On 8 and 9 November 2016 the Learning Activity What Could They Know? developed within the EuroClio project Silencing Citizens through Censorship was successfully piloted at the Max Beckmann School, a regular gymnasium in Frankfurt, Germany. The class working with the material consisted of 25 students (15 boys and 10 girls) ranging between 16-18 years of age and with some having migratory background from different countries (Turkey, Italy, Kosovo, Serbia, Poland).
The material was tested in a three hours lessons by Michael Fischer, the history teacher of the class, and dealt with the November Pogroms 1938 and what the people could have known about the incident. The chosen date for the piloting was also an act of remembrance as the ‘Crystal Night’ (Kristallnacht) took place exactly 78 years ago. Different teaching pedagogies were employed during the lesson such as working in pairs, working in small groups and discussion in the classroom.
Feedback was again primarily positive. The students found the topic very engaging and thought-provoking and responded that the activity gave them a general insight into the concept of censorship. Through historical examples of censorship the students were encouraged to critically reflect on on-going discussions throughout Europe on freedom of speech and its limits.
They particularly enjoyed working with original documents such as analysing the regulations of the German News Agency on the assassination of the Legation Secretary von Rath in Paris and the advices for the reports on the „Kristallnacht“. They also found the sources, a report by the Manchester Guardian and a Jewish witness interesting and discussed the impact of the advices and possibilities of alternative information sources in a totalitarian regime.
The piloting in Frankfurt confirmed that the concept of the learning activity itself is working. However, the worksheet, which was used as a starting point for the unit and shows some regulations by the German News Agency in 1937 needs more contextualisation.
On 25 and 28 November 2016, several Learning Activities developed within the European project Silencing Citizens through Censorship were successfully piloted by Harri Beobide at the Professional Training Centre Ikastolen Etxea in Donostia-San Sebastian and Urretxindorra ikastola in Bilbao, both Spain.
Five modules: Censorship in Nazi Germany, Is Censorship Still Alive?, Ideas still dangerous in the present?, Dangerous Art, Education and Censorship in totalitarian regimes and What could they know? were piloted over the course of two sessions lasting two hours each and constituted a complementary part of a teacher training involving 58 history teachers from 45 different schools. The workshops provided the teachers with the opportunity to learn about innovative teaching methods in the field of history education and hence to improve their teaching strategies and methodology.
Each session started with a general introduction to the project and the Historiana portal. Then the teachers were divided into groups of four and given two different learning activities each. This gave the teachers the chance to analyse one activity in depth while getting a general idea of the materials developed within this project.
After evaluating the structure of the material, the various sources and different types of tasks for students the teachers were asked to voice their thoughts and feedback. The feedback was predominantly positive with teachers responding that they found the activities interesting and thought-provoking. They particularly stressed the variety of sources and their international character as good aspects. They also felt that comparing sources from different countries and different time periods encourages students to make connections between the past and the present and helps them to develop their ability to think critically and in multiple perspectives. The open character of the tasks gives students the possibility to come up with different answers which encourages them to think creatively. This can lead to discussions among students, developing their ability to debate, agree but also disagree. Such activities, according to the teachers, enrich the students’ learning process as a whole. Most teachers responded that they would like to use the modules to complement their own lessons.
However, the teachers saw difficulties with the complexity of the modules as many tasks require an advanced level of historical knowledge. They suggested to include variations of certain tasks and activities, so that they can be used for a wider range of age groups.
Read more about the Silencing Citizens Through Censorship project on our project page.
On 19 and 21 April and 8 November 2016 learning activities developed within the EuroClio project Silencing Citizens through Censorship were successfully piloted by Zsolt Vódli in Hungary.
The first piloting event in spring took place in the form of two workshops on Hungary’s dictatorial past and censorship at the vocational school Roth Gyula Erdészeti, Faipari Szakközépiskola és Kollégium, reaching out to a total of 57 students between 18-20 years of age. The focus during the workshops was on the concept and mechanisms of censorship, parallel developments between then past and the present and relevance for the student’s personal life. The content of the workshop was part of the final history examination which 12 students excelled, receiving the highest grade.
On 8 November 2016 the learning activity Isn’t it a great time for censorship? was tested during a two-hour lesson on 24 students with an average age of 16. The lesson started with a plenary discussion on censorship where students got the opportunity to share impressions, associations, opinions as well as personal experiences with censorship. They then got tasked with critically analysing records provided by the Index of Censorship (IoC) to learn about current problems regarding censorship around the world. After studying two original visual sources from Poland under the communist regime the pupils were presented with the topic of blocking information with the example of the iron curtain during the Cold War era.
Feedback was primarily positive with students responding that they found the activity engaging and thought-provoking, finding many examples of censorship from their personal and their parents’ lives. Suggestions were to slightly restructure and redesign the power point presentation and to improve the picture quality of the visual sources. Language presented the main obstacle as they were studying either English or German, making it necessary for the teacher to translate the material beforehand.
From late May and throughout June a series of piloting events took place in Eskoriatza, Donostia-San Sebastian and Andoain. The module “How to be a good censor” was successfully put to the test for a total of 80 students on five different occasions and received predominantly positive feedback.
Between May 30th and June 20th, five rounds of piloting workshops within the “How to be a good censor”-material took place in different cities in Spain. The learning activity deals with the mechanisms of censorship through a comparative and critical approach of different transnational sources. Moreover, the learning activity aims to maintain a transnational character by employing a broad variety of sources, and to engage students in methods of identifying, inferring, and deducing the reasons for – and the significance of how – censorship was conducted in the 20th century by authoritarian regimes.
In total, around 80 students in ages 15-16 from Eskoriatza, Donostia-San Sebastian and Andoain participated in the piloting workshop. The piloting of the material yielded good results: the teachers received the material with the level of interest and participation from the students towards the topic. Furthermore, the relationship between censorship then, and censorship now, acted as a facilitator for connecting contemporary society with the past.
While feedback from the piloting was chiefly positive, the piloting also lead to the mapping out of certain difficulties. Primarily, difficulties related to the need for preparation: the “How to be a good censor”-material is increasingly comprehensible when students have completed lectures in the context of the 20th century, the policies and state of the involved countries, and the political climate in which the censorship took place.
Read more about the Silencing Citizens Through Censorship project below,
Silencing Citizens Through Censorship
As March 2013 was the kick-off of a new phase in the four year project ‘History that Connects: How to Teach Sensitive and Controversial History in the countries of Former Yugoslavia’, the educational material becomes more concrete with every editors meeting that is being held. The modules are being translated and decisions are being made on the layout, structure and common notes. With an eye on the near future, exemplar modules will be identified during the next meeting in the Republic of Macedonia from 7th to 9th of June, both for training and network purposes. But of course the final goal is to implement and use the teaching material that is under development, and therefore piloting trainings are indispensible.
The piloting seminars in the Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia contributed to the project in three ways. As part of the teacher trainings the interactive workshops were a way to introduce history educators in the country with new educational material and innovative teaching. During this seminar questions were discussed on how to use this material in the classroom. In which ways could it be complementary to the topics that are already being taught during the school year? Is the material suitable for the age category of the student? How to introduce a source-based methodology? In this respect, average grades for the project turned out to be very high and positive remarks were made: ‘Good conception, ambitious project, opens a wide range of possibilities’ and ‘Opinion on the other is often based on false and fake stereotypes, source material is necessary to know others’.
Secondly, the piloting seminars contributed to the project in a way that the editors received feedback on the modules from the educators who are standing at the forefront of history education. Thanks to the educators filling out evaluation forms on the project and exemplar modules a clear report could be made on the overall results. These results were in large measure very positive, on a scale from 1-5, most elements were evaluated with a 4.5 or higher. But also the challenges were discussed, especially about the obstacles caused by the educational conditions in their region. In the end, all these results can be used by the editors to improve the material in its aims and usability.
At last, the piloting seminars brought together history teachers from all over the country. This made it possible for the teachers to discuss each other’s approaches in the classroom and to become part of a network of history educators. Part of it is moreover the enhancement of capacity building and the strengthening of History Teachers Associations as civil society actors. As mentioned in the evaluation report of Bosnia and Herzegovina, all the participants showed great interest and energy for the future activities of the association. And with regards to the competences of the organizers, a participant mentioned: ‘This project is a very good idea. The project representatives are very competent and all the workshops could be use in history teaching’.