‘Teaching History in the Digital Age’ – Call for a New Breed of Teachers

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

As a teacher educator, I am concerned that I am training my students how to teach yesterday’s students rather than tomorrow’s. Therefore, I was interested in seeing what T. Mills Kelly had to say, in Teaching History in the Digital Age (2013), about best practice for today’s and tomorrow’s students. As it happens, I also recently read The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr, which is going to be my university’s One Book next year. Carr focuses on how the Internet has shaped how we think and view the world. Carr points out that, according to recent brain research, how we access and store information alters the physical properties of the brain. He contends that the practice of getting small amounts of information from a variety of sources may help us be more efficient information gatherers but at the cost of the ability to concentrate and reflect on what we are gathering.


Carr’s argument seems to parallel and support Kelly’s ideas in several ways. Traditionally, history teaching has relied on imparting knowledge and analysis, usually in the form of lectures, which research has shown is not the most effective approach. Perhaps partly because of this method of teaching, history is often seen by students as the acquisition of facts and not as a process of gathering and analyzing data. Also, Kelly says that the notion of perspective is often ignored, e.g., what is included, what is left out, why it is included or left out.

Kelly contends that the digital age offers historians the opportunity to help their students become historians, analysts, not just fact collectors. Not only do more students go to online sources rather than print, but today’s students are used to creating on the Internet — not just consuming. Kelly asserts that educators need to take advantage of this tendency in order to create learning opportunities that promote active engagement and not just passive acquisition through lectures and reading. He does caution that instructors must teach students that their role is not to remix or remake history. They should not give in to their desire to change primary sources so that they are “better,” a tendency that Web 2.0 savvy students may have. However, this type of engagement with history gives the instructor and students opportunities to examine the ethics of a variety of issues that can come up in projects, from plagiarism to the manipulation of information to support one’s point.  Continue reading

‘Hacking the Academy’ – A Test of Time

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

The first thing you should know about Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities (Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, editors, University of Michigan Press, 2013) is that it was compiled in May 2010 — three years ago. I’m not sure what the full implications of this time gap are, but for starters, the iPad was released in April 2010, a month earlier, so it’s not mentioned in the book. The first MOOC was offered by the University of Manitoba in 2008, but they didn’t become wildly popular until 2012 so they, too, are left out.

Once past the hurdle of the three-year gap, I found the offerings interesting both as a retrospective and as a time-tested compass for change. Change is so rapid in ed tech that the concept of “past” is becoming more a blur than a time line. Thus, I found myself intrigued by this slice of time that preserves some of the more progressive thinking three years ago, including insights that are still relevant today.

Hacking the Academy

I received the UM Press announcement for Hacking early yesterday morning and requested a digital review copy later that morning. After downloading it, I did a quick search for “iPad” and “MOOC” and, as expected, came up empty.

An “online and open-access version” of the book was released on 8 Sep. 2011 (Jason B. Jones, “Hacking the Academy: the Book,” Chronicle, 9.9.11), but I was unaware of it until today. Andrew Tully, in his University of Nebraska – Lincoln blog (4.18.12), provides a useful overview of the project so I won’t go into it.

I like the twist that the project has given to the word “hacking.” In “Why ‘Hacking’?”, Tad Suiter says, “Hackers are autodidacts,” and he defines hacking as “The clever gaming of complex systems to produce an unprecedented result.” But here’s the part that makes it very special even, and perhaps moreso, today: “The academy, ultimately, can only be invigorated and improved by an infusion of the hacker ethos that goes beyond the computer  science departments and infects all the disciplines.” Suiter’s point is that the hacker is us, the teachers in the disciplines, in the classrooms. Adam Turner, in “Hacker Spaces as Scholarly Spaces,” amplifies Suiter’s point. He says, “Hacking is about doing: creating, thinking, questioning, observing, learning, and teaching. The core of academic work is, at its heart, hacking.” The implications of teacher as hacker are as fresh today as they were in 2010.  Continue reading

‘For Each and Every Child’ – A Strategy for Yesterday’s Child

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

[Note: The following is a response to the 2 Feb. 2013 report, “For Each and Every Child: A Strategy for Education Equity and Excellence,” by the Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission. -Editor]

For some time we have been working around an obsolete model of education with the idea that, if we just somehow make the old model better, education will be better. I do not believe technology blindly applied is the answer, but look at three to five year olds and how they have learned to use iPads without a course in iPad usage.

For Each and Every

Real reform will include the following:

  1. Every child will have an Individual Learning Plan.
  2. Every child will have a mentor teacher.
  3. Schools and educational staff will be open at least ten hours each day and open year round.
  4. High quality digital libraries will be accessible to learners at home and at schools.
  5. Schools will offer laboratories and facilities where learners can work together in teams or individually.
  6. Significant federal research and development funds will be available to create high quality digital learning materials.
  7. Teachers will participate in continuous learning with respect to new curricula materials.
  8. Learners will be scheduled for learning experiences as needed.

WE need to stop tinkering around the old school model that did us well yesterday but is inadequate for today’s digital world.

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Babson 2013 Online Education Survey Report Released

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, co-directors of The Babson Survey Research Group, Babson College, MA, announced this morning the release of their 2013 report, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States.

The authors describe their tenth annual survey as an independent and “collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board” that is generously supported by Pearson and the Sloan Consortium.

In their announcement, they include some highlights:

  • Over 6.7 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2011 term, an increase of 570,000 students over the previous year.
  • Thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • Seventy-seven percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face.
  • Only 30.2 percent of chief academic officers believe that their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education — a rate that is lower than recorded in 2004.

After their 2011 report, I published a review, “Sloan-C’s Definition of ‘Online Course’ May Be Out of Sync with Reality” (22 Jan. 2012), in which I questioned the survey’s definition of “online course,” which, in my opinion, is impractical and ultimately self-defeating. The 2013 survey retains the same definition. The explanation also remains the same: “To ensure consistency the same definitions have been used for al[sic] ten years of these national reports.” Since the authors claim that their report is independent and that Sloan-C’s role is supportive, criticisms, if any, should be directed at Allen and Seaman. In their closing, they make this clear: “We welcome comments.  Please let us know how we can improve the reports at bsrg@babson.edu.”

An Interview with Tim Holt, Author of ‘180 Questions’

By Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Associate Editor

[Note: Article updated on 11.10.12 — graphics added. -Editor]

Give a little of your background so we know who you are. Describe your work and how you assist teachers.

I’ve been in education for about 27 years now. I started as a classroom teacher and was a middle school science teacher for over a decade. I then moved on to administrative positions in my school district: I have worked in gifted and talented education, I’ve been an evaluator in education research, and most recently and for the last eight years I’ve been the Director of Instructional Technology for the El Paso Independent School District. My job is to try to try get teachers to use technology in the classroom with their students. I have a really great team of people that go out and train teachers on how to integrate technology into their lessons. Along the way I’ve been the President of the Science Teachers Association of Texas as well as President of the Technology Education Coordinators SIG, which is a statewide group in Texas of Instructional Technology Directors. Most people that know me from outside of Texas know me from my blog, which is now residing on Tumblr and is called HOLTTHINK.

What made you write 180 Questions: Daily Reflections for Educators and Their Professional Learning Communities?

For the longest time I thought just having a blog would be a good enough place to share my ideas and share what I was doing, but after a while I started thinking that a book would be a good place to put ideas that had to do with a very specific topic. The blog I have is kind of self-reflective and bounces all over the place from instructional technology to politics to different kinds of education topics, whereas the book is centered specifically on thinking about Professional Learning Communities or PLCs. What I wanted to do in this book was to give educators the opportunity to start doing a lot of reflection, which is something I think is sorely missing from a lot of professional development these days. What I see happening in professional development is people going in, getting trained on something, which they may or may not use, and then there is no follow-up, there is never anything that happens afterwards so you never know whether that training was useful or not useful.

The purpose of the book was to look at how we look at ourselves as educators. When I was growing up, every evening my parents had this booklet called The Upper Room, which was a daily devotional that had a little message with a meaning, and a prayer. Every night at dinner my father would read the daily passage, which they picked up at church each Sunday. I don’t even know if they still make it anymore, but I liked that idea of having something that made you think or made you jump out of your comfort zone on a daily basis. So that was kind of the genesis for the idea of doing 180 Questions. The “180” comes from the length of a typical school year here in the United States.

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