Implementation of ‘The Belle Epoque-Digital Storytelling’ (SOI-IT-205)


The present story of implementation was inspired by this learning scenario by Ms. Sari Halavaara and Mr. Juha-Pekka Lehtonen. It was implemented with a class of 5th-grade students of Liceo N. Copernico, a linguistic school in Bologna (Italy) by Donata Federici Monesi and Carlotta Sgubbi. The class is made up of 18 students with no prior knowledge of Europeana resources.

At first glance, the given scenario immediately appealed to us as it suited what we, as teachers of English and French, were going to do with our class, i.e., analyze and study the end of the 19th century in Europe as a period of great change in society, marked by the emergence of a new social class, the bourgeois. The topic given, proved to be effective as it dealt with a common topic to both English and French classes from an interdisciplinary, sociological perspective. All the activities were carried out through distance learning, as the class could not go to school because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Narrative

Starting from the guiding questions in the learning scenario, we as teachers of English and French, brainstormed the ones that could possibly be answered in both subjects. The original list of questions was narrowed down to 6 key-driving questions that could be dealt with in an interdisciplinary way, considering the cultural, social and political landscape of 19th century Paris and London. Then the class (18 students) was split into 6 groups of 3 students each. Each group would have to work on the question chosen. The students were free to choose what topic they wanted to work on (entrepreneurship skills were involved in the decision-making process). 

A flipped classroom approach was adopted as a starting point; students chose which group they would be working with and started to familiarize themselves with Europeana resources and website. A few examples of Europeana resources were given as a guiding tool; moreover, during an online lesson, guiding criteria on how to search for resources in Europeana (and also Historiana) were given out. 

After that, the students’ critical thinking skills were activated in order to make them responsible for their work and their choices. They started to write what resources they had found and why each Europeana or Historiana resource found could be useful for their work. In addition to this, the pages in the textbooks of English and French dealing with the historical period studied were shared with the pupils for extra guidance on their search. 

Round-up on the resources found

The students share with their French and English teachers what they have found by searching the Europeana repository.  The teachers give guidance on how to use the resources and organize their work. In a cooperative lesson where students were asked to present their work, all the presentations were shared and exposed orally to the rest of the class and the teachers in Italian, English, and French.

Presentation by the students

Learning outcomes

All the students were involved in the different steps of the project, starting from the collection of data, the organization of resources into sections, the planning of the group presentation and the overall dissemination of the project, sharing the products of their inquiry with the rest of the class and the teachers. It was a positive experience overall, as decision-making strategies were activated, as well as collaborative work.

Each group decided which areas to concentrate on and what aspects of the given driving question to focus on. Moreover, all the students were given the chance to think critically about the resources found and used, gaining awareness of their skills and learning how to use in a thoughtful way the Europeana resources found. 

Teaching Outcomes

Working collaboratively at a common project was certainly an asset of this experience of implementation; discussing with a colleague about the similarities and differences of the periods studied (the late Victorian age in English and the Belle Epoque in French) provided a starting point for the students’ work, who were guided through the search process and the creation of their group presentations.

Working at an interdisciplinary level provided many opportunities for reflection on the curriculum and the topics that could be dealt with in both subjects. Compared to the original scenario, the present project aimed at helping the students to work in an interdisciplinary way and comparing the different cultural manifestations of both countries. Moreover, Europeana resources provided a good set of authentic materials for the students to reflect on, giving them hints for further search and providing an insight into the culture of the period. 

Did you find this story of implementation interesting? Why don’t you read about the related learning scenario?

The Belle Époque – Digital Storytelling (LS-FI-520)

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Public Domain Mark 1.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Nationalmuseum, Sweden.

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