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Headphone History Review by Crystal McClean

Rowan Atkinson
Canadian-A Educational Resources

We received two volumes of Headphone History by Rowan Atkinson. Volume 1 consists of four MP3s of approximately one hour of play on each. Volume 2 has seven MP3s of about an hour each. Each book also has an accompanying downloadable PDF.

The PDFs consist mainly of coloring sheets, matching questions, true/false questions, short answer questions, quizzes, a couple of project ideas, and a final exam. There is also a guide for which pages to do during which section of the audios. Another couple of pages provides timestamps for the audios.

This class covers more than just history within the boundaries of Canada. Moving through time from East to West (roughly along the routes of the European explorers and settlers), it starts back at the time of the Vikings of Norway and how they came to leave their homelands and explore Iceland, Greenland, and ultimately, Canada. Then it moves onto more traditional times of Jacques Cartier’s “discovery” of Canada and the misunderstanding that led to the naming of the country. Moving on, you will hear about The Hudson’s Bay Company (which still exists today), the American Revolutionary War, Residential schools, the Smallpox epidemic, the history of slavery in Canada, the formation of the RCMP, the Northwest Rebellion, and right on up to The Last Spike.

Headphone History is pretty much an open-and-go class. I simply printed off the sheets that I wanted my children to complete, set up the MP3 to the correct spot, and listened to the lesson.

This class can be adjusted for different ages and abilities. For younger students, have them listen to the lesson while coloring the corresponding pictures. Some students may simply listen to the lessons while in the car and chat about them. For others, the question sheets can be completed. For older students, they can do all these things and work on the research assignments.

To answer the questions, it is likely that students will need to listen to the audio more than once, or students may have to look up some of the answers using other resources. Older students may take the opportunity to practice taking lecture notes during their first listen to a lesson and then go back to complete their assignments and see how many they can answer from their memory and class notes.

There are quizzes throughout the classes that cover particular sections. Then there is a final exam that covers the entire class. If students have done well on the assignments and quizzes, they should do well with the exam.

We listened to about twenty to thirty minutes of audio per class, with the children taking more time after to complete their assignments, as necessary. 

I would love to have an answer key provided as the only key I received was for the Volume 1 final exam. Although I listened to the lessons with my children, I found, to ensure the children had the correct answers, I needed to listen again to the recordings or look up the information online.

Overall, we all learned more about Canadian history than in previous classes, and I appreciated that the only prep was printing off the PDFs. Rowan Atkinson’s vocal tones were easy on the ears and at an appropriate speed (you can, of course, speed up or slow down using your player.

All the topics mentioned previously and more are explored over the course - approximately thirteen hours of audio (between the two volumes). It is a large amount of information and still plenty of scope for older students to delve deeper into any of the topics that interest them and learn more about Canada’s history.

I found that the content was balanced, giving both the “traditionally held” view of the European explorers and not shying away from the darker parts of Canada’s history and giving a voice to the First Nations people, who were undoubtedly overlooked during my primary and secondary school days.

This class is suitable for both Canadian students and those who would like to learn more about European explorers, North America, and how the approach to shaping Canada differed from the United States; these cultures, although similar, have some inherent differences.

Product review by Crystal McClean, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2021