS2-4. A CD-ROM comes with each title, containing all the resources you need to carry out the tasks and activities in the book.
An important new series to add extra spark to your teaching. Discover how using ICT tools can turn even routine activities into more powerful learning experiences for all your pupils. Each book in the series is packed with inspiring ICT projects, from simple activities using word processors and interactive whiteboards through to digital video and 3D animation. The text is illustrated with case studies of some of the most exciting and innovative uses of ICT at KS2-4. A CD-ROM comes with each title, containing all the resources you need to carry out the tasks and activities in the book. The topics covered in this title include: Dynamic data handling l; Exploring the value of the internet; Digital video in the history classroom; Evaluationg software and other ICT tools; Lots of useful websites
So, if is it 2006 - there's no excuse not to get your ideas in now. Come on - any other ideas....? Everything is welcome - please don't be shy!
Posted 04 February 2005 - 11:39 PM
We decided to write lessons ourselves and add them to the Passmores website so that our students can do the lessons on the laptops and then access them from home if they wish to. This also gets over any problems of putting things on the network as I am able to simply upload everything from home on to the departmental website. I have created the lessons using FrontPage, various parts of the Hot Potatoes software package and Word documents. The lessons are not rocket science in terms of ICT programming, but they have attracted the students' interest, and helped to develop both knowledge and skills in the classroom.
As with others we always start from the key idea that the ICT is the delivery tool and not the sole purpose of the lesson. Currently we have four online lessons realted to our Year 7 scheme of work. Each lesson has a main page which explains to students what they have to do and allows them the ability to be independent during the lesson wherever possible. Each lesson normally has a starter exercise that reviews prior learning and can be completed by the students wihtout teacher input. This is so that we can spend the usual ten minutes at the start sorting out logon problems and finding the two or three laptops that always seem to be out of action as soon as the students turn them on!
Who should be king of England in 1066?
Why did William win the Battle of Hastings?
Why was the Domesday Book produced?
Why could people in the 14th century not stop the spread of the Black Death?
What was done in the 14th century to improve Public Health in England?
As you will see if you look through the lessons, the complexity and level of the skills required becomes more advanced, and the model that we are aiming for is much more like the last threelessons than the first two.
What I find really interesting is the difference in ICT skills of students and how this influences their access to the learning in the History ICT classroom. What is good though is that the final essay / extended writing outcomes from students show real thought and allow us to get real outcomes for History teaching from the use of ICT.
Edited by Stephen Drew, 06 February 2005 - 02:29 AM.
Posted 05 February 2005 - 12:05 AM
1. Pupils copy down date, title & aims from board whilst theme tune playing ('Mission Impossible', 'The Great Escape' or similar...) 'On This Day In History' on interactive whiteboard to read for pupils who finish before music stops playing.
2. Overview of today's lesson on Powerpoint.
3. Q&A r.e. previous learning (sometimes through Schoolhistory games or through 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?')
4. Starter activity - usually something kinaesthetic and involves a challenge. E.g. 'whiteboard challenge' where each half of the classroom has 2 mins to cover their side of the whiteboard with key words about the topic. No key words can be repeated and teams get huge bonus points for everyone on their side making a contribution!
5. Main activity, divided into 3 sections (Large countdown timer on board indicates, with colour, how long is left to complete activity)
6. Plenary session - again, either ICT (especially 'Save the Simpsons' or 'Simpsons Snakes & Ladders' or filling in spider diagram (using Powerpoint, etc.) with me typing pupil suggestions.
(Current homework is always posted on the front page of my website and sometimes involves Internet research and/or an online task to complete)
PS I try to book pupils into the ICT suite and give them a choice of activity - e.g. 8DH
Edited by DAJ Belshaw, 05 February 2005 - 12:05 AM.
Posted 05 February 2005 - 12:22 AM
You could, for example, pick one of Doug's suggestions above and give them a try. If you have never made use of ICT in one of your lessons do take the risk and experiment.
With 'screenagers' - the current students that we teach who are all very confident and familiar with technology - there is an additional dynamic connection with their work even in the simplest of uses of ICT.
The most important thing is that you can get your students involved as much as possible - with them making use of ICT. Again, this is a risk, but that's always where the best teaching and learning takes place.
Posted 05 February 2005 - 12:26 PM
We have gained an extra lesson with our Year 7 Blue (top) band groups this year. Instead of simply adding a normal classroom based lesson to the SoW, we decided to put in an ICT based lesson in our library which now has a set of 30 wireless laptops.
These are excellent materials Stephen for which you should be congratulated. I am especially impressed by the effective differentiation - this is something well constructed e-learning materials can provide as your materials amply demonstrate.
One very small point though - when constructing Hot Potatoes materials you should either edit the navigation buttons to go somewhere or delete them altogether just leaving a back button. Lots of students are used to looking for them and using them. As some of your exercises stand at the moment they may end up off task.
Posted 05 February 2005 - 01:03 PM
Good point about the buttons. I must admit I am still getting fully to grips with the Hot Potatoes stuff, and each time I do a new exercise I get a bit better at it. I shall go back to the exercises and delete the unecessary buttons when I get time.
As a general point to anyone reading though, I would say that the Hot Potatoes stuff is an excellent set of tools for doing this kind of thing. After we start new budgets again in April, I intend to buy a selection of the Content Generator applications and use these with the Hot Potatoes stuff to enhance the lessons for the summer term even further.
They are all so simple to use once you take a bit of time to work them out, and really do allow you to produce stuff the students love to d, and more importantly that they can learn proper knowledge and historical skills from.
Posted 05 February 2005 - 01:21 PM
The Hot Potatoes suite includes six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web. Hot Potatoes is not freeware, but it is free of charge for those working for publicly-funded non-profit-making educational institutions, who make their pages available on the web. Other users must pay for a licence. Check out the Hot Potatoes licencing terms and pricing on the Half-Baked Software Website.
In the near future I intend to release a free quiz generator and match-up maker under the same terms.
These kind of tools are marvellous (more Hot Potatoes than mine of course) because anyone - yes - anyone - can use them. You download the program and then add your own questions and content. You don't have to have any ICT expertise to create an effective interactive quiz.
These are ideal for a starter or plenary - reinforcing knowledge and introducing pace and competition into the classroom. If you add an element of timing or a particular challenge it becomes even more interesting.
Here again is the key use of ICT. It doesn't need to be anything flashy, but it simply extends your teaching repertoire.
The fact that Andy has brought up the concept of differentiation is particularly significant. Just as with a worksheet that you create using the computer, games and quizzes can be differentiated. This does take a little more thought and planning but is well worth the time. You just edit your questions and save the file with a different name - you then have two versions of the same activity, effectively differentiated. There is no reason why you cannot take this further. Turning this on its head slightly, you can also get students who find the task easy to add in their own questions, thus further developing the learning potential.
This means you are using ICT at two levels - making use of ICT with your students but also making use of ICT yourself, easing the burden of teaching preparation and correctly differentiating the tasks for students. Now that is making progress towards effective ICT!
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