Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kids Don't Learn Better Just Because They're Young 'Little Sponges': What Really Works

Great post by Daniel Willingham in Real Clear Education (April 22, 2014):

RCEd Commentary
You often hear the phrase that small children are sponges, that they constantly learn. This sentiment is sometimes expressed in a way that makes it sound like the particulars don’t matter that much -- as long as there is a lot to be learned in the environment, the child will learn it. A new study shows that for one core type of learning, it’s more complicated. Kids don’t learn important information that’s right in front of them, unless an adult is actively teaching them. 

The core type of learning is categorization. Understanding that objects can be categorized is essential for kids’ thinking. Kids constantly encounter novel objects. For example, each apple they see is an apple they’ve never encountered before. The child cannot experiment with each new object to figure out its properties. She must benefit from her prior experience with other apples, so that she can know, for example, that this object, since it’s an apple, must be edible.

Read more... 

Sacrificing Comfort for Complexity: Presenting Difficult Narratives in Public History

Interesting post by Rose Miron in The Public History Commons (April 24, 2014):

Editor’s Note: This piece continues a series of posts related to the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, a collaboration of public history programs across the country to raise awareness of the long history of the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) and foster dialogue on its future. For an introduction to the series, please see this piece by the Project’s director, Liz Ševčenko.
Fort Snelling. Photo credit: Rose Miron
Fort Snelling. Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society
Upon entering Fort Snelling, visitors are greeted with American flags, interpreters dressed in 19th-century military attire, and a narrative of patriotism and progress. The historic site in St. Paul tells the story of Minnesota’s founding but in the process obscures a story about Dakota dispossession and genocide. For Dakota people, Fort Snelling is not a symbol of the state’s triumphant founding but rather a testament to American imperialism, a reminder of the women and children that were held there in the winter of 1862-1863, and the hundreds that died in the camp, as well as on the death marches to and from Fort Snelling. It is this “difficult history” that the Minnesota Historical Society struggles to present at Fort Snelling.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Comment peut-on rendre l’histoire et le patrimoine plus accessibles à une génération de plus en plus branchée ?

Par Nathalie Landry
( - le 8 avril 2014)

C’est une question qui préoccupe Jeanne Mance Cormier, conservatrice au Musée acadien de l’Université de Moncton, Aïcha Benimmas, professeure à la Faculté des sciences de l’éducation de l’Université de Moncton,  et Éric Poitras, étudiant au postdoctorat à l’Université McGill. Leur collaboration met à profit une expertise en éducation muséale, en pédagogie, en histoire et en éducation en réseau. Ils collaborent actuellement sur un projet de recherche intitulé Collaboration interdisciplinaire en matière d’éducation muséale — Enjeux et promesses des TIC, dont les fruits seront présentés à Toronto ce jeudi 10 avril, lors de la Conférence annuelle de l’Association des musées canadiens.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Museums make you happier and less lonely, studies find

Author: Lindsay Van Thoen
March 26, 2014  - Freelancers Union 
One of the greatest things about freelancing is that although we’re often very busy, we can choose to be “off” during 9-5 hours. This means that we can visit uncrowded museums and attend other midday events, which are often hellish on the weekends.
Here are 6 reasons why you should take a long lunch tomorrow and head off to your local museum:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

De-Constructing Cabinets of Curiosity: History’s Mysteries in the Museum

by Cynthia Wallace-Casey,
PhD Candidate
University of New Brunswick

Building upon this month’s theme of ‘Canadian History’s Mysteries’, I would like to share with you some of my own fieldwork experience regarding museum education and the Historical Thinking concept of Evidence and Sources. This research demonstrates how students can be empowered to not just absorb the narratives they encounter in museums—but rather consider exhibit artifacts as mystery sources waiting to be deciphered.

Central to this approach to museum education is the understanding that a discipline-based method for historical inquiry in museums requires a slightly different set of procedures. This is because history museums are not like other sites of learning. Curators in history museums become very adept at "reading" artifacts for their visual clues. Within the museum profession, historians who have nurtured this ability are called Material Historians. Hence, material historians are able to read much more than words.

Material historians also do not see artifacts as props to illustrate a preconceived idea. Instead, material historians see artifacts as rich sources of evidence. In this sense, artifacts represent the starting point for any historical inquiry – not the end point.

So, how can educators empower middle school students to think historically within history museums? The key rests with enabling them to go directly to the artifact. In so doing, students can learn how to unlock the evidence within each and every source they encounter.

With this principal in mind, I have adopted a material history framework that was first formulated by graduate students at the University of New Brunswick in the early 1980’s.  The scaffolding version that was developed for my research focused upon four basic steps of historical inquiry:
  1. 1. Describe: Carefully recording any observable evidence the artifact contains;
  2. 2. Corroborate: Comparing the artifact source (along with exhibit text) against the accession file (and other artifacts within the collection) for additional clues, questions, or contradictions;
  3. 3. Contextualize: Extending the inquiry to search other secondary sources for additional background information;
  4. 4. Conclude: Formulating a summary statement about the artifact, based upon findings.
Such a process actually enables students to de-construct museum narratives. In the case of my seventh-grade class, it also led to many unexpected surprises for students; because quite quickly they discovered that the past is not always as it first appears. Through careful examination of the primary artifact sources, several students found contradictions within the museum exhibits; while some uncovered new information; and all experienced the problematic nature of historical inquiry. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014