Saturday, August 23, 2014

From the Ontario Ministry of Education - Capturing Thinking

Source: Making Thinking Visible Facebook page (August 2014): 

Great Example of Material History Inquiry - National Museum of American History

A nation of savers: The impulse to connect with history through objects, buildings, and sites

Intrigued by a piece of charred wood in the museum's First Ladies exhibition, intern Auni Gelles explores the story behind this slice of timber as it relates to the history of both the national museum and the historic preservation movement. Two experts discuss how Americans' long-standing impulse to collect bits of history simultaneously damaged and preserved many of our national treasures.
When British troops marched into Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812, 200 years ago on August 24, they set off a shockwave of fear by burning iconic symbols of the young capital city: the White House and Capitol Building. With these landmarks ablaze, residents feared for their lives as well as for the fate of their nation. An air of desperation arose over the city as the scale of destruction became known.
- See more at: 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Using History to Invigorate Common-Core Lessons - by Sam Wineburg

Common-core anxiety sweeps the land, and professional developers of curriculum and assessment smell dollars. Flashy brochures promise that once that purchase order is signed, every child will pass the new tests. For a pittance more, they'll make the lion lie down with the lamb.
District administrators would be wise to lay down their pens. There's a valuable resource right in front of their eyes. It requires no lengthening of the school day, no elimination of art and music, and no endorsement of checks to third-party developers. It's so familiar we no longer notice it. It's called the history/social studies ...

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Map of Thinking involved in Understanding

Here's an example explanation of the See-Think-Wonder protocol:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Keeping it real.

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

The recent announcement of a name change for Canada’s Museum of Civilization has sparked a great deal of public debate in Canada. It all began, when Heritage Minister, James Moore, first announced the idea in 2012, as part of a departmental branding initiative. In anticipation of Canada’s upcoming 150th anniversary of Confederation, funding priorities are being directed towards specific historical benchmarks.

One month after making the announcement, Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, received first reading in the House of Commons, followed by a second reading in May 2013. Meanwhile, museum consultants launched a cross-Canada engagement campaign, holding roundtable discussions in nine cities, and establishing an online survey for wider participation.  By December 2013, the name change became official. The Canadian Museum of Civilization would now be called the Canadian Museum of History.

There was more to this initiative, however, than merely a name change. The mandate of the museum was made much more specific, switching from a broad cultural sweep:
…to increase, throughout Canada and internationally, interest in, knowledge and critical understanding of and appreciation and respect for human cultural achievements and human behavior by establishing, maintaining and developing for research and posterity a collection of objects of historical or cultural interest, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, and by demonstrating those achievements and behavior, the knowledge derived from them and the understanding they represent. (Dewing, 2012, p.3)
To a more focused historical stance:
…to enhance Canadians' knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.(Dewing, 2012, p.3)

As well, along with this change came additional one-time funding, in the amount of $25 million, to renovate and re-integrate The Canada Hall, the Canadian Personalities Hall, and Canadian Postal Museum (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2012). Of these three permanent exhibit spaces, proposed changes to The Canada Hall have brought about the greatest public reaction. There are those who see this as an attempt by Stephen Harper to “rewrite history” (Geddes, 2013); while others see this as a museum exercise, like none other (Butler, 2013), that has the support of museum staff, board of directors, and building architect Douglas Cardinal (Bolen, 2012).  

Sifting through the series of parliamentary discussions which took place around these events is a tedious task. One thing that clearly stands out, however, is that President and CEO, Mark O’Neill, presents a compelling argument as to why these changes are necessary at this time (Parliament of Canada, June 10, 2013). First of all, there does not exist a museum in Canada that presents a “pan-Canadian” story about our national past. As O’Neill points out, although the Canadian Museum of Civilization has been working since 2005 to broaden and deepen its Canadian content (Corporate Plan, 2005-2010, p. 17), their exhibition efforts have not met expectations. Secondly, the three permanent exhibition spaces devoted to this purpose, namely The Canada Hall, the Canadian Personalities Hall and Canadian Postal Museum, do not work together as a unified exhibition space. In the words of O’Neill, the exhibits present “serious shortcomings” (Parliament of Canada, June 10, 2013).

The Canada Hall in particular, has been plagued with problems. Presenting a Eurocentric interpretation of our nation’s past, “history” in The Canada Hall begins, with the arrival of Europeans. As such, First Nations history is totally ignored, and women’s roles are marginalized.  

Originally conceived to be a backdrop for theatrical storytelling and revenue-generating events (Rider, 1994), The Canada History Hall presents an imagined  past – not history, and not heritage. The static interpretation units present a re-constructed environment that is Disneyesque in nature, making a ‘walk through time’ seem lifeless and frozen. Although there do exist interpretive gems along the pathways of ‘imagineering’, as a visitor, we have no way of knowing what is authentic and what is merely fabrication. We are also given no opportunity to contribute our thoughts to the experience; or challenge any of the subliminal narratives we encounter. Instead, we are treated as naïve consumers of a ‘ghost town’ past.

If O’Neill is correct in stating that all of the museum curators are in full support of this endeavor, then I trust their professionalism. Their dedication to the artifact collections is what counts most in this debate. I trust that they realize the great burden of reasonability that they carry for our nation’s material history. All political joisting aside, let’s not lose sight of what is absolutely essential to Canada’s network of museums: working together as a community of inquiry; and preserving our national treasures. To that, I say, please Mr. O’Neill, keep it real. Honour the collections which we, as Canadians, hold so dearly in your trust.

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.