Monday, August 21, 2006

please don't stay here

I'm moving to WordPress - more functions, so go to

The feed remains the same for posts and podcasts (

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Business end

I've spent the day today typing. My eyes are sore, as are my hands. If anyone thinks teaching with technology is glamourous, they need to type for 5 hours straight.

This is the business end of the project. The local history trail excursion will hopefully be a relaxing time. But right now I need to write podcast scripts, record them and write fieldwork task sheets for each site that the students visit.

I'm struggling to keep the amount of tasks down. After the slaughteryard experience, I realised that my students will take a lot longer than I expected to complete tasks. However, I don't want to limit my questions to the obvious.

Future use of iHistory

An idea for the future use of the iHistory project...

We could have a Bendigo-wide school competition, using the iHistory idea. Other history teachers could record podcasts about other places and buildings that I haven't thought of, and haven't had time to do, then collate them online.

Student groups from all 5 colleges could compete for prizes that the schools put up. Or perhaps local businesses could contribute prizes in exchange for coverage during the event.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Slaughteryard post-mortem

Edward Bright's Slaughteryard

Today I road-tested the iHistory concept. In a couple of weeks we will take students out to visit 5 different sites over one day. Today was intended to show up what worked and what didn't.

It was a lovely day for a fieldtrip, although one of my students reckons that "fieldtrip" is an ugly Americanism. Four groups went out, armed with iRivers, a podcast on the slaughteryard building that lies in our school yard and a list of tasks that were required, plus a working pen and pencil. I went armed with a camera to record this momentous occasion.

David & Clay listening intently!

Overall, a great success! The students were engaged, said it was 'fun' (imagine that...Australian History fun!) and were really keen to know when the fieldwork day was on. There were a couple of issues:

1. Time was an issue. It took them a lot longer than I expected. I thought it would be all over in 30 minutes. But it actually went for about an hour....could have been the pleasure of being outside in the sun that induced them to drag it out! However, given that we have 5 sites to travel around in a fortnight, I need to be careful about the amount of tasks that I require them to do.

2. Teamwork was an issue. It wasn't so much that some people did all the work while others listened to radio on their mp3s and lazed in the sun ( may have happened!) but more that groups did not split up tasks. They preferred to do everything together. I think this was because they were not confident with the nature of the task.

3. Understanding the tasks was sometimes an issue. In one task, they were required to record their observations using the voice function on the iRiver. However, they all simply wrote their observations very briefly. I wanted a more extended description. Perhaps I need to model that to them.

This experiment also highlighted the simplicity of using on-site and local sites for historical fieldwork.

The circular trunk foundations of the slaughteryard annex

Personal highlight - discovering the old foundations of an annex to the slaughteryard building. They are tree trunks about 20cm in diameter that have been cut to ground level, and are almost covered with grass.

An excellent trial!

Edward Bright's Slaughteryard

Today I will be doing some historical fieldwork with the year 9s.

There is an old slaughteryard building on our property. The blood ran down the hill of Bright St to Job's Gully Creek, and boys used bladders of killed cows to play footy!

Listen the podcast here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

GTAV III - Fieldwork Fetish

Fieldwork! The whole iHistory project is working towards a historical fieldwork day. But what about geography?

I've been to a couple of fieldwork sessions at the GTAV conference, and have been reminded of the historical and geographical skills that can be developed through fieldwork. We did an exercise: think of all the features and places within a 30 minute walk of your school. I thought of: mining sites, creeks and gullies, shops, land use, housing developments, cemeteries, streets, the school itself, weather. Also, for an older area like ours there aerial photos and maps over a long period of time.

We could focus on doing simple skills like mapping, surveying, measuring...just short activities. It verges on criminal that we are not using these free and local places.

GTAV II - iHistory in geography

This post, unlike the last, does actually relate to iHistory. I went to a workshop at the conference yesterday on using movies, music, podcasts etc in geography. Eleanor Richards from The Kilmore International School uses all these in her (very) successful attempts to engage students in geography using media and technology with which they are thoroughly conversant.

Interesting, as it is more difficult to use this technology in geography classes because it is not a literary discipline.

History is directly concerned with primary sources such as diaries, journals, newspapers, books etc. These are all concerned with words and the significance of those words. History uses non-literary sources but as word suggests, it about telling a hiSTORY. Movies, music and podcasts are all 'wordy' sources.

Geography is about places and people, as well as the interaction between them. The primary source is the land. Words can be written about this source, but they are after the fact.

So, it requires an extra leap of creativity to use popular movies, music and podcasts to teach geography.

GTAV I (Geography Teacher's Association of Victoria)

A groyne...sorry - groin

I'm at the GTAV Conference at the moment. OK, not history, but we'll forgive them.

Seriously though, I've been realising how much of a piece history and geography are. Place shapes events over time, and in turn, historical events affects physical and human geograph.

Laugh of the day my presentation on "Teaching Timor-Leste", a geographer enthused about finding a map of Timor Leste. I didn't think this was such a big deal, but the fact that the map had a scale of 1:25000 drew gasps of rapture from the other G teachers. Bizarre people. But, as I found out, having such detailed maps is essential for successful agricultural and infrastructure planning, without which Timor Leste will struggle to survive.

Laugh of the day 2...keynote presentation on Day 2 by Peter Wheeler, a PhD student, speaking about 'groynes', which are human-constructed walls to guide water (see above). Lovely sentences like "In 1964, the three groynes have been emplaced..." "The in-tides and out-tides creates turbulence around the groynes...". I know - juvenile, but I am imagining talking about groynes to Year 8s...a picture of 13 year olds unable to stop laughing, and me insisting "Groynes, not groins!"

Mmmm, free stuff. I haven't been to many subject association events, but if they give you as much free stuff as I got, I'm becoming a groupie. I've nabbed 2 new atlases (none of which we'll buy because they're prohibitively expensive), myriad posters and a box full of just-out-of-date VCE Geography textbooks.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Chinese podcast post-mortem

I reckon this podcast was too long! My podcasts have been getting longer and longer. This one was 10 minutes...I reckon I might be getting to like the sound of my own voice too much. The students were getting restless after about 4 minutes, and then probably weren't listening after 8 minutes.

So is the problem:
  • student concentration span?
  • the length of the podcast?
  • the way the podcast is structured?
Regarding the concentration problem, it's no use ranting and raving about it - it's beyond my reach. The length is a problem: most songs (what students are mostly listening to) only last for 3-4 minutes. There may be correlation between their habitual use of mp3 players and their tolerance for the time of the podcast. If I created a TV show, their time tolerance would probably be higher.

I think the main problem is the structure of time. On other podcasts of longer length, I've noticed in the introductory spiel, they usually outline the main topics. The topics are often not related! So their could be segment on a historical topic, a segment on some new techno toy they've bought, and one on why their baseball team rocks...Is this viable for a podcast meant for educational purposes?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Chinese on the Goldfields

Wah Lim, Bendigo
Chinese people first came to Australia when convict transportation stopped. Because convicts had been used for labour, there was now a shortage. Chinese people were used as “indentured labourers”. “Indentured” means that they worked for a certain length of time for their employer.

By the way, if you thought that the word “indentured” had something to do with a “dentist” then you’re right. The word indenture comes from when the English drew up a contract for the worker. It would be written out twice on the one bit of paper, then torn in half – the jagged ‘teeth’ from the tear could then be fitted together later to show they were from the same contract.

Anyway, Chinese people did all the hack work of the colonies – clearing bushland, cooking, shepherding sheep, digging wells. You might think racism towards Asian people is a recent thing, but really it started way back in the gold rush days.

Listen to the podcast.