Michigan State University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 6170-6179
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
Educators and policymakers throughout the world acknowledge that literacy is a critical goal for all learners and for society in general. However, in the context of educational reforms that focus on learning content in mathematics, science, and social sciences, it is a challenge to find the time and resources needed to teach both literacy and content, particularly as students progress into middle and high school.

In this session, we will discuss a program of research and development that supports the integration of history and literacy instruction through an online history-learning environment--The Virtual History Museum 2 (VHM2). The VHM2 integrates historical content with cognitive strategy instruction for reading, analyzing, and writing historical artifacts and texts. VHM2 provides lessons plans and student guides for each strategy, additional and alternative resources that a teacher might choose to supplement the strategy instruction, brief videoclips of students discussing or using strategies, and specific content (or exhibits) to which students can apply these strategies. Given that the VHM2 allows teachers to create their own historical content, teachers can develop their own instructional units, with VHM authoring tools, to which strategies can be applied. VHM2 is free to any educator and runs in commonly used web browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

We are investigating three strands of historical-learning strategies, each consisting of five to seven interrelated strategies that teach students cognitive and procedural processes that can help them develop historical understanding of big ideas in history. For example, the first strategy strand: Lenses for Viewing History, teaches students to apply a set of different frameworks (or “lenses”) to examples of migration and immigration (the “big idea”). Individual strategies within this strand teach students to interpret historical content through the lenses of (a) problem-solution-effect, (b) compare-contrast, (c) cultural universals, (d) biography, and (e) chronology.

We will present and discuss the VHM2, the historical thinking and learning strategies it supports, and results of multiple studies that have examined the impact of VHM2 on students’ historical knowledge, historical reasoning, writing about history, and ability to interpret and understand historical images, including cartoons, photographs, and paintings. One important goal of this work is to improve the history learning of all students—including those with disabilities—and thus, our results include comparisons of outcomes for students with and without learning disabilities.

Highlights of our findings include the following: VHM2 improves students’ historical knowledge, when compared to more traditional history instruction, and these findings are similar for students with and without disabilities. Furthermore, students’ historical knowledge and historical reasoning are only moderately correlated, and students’ historical knowledge does not predict type or quality of students’ historical writing. These two findings support our focus on teaching strategies for analyzing, reading about, and writing history, in addition to teaching content. Finally, we have found that teaching students explicit strategies for interpreting images improves their attention to: details within an image, multiple perspectives, and the interrelationships between elements of the images, including people and their actions.
Technology, education, instruction, literacy, history, disability, special education.