4 November 2015

Engaging with History

As the semester progresses, I find myself constantly questioning - what defines success in the classroom? What defines success in learning?

Classroom success is more than test scores or the ability to use a specific digital tool or app. It is a whole learning process, where the learning is connected to the world beyond the classroom walls. I also ask myself how my own role as an educator may or not affect that process, for I constantly change roles whenever required in my teaching context. 

There are some certainties in my inquiry, namely the weight that digital literacies have.
These literacies go beyond classroom walls and are an integral part of my students' generation. How and whether they are being implemented across the board, is another matter altogether. Denying them the use of mobile learning, denying them the opportunity to create digitally, to participate digitally in learning, is very much going against the tide of successful learning today. 

Nevertheless, despite encouraging and giving students plenty of opportunities to develop their digital literacies, I find myself still wondering about what exactly contributes to success in classrooms. Often I realise it is the role of the teacher, the way one is able (or not) to connect with learners, the way one is able to transmit enthusiasm, kindness, ignite laughter, while also stimulating responsibility and learner autonomy. 

Grainne Conole's recent blog posting focuses on the importance of slow learning and highlights the following:

The need of qualitative engagement with learners is pointed out, as well as the need to give students the opportunity of being autonomous learners. 

Opening up inquiry and extending this inquiry with different kinds of projects, is surely one approach to fostering learner autonomy.   

Zoom In focuses on American history, but is still a great site for teachers and students elsewhere to dip into. Teachers can browse and assign lessons, focus on vocabulary in the documents and follow the teacher guides included, if they wish to.

Despite focusing on American history, Zoom In is inspirational for English language classes, taking the focus away from grammar routines and instead, giving students something more real to think about, stimulating critical analysis and thought. For educators, Zoom In provides a model of how History may be taught in a more active and contemporary way.  

History is not a subject only for the classroom but one that goes beyond walls, opening up learning possibilities with projects and fostering critical thinking. Take for instance, HSTRY
which gives learners the opportunity to create historic timelines, by adding images, text, media and commentaries on each others' creations. 

Successful learning comes in different shades and themes.

Successful learning opens windows to the past, linking one's learning with the contemporary.

Successful classrooms are spaces where learners engage in their own learning processes.

Successful learning needs to go beyond the school gates and test results.

How do you perceive successful learning?

Further Suggestions and References:

VIDEO - Complete History Teachers

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