Publication Date

April 7, 2016

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Todayfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Catherine Cabiness-Atkinson is a technology coordinator, an online course facilitator, a 7th grade medieval world history teacher, and a history/social science department chair at James Irvine Intermediate School. She lives in Orange County, California, and has been a member since 2007.

Atkinson_PhotoTwitter handle: @Ms_Cabiness

Alma maters: BA (psychology), University of California, Santa Barbara, 1992; single subject social science credential, California State University, Long Beach, 1995; MS (educational technology), California State University, Fullerton, 2010

Fields of interest: world history, historical thinking, digital literacy, educational technology, professional development, and teacher education

When did you first develop an interest in history?
I developed an interest in history as an undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara. I loved to (and still do) read historical fiction. This evolved into an interest in discovering the real story behind the historical events.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am working with my history colleagues as we plan and implement a blended learning environment for our students. Our administration gave each of us an iPad cart, which means that our history classes are now a 1:1 learning environment. We are working on transforming our lessons and activities to align with the pedagogy of online learning to support the acquisition and practice of 21st-century skills and historical analysis skills. Our focus this year is to help our students become more reflective writers through the use of collaborative tools such as Google Docs.

Individually, I am working on several presentations that focus on historical thinking and digital literacy. I am presenting at the California Consortium for Independent Study Conference and at the Orange County Council for Gifted and Talented Education Conference in November.

Additionally, I am writing a book chapter about wikis and crowdsourcing knowledge. I am working with several colleagues to develop a resource that can house primary and secondary sources that can be used in our district at the secondary level. This project stemmed from our participation as moderators for a Twitter chat (#sschat) on historical thinking and writing.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
My interests have evolved from teaching history in a traditional classroom environment to creating a larger learning community that includes all sections of world history at my school. For the past two years, my colleagues and I have created learning opportunities where our students work across classes with the intent that it would broaden their exposure to various points of view. It also forces our students to collaborate with peers who are not necessarily in their class which gives them practice with communication and collaboration skills (Partnership for 21st Century).

My experiences presenting at conferences, moderating Twitter chats, and being involved in the publishing process has given me a thirst for a greater reach. I am in the process of applying for a doctoral program so I can continue to learn for myself but can share my love of history and technology with future educators.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I am sure that these are already widely utilized by teachers in K–12 education, but my favorite websites include:

I am a voracious reader. Some of my favorite authors are:

  • Gavin Menzies (1421—The Year China Discovered America and 1434—The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance)
  • Laurence Bergreen (Over the Edge of the World)
  • Hilary Mantel (Bring Up the Bodies—Wolf Hall Book 2)

What do you value most about the history profession?
I value the thinking skills that historians employ. Bringing that into the classroom gives students the opportunities to practice the tools of a historian as they examine primary and secondary sources. I like that there are many great websites out there with ideas and lessons that we can use to give our students real-world practice in utilizing higher order thinking. It truly helps to bring history alive in the classroom.

Why have you continued to be a member of the AHA?
I like being connected to a wider group of people who love history. In fact, I would not be surprised if the majority of educators who participate in the #sschat on Mondays are members of the AHA. It is a lively group of people who have a wide range of expertise in history and education.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?
I am sure my passion for educational technology is evident in my previous responses. I am always looking for ways to incorporate technology so that it makes learning fun for my students. If utilized effectively, technology is engaging and motivating for students to use in the learning process. It opens up avenues of discovery that were not available in the past. Because technology is constantly changing, it also helps to keep my lesson design dynamic and not stagnant. I am constantly learning new things along side my students and that is why I love this profession. I am not an expert on everything. It is a true learning community.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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