Friday, 26 October 2012

Teaching Old Stuff with New Tricks

This year has been a year of new ideas. Firstly, this is the first year I have fully implemented the History subject within the new Australian Curriculum. Secondly, it is the first year that I have used iPads in my classroom as a tool for learning and assessment.
Looking back at the year which is rapidly coming to an end, I am excited about the success I have had in using iPads with students to engage in historical inquiry in ways that would not have been possible without digital technology.
Digital technology has enabled me to collect numerous photographs of our local area that students have been able to explore, sort, order and select. Using the iPads, students have been able to examine the images closely. The photographs have inspired questioning, imagination, inquiry and inferring. Photocopied images in black and white would have reduced the quality to the point that many of the photos would have been unrecognisable. Using the original images (if I could even get hold of them) would be impractical and could be potentially damaging.

At our planning meeting for Term 2, we had agreed that students would be required to create a sequence of images and describe how our local war memorial had changed over time. Teachers not using digital technology gave their students three small, poor quality photocopies of images preselected by the teachers and had the students glue these in place and write about the changes. The many students who struggled with writing gave little detail in their descriptions and could only show limited understanding of what this local site reveals about the past.
Students using an app called Sonic Pics on the iPads were able to self-select and sequence three to five images from a collection of about twenty images that they believed best revealed particular aspects of local history. They then spoke freely about the images they had selected, justifying their choices and describing in detail things that had changed in the local area and the significance of the war memorial for the community today.
The iPads enabled young learners to employ higher level thinking skills and to express their own opinions about what they believed was important in the story about the past.
This term, students have been exploring changes in technology (particularly toys) and how these changes have affected the ways people work, travel, communicate and play.
Students are now using Pic Collage (a free iPad app) to manipulate and annotate images before transferring them to Sonic Pics to add audio explanation about how toys and games have changed. Students are able to search for their own images so their choice of subject is much more personal and not restricted by the teacher’s choice.
Of course, the historical inquiry is not restricted to what is able to be done solely with the iPads. Students have examined artefacts from the museum and those brought in from homes, and they have also written to their grandparents and posed questions to them. The grandparents (and aunts, uncles, mothers and fathers who have also responded) have been an invaluable historical source for the students. All of this valuable information collected by the students is now able to be skilfully collated and presented by the students who have become experts in using technology to create and communicate their ideas.
As a teacher, this year’s journey into the past using technology of the present, has been a great learning experience. For the students, using technology has empowered them to participate in genuine inquiry and to share their ideas with others within the classroom and beyond. 


  1. This is a great post. We haven't started using the History subject within the National Curriculum but I've flagged this post for myself for next year! You're doing some great, innovative things with your class!

    Down Under Teacher

    1. Hi Kylie
      Funnily enough, I was just thinking about you and wondering what you are up to.
      I will pop on over to your blog and check out your "peek at last week".
      I am excited by the learning I have done with my class next year, but mostly because of how I can see much better ways of doing things next time.
      This year is the first year I have chronicled my thoughts on my teaching practice and the process has been useful for professional reflection.
      I am sorry that not so many other teachers yet see the benefits of it.
      The ability to read about other people's journeys is an added bonus.
      It makes the journey much more fun with a friend or two.