Category Archives: ITT

Initial Teacher Training in history

Northern History Forum

IMG_0061Last night I attended the Northern History forum at Leeds Trinity University, ran a workshop entitled ‘Playing Games in History’ and met some great teachers, new and experienced.

Ben Walsh gave the opening address, and reminded us of the benefit of asking ‘why am I teaching this?’ every now and then, as well as giving us some fantastic website tips. These included:

Time Maps

I was there to run a workshop, which I did, entitled ‘Playing with History’.  My aim was not to offer any over-arching theory, but just to present (with new teachers particularly in mind) some techniques that I have been honing over the years to keep lessons moving with purposeful pace.   You can find the materials for the talk on this page.

#28days of Writing – Institutions and Strength.

Hmm, bit worried that I’m going to resort to this so early in my #28daysofwriting, but this evening I’ve been looking back at things that I started to write and then, for some reason, didn’t.

Last summer I went to the Northern Rocks Conference, and it was great, and I started to type this:

#Nrocks – why you should meet your heroes and your demons

I spent saturday with some committed, engaged, intelligent and funny colleagues, listening to speakers who were also incisive, informative and thought-provoking. That’s right, I spent saturday at NorthernRocks 2014 in Leeds.

So, I met some heroes (missed some too, as there were at least three people I wanted to see in each block).  However, I found myself agreeing with Dominic Cummings (the author of the legendary typed rant that was leaked from within the DfE) about one important thing – that politics should play much less of a role in classroom pedagogy.  However, something has been bugging me about Cumming’s take on ‘handing power to ‘you guys” (meaning us teachers) over things like performance pay and QTS.

Cummings was very eloquent about the negative power of interest groups and the ineptitude of politicians (westminster is ‘broken’, according to him).  I believe that he is honest about his desire to see politicians out of the way of schools and children.  I am also increasingly convinced that unions should be campaigning about our working conditions and not our pedagogy  However, I think that he dismisses the power of institutions as a force for good, and has underestimated the effect of the free for all that is the logical extension of his philosophy.

I’ve been thinking more and more about the need we have for institutions in which we can place trust, and from which we can both learn and draw strength.  I went to a great school, and I still draw strength from the experiences I had there.  My time on the PGCE course at Oxford also remains a great source of wisdom for me, and I’m very proud of the work I did for 10 years at Little Heath School, an institution which I feel great affection for.  Many people like me gain from the investment they place in leisure clubs, and the heated debates at committee meetings of photographic societies and running clubs reflect the importance that such clubs have in our lives.

I think we need more institutions, not fewer.  Teachers should belong to a profession, and if they want to, to seek membership of a Royal College of Teaching.  Induction to this profession through professional education (rather than mere workplace training), will raise the profile and the esteem of Teaching.  Rather than contamination by the blob, HEI involvement in initial and ongoing teacher education helps further to raise this esteem, and provide institutions in which we can be proud.  Through subject institutions we can learn to listen to each other, rather than throw brickbats.  The Historical Association and SHP has taught me a great deal through their publications, websites and conferences.

It’s probably a rather 19th Century view, but as I walk through Leeds and admire the buildings that our local institutions made, and sense the pride and purpose behind them, I can’t help hoping that as a profession we don’t become too atomised, and that the chains of this, and training consortia of the other, develop into (or are replaced by) institutions and organisations in which we can place our hope, loyalties and our trust.



SHP Conference at the British Library

A technical glitch means the SHP website is offline.  They really wanted to tell the world about a conference they’re holding at the British Library on the 30th of November.

I heard great things about the last one – I’m sure this will be just as good.

You can find details here:


refractionLike many history teachers over the last decade or so, my focus has shifted away from ‘Can we trust it?’ (sometimes it is obvious that we cannot) to ‘Why is this image the way it is?’ or ‘Why was it painted or written?’ or ‘What does it tell us about the period or values of the interpreter?’.

Jane Card “Seeing Double” Teaching History 117

I’m doing a session on ‘interpretations’ at OUDE tomorrow for the PGCE students.  They’ve been reading Jane Card’s excellent article as an introduction.  I’m struck by the very clear and exciting way she helps us understand this ‘jewel in the KS3 curriculum’ (according to Neil Thompson and Christine Counsell).

I remember during my own PGCE attending an evening session at which Christine Counsell took us through an activity which I’ll be using with the interns tomorrow.  There are loads of references to it on the web – CV Wedgewood and the execution of Charles I.  In what appears to be an unpromising analysis of ‘subordinate clauses’ there is in fact an activity that really engages pupils and helps them rise of the challenges of analysing conscious interpretations of the past, and even those of manipulating such interpretations one word, one phrase at at time.  I was really challenged that evening, and this lesson has remained something that I have used many times.  More than that though it remains a challenge to produce history that is true to the nature of history – a branch of human knowledge.

I do hope that wise counsel manages to persuade those in charge of the current curriculum review that ‘interpretations’ should remain in the curriculum (though if they don’t, then I’ll keep teaching them anyway!).

Here are the ppts I’ll be using tomorrow.

Part 1 – Introduction to Interpretations

Part 2 – Differences in Interpretations between Key Stages

Part 3 – Interpretations in the Wild

ICT for learning about history

ICT with the interns at OUDE

This session on homework and ICT is going to start us thinking about how we can get around restrictions on the use of ICT in schools (mainly a shortage of available computer suites for history classes) and still enable our pupils to use ICT to help their learning.

I’m planning this morning around two central propositions:

  1. great learning with ICT starts with great planning; and
  2. we can use the ICT that pupils have access to outside lessons to help them learn history.

So, we’re starting with a look at wallwisher – with the central question being ‘what’s the point of homework’. I’m hoping that by considering the purposes of work outside of the classroom, we’ll start to think carefully about how ICT might help support some of them.

After that we’ll look at an online spider diagram which considers some of the reasons we might set homework.  I want to show that there is more than one way to get ‘brainstorming’ or crowd collaboration going in homework, depending on the kind of thing you want to do.

After we’ve got our basic propositions settled we’ll move on to looking at three ways of setting homework that achieves some of those reasons.

  1. Yacapaca
  2. Voicethread
  3. Blogging (you could also try edublogs or edmodo)
  4. Feedback, and the results of feedback
  5. Film making

When that’s done we’ll take a look at my ‘51 things to do with ICT for learning‘ and have a cup of tea.  After break, I’ll be supporting interns in creating their own homework using ICT for learning.

More differentiation – or access and challenge for all.

I’ve just published a second page about differentiation, or ways to enable all students to access the learning in your classroom, whilst offering support and challenge at the same time.  I’ll follow it with a third, a long (and probably growing) list of ways to ‘differentiate’.

The Difference Engine

We’re about to start the last term of my time as a tutor on Oxford Uni’s History PGCE. It’s been quite an experience, and although I’m looking forward to congratulating the interns at the end of the course, and I’m excited about the new responsibilities I’m picking up in September, I will be sad to loose such close contact with a really incredible bunch of people.

During the first part of the year, whilst the interns were on their “J” or joint weeks, I had to re-examine (and in many cases re-discover or redress) my thinking about lots of different aspects of history teaching. I’m a relatively inexperienced teacher, having started teaching in september of 2003, but even in that time I picked up may practices that I just ‘did’. Some of these things worked really well (others perhaps less so), but I didn’t really examine why I was doing them.

In writing sessions for the OUDE interns I therefore had a chance to think again, and to learn lots from them, and from Anna Pendry, the lead tutor on the course. I hope in the next weeks to record some of the results of these thoughts, and when I do I’ll post them here.

I’m starting with an article about differentiation. In the past I’ve often conflated thinking about differentiation with whole host of other things, making things easy, helping weaker students to achieve, making different worksheets for different ‘types’ of student, dealing with students with individual education plans, special needs, or specific learning difficulties. Often differentiation has been about ‘bottom sets’ in my mind. These ideas led me to a heady mix of guilt, aversion and ignorance when it comes to thinking about ‘differentiation’. You’ll know from an earlier post that I have been convinced that talking about ‘ability’ is misleading. So, the article is called ‘the difference engine’ and it’s about driving learning without labeling.

We love yacapaca

As you might know from my last post, I made various presentations today at the University of Reading Institute of Education about using ICT to teach history.  I think it went well, and I’ll find out later when I see what feedback I got using a google form.

I had great help in preparing for this presentation from Ian (@yacapaca on twitter) and his colleagues at  One of the sessions involved the student teachers having a go at a mock up of an old style GCSE paper 2 that I’d made using yacapaca.  I discovered last week that the links had stopped working.  I mailed the support line at yacapaca.  Not only was I given excellent advice, but then I received an email from Ian this morning:

Ed, you lucked out. My colleague Alex worked until 2am to fix the
files list in time for your presentation tomorrow. I’ve just checked
it, and it all works now.



Talk about service.  To top it all off yacapaca raised a great deal of interest at the session.  Thank you Ian (and Alex!)