Historical Thinking and the Digital DBQ
Click the image below to get the free Digital DBQ ibook from iTunes
Click here to access Ms. Q's prezi from the EdTechTeacher conference
View this video to take a look at how students are working with the Digital DBQ
Attention History Teachers! An Opportunity is Knocking on Your Door
In the 1970’s a group of social and cultural historians and educators began asking what they wanted students to learn in regards to history and perhaps more importantly how they wanted students to learn and think about the past. They said that if the goal of teaching a nation’s history was to shape students national identity by exposing them to only certain accomplishments then the teacher served no purpose other than lecturing about the past. Moreover, they argued that this approach diminishes student motivation in learning the subject. They proposed instead that history in the classroom should be an investigation of the past and the social world in which students live.
Today we are asking ourselves this question again. With the introduction of the Common Core Standards, an educational initiative in the United States that details what K-12 students need to know before they graduate, the choice about how to teach history no longer exists. The Common Core now demands that we no longer simply lecture about past events but rather we must create opportunities that allow students to investigate the past. The Common Core presents a unique opportunity for history teachers to re-evaluate and reflect upon their teaching practices and reignite the field that has for so long been neglected.
In 2008 Common Core surveyed 1200, 17 year olds and 33% did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and religion. Statistics like these are staggering to say the least, what most would regard as the foundational principles of our country, one-third of our youth don’t even know these principles exist.
Perhaps the history discipline has been neglected over the past few years because we neglected to fulfill our responsibility. Few other subject areas have the privilege of teaching a subject matter that has the potential to humanize society. Each generation must ask themselves why the learning of history is important and why history can bring us together rather than tear us apart.
How do you bring about this transformation in you classroom? How do you engage students in a dialogue between the past and the present? How do you create informed and active citizens? In my book, “The Digital DBQ,” I propose how this transformation can begin to take place in your classroom. A DBQ is a document-based question that asks students to use a series of sources to respond to a prompt, an activity usually reserved for AP/IB level students. I strongly believe that this investigative analysis of the past is an activity all students must engage in, and that technology creates opportunities to differentiate instruction quickly and easily. Proposed below is a series of steps for how to begin this process.
Step One: Distribute a Source Analysis Guide
To guide students in their analysis of sources, The History Project at the University of California, Irvine has crafted a source analysis worksheet called the 6Cs (this can be found within the iTunes U course). Through the lens of the 6Cs students begin to acquire the skills of source analysis and think critically on a deeper level.
The 6Cs are as follows:
Content – The Main Idea
Citation – The Author
Context – Events Taking Place During the Time
Connections – Relation of this source to prior events
Communication – Evidence of Bias
Conclusion – How the source can contribute to your understanding of the past
As students analyze their sources they complete the 6Cs using an annotation app (my favorite is iAnnotate by Branchfire). Students can easily edit their document and share it with me for feedback.
Step Two: Distribute the Digital DBQ
In previous years, my students would receive a black and white copy of a DBQ, not the most visually appealing way to begin an intensive reading and writing activity. However today my students download an iBook, which is so much more exciting and engaging. Using iBooks Author we can bring historical sources to life in an interactive and engaging manner. I often find that they struggle the most with the Context and Connections boxes, however the interactive features in iBooks Author allow me to add in pop up questions that help students spark a discussion. I can include Keynotes that review key ideas and events allowing students to reflect upon earlier topics. I no longer find myself racing around the room answering the same question 5 times, I now find myself engaging in debate and discussion about the sources with my students on a much higher level than ever before, questioning the bias of a source and contemplating other sources that would be useful in answering the prompt.
Step Three: Students Create a Screen Cast of their Source Analysis
What has truly redefined the DBQ experience in my classroom is the student narration of the source using Explain Everything. There is a great deal of difference between writing an idea and articulating an idea orally. When students were writing their analysis on paper there was always a small part of me that wondered, “Did they really get it?” Now that I can hear the students talk through the analysis as they create their screen cast using the tools in Explain Everything I know whether they truly understood the source. I have the students submit their recordings via YouTube and then post them for the class to take notes on as homework. The next day we discuss the sources and are able to engage in a much deeper conversation.
The Digital DBQ allows me as the teacher to be a part of the learning process instead of just receiving the end product (the essay) only to go back to students with lots of red marks which do not provide the enriched learning experience they deserve. Through the discussion of sources we are learning together and investigating the past and making connections to present day issues.
The pieces to the puzzle are coming together, the stars are aligning and an opportunity is knocking on your door. I challenge you to embrace it and lead the way and redefine the history experience for students in your classroom. Of course the big question you must be asking yourselves now is how am I going to find the time to create these iBooks? As a Social Science teacher and educational technology coordinator I have been working with the UCI History Project to take the DBQs they have and put them into an iBook format. Included in the book is a detailed overview for how to implement this lesson long with tutorials on how to use the apps.
Follow me @AskMsQ to learn more about how I integrate technology into my history classroom.
This February, Sabba attended and presented at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in San Diego. In her presentation, “The Digital DBQ,” she talked about how we can harness the power of the iPad to enhance and develop student’s historical thinking skills through reading, writing and source analysis.
Founders of iPad Educators, Steve Bambury and Luke Rees, have built quite the reputation in Orange County, CA and people love hearing from them. They joined her in San Diego by making a special virtual appearance using Tellagami avatars and iMovie to share how they have students engage in source analysis. Here is an overview of the presentation along with links to resources. Enjoy!
We were incredibly honoured when Sabba (Ms. Q) asked us to be a part of her presentation. Coming from a British primary school background, our experience with source analysis was a little different. I don't mind admitting that we had to research exactly what a DBQ was!
A colleague of mine once told me that a history teacher he knew in secondary education had complained about the lack of true history skills kids had upon leaving primary school. The comment he made that stuck with me was this: "They all know how to make a model canopic jar but none of them know how to analyse a source."
So we made a dedicated effort to change that and develop true historical skills in our Year 4 students. We buried artefacts and analysed them as archaeologists would, we examined sources and introduced soncepts like historical cause and effect.
The DBQ and moreso the Digital DBQ makes sense to the modern history student. It tests relevant skills not memory and is meaningful in its assessment. As such we had no problem relating to it and putting something together for Sabba's presentation.
Quite tellingly, we broke the process down into the same sequence she did, with no prior discussion!
Footnote from Steve:
The main app we used to create this video was Tellagami. The separate clips were sewn together in iMovie and the picture-in-picture elements added.