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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

What's wrong with having a bit of attitude?

I have just finished drafting the Teachers' Notes for my next book, due out on October 1, the nicely titled Big Book of Australian History. The notes are still to be edited, but here are some excerpts from the introduction: this is the Director's Cut, so to speak.
These notes offer one old teacher's ideas on some of the more interesting avenues to explore. I have never allowed myself to be bound down by a mere smear curriculum if that threatens to get in the way of educating in the widest sense.
Indeed, as a teacher, when asked what I taught, I would always grin and say, brightly, "Children!". I hope that attitude is visible here. There is time in a child's life for both the prescriptions laid down in the curriculum, and the joy of wondering.
So if a question occurred to me and it seemed interesting, I took the grandfather option—all the fun, and none of the responsibility—and you can see this as early as the very first question posed for chapter 1!
The question I most like being asked as a story-teller is "What happened next?" If we can plant, encourage and feed the habit of asking that question, we will have won.
In writing the book, I used a lot of historical newspapers from the National Library of Australia's digitised collections, because I have been using them for some years and know my way around them. That aside, this book was written for the National Library, and aims to showcase the holdings of that library. You can access Trove's newspapers at <> if you or your students want to explore them.
More to the point, I have added most of my sources to public lists which are accessible to anybody. There is a master list that can be accessed in two ways: the URL is <>; but as that can be hard to recall, I created a shortcut, <>, and that takes you to the same place. If you are handing that link out to students, you can also give them <>, which is always safer, as it allows the user to see where they are about to go.
I have in mind that sometimes teachers won't hand out the links: they will look through the lists I have created, select one or two items from it, and use those. As Harvey said to Butch Cassidy, "Rules? In a knife fight? No rules!". 
Australian history cannot be studied without looking at where we came from, and where Australia came from. The once commonly-heard dismissive comment that Aborigines did not invent wheeled vehicles can best be seen as profoundly ignorant when you look at Australia's lack of suitable draught animals. Equally, the lack of Aboriginal agriculture (as we think of it) is understandable when you consider Australian climate, soils and plants, which simply don't lend themselves to farming.
Everything is connected, and the details are everything!
So that's how I spent the election weekend.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention: it's going to be both a print book and a very-hotlinked epub e-book. I'm looking forward to seeing that one, because the target age is primary, and the hotlinks take the reader straight into contemporary newspaper accounts and other original sources.

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