Teaching and Learning Resources by Peter Pappas

Master Common Core Skills with Free DBQ iBook

Progress and poverty

My latest multi-touch iBook, Progress and Poverty in Industrial America, is available for your iPad - free / iTunes. It’s a great resource for use in the classroom, and serves as a model for teacher or student curation of historic content into interactive digital DBQ’s. (More of my posts on publishing with iBooks Author.)

This 18-page document-based question guides students through the historian’s process with an investigation of the essential question, “How do we evaluate the social costs 
and benefits of technological innovations?” To make the question relevant to students, it begins with a brief examination of the impact of 21st c technologies / global economy on progress and poverty in contemporary America.

superba

Next the iBook turns to historic content set in late 19th century America. “Stop and think” prompts encourage a deep reading of many notables of the “Gilded Age” – including Russell Conwell, Henry George, Andrew Carnegie and Stephen Crane. Visual source material includes posters, 1908 Sears Catalogue, a gallery of photographs by Lewis Hine and video of one of Edison’s early Vitascope films. Guiding questions help students think more deeply about each document:

What does the document tell you about America at the turn of the 20th century?

How do these historic themes of “progress and poverty” relate to issues in America today?

How do we evaluate the social costs 
and benefits of technological innovations?

Hine gallery

Students are guided through the historian’s process with a focus on the contrast between historic perspectives.

For example, students can compare how industrialization impacted children in different ways in the stark contrast of a young girl demonstrating the use of Sears Superba Washing Machine (“mother’s little helper finds it easy to swing the Superba to and fro…
”) and a gallery of Lewis Hine’s child labor photographs.

Can the cannery worker really take advantage of the new libraries that Carnegie has so generously donated to the city?

timecardfull

Another document is from records of the NYS Factory Investigating Commission- Time card dated June 26, 1911. “She was employed in a fruit cannery. She worked 166 hours for the two weeks, earning $16.60.” Student can contrast that with an excerpt from Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth  – “the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; entrusted [with wealth] … administering it for the community far better than it could have done for itself.”

Critical thinking questions based on Common Core skills are embedded throughout the text and help students “think like a historian.”

  • Who created the document?
  • What was the creator’s goal?
  • How does the document reflect its historic time period?
  • How do multiple documents support or contradict one 
another?
  • What historic “voices” are missing from this collection – women, immigrants, minorities, workers?

Finally student are invited to share what they’ve learned in writing and a variety of other products:

  • Compose an essay or blog post
  • Draw an illustration, create an infogram, post a video
  • Role-play a debate – Hine vs Carnegie? or 
Conwell vs a supporter of the Occupy Movement?
  • Start a discussion on Facebook, curate a photo gallery on Flickr, create a new Twitter hashtag
  • Research the world around you and leave a document for a future historian

How to Integrate Document-Based History with the Common Core

CCSS offers an incentive for teachers to use historic documents to build literacy skills in a content area while empowering students to be the historian in the classroom. But document-based (DBQ) instruction in this context requires four key elements to be successful:

  1. The right documents.
  2. Knowing how to look at them.
  3. Letting students discover their own patterns, then asking students to describe, compare and defend what they found.
  4. Basing the task on enduring questions, the kind that students might actually want to answer.

My just-published, second iBook – Workers Win the War: Toil and Sacrifice on the US Homefront – embodies that approach. Free at iTunes. It features:

Engaging source material that can be easily interpreted by students. Too often, DBQs use documents that require too much background knowledge to “interpret.” This collection offers over 60 pages of easy-to-intrepret media, much of it visual –  including 80 posters, 18 films, cartoons, radio broadcast, recording and sheet music and a dozen rarely-seen pamphlets.

Why should I work any harder

An interactive primary source analysis tool developed by the Library of Congress. Poster and film analysis is modeled in an multi-touch widget. Students can use an iPad-friendly historic document guide to analyze all the source material and share their observations with peers and teachers.

All across the curriculum, students are told to “analyze” material, but their thinking is constrained by the mandated Venn diagram or T-chart. Developing a comparative schema is messy work – but that’s where the learning takes place. To scaffold student analysis, “Workers Win the War” features CCSS-based prompts that ask students to stop and think more deeply about the content.

any-bonds-today

Essential questions that make an examination of the US homefront in WWII relevant to students’ lives today. Students experience first-hand how the government mobilized public support for the war through higher taxes, hard work and sacrifice.

Contrast that era with our “homefront” experience today, when only our troops and their families have been asked to make sacrifices for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today many see “big government” as an intrusion in their lives. In contrast, during WWII Washington played a very active role shaping American behavior and attitudes in support of hard work and sacrifice in support of the war effort.

Workers Win the War examines the themes of hard work and sacrifice through a variety of perspectives – increasing industrial production, food as weapon, worker health and safety, making do with less, scrap drives, rationing, price controls, and financing the war with higher taxes and bond drives.

Have you really tried

Students will enjoy the content: Cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck and Daffy. Films and posters that equated sick days and long work breaks as near treason. Long-forgotten pamphlets that coached volunteer bond salesmen or advised school principals on how to organize a paper scrap drive – “turn your students into Paper Troopers!” Posters that chided “foolish women” who ignored price ceilings – “Why Shouldn’t I Buy it? I’ve got the Money!”

My favorite is a short film that features two spunky young working women who set out to buy some steak in violation of rationing limits. It turns into a nightmare sequence that demonstrates “rationing means a fair share for all.”

Prices Unlimited

Rationing_means_a_fair_share

To deepen their understanding of the historic content and hone their Common Core skills, students need a chance to create a unique product to demonstrate their learning. With that goal in mind, Workers Win the War has been designed to leverage the content-production capacity of the iPad.

All of the historic content in the iBook is in the public domain. Each source document is hyperlinked back to archives that provide access to the digital content. Students can easily remix the historic documents into their own galleries and projects.

Why Do Teachers Ask Questions They Know the Answers To?

The Future will not be multiple choice
The Future will not be multiple choice

A while back I posed 13 Subversive Questions for the Classroom. Here’s the first five:

  1. If a question has a correct answer, is it worth asking?
  2. If something is “Googleable” why would we spend precious class time teaching it?
  3. When we ask students to summarize, do we actually want to know what’s important to them?
  4. What do you suppose students think they are supposed to be doing when we ask them to analyze?
  5. Do you ever ask your students questions you don’t know the answer to? Why not?

Here’s a TEDxCreativeCoast video – The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice – that answers those questions and showcases the power of a PBL / design-based approach to learning. Turn curricula into design challenges, classrooms into workshops and teach students to think like designers.

While you watch it, try to think of a meaningful career that looks like filling out a worksheet.

Self-Publishing: A How-To For Students and Teachers

Publishing with PowerPoint is a new book that guides teachers and students through the process of creating and publishing their own books. It’s written by three dear friends and former colleagues – Patricia Martin, MaryAnn McAlpin and Suzanne Meyer. For a few years I had the chance to collaborate with them on some student publishing projects. They’ve continued to hone their skills on broad array of innovative projects. Recently they compiled all they’ve learned into an easy to use guide to using PowerPoint as a book design tool and how to team PPT with the exciting new technology of on-demand printing. Publishing with PowerPoint – available at Amazon

Here’s their guest post detailing the book:

Publishing is an effective tool for getting students engaged and writing. The new book, Publishing with PowerPoint, walks the reader through a process of self-publishing that can be used in any classroom. PowerPoint is an effective book design software – it’s already on your computer and everyone know how to use it. Students find it easy to use PowerPoint templates and position a wide range of text and images on a PPT slide. Powerpoint slides can be quickly grouped and rearranged into book pages. Finally, converting PowerPoint slides into pdfs for publishing can be done with the “Save As” function. Visit Amazon Books / Publishing with PowerPoint to see the use of templates and layouts on the sample pages.

The teacher with a limited budget can print just one copy for the classroom. Parents can order their own copies online.

Publishing with PowerPoint was published through Createspace, an Amazon company, using the process detailed in the book. Once the slides were created, the authors merely converted the slides to PDF’s and sent the result to Createspace. For example, a 32 page, 8.5”X11” color book would cost its authors about $4.00 a copy plus $3.59 shipping and handling. (The shipping and handling costs are calculated at $3.00 per order and $.59 per item). Lulu, another popular on-demand publisher, would price a similar book at $13.42 plus shipping and handling.

The magic of on-demand printing is that the teacher with a limited budget can print just a single copy for the classroom. Both Createspace and Lulu offer options for easy distribution. PTAs or families who want copies can log in and order their own. No need for teachers to take book orders.

The thought of publishing with students might seem daunting - I’ve got too much on my plate as it is! But if you believe in the power of PBL and motivation of writing for an authentic audience, you’ll appreciate this detailed guide book.  It offers an overview of the resources necessary for successful publishing. Readers learn how to use PowerPoint’s built-in tools for template design, layout or page design, creating facing pages, and inserting images. The book is organized to walk the reader through the process, detail-by-detail, in the exact order in which the publishing process happens.



The second half of the book is devoted to content. Teachers will realize that content is actually the initial consideration whether looking at writing process or traits of writing. But, it seemed important to the authors that the book present the techniques of publishing (the new information) before reviewing the writing and organization of content for publishing (the prior learning). Using examples from our publishing experiences, the book includes a wide range of samples representing different grade levels, fiction or non-fiction, single-author or anthology that the teachers can use as models.

The book exemplifies the ease with which students can complete the writing process by publishing their work to a wide audience with tools available in a classroom. Hopefully the book will illustrate to its readers the versatility and creativity that PowerPoint can bring to the self-, or on-demand, publishing process. For the teacher who wants to publish electronically the book is an equally invaluable resource to enable students to produce a quality final product. Formatting pages through PowerPoint and creating pdfs work equally well for that application.

Teachers inexperienced with publishing and limited resources do not have to eliminate student publishing options. Publishing with PowerPoint and the use of economical self-publishing can bring this opportunity to any classroom.

Podcast: Reflections on Teaching Strategies That Work

I had a great time recording a podcast with Mark Hofer and David Carpenter for their series Ed Tech Co-Op. Go to show 26: Peter Pappas (Dec 9, 2012) via Web | iTunes 

If the art teacher taught art, the way I taught history, his students would be sitting there watching him paint.

Mark led off by asking me to reflect back on my some of the driving themes in my career. I confessed that as a novice teacher, I mimicked my experience as a high school student and taught primarily via lecture mixed with an occasional “guess what the teacher is thinking” whole-group discussion.

But I recalled an “aha” moment after repeated visits to the art class in the classroom next door. I realized that if the art teacher taught art, the way I taught history, his students would be sitting there watching him paint. I remember that got me thinking …

Our podcast continued with a lively discussion about what works in the classroom. Below are a few of the prompts they tossed at me. No ed theory or brain research in my responses. Just my candid and unrehearsed thoughts ranging from “why teaching should be the opposite of magic” to “how schools are not teaching good digital hygiene.”

  • Can you talk a bit about how you shift responsibility for the learning to the students. 
  • How did you support a constructivist model is information-laden, high stakes courses like AP / IB?
  • Did you get much push-back from your students and how did you deal with it? How do you deal with parents and administrators?
  • What do you say when teachers tell you “I’ve got so much to cover, I don’t have time for more student-based approach?”
  • Tell us more about your post “Why Johnny Can’t Search?” and how librarians and instructional technologists can partner to improve student information skills.
  • How is the analytic process different in different subjects – say science vs history?

See these posts for more on subjects raised in the podcast:

Stay tuned to Ed Tech Co-Op – a collaborative effort between the College of William & Mary, Alexandria Country Day School, and other educators interested in technology integration in K-12 classrooms.

Image credit flickr/ visual.dichotomy

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