Fountains of Knowledge: Using Google Forms to pre-assess and expand information about the Spanish Reconquista

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Lesson Background

Target Group:
I envision these forms being used as an introduction and post-lesson supplement for an 11th grade history course. This class is about to spend a unit learning about Moorish Spain and the Reconquista as an introduction into the Age of Exploration by Christian kingdoms in Europe.

Context for Lesson:
The first form is a pre-assessment/introduction to the topic with a short video and image. The second form is an opportunity for students to learn more about one or two specific topics related to the Reconquista that may not have been covered in class due to time constraints. Both of these are meant to provide supplementary material to a short unit.

Google Forms

Direct Links:
Form 1: The Reconquista Introduction
Form 2: The Reconquista Supplemental

Sculpting History: Reviewing Bias in Images of Historical Figures

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Understanding Bias is one of the most important pieces of understanding history itself. We encounter bias every time we engage with historical content. In this exercise I created a Google Form to help gauge students’ understandings of bias in the way historical figures are presented in the media.

I imagine this form being used as sort of warm-up or pre-assessment tool that could be done asynchronously or in flipped instruction. My goal here is to get students thinking critically about how our views of important figures can be shaped by the people who create the content in which we encounter them. This would be for a high school history or media literacy class, probably for juniors or seniors. This form was designed to help me see how students are looking at not just the content of the images, but also the source of the images to gain a better understanding of what the image is trying to accomplish.

Click here for the direct Google Form link.

Living Through History: The End of Apartheid Through Images

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With one of the most impactful elections for America’s long-term future coming up in November of this year, it may be valuable to take a step back and look at some of the most important elections in history.  I want to use the transition away from Apartheid in South Africa, and the election of Nelson Mandela, to examine massive transitions in power, the value of elections, and what images can tell us about living through historical events.


F.W. de Klerk, left, the last president of apartheid-era South Africa, and Nelson Mandela, his successor, wait to speak in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Source)

Nelson Mandela was the leader of the African National Congress (ANC), and he worked to peacefully transition power away from the brutally racist Apartheid government of F.W. de Klerk.  In 1993, the two met with then President Bill Clinton to both be awarded the Liberty Medal for their peaceful efforts.

Icebreaker Prompt:
Questioning:  Analyze the image.  Brainstorm a list of questions.  Are the questions closed or open?  Rank them in order of individual curiosity.

1. Why is F.W. de Klerk at the meeting if he was the President of the racist government
2. Why is Nelson Mandela chosen to be the leader of the ANC?
3. Does this award have any implications on the elections coming up in 1994?
4. Why hold the meeting in Philadelphia?
5. Who looks excited and who doesn’t?  Why or why not?


Mandela casting his vote in 1994

The first free and fair elections were held in South Africa in 1994.  Nelson Mandela is seen here casting a vote for himself (as leader of the ANC party).  He would win overwhelmingly and become one of the most beloved figures in modern South Africa.

Icebreaker Prompt:
Thought Bubbles:  Analyze the image.  What do you think the subjects in the image are thinking or saying?

Nelson Mandela:  He seems joyous in this photo.  I think he must be thinking about this opportunity to lead, his inevitable win, and his ability to cast a vote for the first time in his life is a vote for himself to be President.


President Obama family (Source)

US President Barak Obama visited Robben Island in 2013, the jail where Nelson Mandela spent several years as a political prisoner before becoming the first black President of South Africa in 1994.

Icebreaker Prompt:
Caption Writer:  Analyze the image.  Does it contain a caption?  Does the caption help the viewer understand the image?  Write a new caption for the image.

President Barak Obama and family visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell at Robben Island in 2013.

Navigating a Changing Landscape: What maps and monuments can tell us about the past and present

A while back a friend asked me what I would buy if I had 1 Million dollars. I couldn’t answer the question as asked. “I wouldn’t buy anything,” I replied, “I would travel.” For me, traveling is a way to discover new and fantastic landscapes, and immerse myself in the unknown in a way that I could never do behind a computer, or through a book. There are some things that simply cannot be learned without experiencing. The sights and smells of the souk in Marrakesh, the tangible openness of the Montana plains, and the imposing presence of the Edinburgh castle over the city in the evening are those things that require a personal connection.

This is why I also love maps. The opportunity to explore new places means the opportunity to discover just a bit through a map. What does the city think is important? What cultural institutions are presented first and foremost? What parts of a place feel hidden and secret? Where do I go to get the best food? All of these questions can start to be answered through maps.

Below I’ve presented two maps and two pictures of Barcelona, Spain, a city I have not been to, even though I’ve been to Spain a few times. I’ve always wanted to go, and looking at the maps below, now I have a renewed passion for visiting. I want to show these to you to better understand how the city has changed, and in some cases not changed at all, since the turn of the 20th century.

A map of Barcelona

The first map is dated around 1910, and the second is the Apple Maps view of the city today. Take a look at these pictures, and explore the city with me below.

Old map of Barcelona, Spain (circa 1910), compared to a current Apple Maps capture

Some questions and thoughts regarding these maps

  1. What would you consider to be the “center” of Barcelona in either map? Would you think this has changed over time?
  2. How has city growth-and the advent of automobiles-changed the way Barcelona looks from 1910 to today?
  3. Based on the city layout, where would you start a “Barcelona Adventure”? What would you want to see in the old city, versus the new?
  4. If you’ve been to Barcelona, post a reply and let me know how these maps speak to your own adventure’s experience!

The Arc de Triomf

Barcelona hosted the World’s Fair in 1888, and built for it’s exposition the Arc de Triomf, a massive arch that acted as the ceremonial entrance to Ciutadella Park, where the exhibition was held. Built to model the recently completed (and more famous) Arc de Triomphe, Paris, this arch remains as a symbol of Barcelona’s worldly influence. The first image is of the arc in its debut at the 1888 World’s Fair. The second image is of the arc in 2015.

Arc de Triomf in 1888 compared to Arc de Triomf in 2015

Some questions and thoughts regarding these pictures

  1. How do these two images compare at first glance? What’s been changed/added/removed?
  2. The Arc de Triomf was known as the “Gateway to Modern Barcelona”. Do monuments to modernity exist in contemporary society?
  3. What does the condition of the arch tell you about its significance to Barcelona, and Spain in general?