Working together online on Historiana: A meeting of the different teams.

Picture: The team catching up with each other.

 

The online Historiana Teams meeting took place on 21st, 22nd and 23rd August 2020. 

This meeting, originally scheduled to take place at the House of European History, was held online due to travel restrictions. The meeting gathered our historical content team (Andrea Scionti, Christopher Rowe, Francesco Scatignia and Robert Stradling), teaching and learning team (Bridget Martin, Gijs van Gaans, Helen Snelson, James Diskant and Sean Wempe), concept, design and development team (represented by Nique Sanders) as well as our partners in the House of European History (Laurence Bragard and Constanze Itzel). The purpose of the meeting was to agree on the mode of cooperation between the different teams and organisations involved.

To kick off the meeting, Constanze Itzel presented on how the House of European History dealt and is currently dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. Particularly, she introduced the work of the museum on documenting the crisis by the museum itself and by other European museums.

Then, the teams were introduced to the latest developments made by the concept, design and development team as well as the implications for their future additions on historiana. The team is working on the ‘analysis’ which will be brought back to the e-activity builder. The tool ‘sorting’ is being updated with the possibility for users to add their own background and add labels. A final improvement is the introduction of an ‘instruction button’ for teachers to help guide their students through the activities. After these improvements are made the team will further develop the concept of ‘narratives’ as a way to present new historical content on Historiana. 

The teams then discussed a possible re-organisation of the content listed in Historiana’s ‘Historical Content’ section under broader topics and themes. At the moment, Historiana hosts a number of source collections (shorter collection of sources curated and put in perspective on one topic), units (bigger collection of sources and material organised around one topic) and key moments (bigger collection of sources and material organised around one time period) in its ‘historical content’ section. The material available on historiana is constantly growing, making it sometimes challenging for teachers to find what they need. Consequently, organising the material available according to broader topics and themes should not only make it easier for teachers to find what they need, but it should also help display the great content that may sometimes be hidden on the platform.

To conclude Saturday’s meeting, the group was divided into breakout rooms to discuss and test a better way of working together across the different teams. This was needed to make sure that all the resources are built based on the expertise of both history educators and historians. The different smaller groups each tackled a different Source Collection and discussed possible ways in which the content could be adapted to help educators use it in an eLearning Activity and focused on different historical and educational themes.

Everyone gathered again on Sunday to discuss the next steps of a professional development course that Historiana will provide, as well as how to best involve our community in our work.

The next steps of the Historical Content Team will be to complete the research on which content is over- and under-represented. In addition, the team members will work on the development of new content that will make links to existing content (such as a unit about migration and partisans) or will correct the unbalance (such as a unit on Pandemics).  

The Historical Education Team will provide their expertise to the Historical Content team in the development of the four new Source Collections, create eLearning activities for Source Collections that do not have any yet, and work on a series of Webinars to introduce more people to the creation of eLearning Activities.

The Concept, Design and Development Team will continue working on the development of the concept of ‘Narratives’ to present content in better ways. They aim to introduce different perspectives about one event in order to easily give access to a truly multi perspective approach on a given topic. They will implement the feedback received on the ‘help’ button in the e-activity builder and further the development of the ‘instruction’ button, the Analysis tool and the Sorting tool.Overall, this meeting resulted in a better understanding of the next step of cooperation, and on the setting of the priorities for the next period. We will inform one when the next updates are available and meanwhile, do not hesitate to go look at our multitude of resources on historiana.eu!

The case for teaching the history of the European Integration

Veronika Budaiová Association

The EuroClio thematic seminar on ‘Teaching European Integration” held at the House of European History on 22-24 November 2019 was opened by a keynote lecture from Liesbeth van de Grift*, Associate Professor History of International Relations at Utrecht University. She focused on the theme ‘The case for teaching the history of European integration’, and in particular on the guiding question:

  • Why is it important to teach the history of European integration?
  • What are potential challenges and obstacles when teaching the history of European integration?
  • What are possible ways forward?

During the interactive lecture, some teachers that were participating to the seminar underlined that they find it hard to include European Integration into the curricula, whereas some teachers said that they already teach about it. Liesbeth pointed out that one of the best ways to bring European Integration to the classroom is to show the impact of the European Union on our daily lives. Nowadays, every aspect of everyday life is subject to regulations, many of which were created by the EU to guarantee a common standard in all Member States.

For example, you wake up and brush your teeth with water that comes from pipes, and you know the water is not harmful to you because of EU regulations. Then, you might want to eat an apple, or a mandarin, and you can be reasonably sure that it was not subject to more pesticides than the limit set by the EU, and so on.

Furthermore, she continued, in all Member States people have a varying knowledge of the EU and its history. The role of teachers is especially important in this circumstances. It is only by learning about the history of European Integration, its relevance, and the functioning of the Union, that children will be able to form an opinion on their future.

 

The main question, thus, becomes “What do teachers perceive as important information to know about, when talking of the EU integration?”. This question has many different responses. The traditional one would be “high politics” (treaties, summits, or resolutions), focusing more on material interests than ideals. Other answers can be looking at the impact of the EU on everyday life, as Liesbeth explained in her introduction, or by showing successes and failures of the EU on the International Stage, as Helen Snelson suggested in another session of the teaching seminar.

 

The last part of the lecture was dedicated to the discussion of materials which participants are using in their classrooms or what they plan to use. Some participants said that they did not use particular material at the moment, but that they realized the importance of showing the influence of EU on everyday life. Some teachers, on the other hand, teach about EU integration when discussing the nature of democracy, while some others do simulations of elections to the European Parliament in their classrooms for the same purpose.

The main conclusion of the lecture was that teaching about European Integration is a multi-faceted, and not easy, task. There are a variety of approaches and instruments that can be used in doing so. Throughout the thematic seminar, participants got to know some of them.

 

Read more about the seminar in this article.

 

*Liesbeth van de Grift, Associate Professor History of International Relations at Utrecht University, specializes in the history of political representation in Europe. She leads a research project on the role of societal actors, such as consumer groups and environmental organisations, in the history of European integration. She is one of the authors of the textbook on European integration history The Unfinished History of European Integration (Amsterdam University Press, 2018) written for bachelor’s and master’s students.

 

Teaching European Integration. How and Why? – memories from an inspiring training

Veronika Budaiová Association

The thematic seminar on “Teaching European Integration. How and Why?” took place from 22 to 24 November 2019 at the House of European History in Brussels, Belgium. It was organised by EuroClio in collaboration with the House of European History with the aim of introducing new methods to teach about European Integration.

The programme was built around active workshops where new materials were introduced and participants had a chance to exchange their experiences.

The seminar started with words of welcome from EuroClio Executive Director Steven Stegers, from the Head of the House of European History Constanze Itzel, and the Head of the Learning and Outreach Department at the House of European History Ewa Goodman. Then, the programme continued with a keynote lecture by Liesbeth van de Grift making the case for teaching European Integration. The lecture focused on the strategies that participants to the seminar already use when it comes to Teaching European integration. Then, participants dived right into the first possible teaching method: a visit to the permanent exhibition of the House of European History, using the activity sheet for schools. This was followed by a walking tour of the European neighborhood.

The second day of the seminar consisted of a series of active workshops. Helen Snelson, member of the Historiana Teaching and Learning Team, hosted two workshops with materials taken from Historiana.eu. First, she introduced several strategies and activities of teaching EU history. In particular, she put the EU in its broader historical context, showing participants how to connect it to the bigger picture of the history of the European Continent from 1648 (Westphalian Peace) to today. In doing so, Helen introduced also a series of concepts that related to conflict management, and that students might find hard to approach. The activity she used is available at this link. Going further in detail, she tackled the question ‘What makes it possible for Europe to work together and operate as a global power and what are the criteria?’, where she presented examples of successful and unsuccessful cooperation between EU countries, in an effort of establishing what are the features of successful cooperation and global power.

Laurence Bragard introduced the different activities developed by the House of European History. She focused on an activity about the Elections of the European Parliament, in which students analyze the 1979 campaign for the first elections of the EP, comparing it with posters and social media campaign from 2019. This inspiring activity, in which students are gradually introduced to the concept of representative democracy within the EU, is available for free on the website of the House of European History.

Finally, participants had a sneak preview of the toolkit on “how can we best deal with migration?”, developed as part of the VPRO-led project “In Europe at School”. This toolkit makes use of clips from the TV series “In Europe Now” to teach about migration movements in Europe, and to promote critical thinking in students. At the end of the activities of the toolkit, students make their own mini-documentary on the topic of migration. The material was received well by all participants, who suggested new ways of using and improving the toolkit and expressed their interest in the results of the project.

The last day of training kicked off at European Parlamentarium, where participants tried Role-Play Game designed for high school students. There, they had a chance to become Members of the European Parliament and negotiate two (mock) directives. It was an interesting activity, which ask everyone to exit from their comfort zone and take part in debates, journalists’ interviews, lobby missions, and working group meetings.

Finally, Laurence moderated a workshop on identity, and on how people construct their identity. This is a rather sensitive concept, difficult for students of primary or secondary schools to grasp. The activity developed by the House of European History presents a series of step-by-step exercises that guide teachers and students in exploring their own identity(ies), how are identities constructed, and how are identities used to build narratives of inclusion/exclusion.

All in all, the seminar was a successful and inspiring training, where participants from all across Europe got to know about new instruments to teach about the European Integration, and shared their own experiences, challenges, and solutions to a problem, how to interest pupils in EU integration and high politics, that was shared by them all.

We would like to thank all the people that participated to the seminar, as well as the speakers: Laurence Bragard, Helen Snelson, Daniel Bernsen. A great thanks goes to the House of European History and all its staff for co-organizing the seminar and giving us the opportunity of visiting their inspiring permanent and temporary exhibitions.