Reflections on Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse eBook Project

Map showing the Bronze Age collapse (conflicts and movements of people)
Image by Finn Bjørklid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Strangely, the first thing that popped into my mind when we received the document based lesson assignment was to create a lesson about what historians do when the written records are lost or missing.

I also decided that, as this would eventually lead to writing a chapter in an ebook, to write the chapter that is missing from my students’ textbook–the collapse of literacy and civilizations in the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age in roughly 1200 B.C.E.

I had a wonderful time with this project and I learned new skills for both apple and google applications. I also took a chance and e-mailed Dr. Eric Cline–an expert on the late Bronze Age. He put me in contact with other people and opportunities related to this topic. It was a good reminder that academics are collaborative and supportive; in future, I will continue to reach out to experts and resources that can enrich my students’ learning.

The Real Romanovs: How media affects people’s perception of events

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Nicholas II of Russia with the family (left to right): Olga, Maria, Nicholas II, Alexandra Fyodorovna, Anastasia, Alexei, and Tatiana. Livadiya, 1913.
Photo found: Here

I very much loved the concept of document based lessons. It aligns with the high school history standards very well as most of them are related to primary and secondary sources. I also liked creating the flow to a unit where the students eyes would be opened progressively throughout the unit. It is generally the way that I like to teach. Creating the PowerPoint and the Google Site were useful ways to get to know the technology. Both Google Sites and Google Slides are very useful in the classroom and if I had not already known how to use both of them I would have thought that it was worth the time to be able to fiddle around with them. I did find it very redundant to be doing it on the same topic over and over again, especially with the time that each took from our work on our unit plans and our thesis. Ibooks on the other hand was a different story. The technology is so cool and does have so many options that are functional, interactive, and engaging. This was weighted however with the fact that it can only be used on Macs and the whole process essentially felt like the struggle we deal with in our classrooms of the students who have access to technology and those who do not. I was very grateful for the flexibility to be given the chance to work more on the books for a second class period as it definitely helped to mediate that have/have-not mentality.

Overall it was a good projects that would be helpful in the future that utilized cool technological assets. It was a lot of work to be doing during everything else but by it’s self was worth it.

Human Cost of War Reflection

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Source:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Durham_Light_Infantry_Battle_of_Menin_Road_20-09-1917_IWM_Q_5966.jpg

I am conflicted about my thoughts on the Document Based Lesson project. On the one hand, I thought it was a very clever way for us to learn and work with many digital programs. More specifically, we learned how to build a Google site and create a chapter using a specific software. All of the assignments were scaffolded in such a way that prepared you for the ultimate goal of creating a chapter in an ebook. I thought it was clever to have us create a Google site as our rough draft of the information we wanted to have in our chapter. Learning how to use Google sites was valuable. Many teachers create their own webpage to house their assignments, calendars, and agendas to help students stay organized. It was helpful to learn how to make one, in case I want to use it in the future.

Although I thought that the overall goals and objectives of the assignment were valuable, it took up a good portion of our time at the end of the term. That time could have been spent learning additional methods that we could bring into classrooms that do not have access to digital platforms. Also, the majority of the schools in Oregon use Chrome books and do not have access to the particular resources we were using. Therefore, it would be difficult to replicate this project in our classrooms. Plus, many students do not have access outside programs at home either, so that would provide a massive barrier for students to complete the project even if they had access to an  device at school.

As an alternative, I think it would be helpful to discuss more methods that do not require the use of technology. There is a digital divide in schools. Even if that does decrease in the future, it is important to also be equipped with tools that you can use in instances where technology is limited. I really enjoyed our lesson on group discussions. I think there could have been an additional day devoted to that topic because that is a large part of what we do as social studies teachers… lead discussions. I’m sure there are other areas that we didn’t cover this term that could also be beneficial to implement in our instruction.  Therefore, I am conflicted about the necessity of the DBQ lesson.

Reflections on a DBL

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Lesson 3 from El Amancer Del Pueblo (Sunrise of the People), the standard issue Literacy Workbook, with lesson’s generative theme at top.

When I began designing my chapter for our shared iBook, I considered only a handful of ideas before settling on the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade.  Having spent the better part of the last year researching the campaign, becoming intensively familiar with the historiography of the topic, and looking for sources, I had constructed an excellent library of documents and evidence to draw from.  The iBook design process offered an opportunity to showcase some of these findings, and choosing such a familiar topic meant that much of the grunt work had already been done.  I could focus, almost entirely, on selecting my absolute favorite documents and creating an educational experience built from those sources.

Working within the iBook design process offered another opportunity, however.  For months, I have played the role of historian, looking into this topic to discover new understandings, and form new conclusions.  The nature of the Document Based Lesson format, which puts students into much of the same role, meant that with some careful planning, I could provide a lesson that would mirror my own experience, and offer students a chance at a history project more closely aligned with how academic historians operate.  I sequenced documents in a way that mirrored, in general execution if not in exact similarity, my own research process, and my own journey of discovery.  In my lesson, students examine some of the same secondary sources I did to gather context, come to understand the historical event through the same quotes and excerpts I used, and are given a chance to carefully examine the same primary materials I did, with a different but no less meaningful focus.

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Image accompanying the generative theme in Lesson 3 from the El Amancer Del Pueblo (Sunrise of the People) Workbook.

One of the aspects of the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade that drew me to the topic when selecting it for a Thesis, and again when beginning this project, was it’s relevance to both myself and to a degree, all students.  The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade is a story of how a nation came together — albeit in sometimes controversial ways — to better their society.  It is a story of relying on the youth to make this vision happen.  As an educator, a historical event centered around teaching and instruction naturally appeal to me.  But I hope that for students, the emphasis on education can bring some relevance as well.  Students spend the lion’s share of their day at school, immersed in an educational system they’ve known in some form almost as far back as they can remember.  School is a fixture in student’s lives, and a fixed one at that — a system that changes slowly, is defined by the past, and presents one narrative of what education is and what it should look like.  Creating a lesson about a project where middle- and high-school aged students not only played a vital role in a national endeavor, but also served as teachers themselves, opens up an opportunity for students to step outside this system and reflect on the differences between different ways we educate.  Perhaps, in the process, they can begin to think critically about their own education, and the structures that facilitate that education.

Designing a book like this could be challenging at times, from a mundane technical standpoint, but that challenge never seemed so big as to obstruct the overall goal.  iBooks Author proved to be intuitive enough, for me at least, to make the real difficulty of this assignment the challenge of sequencing interesting content and providing meaningful questions to accompany that content.  Finishing the chapter was extremely rewarding, both due to the sharp professional look of the book, and the satisfaction of being able to incorporate an event I find fascinating into a new and fresh format.  This was a fresh look on a topic I have spent much time looking at already, and the new perspective was valuable and refreshing.  Knowing that I already had most of the documents I needed due to prior research additionally reinforced to me the value of the skills I have acquired to find sources in the future, for future, similar projects as this.

Republica De Nicaragua. Cruzada Nacional De Alfabetizacion. Ministerio De Educacion. El Amancer Del Pueblo. Republica De Nicaragua, 1980.