We may be biased, but we think the BHP community is the best in history. We’re talking about the individual teachers who comprise said community – teachers with a collective few-thousands-of-years-of-teaching-Big-History experience. Lucky for anyone teaching Big History (or gearing up to do so), this community of educators collaborates year-round in an online community, hosted on Yammer, called the Big History Teacher Community. This forum is home to conversations of all stripes – from the nuances of course content (why do supernovae matter to human history?); to reflection on instructional next-steps (how are others incorporating feedback from BHP Score essay graders?); to new ideas on family engagement, field learning, and more.
We recently reached out to a handful of BHP teachers finishing their first year teaching the course—we wanted to get a sense of how, if at all, the online community was impacting their classrooms. We asked:
How has what you’ve learned/observed in the BHP Online Community this year changed or impacted your teaching?
The Yammer community is full of interesting takes on lessons/strategies/activities. Other teachers’ ideas remind me that it’s OK to deviate from the BHP curriculum and to go in-depth with certain topics even whilst dealing with content and pacing. I find these types of lesson modifications very useful and it has inspired me to craft some of my own organizers and lessons. – Erik C., California (USA)
For me, having a ready forum of expert teachers who have used BHP before has been helpful. Very early on I was looking for Unit 2 ideas and I came across a conversation about the Big Bang Infographic assignment. Based on the discussion and student examples, I used the assignment with great success! My students did a great job with them and I was able to assess their understanding of the key concepts. In fact, student examples hung in the hallway for a long time! – Suzanne, North Carolina (USA)
I’ve noticed a lot more people are sharing what they do in the classroom with the activities attached to their posts. I’ve changed how I do vocabulary because of posts from Yammer. – Alex O., California (USA)
It’s been great to have a resource pool to draw on when I don’t fully understand some of the larger ideas behind the lesson plans. That’s extremely helpful in the earliest units because I’m definitely working out of my comfort zone with the cosmology, physics, biology, and geology portions of the course. It’s also been a great resource for refining ideas such as the world zone game and the active accretion activity. – Mark E., North Carolina (USA)
Seeing what other people are doing and also being able to ask people for advice or feedback has had a valuable impact on my teaching. I have used some of the activities other teachers developed in my class and have even created “hybrid” assignments based on what I have seen on yammer. Many of the support materials I use with my students to structure the development of the Little Big History Project came from Yammer. – Brian M., Connecticut (USA)
There have been occasions when I was not sure about something or how a lesson would best be implemented. By hearing from other teachers, I was able to find clarity that would then manifest in my teaching and instructions. – Adam A., Minnesota (USA)
… your students?
Conversations on Yammer have provided me with background information about some of the more “science-y” topics, so that I was more confident about what I was teaching. My increased confidence with the subjects undoubtedly affected how I taught the concepts, leading to better student understanding. – Suzanne B., North Carolina (USA)
My students have been impacted by the good ideas I’ve seen posted. For example, I borrowed an imperialism game from another contributor and refined it slightly. The students really loved it and got a lot out of it. The forum has also been a good source of support for activities I’m not totally sold on. For example, I was skeptical about the active accretion activity until I saw lots of other teachers raving about it on the forum. I gave it a try and the students really had a lot of fun while learning some important ideas. – Mark E., North Carolina USA)
My students have liked having the option to ask experts questions and are excited when I tell them I have mentioned their work or shared some of their ideas on Yammer. – Brian M., Connecticut (USA)
My students are impacted because I am able to be a better teacher. There are others who can answer questions or offer guidance when something is not clear. Instead of guessing my way through, I can count on other professionals to deliver information that will provide a better experience for my students. – Adam A., Minnesota (USA)
… your thinking about Big History?
It makes an impact. Big History is a big, big change for many teachers. The responsibility of teaching this course, knowing the information, having materials prepped is significant. Knowing that there is a community to help me if I have a question or a struggle provides a great deal of confidence. Particularly because responses are quick, professional, and super useful. This is not always the case when one goes for help, especially online. But knowing I have the support of experts in this field and that I will hear from them quickly – gives me confidence in Big History and makes me feel more at ease. – Adam A., Minnesota (USA)
As a first year BHP teacher, I’m finding the amount of content a bit overwhelming, kind of like being a first-year teacher who’s given a big, huge textbook! That extends to the Yammer Community. I don’t often get to peruse the site, but when I do, it’s very valuable. I love that teachers of all subjects post things that they find to update BHP concepts, in addition to classroom ideas. Yammer is a good place to get the most updated information about concepts that tie in to the BHP thresholds. – Suzanne B., North Carolina (USA)
Yammer has helped to support and provide more opportunities for me to have conversations with like-minded educators. Big History is new to even the few people in my district working with it. There are very few people to draw on as a resource and I am seen as more of a resource myself leaving me sort of on an island. Having Yammer made me feel like I am part of a larger community of educators and that island got a whole lot bigger. It is nice to know I can post a question or issue and get feedback from people in the form of suggestions or at least other people understanding what I am struggling with. – Brian M., Connecticut (USA)
The resources that have been shared on the forums have been extremely helpful in shaping my understanding of Big History. This has been particularly true of the earlier thresholds. I’m a historian so I keep on top of the recent trends in historical research, but I don’t know the first place to start when looking for the exciting new trends in astrophysics or cosmology. It’s been really helpful to have some subject matter experts helping decipher some of the tough ideas. – Mark E., North Carolina (USA)