For the last three years, I have been lucky enough to have been awarded as a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert (otherwise known as a MIEE). This means that I get to hear about Microsoft’s latest education initiatives and give feedback to the company from a teacher’s perspective. It is an incredibly valuable experience, one that is open to all educators.
So, when I heard about the release of the new Surface Go, I was very keen to find out more about the device, particularly how it could be used in an educational context. Thankfully, Microsoft was generous enough to give me a demo Surface Go for seven days in order to get a feel for its capabilities.
As a History teacher, I believe I have one of the best jobs in the world. Every day I get to share my passion for the past with hundreds of students and I never grow tired of seeing people become fascinated with all of the crazy and impressive things that humans have done over thousands of years.
But what is it like to be a History teacher? What does a typical day look like?
If you’ve ever considered becoming an educator and were curious about what a career in teaching was like, or if you're simply curious, then I thought I would share some answers to those questions above.
When you teach History for a living, you are expected to know an incredibly wide range of historical information. It is common to walk into the first class for the day and teach the intricacies of ancient Egyptian mummification, and then an hour later, walk into a different class and explain the complex political causes the led to the outbreak of the First World War. Then, an hour after that, a whole new class needs to learn about how the Nazi regime could have justified the horrors of the Holocaust. By the end of a single day, I have covered topics from over five thousand years of History,
which result in both wide-eyed excitement and disbelieving horror from my students.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
In my role as a high school teacher, I have three devices from which to work: a laptop, an Apple iPad Air 2 and a Microsoft Surface Pro. Whilst the first two are supplied by my school, the Surface is something I have personally purchased. Yet people wonder why I only ever use the Surface whilst the other two gather dust on my staffroom desk.