Hitting a Stride -- and Here Come the Computers!
Happy Thanksgiving! In the spirit of the holiday cheer, we've been full of smiles (and of course, hard work) these last two weeks at YHH. Although students were off school and we did not have our normal Saturday session, we've still held a few sessions since the last update and we've truly hit a nice stride each week. Even more, due to the popularity of the program at the behest of the school administrators, we've added two new students -- both freshman, and it will interesting from a observational standpoint to see how they adapt to the curriculum compared to the 11th graders who make up the majority of the program. They are two really smart students -- so those Juniors betters watch out!
So, what have we all been up to? We are truly digging into the "nuts-and-bolts" of gaining historical (as well as basic technological and research) skills needed to become a historian. At this point of the program -- over a month and half in -- students have fully bought into the idea of "being" a historian. Their comments, inquisitive questions, and overall demeanor suggest as such. Thus, the focus of the last few sessions has been on continuing to practice the previously-learned digital skills and also learn some new skills, such as how to evaluate sources on a systemic level and take good notes. With their topics in mind, the students have been practicing and learning these skills -- all of which they are not taught in their normal history classrooms -- through the preliminary investigation of their historical topics. To help in this, I've developed various handouts discussing the skills needed to allow them to browse the web while they practice the news tools, skills, and independent thought processes that they have been learning. It's been exciting to watch students become motivated to learn these skills -- for example, our session about taking notes which admittedly was not the most exciting -- because they know that it will benefit them as emerging researchers who want their voices to be heard.
Overall, things have been going smoothly. Going back to one of my original research foci, it has been extremely clear that students have a much greater critical awareness of accessing information (even if they are not quite sure yet how to accurately access and examine that they are unconvinced or skeptical about). It's almost as if every type of media I expose them to -- a 1970s documentary, an old textbook from 1918, or a recent article online -- they are more inclined to ask questions about its origin then to accept the given information. And that's a good thing. It is as if their state of "being" has changed, and just by considering themselves as these critical historians -- or just as researchers even -- has impacted the way they approach information. Now, we are still working on learning the ways to access this information historically, but, this initial paradigm shift has been apparent, particularly in the more advanced and experienced students.