Denis Mootz

Reading sub-text from artefacts

The 21st Century digital revolution may be challenging, even daunting, for most digital ‘migrants’ but more importantly it should have signalled a fundamental change to the classroom focus for history teachers. No longer do we need to concentrate on teaching our students how to find information. We need to focus our pedagogy on teaching them what to do when the information finds them. Increasingly our students will need to be aware of, and alert to, the potential black spots awaiting them on the ‘information super-highway’. Perhaps more than any other time we should be concentrating on making our students historically conscious.

Historical consciousness is perhaps best described as a product of the interplay of the elements of historical literacy and historical knowledge. However empathy, the ability to see the world through the eyes of those in the past, to walk in their shoes, is the essential link that makes historical consciousness possible.
Teaching students to read the sub-text of an artefact can open a powerful window into the world of the people of the past and contribute substantially to the development of this all important empathic awareness.

University of New South Wales/ Macquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures (NSW)
Link to Macquarie University


Denis teaches History Method to pre-service teachers at the University of NSW. He has been teaching for forty-five years. His classroom experience covers the range from Kindergarten to Year 12. For nearly a decade he combined secondary history teaching with teaching at UNSW. Recently he has also been working as an education officer at the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Macquarie University. His teaching combines an interest in archaeology with his professional belief that historical consciousness is the essential goal of history teaching.