Freedom of speech is one of our most important rights, so much that it is protected by all European democratic constitutions. Debating in contemporary democracies depicts active citizenship and endorses freedom of speech. But how can teachers help students become active citizens? How can learners become confident in discussing their views with others? Can students debate and support their argument without being judgmental and still being emphatic towards others? This Story of Implementation, based on the Learning Scenario entitled ‘One Coin, Two sides- The Art of Debating’ gives us an example of teaching Debating Skills through Europeana digital collections.
The implementation context
The Story of Implementation was organized around the Learning Scenario ‘One Coin, Two Sides – The Art of Debating’.
During the implementation, there were some changes in the initial LS. A reference of the ancient Athenian democratic principle of free speech was introduced to the students as well as the way of voting for the best orator. Both additional resources were taken from Europeana. However, the main structure was followed as well as some of the activities that Heathcliff Schembri had planned.
The specific LS was selected during the lesson of teaching English language, to help students familiarize themselves with the skill of Debating. According to the Greek curriculum, one basic objective for the students is to practise their linguistic- communication skills while expressing their views and respecting their classmates.
The students who worked on the implementation of this LS were a group of 25 students at the age of 16, in Senior High School of Intercultural Education. They had no previous experience in the use of digital cultural heritage as it was their first lesson based on the use of Europeana resources.
Brainstorming about Two sides of the same coin.
The short video that Heathcliff Schembri suggested helped the teacher to introduce the two sides of the same coin which was extended as the two opinions of the same topic.
Then students visited Europeana and, in particular, we did research using the words: debate.
Two adaptions were made here as Greek students were asked to recognize Demosthenes, one of Ancient Athens’ most famous orators, and a supporter of free speech for civil servants. The principles of free speech were additionally introduced as well as the way that people used to vote for the best orator in ancient Greece by placing a piece of broken vase (psephos) into one of two urns to mark their choice. Both adaptions were taken from Europeana resourses.
Then the procedure of debating was explained emphasizing on the resolution as well as the existence on the affirmative and the negative side. Students understood the concept of debating and as homework they had prepare arguments for and against animal testing experiments which was suggested in their book, p.58.
The teacher explained the structure which would be used for the debate following Heathcliff Schembri model.
- The affirmative group-5 minutes
- The negative group-5 minutes
- Both groups given five minutes to prepare their rebuttal/summary.
- The negative group-5 minutes to present their rebuttal.
- The affirmative group-5 minutes to present their rebuttal.
Two pair groups were formed by volunteer students, the affirmative and the negative group. The judgment was taken by having the rest of the students as audience members who voted for the group which made the most convincing argument.
Europeana resourses about Debating encouraged students to brainstorm about the art of debating and the importance of this skill in our lives. Following the scenario’s suggestions was beneficial for the students as they developed their linguistic-communication skills.
To be more specific, students:
- understood the basic principles of Debating
- improved their ability to form arguments and to use reasoning and evidence
- were allowed to explore subject matter in depth and from different perspectives
- had the opportunity to practice their speaking and listening skills
- were engaged in an active pupil centered activity
- increased their confidence, self-esteem and articulacy
I would definitely recommend to other educators the use of digital cultural heritage in their teaching. It helps teachers motivate students to participate in the lesson, it introduces elements of the European culture and it broadens their horizons.
Teachers should adjust the context according to their students’ needs in order to make effective use of the resources.
When I implemented this particular learning scenario, I made few adaptations. I used two extra resources from Europeana. The first one is the portrait of the Greek statesman and orator Demosthenes, one of Ancient Athens’ most famous orators, and a supporter of free speech for civil servants. The portrait is from the Statens Museum for Kunst.
The second additional resource was a photo depicting pieces of a broken vase. They used to be placed in one of the two urns in ancient Greece as a way to vote for or against an idea. The photo was taken from the archaeological museum of Athens.
I used these additional resources from Europeana to make the scenario more motivating for my students.
This Story of Implementation has been created by Chrysoula Nenou, finalist of the Europeana Education Competition 2020 in the following category: ‘Teaching with digital cultural heritage in secondary schools’.