LisaHillSchoolStuff's Weblog

'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Archive for October, 2008

Learning how to do Wikis

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 15, 2008

Today I finally started Megan Poore’s online course about how to do wikis for education purposes. Megan’s wiki Brush Up is hosted by WetPaint and it comprises some very user-friendly modules that show you how to do it.
Today I worked on module one. I explored my reasons for wanting to use wikis at school, and journalled what I already know about it. (It will be interesting to look back at this, in weeks to come).
I also explored some hosts: Wikispaces, WetPaint and PB Wiki, and used a fabulous site called WikiMatrix to compare them. (All you do is select the ones you want to compare and it creates a matrix comparing all the hosts’ features for you – I wish there were something like this to compare health insurance products!) This is a screen dump of the results.
I already have a very rudimentary LisaHillSchoolStuff site with WikiSpaces so I should probably stick with that and fix it up but I am a bit tempted by WetPaint’s jazzy features!

Posted in Professional Development | Comments Off on Learning how to do Wikis

New Aboriginal Perspectives Resources

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 8, 2008

Even if you have an RSS feed for LisaHillSchoolStuff, you won’t be notified of changes to the separate Aboriginal Resources Page on this site – so if you are interested in adding Aboriginal Perspectives to your curriculum you will need to check the page from time to time. (Just click on the menu at the top of the page.)

This year we have been funded by AGQTP to re-design our integrated units to include Aboriginal perspectives.  There are now three charts shows how our units can be enriched: VELS Level 1 Minibeasts, Level 2 Food and Level 4 Space. We’re still working on a Level 3 unit…

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Australian History, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Learning and teaching | Tagged: , | Comments Off on New Aboriginal Perspectives Resources

HTAA Conference: Day 3 workshops

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2008

My first workshop was with Mike Wohltman, a colleague I met at the History Summer School, and a teacher from Marden College in Adelaide.  He had changed the focus of his talk to be more schools-and-teaching orientated (which didn’t really suit either Tim or me) but it was still interesting. 

The Enlightenment is such an fascinating period, and it was very influential in our early history.  I first learned about it at the History Summer School from Professor John Gascoigne, (UNSW) from his presentation The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia, and Mike went on to make more specific its links to topics that are studied in the history curriculum.  He was very generous with resources, and passionate about teaching students to value reason in decision-making and to use it to combat prejudice and ignorance. 

The Enlightenment covers the period in Europe from 1715 (the death of Louis XIV) to 1776 (the US Declaration of Independence) and 1797 (the First French Republic.  It is based on a belief in the supremacy of reason over pleasure; the conviction that humans could perfect society through application of the intellect to human affairs.  Science took its place for the first time in history, and the movement influenced all the great intellectuals of the period.  The timing of Australia’s settlement was fortunate, for the Enlightenment was influential in the peaceful political development of our country – our public intellectuals at the time learned from the revolutions in Europe and applied ideals about stable and effective government without bloodshed.

The motto of the Enlightenment is Sapere aude! which means have the courage to use your own understanding.  There are five driving forces: happiness, liberty, nature, reason and progress, and they influenced all aspects of C18th life, including politics, intellectual life, culture, society and the economy.  To learn more, Mike recommends A Beginner’s Guide to the Enlightenment

I am especially fond of this period too because of my visit to the Enlightenment Exhibition at the British Museum in 2005.

After lunch, I went to Laura Chandler’s presentation about The Changing Roles and Identities of Women in the Latin East at the time of the Crusades.  Laura is a Phd student researching this period, and it was fascinating.  My grade 6 boys are not going to get away with their sexist comments about weak women any more (not that they ever did, but now I have some handy facts to impress them with!)  There will be a book one day, and I hope it’s well publicised because I’d like to know more about these women who ruled crusader states in the absence of their men, not to mention how they actively participated in the front lines in various ways (albeit non combatant).

Tim came with me to the final workshop, Pompeii and Herculaneum, presented by Denis Mootz.  We loved our visit to Pompeii, due in no small part to the teachers who inspired us to visit it.  Denis showed us some brilliant images of the forces that caused the eruption, and introduced us to some of the controversies around interpretations about the event.  Most amusing were his stories of how ‘discoveries’ were timed to coincide with the visits of VIPs – whose vanity was sufficiently flattered to ensure funding for continued research and excavations! We shall look at these sites with fresh eyes, next time we visit, and my teaching of the topic of natural disasters will definitely include Pompeii!

Posted in Australian History, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Professional Development | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

HTAA Conference: Day 3 Keynote Speaker, Peter Cochrane

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2008

Peter Cochrane is the author of Colonial Ambitions: Foundations of Australian Democracy and his address was most interesting.  He pointed out that most Australians learn their history from writers like Peter Carey, Kate Grenville and Tom Keneally, not from scholars, and that he wrote his history by attending to similar narrative skills: a plot, composition that delights in language (and sometimes poetry), and character. 

Cochrane wanted to write a biographical narrative with an interesting ‘leading man’ – he chose William Wentworth, our first ‘great Australian’.  He was fascinating because he was flawed, and because his private life was so different to his public life.  To find a way into the ‘boring’ story of our early history he examined the revealed v. the concealed self, drawing on the private life of this man to illuminate the past.

Wentworth sounds intriguing.  Cochrane begins Colonial Ambitions with the story of his wedding to Sarah – a small wedding because Wentworth e was ostracised over his ‘convict blood’. He felt humiliated by being treated as a social pariah and this was influential in his behaviour – he was full of vindictive rage about it and wanted revenge because the Wentworth family was never included in Sydney society.  This complex man went on to become a key figure in the story of our peaceful evolution of colonial autocracy into a self-governing colony.

Cochrane also talked about the structure of his book, and explored some of the recent controversies about historical writing.  Simon Schama is worried about storytelling not being ‘serious’ and the risk of ‘dumbing down’, and Inga Clendinnen’s spat with Kate Grenville is well known.  Cochrane acknowledges that narratives run on historical time, but chronology doesn’t rule life and nor should it rule a book.  There can be patterns of impulse, and links between childhood and adult life, and these can be treated using flashbacks, retrospectives and glimpses of the future.  (All very useful ideas for the history that I am writing about the Draft Resisters Union! ) Cochrane believes that in writing accessible history, a writer can include analysis ‘by stealth’ and that it’s ok to fill in the gaps in the sense that one can imagine what something might have been like in the historical context (e.g. being ill with a stomach complaint and therefore unable to travel in the days when facilities were primitive) or to evoke the spatial dimension (e.g. what were the places of relevance? how did the city operate in those days?)

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read this book.  I remember picking it up in a bookshop (and this must have been on one of those rare days when I was trying to restrain my book buying obsession) and dismissing it as ‘just about NSW history’.  (Yes, how parochial of me!)  The first thing I did back in Melbourne was to order it from Readers Feast, to pick up this coming Tuesday when I go in after work for the launch of Kate Grenville’s new historical novel, The Lieutenant.

Posted in Australian History, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Professional Development | Tagged: | Comments Off on HTAA Conference: Day 3 Keynote Speaker, Peter Cochrane

HTAA Conference: Day Two Workshop Sessions

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2008

First up was Hilary MacLeod’s workshop called Looking Out – Global Perspectives in the History Curriculum.  This was really good, and because we had difficulty with this topic when we were writing our curriculum plan in 2007, I was pleased to discover that there is now a handy new framework for us to use.  (Download a copy here.) We had a quick look at it, (and we were given a copy to look at properly back at school) and then we did a lively activity where we had to place attributes of globalisation on a set of scales to indicate the pros and cons. The slideshow below is from the Global Education website and is well worth looking at.

After lunch I went to David Harri’s True Lies, Turning History into Adventure Stories. This was rivetting! With barely a pause to take a breath, David led us through the ways in which he rescues the most interesting people in history from oblivion, so that young people will want to read about them.
These are the ‘rules’ which enable his books to conform to the reading needs of 15 year olds:

  • Each chapter should end with a cliff hanger
  • Sentences should not be too long
  • Follow the Rules of 3 i.e. 3 main clauses, 3 main ideas, and not more than 12 words per lead sentence.
  • Begin with action or speech or a brilliant initial image, or a sense of smell, or a thought.
  • Avoid adverbs and adjectives because they slow adventure stories down
  • Strengthen verbs, and
  • Use vocabulary from the students’ world e.g. use ‘lover of old books’ not ‘archivist’
  • Compress time, events, space and characters e.g. from 5 years to a few days
  • Keep enemies together and friends apart
  • Reduce the number of characters e.g. 7 guides become one, for a character needs a sidekick to talk to, but doesn’t need many
  • Make historical figures enter real events, and fictional characters enter the real world.

Is this dumbing down?  Not in my opinion, not if it introduces an otherwise disinterested audience to history.  There are plenty of other books around for students with more advanced reading skills, and I’d rather books were accessible and engaging for kids who would otherwise not read anything at all.  I don’t subscribe to the toilet humour theory of reading for kids, but telling adventure stories to lure kids into history is different!

Here’s how David gets students to write structured stories in his workshops at schools: write one 1-2 line sentence for each sentence starter…

  • Every day…
  • But one day…
  • Because of that…
  • And because of that…
  • But that only made things worse…
  • The moment of truth was…
  • Finally…

and then write a resolution which is linked back to sentence one in some way.

This is what I wrote, in five minutes, about Chifley (hereby exposing my lack of real knowledge about him!)

  1. Every day, as Chifley drove his train, he dreamt of a better world.
  2. But one day there was new IR legislation and he no longer felt secure.
  3. Because of that he joined the union and represented the workers’ views.
  4. And because of that he went into politics and joined the Labour Party.
  5. But that only made things worse because he still had to compromise his views.
  6. The moment of truth was when as leader he had to break up a miner’s strike.
  7. Finally he decided to try promoting his views on the world stage.
  8. He died still dreaming of a better world.

My last session of the day was in the computer lab. Richard Ford, a wonderful young history teacher from St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney, showed us how to use Movier Maker for photo essays in history. This is what to do:

  1. Select images first and save as jpegs. Tip: When importing form google select which size – medium or large is best (use the drop down menu to select which).
  2. Open Movie maker and import them.
  3. Then, at the bottom of the screen choose timeline rather than storyboard (it’s easier).
  4. And for effects and transitions (see edit menu) eg. make it all sepia.
  5. Then add titles (but not over images – inappropriate).
  6. Remember to acknowledge sources.

There were lots of other tips, but alas, someone somewhere realised I was blogging on the school site, and shut down my access!

Posted in Australian History, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Professional Development | Tagged: | Comments Off on HTAA Conference: Day Two Workshop Sessions

HTAA Conference: Day Two Keynote Speaker, Professor Barry McGaw

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2008

There was never any doubt that history was going to be included in the new national curriculum, and it was very interesting to hear Professor Barry McGaw talk about work in progress.
He explained what the remit was.  The board is charged with responsibility for writing:

  • a single world class K-12 curriculum
  • English first, then maths, sciences and history (and after that, languages and geography)
  • a continuum of learning in literacy and numeracy.

There is to be flexibility for the different jurisdictions, systems and schools, and there will be national testing linked to standards so that student achievement can be reported in a similar way nationally. 

What’s different this time is that the board reports to the Productivity Agenda Working Group (PAWG) not to state Education Ministers.  On the agenda are content, pedagogy and assessment, and not on the agenda (but obviously needing connection) are purposes of schooling, national assessment, curriculum resources and professional development.

It was, alas, these latter issues which exercised the minds of most of the panel and the audience, and it seems to me that what I heard most about was profound fear of change, parochialism, and the usual bleating about implementation issues.  McGaw must get very tired of this, I think, and some of the audience were obviously bored too (since some near me were playing with mobile phones, and reading the paper) but I suppose people need to have their say.

Posted in Australian History, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Opinion, Professional Development | Tagged: | Comments Off on HTAA Conference: Day Two Keynote Speaker, Professor Barry McGaw

HTAA Conference: Day One Workshop Sessions

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2008

The first session of the day was terrific. Presented by Kate Wain, it was titled Brain-Friendly Teaching, a layperson’s interpretation of the recent findings from neuroscience – and what astonished me was that Kate ‘s school (St Hilda’s in Southport) had funded her to go to the US to learn about this stuff – it certainly is a different world in private schools!
Anyway, Kate was an excellent presenter and I am really cross with myself for having misplaced my notes somewhere because I wanted to pass on the relevant points to staff at school. Most pertinent, was that certain parts of the brain don’t develop fully until the 40s or later, and that some types of thinking are beyond primary school children. She spoke specifically about the ability to plan, and how this requires a capacity to think of consequences in the future – a skill that is difficult for most adolescents, never mind 10 and 11 year olds. What I take from this is that I need to provide much more support for students to plan and monitor project work, for they are not developmentally ready to do this for themselves.

After that, I went to Strategies for Critical Thinking, presented by Eric Frengenheim.
is a dynamic speaker, and he has adapted various thinking tools for education use. His Framework for Thinking at Different Levels is fabulous: it links numerous thinking tools with Bloom’s Taxonomy and I know I’ll be referring to it constantly as I plan my next units of work. I wish now that I had bought his book…
I didn’t go to session three. I was just too tired after having slept badly, so I rang Tim who had just returned from a day’s gallivanting in Brisbane. Thanks again to the Navman, he found the College and we went back to the hotel for a snooze. (I always sleep badly on the first night away from home – I should have gone up a day earlier). It was a shame because it was about the new portrait gallery in Canberra, which I am very keen to see. It’s due to open in December.
I missed the screening of Broken Sun too. We were too tired to go anywhere so we dined in at the hotel – which (in contrast to breakfasts) was very nice.

Posted in Australian History, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Professional Development | Tagged: | Comments Off on HTAA Conference: Day One Workshop Sessions

HTAA Conference: Keynote speaker, Prof Henry Reynolds

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2008

Day One began with Professor Henry Reynolds as Keynote Speaker, and he chose to address the themes of Aboriginal history, Australia’s history of involvement in international wars, and the complexities and contradictions inherent in these themes. As one might expect from the historian who has done more to bring Australia’s Aboriginal history into the spotlight than any other, he was keen to address the three sensitive points in this history: frontier violence, the Stolen Generations, and the Mabo/Wik decisions which rewrote our land laws in 1992 and 1996 respectively. He revisited the ‘history wars’ briefly, and reminded us that the official history written for incoming migrants once included references to these matters, and now does not. (See the full story about this in The Monthly).
He then went on to discuss the militarisation of Australian history during the Howard years. He alluded to new and extensive funding for more and more commemorations, memorials, student pilgramages to Anzac sites, and concern about the bodies of the dead soldiers, bordering on the obsessive in Vietnam. He also noted that the funding and extent of materials from the Department of Veterans Affairs was extraordinary, and – given the non-involvement of government in producing free curriculum resources in other areas – I agree! We have shelves and shelves of stuff from the DVA, most of it unused, because it isn’t appropriate for primary schools, and what makes me really cross is that these materials are exemplary – why can’t the wonderful people who develop them make similarly enticing resources for teaching about the Gold Rush, Federation, Settlement and so on? Why, asked Professor Reynolds, does every soldier have a well-tended grave, and our C19th pioneers do not?
We can’t have it both ways, he says. If we define war as integral to the birth of our nation, then how can we ignore frontier violence? If we believe that we should never forget the Holocaust and the ANZAC experience, why do we tell Aborigines to ‘get over it’? If we use public funding for war memorials, should we do the same for both black and white victims of frontier violence? And if dead bodies of soldiers are so important, how can we say to Aborigines that they should not worry about the treatment of Aboriginal remains? Shouldn’t we search for the Coniston Massacre bodies and bury them with a memorial too?
These are all very challenging issues for us to face, and there was spirited debate afterwards.

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Australian History | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on HTAA Conference: Keynote speaker, Prof Henry Reynolds

History Teachers Conference, Brisbane, Sept-Oct 2008

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 1, 2008

Tim and I flew out to Brisbane in the second week of the school holidays to attend the History Teachers Association Annual Conference: Looking Back, Looking Forward, Looking Out. It was hosted by the Queensland History Teachers Association, and it is a measure of how well designed this conference was that Tim, not a teacher at all, attended some sessions as well, just because he’s interested in history!
We stayed at the Hotel Gloria in Carol Ave, about 20k out from the city centre, but thanks to Tim’s foresight in bringing the Navman we found it easily. It’s an ok hotel, but not having brewed coffee at breakfast was a bit of a hardship.
The conference was held in Daisy Hill at John Paul College, a splendidly resourced school which had the government school teachers among us muttering in envy. It was, however, an excellent venue, and their hospitality (and airconditioning!) was much appreciated.

Also much appreciated were the booksellers and trade displays, amongst whom VideoPro deserves a special mention. I liked the fact that they chose not to fill our ‘showbags’ with paper-wasting promotional brochures, but used instead the tools of our century and sent us their advertising by email instead – which meant I read it, instead of throwing it out. Not only that, they held quiz competitions using their Quizdom Clickers, and I was lucky enough to win a couple of bottles of wine!
It was also nice to meet up again with colleagues from the History Summer School in Canberra. There were only three participants from primary schools, and certainly no primary specific sessions for us, but what I found valuable was the opportunity to learn more about history generally – and especially Australian history – so that I can draw on it when teaching my classes. I’ll certainly be going again when the HTAA conference is held in Melbourne next year, and maybe the one in Alice Springs the year after that….

Posted in Australian History, Learning and teaching, Professional Development | Tagged: | 1 Comment »