Conclusion: Connecting Historical Thinking and Technology in Classrooms

Reflecting on the “Connecting Historical Thinking and Technology” summer blog series, I want to close with a discussion about how historical thinking and technological resources are actually implemented within classrooms. As I consider the research and information on the topic, I have to wonder if many teachers realize that they are already employing historical thinking skills and themes within their classrooms on a daily basis. From the interviews I conducted and the materials and blogs I read throughout the summer, I have concluded that while many educators do not necessarily know how to define historical thinking, they are indeed teaching their students to be critical thinkers. They are doing so by having their students engage in assignments that have them analyze multiple accounts and perspectives, interacting with primary source documents, and by teaching them to contextualize the information they receive. My research shows that it is beneficial for teachers to implement historical thinking into their lesson plans with or without intent, and that the purposeful integration of these techniques revolutionizes how Social Studies material is delivered in high school classrooms.
By focusing on historical thinking skills in Social Studies classrooms, educators demonstrate to their students that historical information is more than just needless repetition and memorization of facts – it is the foundation  for further knowledge. Historical events shift from being detached instances over the course of thousands of years to an interconnected and fluid story of the behavior of human beings over time.
In order to push the “agenda” of historical thinking into classrooms, teachers must first be taught how to use historical thinking practices within their own lesson planning and teaching techniques. It is one thing to learn about effective techniques to implement within a classroom, but it is an entirely different matter to actually practice those strategies in order to understand how they can affect a group of students. Thus, it is my opinion that educators start by reading Sam Wineburg and Daisy Martin’s research on historical thinking, in addition to attending professional development workshops offered by area universities and organizations, to get firsthand experience with these concepts and their practical implementation. Through role-playing exercises and assignments in which educators can more deeply analyze primary source documents, teachers can learn what is it like to develop their own critical thinking abilities, so that they can pass on the concepts to their students. If state standards were also more explicit about highlighting historical thinking as one of their major learning outcomes (through tasks such as analysis of primary source documents), teachers would be more apt to pursue research on the topic and emphasize skills that develop those abilities on a regular basis within their classroom communities.
Through my research, I also came to the conclusion that technological resources can greatly aid educators in implementing historical thinking practices within the classroom. Through online primary source databases, WebQuests and interactive informational resources, students can dive into the events of the past and develop their own critical thinking skills, in addition to gaining practical skills that will aid them in future careers.While technology does present issues in terms of potential cyber-bullying or access to inappropriate material, if teachers choose to carefully monitor the use of technological resources within their classrooms, students will benefit greatly, academically and personally. Resources, like the ones mentioned above will help students develop their ability to discern credible material and understand how to conduct thorough research so that they become competent and critically-thinking students, as well as life-long learners.
I want to extend a “thank you” to the Cleveland State University Office of Research for allowing me the opportunity to do the “Connecting Historical Thinking and Technology” project this summer! Their generous grant allowed me to pursue research to not only aid my own teaching career, but hopefully the careers of many educators were read the blog over the course of this summer. To see more projects that the Office of Research funded this summer, you can attend the Undergraduate Research Poster session on September 4th from 10am-2pm in Cleveland State’s Student Center Atrium.