How to Encourage Historical Thinking

We have looked at how three different individuals discuss historical thinking and how students make sense of the past. Each had some similar thoughts, especially in regards to the need to step away from strict, fact based teaching. However, they also differed in some aspects of their approach. These readings have left me contemplating a few questions in regards to what approaches should be taken when presenting digital history.

How do you step away from the linear approach in a digital format? Many digital projects will use timelines to present information. They are used for both major and lesser known historical events, in conjunction with text, images, and other media. However, this plays into the ideas of memorizing content such as dates and facts which Wineburg, Levesque, and Calder, each stressed the need to stay away from. Is it necessary to use minor forms of a linear factual approach in an effort to digitally present information to users? The use of some base temporal, factual aspects could help to situate the students or audience in a general setting and encourage them to discover different aspects of an event more fully. However, using it to much would simply stress the factual memorization that doesn’t really lend to historical thinking.

It is important to that students understand some of the content in order to begin think about the information historically and analytically. But how do we determine what content is necessary to highlight? Is it better to focus on one particular subject/theme, presenting as much information as possible in an effort to possibly bring to light other sub themes? In many regards I would lean towards this approach, however I am unsure as to whether or not it feasible in a classroom setting since it could be relatively time consuming.

Lastly, while the process of thinking analytically can be difficult, how do we present information in a way that helps students or the audience begin to think about the materially analytically. Wineburg prefers an approach that requires the student to immerse themselves into the culture/society of the time, thus requiring more primary sources. Levesque and Calder however, look more at what others have written about a topic. While I think I lean more towards Wineburg’s thoughts on this, the question still remains on how to encourage that historical thought process?

 

***Addition from June 8, 2017

Wineburg, Levesque and Calder each have emphasized the need to encourage historical thinking. After reading the History Curriculum on 2023, the approach of making, mining, marking, and mashing provides avenues which allow students to think creatively about historical content. Having student make or create something about an historical event, place, or purpose facilitates engagement and allows them to relate to the material in their own way. These approaches also allow for connections to be made between different disciplines, for example incorporating a scientific research method, the use of engineering technologies, or computer science. While Wineburg, Levesque and Calder, may not stressed such an approach, I think it takes their ideas a step further. Students are not memorizing dates and content, but are engaging with primary and secondary content in a way that will encourage them to think about the materials, formulate unique questions, and think more like a historian.

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