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e-Help Seminars - Juan Carlos Ocana
e-help Seminar 16
Looking to the future
Toulouse 17-19 February 2005

So far, ICT and internet has brought about changes in the way history is taught. Teachers and students are able to obtain large amounts of historical contents in a very short time. A few years ago, to get the same information would have meant to peruse tens of books at home or in libraries. John Simkin's Spartacus Educational is an outstanding example. My web site Historiasiglo20.org may be included in this sort of resources.

On top of that, we can get a much more diverse range of resources: texts, images, maps, videoclips, animations.... Teachers can also find lots of lesson plans to organise their work in the classroom.

The great amount of resources available on internet and the abundance of low quality web sites made difficult for teachers and students to carry out a significant didactic sequence. Webquests were born to solve this problem. Their aim is to make students focus on using information rather than searching for it. Webquests also provide a model of collaborative work for the students. An example of webquest is Jean Monnet's life and European History

However, in my view all those important new developments do not mean a dramatic change in the way history is taught. Teachers and students have at their disposal a huge number of resources that is available "one click away", but I do not think that we have extracted from ICT and internet all the advantages we can use for teaching history.

I would like to point out two features that we intend to work out at my school in the framework of E-HELP project:

Collaborative work

Some of the participants of this meeting are in charge of some of the most successful examples of collaboration on the internet: The Education Forum Schoolhistory Forum and, in Spanish, Foros de Debate, on Jose Luis de la Torre's Educahistoria web site, are other illustrative samples of history teachers' forums. Some years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have a virtual meeting point where teachers may share ideas, resources, even some jokes.

There are a growing number of initiatives that try to bring together schools, teachers and students from different countries. Web based projects are undoubtedly one of the most powerful teaching tools in the next future.

Despite of recent Virtual School closure, European Schoolnet is one of the most successful European web based initiatives. MyEurope, E-Twinning or Spring Day in Europe are projects that try to promote the European dimension at the schools. Global Gateway is a British web site that tries to enable teachers and students to engage in partnerships.

However, in the future, we have to go further. What about on line lessons prepared by teachers from different countries? How enriching would be to work with colleagues that come from different traditions and styles of teaching!
Internet is globalising education and, therefore, students will learn in a new learning environment. This change will go beyond students forums and will be very positive for the most gifted and talented students.

History, the subject we teach, is one of the areas of knowledge that will profit more by collaborative work. Traditionally, history has been a subject strongly biased by nationalism. Classrooms have been places where national prejudices and xenophobia were promoted amongst children and youngsters. Europe knows a lot about it.

Students should listen to different voices and interpretations when studying the past. Collaborative web based work can be an excellent tool to improve our students' historical knowledge and critical thinking.

We have just started our project, but I would strongly like to set up in the future a Comenius Network that created links between HELP and other Comenius projects focused in history teaching. A European history curriculum would be an excellent outcome of that future project.

The Council of Europe has developed several interesting history teaching projects on this matter:

Learning and teaching about the history of Europe in the 20th century

Bilateral and regional Co-operation - Reform of History Teaching

European Dimension in History Teaching

Yet there is a serious lack of web resources to teach history from this new collaborative perspective. To fill this void will be one of history teachers' challenges in the next future.

Interactive websites

Ramón Burgaleta - PrincipiosdEconomia, Economics teacher at IES Parque de Lisboa, and I are working on setting up interactive resources by using Macromedia Flash.

Instead of creating colourful and (too) imaginative new activities, we would like to bring the traditional history teaching activities on the internet, taking advantage of all the ICT potentials.

Our activities are not very refined yet, but we hope that over our three years project we will manage to set up a sufficient number of useful resources that cover most of the typical history teaching activities.

These are some of the activities we have been working on:

Treinta años de la primera crisis del petróleo (Thirty years from the first oil crisis)

This Flash animation can help us to introduce the topic and motivate students. Then, by putting links on it, we can create a didactic sequence that offers our student different activities (texts, images, maps, videoclips, mind maps) to study the theme in depth.

Other examples are the following:

Instituciones de la Unión Europe

Cold War and Olympic Games

Textual analysis is a very usual task in Spanish and other countries' schools. Here you can see a sample of a Flash animation which includes a text to analyse, some guidelines on the task and boxes for the students to write. The document can be printed.

Textual Analysis Exercise

This is just a preliminary version. Once refined, this resource can be used for analysing images, graphics, videoclips...

We are aware that working with Flash Macromedia is far beyond most of European history teachers' technological abilities. Trying to cope with this problem, we have started creating some pdf files, far easier to elaborate and very useful to assess students' work. This sort of documents can be sent by e-mail to our students as home work. Their reply will merely consist of the data written by then, a very light file, easy to send back to the teacher, and then we can grade and comment it by e-mail or at the classroom.

A visit to the Prado Museum

We can embed in these .pdf documents all sort of files (texts, images, videoclips, graphics, statistitcs...

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