Friday, December 30, 2016

Maps and Timelines From Early America to the Revolution

With all of the map-making tools available, learners can present information through maps with a few selections, drags, and drops. It sounds exciting, right? I think so, too, but I'm not sure that's exactly what my high school social studies classes need.

Before designing an activity, I ask myself how much of the work will be done by the students and how much will be done by the teacher. This same question is useful for choosing tools to make and publish student work. I want my students to learn basics about computing and problem solving, so tools that do a lot of that for them are too "paint-by-number" for our class.

My choice for most activities is usually from the Google Apps Suite. For maps, we often use Slides because it acts like a blank canvas. A page setup can be changed to accommodate any printing or publishing needs, and my students learn technology skills that transfer to many applications. Drawing and My Maps are great choices, too.

Here's a couple of examples of map-making activities with Slides. Click on the images and linked text to explore the maps.

Columbian Exchange

Jamestown Timeline

Road to Revolution (click or touch image)

This is a PDF with links to Wikipedia made using Slides. Students were given ideas about what they could do to make this more than a digital version of a print activity. Some students did more by adding links. One of the practice assignments that put this timeline into action was a video tutorial. I did not include those student work examples in this post because students were not ready at the time of publishing, which was mostly my fault.  

What's Next?

Along with using these maps and timelines for video tutorials, we can also consider publishing something with a cleaner look for a website. If you are not familiar with Knight Lab at Northwestern University, check out the lab's StoryMap.

The Knight Lab site includes several tools that use Google Sheets to publish clean looking slide presentations and timelines, to name a couple, that are high enough quality for a respectable website. All of the timelines on the Gilder Lehrman site use Knight Lab tools.

At the end of the day, I don't want my students to experience the Crayola curriculum equivalent to 1:1 instruction. At the Digital History Farm, students will explore tools that require them to learn concepts they will see on many of the applications and websites used by businesses and institutions necessary for a successful society. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Causes of the Civil War Inquiry and Collaboration

One of the most important routines that secondary students need to master is understanding the question. I often read essays that do not answer all parts of the question (or prompt) or do not provide analysis that the question requires.

The following student work came from a study on the causes of the Civil War. It started with three given questions to which students asked questions they needed answered to find the information required to respond to the given question. The students' questions were shared via Poll Everywhere for class discussion.

This activity got them ready to research several issues related to the causes of the Civil War (collaborative notes link below). After the research activity, we discussed the stronger points and moved on to a longer reading selection, "Why the War Came," which is about the 1850's and how a lot of the issues were pushing the country toward war.

Questions About Questions (Poll Everywhere)

Collaborative Notes - Published Google Doc

I love Google Docs because it is simple yet satisfies many of the needs of a 21st Century connected classroom. Although a lot of businesses and project teams use complex programs to collaborate and publish, Google Docs can do a lot of the same heavy lifting. At the very least, Google Docs provides my students the practice they need to solve technology issues in a collaborative setting.

What's Next?

Final products for this activity could include making maps or timelines, as well as slide presentations or videos. I had a mapping the causes activity that I might want to do in the future so we can summarize and publish the notes.

We might try Google My Maps, Slides, or one of the tools by Northwestern University's KnightLab (timeline, story map).