What's a module?
The module that students enrolled in Teaching Hidden History will create for their final project are based on modules that are currently part of an online professional development course for educators, Hidden in Plain Sight. Hidden in Plain Sight began four years ago with funding from the Virginia Department of Education with the goal of providing a high–quality online course that emphasized historical thinking. Teaching Hidden History, with funding from the 4–VA initiative, will expand on these goals. Students from Mason, Old Dominion, and Virginia Tech this summer will create their own “Hidden” module — select their own topic, conduct research, and upload their project onto the Teaching Hidden History course site.
The modules are designed to not only teach historical content, but also to make visible how historians approach evidence. Specifically these modules explore how objects — even everyday objects like a dishwasher or an old rusty nail — can be considered historical evidence and connect to important themes in history.
The Main Object: Each module begins with an object. Users are asked to consider the object carefully and form a hypothesis about it might relate to a larger history. Teaching Hidden History students will select their topic and object by carefully considering how they fit together. Also important will be crafting a project with a reasonable scope to complete by the end of the course.
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Resources: Once the Hypothesis is submitted, the user views a series of 10–12 resources. Resources introduce students to a variety of primary sources that relate to the overall themes of each module. Maps, prints, posters, handbills, personal letters, songs, and diary entries model how larger historical narratives are constructed within the framework of the module’s content. Each resource also features narrative text — a brief paragraph explaining the source and how these sources relate to the overall topic. Students in Teaching Hidden History will be responsible for researching their topic using tertiary and secondary sources and finding the resources and writing the text to relate their history behind their object.
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Rethink: After viewing these resources and reading the narrative text, users are presented with the main object again along with their original hypothesis and asked to reflect on how the resources informed their understanding or changed their thinking in the Rethink section. The objective is to encourage thinking about thinking — how does our understanding or perception change when we encounter new evidence? For their module, Teaching Hidden History students will craft these questions with the goal of encouraging users to think about the how, not just the what of history.
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Connections Essay: Finally, a Connections Essay (300–500 words) provides an overview of the historical topic and how the main object relates to this history. Users can compare their own understanding of the topic with the expert researcher. On the same page as their essay, Teaching Hidden History students will upload a list of the secondary sources they used along with a brief annotation explaining the book or article’s historical argument.
Over the three years we have taught Hidden in Plain Sight, the course has received very positive feedback from teachers who are eager to explore history and historical thinking with their students. Our hope is that Teaching Hidden History will be similarly meaningful for students to think critically and creatively about how technology can facilitate the teaching and learning of history.