A Letter from Christopher Columbus to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, 1493

The SHEG model of interpreting sources is a method I found to be very valuable. It helps us as educators get to the heart of how we want our students to think about history, providing levels of complexity to a subject that is often over simplified for students. I used a hard copy version of this form to give to my class this week, as we are learning about Latin America and the conquistadors, and it worked splendidly. We were able to have a really interesting conversation about the reliability of different sources. I had success in differentiating this historical thinking lesson for my students who struggle with reading. I did this by giving them a visual that communicated some of the same ideas as this document, and then they answered the same type of higher order thinking questions about sourcing.

As far as the process of creating the lesson, I found myself really enjoying the utility of Google Forms. I can see using this a lot in my own classroom, should I end up in a school where there is more universal access to technology. As I mentioned above, the SHEG model guided me toward asking the kinds of questions that would lead my students toward the type of knowledge I wanted them to gain. I appreciated the opportunity to run through the lesson with colleagues and get their feedback on the improvements that could be made to the lesson, as well as its successes. The aspect of that collaboration that I found most formative was having my colleagues actually complete my Google form, so I could see what potential responses would be and if they matched my expectations for appropriate student responses. Those responses helped me calibrate my questions and gave me a more informed expectation of student performance.

 

“The Union As It Was”

This assignment showed me that there is more that can be done with Google Forms than quizzes and entry slips. It was really interesting seeing how each person in our class took a different approach to the assignment and chose topics that were interesting them. I learned a lot from my peers, which is my goal for students in my classroom.

I particularly liked the idea of created a two part Google form. In my class, we read a lot of mystery text documents and students are supposed to glean as much information as they can about the time period from that document(s). It is exciting for students to read a mystery text, but they become frustrated when they don’t understand the context for the piece (why it was written and how it relates to the time period of study) or feel like the mystery is never solved. It would be nice to provide them with a mystery text, have them answer questions about it and then provide the context (solve the mystery). I think they would have fun being detectives and trying to crack the code, if they knew they would have a solution in the end.

 

Corroborating Constitutions (and My Thoughts)

As our technology assignments have gone, this one has by far been the most frustrating. Despite its apparent ease, GoogleForms took me a long time to figure out. Starting was difficult, let alone understanding where all of the options are located. (For example, it was only after class that I discovered the ability to create multiple sections in one Form.) There are several reasons for this frustration:

First, technology itself is another hurdle in an already complicated world of classroom teaching and learning. Yes, it can be an effective tool for making the process easier. It can also be more trouble than its worth and cause more anxiety than relief if it seems less than intuitive to a teacher’s lesson plan. (If I was to create a lesson plan for the sake of using a technology, this would seem to be catering to the technology and not to the lesson or the class.)

Second and similarly, I have almost never been in a technology-rich classroom, both as a student and as a student teacher. I’m sure having experience in a technology-rich classroom would make a world of difference. However, even considering new technology’s ever-growing presence, many, many, many schools and classrooms are without the privilege of high-end gadgets and apps and other programs, or even computers themselves. I had ONE classroom in high school which had a Smart Board for class lessons. (This was super weird for my small hometown and school.) My student teaching school has no “new” technology at all, other than a cart of a dozen or so Chromebooks shared by the entire school that we have to fight for access to. PPS, a district I would be extremely thrilled to work for next year, in general lacks access to and/or the funds for new technology. Therefore, my perceived relevance and meaningfulness of the programs as I am learning them has been lacking. And my need for this relevance and meaningfulness has been somewhat blocking my vision as I maneuver the programs.

Third and finally, I personally do not have great access to technology. My own lack of access means I do not get the full experience of EdTechTeach (my own name for this process). Yes, there could be some deeper problem going on with my computer that has nothing to do with this class. But there seems to be a serious issue whenever I am using the edmethods blog and the other programs being taught in class. (This post itself has been interrupted multiple times by some sort of terrible lag.) Less often do I run into this issue when going about my day-to-day use. Being technology-poor means my frustration grows exponentially. I can only imagine a young student’s frustration in attempt to learn technology when their own tools are inferior to their classmates’ and/or students of similar grade levels around the district, state, and nation. The digital divide is very real. And teaching technology itself will not solve it (nor do I expect it to). It is a frustrating thing to experience firsthand.

Anyway, I am glad I eventually got somewhere with my GoogleForm to the point where it makes more sense visually as a mini-lesson. At the same time, thinking ahead to my unit plan in my classroom, I can think of more effective media for communicating constitutional corroboration (yay, alliteration) with my students.

PS: I mean this post as no disrespect to our Methods class. I am really happy to be learning and getting the experience with these programs now, so I can have a fuller toolbox from which I can draw as a new teacher. Our classes have been helpful! I simply tend to be honest in reflections. And this seemed like a good opportunity to get a few things out of my head and onto the screen. Also, I can think of mini-lessons that would work really well for GoogleForms, such as analyzing historical photos or video like some of my classmates did. That sort of lesson just makes less sense with the class I am currently teaching and the unit plan I am currently preparing for. But, of course, more tech-savvy people would probably be able to come up with a way to make it work. Thanks for reading!

Painting History

The above was a fun exercise in historical thinking. I enjoyed being forced to think about why we know what we know and also how what we know also informs how we perceive artifacts.
Initially I had thought about doing this around an account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn or the painting “Death of Wolfe.” Both would have worked well in this setting, but I was feeling a little more irreverent so poking GW scratched that itch.
I can’t wait to post further comments on the excellent work from the rest of the class. We had some great and creative versions of this activity.