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e-Help Seminars - Dave Martin
e-Help Seminar 4
How can ICT support the development of students’ historical communication skills?
Toulouse 17-19 February 2005
The first section of the workshop summarised the five different strands of ICT use in history that I have been involved with. In each case there are advantages to history from the effective use of ICT. That word ‘effective’ is very important, as sometimes ICT is not the best tool for supporting learning in history. The first four strands were covered very quickly. They are not new ideas, they do work but in some places history teachers have been slow to adopt them. The reasons for history teachers not using ICT are well documented. In the case of databases, the first strand illustrated, the three main reasons are access to ICT facilities, a lack of suitable software and the seeming technical difficulty of using data base software. This workshop focussed upon a use of ICT that will not be so difficult to adopt, the use of electronic whiteboards, an item of equipment that is rapidly becoming available to many history teachers and which is easy to use.
The work described took place in schools in West Sussex and the major example, improving students’ historical communication skills in the context of the events of 1066, was led by Kath Tipper of Bourne Community School. The work built upon the existing good practice in literacy work. Students were helped to deconstruct an historian’s written account of the Battle of Stamford Bridge. They were then able to draw up an historians’ toolkit that they could use for their own written account of the Battle of Hastings. This is explicitly modelling the text type. The role that ICT played was very important. It enabled the teacher to accurately focus on features of the text to point out to students or for students to find for themselves. These features were such things as the use of the past tense, connectives, strong verbs, adjectives and adverbs to convey meaning and judgement. It was the precision and accuracy that the ICT supported. In consequence students learning was promoted as is evidenced with the two examples illustrated. These two male students taken from the middle of the ability range of the class in question clearly incorporated some of the explicit writing toolkit ideas into their own writing. Moreover the writing of the class was developing some colour and variety rather than the rather anodyne style that can arise from too rigid a reliance on writing frames and structure for writing.

An associated value of the use of ICT was that it helped students to access a long and difficult source. There has been a tendency in secondary history to move to ever shorter sources on the mistaken assumption that they would be easier for students to use. However, sometimes the shortening has the opposite effect as students’ have insufficient context or grasp of the person behind a source. In this case the historian quite clearly viewed Harald Hardrada as an unsuccessful general and students were able to understand this as they had enough material to go on. The work illustrated that students can use a long source if they are given sufficient and appropriate support. Finally the workshop gave a brief example of a different text type, biography, to show the transferable nature of the work and concluded by asserting that the arrival of the interactive whiteboard in so many history classrooms presents us with an excellent opportunity to promote the effective use of ICT in history teaching.

Contribute further to the seminar at


Spartacus Learning Online MacGregor is History Historia Siglo 20 Historical Association International School History Sintermeertencollege InnovativeICT.net

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