Thoughts on Creating Document-Based Lessons

Vietnam War Protestors at the March on the Pentagon in 1967

For the past three weeks, we have been working on designing our own Document Based Lessons (DBLs) to be published on iBooks Author. 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 in iBooks Author, 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 Source:

Possibilities of Flipped Learning

The basic structure of TEDed Flipped Lessons.
The basic structure of TEDed Flipped Lessons.

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. 

I found creating a TEDed flipped lesson to be both challenging and interesting. As a future teacher, websites like TEDed present the possibility for students to take their learning into their own hands, especially when showing that they can be responsible for what they learn content-wise.  Flipped lessons, while versatile, don’t easily lend themselves to those students who do not have internet access. I do find it to be an interesting site in terms of supplementing content and classroom time. I feel like it would be great for reviewing information.

In my lesson, I used a Crash Course US History video on the American Revolution as my flipped lesson. This particular lesson was challenging, because the video is 11 minutes long, and making sure that the “Think” section had different multi-choice questions on each part of the video was difficult. I feel like TEDed works perfectly if you have the precise video and have gone over the information in class before.

While I find that these flipped lessons give me the chance to think deeply about what I believe to be important information for my students to know, it is also difficult to create. The difficulty comes in part from having to watch these videos and having to scrounge for the exact points I want the focus to be on. While it might not sound difficult, it actually is, as  I noticed when working on my previous mentioned flipped lesson. The particular video I used contained a lot of fast talking and a lot of information.

If I were to use TEDed in my classroom, I would want it to be used in a situation where it would serve as review or prove to be supplemental. I believe that TEDed could be well used more in the supplemental area, because it would allow those students who might not have understood in class the chance to hear information from a different source and manner. In that manner, students also become enabled to work at their own pace, which is especially good for those students who like working at a slow pace.

While it might not be my first choice in creating new kinds of interactions in the classroom, I definitely look forward to the possibilities created by the use of TEDed flipped lessons.

Exploring the New Frontier

The use of "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" in the history of the New York Times. Created using the NYT Chronicle website.
The use of “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas” in the history of the New York Times. Created using the NYT Chronicle website.

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

Last time in our Social Studies Methods class, we found ourselves trying many new things. From participating in a twitter chat, to exploring websites like GapMinder,  NYT Chronicle, and Google Ngram Viewer. These tools, while interesting to use in making comparisons also present new ways of examining information.

When I first took a look at each of these sites, I had fun seeing that you can take different pieces of information and see how they might relate with each other. I saw how you could take a site like NYT Chronicle and search words like “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas” and examine their usage throughout the history of the New York Times. It showed how word usage and word choice are important things in our culture and history. With something like a Twitter chat, I saw the chance for easy collaboration and reflection on how I am doing as a teacher. Twitter chats present the chance for interaction on a scale that goes beyond the classroom.

I would like to use these tools in my own future classroom. I find that these tools offer the chance for students to look at information and make inferences about what that information tells us about history. If you take the example mentioned in the previous paragraph, then it could become an example where I ask students why we added the use of “Happy Holidays” in our writing. I might also ask students why usage of “Merry Christmas” has seemingly gone up over time. In learning about these different sites, I have found that there are plenty of new resources emerging to get students engaged and asking questions related to history and social studies.

1:1 Classroom: Disaster Waiting?

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?

There is no doubt that technology in the classrooms has huge potential. Access to technology creates huge possibilities for learning. If I were to have my own 1:1 classroom, I would want my students to have access to iPads. iPads, when used to their full potential, have huge potential for many different uses. Students will be able to create their own content, whether it is a short presentation on an app like Haiku Deck, or a short video made using the camera app, there are many opportunities for students to showcase their learning. As you can see, I have a very positive outlook on the use of technology, besides its obvious use as an aid in research and writing. The use of technology to create gives students the chance to make their learning interesting for themselves.

In my 1:1 classroom, I would also use technology to allow students to explore the content. We would still use textbooks and the occasional lecture, but by using tech like iPads, students can find ibooks and content on the internet to explore an event or topic deeper. In my classroom, I would want my technology to be an asset, rather than a distraction. That would require the finding of sources of learning that keep students interested in the work that they are doing, rather than as an excuse for them to get on their social media. While there is high possibility for students to get easily distracted, there is even greater potential for students to become that much more engaged in their learning.


Image Credit:

Description: The Hindenburg Zeppelin as it caught fire and crashed in Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937.