Sunday, 2 October 2016

Too good to be left to the historians...

A few weeks ago, a book was published, (and) written by Russel Tarr: History teacher extraordinaire, coding legend and creator of Active History (which my History colleague plunders regularly)

I had to order a copy as, although I'm not a History teacher (as I hope you'd gathered by now)... I am a teacher, and someone who has used Russel's ideas in the geography classroom for many years, whether they be ClassTools sheets and interactive elements or pedagogical approaches. I've also taught a bit of KS3 History in my time (I remember having to teach about the Vikings and the Norman Conquest some years ago, and did my best to turn it into Geography)

Russel has now collected many of his ideas into this book, which can be purchased from your usual online retailer.
It's a 'print-on-demand' style edition, which limits the formatting options, and also means that the only colour photos are on the front and back cover, but this isn't a problem, as it's the ideas which are the important building blocks of the book, and these are clearly laid out. It's good to see that pp.18-19

The photos are a combination of students at work, students' work itself, and screenshots from the web based content and handouts that Russel has produced. Most of the ideas in the book could be followed without any additional cost, and the book connects their use with the particular pedagogical thought behind his activities, some of which have proved a little controversial in the past (see p. 46)

The book is split into 10 sections which range from knowledge, to display, to particular skills such as essay writing. This format works well, and provides a variety of strategies for teachers of all subjects and levels of experience from the NQT to the experienced teacher looking for a new angle on teaching new topics.

This book would be a great addition to any geography department's professional library, and form the basis for some discussions relating to pedagogy, and the teaching of some of the more controversial topics that we have to guide students through - my current conflict teaching on Israel-Palestine requires a balance which connects with some of Russel's ideas for teaching political and social history. A quick flick through the book gave me a rough tally of about 40% of the ideas and tools that I'd already used in my teaching- ranging from hexagons (get yourself a Fiskars hexagon cutter as I have and use Russel's web tool which provides hexagons the same size ready for cutting out) to designing accessories for Playmobil (or Lego in our case) figures.

The ideas will need a little adaptation of course to take them from a historical focus to a geographical focus.

The book is currently a #1 best seller in 'History of Education' on Amazon, and has also given me an additional impetus to collate some of my own favourite tools and ideas into a book perhaps at some stage...

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