teaching, Technology

Reconceptualizing Course Planning with Canvas, Part I: “The Old Paradigm”

Late last school year (and after a series of meetings and trial investigations of different Learning Management Systems), my school decided to shift from our previous LMS (which, in classic Voldemortian fashion, I shall not name) to Canvas.

lordvoldemort

In my experience of using the previous LMS, there were two major problems:

  1. At the end of a school year, all the work you’d put into the LMS (uploaded assignments, files, pages, resources, etc.) were all purged and deleted. This functionally (or lack thereof) meant that you had to recreate work you’d already done every single year.I learned about this “feature” from a former colleague, who had spent countless hours building out her class only to discover in July that all that work had gone down a series of tubes (or was it a dump truck?), thereby spurring very understandable and appropriate Sturm und Drang.
  2. To get something to appear on the calendar for students to see, you had to create that item as an assignment, which would then appear in the grade book. In practice, this might not sound like such a big deal, but as a history teacher who assigns mostly reading, having a bunch of “Actively read pages 332-339 in McKay and annotate for …” assignments appear in the grade book (and which didn’t need grading) was a big pain in le derrière.

On the positive side, however, this LMS had the ability to easily create Pages where one could embed HTML code.

So, as a workaround for the first problem, I decided to create all of my lesson plans/student schedules in Google Docs, where I (or, more accurately, our benevolent overlords in Mountain View, CA) maintained control of the material from year to year. So instead of recreating all this material anew on Voldemort LMS each year, I could instead just re-create Pages and then embed my lightly updated schedule of class assignments, homework, and useful resources.

Essentially, students logged in, navigated to my class page, then navigated to a page (which I organized by Cycle [see more on that below] and titled after whatever material we were working on and where that fell in the schedule) that had the in-class schedule, homework, etc. Here’s what those pages looked like:

While this method worked well in terms of allowing me to preserve my work from year-to-year, update it in one place and have those changes pushed to the students, and easily embed that material on the LMS, it created some new problems:

  1. None of the material that I included on that Google Docs was pushed to the calendar on the LMS itself. If I wanted something (usually something that was graded) on the LMS, then I had to go back and create that as a specific assignment in the LMS’s grade book.
  2. Students had to figure out when a particular day would take place. Because we have a rotating schedule (see snapshot below and try to keep the gray matter in your head within the confines of your ears), not all classes have the same in-class assignment or homework due on the same calendar day.
    Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 4.17.08 PM
    My Cycle Schedules gave them all the details for my class (and on what day of a Cycle it would take place), but students then had to map that information into their own schedules/planners to determine when it would actually occur and where it would fit with their other work. While I’m not opposed to having students do this organizational work, it was unfortunate that my solution to solve one problem created superfluous additional work for them.
  3. My colleagues and I often devised separate solutions for how we communicated work within the LMS. Some folks adopted the system that I was using by embedding Google Docs into the LMS. Others included links to their class pages on Google Classroom. Others used the calendaring features within the LMS.In practice, this meant that students couldn’t gain access to all their work in a single place and had to navigate to each individual teacher’s class page to get resources, information about their assignments, etc. and then transfer this information to a calendar where all the information would show them exactly when in the real world all this work would be due.
    lms_disconnects (2)
    Again: redundant (and superfluous) work for students.

Now that I’ve outlined the array of problems and challenges posed by the old system, in my next post I’ll talk about how Canvas addresses those with its more robust calendaring feature and how I’ve gone about transferring my old Cycle Schedule into the Canvas’s “Modules” feature.

60895735

Standard
5135-15325-1-PB
Presentations, Publications, Research, Writing

Benjamin Lay article published! (but read on here for a “tl;dr”)

Shortly after I’d passed my comprehensive exams and begun working on my dissertation in earnest in the Fall of 2012, one of my committee members suggested that I look into the early Quaker abolitionist, Benjamin Lay, as a potential subject for one of my chapters.

At that point, I had the outlines of the dissertation and its focus: Quakers, their ideas about disability, and how those ideas influenced their reform activities. However, beyond a seminar paper I’d written about the Quakers’ Retreat at York—a groundbreaking insane asylum that used “moral treatment” and other more humane methods to treat those perceived as “insane”—I didn’t have a lot of clear areas for focus.

To help remedy this problem and gain some wider context about Quaker humanitarians in the eighteenth century, my advisor, Sarah Rose, suggested that I talk with one of her former graduate student colleagues who had studied Quakers of this era and who might have some good leads.

Lo and behold, that conversation with Michael Goode, yielded what became two conference presentations, two dissertation chapters, and now a published article in the Disability Studies Quarterly.

If you didn’t want to click that “published article” link above, let me entice you with a teaser image (courtesy the lovely and helpful archivists from the Smithsonian Institution) from the article below:

5135-15325-1-PB

Benjamin Lay, Artist: William Williams, Sr., c. 1750-1758, oil on panel, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; this acquisition was made possible by a generous contribution from the James Smithson Society.

 

(Now that you’ve seen that, let me spam you with many more links to that very same article…pretty annoying, huh?)

Part of what made researching Benjamin Lay so fun and so much of a challenge was that Michael Goode first presented him to me as an individual whose disability left some scholars skeptical. Because Lay served on a sailing vessel, those skeptics argued, he couldn’t have been disabled because such a job in the eighteenth century wouldn’t have been possible for an individual with such a striking bodily aberration (and its perceived limitations) as you see in the image above.

So, as I learned about Lay’s life in the eighteenth century and about how later abolitionists perceived and presented him in the nineteenth century, I was on a quest to piece together (from varied and fragmentary evidence) how disability, in fact, was present in (spoiler alert!!!if not central to) Lay’s life, his advocacy, and his legacy.

My argument acquired a bit more intrigue when, in the summer of 2014, I had the privilege of presenting a focused version of my argument at the Conference of Quaker Historians and Archivists where one of the skeptics was in the audience! After my talk, that scholar asked a number of good questions and seemed persuaded by my overall assertion that Benjamin Lay did, in fact, make his disabled body a crucial part of his abolitionist advocacy. I got further feedback and support for my developing argument from Caleb McDaniel, a terrific historian of slavery and abolition at Rice University, when I presented my Benjamin Lay talk as a Pecha Kucha presentation at the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic conference later that same summer.

With those votes of confidence, I continued my revisions and work on these chapters about Benjamin Lay, submitting the one that was just published to the Disability Studies Quarterly journal shortly after passing my dissertation defense in February of this year.

So, feel free to click on to read the whole thing, or, as I promised, here’s the “tl; dr”:

Benjamin Lay was disabled and his disability proved central to his abolitionist advocacy during his lifetime in the eighteenth century. Lay actively used his non-conforming body to challenge the Quaker community to give up slaveholding and the slave trade and acknowledged how his aberrant body helped lead to him to his abolitionist views in his 1737 publication, All Slave-Keepers, Apostates. After his death, Lay’s disability became inextricably connected to his abolitionist work both in visual and written representations of Lay, his body, and his unconventional advocacy.

Now that this article has made it out into the world, I’d like to thank all those who’ve provided feedback, guidance, support, and encouragement over these past four-plus years as I’ve worked on this Benjamin Lay research and the rest of my dissertation. We’ll see where this work goes next, but in the meantime, it’s quite gratifying to send part of it out into the world.

If anyone does opt to read the non-“tl;dr” version of the article, I’d love to hear what you think!

Standard
Uncategorized

Graduation Speech Throwback!

As I was quickly perusing through Facebook while avoiding grading some papers (sorry students!), I saw a number of posts about today’s (May 7, 2016) graduation speeches. This observation reminded me of two things:

  1. I had the honor to give the graduation speech last year at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School—the institution where I both teach and from which I graduated. And,
    tumblr_mf3pzomns91s0bq61o1_1280

    Photograph of the Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School crest at the former Avenues Campus in Salt Lake City, UT. Image from Latin in the Real World” – http://realworldlatin.tumblr.com

    2. I’ve not written anything on here for ages; however, it isn’t so difficult to write a blog post that it timely and pertinent when one has already written something that will fit the bill.

So, with that relatively concise intro (a necessity given that what is about to follow is most certainly not concise), I present my 2015 Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School graduation speech:


Good morning graduates and families — Congratulations! It’s an honor to get to address you.

In thinking about what I wanted to share with you today, I was drawn back to a text we read together in your sophomore year — the “Introduction” from Benedict Anderson’s 1983 book, Imagined Communities. Although I’m sure you remember the precise argument vividly—and how could you not given that the time spent in your sophomore history class was undoubtedly the apogee of your lived experience to date—I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and recap briefly. In this book, Anderson analyzed the concept of the nation and contended that it is always constructed. His argument permeated disciplines far beyond history and has led scholars to uncover the ways in which gender, race, class, and disability have all been “imagined.” In essence, Anderson has helped us dig beneath the surface of the past and deconstruct how any group or community defines itself.

So, at this particular moment, when you are about to leave one academic institution and head off to a host of others, I thought Anderson’s concept of the “imagined community” was an especially apropos one to consider. How has Rowland Hall imagined itself as a community during your time as a student here? How have those notions shaped you as its students, and conversely, how have you helped shape Rowland Hall? How might your Rowland Hall experience shape you as you leave this community and move into new ones?

In considering these questions, I naturally reflected on my own experience as a Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s student — a “lifer” sentence I served from 1984 to 2000. In many ways, there is great continuity between my experience and yours. A focus on intellectually rigorous learning has remained the centerpiece of a Rowland Hall education. I developed a sense of academic confidence through the process of writing and then revising (and revising and revising) papers for Carol Kranes’ AP Lang class, making and reviewing study guides for Ruth and Carl Sturges’ history classes, and working through math problems on the board in Mr. C’s class. Being surrounded by other hard-working, diligent, and ambitious classmates (many of whom are still my closest friends) helped me push myself to participate more fully, engage with literary texts more critically, and learn how to contribute to serious academic discourse. And it was this sense of academic confidence that empowered me, without hesitation, to fabricate about 65% of answers to the questions you asked me in Western Civ and AP Euro. Pretty convincing, huh?

As I reflected on my experience, I came to realize that what I valued so much as a Rowland Hall student, and what I continue to value as a faculty member, is the way that the institution allows students to take academic and personal risks in a safe and supportive environment. To illustrate this aspect of Rowland Hall’s identity, I’m drawn back to my time in Carolyn Hickman’s 10th grade English class and my personal essay from the beginning of the year. In that essay, I wrote about the experience of living with my brother, Greg, who has Down Syndrome, and how his presence in my life helped me reassess and better understand concepts like “difference,” “intelligence,” and “achievement.” Carolyn encouraged us to take risks in this essay by revealing personal vulnerabilities and concerns; such risk-taking could only happen because at the core of Rowland Hall’s “imagining” of itself rested (and still rests) a sense of trust and support.

Rowland Hall supported my risk-taking in this area further when I took my intellectual interest in disability and turned it into a form of social activism. During my time as editor of the Gazette in my junior year, I wrote an editorial criticizing faculty members for parking in handicapped spaces in the faculty parking lot. I even think I published a photograph of the offending vehicles in those spaces, though I believe that I blurred out their license plates as some form of journalistic integrity. In that editorial I argued that when faculty members parked in the handicapped spaces they not only set a bad example for the students, but also displayed a larger cultural disregard for disabled people. Ironically, (and something I didn’t fully grasp at the time) the targets of this critical and persuasive editorial were some of the very same faculty members who had been so vital in helping me develop the critical thinking and persuasive writing skills that I had harnessed to publicly critique them. Once published, I felt particularly victorious when my small-scale advocacy worked: faculty stopped parking in the handicapped spaces. Now, in all fairness, this achievement happened because two of the four handicapped spaces were painted over and repurposed as regular spaces. Yet this experience confirmed for me that even when they were the target of my public critique, the Rowland Hall faculty nevertheless supported my critical voice and encouraged me to pursue my concerns of justice and equity for disabled people. [Turning to faculty]: Oh, and if any of you got tickets because I published pictures of your cars next to my editorial, please accept my sincere apologies.

I also recall the way Rowland Hall’s faculty challenged and supported me in occasionally unanticipated ways. An example of this dynamic took place during my Junior year in Lauren Carpenter’s Health II class during our study of STIs. To teach us how these infections manifest themselves, Lauren had a host of very clinical photos that she passed around to the students so that we would, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “know it when we see it.” Over my protestations that I really would rather not look at these photos, Lauren stressed that knowledge is in fact power and urged me to persevere. Partway through class I began to feel the room becoming very warm, so I got up to open the window to get some fresh air — in the middle of January, mind you. After opening the window, I turned around to return to my seat, but I never made it back. The next thing I remember was Lauren standing over me on the floor as I regained consciousness; she asked if I was okay, to which I replied (rather glibly, in retrospect), “I told you I shouldn’t have looked at those pictures.” For the rest of that unit, I was allowed to turn my chair around from the table and take notes without the visual supplement; as a result, I didn’t pass out in that class for the rest of the trimester! It was quite a feat.

That experience confirmed a few things for me: 1) I am not, nor was I ever, cut out for a career in medicine; and 2) Rowland Hall’s faculty, even in unexpected contexts, continually challenged students to move beyond their comfort zones, but nevertheless supported them and adapted things as need be based on individual circumstances. Moments of kindness, even in this silly example, really stuck with me and helped me recognize the way Rowland Hall imagines itself as a place uniquely supportive of students.

We share many of the same “imaginings” of Rowland Hall because in many cases we shared faculty or school traditions. For instance, we both imagined the Platonic ideal of “active reading” as something that’s done by underlining with a ruler and using at least ten different colors. We both imagined “Morning Meetings” as the highlights of our week; right? right? We both imagined “Battle of the Classes” as one of the amusing highlights of the year defined by moments of great public humiliation for our peers. And we both imagined the excitement of leaving Rowland Hall and finding new opportunities and challenges beyond this community.

Fifteen years ago when I stood on this same precipice, Carolyn Hickman offered these words of advice to me and my classmates during our Baccalaureate ceremony:
“part of the satisfaction of exploring is to return and know this place and yourself for the first time. Embrace the change and embrace the journey, and trust that when you do return, you will appreciate in a new way just HOW your background has molded you.”

She then ended her speech by offering an open door and saying, “we’ll all welcome your visit.” Now I’m not sure that she banked on any of our visits lasting quite as long as mine has, but after twelve years in the proverbial wilderness, I commenced my return visit in 2012 to teach you during your sophomore year. Since that time, I’ve found that this community had, in fact, added some new elements to its identity.

One major difference has to do with your endeavors as Winged Lion athletes. You helped lead your teams to Region, State, and Individual titles in Volleyball, Girls Basketball, Boys Swimming, Boys and Girls Soccer, Boys and Girls Golf, Cross Country, Boys and Girls Tennis, and Track & Field. Those successes marked an impressive contrast with my august contributions to an 0–14 Freshman Boys Basketball team, where I likely managed .3 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 4 fouls per game.

Your successes in athletics have also brought with it a newly-imagined nickname for the school, “RoHo.” I must confess, however, that I’ve found this particular reimagining of the school’s nickname a disconcerting embrace of anti-intellectualism. I can’t send you forth from this institution believing that the second letter of “Hall” is an “O.”

But I most clearly gained a sense of you as individuals and as a class during our time together in Classroom A-4. My 1st Period Western Civ. students imagined themselves capable of overcoming early morning exhaustion to engage in class energetically and answer my endless stream of questions even when they’d have rather been asleep. My 2nd and 4th Period AP Euro classes imagined themselves eager to embrace the challenge of learning both the wide-spanning content and the Byzantine writing and multiple choice expectations for the AP test, though 2nd Period did it with more puns than 4th Period did. And those of you in 6th Period AP Euro imagined yourselves in a Cold War-style struggle with your senior classmates — one that at times seemed headed toward Mutually Assured Destruction. Fortunately, the year ended (and they graduated) before any of you got ahold of the launch codes.

But it was also clear that some of the ways I’d imagined our classes would go didn’t entirely jive with your imaginings; and this brings me to 3rd Period Western Civ. If anything taught me about the processes of adaptation and accommodation, it was this class. I hadn’t imagined that proffering writing advice, such as “the thesis statement should be the last sentence of your introduction,” would lead some of you to collapse on the floor in what I could only interpret as the ultimate depths of despair. I also hadn’t imagined but quickly learned, that when your class falls immediately after a Morning Meeting that ran late you are entitled to get a snack without being counted as tardy. It turns out that this privilege was in fact John Locke’s fourth natural right following “Life, Liberty, and Property.” I also hadn’t imagined, but shouldn’t have been surprised, that my crusade against your use of the word “bias” in analyzing primary sources would backfire and actually lead to an increase in its use. But over the course of the year, we gained a greater understanding of one another and forged a sense of trust borne from toward our shared goal of intellectual growth. What began as a state of détente ultimately became a mutual affinity — I improvised songs for you about WWI unterseeboots to the tune of The Little Mermaid‘s “Under the Sea,” and some of you even asked me to sign your yearbooks! And then, for some reason, you began to imagine that I was a deejay, and while I’d love to drop the mic in a few minutes, I can’t because it’s affixed to the pulpit (and it seems kind of sacrilegious in this space).

Over the course of that year, and with much hard work, all of you became adept at imagining yourselves as confident thinkers and historians. You presented on historiographical disputes about the Roman Empire; you developed research questions and presentations about Renaissance artwork, early modern women and witchcraft, Enlightenment concepts of education, and the ramifications of European imperialism. You confidently shared your research and arguments about these topics at the Praxis presentations, where some of you even performed Dadaist poetry or constructed sweet dioramas about trench warfare with mini-barbed wire and fake blood! And as you’re keen to remind your younger peers when they express angst about this rite of passage (which has now been reimagined as the “Sophomore Symposium”), you not only had to do such presentations twice, but you also took a Winter Trimester final — and for those reasons, I imagine you as especially hardcore.

Having considered all those aspects of your Rowland Hall experiences, let’s now turn to the colleges and universities that will be your homes for the next number of years. First and foremost, recognize that these institutions and their communities are ones that, like any community, are “imagined.” In her famous quip, which I believe is about this precise topic, Gertrude Stein said, “there is no there there.” For the past two years, or maybe longer, you’ve been absorbing a steady diet of these imagined “theres” through the colleges’ websites, emails, print publications, Facebook pages, Snapchat stories, Instagram feeds, and perhaps most critically, Bruce’s “Books of the Week.”

As you’ve absorbed and processed these presentations, you’ve each constructed an idea of what that college will be like and possibly started envisioning a narrative for yourself that answers some of the following questions: What types of friends will I make? What sort of social scene will I be a part of? What types of courses will I take and what academic experiences will I have? How many Bob Marley posters can I put up in my dorm room without becoming a cliché? And, the question that I hope forms the center of your focus, what type of person will I be when I leave that institution?

The notion that there is not some Platonic ideal of your college experience waiting to sweep you away the moment you step onto campus might seem disappointing. But I hope you’ll find it empowering. David Foster Wallace spoke to this concept when he said that “’Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.” One of the things that we as faculty have strived to instill in you is this intangible skill of “how to think.” Thinking of your future academic homes as “imagined communities” gives you the freedom to remake them, and remake yourself, as you see fit.

I had this very experience partway through my first semester of college. In talking with my father during one of our semi-weekly discussions, I wondered whether I was having the quote-unquote “college experience.” I’d joined the Heavyweight crew team and made friends, I was taking intellectually stimulating and challenging classes taught by great professors, and I was attempting to live out my Seinfeldian vision of New York City by enjoying Broadway shakes at Tom’s Restaurant and pretending I cared about the Mets during the Subway Series. But it wasn’t clear whether this was what college was supposed to be. With time, however, comes a clearer sense of how you imagine yourself fitting into these new communities. I came to imagine my college experience as one that revolved around waking up at 5:45 am six-days-a-week, rowing on (and occasionally accidentally ingesting) the semi-toxic waters of the Harlem River, spending time in great classes about history and art history, and then going to a subterranean windowless room to work out for another two hours, all so that our team could lose a bunch of races. I’m really selling it, aren’t I? But you know what? It was great and as I reflect on the experience, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Now, many of you may have similar discussions with your parents in the months ahead. Yours, however, will be fundamentally different than the one I had fifteen years ago: it will consist primarily of emojis. But whether you’re having this discussion with words or with non-sensical strings of ideograms (winking ghost—thumbs up—praying hands—cactus—snowflake—ramen bowl), know that such feelings of uncertainty and trepidation are natural. Many of you, like I was, have been safely ensconced in this supportive institution since you were a pre-schooler. You have grown accustomed to the rhythms and traditions of Rowland Hall and feel immensely comfortable in this community. You have the immediate support of your families and friends as you’ve grown up and faced personal and academic challenges in this setting.

Yet in spite of all the things that will change once you leave this place, and in spite of the nervousness that might cause, remember to imagine yourselves as ready. Ready to take on new intellectual challenges because you know that the foundation you’ve built here is extremely strong. Ready to grow personally and define yourselves in new ways because you know how to encounter and grapple with adversity. And ready to make an impact on your new academic communities, because you’ve profoundly shaped Rowland Hall during the time you’ve been here.

We don’t imagine that you’re ready; we know you are. Thank you and congratulations!

Standard
Academic Skills, AP Skills, Writing

“Flipped Tutorial” Entry #2: Writing AP European History DBQs

As my AP European History students have their first full-length DBQ essay coming up this week, I had a few requests to make a video about approaching and writing those essays as I did for the AP European History FRQs.

While we’ve done a bunch of practice and discussion of this skill in class, I thought the suggestion was a good one, so I went ahead and created a video that students can consult not only in preparation for their essay this week, but also as we move closer to the exam in May.

One of the suggestions that I got in the comments to my FRQ video tutorial post was to break down the video into shorter segments so that students can focus in on the areas where they’d like additional clarification and review. I thought the suggestion was a good one, as navigating even that nine minute video can be a hassle, so I broke this video tutorial into a five-part playlist with each video focused on one of the steps of writing the DBQ.

I used the released question about the German Peasants’ Revolt for my examples in the video, as we had used those documents in class and it addressed a topic that we’ve already studied in-depth by this point of the year. As I do in class, I frame the approach to the AP European DBQ as almost like putting together a puzzle — an analogy one of my students used this week that I think it really apt. While I didn’t use that analogy explicitly in the video, I think it carries through in the way I’ve structured my explanations and broken the process down into “steps.”

As with before, I welcome any feedback or thoughts on how to further improve this type of “flipped” instruction.

Standard
Academic Skills, Historical Thinking

Making SHEG HATs a bit more bespoke

Dave Salmanson, over at his blog, has just written a post serving notice to Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group about their omission of recent historiography in many of their historical thinking activities, particularly their most recent one about Columbus Day.

I’ve used (and extensively adapted) materials from Wineburg and SHEG over the years and like the ways that many of their “Reading Like a Historian” lesson plans emphasize the conflicting narratives of the past, thereby pushing the student to act as the historian and give shape to the messy reality of the past. Many of these lesson plans subtly push students to prioritize paying attention to a source’s attribution and then keeping those external details in mind as they then make sense of the source and understand its content in relation to its author, audience, historical context, etc. These lessons also push students to synthesize multiple sources and integrate those into an argument, so I’m all for the historical thinking skills underlying these lesson plans. Wineburg deals with a lot of these concepts and how to foster them in his book, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, which I’ve read and enjoyed.

SHEG also has another project called “Beyond the Bubble,” which offers shorter assessments focused on analyzing one primary source and addressing some question about its sourcing. SHEG calls these activities “Historical Assessments of Thinking,” or HATs for short — therein lies the title of this post.

For me, these are less substantive activities, not only because they only address one source, but also because they often lack substantive attributions that would, for example, allow a teacher to foster a class discussion about authorial background and its influence, or consider the role of print publications over the course of the nineteenth century. As a result, I’ve used infrequently and rarely check the site to see what new materials they’ve posted.

So after reading Dave’s post tonight, I was reminded of an incident last year where I sought to adapt a HAT about the execution of Louis XVI for my Western Civilization classes and gained some insight into the sloppy and (ironically) poorly sourced lesson plan material that actually made meaningful historical analysis less possible as a result of the assignment’s structure.

In checking back on the Beyond the Bubble site tonight, it looks as if SHEG has since removed the HAT in question, but I fortunately downloaded the assessment, so below is a screenshot of the image and the prompt:

"Death of Louis XVI" HAT, screenshot of SHEG "Beyond the Bubble" Activity

“Death of Louis XVI” HAT, screenshot of SHEG “Beyond the Bubble” Activity

So, not to ruin the surprise or anything, but the HAT wants students to focus on the chronological gap between the event presented by the image and the date of publication. Ideally, this prompt pushes students to consider issues of historical context and whether the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century context of this image shaped the presentation of this event and, if so, in what ways.

I was, however, bothered by the fact that this activity had no author listed. So, I decided to do a little digging and see if I could flesh out this attribution to help my students offer a more nuanced analysis of this source.

Finding another version of this image proved to be pretty easy. Simply searching for the title took me to the Library of Congress page for this image, which is clearly where SHEG drew its attribution info.

“Mort de Louis XVI, le 21 janvier 1793 Place de la Concorde – on voit à gauche le socle de la statue de Louis XV déboulonnée” courtesy of the Library of Congress

While these images seem essentially identical, I quickly noticed that the SHEG version of the image cropped out the original title, caption, and parenthetical reference to its original source. So, it turns out that this image does have an author (or at least a place of publication) — a newspaper called Révolutions de Paris. That piece of information seems like some pretty low-hanging fruit that would have been helpful to include in the HAT’s attribution.

A quick search for the name of the newspaper yielded a link to Dartmouth’s digitization project for that publication, which revealed some useful context about the newspaper, its dates of publication, and its context:

Révolutions de Paris was a weekly newspaper published and edited by Louis-Marie Prudhomme. It began publication July 18, 1789; its final issue is dated 10 ventôse Year 2, i.e., 28 February 1794. This run of over four and a half years, a total of 225 issues, makes it one of the longest running Revolutionary newspapers.

And because we know the date of the event depicted in the image, we can then check out the publication from that week and see what they published the week Louis XVI was executed. Lo and behold, look what Révolutions de Paris ran in Issue no. 185:

Screenshot of _Révolutions de Paris_, Issue no. 185, courtesy of Dartmouth University: http://history.dartmouth.edu/sites/history/files/rev1793-4english.pdf

Screenshot of _Révolutions de Paris_, Issue no. 185, courtesy of Dartmouth University: http://history.dartmouth.edu/sites/history/files/rev1793-4english.pdf

Unsurprisingly, discovering the context of this newspaper provides students with much richer material for analyzing this image. Furthermore, considering (or even including) details about Prudhomme would enable students to grapple with the complex array of conflicts and agendas that shaped the various stages of the French Revolution. It might even be possible to make something of the fact that this image did get republished over one hundred years after its original publication, but that analysis can’t happen meaningfully without the original contextual details.

While I still think that many of the SHEG assignments have value in the classroom or as quick assessments, teachers need to be really on guard about how these primary sources get presented and what details SHEG includes or omits. And if nothing else, working to clean up the (in this case quite sloppy) attribution details helps teachers keep their own historical research and thinking skills sharp!

Standard
Academic Skills, Presentations

A Foray into “Flipped” Tutorials: Writing an AP European History FRQ

This week is a busy one for a variety of reasons, but part of that busy-ness involves missing school on a day before the first test I’m giving in my AP European History classes. While much of the review activity is material my substitute can help cover, I have planned a discussion about how to approach and pre-write Free Response Questions that will be hard to do in my absence.

Given these circumstances, I thought I’d revive a tactic I’d used previously in case of absence: making a tutorial video!

I find these types of videos, where I’m focused on explaining a skill or intellectual strategy, to be more compelling to make (though perhaps not to view…you’ll all have to be the judges of that) than ones that focus on conveying content. I make that assertion largely based on the fact that I’ve only ever been compelled to make “flipped”-style tutorial videos for skills like these and not for content-heavy lectures.

Given that AP European History has a variety of skill sets, writing strategies, and essay approaches that are unique to the exam, I think this genre of video might be one that I’ll continue working on (though given the changes coming to the exam next year, that effort might be in vain).

I’ve posted my video below and would welcome any feedback! If I find more energy and time to continue adding to this series, I’ll pass them along here (and thereby avoid having this blog turn into a 1990s-Angelfire-esque wasteland of disused internet).

Standard