Teachinghistory.org for TAH Project Directors
Presentation for NCSS
Hi, my name is Jennifer Rosenfeld. I'm the Associate Director of Educational Projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at GMU. I'd like to thank Christine Miller of the U.S. Department of Education for the opportunity to speak to you today.
I'm going to be your guide as we explore Teachinghistory.org—a project that was funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Teaching American History Grant Program. In particular we'll take a look at some of the professional development resources that would be useful for TAH projector directors. As well as think about sustainability issues and how the website can be helpful to TAH grant participants after their grants have concluded.
The idea for Teachinghistory.org came out of the Teaching American History Grant Program. The Department of Ed. wanted to create a clearinghouse for teachers to be able to find quality Teaching Materials, History Content, and Best Practices online. They also wanted a way to help share all the good work coming out of TAH Projects, so that teachers in California, for example, could see all the good work teachers in Georgia were doing, and vice versa. Now that many of these grant programs have come to an end or will be ending soon, it's even more important to have a resource such as Teachinghistory.org available to capture this work and help guide teachers to quality history education resources.
At the heart of Teachinghistory.org is its emphasis on developing students' historical thinking skills. On the home page is a short video called "What is Historical Thinking?," which serves as an excellent introduction to the topic.
Think historically? What's that? You may have heard the term, but been puzzled by it. We're all familiar with historical stories. We learn them from our textbooks, popular histories, movies, documentaries, and grandparents and neighbors. Historical thinking is the reading, analysis, and writing that’s necessary to tell these stories.
It's not only what we know about the past, it's how we know it. Because the past is hard to retrieve, we can't travel back in time to see what happened at the Boston Massacre or at Wounded Knee, to hear Sojourner Truth's words, or understand how César Chávez and Dolores Huerta mobilized the Farm Workers Movement.
But thinking historically helps us get closer to that past to retrieve and construct a more accurate picture of what happened and what it meant. This video focuses on five aspects of historical thinking.
Multiple Accounts and Perspectives
Analysis of Primary Sources
So, when we study what came to be known as the Boston Massacre, we can read a report from the commanding British officer that says that soldiers fired on the crowd of colonists without orders. We can then read a contrasting account from someone in the crowd who remembers that officer giving orders to fire. But we can't just assume that one is lying and the other isn't; instead, we have to ask questions about what these two eyewitnesses had to lose or gain with their accounts. What interests were at stake? We consider how soon after the event and for what audience each account was recorded. We look for points of agreement and disagreement between the two contrasting accounts. To be useful in retrieving the past, primary sources need to be questioned and read closely.
Understanding Historical Context
Taking a page from the math curriculum, we can say the coordinates of history are space and time. These sources are not free-floating items that speak for themselves, their historical context matters.
As this video illustrates, good history starts with looking at a variety of sources. You and your teachers can find such sources easily in Teachinghistory.org's History Content section. Here, you can find website reviews, free multimedia resources, quizzes, and more. Of particular interest is the section called Beyond the Textbook. We asked historians to take a look at issues that commonly appear in U.S. history textbooks.
Let's take a look at our newest entry on the causes of the American Revolution. We asked a historian to look at what the textbooks have to say, what the historians have to say, and what the sources have to say—it's most interesting when these three don’t agree. The treasure trove for you and your teachers is when you look at the Table of Contents, which includes links to the primary sources used for the article. For professional development, you could have your teachers look at their textbook and compare to the sources provided. It's a wonderful model for how to use primary sources. Or your teachers could use these primary sources in their classroom as a ready-made Document-Based Question packet.
Now that we've found quality primary source materials, let's turn our attention to looking for teaching strategies to use these materials in your classroom. In Teaching Materials, the teachers you work with can find Lesson Plan Reviews, Teaching Guides, and the only searchable State Standard database on the web. Here you can also find our guide for planning professional development with museums and other cultural organizations called Visiting History. Using Washington, DC, as an example, the guide offers tips and strategies for planning professional development outside the classroom, as well as strategies for how to build on the experience back at school.
Ever wish you had a way to illustrate a good teaching technique in your professional development workshops? In Best Practices find videos to use in professional development workshops that show teachers in actual classrooms demonstrating a promising practice. Also in Best Practices, you can find free videos of experts talking about a primary source and what it can tell us about the past. Each video is transcribed and it also includes a link to the primary source being discussed. Imagine using this image from FDR's 1932 inauguration. What questions does this image raise in your mind? Then watch as Senate historian Don Ritchie talks about the photo and what it means:
It's like bringing a free expert into your next professional development workshop or into a classroom.
There's also a special section of the site specifically for TAH Grants. Here you can search past grants, explore Lessons Learned, and find resources created by other grantees. If your TAH Grant has created an online resource, we'd like to know about it so it can be added to the TAH Project Spotlight list.
In terms of sustainability and in order to keep these resources available, the Center for History and New Media has made a commitment to keep Teachinghistory.org online. The Center has done this with other grant-funded history education websites, such as History Matters, World History Matters, and many more. You can access these websites, and all of the Center's projects, by visiting chnm.gmu.edu. Last year, over 16 million people used the Center's various tools and websites—including over half a million visitors to Teachinghistory.org.
To keep up to date with the latest from Teachinghistory.org, please visit our Outreach Page—teachinghistory.org/outreach. There you can read past print newsletters, view videos, and connect with us via Twitter, Facebook, and RSS feed.
We've also moved some of our print materials online for greater access. For example, we've created digital versions of our popular Historical Thinking and Civil War posters. Simply click on an image from the poster and it will take you to lesson plans, teaching ideas, and related history content.
In response to the increase in schools' use of mobile technology, this summer we unveiled a mobile version of Teachinghistory.org. Now you can more easily access Teachinghistory.org's resources in a mobile-friendly format.
Thanks for your time today. I hope that you'll all go home now and bookmark Teachinghistory.org as one of your favorite websites and encourage the teachers that you work with to do so also. Thanks again for all that you do for history education!