Category Archives: History Dept.

Posts on websites, resources, articles, and more to be highlighted for history teachers at Sandwich High School.

Brainstorming Geography

geography_-_mapIn preparing a framework for a 7th grade Geography curriculum in a STEM Academy, I’ve found bits and pieces from different districts that touch on key concepts and content. Out goal is to combine physical geography with human geography in an inquiry based, problem solving model. There’s a lot of work to be done, but much has been laid out for us by other outstanding educators and institutions. First, I found some great essential questions in an outstanding curriculum from Neshaminy School District in Langhorne, Pennsylvania:
  • Is ethnocentrism and patriotism the same thing?
  • Does every culture think in terms of national “winners” and “losers” and do all cultures define them in the same way?
  • Why do geographic commonalities of a region create a unique world-view?
  • What is it that unites a group of people?
  • How do human actions modify the physical environment and what impact does that change have on human culture?
  • How does cooperation and conflict among people affect the earth’s surface?
I also liked these enduring understandings:
  • As the land shapes the people, the people shape the land.
  • Different is just different not necessarily wrong.
  • The people in each region develop a world view based on sets of common characteristics.
  • Ethnocentrism appears in all cultures.
  • The Interaction between people and nations creates “winners” and “losers” measured in the comparative levels of change and progress experienced by those societies.
For critical thinking and problem solving, I like this teacher’s approach: http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/tappan.rothl/geography_curriculum. These essential questions are also good prompts to shape discussion (from Shelby County School District, in Tennessee):
  • How does culture affect a person’s view of themselves, others, and the world?
  • What impact does economics have on people, governments, and global relations?
  • How do the physical systems of the world affect the human systems?
  • How does government affect people, economics, and global issues?
  • What can history teach people about themselves, their country, and the global community?
  • What is my role as a member of the global world? (This question I think is vital.)
Finally, the AP Human Geography course has outstanding guidelines: http://apstudent.collegeboard.org/apcourse/ap-human-geography/course-details as well as the National Geographic Standards Index: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/standards/national-geography-standards/?ar_a=1. 

Crossroads of Freedom & Equality

A few weeks ago, I sent an email to my History/Social Studies department teachers concerning resources they might use in their courses connecting lessons, activities, discussions and more to African American History Month. I wanted to begin a discussion with my colleagues about:

  1. key topics we’d like to integrate into core and elective courses
  2. reasons why its important to do so
  3. what the most effective ways are to do so

DEOMI 2013 African American Black History Month Poster (1)Over the last few years, these questions have also been important ones asked by the #sschat team of educators as well. Some of the best are Current Events (1), Current Events (2), Teaching the World Today, Teaching Controversial Topics, Life Changing Lessons, Teaching the Middle East, and Covering Live Events. While its true that we all understand how important it is to develop thinking skills necessary for active citizenship, finding the most effective way to do that is not always easy or apparent. Continued collaboration is so vital for me, as an educator, to find my way through social and moral questions created by my lessons. As a department head, I also want to create a climate where that collaboration is welcomed and sustained.

This year’s official theme for African American History Month is “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on WashingtonSo here’s some resources and ideas:

 
 
Outstanding documentaries and their accompanying website:
Full lesson plans from Edsitement (National Endowment for the Humanities) regarding Black History Month: http://edsitement.neh.gov/feature/edsitements-guide-black-history-month-teaching-resources
  • Many of these lesson plans have interactive online components as well as a direct primary source reading. They also contain already made student handouts.
  • @Edsitement on Twitter is fully supportive. They respond to tweets almost instantly and are very interested in connecting with history teachers around the world. 
African American History Month (for teachers) websitehttp://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/teachers.html
  • Links are provided here from the National Archives, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, and National Endowment for the Humanities
An interesting article from Edutopia concerning 6 Teaching Tools for African American History Monthhttp://www.edutopia.org/blog/black-history-month-teaching-resources-matthew-davis. Included are…
  • Discussion concerning shifting the lens by the University of NC
  • Interactive resources from biography.com
  • Interactive resources from Scholastic
  • Lesson plans and articles from the NYT Learning Network
  • Lessons and resources from the NEA
  • Resources and collections from the Smithsonian
Teaching African American History Month with Primary Sources http://csmp.ucop.edu/files/resources/files/587_Black%20History%20Month.pdf
  • This is a 16 page PDF (for those teaching US2) with some great primary sources of images, documents, paintings, political cartoons, maps and more. 
Day by day facts, stories and lessons for each day in February focused on African American History from primarysource.orgat http://www.primarysource.org/program/inclusiveamerican.bhm.php 
 

Sunday Morning Scan


Browsing Twitter on Sunday mornings is a pleasure. Although the week’s Tweets are always useful, I enjoy taking the time to scan, check out websites, collect primary sources, catalogue different classroom strategies, read teacher’s blogs, and comment back to a great pool of educators, on Sunday morning. Here are a few ‘finds’ from recent tweets as well as old resources. Let me know if you find them useful!
  • EdCafes: I saw this demonstrated at last year’s EdcampBoston and thought it had potential for a history class. The creator is Katrina Kennett (Plymouth South) and the basic idea is that students become facilitaor/presenters on topics of their choice related to a theme covered in class. In their words, “An EdCafe is a way to structure class that promotes student choice and ownership over learning. The model was inspired by EdCamp conferences, where participants build the schedule and choose what sessions to attend. This bottom-up approach shifts energy, engagement, and opportunity for exploration to the students, and transforms the teacher into expert facilitator instead of gatekeeper/manager.” Usually, there are four presentations going on in one class, and presentations are scheduled up to a month ahead. There’s a heavy amount of preparation for each student presenter and responsibilities for the participants as well. Katrina teaches this model with an ELA class, but it can be applied to history easily enough. Her site offers an explanation of what an Edcafe is, ideas for scaffolding skills, standards and assessments, advice for students, and examples of Edcafes in action.
  • American History Madness: I’ve actually done this project on paper for a couple of years and many of you have probably heard of it. I originally got the idea from this article on applying the NCAA Final Four brackets to a history class. Other teachers have built many variations on this idea. Mine was usually a poster-board with groups of students defending different outcomes. The teacher sponsoring this American History Madness blog has incorporated Google Forms and student presentations and blogs into his version. Its much more interactive, and allows/encourages the public to vote as well. With the iPads in many classes, its easy for us to facilitate and publish student presentations online. Students are also expected to be able to debate their positions. 
  • PPT Palooza: If you’re like me, and have created 100’s of PPTs over the years, this site makes me sigh, but in a good way. Susan Pojer has created hundreds of PPTs for US and World History that are absolutely amazing. She’s also linked some from other teachers and students. Check them out. I use them all the time now, and they also make for great backgrounds to screencasts, which are teacher-made YouTube video lectures. Using sites like Screencastomatic and others, its really easy to record yourself on audio while walking your students through a PPT or website on your computer. If you have any questions about how to make these, I can show you. It’s really easy and allows you to give lectures for students to do at home, so you can focus more time in class on inquiry, debates, projects, and basically homework (applied learning). The new buzzword is ‘flipped class’, but it has its merits, especially when students have their own iPads and mobile devices. 
  • Zinn Education Project: Even though Howard Zinn’s speeches and politics were controversial, his application of critical thinking in studying history was not. I’ve used the People’s History of the US (annotated teachers edition) as well as Voices of a People’s History in my APUSH classes for years, asking students to support or oppose his non-neutral stance on US History with evidence. I didn’t really care which position students took, as long as they learned the tools of historiography in the process. This website has a huge amount of teaching material that is free. All of the lessons involve different levels of critical thinking and student engagement (many have role plays), which I have always found useful. The Facebook page for the Zinn Education Project has a new primary source document highlighted almost every day as well. There’s also a free downloadable full teacher guide to Voices of a People’s History available on their site as well. so is a useful feature. There are also videos of actors reading primary sources from Voices of a People’s History that you can play in class. 

The 2012 Election in Your Classroom


The election is coming! The election is coming! 2012 is ‘one of those years’ in the classroom and it is a great opportunity for History and Social Studies teachers to focus on the choices that Americans make to determine their next president. For us, as teachers, there are a lot of bases to cover as we hope to inform our students about the process by which a person becomes a candidate, the social issues that divide and unite the country, the nature of political parties and campaign financing, the current state of the economy amid high unemployment, and the war in Afghanistan and our foreign policy in very important regions of the world like China, the Middle East, Africa and more. It’s a big plate.

I’d like to offer some suggestions and resources that might help facilitate discussion, depth and debate before November 6th rolls around. Many of these suggestions come from the great work done by other educators and found on Twitter. We all stand on the backs of giants.

  • From the National Constitution Center, adomatic.us gives students the power to create their own candidacy for the presidency by creating their own campaign ad. It’s an easy step-by-step process. Thanks to the great post by Gillian Nyla.
  • Facilitate a discussion with your students on the nature of the political parties and the issues that divide them into ‘left and right’ positions using this infographic. Infographics allow students to visualize complex issues. You can even have students create their own using sites like visual.ly, easel.ly, and infogr.am. For a great resource on 2012 election infographics, check out this intense Pinterest board on the subject. Have students fact-check and analyze as propaganda.
  • Watch with students, ‘The Choice’ by PBS Frontline with your students. It will air on October 9th and will provide a documentary on the biographies of the two candidates as well as an in-depth look at the issues that divide them and their leadership styles and personalities. Also check out their documentaries on the 2008,2004 and 2000 elections.
  • Explore the complex issues of campaign financing with your students using the transparency of OpenSecrets.org. Following the 1996 elections, the Center for Responsive Politics created the website to ‘follow the money’ in national and local elections. Role play with students campaign fundraising activities, re-enact the Citizens United Supreme Court case, or run an in-class election as if it was a presidential one to see how the money influences (or not) the vote.
  • Any US History teacher knows how complicated it is to explain the dreaded Electoral College. This under 5 minute video helps explain it all, including all of the oddities and complexities of the process. It’s great. You could show this to your students all the way through and ask them “Who got this?”, then go back and pause it along the way for deeper explanation.  Open a discussion about why this process exists. If its around Constitution Day, even better! If students still have questions, send them to the US Government FAQ page for the process.
  • FIguring out where the candidates stand on the issues is sometimes a lot harder than it looks. Sometimes there are subtle policy differences and other times its really hard to determine where the candidates are just based on general statements made in speeches. ProCon.org has a great webpage that takes the issues and parses them by the candidates own statements, along with analysis, by topic. It’s a great place for students to go to find out sometimes how similar and different the choices between candidates is. Have students create their own stump speeches, role play and debate each other, have a newsmaker interview with campaign staff, etc. and watch the subtleties fly! This website is also a good place to learn and discuss foreign policy, which hasn’t really been a front-page issue in 2012.
  • Here’s some great resources for students to see and build their own electoral maps from the New York Times, PBS Newshour, CNN and FOX. Have your students figure out how polls determine these stats. Help them conduct their own school and town/city polls. Finally, here’s another good one that students can use to build a map to 270 electoral votes, called 270 to Win.
  • The New York Times also has some great infographics from the conventions. This one explains visually how many times certain words were used in the convention speeches. Students can look at these and begin a discussion on who the audience is for each speech and what the candidate’s intent is. You could also use the website Wordle to cut and paste famous speeches in history into a text box. What happens next is that you get a visual ‘word cloud’ on the most commonly used words in bigger and bolder print. Here’s a link to convention speeches I put into Wordle.
  • Campaign commercials also say a lot about a candidate and their campaign’s message. We all remember the little girl counting while picking a flower, and then getting blown up by a nuclear weapon. This site, the Living Room Candidate, has hundreds of campaign commercials going back to Eisenhower. They make for excellent primary source analysis as well as a focus on propaganda in election politics. Here’s also a great site which provides a sample of 200 years of election posters.
  • There are many surveys and questionnaires you can give your students to gauge their positions on different issues. Here’s a brief list: Campaign Match Up,
  • Finally, here’s a list of some great sites with other teaching lessons and ideas for Election 2012:

I hope these resources help. Please feel free to leave feedback, and have a great time exploring these issues with your students on the road to November!

First Meeting

August 28th was the first professional development day for Sandwich Public Schools for the 2012-2013 school year. As a new teacher in the district, I quickly saw a tone set by the administration. After the pledge,  national anthem, and speeches, each of the four principals in the district took turns honoring their employee of the year. Heartfelt stories of true passion for teaching, compassion for others, and dedication to work, were told by each principal while standing ovations were given by colleagues to honor outstanding educators. It was a wonderful experience to begin the year, and said to me something great about a district where teachers are heroes.

We then went to our department meetings. In the history department, we focused our discussion around five central questions:

  • What are key historical concepts students must know?

  •  What historical thinking skills must students be able to demonstrate?

  • What teaching strategies reinforce these concepts and skills?

  •  How do we effectively assess these concepts and skills?

  • What resources do we have/need to be more successful?

The discussion that followed focused on many topics, such as making differentiation more authentic, setting clear expectations for historical thinking skills vertically from grades 9-12, making the integration of technology more collaborative, reinforcing basic geography skills, and more. The caliber of experience in the room, along with a clear desire to strengthen and support the teaching of History and Social Studies, was obvious. It’s going to be a great year.

 

Teacher Blog Recommends

Blogs are really interesting windows into how others create, share and reflect on their lives. I highly recommend using Google Reader, or some other RSS feed to follow the posts of some great educators: Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher), Stephen Lazar (Outside the Cave), Terie Engelbrecht (Crazy Teaching) and Michael K. Milton (@42thinkdeep). Their posts give me the chance to learn more about pedagogy, sharpen my lesson design and implementation, share resources and overall, help me grow as a professional. Check them out!

#APUSH on Twitter

All I know about test taking I learned from kids. Maybe there’s a deeper wisdom that comes through in the middle of the night when the pressure is on. Now, thanks to Twitter, I have a window into the madness. Take a look! Is this you? (more coming…)
  • Trying to explain to your parents why you’re not studying for #APUSH and all you can come up with is “it’s just an exam…” #badexcuses
  • How am I supposed to remember 200+ years of history if I can’t even remember what happened last year #apush #helloaptestfail
  • Communists are out to steal Christmas #apush
  • I got 99 problems, and the lend-lease-act aint one #apush
  • I feel so old with all this historical knowledge. #apush #final
  • I love the low-key sarcasm in my cram book #APUSH
  • it’s that really awful moment in life when you realize that sleep just doesn’t fit your schedule.. #apush #icanteven
  • All of the followingare true EXCEPT A) i hate apush b) i hate apush c) i hate apush d) i hate apush e) i love apush #APUSH
  • Haven’t used my stereotypical consumer culture iPhone apps in a couple of weeks. #APUSH #facepalm
  • Well at least I don’t live in Italy. We have 300 years of history. They have 5000… #APUSH #newishcountry
  • You know what? I’m done. I’m sick of this. I’m breaking up with #APUSH. Peace out, girlscout.
  • the day I learned that re-writing notes is how I study best was the most regretful day of my life #sotired #phyiscs #apush #death
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “The only thing we have to fear….is scary stuff.” #APUSH
  • I smell like highlighter ink pen and Reese’s #yum #apush
  • Who needs sleep when you have sharpies an a shower curtain? #apush
  • US flirted with china so they gave us panda bears. “AWWWWWW” no. They were sterile. “those bastards.” #apush
  • Hell week is upon us. #apush
  • I would have been done with this DBQ a long time ago if I didn’t have the attention span of a 2 year old -_- Omg. #apush
  • Sleep is a distant friend. #sleep #apes #apush #aplang #finals #aptest #junioryear #junioryearsucks #stressed #studying #dying #why
  • Crawling in a hole and dying see ya. #apush
  • “I Like Ike” vs. He stabbed a child 19 times, raped 4 women, and kicked puppies on a weekend pass from jail. Ok politics. #APUSH
  • Failing a test doesn’t really phase me anymore. Thanks #APUSH
  • does anyone remember learning about kennedy? cause i sure dont #apush problems
  • My secret is speaking it out Loud with a knowledgeable adult. #apush
  • You know #apush sucks when the Role of Women in the War section is longer than the actual War section
  • That weird moment when you discover a somewhat sarcastic, humorous tone in your #APUSH reviews…
  • I bombed that test as bad as we bombed Japan… #APUSH
  • Chapter 40… #apush should die.
  • 405 years of history in one night #challengeaccepted #APUSH

Union Guest Speakers & Feedback

In an effort to learn more about labor history and labor issues, we’re lucky to have two guest speakers (and experts) come to our classes. In the first day, we had a discussion on what students knew about unions, what they did and what some of the challenges to unions are. We began with this video.

Some of the things we addressed were:

  • Importance of understanding the historical and present day workplace and the lack of 1st Amendment protections:. “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
  • How legislation affecting work affects us in different ways depending on where we are in the economic/class spectrum – hourly workers, professionals, supervisors, employers.

We also brainstormed responses to some real-life scenarios, like:

  • Being forced to stay for an extra shift, being asked to work holidays without holiday pay, being asked to work nights beyond teen work hours… When do you stand up and say no, or do you just do it because its a job and a paycheck?
  • Do you ever mention the word ‘union’ to your boss in a non-union job?
  • What if you notice there are unsafe working conditions in your job, (food service) or that things change or get cleaner once there’s a health inspection (OSHA visit)? Do you speak up? Do you report them? Or is that not worth losing your job?
  • Would you rather walk away from a job rather than change it? When do you draw the line? Do you think about the other workers that your issue may address?

We also used PollEverywhere to get instant student feedback on a couple of issues. On the second day, we used this format (below) for a negotiations role-play. Students had to assume the following roles:

  • You are a company spy and agitator. Your job is to create divisions within the group and get people not to like each other and to argue and fight amongst each other.
  • You love the employer and think they can do no wrong and if they have to cut your hours, take away vacations, and make us pay more for health insurance than we have to accept it.
  • You are so mad because of what the company wants to do that you are “spitting nails”.  You want action and think that anyone who doesn’t want to walk out of work or take other drastic action RIGHT AWAY is a wimp and a coward.
  • You are really worried that other workers will want you to walk off the job in protest and you can’t afford to lose pay because you need that paycheck.
  • You hate what the company is trying to do to people but you are worried that if workers act to quickly and don’t think about it more and get more reaction and discussion from co-workers they will make a mistake or fall into a company trap.
  • You can create your own role.
Our guest speakers represented management. Here’s the format, along with our warm up activity, scenario, keywords, and guiding questions. What we found out was that the students were challenged by some tough negotiators!

Different classes had different results, but all of the students realized that their strength lay in numbers and unity. In some occasions, the union went into negotiations split, and management pounced on the divisions. On other occasions, half of the union walked out of negotiations and the other half stayed. We learned pretty quick what kind of problems that would create. In all, many of the students tried to negotiate back from the brink – holding the line on some issues, but more willing to bargain on others. It turns out that most of the classes quickly dropped the issue of health care for new hires. The current workforce of students did not see that as a major issue to fight with management on – but they learned a harsh lesson. It turns out that they actually was the only issue that our employer negotiators were interested in acquiring. The other issues concerning hour and vacation cuts were only side issues – and potential ‘icing on the cake’ if workers negotiated them. We discussed how often health care becomes a major issue for workers. In all, it was a great learning opportunity for students.

Students shared their feedback on the following form, and our guest speakers replied to the questions they asked on the link to the Google Doc spreadsheet below.

Click here to see the Gdoc spreadsheet for the anonymous comments, questions to our guest speakers, and their answers.

Reflections

Looking back on the lesson, there are a couple of things I might have done differently, a couple of questions I would ask myself to think about, and a couple of ways that I would try to expand the learning for all of my students. Where to start? Differences. Ah, here’s where I make mistakes and love it. There’s always room for improvement and I’ve learned to become comfortable with that. I definitely would place the lesson in a deeper context concerning values and themes. When we  learn about issues that have a direct application to so many ways in which people go about their daily lives, I think there’s got to be room to explore what it means within us – and what values it touches. Is it loyalty? Freedom? Equality? Self-respect? Truthfulness?

All of these different values help us guide the choices we make, as well as the choices of our ancestors before us.

#edcampss in Philly!

“It’s the best PD I’ve had as an educator.” That’s the way I like to begin explaining both Twitter and edcamps. For many people who have not been Twitterized, it may be a little difficult to understand, but the simple fact is that I enter a virtual conference of cool history teachers, engaged administrators and empowering thinkers every time I log on to Twitter. The same thing happens when I go to an edcamp unconference. I just walk into an actual room and am surrounded by the same people. It’s the best.

Where did I go?

Here’s the board. In the beginning of the session, the routine is that all of the interested participants come up and put a card on the time and the room they like. They host the sessions. Feet do the walking. You leave if you want to and no one’s feelings are hurt.

Teaching History without the Textbook

This was my first session. It was led by a Twitter colleague that I’ve never met in person before, @historyfriend. She has been a strong voice for innovative and reflective teaching on the #PLN (personal learning network on Twitter, specifically #sschat). Here are some of the notes I took on Google Docs:

Thoughts

  • Creating content is a powerful motivator for students.
  • Ask yourself what we are doing with textbooks that we can’t do without.
  • Using a textbook makes students dependent on the textbook.
  • Textbooks are written for general information.

Sources

  • Choices.edu
  • Crowdsource history content from the web?
  • GilderLehrman site for online content
  • Zinn education project
  • Reading the Wikipedia page with the students (determining sources)
  • Screencasting sections of texts (getting a world perspective)
  • RAFT assignments? Maybe tougher with the higher grades.
  • Facebook pages for Negro League baseball players?
  • Template for using Google Docs to create a fake Facebook page.
  • Wikispaces (student wiki spaces)
  • Livebinder
  • Evernote
  • Portfolios/eportfolios

Recommended Books

How to Engage?

  • Are we preparing students with the skills necessary for college (notes, index, etc.)?
  • Are organizational issues a challenge?
  • Password protecting PDF’s? How to do this?

 AP Social Studies

I stayed in the same room and began the next session with a great group of #APUSH teachers. The session was led by @Aaron_Eyler. He showed us his website and raised interesting questions about the philosophy and business of the College Board and its effect on student learning/test taking. We discussed depth and coverage, and it was a great exchange. Aaron demonstrated how he organized his Socratic Seminar, and that was really helpful.

Evernote

The third session was on @Evernote. How to describe it? Evernote is a multi-device tool for recording information. It can be used in the classroom in a number of different ways. We brainstormed a few here:

Tagging
Video record
Multiple tags
Text conversion
Document camera
Photos of student work
Collaborative emailing
Student emailing with subject tags/folders
Pushing content out
Distribution of materials with shared folders
Folder of students
Folder of classes
Folder of assignments
Notability
Metatagging
Save PPT as PDF for Evernote
Student taking notes by photo.

Shawn McCusker led the session. Truth be told, he was the second educator I found on Twitter when I joined about a year ago. I think it was one of the best ‘draft picks’ I ever made. He is an outstanding educator, an engaging leader, and a hell of a Words with Friends player. Greg Kulowiec was also in the session with us and he, as usual, brought up some very interesting comments about our practice and its purpose. He mentioned explaining ‘how’ before ‘why’ in classrooms with students, and also raised the question of whether it was a good idea for students to take photos of a notes board in class on Evernote vs. writing the information down themselves. Which is the better learning experience?

In all, it was a really good session. For me, one of the biggest take-aways was meta-tagging and how important it can be. How do I sort the information that I am bringing into my personal and mostly professional life? What are the tags and folders that I should use? I began, and still am, reflecting on this idea. Someday I may figure it out.

How can I help my students ask better questions?

Its hard to choose a favorite session, because they really are relavent and great, but this was a completely interactive session led by Mary J. Johnson, @JohnsonMaryJ. She brought out printed primary sources, such as photographs, songs, poems, diary entries, posters and more from the theme of westward migration in US History, and we broke up into groups following guidelines for asking better questions. While we were doing this, Mary had us reflect on how and why we were doing it – and what experiences this would mean for our students when they did this project in class. This is the photo my group and I explored:

We had a great time making observations, drawing inferences and then framing questions concerning the content of the photo. At the end of the session, we were allowed to take as many of the printed primary sources home. I grabbed a bunch. Oh, each of the photos also had a QR code on the back, which I thought made a lot of sense. Students could use their phones to scan the QR codes to get the Library of Congress website link to that particular document and instantly have the information about it for their use.

Project Based Learning and National History Day

The last session that I attended was mostly focused on National History Day. We looked at previous projects by students and heard stories of teachers working with their kids to complete the tasks over a series of months. We asked questions about the process of doing this event and some of the details (cost) and resources (travel) required. We also helped each other explore the idea of having something like this be mandatory or optional, since it requires a heavy time investment. It’s something that I have always been interested in trying and I am looking forward to bringing this experience to my students next year, whether as a club or formal class activity.

EdcampSS Ends…

The ending of the workshop was fun and engaging. If you’ve ever been to an edcamp unconference before, you know that the final activity is almost always a Smackdown. Participants get a set amount of time (about 1 minute) to explain something that they’ve learned or a resource that they’ve used, for the crowd. All of the participants gather and many are taking down websites as the line forms. It is always interesting! Finally, we had a closing activity from the keynote speaker to the conference, Kenneth Davis (author of the ‘Don’t Know Much About History’ series. He brought a timed buzzer game set with him to Philadelphia and asked teachers to become contestants in a quiz show. People volunteered and the game began! Many of the trivia questions were tough, but Ken explained each before moving on to the next. It was both educational and fun, and something he does when he travels to schools around the country.

As I left, I said goodbye to the many people I have been conversing with online for a year but never met in person. It was a lot of driving to go down on a Friday afternoon and night while returning Saturday afternoon and night, but worth every minute. I am truly glad for the experience and very thankful for all of the work of the organizers.

Edcamps rock! Next one is in Boston in one week!

Advising President Truman

Your mission is to advise President Truman concerning future relations with the Soviet Union.  Should America use its military force to assert more freedom and democracy?  Should the US negotiate peace?  Should the US attempt to contain communism as it spreads?  Should the US withdraw completely under a policy of isolationism?

President Truman is seeking advice from his top aides. He is considering one of four options with regard to U.S. policy towards the Soviet Union. The situation is urgent and time is short. He is not looking for a detailed epic work. He is a simple, no-nonsense man who wants straightforward advice and evidence to support it.

Your letter to the president should be one page in length (typed).  You will follow the format provided for writing formal letters.  Your letter will include two important points: 1) Explain which option is the most appropriate foreign policy choice that the U.S. should take with regard to the Soviet Union, and 2) Explain why your option is the best course of action. Give specific evidence by referring to specific events and issues from 1945-1952 that will support your position.

To aid you in answering these questions you may explain:

  • how your option will protect America’s security interests;
  • how it will benefit America’s allies;
  • how it will promote stability in the world.

Evaluation: You should post answers that fairly address both important points. They should be in paragraph form, but do not need to be more than one page of text. You will receive 50 points for each thoughtful complete answer. (Total of 100 points)  Let me know if you have any questions.

Use the following PDF documents to help you in your research and preparation: