History Skills Blog

Two Days with Microsoft Education

Recently, as part of the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) program, History Skills was invited to attend a Microsoft forum in Sydney with other enthusiastic educators to discuss the future of education technology.


The two-day event brought together thirty passionate teachers from across Australia and New Zealand, along with members of the Microsoft design teams from America and the UK. The event was an amazing time of inspiring collaboration between the attendees, which allowed teachers to share from their own experience as well as providing valuable feedback to Microsoft for future innovations in the field.


The forum was an incredible experience and I wanted to share some of the highlights from the two days with my followers.


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Why Bother Studying History?

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Siege-alesia-vercingetorix-jules-cesar.jpg
Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Siege-alesia-vercingetorix-jules-cesar.jpg

As a History teacher, it will come as no surprise that I think that studying the past is one of the most enjoyable things we can do. However, I frequently get asked by students, teachers and even my own friends why someone would invest so much time in people and events that haven’t existed for a very long time.


I thought I would summarise my typical answers to these people in today’s blog post.


What is 'History'?

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A Global Museum

How Flipboard Can Help Bring a World of Ancient Wonders to Classrooms Half a World Away

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Constructive (Source) Criticism

Do you feel like you should be doing more source criticism in your History lessons but not sure how? It can be surprisingly simple to do!


Let’s face it: teaching the critical use of sources is tough. This is primarily because it seems to take a lot of work to create a lesson based around source material. First of all, you need to find the sources, which usually takes a significant time, and it can be frustrating trying to find sources from various perspectives that are intelligible to our students. Secondly, it is difficult trying to think up good questions or engaging activities that get students to provide substantial answers. Finally, it is difficult to know whether each and every student has genuinely understood what it means to ‘think critically’.


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Letting Students ‘Choose Their Own Lesson’

Source: http://www.themindfulword.org/2012/conversations-with-will-fiction-by-ronald-c-paxton/
Source: http://www.themindfulword.org/2012/conversations-with-will-fiction-by-ronald-c-paxton/

What if you gave students the choice of how to learn? What if you gave them options for how to complete a lesson?


Last year I walked into my classroom with a new idea. During the first five minutes of the lesson I gave my students the necessary instructions and then for the next hour, they all worked quietly, diligently and enthusiastically. Rather than just standing in front of them and talking, I spent the time observing the students and working one-on-one with those who needed help. At the end, I asked the class how they enjoyed their lesson. Without exception, every single student said that they loved it and wanted to do it again. As I walked out of the classroom I was amazed by how simple and effective my idea had been.


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