What Do You See: Visual Thinking Strategies in Action

I’m pleased to be offering a pair of workshops in Eugene Ore this month on how to enhance instruction using visual thinking strategies. (hosts: Oregon Writers Project / STELLAR.)

In the workshops I will guide participants through practical examples of:

  • VTS as a model for inquiry learning
  • Teaching inquiry with documents
  • Blending visual & critical thinking with literacy

Student critical thinking skills can be activated when students are guided in close reading of visual documents. Key questions include:

  1. What does it (image) say?
  2. How does it say it?
  3. What’s it mean to me?

Try it out yourself by comparing these two photographs (How I made this image blend)

I think visual literacy approach has application across the curriculum and grade levels. I’ve included a copy of the presentation handout. What do you see handout 4mb pdf

Here’s some more resources:

  • How I used historical images to guide students through developing summarizing skills. Link
  • Teacher Resource guides from the University of the Arts / Library of Congress Link
  • “Five Card Flickr Stories” A great tool for building and narrating visual stories. Link
  • “Which one does not belong” A growing collection of pattern recognition puzzles Link

How I Turned My Class into an Edcamp

Last week I ran a three-hour intro to edtech class for our incoming cadre of about 40 MAT students. In the past it been done lecture-style, but that's not my thing. As a founding team member of #edcampPDX, I thought why not an edcamp?

We gathered in a large multi-use room and I opened with a few "get-to know-each-other activities" (this cadre has just started this summer). I gave a 30 min demonstration / lecture on "5 ideas for teaching in the digital age." See handout on site.

Summer Edtech Camp

Then I turned the group over to this Google site I had created. I split them into 10 teams and assigned them one of the 10 apps with the following instructions:

Click on the link for your app and you will see a demonstration of the app, a short "how-to" video and links to set up your account. Work with your team to figure out the app, create something using it to share back to the group via this Padlet and be prepared to tell the rest of the group what you liked / disliked about the app and how you could use it in the classroom.

They dug in and all were successful at creating content using their app and gave some "spot -on" critiques of the apps. I closed with a Google form "Exit Ticket" and here's some of their responses to two of the questions:

What's one thing you learned about edtech today?

  • That using technology as a teacher isn't as difficult/scary as I thought.
  • Find ways to embrace tech in the classroom rather than ban it.
  • I learned the importance of "being less helpful."
  • I learned about all these different apps I had never heard about before.
  • I learned about a lot of sites and apps I can apply to education and to also pad my student teaching portfolio.
  • It allows students to create/synthesize content that promotes higher order thinking.
  • That we need to create opportunities to create and not just consume when using technology.
  • There is more technological help out there than I thought.

What's one thing you learned about yourself today?

  • That I'm still intimidated by technology, but less-so now.
  • It takes me a little longer to be creative.
  • I can do more than I thought I could do with technology.
  • I liked being able to engage with site in an interactive way and just messing around with it to figure out how it works.
  • That I can be more techy.
  • I work well in groups of people with similar ideas.
  • That if I don't keep up to date, I'm going to be that teacher that does not know how to operate the projector or future equivalent.
  • That I am capable of using technology and do not need to be afraid of it in my classroom. This will help a lot when it comes to working with students who are technology driven.
  • I was scared to use technology in the classroom before but I realized today it is super easy. I can see myself using way more technology now.
  • I should teach myself more of technology.
  • I thought I wouldn't like using technology in the classroom, mostly because I tend to be technologically challenge, and easily intimidated by it. However, today I learned that I can use lots of these sources. They are not to be feared!
  • I learned that I enjoy working on platforms that allow for multiple people to work on them at once. I found that to be really useful.
  • It takes me longer to figure out technology than my younger peers.
  • I used to think that I needed a tutorial to figure out technology, but I think it is beneficial to just work with the site.

How to Embed Literacy Skills in Historical Thinking

The_Magdalen_Reading_-_Rogier_van_der_WeydenSoon I’ll be giving workshops demonstrating how to integrate literacy skills for close reading with historical thinking skills. Here’s a preview.

What do we mean by historical thinking?  It’s the historian’s version of critical thinking:

  • Examine and analyze primary sources – who created it, when, for what purpose?
  • Understand historical context. Compare multiple accounts and perspectives.
  • Take a position and defend it with evidence.

What do we mean by close reading? Teachers can guide students with scaffolding questions that explore “texts” (in all their forms).

  • Key Ideas and Details:
 What does the text say? Identify the key ideas. What claims does the author make? What evidence does the author use to support those claims?
  • Craft and Structure:
 Who created the document? What’s their point of view / purpose? How did the text say it? How does it reflect its historic time period?
  • Integration of Knowledge and ideas: 
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text. Recognize disparities between multiple accounts. Compare text to other media / genres. How does it connect to what we’re learning? 
And what’s it mean to me?

Let’s look at how a close reading of historical sources for craft and structure can integrate with the historical skill of sourcing  – who created it, when, for what purpose?

Here’s a great illustration of historical sourcing from Stanford History Education Group’s Beyond the Bubble.

And here’s an exercise I used with teachers at a workshop this past summer. Here’s the instructions they were given:

  1. Create and post a source comparison. Be sure to include: Historical question and two sample sources.
  2. Once other workshop members have posted their source comparison questions, use their content to answer the question: “Which do you trust more? Why?”
  3. Feel free to add multiple answers to the same question and / or comment on each others question / or answer. It’s a dialogue.

Here’s a Google doc with my prompts and teacher responses.

Image Source: Rogier van der Weyden, Detail from The Magdalen Reading, c. 1435–1438. National Gallery, London

PD Should Model What You Want To See in the Classroom

It’s August and that’s back to school time. All across America teachers are sitting is staff development workshops. Some sessions are valuable, others will leave teachers wishing they could be setting up their classrooms.

Recently I had the chance to work with Marta Turner / NWRESD to design and administer a staff development grant from the Library of Congress and the TPS Western Region. The goal of the project was to give participating teachers skills in designing historical thinking skills lessons utilizing primary source documents from the Library of Congress’ vast online collection.

I saw it as a chance to demonstrate my first law of staff development
PD should model what you want to see in the classroom. 

So in addition to mastering historical thinking skills utilizing LOC.gov, this workshop became a demonstration of the following:

How to flip your class:
Orientation to the LOC site was something better done on participants’ own time than in whole group. We utilized Versal (a free and stylish LMS) to offload that task to a flipped pre-course. Teachers arrived at the workshop with a working knowledge of LOC online resources , strategies for teaching historical thinking skills and ideas (and LOC documents) for their demonstration lesson.

Thanks for shepherding us through the process – a motivating demonstration of what’s possible with kids ~ Paul Monheimer, participant

Leveraging tech tools for design and collaboration:
Teachers collaborated in the pre-course using Google docs to design and curate examples of historical sourcing. I created YouTube tutorials to use throughout the pre-course and workshop session to blend the learning.

Teachers collected historical documents from the LOC into shared Google slides. This facilitated easy peer review and also served as an archive for materials in preparation for transfer to iBooks Author.

We used Google Hangouts to explore “how historians think” with Dr. Adam Franklin-Lyons – associate professor of history at Marlboro College.

Motivate with project-based learning:
Teachers were pleased that the workshop would produce lessons they could use. But right from the start they knew that they were not simply getting together to learn some strategies and create some lessons. They had an iBook to create and we only had two days onsite to do so. As educators, we talk about value of the authentic audience for our students but it applies to our teacher PD as well. (I held myself accountable to the same standard, since the major elements of the workshop were shared on my blog and via the Versal pre-course.)

Our participant teachers left the 2-day workshop energized knowing that their work was documented for our grant funders to replicate in other projects and proud that their lessons would be available as an iBook on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Note: Time did not allow me to teach iBooks Author to the teachers, so I designed and edited the iBook later. For more on how I teach iBooks Author, see this iBA workflow post.

We are proud to share our iBook The Student As Historian ~ Teaching with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress. This ebook contains both the training materials and fourteen teacher-designed document-based questions for grades 4 through high school.

The lessons 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 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.

Download free at iTunes here. It’s viewable on Mac, iPad and iPhone 5 or newer. If those options don’t work for you, you can download it as a PDF The Student as Historian-PDF version 14 MB.  (Interactive widgets will not function in pdf version)

Note: This is not an official publication of the Library of Congress and does not represent official Library of Congress communications.

Image credit: stokpic / Pixabay
Creative Commons CC0 Source

How to Find Primary Source Documents

Main Reading RoomThe Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 160 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. Much of the collection is being assembled into a digital library of reproductions of primary source materials to support the study of the history and culture of the United States. Finding online documents can a challenge, so I put together a 12-min video of three search strategies that I find effective – locating curated content, using the native LOC search tools and using a search operator. [site:loc.gov]

I developed this video in support of my June workshop “The Student As Historian.” I’ll be teaming up with LOC American Memory Fellow, Marta Turner of NWRESD to offer a workshop this summer for 20 Oregon teachers and librarians (grades 4-12). It’s jointly sponsored by the Library of Congress, the TPS Regional Program & NWRESD.

We’re using Versal to ”flip” a portion of the course so that we can have more time for interaction and design when teachers arrive on June 25 – 26, 2015. More information and our “flipped” pre-course here. The goals of this prep course are for participant teachers to:

  • Introduce themselves to the group.
  • Tour of the LOC site.
  • Have an introduction to using primary sources in the classroom.
  • Have an introduction to historical thinking.
  • Develop some lesson ideas in advance.

FYI – I’ve assembled two collections of other great digital archives:
Best Sites for Primary Documents in World History 
Best Sites for Primary Documents in US History

Image credit: [Main Reading Room. View from above showing researcher desks. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.]
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-highsm-11603

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