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Teaching History Classes in the Age of Globalization ‐ Challenges for Teaching History ‐

Some authors say that teaching history classes in Germany has not changed much since the 70ies, when there was a general reform in education and teaching.1 This judgment may be true with respect to the every day classes at schools, when teachers still stick to their traditional way of teaching. And it is true when considering the fact that history is still taught as national history with national perspectives, mainly.2 But such a judgment is not true concerning history of didactics, which have generated, since the 70ies, quite a number of theories and proposals how to improve history teaching, not only in

Germany: for example, new methods have been proclaimed stressing teamwork on the one hand, and the students’ own initiatives to study independently, on the other. The most recent proposals underline the important role of thinking skills in particular the importance of reflectiveness and self‐reflectiveness while teaching and studying

historical issues. These thinking skills are described and emphasized in curricula and in textbooks, in Germany, in other European countries, and in the U.S.

All these proposals and changes will be good preconditions to enclose global perspectives in history teaching.

Since decades, new emerging fields of university research, e.g. social ‐, gender ‐, life world ‐, and cultural history have become topics in curricula, textbooks and in the classroom as well. But global history, which has gained importance in universities world‐ wide, during the last two decades or so, has hardly been picked up in history classes in schools, with the exception of the U.S.

I would like to discuss three challenges which result from globalization, and which make it necessary to modify the teaching of history classes in schools.

1. Globalization cannot be thought without the world‐wide‐web in communication and without the possibilities of using digitalization and computers in all parts of everyday‐ life. This requires new methods and modes for teaching and learning.

2. Although history topics change in time and space as long as history is taught, nowadays they broaden in a globalizing way in many respects: the connectedness of


countries and continents in terms of trade, economy, and capital is increasing, the cross cultural encounters multiply, the shared traditions and habits between colonializing and colonialized countries are emphasized in postcolonial studies, consumer habits become more similar around the world, the same movies and TV documentaries can be watched nearly everywhere, research is done on long neglected spaces and regions, e.g. the Atlantic Ocean. New topics of global concern originate because of threatening environmental transformations worldwide.

Where are all these history topics in history classes?

3. Globalization can’t be thought without worldwide migration for different reasons. There is an increasing immigration into nations, which used to be considered as relatively homogenous in respect to ethnicity and culture. Presently this is not true anymore, at least not any more in most European countries. Classrooms today are characterized by great diversity in ethnical and cultural aspects.

If history classes want to be more up‐to‐date and want to draw students’ attention to history topics, they should incorporate in one way or the other the challenges of globalization along the three mentioned lines.

Ad 1.Young people nowadays are living in a world of digitalization, border‐crossing communication and visualization. In a lot of cases this world makes up their everyday life. Mostly they are much better trained to use the new media than their parents and teachers are. Over time a lot of online educational material has been offered becoming more and better suited to the teachers’ and the students’ needs, especially in history. Teachers make use of such material to prepare their classes. Students may need it for their homework, but it seems to be rare, that teachers and students communicate via the Internet between each other or in the classroom itself, while using the smart board and being connected to their laptops. This way what students prepared could be discussed, or the teachers themselves could show new material, with which the students might study.3 Research found out, that for students the work on computers does not only “increase” their “interest” “in learning new things”, but “sharpen their awareness of their own abilities. They feel more in control of the material … and work at their own pace in a focused manner.” 4 As online educational resources will grow immensely and very fast, the digital classroom will advance as well. For some time already, publishers of history textbooks have not stayed with the printed versions alone, but have added online


material in order to compliment the topics with new perspectives and chances of a better and more informed and individualized learning.

But there is not only the online material for the strict educational use in the classroom, there is a growing demand for historical entertainment in videogames, movies and TV documentaries outside the classroom. They all belong to the historical culture of a society, because history goes public, much more than before. There are positive and enthusiastic judgments about visual media and history topics: History related movies are even interpreted „as the Gateway to History“.5 Historical simulation in computer‐ games are thought to be „an educational strategy that combines the fun and the game“ ... „for cognitive development“ and „an active form of mental exploration, which calls for creativity, thinking skills, and thinking.”6 “Young Adults” seem “to enjoy” viewing documentaries.7 Whether all these statements are true or not, history classes cannot stay away from this new media boom. They should use and deal with them, and criticize them since the educational or even moral value of these media products is frequently not clear at all. One of the most important tasks for teachers nowadays should be the training of a critical visual and digital literacy, while teaching thinking skills. There are a lot of publications, which help to acquire this qualification.

Ad 2. New digital media are fundamental for globalization. They show topics, problems, connections, spaces, habits etc. in all parts of the world. The range of their impact is the whole world. People may be informed about everything nearly everywhere. Especially visualization is said to play a big role in the democratization of people around the world.8 Young people know about the impact of these media and choose their favorite topics, games, and connections around the world. In view of this background of

globalization, how does it feel to teach history classes according to the traditional national curriculum? It does not seem to be enough!

It does not mean, that national history has to be dropped or given up, because it belongs as much to the students’ life world as does global history. But national history itself is global, nowadays. It is included in world history in a lot of respects, and vice versa. Moreover the world has already come to our nations, the “global other is in our midst.”9 Teaching global history does not mean that there have to be a lot more facts and data, but national history should be put in transnational or global interrelations and in doing so it gains global and transnational perspectives. At the same time teaching itself will change. Notions, concepts, problem‐oriented questions, working tasks, and


projects will broaden in a more generalizing way. They should be related to the

everyday or life world problems of young people. There are a lot of them: religion and secularization, illness and epidemics, financial systems and crises, environment and ecology etc.

The topic of industrialization may serve as an example. There is no doubt that it should be taught from its local beginnings to the global dimension it has today. Fundamental questions could be: New inventions and technologies, have they been good for

everyone? How has labor changed in a globalized world? What about capitalism and consumerism nowadays? All these questions and many more could be asked, and they should be dealt with on the basis of sources, as usual. By stressing its global dimensions, the topic may become even more interesting. Students may try to understand, why their parents lost their jobs or why they wear sweaters and jeans made in China or India. They do not have to know the whole history of China or India, but the economic and social reasons for being able to produce cheap goods and sell them to richer countries. There may be an example from the European Middle Ages as well, presented in a lot of history curricula: Canossa. It stands for the struggle for power between the emperor and the pope. Reflecting this competition for influence and power, our

questions today could be: Should state and church be separated? How do secularization and religion get along with each other?

These two examples should be enough to show that history classes have to teach thinking skills, to understand the influences and interferences on trans regional, transnational and global levels, the impact of propaganda and manipulation, the

consequences of economic and technical changes for different parts of the population or for the environment. This would also imply a self reflection on everyday life problems, e.g. on one’s own situation between religion and secularization, or on problems caused by new technologies and inventions for the better or the worse, for the rich and the poor, for one’s own life today.

This kind of approach to history topics could hopefully provoke the students’ interest in working independently and in looking online around the world and watching movies or TV‐documentaries, which deal with such issues. It could not be done without globalizing the topic and without globalization. Religion and secularization, new inventions and technologies cannot be taught without going in one way or the other to a global scale. In a similar way local or regional history can be globalized, creating interest and motivation for a topic, and the students’ willingness to study it in a glocal way.


Globalizing traditional national historical topics is not the only way of teaching with global perspectives. There are also new topics of concern for the whole world: environmental problems like water shortage, air pollution, climate change, the

extinction of animal and plant species, etc… In this respect the world can be considered to be one, because these changes may threaten humankind as a whole. “Big History” deals with these topics and concerns. It holds that humans are embedded in and dependent on nature, and their history is included in cosmological changes. Hopefully this may give them a collective responsibility for dealing with nature and environment in a more careful way.10 For such a global historical approach a lot of material has already been produced for history classes. Since last year there has been a free online curriculum of Big History, which is taught in an interdisciplinary way.11 Throughout the world there are High Schools, which teach according to this curriculum. Even if schools do not belong to this kind of “Big History Schools”, 12 the topic and discussion of Big History should make it into history classrooms.

Another topic of global dimension is migration with a lot of material produced for the use in schools. As migration is not only a topic, but also a real process, intercultural teaching should be applied at schools and in history classes.

3. Because of immigration, and because classes have become more multiethnic and multi cultural, at least in Europe and in the U.S., much debate takes place, and educational research is done on intercultural teaching. History classes are challenged in particular, because ‐ as is widely agreed upon in history curricula 13 ‐ they should help give

students an orientation in the world in which they grow up, and prepare them to become good citizens who participate responsibly in the social and political life of their communities. But how can such aims be achieved, if students do not learn anything about the global and multicultural dimensions of their lives? Probably in the future cultural and ethnical diversities will grow much more, in a lot of societies and therefore in the classrooms as well. Even in countries with a long tradition of multiculturalism there is much concern about problems of intercultural teaching, for example in the U. S., and a lot of research is done on history teaching and training teachers in a multicultural society (Swetnam 2003: 210). There still exists a cultural, racial, and ethnical alienation among students, teachers, and among teachers and students (Asher 2007: 65). Of course every classroom setting is different and teachers have to decide on a very individual basis, how to deal with diversities, but nevertheless some norms have been worked out


for multicultural teaching in global surroundings.14 Cultural, ethnical, racial minorities should be covered in history lessons and should be included in the history curriculum and in textbooks (Kimourtzis, Kokkinos & Gatsotis 2011: 122). Their part in the nation’s history should not only be presented as a history of problems, (Kamp 2011:21), but also as a history of their contributions to these societies and of their efforts to gain a better life (Maestri 2006: 391). Of course also the dark sides of societies and countries should be covered, e. g. open and hidden racism, crimes against immigrants, and cultural alienation, because only then will students learn about stereotypes, hate, and conflicts and become informed citizens with responsibilities for their society (Maestri 2006: 392) Summing up:

1. Globalization should bring the use of new media to the history classroom, because only then can students get a critical digital and visual literacy.

2. Traditional national history topics should be globalized. New topics may stress the global connectedness, the concern and the responsibility for one world.

3. Intercultural teaching has to choose history topics with transnational and global perspectives, which are related to everyone in the classroom for discussion and reflexion.

1 Conrad, F. (2012) ‚ „Alter Wein in neuen Schläuchen“ oder „Paradigmenwechsel“? ‘ in

Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht Jg.63, H 5/6, 302 – 323, 302 ‐ 3

2 Popp, S. & Röder, D. (2006/7) ‚Construction Macro Perspectives – A feasible way to introduce world and global history into German History Classrooms?‘ in Jahrbuch der Internationalen Gesellschaft für Geschichtsdidaktik 73 – 89, 73 ‐ 4

3 Staffan Selander (2013) ‚Multimodal Media Design and Learning in a Digitized World’ in Eckert 13 Das Bulletin 18‐21, 21

4 Selander, St. (2013) 21

5 Weinstein, P. B. (2001) ‚Movies as the Gateway to History: The History and Film Project’ in The History Teacher vol 35, no 1, p 27 – 48, 29 + 30

6 Corona, F., Perrotta, F., Tartaglia Polcini, E., Cozzarelli, C. (2011) ‚The New Frontiers of Edutainment: The Development of an Educational and Socio‐Cultural Phenomena Over time of Globalization’ in Journal of Social Sciences 7 (3) 408 – 411, 409

7 Phillips, N. C. and Teasley, A. B. (2010) ‚Reading Reel Nonfiction: Documentary Films for Young Adults’ in The ALAN Review, p. 51 – 59, 51


8 Schul, J. E. (2014) ‚Film Pedagogy in the History Classroom: Desktop Documentary‐ Making Skills for History Teachers and Students’ in The Social Studies 105, p 15‐ 22, 15 9 Beck, U. and Grande, E. (2010) ‚Jenseits des methodologischen Nationalismus’ in Soziale Welt 61 (3/4) 187‐216, 194 ‐ 5

10 The Author of „Big History“ is David Christian, a historian, teaching in the U.S. and in Australia.

11 The Curriculum is published: http://www.ibhanet.org 08/20/2014 or https://www.bighistoryproject.com 08/20/2014

12 The story of the world wide spreading of the Big History Project is to be read: https://www.ibhanet.org 08/20/2014

13 In Germany, in nearly all curricula this demand can be found. In the U.S.e.g. Stearns, P.N. (2000) ‘Getting Specific about Training in Historical Analysis’ 430 in Stearns, P.N. & Seixas, P. & Wineburg, S. (eds) Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History, New York, London; Nelson, L. R. & Waterson, R. A. (2007/8) ‘Civic Knowledge and the Social Studies Method Course’ 89 – 98 in International Journal of Social Education 22 (2) 89 14 There are reports on multicultural education and research is done on international levels: from the viewpoint of the Netherlands Elderling, L. (1996) Multiculturalism and Multicultural Education in an International Perspective in Anthropology & Education Quaterly 27 (3) 315 – 30; from the viewpoint of Australia and the United States

Swetnam, L. A. (2003) Lessons on Multicultural Education from Australia and the United States in The Clearing House 76 (4) 2008 – 11; from the viewpoint of Germany Kamp, M. (2011) Keine Chance auf Zugehörigkeit? – Islam und Muslimen in neuen europäischen Schulgeschichtsbüchern in Eckert – Das Bulletin 10 (Winter) 21 – 3; und Alavi, B. (1998) Geschichtsunterricht in der multiethnischen Gesellschaft Verlag für Interkulturelle





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