Why Learn History Book Club // Get your copy and join the conversation!

Drumroll please! We are thrilled to announce our summer OER Conference for Social Studies Book Club pick! This month you are invited to join us in reading Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone) by Sam Wineburg (IndieBound / Amazon), who happens to be one of our keynote speakers for the OER Conference for Social Studies. 

Since the 1990s, Sam Wineburg has been one of the leaders in research on historical thinking and the teaching and learning of history. He is also one of the founders and directors of the Stanford History Education Group (sheg.stanford.edu), one of the largest providers of free educational resources in the world. Wineburg believes it is essential to provide students with the critical thinking tools necessary to sort through the incredible amount of information being thrown at them every day, and to do so may require updates to traditional teaching practices. 

Our community discussion about Why Learn History will kick off with our first book club questions on July 14 right here in this thread, located in the OER Conference for Social Studies Discussion Forum. We’ll post a new question each Thursday for three weeks leading up to the conference which takes place August 3-4. So, grab a copy of the book, bookmark this thread so you can return on the 14th, and prepare for some rich discussions with other members of the community.

Our first week of conversations will cover Part One of the book. Let the reading begin!

Why Learn History // Week One Questions 

We are excited to start our book club conversation on Why Learn History (When it’s Already on Your Phone) as we make our way to Sime Wineburg’s August 4th keynote address in the OER Conference for Social Studies. Post your thoughts and answers to the questions below or add your own question. Erik Christensen will be leading the discussion and will be checking in throughout the day to respond to the conversation.  

In Chapter 1 "Crazy for History" Wineburg gives a critical analysis of American testing systems (and their effectiveness) and reaches the conclusion that "...no national test can allow students to show themselves to be historically literate."  Further, Wineburg makes the claim that multiple choice tests "convey the dismal message that history is about collecting disconnected bits of knowledge..., where one test item has nothing to do with the next, and where if you can't answer a question in a few seconds, it's wise to move on to the next. [These] tests mock the very essence of problem solving."   

  • How should teachers of history in 2022 test our students?  
  • How do you determine if your students are learning history?  
  • How do you, to paraphrase Wilfred McClay, make those hard choices about what gets thrown out of the story so that the essentials can survive?

Why Learn History // Week Two Questions 

Bloom's Taxonomy is referenced in many professional development sessions, teacher-admin conversations, and there may even be a poster of this pyramid in your classroom. Wineburg suggests that in a history classroom, Bloom's Taxonomy should be inverted so that knowledge is at the top.    

  • Do you agree with Wineburg's thesis - that Bloom's Taxonomy doesn't work in a history classroom?   
  • What would an inverted version of the pyramid look like in your practice?   
  • Is knowledge the result of critical thinking? Or is knowledge needed to think critically?  

Why Learn History // Week Three Questions 

In Chapter 7 "Why Google Can't Save Us" Wineburg dives deep into the internet's ability to deeply confuse expert and novice historians (and everyone else!). He describes several case studies that highlight how difficult it can be to assess information that we come across online.    

  • As more students are conducting research online, how are you managing the information they are exposed to?   
  • Do you teach digital literacy?   
  • How do you practice online reasoning or claim testing? How do you practice it with your students?   
  • What routines or activities have made the biggest impact to negotiating the power of the internet in your classroom?  

Post your response to the questions in the comments below as we complete our final week of the Book Club. Be sure to join us for Sam Wineburg’s Keynote Address on August 4 at 1:00 PM PDT!  

Top Replies

  • Hi everybody. Figured I wade into this thread because reading everyone's posts and being familiar with Wineburg's book got me thinking. Anyway, I often find myself TL-DR-ing my posts.  I'm sure this…

  • So far, I am enjoying the book...definitely not finished, but I'm on track(ish) to be ready to respond to Part 2 later this week! :) I find Wineburg's tone and style to be straightforward and comprehensible…

  • Why Learn History // Week Two Questions 

    Bloom's Taxonomy is referenced in many professional development sessions, teacher-admin conversations, and there may even be a poster of this pyramid in your classroom…

Parents
  • Why Learn History // Week Three Questions 

    In Chapter 7 "Why Google Can't Save Us" Wineburg dives deep into the internet's ability to deeply confuse expert and novice historians (and everyone else!). He describes several case studies that highlight how difficult it can be to assess information that we come across online.   

    • As more students are conducting research online, how are you managing the information they are exposed to?   
    • Do you teach digital literacy?   
    • How do you practice online reasoning or claim testing? How do you practice it with your students?   
    • What routines or activities have made the biggest impact to negotiating the power of the internet in your classroom?  

    Post your response to the questions in the comments below as we complete our final week of the Book Club. Be sure to join us for Sam Wineburg’s Keynote Address on August 4 at 1:00 PM PDT!  

  • I give mad props to Wineburg and the Stanford Education Group for developing materials that put their money where their mouths are.  Next to the OER and Crash Course, I think the three resources below are some of the best for teaching social studies in the Wineburgian paradigm.  All of the below come from the SHEG, all were informed by Why Learn History, and you will notice that the third resource is specifically designed to target digital literacy. I highly recommend them if your are looking for activities related to sourcing, "reading + thinking like a historian", or promoting digital literacy.  They have worked well for me.  Beyond the Bubble is particularly useful for finding a quick assessment or two over "Reading Like a Historian" skills, and it provides rubrics + samples for each "level" of performance. I share these as a way to respond to Erik Christensen's fourth question above.

    1. Reading Like a Historian
    2. Beyond the Bubble History Assessments
    3. Civic Online Reasoning
  •  Thanks fo the additional resources,  ! I used Reading Like a Historian materials years ago and found them to be extremely useful. I'm curious, what's your approach to teaching digital literacy? Is this a start of year focus, or is it something that you continuously have to work on with students over the course of the year? 

  • I think any skill building with students is an ongoing process so I try to spiral activities. My start of the year focus in any of my courses is just trying to get them to read more analytically + "like a historian".  So, it's about making them aware of sourcing questions and reliability questions and the danger of a single narrative, etc.  I try to get them to think about "how we know" and "why we know" not just "what we know".  This is not digital literacy per se, but it transfers into digital literacy.  That being said, I used the Reading Like a Historian and Bubble stuff more in my World and AP World to reinforce claim testing, sourcing (i.e. HAPPY skills), etc.

    The Civic Online Reasoning materials I used in a Freshman level course called Rhetoric and Civics and in a Contemporary Issues Elective course.  Not so much my World or AP course.  In the Freshman course, I literally ran the COR Intro activity on the Saturday School.  Then would cherry pick when to practice lateral reading skills with various sources. 

    I do try to do the "Evaluating Evidence" lesson or something similar right before any major research project/activity in my World course, as well as a refresher on lateral reading. Alas, there is not much time for such projects in my AP course.

    Does that help?  I realize that I might not be answering your question. :-)

  • This is exactly what I was asking! Thank you for such a thorough response. It's always nice to learn from others. Love that you ran the COR Intro during Saturday School. That is such a valuable use of time.

    Your spiraling approach is spot on! I see so many teachers who do a lesson on digital literacy at the start of the year, but don't continue as the year progresses, which is such a disservice to students. 

Reply
  • This is exactly what I was asking! Thank you for such a thorough response. It's always nice to learn from others. Love that you ran the COR Intro during Saturday School. That is such a valuable use of time.

    Your spiraling approach is spot on! I see so many teachers who do a lesson on digital literacy at the start of the year, but don't continue as the year progresses, which is such a disservice to students. 

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