Depictions of Japan’s Warrior Past

Akugenda Becomes a Thunderbolt
Akugenda Becomes a Thunderbolt

The topic of my document-based lesson project is Japanese warrior identity as shown by Medieval era (1185-1868) depictions of warriors. In the lesson students are asked scaffolding questions that help them look at the underlying biases that go into the varied depictions that we are looking at. By doing this students will be interacting with the sourcing of documents, while forming a contextualization of the time period and society that had its top class  dominated by warriors.

Using the sources that I chose, students will be able to engage in the question of how groups of people are depicted and why these depictions and the truth may not actually match up. I intentional choose semi-historical depictions of the Samurai to showcase how depictions reflect the identity of the time period that they were created in.

From the first step in creating this document based lesson I knew that I wanted to do something with Medieval Japan. My mind instantly thought about the many woodblock prints (Ukiyo-E) that became massively popular during the Edo Period of Japanese History (1615-1868). By paring these more recent images of warriors and events, that were popularized by the war tale genre, with the war tales and their definition of valor and bravery, I felt that students would become engaged with this material readily. I knew that I would have to include a source from the war tales themselves to be able to tie all the images together so I picked the ending scene from the Hogen Monogatari. While the inclusion of more documents would help, I think that the  depictions that I chose give students the chance to question why these documents were made and why these documents became so well known within Japanese society.

Medieval Japan is a secondary topic of study for most World History classes. The time devoted to Japan is either at the very end of the year, when teachers are looking to fill time, or as an aside to exploration of China. As this document based lesson shows, Japan’s Medieval period is filled with a gold mine of historical inquiry. Japan’s Medieval period is filled with a great many questions that reverberate across the entire world during the Medieval period. The one that this lesson focuses on is, What does it mean to be a warrior. by looking at this question students will have the opportunity to see how extremely different cultures view the same topics  and begin to see how different cultures and groups respond to challenges. By engaging in these questions, students will have the opportunity to be junior historians and engage in the material the same way that a historian would.

At the end of the lesson I would have one of two activities. The first activity would be a standard argumentative essay that asks students to show me whether or not the depictions of Samurai offered up by the documents are justified or are they hiding the villainy of an entire group of people behind a facade of fiction. Another activity that could end out this unit would be for groups of students to create a movie poster for a fictional film that depicts Samurai. In doing this students would be asked to show whether or not their film would promote the Samurai or vilify them using the documents and depictions as a base. These two activities allow students to engage with the generative question of these lessons which is, what does it mean to be a warrior? In addition, the second activity allows students to display their understanding of the documents by depicting how the documents only show a side of the warrior class.

Image Credit:

Title: During the Visit of Kiyomori to the Nunobiki Waterfall, the Ghost of Akugenda Yoshihira Strikes down Namba Jirô.

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Date Created/Published: 1825.


Flipped Class with Screencast

Citation Needed
Citation Needed

Prompt: Students were asked to design a flipped lesson and then write a blog post that showcases their flipped lesson and reaction to designing it. 

Last class we explored the flipped lesson and the means in which it could be used to move a lecture from the class into homework and the tasks that would be commonly relegated to homework into class time. I explored the options and opportunities that screecasting gave me in moving instruction from the classroom to homework. I found this to be most useful for reinforcing pieces of an assignment or paper that are important throughout the class. I can see me creating a screecast for different methods of citations that would be a reference material for students if they are not confident in their abilities in citing. Since providing correct citations are becoming an increasingly important part of writing a paper I think that providing students a means to check their work with a step by step guide would be used to help students using a citation style. The problems of access or if students don’t watch the videos are reduced if the videos aren’t needed for instruction. I think that the determination to use a flipped classroom more often will depend on whether or not I think that my students have access to a computer at home or that they are responsible enough to do the flipped lesson at home. It is at times like these that knowing my students is a determinant factor in how the class works.

Image Credit: [Citation Needed] Retrieved from:


Useful Tools or Distracting Sideshows

The HMS Dreadnought (1906)
The HMS Dreadnought (1906)

Prompt: Write a blog post in response to our class on digital history.

In our last class we went over the many different uses of technology in a classroom that were ways for students to deepen their inquiry into a subject without having to accumulate the information they needed to sift through our selves. to show this exploration we used Twitter.

My problem with Twitter isn’t that it it constrains users to 140 characters in a single thought, or that you have to use those infernal hashtags in order to determine what groups receive the message you created. My problem with using Twitter in the classroom is rather that it constrains those who use it to shotgun information to each other. In the Eng/SS chat that we participated in the volume of information that was communicated to each of us was overwhelming. I would rather have the chance to read a detailed response that had the teachers involved explain their reasons in order to further examine the material presented to other teachers. I think moving the SS chat to another venue that supports the development of collaborative ideas rather than having teachers shotgun their response to a question would better model what we expect from students in this changing world.

I found the tools of Ngram viewer and NYTimes Chronicler to be great ways for students to explore the modern era of literature and popular culture. If the focus of a unit is to explore the history of a phrase or ideas then I can see a great way to enter into a unit or lesson where students are going to link the rise and fall of certain words or phrases with historical events. An example would be linking the usage of the Great war to World War I, where the term Great War was used before the second World War once the second begins the term World War I appears in the lexicon of the New York Times, without the background knowledge that people never thought that there would ever be a war as awful or all encompassing as the first World War then the lack of World War I as a term before the second would make little to no sense. The tool provides a way for students to aggregate a large amount of information without having them to know what they are looking for allowing them to make the connection between the terms searched without outright telling them.

The many different applications and uses of technology provide a myriad of ways for students to interact with each other and their teachers. At the same time technology is changing the ways that teachers are able to interact with each other. These are some exciting times for the usage of technology in the classroom, but the challenge of how to use these applications will remain.

Image Credit: English: HMS Dreadnought (British Battleship, 1906) underway. Taken July 1906. From the U.S. Naval Historical Center. Licensed in the Public Domain Retrieved from:

Technological Muses

Teacher Showing Students Native American Handicrafts at a school in Washington D.C.

Prompt:  Assume you have your first full time teaching job and the principal tells you that you’ve been selected to pilot the  “1 to 1 Project.”  What are your thoughts about the opportunities and challenges that  presents?

The challenges to running a one to one classroom are minuscule compared to the benefits that they provide students, teachers, and parents in being able to more efficiently and effectively learn. This is especially true in this age where computers are becoming increasingly commonplace in all fields of employ. But the challenges that a one to one classroom give are important enough to warrant consideration, in particular I feel that the first stage of creating a one to one classroom is the hardest since you have to gauge how technologically savvy the students in your class are. The one to one classroom provides an opportunity for students to synthesize information into collaborative projects that doesn’t require everyone to be at the same place at the same time, which is the nail in the coffin for any and all group projects.

Of the challenges that arise in a one to one classroom is the accountability aspect of using the technology. In a traditional classroom setting a teacher can quickly glance around the room and ascertain the approximate level of completion of a project, piece of writing, and focus on a learning task without having to check in with every student. In a one to one classroom a teacher can still check in with every student on a regular basis, but the process is slowed down by the need to open each document up individually to see where the student is on the task. Another challenge that arises in a one to one classroom is the ease in which the documents can be edited, where a mischievous student can ruin the hard work of other students. Fortunately for those schools that use Google Classroom/Doc’s there is a way to see all the edits made inside of the document, and if this feature is previewed before hand and paired with other punishments for altering another students work then most potential interrupters give up.

The chief benefit that the one to one classroom provides is increased activity choices, where students group presentations were limited to pictures drawn on paper in the past, in the one to one classroom students can work together to form PowerPoint style slideshows. The one to one classroom makes what once was under the exclusive ownership of the teacher accessible to students and allows the teacher to focus on the learning activities and tasks rather than trying to push information into a students mind. In these ways the one to one classroom’s learning benefits far outstrip the negatives.

Image Credit: Library of Congress

Title: Teacher Showing Students Native American Handicrafts at a School in Washington, D.C.

Creator: Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952, photographer

Date Created/Published: 1899