Weimar Republic Political Parties: A Non-Linear Google Slide Show

Last spring in my Digital Literacies and Emerging Technology grad class, we were asked to create a non-linear experience using PowerPoint or another similar tool.  In addition to the non-linear format, there had to be a place for discussion. My professor called it a “Branched Simulation” and I called it the bane of my existence…until, I finally found my way forward.

This is probably one of the most exciting things that I have done recently. Not because of the content, but because of the method and the possibility. This is what I’d like to do more with in the future.*

To do this activity, I used a lesson from Facing History about the political parties during the Weimar Republic. The lesson looks at the political platforms of the Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. In this experience, students were job seekers attempting to help the political parties recruit. In the plan, students utilize both TodaysMeet and their own blog to participate in a discussion regarding the parties.

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A Procedure for Reading Difficult Documents

As you would not chug a hot cup of tea, you also should not speed through a primary document! You risk a burnt tongue and not fully understanding what you just read. Try reading Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal quickly! You may walk away with a very disturbed understanding of what you have just read.

I typically start most mornings of with a loose-leaf tea in my classroom. Except on Fridays when I make my weekly pilgrimage to Starbucks for their expensive yet delicious Reserve coffee.

I typically start most mornings of with a loose-leaf tea. Except on Fridays when I make my weekly pilgrimage to Starbucks for their expensive yet delicious Reserve coffee.

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Thoughts on PowerPointing

My friend Joe Sangillo wrote a great post for Discovery Education about how he uses PowerPoint presentations in the class. It got me thinking a lot about the struggle that I am currently having with “PowerPoints.”

My thoughts.

I love writing a skeletal outline on the board with drawings! But my students have requested that I do “PowerPoints” – we tested it one day when we had similar information on my board (with my drawings) and overwhelmingly they said that the slides were easier to follow as they could focus on one thing at a time.

While normally this would be spread out over a larger board, to attempt our experiment this was written on my 8 foot vertical board.

While normally this would be spread out over a larger board, to attempt our experiment this was written on my 8 foot vertical board.

My “PowerPoints” typically have images paired with words, occasionally with fake tweets from people, have questions and activities associated with them. Students have access to them prior to the class and a few parents have thanked me for them.

This is an example of a “PowerPoint” Slide.

But I hate them. I feel a bit stifled. Like a square peg being forced into a round hole – or vice versa. I’ve never been a peg so I’m not sure which feels a bit forced. But whichever one it is, that’s how I feel.

I’m attempting to find a balance between me and the “PowerPoint.” Some way that I can still feel creative.

I guess in the end it is only one of my teacher tools. Batman probably, at one point, hated his cape but everyone was like “Hey Batman, you totally have to wear your cape. You’re a superhero and all! Superheroes wear capes.” And he probably went to his Batcave and thought a bit – looked at the cape and attempted to figure if or how it could work for him. Then he was like, “Right, since I can’t fly like the others, I can rig this cape to make me glide in the air – it’ll be my Batglide.”

I’ll eventually find a way that feels comfortable for me and my students. I’m just not quite there yet.

*Note: I use quotations with PowerPoints as as my school is a “Google” school, we use “GoogleSlides” which is like PowerPoint Lite.

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Teaching Historical Interpretation: Interpreting Student Life Events

“Who even knows if this really happened,” one of my students declared this year. “How do you think? How does one find out about anything?” I responded wanting to discuss how history is formed – the need to find artifacts from the past, find corroboration between various sources, hypothesize what happened and why things happened, publish the results, and have other historians look at the same event to build on or refute a claim. Sadly, the Friday afternoon bell rang and the conversation was not had.

Looking back at this brief exchange, I feel a bit uneasy, as perhaps I do not do a good enough job teaching how history is formed and that history is actually studying interpretations of the past* – a past that historians often view differently.

With this exchange in mind, I have decided to these beliefs during the first week of school. The first lesson, posted below, deals with how history is formed and the second, highlighted in Next Steps, will deal with how history is not static, but an argument built on evidence.

 Student Life Events “Histories”

Set up:

Students bring in three or more items related to a single event in their lives. The artifacts could be pictures, a Facebook post, a trophy, a ribbon, a newspaper clipping, etc…

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Going Meta: Cataloguing My Past Two Years of Blogging

As my blog turned two this past week, I felt it would be a good time to look back at one of the things I have worked on in my spare time these past few years. Over the past two years I have written 50 posts and, while it took a while, it was interesting to see how I have developed in my first few years as an educator. During the spring, I plan on going back and updating a few of my earlier posts.

I drew this as I thought it would be a fun addition to my masthead...sadly, it is neither the right size nor shape.

I drew this as I thought it would be a fun addition to my masthead…sadly, it is neither the right size nor shape.

For those considering blogging, I highly recommend it. For me, blogging has always been about developing as an educator by putting my ideas “out there” and discussing ways to improve. Since I began, I have had colleagues and those I met through blogging put their own twist on some lessons I developed. Looking at various ways to do something pushes me to reflect and continue to develop. In addition to personal growth, I have also had some neat opportunities through blogging – I’ve co-written a journal article  (with Dan Krutka) for the Ohio Social Studies Review and I’ve gotten to work with other educators consulting on a US Senate simulation at the Edward M Kennedy Institute. I’m quite happy that I made the leap into it two year ago.

As my readership has grown over the past two years, I thought it would be beneficial to have a table of contents to make searching my site easier!

So without further ado…

Table of Contents

  1. A Bit About This Blog – This simply introduces the blog and explains its purpose.
  2. Macbeth Murder Mystery Party Introduction – Inspired by a murder mystery that I never attended, this post from my days as a History/English teacher was used to introduce Macbeth and get students to  make predictions.
  3. Macbeth and Agency: Rethinking the Blame Game - As I didn’t want Lady Continue reading
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The Perfect Match: Music and Primary Document Pairing

“We’re not gonna take it. No, we ain’t gonna take it. Oh, we’re not gonna take it anymoooore.”

While preparing for the upcoming school year, Twisted Sister’s epic protest song began playing as I read the Declaration of Independence. Obviously my mind drifted to imagine Thomas Jefferson and John Adams letting their hair down and dancing around the streets of Philadelphia during a break from drafting the epic document. I realized then that I serendipitously uncovered something that I could use in the classroom – pairing music to primary documents to demonstrate understanding!

I spent the rest of the afternoon matching songs with historical documents – Washington’s Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, and even Andrew Jackson’s Bank of the United States veto message. I then moved on to pairing music with events and felt that if George Washington crooned Coldplay’s “I will Fix You” at the Constitutional Convention there would not be a dry eye in Independence Hall.

Clearly, if there was an essay contest of “what I did during my summer vacation,” this day alone would have put me in the running.

While the idea was fun, I had yet to figure out how to actually use it. After mentioning the concept a month or so later on Twitter,  tech-guru Greg Kulowiec, he works for EdTechTeacher, suggested the app Spreaker might allow me to play around with this concept. Spreaker is a free iPad app that allows you to mix two tracks (and a microphone). Armed with an album of historic speeches and my iTunes playlist, I went to work finding “the perfect pair.”

For the next hour I explored the functionality of Spreaker and went to work mixing one of my favorite speeches – Winston Churchill’s Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speech – with Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia.” After an hour which included no blood, toil, tears nor sweat (it was actually quite simple), this is what I came up (second attempt)!

While I am toying with the idea of giving students the option to use this to demonstrate their understanding of primary documents, I have not yet put this into action. Currently, I have it planned for a 4th quarter assignment with my juniors. I will surely update this post when I have some student samples!

So check out Spreaker and let me know what you think! And if you have done an activity like this, let me know too! And if you have ideas for perfect musical pairs, let me know in the comments. That’s always a bit of fun!

One day I do dream of having students auto-tune historic speeches. That is not something that I have figured out yet (although I do mention it to my students, in case they can figure it out).

Related Posts ~
Absolute Monarchy’s Ultimate Playlist

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American Vision Dating Game: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the Importance of Sharing

Sometimes you put an idea out “there” and the world amazes you. That is absolutely what happened in this case.

As many know, I am involved in a historical improv show called An Improvised People’s History. In order to  learn more about the historical figures, we often play The Dating Game where as historical figures you attempt to woo a contestant. After an unsuccessful attempt at winning a date as Alexander Hamilton,  my mind wandered to how I could use this concept in the classroom.

It was the following morning when it hit me….

What if Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were on a dating game attempting to woo America?

While a bit silly, I thought it would be a fun way to get my Freshmen to understand more about their differences and why one might be on Team Jefferson or Team Hamilton. As I often do, I shared the initial concept on my tumblr site (also below) and then sent it out to the world via Twitter.

My Tumblr Post

The following week, I gave my students this homework assignment for a long weekend (after explaining the concept of the Dating Game as it was foreign to my 9th graders).

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