I thought the perspective on the readings this week were interesting. I enjoyed reading about how the different ways to think about history can affect a classroom. I found Sam Wineburg’s  6 ways to think like a historian eye-opening. Although I have acquired and used all these skills over the years, it was not something I had thought about or even realized. At this point, it all comes as second nature to me, which I suppose it part of his point. These skills come easily to historians, but not necessarily everyone else. His following article with Daisy Martin did a great job of demonstrating the importance of teaching those skills and some of the ways it can be done. I especially liked that they made videos of people thinking aloud for the Historical Thinking Matters website. I was originally confused how listening or watching someone question a text aloud as they go would be helpful. My first thought was that it would actually confuse students, they may have no idea where the questions are coming from. However, that problem was avoided well by choosing subjects outside of someone’s focus and offering an explanation after the video on why the questions were relevant. I think the way this project was handled is a good example of how to approach this digitally. However, I think the same consideration needs to be made inside a classroom. Would you still get the desired effect if you had to follow a “thinking aloud” with an explanation?

I thought the different ways the teachers in Ways of Seeing approached pictorial pedagogy to be interesting and enlightening. I think the activity of presenting the two different portraits of the Native American to be particularly interesting. When I first looked at it, I thought about assimilation and the different ways the dominant race has depicted Native Americans for their personal agendas over the years. The addition of providing primary sources for students to look through to dig deeper into the history is fantastic. There is so much that could be uncovered and I could see this exercise easily adjusted to any other subject (with the right images, of course).

The biggest aspect I got from the reading was that an educator cannot assume their way is correct. Everyone will learn differently and it is important to first observe what is happening before any problems can be fixed.

For my lesson plan, I was not sure at first what I wanted to do or how to go about creating a lesson plan. Having edited plenty for the Education department at the RRCHNM, I know what I have is the roughest of rough drafts; only an idea, even. However, I think it does a good job depicting what I have in mind.

I decided to focus on the sourcing skill for historical thinking. In my first year of undergrad in my communications class, the professor showed us a website that was built with a bias and provided false information. Taking from that experience, I went searching for that website. The website is written by a white supremacy group about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If you have not already looked at it, I encourage you to do so. Just reading the links will cause any of us to raise our eyebrows. What is concerning about this website is that in a google search, this website comes up on the first page. Imagine how many people see this website for that reason alone.

Taking from that, I provided three other websites about Martin Luther King Jr. The activity involves students browsing the websites without instruction at first. My thought with this is that once they get the questions that ask them to consider reliability and author’s purpose, any students who did not notice the bias of the above site will then begin to and question the content they see across the web. However, this will only work if they actually click around and read. This is why I suggest having this exercise in a computer lab (teacher can watch the monitors and ensure that everyone has access at one time).

I think this is the most important skill to start with, perhaps that is why Wineburg mentions it first as well. The ability to source content is relevant in everything that everyone does, especially today. How often do we see friends posting ridiculous images about something that has or will happen on Facebook? The yearly “post or Facebook will start charging you” is the most common. If everyone checked sources and reliability before posting or sharing something, perhaps we could have a less ignorant online experience.

2 thoughts on “Thinking Like a Historian

  1. I agree that the 6 ways to think the a historian was eye-opening. While we learn these skills, I’m not sure anyone has actually ever spelled them out for me like that before! I liked your point also about how every educator and learner is different, I think the readings really did illustrate the different approaches.

    1. I also experienced this. As art historians, we definitely use these same skills, so I’ve been wondering why their explicit use and value are not taught in art history courses.

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