Learning to Disagree training in Italy

The project Learning to Disagree was presented in Italy during a National Training organized in cooperation with the Chair of History Education of the University of Bari (Apulia region). The training took place as a cycle of three webinars held in July and focused on strategies to implement learning in times of pandemic.

Speakers during the first two meetings presented resources and examples of tasks developed to foster active learning with students working through online platforms. The last session focused on the challenges that the emergency poses to traditional models of education and knowledge.

Video lessons and materials have been published in Italian on Historia Ludens.

Roberto Maragliano, former professor of Education at Roma Tre University, argued that there is a relevant difference between “physical distance” and “social distance”. Whereas the first one is necessary in our times, teachers should aim at avoiding the second one. He highlighted that the current state of crisis of school teaching in Italy could be an opportunity to revise some of its long-standing principles of inspirations. Italian schooling still favours upper general secondary schools over technical/vocational and primary schools, and keeps alive a conflict between humanistic and scientific culture, as well as verbal and non-verbal learning. Forced online learning put into evidence the pitfalls of this system. Although in the immediate aftermath of the Corona crisis the Italian teachers tended to take on the challenge and look for new approaches, in the following months a strong reaction has tended to debase these attempts. The long-term impact of this phase is thus difficult to foresee and might contribute to confirm an old education model rather than to overcome it.

Antonio Brusa, former professor of History Education at the University of Bari, stated that each generation tends to refer to a presumed former golden age of historical knowledge and identifies a cause of growing historical ignorance in its present time. Nowadays, online learning is taken as the cause of Italian students’ ignorance. Although he admitted that many Italian students were not able to take advantage of online learning, Brusa claimed that digital resources enabled millions of them to keep on learning. Thus, online learning should be seen as part of the solution. However, Brusa pointed out that using technologies and new media is not enough to innovate transmissive approaches to teaching and learning. On the opposite, teachers should be aware of the risk that the use of up-to-date digital technologies covers a very traditional, teacher-centred approach. Moreover, the use of technologies must base on awareness of the epistemology of the disciplines and specific aims of each lesson. These, in turn, depend on real pupils and students.

Mr Paolo Ceccoli, former EuroClio President, opened the first session by presenting the Association and its activities. This was of special interest for Italian teachers because there is not a single strong association of history teachers in the country. This a great occasion to present Euroclio activities in Italy.

Mr Valerio Bernardi, member of the core team of Learning to Disagree, described the aims and the teaching materials that have been produced. In the first session, he introduced and showed some aspects of the teaching guide and how the project developed during the years. He also presented the activities prepared from the core team and published on Historiana. During the second session, he provided a detailed presentation of the activity about migration and the Vlora case study (which will also be presented at the 2020 EuroClio Annual Conference, see link). One third of the participants expressed a will to use the material proposed in class next year.

Ms Lucia Boschetti, who is working on a PhD in History Education at the University of Bari, focused on playful learning in history. She stressed the importance of creative learning and presented an activity set up in the 16th century. It aimed at enabling students to understand the changes in the concept of citizenship from Modern Times to European citizenship through playing interactive stories. Moreover, she explained how the free programming language Scratch supports the development of computational thinking as well as of historical thinking. Indeed, by creating a project about the crisis of the 14th century by using Scratch, students have to ask themselves questions about historical relevance and causality.

Mr Cesare Grazioli, who has published several articles about teaching contemporary history in Italy, explained how he planned and implemented materials to assess students’ historical thinking skills when learning online. He proposed examples of both formative and summative assessment. Attendee particularly appreciated an assignment which required students to select, analyse and use images as evidence of contention regarding political and social problems in the aftermath of the Second World War.

75 teachers followed at least 2/3 of the course, and 63 of them answered a final survey. On the basis of the results, attendees were equally distributed between lower secondary and upper secondary schools and came from all around Italy, although the majority worked in Apulia.

The course aimed to offer an opportunity for training but also to create a community of educators wishing to exchange ideas, doubts and experiences. The attendee particularly appreciated this aspect. Indeed 94% of them declared that they would like to join other meetings to discuss about daily teaching routine with colleagues. A higher percentage agreed that digital resources can contribute to improving the quality of teaching and learning after the pandemic. As argued by experts, teachers can achieve this result if they can plan their lessons with an awareness of the aims and methods of history teaching. Otherwise, online teaching and learning are likely to strengthen the comeback of a purely transmissive approach to the discipline, which proved to be poorly effective regardless of in-class or on-line teaching.

 

Written by Valerio Bernardi, history teacher and member of the Learning to Disagree team & Lucia Boschetti, PhD candidate in History Education at the University of Bari

 

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!

Call for Applications: Online Barcamp Historical Education

The Kreisau-Initiative, the Krzyzowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding in Europe and the Freya von Moltke Foundation are organising a special conference: BarCamp. The programme will be centred on methods of historical and civic education and their implementation with digital media.

When? 25 – 26th June 2020; 12 – 5 pm

Where? In the virtual Space!

Who?

  •  Are you already active in youth work, citizenship education or history projects and would like to learn new methods and approaches online? Or are you interested in the topic and methods, but have never done it before? Either way we invite you to apply!
  •  The organisations value diversity of backgrounds, experiences and work fields. If you are not an expert of youth work but experienced with digital educational tools, you are more than welcome!
  • However, there are a few conditions: You need to be an adult (18 years upwards) living in Germany, Poland or Ukraine. Citizenship is not a precondition. Since the BarCamp is mostly going to be held in English, a good level of English is required (partially we are offering translation). 

How to apply?

  • Please fill out the application form here

Application deadline: June 15th, 2020