Teaching Continuity and Change: Crowdsourcing My Lesson Idea


I've been invited by the education department at the Smithsonian Institution to do a guest blog post for the museum’s blog using resources from Smithsonian’s History Explorer. I have an idea for a document based question (DBQ) that explores the historic perspective of continuity and change. I thought I’d “crowdsource” my idea to my readers for some feedback. 

Note: the post went live at the Smithsonian blog on Oct 4, 2010  

Premise: The student get to be the historian

I think we often “over curate” the historic artifacts and documents we share with students. For more on that subject see my post:  "Essential Question: Who is the Teacher in Your Classroom?" I want to use documents that students could investigate without much background knowledge. Visual images offer the broadest access for students and I found a great collection of historic bicycles in the “Smithsonian Bicycle Collection.” My lesson would include images of about five bicycles with a brief description and key details. Text description would be limited to allow students to explore the images and draw their own conclusions. I think it makes sense to provide pdf download of historic bicycle the material. I’ve also considered displaying the content as a Prezi – what do you think?

Analytic approach: Exploring continuity and change

Students need experience using a variety of analytic approaches across the curriculum. Continuity and change is a perspective that has a central role in historic thinking. In this lesson, students would be asked to view a series of images of historic bicycles and develop a model for analyzing the features – the elements that changed (size of wheels, gears) and those that remained relatively constant (human powered, seated posture).

Multiple level of Bloom: Moving from low to high
Students would begin with the lower level comprehension skills – what am I looking at? But would quickly move to analysis – what design patterns do I see in bicycles? Evaluation – which are important to my model? And creating – can I develop a comparative model to share my learning?

Relevance: Authentic audience, variable product, peer and self-reflection
I think the target audience for this lesson is middle – high school. I will prompt the students to design a way to explain their model to 3rd graders. (someone other than the teacher that will require them to consider audience and purpose) I won’t provide a graphic organizer. That would mean mean that I, not the students did the comparing. I’d like to leave it opened ended for students to develop their own graphic or text model to express what they’ve learned. Student would be invited to develop different models of comparison and be offered the chance to compare and learn from each others conclusions.

Extensions: Thinking more about bicycles continuity, and change

  • Consider how contemporary bicycles fit your continuity / chance model. Example – recumbent, mountain, fixed gear.
  • Design a bike
  • Apply the continuity / change model in another subject or discipline – fashion, architecture, musical styles, advertising, fictional characters… I could go on, but I hope you see the potential for learning.
  • Technology extension – Student could also be invited to view the world's public photography archives at the Flickr Commons using a  search by "bicycle." They could help describe the photographs they discover by adding tags or leaving comments. The collection includes works from the Smithsonian and other leading international photographic archives.

A.S. Wieners with 1887 Rudge Racing bicycle
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 46-859

4 Replies to “Teaching Continuity and Change: Crowdsourcing My Lesson Idea”

  1. I love this idea Peter. It’s accessible to anyone with a computer. Could this be applied to a Wiki where anyone could share ideas? Is this a project explicitly for the Smithsonian? Are they inviting students to participate once you officially publish this idea? Could homeschoolers participate too?

  2. Angie,

    Thanks for the great suggestions. So far my task was to develop a guest blog post for the Smithsonian site. That would, of course, be viewable to all. I was also going to do a companion post on my blog which might be identical of have some additional content or features. Since I can do anything I want on my blog – I’ll consider using your suggestions!

  3. Your idea has me thinking about a CCOT for school. How have schools/education changed/stayed the same over time.

    I’ll let you know how it goes if I can get it done!

  4. I think continuity / change is a powerful narrative framework for students to master. I’m working on the project right now, so stop back in a few weeks and it should be updated. Keep me posted on your efforts – I may need to borrow a few of your ideas!

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