In June, I was invited to be part of a project exploring ways of applying the resources of the Google Cultural Institute in the classroom. The Google Cultural Institute has three strands to it –
All contain hugely detailed galleries and images which are of particular interest to History, Geography and Art teachers. They have advanced functions of creating your own galleries for your classes and the ability to annotate each item. This was all outlined to us in an initial meeting held by Ed Comms in London. The real value of this meeting was to meet and discuss with other History teachers from a variety of contexts and this helped me think more deeply about how to apply the wealth of resources on offer at the Google Cultural Institute.
My ability to use these resources were limited to the availbility of ICT suites in school. However, I was able to get two lessons for a Year 8 class. I decided to use the resources in the following ways –
– These resources are ideal in establishing a cross-curricular project between ICT and History. The ability to access online resources in History are becoming increasingly important and it can be a challenge to include this in the History curriculum meaningfully. This was supported by our subject Leader in ICT who team taught this mini project. This allowed students to access to teachers with expert knowledge in both History and ICT.
– Without wanting to use these resources just for the sake of it, I decided to use the historical events strand of the Google Cultural Institute and focus on three of their galleries relating to apartheid – Soweto Riots, Sharpeville and Anti-apartheid campaigns. This fitted ideally with the current topic Year 8 was studying – Apartheid.
– Inspired by Tom Haward’s excellent book, Seeing History, I selected an activity in which students had to browse the three selected galleries and choose six images which sum up protest and apartheid which then they have to explain. More detail on this assignment can be found in the attachment below –
– I decided to veer away from the more demanding ICT functions of the site, such as annotations, as this could cloud the history purposes of the project. However, in the project, I included QR codes for links to the different galleries as well as the assignment had to be sent to me by email rather than printed out.
The lessons themselves went very well. It was clear that the students were engaged and found the galleries interesting. I feel that there is almost an overwhelming amount on the Google Cultural Institute and weaker students would find this intimidating. Therefore, I would guide students to specific parts like two or three galleries to avoid students being overwhelmed. This was a mixed ability Year 8 group and steering them to specific parts of the Google Cultural Institute worked effectively.
Avoiding the more advanced functions of the Google Cultural Institute also was the correct decision. Looking at the comments of colleagues who tried the more advanced functions, that seemed to complicate matters and only digitally advanced students were able to grasp this. Keeping the ICT straightforward and using it to support students is essential or else students would spend far too much time in getting to grips with the ICT and not enough time on the history aspects of the project and developing their research skills.
It is without doubt that the Google Cultural Institute is a fantastic resource. I was very impressed with the historical events galleries. Indeed my only real criticism of these galleries is that there isn’t enough of them that are relevant to the National Curriculum History topics. I do feel that the ICT functions are a great tool for research but are perhaps too advanced for many students of a secondary age. I would veer away from these if you were to use them for a History project.
The standard of work produced was excellent and showed that the students not only engaged with the Google Cultural Institute but were able to use it to produce quality work that demonstrated their developing skills in history. Some example of student’s projects can be found below.