Research Projects

Statement of Current and Ongoing Research Projects:  Nicholas Ng-A-Fook and Stephane Levesque

In 2010, Mark Zuckerman was chosen as Time Magazine’s person of the year. By 2012 Facebook will have an estimated 1 billion users worldwide. Emergent 2.0 web technologies such as Facebook, MySpace, and Google are changing the ways in which humans both interact and communicate with each other over the Internet on personal computers, IPods, and Smartphones.

Up until the digital revolution of the 1990s, communication was slower and information harder to find and retrieve. Now, the explosion of the Internet has brought with it an amazing mass of information, being generated at an astounding pace. Even domains of knowledge such as history have been affected directly by the digital revolution. Instead of searching for old scraps in archives, historians are now confronted by an overwhelming amount of sources, and what is worth preserving needs to be decided as people go along.

The multiple types of technological skills and literacies Canadian citizens must now learn in order to acquire information, to complete school degrees, or to secure employment have changed radically since the time of the Industrial Revolution. Ministries, school boards, and teachers across Canada are in the midst of restructuring their systems, updating their physical infrastructure with wireless technologies and SMART boards, revising their curriculum guidelines, as well as experimenting with the pedagogical practices necessary to address the societal, cultural and technological demands of the 21st century.

However within the contexts of educational research there is still relatively little experimental research on how teachers and students, within a specific subject area like history for example, are developing the necessary curricular and pedagogical strategies for responding to the new demands of the current digital media integration across the public school system. Therefore, this Making Digital Histories pilot initiative seeks to examine how educational researchers and pre-service teachers can utilize the various digital media available to develop the necessary innovative research methodologies, teaching practices and respective digital literacies to critically consume, produce and disseminate historical knowledge on the Internet.

Cognizant of these sweeping societal, cultural and technological changes, the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa has established the Faire de l’histoire: Récits et mémoires collectifs en éducation/Making History: Narratives and Collective Memory in Education Educational Research Unit. This bilingual Research Unit seeks to strengthen links between educational researchers and teachers in the public schooling system and to address critical issues in the field of history education that have regional, national and international impacts. Our Research Unit aims to make significant contributions to the overall mandate of research organizations like SSHRC by bringing together educators from across Canada to assess and improve the digital processes for conducting research and disseminating historical knowledge within the context of history education.

To do so, we propose to take up the following two initiatives: 1) Work with pre-service teachers at our Virtual History Lab to study the digital practices and historical literacies they employ to construct historical knowledge; 2) Collaborate with pre-service teachers at our Digital Oral History Lab utilizing digital storytelling software to produce digital oral histories with elders from the Outaouais region. This pilot initiative promises to contribute “insight” in terms of what integrating digital media can bring to history education, and what such processes of historical thinking can bring to future digital practices and literacies associated with constructing Canadian history.

This is a SSHRC funded project.

Statement of Current and Ongoing Research Projects: Lorna McLean

Professor Lorna McLean is interested in working on a research project that examines the global citizenship related projects in Ontario high schools in the 1960s and 1970s. Most of the research will be online analyzing high school yearbooks, some hours may involve working at the Library and Archives Canada on Wellington St. in Ottawa.

Statement of Current and Ongoing Research Projects: Sharon Cook

1) My major research project which has used oral histories concerns women’s experiences as smokers between the 1940s and today.  Women who currently smoke or who smoked in the past of a variety of ages and life experiences have been interviewed in person and on the phone.  The goal of these interviews has been to explore the reasons why women chose to begin smoking in a given period and societal setting, why they continued to do so, and what the results were terms of their social experiences.

Other research of women who either smoke today or did so in the past has been carried out by inviting these women to write an account addressing the issues noted above. In the case of both oral testimony and the personal written statements, I have been particularly interested in women who were involved in paid employment after the Second World War in offices and other commercial establishments, women who taught in elementary, secondary and post-secondary settings, and women who were nurses.  These lived experiences emerged as especially important through my research of the social history of women and smoking in Canada between 1880 and 1990, the subject of my forthcoming book with McGill-Queens University Press:

Cook, Sharon Anne.(forthcoming, 2010).  Sex, Lies and Cigarettes: Canadian Women, Smoking and Visual Culture, 1880 – 2008. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press.

2) Oral history and oral testimony has assumed significance in the past few years as well through a course I teach in the Faculty of Education for graduate students engaged in document analysis for their dissertations.  Entitled “Techniques of Document Analysis in Educational Research,” I have been rather surprised to see how many graduate students have taken an interest in the techniques and results of oral testimony with individuals of importance to their dissertation topic. I have come to regard it as an under-utilized and very useful research strategy for topics in Education, considering the importance of personal leadership in so many topics of interest to the educational researcher.

Statement of Current and Ongoing Research Projects: Cynthia Wallace-Casey

Tangible Pasts, National Narratives, and Difficult Knowledge: Linking History Education with Historical Thinking in Museums (a Canadian Case Study)

The purpose of this SSHRC Postdoctoral Research project is to explore: 1) how the Canadian History Hall represents such difficult topics in history as First Nation settler colonial experiences and Residential Schools; 2) the potential role for such museum spaces in enabling Historical Thinking; and 3) the national narratives that students construct from the learning experience.

In this sense, I am focusing upon the broader problem of contextualization in history education—i.e. the ‘big ideas’ (or narrative templates) that students construct about their nation’s past—particularly with regard to difficult and contested knowledge. This research problem relates directly to the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.

My research design is a mixed methods case study that responds to three interrelated research questions: 1. How does the Canadian History Hall represent difficult knowledge relating to First Nation settler colonial experiences and Residential Schools? 2. How does participation in museum activities transform the shared historical narratives of middle-school students and contribute to their ability to contextualize the past? 3. What national narratives result from such a cognitive process?

The objective is to gain insight into the narrative templates that students bring to—as well as take away from—visiting the Canadian History Hall. To achieve this, I am working with the Canadian Museum of History, as well as Canada’s History Society, and a group of young people (representing every province and territory in Canada) who gathered together in Ottawa for the 2017 National Youth History Forum. The findings from this research will be made available to the public starting in 2019.