What do Historians do when the Written Record is Missing?

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol IV. It features eight engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of a pdf or multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. See more in the series here:

Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse by Sam Hick-Savage

Sam introduces his lesson this way:

Over the course of a century many of the great civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean vanished. Literacy nearly vanished. Even today, many textbooks shift their focus away from the Mediterranean and never mention this cataclysm that shows that civilization is fragile. The lack of a written record should not be seen as a reason to skip over this event, but rather as an opportunity. This is an invitation to you as a student to be a historian. Review the records. Theorize about what may have happened. Free from the constraints of a clear narrative and neatly arranged facts, your goal is not to memorize each fact, but to use the evidence to form your own opinion.


Image credit: By Kerstiaen de Keuninck (Coninck) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

WWI and the Human Costs of Total War

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol IV. It features eight engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of a pdf or multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post.

WWI: The Human Cost of Total War by Anna Harrington
Find Anna at LinkedIn

Image credit: Gas Mask WWI by Paul

Exploring History Vol IV: Eight Document Based Lessons

I’m very pleased to share a new iBook just published by my Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland.

Interactive iBook version free at iTunes.
Static pdf version (5 MB)

It features eight engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. The units draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.

All of my student’s wrote for a public audience on our class blog and persued three class goals:

  • Learn to think like a historian.
  • Become a skillful instructional designer
  • Develop technical skills for production, reflection, growth and professional networking.

The lesson design process began early in the semester when students designed lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. Then students identified essential questions worth answering and gathered documents to explore the question in an extended lesson design process.

Exploring History: Vol IV was our PBL capstone and is available on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Here’s a post (from fall ’13 class) that describes our project workflow (including how we utilized iBooks Author). Here’s Exploring History: Vol I created by my fall 2013 class. And Exploring History: Vol II designed by my fall 2014 class. Exploring History: Vol III created by my fall 2016 class

I’ll be doing a future blog post that features each student’s DBQ, but for now here’s the US and World History lessons in chronological order:

  1. Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse by Sam Hicks
  2. From Revolution to Government by Valerie Schiller
  3. Imagination, Innovation & Space Exploration by Molly Pettit
  4. The Real Romanovs by Kelly Marx
  5. World War I: The Human Cost of Total War by Anna Harrington
  6. Collectivization and Propaganda in Stalin’s Soviet Union by Clarice Terry
  7. Holy Propaganda Batman! by Karina Ramirez Velazquez
  8. The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade by Scott Hearron

They Lived to Die: the Battle of the Somme

The_Battle_of_the_Somme_film_image1My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol III (free iTunes). It features thirteen engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook and pdf versions click here. To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. (last of 13)

Battle of the Somme by John Hunt
Download as PDF 768 KB

What are the different ways we can construct a narrative of this battle from the perspectives of these unique players?

The Battle of the Somme, or the Somme offensive, was the first major British offensive of WWI. It was also the most bloody, resulting in more than 57,000 British casualties in the first day. This outstripped the total number of casualties the British suffered during the Korean, Crimean, and Boer war combined. These staggering losses occurred, in part, due to a faulty strategy. The joint British-Franco force relied upon an artillery barrage that lasted several days in order to weaken the German line. However, due to the heavily entrenched position of the Germans, the artillery proved largely ineffective. When it came time to order the charge, the British command was so sure the Germans had been decimated, they ordered their men to walk – in orderly lines – across No Man’s Land. The result was pure devastation as the unscathed Germans opened up with the automatic fire of their machine guns and mowed down men line by line

Reflection by John Hunt
The creation of an iBook is fundamentally different from anything I have ever done before. It is a truly strange creature, halfway between the old publishing world and the new world of digital media. This is true in more ways than one. Not only does the power of publication, and dissemination, lie in one’s own hands, the inclusion of digital media upends the traditional book format. Videos, pictures, and interactive widgets replace text. The author becomes more than a writer. Rather, they take on the role of designer and publisher as well. It is truly a democratization of the publishing process, even more so than previous online publishing platforms.

More than all of this though, it is a unique way to present history. We all know that history is dry. Although we might imagine science or even math using interactives, history has a special place in the realm of books. It is something we have always read. Part of history’s mythos, its identity as a scholarly pursuit, is sitting down with a dusty tome and discovering facts line by line. That is no longer the case. There is nothing particularly more or less intellectual or factual about reading. People listen, people appreciate art, and people watch movies. These are all valid sources of information and deserve the place in history afforded by platforms such as the book.

Despite this, the actual creation of my chapter – a reflection on the different experiences during the Battle of Somme – was fraught with a return to tradition. I am very used to writing. In middle school, I made longer and more complex sentences just to get a higher Flesch-Kinkaid grading level. Although I have come a long way since then, it is still the medium I am most comfortable communicating with. The comments I received on the rough draft of my chapter reflected this. They all revolved around the same themes: less text, break things into chunks, make the questions easier, and more. Obviously, I will have some difficulty thinking of a book as more than just a medium for words.

Even so, I was very happy with the eventual outcome of my chapter. It is minimal. There are no fancy widgets, less pictures, and more text. Yet I believe I have struck a good balance. It is a balance between the old and the new, the traditional format and the possibilities of a digital one. However, it is also a balance between two more simple concepts. Words still have a fundamental ability to communicate the human experience like no other medium. To close, let me reflect on the quintessential saying a picture is worth a thousand words. Although the basic premise holds true, it is far from being the case in all instances. In today’s media saturated social spheres, the power of the image is incredibly diminished. We are used to images representing the shallow, crass demands of a consumer marketplace that demands our constant attention. In this new world, the power of words to speak to our innermost emotions, remains un-belied – and perhaps even more powerful.

Image credit: Scene of British troops advancing, staged for the film “”The Battle of the Somme” Wikipedia

Anti-Vietnam War Imagery: Visual Literacy

532px-Vietnam_War_protesters._1967._Wichita,_Kans_-_NARA_-_283627

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol III (free iTunes). It features thirteen engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook and pdf versions click here. To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. (Twelfth of 13)

Anti-Vietnam War Imagery by Felicia Teba
Download as PDF 1.7 MB

How can images/language usage help us understand the goals of a movement or group?

The Sixties were a tumultuous time period in America. The Civil Rights Movement was taking place, various student movements were blossoming, and the Vietnam War was coming into full swing. The War would especially create divisions about US Cold War policies, and our military presence in Vietnam. This would be a contentious issue raised by various Student movements and Counterculture groups. These groups would push for the end of the war, through images and protests. In this DBL, students will answer a series of questions regarding the counterculture movements. When using this DBL, students should have some knowledge about the anti-war movement.

Reflection by Felicia Teba

For the past three weeks, we have been working on designing our own Document Based Lessons (DBLs) to be published as a collaborative book. This experience was interesting . This was my first time working on a project like this. I found that the process was a bit long and required having good knowledge about the topic. This is why I chose to cover anti-Vietnam War images in my DBL. I know a lot about the anti-war movement and it was a topic I felt would be interesting for high school students to examine.

When working on designing this DBL, I had first thought that I wanted to cover ’60s pop culture in relation to the counterculture movement. I then had a difficult time finding sources that were not copyrighted or would have such problems arise. This moved me to find images related to the anti-war movement. I found many images, including the one featured above,  that related to looking at anti-war protests and what those who were against the war were arguing.

Once I had these images, I arranged them around an essential question: How can images/language usage help us understand the goals of a movement or group? I chose to base my DBL around this question because it helps students to build skills around historical thinking skill such as Sourcing and Close Reading. Each of the images in my DBL  features the essential question as a reminder of what to be thinking about, and each image includes 4 questions specific to the image. This helps the student to make deeper connections to the images and what they are conveying.

When creating this DBL, I found the experience to be interesting, and a little scary. It was interesting because I was able to get creative when designing the layout for my image set. I used various colored shapes to help my essential question and each additional question stand out. I also used a couple of widgets that allow students to magnify the image, and another that allows you to click the image and receive additional info about it, almost like a caption box. I feel like these additions helped to make my DBL feel less dull.

If I were to get the chance to, I would definitely like to do another project like this. It makes you think about what questions are worth asking, and what you want students to look at as historians.

Image credit: Vietnam War protesters. 1967. Wichita, Kans Wikipedia

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