Creating a Historical Argument: Dr. James Diskant’s Webinar on Women Working in the 19th Century

How can we teach students to create a defensible thesis?

On April 21st, Dr. James Diskant, a member of EuroClio’s History and Learning Team, a historian of modern German history and a retired world history teacher with an emphasis on the 19th century, continued our Historiana Webinar Series. The series is an occasion to explore the platform’s teaching and learning tools and to debate critical thinking skills. By using Historiana’s e-builder, he was able to show how different tools have different aims, and how their use can shape students’ thinking patterns and thus lead to different outcomes.

Historiana is an online portal developed by EuroClio, Webtic and UseMedia with Europeana for and with history and citizenship educators from Europe and beyond. On Historiana you can find ready to use learning activities, multiperspective historical content and digital tools that are all free to use, adapt and share.  

What does it mean to create a valid historical argument?

Dr. James Diskant started off by showing a painting without revealing any additional information. He asked the audience to consider the following questions: “What do you see? What do you think that it is? What does it show about the 19th century?”

The painting, called “The Gleaners”, was painted by Jean-François Millet 1857 shows three French peasant women collecting left-over crops from a farmer’s field after the harvest has been collected. In many European countries, the rural poor had the right to glean the fields to supplement their diet; this painting illustrates in part how peasants lived in a world of scarcity during the early Industrial Revolution. While this painting is an important source that represents a specific moment of history, taking into account different sources allows us to define different historical narratives. It helps us create defensible historical arguments based on different kinds of evidence.

Before diving into Historiana’s platform and the advantages of its eActivity Builder, he defined what we mean by making a historical argument:

“Creating and supporting a historical argument involves your ability to create an argument and support it using relevant historical evidence. This includes identifying and framing a question about the past and then coming up with a claim or argument about that question, usually in the form of a thesis. A good argument requires a defensible thesis, supported by thorough analysis of pertinent and varied historical evidence.” AP World History

He also shared step by step indications on how to approach a source:

  • Closely examine the source
  • Take notes on details - what we think it is (words, images, and/or ideas)
  • Analyze the details and find patterns that emerge
  • Analyze the patterns and establish what the patterns reveal
  • Formulate an argument about it based on a pattern analysis

How can Historiana’s eActivity Builder help students create a defensible thesis?

Dr. James Diskant argued that in order to create a defensible argument, it is best  to choose carefully one’s sources. He selected fourteen images from Historiana’s Source Collection on Visual Representations of Women to provide different insights into women working in the 19th century. He then threw down a challenge to the audience: participants, who were sent into various breakout rooms, were given different images and were asked to reflect on the meaning they conveyed and on their relationships with one another. More specifically, he asked them to reflect on which Historiana’s tools of the eActivity Builder worked best to highlight the relationship between them.

 

Interactive tools for critical thinking

The eActivity Builder offers many different tools. All these tools have been created with historical critical thinking in mind and serve different purposes; each tool is thoroughly explained here. Among others, he decided to focus on four tools in particular, as using these specific tools can help students create a defensible argument. 

 

  • The Analyzing tool was created to analyse one source in detail, using annotation. You can use it to have students suggest the time period at which the source was created, practise really close observation, or make connections between parts of a source and knowledge.

 

  • The Compare & Contrast tool has the aim of comparing different sources.  It works the same as the analyzing tool, but for two or more sources. You can use it to have your students think about similarities and differences between visual sources from the same time period, or identify change/continuity when they belong to different time periods.

 

  • The Sorting tool allows students to categorise sources according to the criteria set by the teacher. You, as the teacher, can decide where to initially place the images and ask the students to arrange them in the way you want to. One can sort chronologically, by theme, or into smaller groups. After adding sources to the tool, you can also set a background: different backgrounds have different aims, for example one can divide sources into categories (positive or negative, thematic headings, relevance to a topic, timeline, and/or sequence of events). This tool allows you as a teacher to create a variety of ways to have your students work, as there are so many ways to organize the activity! In some ways this tool then works the best to emphasize higher level thinking. 

 

  • The Discovering tool allows you to look at different relationships between various images and see the connections and in this way, it allows students to develop their level of thinking. The Discovery Tool is inspired by a mind map, but the idea is that students can discover the connections between different sources. They can reveal the sources one by one, and then see the word that connects them. It was specifically created for students to learn more about sources and the principle of causation because they can discover sources in an order defined by the teachers by simply clicking on the sources.

Allowing different tools you could have in the block, you could allow students to look at things in different ways Dr. James Diskant

In the activity that he created with the eLearning Activity Builder, he asked students: “In what ways did Industrialization change work for women?”. By analyzing 14 images from 19th-century European countries, students can create a defensible historical argument about change and continuity as a result of the First Industrial Revolution. By using the tools differently, you could do sorting activities in various ways! In this specific case about women working in the 19th century, it can help make clearer to students the changes related to industrialization, working conditions, and gender roles.

“The evidence used should be built around the application of one of the other historical thinking skills like comparison, causation, patterns of continuity and change over time, or periodization. Finally, it involves your ability to look at a variety of evidence in concert with each other, identifying contradictions and other relationships among sources to develop and support your argument.” AP World History

Using the eLearning Activity Builder allows you as a teacher to decide how you want to create and organize the entire activity, including the order of images. Historiana’s platform provides reliable (copyright-free!) sources so that evidence can back up student’s arguments and the interactive tools promote their critical thinking, highlighting the connections between the images. In this way, it fosters students’ capability to analyze sources, make historical connections, apply chronological reasoning, and ultimately to create and support a historical argument.

Learn more about Historiana Webinar Series

This article is part of a webinar series, in which teacher educators who are experienced in using Historiana show examples of the eLearning Activities that they created, while also diving into a specific topic and discussing a critical thinking skill to teach students. 

On December 9th, EuroClio ambassador Helen Snelson kicked off the webinar series talking about using sources as evidence. She illustrated the eActivity on post-war Europe that she was able to create on Historiana. >> Watch the full event | Read the article to know more.

On February 17th Bridget Martin, History Teacher at the International School of Paris, focussed on contributions to WWI and showed the purposeful eActivity she was able to create by using Historiana’s e-builder. >> Watch the full event | Read the article to know more.

If you’re not familiar with the platform, we recommend you to watch this helpful video as an Introduction to Historiana’s eActivity Builder. You can also just try out the platform yourself - you’ll see that it is very intuitive and offers you plenty of interesting options.

What’s next?

Don’t miss the last webinar of the series! On June 16th, Gijs van Gaans (Teacher Trainer, Fontys Tilburg) will be examining Schisms within Christianity and discuss change and continuity: register here!

 

This article is written as part of the Europeana DSI4 project co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union. The sole responsibility of this publication lies with the author. The European Union is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Written by Giulia Verdini

Sources

Main image - Source: Gleaners by Jean-François Millet 1857. Musee D’Orsay, Public Domain.

The Albert Team, “The 5 Most Important Historical Thinking Skills for the AP World History Test”. In AP World History, 2020. Link: https://www.albert.io/blog/5-most-important-historical-thinking-skills-for-the-ap-world-history-test/

Opportunity for EuroClio members: Become a historiana trainer!

Giulia Boschini Opportunities

When it comes to history education, EuroClio has always been a front runner organization for inspiring and empowering teachers to engage learners in innovative and responsible history and citizenship education. One of the long-term Euroclio’s initiatives at the heart of this mission is Historiana. In 2010, Euroclio partnered with Europeana, to co-found Historiana. Since then, Historiana has been an ever-evolving project whose mission is to offer the best possible digital tools for history educators around Europe. 

Historiana works as a digital history textbook of European history. The great advantage of Historiana over its paper counterpart is that thanks to its digital format, it can be constantly updated and improved. Plus, it is eco-friendly! The other advantage of Historiana is that it does not just work as a digital textbook that offers access to thousands of historical sources. In fact, this project would not be possible without the contribution of the Cultural Heritage Institutions, that grant free access to thousands of historical sources. Historiana also works as an interactive platform, which gives teachers the possibility to create e-Learning activities or use ready-to-use ones. These activities have the objective to promote historical thinking skills. 

To promote the use of Historiana, Euroclio is offering to its full, associated and individual members the possibility to follow a a training to become a certified Historiana trainer. Being a certified Historiana trainer means that you will be able to host workshops to support other history educators in their journey to use Historiana in order to promote historical skills among their students. You will play an active role in Euroclio’s mission: promoting historical skills, such as critical thinking and multiperspectivity, and connecting across borders professionals.

If you are interested, it is not too late to become an individual member and learn more about this training! For more information please contact Lorraine Besnier.

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!

Europeana DSI4

About the Project

The 4th phase of the DSI project - DSI4 - will continue the work and further develop the outcomes of the previous phases of the Europeana Digital Service Infrastructure project. EuroClio and Europeana will work together to improve the discoverability of both Historiana and Europeana websites. In this phase 24 new source collections and related eLearning activities, using content from the Europeana Collections, will be added to the Historiana eLearning Environment. EuroClio and Europeana will also updated Teacher Training Package developed in the previous phase of the project with the new educational material developed in this phase, and provide Teacher Trainings, both online and offline, using its updated version. This training will allow to directly train teachers with Historiana, and will give EuroClio the possibility to have a direct feedback from history educator, to take into consideration for future developments of both Historiana and the Teacher Training Package.

In September 2020, the project was lengthened for one year. This new phase of the project aims to further the discoverability of the digital cultural content, strengthen our partnership with cultural heritage institutes and train teachers and educators to use the platform and its content.

Project Aims

The overall aim of the project is to facilitate the optimization of Europeana and Historiana resources in history education, and in particular the project aims for:

  • The re-use of sources from Europeana Collecions to create new source collections for Historiana eLearning environment;
  • The creation of new eLearning activities for Historiana eLearning environment using the sources collected in the project;
  • Provide teacher trainings and workshops using Historiana and the Teacher Training Package;
  • Improve the discoverability of both Europeana and Historiana;
  • Reach out and link better to history educators who search for source collections online.

The consortium will work in the project to develop the following outputs:

DSI4

24 new source collections on Historiana using the content from Europeana

This output will result in new source collections for the Historiana eLearning Environment using sources from the Europeana Collection. All in all 24 new source collections on 6 different themes (4 for each themes) will be added to the Historiana Historical Content. This output will allow the re-use of Europeana Collections and will provide Historiana’s users with more Historical material available. The first three themes have already been decided: Industrial Revolutions, European Renaissances and Napoleon and his times. For the remaining three themes, in order to provide history educators with the material they are looking for, in the decision on the themes for the source collections feedback and suggestions from the EuroClio community will be taken into account. The development of these source collections will be done by the EuroClio with the supervions and curation of the Historiana Historical Content Team.

24 new eLearning activities on Historiana

Along with the source collections, for each new source collection an eLearning Activity will be developed. This will result in 24 new eLearning activities that will be added to the learning and teaching section on Historiana. With these ready to use activities, users will have the possibility to see how new collections can be used to prepare learning activities to yous in their teaching.

Update of the Teacher Training Package

The Teacher Training Package developed in the previous phase of the project will be improved and updated during this 4th phase. The updated version will include references to the new educational material developed during the implementation of the project.

You can download the teacher training  package here.

Online and Offline trainings

Multiple specialized workshops will be delivered by different EuroClio trainers in Teacher Training Institutes amongst others in The Netherlands, using the updated Teacher Training Package and Historiana, from spring 2019. From fall 2019 a group of 4 educators, selected from the Historiana teaching and learning team will provide trainings all across Europe. EuroClio will also provide several online trainings throughout the implementation of the project. These trainings will allow EuroClio to directly train training teachers on how to use Historiana in their lessons. Feedback from the participants to the trainings will be as well important to give EuroClio and Europeana insights on how to update and improve the Teacher Training Package.

 

DSI4.2

Upgraded Partner Pages on Historiana

This output will result in upgraded partner pages on Historiana whereby partners from the platform will be enabled to create their own content and publish them directly on Historiana. The partners (museums, archives, libraries etc.) will be able to publish source collections and elearning activities by using their own collections. This will result in a variety of sources and languages on the platform.

Support for different media types

The project will also focus on rendering Historiana able to use more types of sources such as videos, audios etc. This will be applicable not only for source collections but also for elearning activities.

Self-Paced Online Training Course

The Historiana team is working to create an online course to teach the basics of Historiana to beginners. The Self-Paced courses will happen ‘live’ in February 2021 and 2022. The live course will include feedback to the content sent by participants, but the course will also be available offline, with no feedback.

Series of Webinar for advanced users

Next to the Self Paced Course, the project will also develop a series of Webinars for advanced users of Historiana, which will focus on the ebuilder. The webinars will introduce the participants to the ebuilder and explain in greater details the reasoning behind certain elearning activities and how to take the most advantage of the ebuilder. These webinars will take place in December 2020, February 2021, April 2021 and June 2021.

Project Material

Teacher Training Package

At a glance:

Donor

The project will be implemented with the financial support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

Project Coordinators

Steven Stegers (Executive Director)

Lorraine Besnier (Project Manager)

Project team

Project Partners

 

Team Members

Historical Content Team

  • Bob Stradling
  • Chris Rowe
  • Francesco Scatigna
  • Andrea Scionti
  • Sean Wempe

Historical Education Team

  • Helen Snelson
  • Bridget Martin
  • Gijs van Gaans
  • James Diskant

Historiana: a new source collection on Medicine and Anatomy is now available!

EuroClio continuously works to improve its innovative educational platform Historiana. To do so, it has been collaborating with Europeana in the creation of source collections. The aim of this collaboration is to guarantee to teachers across all Europe the possibility to have free access to historical content, learning activities and innovative digital tools. We are now working on many new collections focusing on the Renaissance, and on how the ideas of the Renaissance fed into different disciplines (painting but also sculpture, cartography, music, literature, architecture, philosophy, and science), across different countries.

Newly available is the collection “Medicine and Anatomy” that focuses on how Anatomy and Medicine evolved as the scientific method gained prominence during the Renaissance period. This collection gives an overview of some of the key ideas that influenced medical thought, as well as of all the important thinkers of that era. The main purpose of this source collection is to give students the possibility to explore and understand the changes throughout Europe of how people perceived medicine and the human body, as well as scientific advancements. Ultimately, it helps students to pose questions about progress and declines of the Renaissance period.

Webinar: Reading Visual History, Using Digitised History Sources to Promote Visual Literacy and Historical Thinking

EuroClio Project Updates, Uncategorized

In the final week of my residency at EuroClio, I delivered a webinar entitled Reading Visual History: Using Digitised History Sources to Promote Visual Literacy and Historical Thinking which was free for EuroClio members. The webinar took place on the afternoon of 13 May and was attended by participants tuning in from all over the world, some of whom were able to join us even whilst travelling home from work. We are excited about offering webinars more often as they are a convenient way to bring our membership together for professional development and discussion and this session formed a first step in this direction.

Visual Literacy

We began by discussing the importance of visual literacy and some general principles for analysing visual sources in the history classroom. According to Bristor and Drake, “visual literacy is a person's ability to understand, interpret and evaluate visual messages, and in turn to use visual language to communicate with others.” While we all have some level of visual literacy, it is important that students develop the skills to critically engage with visual sources in their daily lives and in order to improve their historical thinking skills. Visual literacy can aid the development of skills like using sources, contextualising, and taking historical perspectives. It can also spark student interest and provide an alternative way to increase substantive historical knowledge in what is often a text-heavy subject area. Some of the general principles for supporting students to enhance their visual literacy skills include:

  • Work from the surface to the depths
    • Begin with what stands out in an image and then ‘read’ in greater detail, asking questions of the image along the way. Consider how factors like position, colour, shape, symbols, etc. serve to attract the viewer’s attention and communicate messages.
  • Describe and interpret
    • Ensure students are making clear links between exactly what they see in the image and what they interpret this to mean. This helps to avoid false assumptions, encourages students to always justify their interpretations and assists them in identifying how ideas and messages are communicated in visual sources.
  • Consider different perspectives
    • There are three important categories of perspective to consider when working with historical visual sources: the perspective of the creator, the perspective of the contemporary viewer, and the perspective of the present-day viewer.
  • Using contextual knowledge and captions
    • Contextual knowledge from both your teaching and image captions can support students to make sense of the image and identify the perspectives above. In some cases, it can be useful to withhold these until later in the analysis process in order to encourage more open ‘reading’ or to demonstrate the importance of context.

Using Digital Sources and Online Activities

The second half of the session focused on the use of online learning activities to promote both visual literacy and historical thinking skills. The example activities presented showed how digital sources, coming from Europeana Collections and curated for educators on our own Historiana website, can be used in different ways in the classroom. They were created using the eLearning Activity Builder with a focus on the ‘Analysing’ and ‘Sorting’ tools.

An activity using the Posters from Communist China source collection promoted deep reading of propaganda posters in order to understand the type of society the Chinese Communist Party hoped to create. The image above is an example of one of these posters, and you can see it is a rich source of messages about the ideal Chinese Communist society. The second activity, using The Visual Front source collection of official WWI photography, asked students to analyse and evaluate the strategies used in this photography to make the lives of soldiers look appealing. In presenting these activities, we discussed the advantages of online learning activities and some possible ways to integrate this into the workflow of the classroom.

Webinars

The webinar software allowed participants to share video and audio and therefore engage in real discussion throughout the session. This was a great way for us to connect and collaborate. EuroClio is keen to make webinars a regular feature for members so keep an eye out for information on upcoming sessions.

References:

Bristor, Valerie J., Drake, Suzanne V. ‘Linking the Language Arts and Content Areas through Visual Technology.’ T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education) vol 22, no. 2., https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-16175245/linking-the-language-arts-and-content-areas-through.

Bridget Martin, EuroClio

Workshop: Using Photographic Sources and Online Tools to Promote Historical Thinking

Agustin De Julio Project Updates

By Bridget Martin, History Teacher in Residence

As part of my residency at EuroClio, I attended the Annual Conference in Gdansk, Poland, where I presented a workshop entitled Photographic Sources: Bringing History to Life? : Using online tools to promote historical thinking. The workshop took place on the 7th of April and was attended by over 20 participants from all around the globe. The focus of the workshop was on the use of the Historiana website which provides teachers with a wealth of historical content, teaching and learning activities as well as a tool with which to build their own online activities for students.

Historical Content Available on Historiana

We began with an explanation of the Historiana website, an invaluable resource produced by, with and for history teachers which is freely available to all. In the area of Historical Content, Historiana provides teachers with a variety of resources:

  • Comprehensive sets of content, sources and learning activities connected to ‘key moments’ such as WWI, WWII and the Cold War
  • Thematic units such as ‘Changing Europe’ or ‘Silencing Citizens through Censorship’, and
  • Numerous source collections curated by EuroClio staff, trainees and volunteers.

Many of the sources used are drawn from our partner, Europeana, an online portal which provides access to over 50 million digitised sources from thousands of European archives, libraries, museums and audio-visual collections as well as their own online collections and galleries.

For this workshop, we concentrated on The Visual Front source collection which provides many examples of official war photographs from various nations, all taken during the First World War. These sources were collected from the Imperial War Museums and, like all source collections on the Historiana website, assembled with contextual notes for use by teachers in the classroom.

Analysing Photographs

The Visual Front source collection highlights the nature of official photography and its tendency to emphasise and deemphasise aspects of the war, often staging photographs for propagandistic purposes. This collection provided the perfect springboard for discussions of how to support students to question the assumption that photographs always capture things as they really were and encourage them to critically analyse photographs in the same way they would any other historical source. Participants took part in a rich discussion about the types of questions they would ask students to consider when presented with one of the photographs from the collection.

We also discussed the questions suggested by Cory Callahan who has drawn upon research by Sam Wineburg in which he identified three heuristics used by expert historians when reading textual sources: sourcing, contextualising and corroborating. Callahan suggests that when analysing photographs we could invite students to ask questions in the same areas, such as:

eLearning Activity Builder on Historiana

The second half of the workshop allowed participants to observe and test out Historiana’s eLearning Activity Builder. This tool allows teachers to create their own online learning activities to promote historical thinking using Historiana source collections as well as their own resources. Using different building blocks, teachers can:

  • provide instructions
  • create activities where students annotate, sort or prioritise sources
  • ask questions, and
  • receive student responses.

After looking at a few examples, participants worked in groups to create their own eLearning Activity focusing on the usefulness of photographic sources from The Visual Front collection. These activities were presented at the end of the session and ranged from tasks for assessing how realistic the photographs were, to those centred on considering the impact of the photographs as well as those which explored the representation of women and their roles in the collection. The range of activities developed in this short space of time provides an excellent example of the vast variety of activities that teachers can develop with this tool for use within their specific teaching contexts.

References

Cory Callahan. ‘Analyzing Historical Photographs to Promote Civic Competence.’ Social Studies Research and Practice 8, no. 1 (2013): 77-88.

Sam Wineburg. ‘Historical Problem Solving: A Study of the Cognitive Processes Used in the Evaluation of Documentary and Pictorial Evidence.’ Journal of Educational Psychology 83: 73-87.





Teacher Training Workshop on Representations of Women at Work in Groningen

This post has been written by Marissa Young, trainee at EuroClio.

On 11 March EuroClio provided a teacher training workshop at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands on “Women at Work: Analyzing and comparing visual sources from the Europeana Collections.”

The hour long workshop focused on demonstrating to participants how Europeana source collections on Historiana—specifically the Women Working source collection—could be used in the Historiana eActivity Builder to help students critically analyze visual sources. The workshop was generously hosted by Dr. Tim Huijgen, professor of History education at the University of Groningen. Participants were trainee teachers enrolled in master’s level education studies at the University of Groningen and all were working part-time as history teachers at local schools.

The workshop began with an introduction by Steven Stegers (EuroClio), who shared background information on Europeana and Historiana with the participants. He introduced the trainee teachers to the basic functions of Historiana.

Following Steven, I led an exploration on using the “Women Working” source collection.  The source collection was built as an eLearning Activity to help guide students’ analytical and critical viewing skills to help answer historical enquiry questions.  Such as, “what can representations of washerwomen tell us about how this profession was viewed by the rest of society?” or “How do representations of women medical practitioners differ between cultures?”

Why Women Working?

When asked to create a Europeana source collection for this workshop, I was inspired to focus on representations of women for two reasons. One, a personal interest in women’s history and two, due to the relevance of March as Women’s history month.

As I browsed through Europeana looking for visual sources of women I was struck by the number of sources showing women washing clothes, grinding grain, weaving cloth, hulling coal, healing others, and producing goods all across different cultures. These images offered a different interpretation of women workers than the now popular celebration of women entering the workforce as a result of wartime labor shortages. These images showed that women throughout history, and across cultures, had a more diverse profile of work than often acknowledged.

While curating this collection, my criteria for selecting sources was that they had to show women actively engaged in doing work, and that the work was not dependent upon a grand moment in history.  Resulting images show the everyday experiences of women.

What caught my attention, when looking at the complete collection, was that women’s work usually had social component represented. Women did their work with others, mostly other women. In many of these sources there is a sense of community, collaboration or assistance among the women. Does this social element represent the actual conditions of women’s work? Or do these sources serve to further the stereotype that women are the social gender?

There is much to explore in this collection, which is why we felt it would make for an interesting workshop on analyzing and comparing sources.

Analyzing representation in visual sources

During the workshop I reviewed the concept of representation with the participants. Representation is the production of meaning of concepts within a culture.  One participant gave the example that teachers are usually represented as standing in front of a board, wearing glasses, and probably holding an apple. When we see the board, glasses and apple and we recognize this person represents a teacher.

Representation is a process we constantly engage in, yet do not t usually stop to consider. However, taking the time to contemplate representation in an image can help students learn how to analyze and discuss visual sources critically. A great tool for teaching students to view sources critically is the Analyze tool in the eActivity Builder.

As we demonstrated during the workshop, you can use the Analyze tool to have students annotate visual sources to help them articulate the process of visual source analysis. A good annotation of a visual source has two components: a description and a meaning. For example:

The tree is arched over and all the leaves are pointing in one direction (description) which indicates this landscape is windy (meaning).

Participants were asked to assume the role of students and make at least three annotations on three images of washerwomen using the annotate feature in the eLearning Activity. Participants discovered how this simple tool can be used to help structure students’ process of visual source analysis and prepare them to answer historical enquiry questions with reasonable and justified evidence.

Historical Content Team Meets at House of European History

On 23-25 November 2018 EuroClio and the Historiana Historical Content Team came together in Brussels to define the first steps in the implementation of the 4th phase of the Digital Services Infrastructure (DSI4) project, led by Europeana Foundation. The meeting was hosted by the House of European History, which was also involved in the meeting in the person of Laurence Bragard.

During these three intense days of meeting, EuroClio and the Historiana Historical Content Team set the priorities and the next steps of their collaboration, in particular defining the future work on the implementation of the DSI4 project.

After a presentation of updates and news by Steven Stegers, Acting Executive Director of EuroClio, on Saturday morning, the afternoon was dedicated to the brainstorm and gathering of ideas for the source collections that will be developed within the project. In the framework of the DSI4 project, 24 new source collections on 6 different themes will be collected – re-using content from the Europeana Collections – and made available on Historiana. Participants were divided into two groups, focusing on the three themes already defined: one group on European Renaissances and Napoleon and his times and the other on the Industrial Revolutions. The brainstorm session was very productive and resulted in a good collaborative team work, combining the different expertise and backgrounds of all participants. On Sunday morning the two groups presented the work of the previous day and shared the ideas collected so far with all participants, for feedback and confrontation.

The meeting resulted in the definition of around 20 ideas on source collections to be further selected and developed within the coming months. Ideas for three additional themes, taking into account feedback by the EuroClio community, were also put forward and will be further explored by the Historical Content Team.

Following the meeting in Brussels, Bob Stradling, Editor in Chief of Historiana, spent two days at the EuroClio office in The Hague introducing the project and supporting trainees in collecting valuable sources. Trainees, supervised by the Historical Content Team, will work on the source collections, engaging in the search on Europeana collections as well as on research on the topics selected, in order to provide sources with valuable and relevant content.