On December 9th, EuroClio ambassador Helen Snelson kicked off the four-part webinar series on mastering the art of developing eLearning Activities on Historiana. By using source material on post-war Europe, Helen was able to create a meaningful and engaging eActivity for her students. In this article you find the tips and tricks on using source materials as evidence that Helen shared, and get ideas on how to use Historiana in your educational practice.
The webinar started off with an insight in how using individual sources can instill a ‘sense of period’ with students. This helps them to feel more secure about their understanding of the past and make sense of historical people and events in a broader context. Helen demonstrated this in her eLearning Activity with a 1949 German election poster, generating a sense of the hunger and hardships, but also the future-oriented mindset of the time. Exercises using single sources to this effect can easily be made in Historiana’s eActivity builder using the question, analysing, or highlighting tool. Helen recommended assigning this eActivity as homework to prepare students for your classes, especially when in-class time is limited.
Afterwards, the webinar concentrated further on using different sets of sources. Helen stressed how different sets of sources, such as maps, pictures, or objects, give us different types of evidence. By really engaging students in these different types of sources, they will discover for themselves what type of information these sets can give them on the historical topic at hand. The comparing and discovering tools in the eLearning Activity are especially suited for this end.
(Click on the image to watch) 13:40- 22:41: In this segment, Helen Snelson builds on the previous activity by contrasting the poster with a testimony of a French schoolgirl and demonstrates how to do this as an eActivity in Historiana.
When discussing sources in general, Helen pointed out that teachers also need to be very careful about their language, as ‘sources’ and ‘evidence’ are not interchangeable. A source is something a historian can use as evidence to say something specific about the past, but with widely varying degrees of certainty. It is important for teachers to confer the uncertainty inherent to the historical profession, for example by asking students what they can ‘infer’ from a source. When we start using multiple sources, we can show students that one type of source can be corroborated and connected or compared with other sources to create more valid evidence.
To demonstrate the limitations of sources when studying the past, Helen shared the metaphor of sources as ‘a window to the past’. We are all inside, in the present, looking at the outside world, the past, through the window that is available to us: remaining sources. And when looking out of this window, everyone notices different things. We might choose to focus on the other buildings, the trees, or a bird flying by. Helen: “If we looked through that window, we would all notice different things, because we are all built slightly differently and we observe differently.” As educators, we should remind ourselves and our students that sources are not a representative reflection of the past, they are but fragmentary remains. And when students get a handle on this metaphor, they start to avoid these oversimplifications that a single source would tell them a truth about the past and that’s that.
Helen also gave some helpful pointers to make the most effective use of sources in the classroom. By showing a well-selected source or set of sources, for example, you can demonstrate how new source material can overturn the popular view on historical events. She illustrated this by using a source that shows how the first shots in the First World War were fired outside of Europe, to overturn the entrenched image of trench warfare. Whenever possible, Helen advised to show the real source and not just a textual copy. This will train your students to pick up clues from context that otherwise might be lost. She further demonstrated how to use a Layers of Inference Diagram to teach students about deconstructing a source.
(Click on the image to watch) 47:02 - 50:41: How to use a Layers of Inference Diagram to deconstruct sources.
At the closing of the webinar, Helen explained how she combined all of her insights into an eLearning Activity on Historiana called ‘How does a historian use sources as evidence’ that she uses in her classroom. She then concluded with her expectations on the future of sources in history education: “I think what’s really exciting about history and history teaching at the moment is the wide array of sources that has been particularly driven by the young academic historians.” With the support of Historiana, you could train the next generation of young academic historians to engage with sources through your history teaching!
(Click on the image to watch) 55:08-59:30: What the final eLearning Activity using sources on Historiana looks like.
Want to learn more about using sources as evidence in the (digital) classroom? Watch the full webinar here: https://youtu.be/s3ThUq1hTDs.
Access the ready to use eLearning Activity here: https://historiana.eu/ea/view/8011aab4-ad66-4ad3-97a3-d9c6812ae24b/text/bb_0
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.
These events are scheduled next:
- On February 17th, Bridget Martin (History Teacher, International School of Paris) will be focusing on the Contributions to WWI and talking about perspective. (register here)
- On April 21st, Jim Diskant (History Teacher retd.) will be looking at Visual Representation of women (Thinking skill TBA). (register here)
- 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 Mechteld Visser.
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!
Picture: Demonstration near the Bolshoi Theatre
Historiana, the educational portal developed by EuroClio, is entering a new engaging phase of development. Since the website’s establishment it has built up a broad variety of learning activities and historical content available to teachers, historians, as well as students providing quality education on history and heritage from a global perspective. Now, to make the content generation more inclusive the idea of a crowdsourcing came up. Crowdsourcing is a process in which many contributions by individuals cumulate to a valuable result. In the case of Historiana, EuroClio, led by the Historiana historical content team, involved its community to gather historical sources from a wide range of countries and draw from the diverse language skills and local historical knowledge of its members. The idea is that together we can produce source collections that are truly transnational and multiperspective, thereby removing an important barrier for those who want to teach history in this way.
Because things are sometimes easier said than done, we wanted to test the viability of crowdsourcing for this goal, with the pilot ‘Developing a transnational source collection on the Russian Revolution’. The purpose of the pilot was to set the events in revolutionary Russia into a wider international context and explore the different ways in which people, in the political elites or workers’ movements as well as amongst the general public or the bourgeoisie, responded to what was happening in Russia. In order to provide a transnational perspective, we wanted to include sources from within Russia as well as from the states neighbouring Russia, the Allied as well as the Central Powers. The focus was put on six key events in the years from 1917 to 1923.
EuroClio invited members to participating in a webinar session that took place on two afternoons in October and November 2018. During these sessions, the participants were instructed about the ideas behind Historiana, the aims of the source collection as well as the practical requirements and formalities for submitting sources. There were no requirements made on how many sources a participant would be expected to provide nor on the format of the sources.
By the end of the year, around fifty sources from more than twenty participants reflecting a broad variety of perspectives were submitted. Subsequently, the EuroClio Secretariat and the content team of Historiana took on the task of categorising and analysing the sources received. In certain cases, more information was collected from contributors or further research was carried out. Preliminary findings and conclusions were then presented by Bob Stradling at the EuroClio Annual Conference in Gdansk at the beginning of April in 2019. The positive reception by the audience as well as the motivated participation by the contributors supported the successful start of the pilot project.
Currently, the source collection counts over 150 sources from more than 13 countries. One of the biggest advantages that followed from the dedicated contribution of many members was the wide variety of different types of sources that came together. The diversity ranges from newspaper articles and eyewitness accounts, diplomatic correspondence and government documents to visual sources such as cartoons, photographs, drawings and documentaries. These sources provide a basis for teaching material that is reflecting multi-perspectivity as well as engaging and stimulating critical thinking and analytical skills.
For example, it is rather unusual to find out what children, being eyewitnesses to major world events in the past, were thinking about these at the time. Thanks to the contribution of Bistra Stoimenova, we have received a collection of children’s drawings made in Moscow in the year 1917. One of these drawings, depicting the first days of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, is shown below.
Figure 1 The bourgeoise-democratic Revolution in Moscow 1917. Source Contributed by Bistra Stoimenova. (accessed from Интернет-журнал «Подмосковный краевед», 2017, https://trojza.blogspot.com/2017/01/1917_17.html)
In addition, we have received several sources that throw a surprising and less official perspective on the dynamics of the revolution. Examples are the photographs of Latvian workers at the Mantel Machine Factory who fought for the Latvian independence in Russia or a political poster directed at Allied soldiers in the Ukraine during the Civil War, shared by Dzintra Liepina.
Figure 2 Left: A photograph of Latvian Workers. Contributed by Dzintra Liepina. Right: A poster appealling to allied soldiers. Contributed by Lazar Aranitovic
The involvement of the EuroClio members made it possible for us to access and combine sources from countries and language areas that were not previously represented. While sources from the Russian Empire, the Central as well as the Allied Powers form the majority, a large proportion of the sources come from countries that were occupied by the Central Powers, like Albania or Luxembourg, or neutral countries, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland. This variation makes it possible to look at the events of the Russian revolution from a truly transnational perspective.
The amount of received sources will enable the team behind Historiana to create a number of small source collections, which will be uploaded to the website, providing an interesting, diverse and multi-perspective addition to existing history textbooks. Although a selection of the submitted sources must be made for this process, it must be emphasized that all submitted sources make a valuable contribution to this project as they enhance the understanding and knowledge of the events and thus make a comprehensive contextualization possible.
The source collection on the Russian Revolution was made possible by the diverse contributions and dedicated cooperation of the EuroClio members.
This pilot project has been an exciting and successful process for us as well as for the members of the EuroClio community, who have been given the opportunity to exchange ideas, to contribute to new teaching materials and to intensify and share their research.
If you, as a reader, feel inspired by the topic and would like to participate, then we look forward to hearing from you. Despite the success of the project there are still some gaps in the source collection. Less represented are contributions representing the perspectives within Russia as well as the perspectives from the bourgeoisie across Europe. Furthermore, only a small number of sources reflect the uprising of workers and soldiers in Petrograd in July 1917, the attempted military coup led by General Kornilov or the signing of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk on 3 March 1918. If you would like to contribute a suitable source to these gaps, you are welcome to contact Alice Modena (email@example.com).
Written By Louise Sträuli, Euroclio Research Trainee
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.
Historiana Editor-in-Chief, Bob Stradling, recently gave a presentation at our Annual Conference in Poland in which he presented an overview of the development of the Historiana website and ongoing efforts to create more transnational source collections for use by history educators. He began with a retrospective look at the stages of development of the Historiana website. This commenced with the inception of the idea for a website for history educators in the early 2000s and was bolstered in 2013 by the formation of a partnership with Europeana – a collection of online sources from many libraries, archives, museums and other institutions around Europe with over 50 million digitised books, music, artworks and other sources. Historiana’s development continued with the creation of the eLearning Activity Builder and the generation of new content.
Bob then described the Historical Content Team’s ongoing endeavour to build a transnational source collection on the Russian Revolution. For this project, Europeana sources were supplemented by crowdsourced material from EuroClio’s community. The collection remains a work in progress and will be followed by the development of further collections in line with the results of a needs assessment of EuroClio members carried out by the Educational Research Institute in Warsaw which identified eleven priority areas for future collections.
EuroClio and Europeana continuously work to improve its innovative educational platform Historiana. At the moment we have several projects contributing to these improvements, including the Opening Up Historiana project. This project aims to include a wider range of developers and partners in the web development of the platform, in addition to EuroClio and Webtic. At the same time we are opening up to our community of educators to involve practitioners in the decisions we make for changes and additions to the site. In that framework, we organised a feedback session on new ideas for the Historiana eActivity Builder. The session took place on Sunday 7th of April, 2019 as part of the EuroClio Annual Conference in Gdansk, Poland with 38 participants.
Ideas for the Historiana eActivity Builder
Teacher in residence Bridget Martin presented three concepts for future possible tools for the eActivity Builder on the Historiana website in sketch form and collected feedback for each of these individually. The concepts were as follows:
- The Annotating Tool which would enable the annotation of visual sources. This would enable students to add an annotation in the shape and colour of their choice in which they could type text according to teacher instructions. The tool would allow for the analysis of a single source or the comparison of multiple sources.
- The Highlighting Tool which would enable the annotation of textual sources. This tool would allow teachers to add textual sources of their choosing with which students could interact. Students would be able to highlight sections of the text in different colours and add written annotations which would appear like ‘post-it’ notes beside the text.
- Support Buttons which would appear within each activity block (such as Annotating, Highlighting, Sorting, Prioritising) and allow teachers to provide instructions which students can access without losing sight of their workspace. These three buttons would allow teachers to add contextual information, instructions and questions for students to respond to.
The majority the participants to this session were not very familiar with the eActivity Builder, most indicating they had ‘never seen’ or only ‘generally seen’ the tool with just a few having gone into the builder in the past. Respondents were very positive about the usefulness of the proposed tools, particularly the Annotating Tool which the majority indicated they would use in their teaching. Teachers expressed a further desire to have the possibility of comparing and annotating visual and textual sources within one activity. Teachers also suggested the creation of a function which would allow students to collaboratively annotate and respond in activities.
What is next?
The project partners met in the margins of the annual conference to first prepare, and later discuss the feedback collected. They agreed the collected inputs will be taken on board in the next steps of the project. The proposed new tools will be sketched in more detail, and will be part of an open call for web developers that will be send out in April to find external web developers to create these tools. At the same time, we plan to have regular (online) feedback sessions to gather further inputs on the desirability and usefulness of the proposed developments. If you are interested to join us, please send an email to the project manager Judith Geerling (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will make sure you receive updates and invitations for feedback sessions.