Narrative, Graphic Novels, and Globalization: An Interview with Dr. Trevor Getz

History is the construction of our understanding of the past.  Taking part in that process  is an existential exercise which, in turn, influences our contemporary world view. These three quotes remind me about the importance and power of narrative creation and its subsequent relationship to collective and individual identity.

  • “It seems evident, then, that skill in narrative construction and narrative understanding is crucial to constructing our lives and a “place” for ourselves in the possible world we will encounter.” Jerome Bruner
  • ”Over time and cultures, the most robust and most effective form of communication is the creation of a powerful narrative.” Howard Gardner

Moreover, the recognition, creation, and analysis of historical narratives  are essential activities for students in history classes in high school and higher education.  What resources teachers use with students, as well as the explicit connection to broad concepts and contemporary realities all make for relevant and valuable teaching and learning. I had the pleasure of meeting professor Trevor Getz at a recent AHA planning meeting for the 2018 Conference being held in Washington D.C.  Our interview highlights his work with students and the use of graphic novels to develop their historical thinking. Trevor can be reached at either tgetz@sfsu.edu or tgetz@ebuukuu.com

Enjoy!

 

1- Tell us about your journey to becoming a historian and your interest in studying Africa I learned to love history sitting on my grandpa’s knee while he told stories of “the war.”  I was the only grand kid who

Professor of History Trevor Getz, poses in front of scenes from his scholarly graphic novel “Abina and the Important Men.” Getz recently created a company called Ebuukuu.com to apply this graphic model to other areas of study. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress

wanted to listen.  I loved touching his medals, and watching as he drew pictures of fortifications, and looking through his black-and-white photo albums. I thought I wanted to be a military historian, but then as an undergraduate at Berkeley I learned to love political history, and doing my MA in Cape Town came to appreciate social history, and finally began my transition to cultural history during my PhD research at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In the process, I became immersed in the history of Africa.  My first real mentor was Chris Saunders, at the University of Cape Town, who tamed my rambunctious American-ness with his precise and calm Anglo ways.  Then with the larger-than-life and wonderfully inspiring professor, Richard Rathbone – truly a spectacular mentor and a fixture in the study of Ghana’s past.

2- When did graphic novels come into the mix and how have they impacted your teaching?    

My dissertation (and subsequent first book) was very much a social history – putting together many different sources in an attempt to converge them on an explanation for social change in the wake of the criminalization of slavery in nineteenth century Ghana and Senegal.   But in the years that followed, I learned to dig deep into single sources, figuring out how to pull apart one document or picture or diary account and explain what it meant.  Most of the sources I was working with, it turned out, featured young people – enslaved or otherwise suffering, but frequently strong and inspiring nevertheless.  I wanted to bring their stories, their accounts, and their worldviews to the public. I was searching, for much of the 2000s, for a medium that would allow me to do that.  I had to dig back into my own past to find one.  Of course, not everyone could have a Grampa like mine to inspire them to study the past, and these stories in any case didn’t lend themselves to grandparently memory.  But the other “history” inspiration of my youth was the comic book – including Franco-Belgian works like Tintin but also Art Spiegelman’s incredible Maus.  So, I thought I’d experiment with comics (or the “graphic novel”) as a medium for telling the story of a young, enslaved woman who forced the government of a Crown Colony to listen to her.  Thanks in part to an incredible editor (Charles Cavaliere at Oxford UP) and wonderful artist-collaborator (Liz Clarke in South Africa) it somehow worked out, and Abina and the Important Men came into being.  Now we’ve developed a multi-platform app as well, for the high school classroom.  Any teacher interested in trying out the app should email me.

 

3- What do you want readers to know about your award winning graphic novel, Abina and the Important Men? 

This is a book about NOW, because it’s a book about power.  It’s about the power that important men use to subjugate others, like Abina Mansah, who was twice enslaved and then censored and silenced.  It’s about the power that even seemingly defenseless people have to make their voice heard, as Abina did in that colonial courtroom. It’s about the power that historians have (and sometimes abuse) to tell people’s stories in a way that appeals to them, and the power that we all have to challenge and correct historians’ interpretations.  Power is part of any society, but we don’t have to accept the way it operates, just as Abina refused to accept attempts to silence her.

 

4- I argue that one of the best skills people develop from studying history is that they learn how to analyze and evaluate narratives. What do you think are some practical skills students develop by studying the past?

Historians, I firmly believe, are interpreters.  The past is a foreign country, and we try to help people in the present to understand what is said and done there, and what it means.  Learning to analyze and evaluate not only primary sources but also the work of scholars is a key step in developing a critical mind and media literacy.  I talk about this quite a bit in a brief video put together at SF State. I love working with teachers who develop critical tools for this kind of work as well.  I especially appreciate the  incredible mock trial and role playing exercises that David Sherrin from Harvest Collegiate put together to help students analyze and interpret Abina’s testimony.  

 

5- Great. And what about the relating the study of the past to understand globalization? Any major connections?

Everything is global, right?  Just like everything is local.  We are much richer today for understanding the ways in which even the deep past was shaped by interaction between people, products, species, and ideas moving between societies often separated by vast distances.  What we’ve learned is that in analyzing any situation in the present, we have to develop a scope that includes factors both near and far as well as from the recent and distant past. But how can we move from knowing that this need exists to actually effectively conducting analysis of global as well as local factors?  That’s a difficult question, and one on which many historians are working. Obviously, we can’t answer it here.  But I do have one thought that has become clear to me over the past several years:  there’s no point in teaching content without teaching the underlying skills to work with and interpret it.  Telling students that the global past matters doesn’t do anything unless they know how to read or view sources and pull from them the evidence of global interaction.

 

6- What’s on the horizon for you and any final comments? 

I’m working on so many projects!  I have a book on teaching African history about to come out with Duke University Press, a volume I’m co-editing with Rebecca Shumway on slavery and its legacy in Ghana and the Diaspora, and a pet long-term project using comics, other forms of art, oral tradition, and pop-up museums to understand how Ghanaians study their own past.  But I’m also teaching, and being an administrator.  Most of all, though, I continue to try to think of interesting strategies to engage students with the past in ways that help them to build critical and creative skills they will need for their lives moving forward.

Thank you Trevor.  I look forward to future scholarship and collaboration,  and wish you a great 2017!

Italo Calvino, Technology, and the US DOE: 6 Moves for the Current Millennium

Happy New Year! I hope that 2016 is an enlightening and inspiring year for you.

I remember reading Italo Calvino’s   Six Memos for the Next Millennium at cafes and along Ipanema beach in ipanemaRio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Reading it in 2003 the millennium had already started and Calvino’s swansong was nearly two decades old.  But “Six Memos” resonated with me in a way that transcended Calvino’s focus on literacy criticism  and theory, “(the work was an )investigation into the literary values that he wished to bequeath to future generations.” In short, I felt the world and education profession had passed through a gateway.  What did we bring with us as a guide in the new era?

Calvino prepared a series of lectures in 1985. Five of them were planned in Italy. He intended to complete the sixth while in the United States. However, prior to his departure, Calvino died, his sixth lecture was unfinished. The title of the compilation indicating six memos was retained, although the book contains only five.

The topics/values which Calvino highlights  in his lecture series are:

  1. Lightness
  2. Quickness
  3. Exactitude
  4. Visibility
  5. Multiplicity
  6. Consistency (never finished)

Below is a rare interview with Calvino recorded just before his death and broadcast on BBC TV just after his death.

So, it is now 2016 and we are well into the new millennium. What is the current status of education in your world? How do you, your students, and your colleagues use technology as a tool for teaching and learning?And lastly, what can Calvino offer us as we frame education and ed technology in this millennium?

Calvino talks about the new novel and the need for change in the literary craft. I contend that the qualities Calvino identifies in Six Memos for the Next Millennium are useful and relevant guides for us in education.  A new craft for teaching and learning is needed so that when you see a classroom today, it should not be a replication of the 1980s or 1990s.  One of the key factors in education’s evolution is the ubiquity and potential of technology.

 

 Six Uses of Technology 

Education Week’s recent Spotlight “Leaders in Technology and Innovation” contained a range of insights and case studies regarding the implementation and current use of ed tech.  A point that stood out in the publication echoed adad-and-kid-barter-tech common sentiment among educators expressing the limits of technology in teaching and learning.  Taken from an evaluation of a 1:1 initiative in Charlotte, NC, the program noted that  “on average, students and teachers used the laptops for one lesson per day, often for ‘superficial’ academic purposes, with Internet browsing the primary form of use.”

This observation is a legitimate concern.  Such use is a limitation to education in this millennium. Certainly there must be more to do with technology. especially in a 1:1 setting.  But what else can be done?

To begin answering this question, I have returned to Calvino for inspiration.  Below you will find a use of ed tech matched with one of the qualities found in Six Memos for the Next Millennium.  Combined they represent changes in education that are facilitated by technology. With the start of the new year, there is no better time to try one, or more, with your students.

  1. Video Conference and Chat with Students Beyond the School (Lightness) “I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.”
    • Why do it? Collaboration, engaging with students on a global scale, and communication skills
    • Try this: http://tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/projects/facetofaith 
  2. Use Social Media for Formative Assessments (Quickness) “Quickness of style and thought means above all agility, mobility, and ease, all qualities that go with writing where it is natural to digress, to jump from one subject to another, to lose the thread a hundred times and find it again after a hundred more twists and turns.”
    • Why do it? Authentic setting, full class participation, learning beyond class time
    • Try this: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/frictionless-formative-assessment-social-media-paige-alfonzo
  3. Students Create a Portfolio (Exactitude) “To my mind exactitude means three things above all: (1) a well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question; (2) an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images;(3) a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination”
    • Why do it?  Used to collect, organize, reflect upon, and share student work – digital presence
    • Try this:   https://threering.com/     OR    https://sites.google.com/site/googlioproject/ 
  4. Creating Media (Visibility) “…the power of bringing visions into focus with our eyes shut, of bringing forth forms and colours from the lines of black letters on a white page, and in fact of thinking in terms of images.”
    • Why do it? Student generated information is part of this millennium.  Not just written papers…
    • Try thisInfographics, video, images, screencasts, podcasts… subscribe to this: http://www.educatorstechnology.com/ 
  5. Require Students to Apply Knowledge to Contemporary Issues (Multiplicity) “…the grand challenge for literature is to be capable of weaving together the various branches of knowledge, the various “codes” into a manifold and multifaceted vision of the world.”
    • Why do it? Taking informed action and/or using knowledge to impact a student’s worldview makes learning relevant.
    • Try this: http://www.c3teachers.org/taking-in4med-action-45-options-for-dimension-4/ 
  6. Modify/Develop Online Resources (Consistency) 
    • Why do it? Students engage with already created resources and contribute/edit the source with what they know.
    • Try this: Students can fact check, suggest modifications, and provide updates to existing information.  http://edtechteacher.org/my-product/fact-check-your-textbook/

Implementing any of these in your classroom will move the experiences of your students into the 21st century.  But this list of 6 is by no means the final word.  To explore more options, and an even greater vision, let’s finish with the US DOE’s recent 100 plus page “memo.”

 

Introducing the US DOE 2016 National Education Technology Plan

Give this document a read.  I am confident that it will inspire, inform, provide context and possibilities.  Moreover, the number of resources and models will surprise you.  Checkout the vision of the plan:

“The National Education Technology Plan is the flagship educational technology policy document for the United States. The 2016 Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, articulates a
vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible. While acknowledging the continuing need to provide greater equity of access to technology itself, the plan goes further to call upon all involved in American education to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology.”

For the sake of this blog, it is section 2 of the plan that is most relevant. It is titled,  “Teaching With Technology”  Goal: Educators will be supported by technology that connects them to people, data, content, resources, expertise, and learning experiences that can empower and inspire them to provide more effective teaching for all learners.

Start there as a very practical in-road to changing teaching and learning in your school using ed tech.  Even better -for inspiration and an overview of the section – start with the short video below .

What Now…

Let’s finish with this Calvino quote.  I love it because it reinforces the need for change and the new.  Indeed, the wheel of education does deserve to be reinvented.

“Whenever humanity seems coWriter Italo Calvino in a Cafendemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification. The images of lightness that I seek should not fade away like dreams dissolved by the realities of present and future…”

The heaviness of teacher centered and teacher directed learning anchors education to the previous millennium. How light will you become in 2016?

 

Mentoring Minds Makes Successful Students!

Growing up, I believed there were only two seasons – baseball season and the off-season.  Whether you lean towards Field of Dreams or the Natural, baseball and life were beautifully intertwined.  But it is never that simple, is it?


Currently, the months of May and June welcomes anther season that has become a different “American past time” related to education. Across the US, schools are presently engrossed in testing season. Instead of hot dogs and popcorn, this season is often marked by stress and anxiety.

For students, high stakes tests end of the year assessments correlate to grade advancement and GPA.  For parents, exam results dictate summer – and future – plans and their involvement.  For teachers, professional evaluations are directly connected to their students’ performances and, quite possibly, their salary levels. In short, testing season is a  very tangible reality!

MM2

 

Preparing for May and June begins at that the start of the school year – if not the summer before.  Discussions regarding what resources to use result in important educational decisions. I have found that relevant and impactful resources can be hard to come by.  When you discover a program that supports contemporary education it is important to share that resource far and wide.

Mentoring Minds is that resource! Take a look at their mission statement:

“Before choosing classroom resources, you need to be confident that they’re based on research and—most importantly—effective in the classroom. That’s why Mentoring Minds stays up to date on ever-changing standards and conducts extensive research on the alignment and efficacy of our products, ensuring that they’re scholastically MM1sound and of the highest quality. We’re the partner you need to stay ahead of the curve.”

I originally wrote about Mentoring Minds in  a  previous blog : http://cperrier.edublogs.org/2015/02/17/read-this-and-write-that-6-tools-that-engage-and-build-your-students-literacy/ emphasizing the potential of 21st century teaching and learning.

But there is more. Overall, Mentoring Mind’s resources are focused, detailed, and support a range of classroom settings and students.  In short, the resources represent my two favorite aspects of good education –  Explicit and Intentional teaching!  Here are my favorite resources from Mentoring Minds.

  1. Master Instructional Strategies:

The Master Instructional Strategies Flip Chart is an easy-to-use resource that offers hundreds of instructional strategies from the major instructional schools of thought

  1. Critical Thinking Resources:

Handy prompts help teachers integrate critical thinking into their lesson plans for all subjects and all grade levels.

  1. Literacy Resources:

Total Motivation Reading is a rigorous and comprehensive supplemental resource that integrates critical thinking and prepares Level 2 students to excel in English Language Arts. Designed from the ground up to address 100% of the Common Core Standards.

  1. Vocabulary Development Resources:

Each student edition for Math and ELA  incorporates vocabulary, problem solving, critical thinking, and journaling MM3activities to complement Common Core and any other programs.

  1. Professional Development- Differentiation:

Strategies and techniques will be shared to assist in personalizing instructional practices to ensure the success of diverse learners. Designing and implementing differentiated instruction can facilitate progress in ways that meet the needs of all learners.

  1. Professional Development – Response to Intervention:

Prevent Academic Failure Support students with learning and behavioral needs with the Response to Intervention (RTI) process. Prevent academic failure through early intervention, frequent progress monitoring, and increasingly intensive research-based instructional interventions for students in general education classrooms who continue to exhibit difficulty in learning.

  1. Parent Involvement:

Develop and implement specific strategies to increase parent involvement at school and at home. Hundreds of strategies to build powerful parent partnerships, prepare for parent-teacher meetings, communicate better with parents, and more.

I eagerly await a line of social studies and history resources. But until then, Mentoring Minds offer a range of resources that makes it, well, simple.

They make learning the only season!

Analyze Them: 5 Education Myths to Engage, Contemplate, and Dispel

I am torn on how to start this post.  One approach is to remind readers that the teaching profession is less an R & D field, and more of a Development and Research profession.  This sentiment was first introduced to me by George Mason University professor Dr. Gary Galluzzo during the course The Practice of Teaching  The D and R comment placed years of educational practice in a context that made a striking point.  That is, educators  are often attracted to an use a pedagogical trend before it is substantially researched. The key issue here is that education doesn’t have the time and structure to be an R and D field on the front lines. It would require a major strucutral change, that already exists is lab schools and is practiced in small scale action research. Change – societal, technological, professiona-  happens so quickly that a common outcome is that new instructional and assessment trends/practices remain in place without scrutiny, analysis, and reflection. In turn, they become part of the professional landscape despite their original claims being compromised.

An alternative opening to this post goes something like this.

The second music tape I bought was Paul Simon’s  1986 work Graceland. The last track on it is called “All Around the World orThe Myth of Fingerprints.”

“Somebody says, “What’s a better thing to do?”
Well, it’s not just me
And it’s not just you
This is all around the world”

 

Mythology exists in every profession.  Without investigation there is a risk of the myths becoming internalized among practitioners and transmitted as signature pedagogies.

Both beginnings take us to a recent discussion prompt posted on the NAFSA Linkedin discussion board. Written by an educational manager in Georgia, her question resurfaced a memory of mine that has lingered  for years.  It is a fabulous question, one which deserves more engagement by educators –

“What is the greatest myth in education?”

myth

 

 

 

 

Well, I don’t know if the list below touches on the greatest myth in education, but I think you will find an impressive list to choose from. As the school year comes to a close, this is a great time for professional reflection.  Is your county, school, department, or team promotingcrabs2 any of these myths as pedagogical fact or educational dogma? What are your personal beliefs?  How often do you stay informed on contemporary research in education?  How can you and your colleagues engage in this practice more often?

Those are a lot of questions, I know. But they are part of our professional practices and expectations. In order to help separate the crab meat from the crab (I am writing this along the Chesapeake Bay) you will find below some brief explanations and jumping points that I hope will provide a one way ticket out of mythology and into reality.

Enjoy!

 

1) Left and Right Brain:  People use it to self identify and demonstrate their ability to temet nosce (know thyself). But the obsession to categorize the world doesn’t hold up to scrutiny when it comes to the workings of our brain.   A 2012 article in Psychology Today  notes ” it’s become almost common knowledge that in most people the left brain is dominant for language. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is implicated more strongly in emotional processing and representing the mental states of others. However, the distinctions aren’t as clear cut as the myth makes out – for instance, the right hemisphere is involved in processing some aspects of language, such as intonation and emphasis… it’s important to remember that in healthy people the two brain hemispheres are well-connected…Neuroscientists working in this field today are interested in how this coordination occurs.”

 

left right brain

Fast forward to the 2013 Roeper Review article by M. Layne Kalbfleisch & Charles Gillmarten titled “Left Brain vs. Right Brain: Findings on Visual Spatial Capacities and the Functional Neurology of Giftedness”

The article utilizes the concept of neuromyths defined as “a misconception generated by a misunderstanding, a misreading, or a misquoting of facts scientifically established (by brain research) to make a case for use of brain research in education and other contexts.” The authors’ focus on visual spatial capacities build off of 2008 research by Milivojevic. The significant conclusion of this study was, “results provide no evidence for hemispheric dominance for mental rotation” (Milivojevic et al., 2008, p. 953).

Futhermore, this article argues “hemispheric cooperation has been shown to be significantly more efficient and accurate, if not essential, for the completion of tasks” and that “pattern recognition itself involves multiple strategies and multiple different brain activation patterns corresponding to said strategies that are influenced by development as well as participant decision making.”

Checkout the full article by Klabfleisch and Gillmarten linked above. And, movign forward, be sure to raise both eyebrows when you hear claims about brain activity and education that limits functions in one hemisphere only.

 

2) Multiple Intelligences are an Instructional Strategy or Learning Style: Howard Gardner held divine status during my teacher prep years in the mid- 1990’s.  His Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory had taken the education world by storm and continues to be part of instructional practices and learning theory. Check out the rise in the use of the term “multiple intelligences” as graphed by the app Printed Ink, “With the help of Google Books, Printed Ink will graph any words or phrases, in a variety of languages, to show how frequently they have appeared in books during the last 500 years. This search of human culture through millions of books takes place in only a moment…”

 

I remember clearly when I knew the cult of Gardner (not his fault) had gone wrong.  I was sitting in a full school professional development session and administrators had charged the staff to make lessons in our content areas that address each of the 7 MI.

  • Problem two: MI was framed as a learning style and we, teachers, were charge with  designing separate lessons or activities that address each MI.  Bucketing the intelligences into separate groups was/is a mistake…they are not learning styles.  Gardner writes in a 2013 editorial “First, the notion of  ”learning styles”’ is itself not coherent. Those who use this term do not define the criteria for a style, nor where styles come from, how they are recognized/assessed/exploited…If people want to talk about ‘an impulsive style’ or ‘a visual learner,’ that’s their prerogative. But they should recognize that these labels may be unhelpful, at best, and ill-conceived at worst…”

So, what are MI?

According to Gardner, all individuals possess each of these intelligences to some extent, although individuals will differ in the degree of skills and in the nature of their combination.  Gardner stresses that it is the interaction between the different intelligences that is fundamental to the workings of the mind and that in the normal course of events, the intelligences actually interact with, and build upon, one another.

The main messages arising from Gardner’s model are set out below.

  • We are all born with a unique mix of all eight intelligences.
  • Intelligences combine in complex ways.
  • There are many ways to be intelligent within each category.
  • Most people can develop each intelligence to an adequate level of competency.
  • Schools tend to focus mainly on two intelligences, those associated with academic intelligence, that is, linguistic and logical/mathematical.
  • The school curriculum should be better balanced in order to reflect a wider range of intelligences.

So, you shouldn’t be creating a lesson plan that, for example, is the Music Intelligence one for the unit. Some MI lesson plans are found here. “Judicious and effective use of M.I. in your teaching may involve pairing two intelligences or grouping three in a lesson.

 

3) The Word “Analyze” and its Suggestion of Higher Cognitive Thinking.:  Analyze is among one of the most widely used terms in education. We ask students to analyze writing, images, events, themselves etc. But what does analyze it actually mean?  Often it gets used simply as a verb to invoke higher cognitive skills (see Bloom below).  But it seems analyze can be used as a synonym for “explain”. What do you actually expect form students when you ask them to analyze? Is there anything in this clip that resembles “analysis”?

 

The Cartesian tradition of breaking down ideas into smaller segments is indeed a tribute the Enlightenment world view.  This approach to analysis has been popularized by edu-speak, but seems to fall short of the ultimate goal of analysis.

For example, it would make sense after asking someone to analyze the effects of globalization on the economic and social structures of central Africa, to approach the phenomenon by identifying sub-categories. Beginning an analysis by nation, but institutions, by defining globalization etc. But analysis involves at least three more functions that are central to the fidelity of the term

  1. Contextualizing: Students should be able to identify parameters (spatial, temporal etc) to focus/limit their analysis.
  2. Relationships: Students should be able to describe and evaluate the importance of the relationships in their analysis.
  3. Provide insight: Students must be able to add their voice in the analysis. This can be a conclusion or criticism.

One way to illustrate effective (or not effective) analysis is to have students listen to sports announcers who are color “analysts” for their sport.  Does the personality success in these functions? What do they do well.  In the end, it is important to specify the expectations of analysis.  Or as Descartes put it:

“Analysis shows the true way by means of which the thing in question was discovered methodically and as it were a priori, so that if the reader is willing to follow it and give sufficient attention to all points, he will make the thing his own and understand it just as perfectly as if he had discovered it for himself.”

 

4) Blooms’ Taxonomy is a Learning Measurement Ladder: Benjamin Bloom authored his ubiquitous taxonomy in 1956. Officially titled Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Bloom influenced K-12 education for decades especially around verb usage. In 2001

blooms-taxonomy-comparison

The myths of the taxonomy are twofold.

1. Students must progress from the bottom up. Not the case.  Anyone can engage with an idea, event, experience etc. at any level. Student’s do not progress up the ladder to enlightenment. In fact, targeting at a higher level usually engages students with lower level.  Bloom is more about expectations we have for students and not an educational/cognition elevator where students advance from floor to floor.

2. Just by using a verb suggested each domain, you are stimulating students’ learning at that level. The taxonomy is matched with verbs that facilitate learning experiences (an example is listed here).

Unfortuately, you get educational organizations, in this case Teachervision, that make misleading claims like this “Use verbs aligned to Bloom’s Taxonomy to create discussion questions and lesson plans that ensure your students’ thinking progresses to higher levels.” The belief/myth is that just by using the verb you are magically sent to a cognitive realm on Bloom’s taxonomy. Let’s try it out.

Sample: Compare and contrast these two photos (these verbs suggest Analysis level).

Answer: One picture is outside, one is inside.  One has a billboard, one doesn’t. Both have people in them.

Valid? Yes. Analysis? No.

So, it is imperative  that teachers ask students clear questions that have explicit dimensions required of student thought processes and outcomes (see Analyze above).  For example:

Compare and contrast the two photos. Include background knowledge, the context of each photo, and why they are being compared/contrasted. Lastly, what new knowledge did you learn, how did it help you understand history, and what has changed/remained the same today?

A much better question— Oh, and it could easily be used as an opening prompt/inquiry and need not wait to be used after students are “equipped” with the bottom levels  and have (supposedly) moved up Bloom.

 

5) “I have to say it for my students to learn it”: This sentiment is born out the pre-internet educational universe when teachers were the holders of most content knowledge. That paradigm is loooooonnnggg gone.  Sources of knowledge, are accessible anywhere and anywhen. But, identity is a powerful concept to challenge. The belief that, as a teacher, I have to say something for you to “learn” it doesn’t hold up. (In fact a deeper/larger question may be “Does there have to be teaching for there to be learning?”)

Regardless, the vision that knowledge gain is a one-way flow from Teacher —> Student is an anachronism.  Still, the myth (and maybe this is more of an insecurity or control aspect, not a unfounded belief) persists.

The burden of covering content comes from a perception of time and the role of teacher as the originator of content.  Let it go!  Let students engage with non-vocal sources of knowledge.  Accept the role of facilitator and not as oracle.

On any student list, every school year, the 150 + students all possess individual formulas for ways of knowing.

Three great reflective question for teachers to consider are:

  1. What are you doing to engage your students?
  2. What percentage of the class did you speak? Why was that too much/too little?
  3. What are your students’ learning networks (where do they get their information?)

 

 

So, it may be fitting to end this post on myths with another one. Sort of a myth within a myth.  The diagram above is the myth. Although it supports my last claim, it is a pop culture myth that looks authentic and comes equipped with an illusory, pseudo science, statistical halo.

The diagram  is known as the “Cone of Experience.” “Developed in 1946 by Edgar Dale. It provided an intuitive model of the concreteness of various audio-visual media. Dale included no numbers in his model and there was no research used to generate it. In fact, Dale warned his readers not to take the model too literally.”

For a full description, bounce here. And, lastly, for a big finish, see this Eddie Izzard skit that is similar to the non-researched message of the Cone of Experience!

Enjoy!

Publish and Prosper: Infographics, The Networked Classroom and Student Generated Knowledge in the Public Sphere

Greetings.  April proved to be a busy (good busy) month. I apologize for the delay in this post.

I delivered my presentation “Publish and Prosper: Tips on Promoting Student Generated Knowledge in the Public Sphere” on March 27th  during the inaugural  School Leadership Summit.  The mission of the conference was “to kick off an event that would perpetuate and would be a place for broader conversation amongst school leaders and the ed tech / blogger / social media crowd.” Stay on the lookout for future online conferences.

This post expands upon my conference presentation. A special thanks to my session moderator Jason Borgen, program director at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Check out these links.

So… on to this week’s post.

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Infographic: An umbrella term for illustrations and charts that instruct people, which otherwise would be difficult or impossible with only text. Infographics are used worldwide in every discipline from road maps and street signs to the many technical drawings in this encyclopedia.”  -PC Magazine

 

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a collaboratively  generated, student infographic is priceless.  Infographics, at their best, are research based student products synthesizing text, design and visuals– typically specialized maps, charts, themes, graphs, and illustrations – in one creative and specially designed media.  At their worst,  infographics are glorified collages or posters. What distinguishe(and  elevates) an infographic beyond these static items is technology’s impact on design, crowd sourcing, and the abiltiy to edit and update information. What’s more, their educational appeal has grown with the advent of “media literacy” and “information literacy” as 21st century skills related to college and career readiness and the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

  • They convey a lot of information using specific  language selection.
  • Useable with low language levels.
  • Visual and mathematical / statistical aspects can help to convey meaning.
  • They are much easier to read then dense text on a computer screen.
  • They lend themselves to be used across disciplines.
  • You can find infographics quickly and easily on almost any topic.
  • They develop multiple literacies and intelligences in students.
  • You can help students to become more critical of information sources.

I am arguing that infographics should be promoted as student generated media/knowledge that add to existing discussions,  can be effectively shared and modified, help achieve the demands of 21st century education, and promotes a culture of connectivism (see below).  When combined, these represent the culture of a “Networked Classroom.”

Two Infographics about infographics

  1)         From EVR: Informed Ingenuity   

 

2) From Huffington Post

 

Infographic Resources: Deciding which inforgraphic tool to use in your classroom is based (in my experience) on personal preference and school approval around privacy issues (do students have to register) and technology specs.  There are advantages to having students in a district use multiple, common (2-3) formats.  Here is a selection of infographic tools inspierd by the Daily Tekk’s 100 list.

  1.  Visual.ly: Visually is a one-stop shop for the creation of data visualizations and infographics
  2. Infogr.am: Create infographics in just a few minutes. No design skills needed.
  3. Easel.ly: Create and share visual ideas online.
  4. Piktochart: Our Mission is to simplify information and make it exciting
  5. Tagxedo: Turns words — famous speeches, news articles, slogans and themes, even your love letters — into a visually stunning word cloud.
  6. iCharts: Create great-looking charts in minutes with interactive and easy-to-share data.

These are a great start. But if you want to see some dynamic  samples on infographics done professionally, as well as links to more information on infographics, try these:

  • NY Times:  Focus on social studies and history infographics
  • Daily Infographic Every day we feature the best information design and data visualization from the internet.
  • Cool Infographic: highlights some of the best examples of data visualizations and infographics found in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet.
  • Information is Beautiful… see the TED video below. This collection is incredible!
  • Infographic a day: What is new is that infographics’ volume, frequency, and the richness of the media.

 

Infographics require students to access, arrange, evaluate, and create information.

What is Meant by the Public Sphere in Education?

The networked classroom encourages a culture of investigation, knowledge creation, connectivism, trust, and personalized learning.  Teachers utilize their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and students can identify and tap into their own Student Learning Networks (SLN). Notice in the video below the comment that “His teacher rarely lectures. “I recognize there is use for lecture and that there are degrees of lecture substance and purpose.  However, it is clear that the style argued against is the “drill and kill” teacher centered, sage-on-stage style which some teachers erroneously claim will be the only style used in higher education.

Once your students are collaborating with peers beyond your classroom, teachers can empower their 21stcentury classroom by placing student work in

Who is your students’ audience? Where do they get feedback?

the public sphere.What is meant by the “public sphere.”  Simply put, the public sphere is anything beyond the teacher’s eyes only.  The idea of students writing a paper for a teacher’s eyes only is an anachronism. Placing student in the public sphere is easy to do with social media. One suggestion is to do this in a secure course in your school’s LMS. Moreover, students accept greater responsibility and are more invested in their work. Consider the list below a continuum moving from “narrow” to “broad” public spheres. Next to each dimension are a few suggested ways student work can interact beyond teacher-eyes-only models.

a) …classroom:  gallery walks, class discussion of student work.

b) …department:  peer editing from other sections, presenting to other classes, discipline website highlighting student work

c) …school: display tables at lunch, displays in hallways, newspapers, library archives,  part of parent nights

d) … community: student work in civic buildings, displays, local newspapers,

e) … nation: engage in projects like National History Day, collaborate with schools, and colleges, engage in contests

f) … international: establish sister schools, link with non-profits, video conferencing

g)… cyber space: present at online conferences, post work on websites, establish a learnist board, comment on blogs, utilize web 2.0 tools.

Who is calling for students to generate knowledge and publish it for public consumption? In NEW DIRECTIONS IN SOCIAL EDUCATION RESEARCH: The Influence of Technology and Globalization on the Lives of Students  it is argued  that “As pressures mount for society to equip today’s youth with both the global and digital understandings necessary to confront the challenges of the 21st century, a more thorough analysis must be undertaken to examine the role of technology on student learning (Peters, 2009).”  Likewise, “youth are active participants, producers, and distributors of new media. The digital production of youth includes over 38% of designing personal websites, 23% constructing online videos and slideshows, and 8%launching digital causes campaigns….The internet has allowed youth new opportunities in fostering global awareness of civic, humanitarian, political, economic, and environmental causes (Maguth p.3).

The arrow chart (above) frames the public sphere in spatial terms. An0ther model (below) emphasizes the level of student engagement and teacher management.  The best approach to teaching and learning will draw from both spatial dimensions and personal interaction.

 

Student work in the public sphere  can manifest in a variety of forms. Overall, this is a very exciting part of contemporary education that should be part of any collaborative classroom in the 21st century. The infographic is part of this educational model.

 

Rubrics:

The popularity of Infographics have spurred a variety of rubrics for teachers to utilize.  My favorite are here:

If you find one that you think is just as good or better, let me know.

Synthesis – Connectivism and Media Literacy

At least two epistemologies drive networked classrooms to use  infographics as the format for student generated knowledge to be shared in the public sphere.  These two ideas, Connectivism and Media Literacy,join with other learning theories (constructivism, behaviorism) and competencies (college, career, civic etc.) in the world if contemporary teaching and learning.  Both are described below.

Live long. Publish and Prosper.

According to professor  George Siemens, “connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired and the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. Also critical is the ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday” (Siemens, 2005).

 

Center for Media Literacy: Media Literacy is a 21st century approach to education. It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages (information) in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.

 

 

 

 

A Mythed Opportunity: U.S. Isolationism 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 etc.

 

C. Vann Woodward’s sentiment “America is an innocent nation in a wicked world able to obtain freely and innocently that which other

Professor Woodward says thinks that make me go Hmmm.... click here

nations sought by the sword” is one of those lines I had to re-read over and over to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind.  Happy with my reading comprehension I thought about Woodward’s sentiment and the complex connections among national identity, myth, history education, and foreign policy. Combine that with free/open educational resources and you get a nexus where Benedict Anderson meets Khan Academy meets Howard Gardner. That is some imagined community.

Gardner wrote “Over time and cultures, the most robust and most effective form of communication is the creation of a powerful narrative.” Applied to American Foreign Policy,  the traditional standard narrative establishes a myth of isolationism  in which the Spanish-American War of 1898 followed by the  little known or discussed Philippine-American Warwas an imperial aberration. Professor Hilde Restad in the article “Old Paradigms in History Die Hard in Political Science: US Foreign Policy and American Exceptionalism” (by the way this is from the inaugural issue of the new journal American Political Thought, and is available online for free for about 3 more weeks?) notes  “isolationism  (and its present colloquialism ‘aloofness’ means essentially keeping the world at a distance and tending to one’s own business, whereas internationalism means being actively engaged in world affairs.”  This myth is perpetuated by high school History courses, state standards, textbooks, testing agencies, the College Board, and International Baccalaureate establishing a simplified binary of us/them and  isolationism/interventionism that is not indicative of 21st century education expectations, international realities, or contemporary trends in historical research.

Restad continues, “contemporary historians do not think early US foreign policy was isolationist at all… it constitutes the old paradigm among historians that speak to a certain discourse on US identity…They rely on outdated assumptions and do not explain US Foreign policy traditions very well…Today, however, historians of US foreign relations reject the term “isolationsim” as a valid description for early American Foreign Policy…the foreign policy dichotomy is outdated  and incorrect…”  A sample of recent scholarship supporting Restad and challenging the isolationism myth includes:

 

The evidence continues. In America’s Backyard: The United States & Latin America from the Monroe Doctrine to the War on Terror Grace Livingston’s survey’s United States’ “180 years of intervention” in Latin America.  Her first chapter identifies U.S. interwar political, military, and economic intervention in the Dominican Republic (1916-1924), Guatemala (1920), Honduras (1919, 1924, 1925), and Panama (1921, 1925).

Two more examples, Mary Renda’s 2001 work, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940 and Michel Gobat’s 2005 Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua under U.S. Imperial Rule are emblematic of research throughout Latin America. Both authors summarize U.S. encounters under an imperial dynamic touted since the end of the Cold War. Both texts’ openings are notably explicit in regard to U.S. intervention. Renda writes: “The United States invaded Haiti in July 1915 and subsequently held the second oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere under military occupation for nineteen years. While in Haiti, marines installed a puppet president, dissolved the legislature at gunpoint, denied freedom of speech, and forced a new constitution on the Caribbean nation- one more favorable to foreign investment.” 

Gobet follows suit in his summation of U.S. involvement in Nicaragua:

“The occupation of 1912-1933 represented the greatest U.S. effort to turn Nicaragua into ‘a little United States’. (The occupation) profoundly destabilized Nicaragua. Most notably, it produced…protracted civil war…led to the disruptive U.S. takeover of Nicaragua’s finances under the aegis of dollar diplomacy… subverted the existing order by facilitating the dramatic spread of U.S. Protestant missionary activity…enabled a U.S. established military institution to become the most powerful political force …that helped produce Central America’s lengthiest dictatorship, the Somoza dynasty of 1936-1979.

You can imagine my level of  excitement around the possibility of finding a high school textbook that refuted the isolation myth when I read this History News Network post about the release of a new open source textbook:

“A group of thirty historians put together a comprehensive US survey textbook that is COMPLETELY FREE for students to read online. Students who don’t want to read 500 pages online can buy the paper copy at their college bookstore-just like any other textbook. Volume 2 (after 1865) has been published and the reviews on this book have been very strong, and there are hundreds of maps and images-something that is often missing from value textbooks. The book also does a superior job of presenting US history in a global context. It’s real easy to read online-lots of viewing options and students can take notes and view study guides. As adjuncts, we are uniquely qualified to know what our students are going through when purchasing textbooks:) And we are also unique in that we depend upon maintaining the goodwill of students–imagine the kind of goodwill this would create? I love to hear about other great innovations that will help us get books (websites are great but I think there is no substitute for books) into the hands of students without breaking their budgets. Here is the link to the book. It’s generated some great press but given the fact that it is free means there will be no book reps coming to your office-so please spread the word as I am doing.”

The textbook is viewable here.  My hope was quickly dashed when I did a word search for “isolationism” which produced these all too familiar mythological sentiments:

  • “symbolized the end of American isolationism and prompted a similar response.”
  • “However, two decades of isolationism kept US military spending…”
  • “…the United States transitioned from isolationism to intervention.”
  • “…policy that was similar to the isolationism of earlier periods in US “

Ugghhh. The Flatworld Knowledge textbook is a disappointment on this subject and represents  a missed opportunity to de mystify and

America's Backyard... doesn't sound isolationist. Click here for an animated map

de-mythologize US History.  The question is why? Why did the authors confront this myth?  What are your comments?  I will give it a shot below:

The implications of “fashioning new historical narratives that expand beyond the scope of the nation” ultimately challenge the long standing tradition of national historical narratives. Moreover, Historian Ian Tyrrell, sees this process as an advantage to “conceptualizing American history better.”  The scholarship cited here questions the long standing tradition of U.S. isolationism between World War I and World War II.  Each cite distinct, overt, intentional, long-term American intervention in nation-states between 1918 and 1941. Yet, the myth of American isolationism remains intact, part of the American consciousness and official narrative.

 

Continued use of American isolationism implies a set of qualifications regarding U.S. history.

1)      Isolationism refers only to American affairs in military actions in Europe.

2)      Isolationism is indicative of reluctant American interventionism.

Taken together, qualified “American isolationism” is a constructed concept limited by a bounded geo-political structure. It casts the U.S. in a historical context  of exceptionalism resistant to the lure of intervention practiced by other nation-states. Internationalizing U.S. historical memory effectively dispels any claims to U.S. interwar isolationism as a viable concept.  Whether defined as militaristic, political, economic, or cultural, U.S. intervention was the norm, not the exception in the 1920’s and 1930’s. A paradigm change has profound impact on knowledge, memory, and understanding. To these ends, the transnational challenge ask us to rethink national dogma found in historical narratives. The emerging clarity affecting national identity positions nations to better engage themselves and the world.

Simply put, the US has never been isolationist.  Why would it be? Celebrating Woodward’s sentiment in our education system limits students’ knowledge and fails to prepare them for the world.  Educators who end  this myth are better preparing their students and should be recognized, supported, and celebrated for their efforts.

 

 

 

Rethinking that Loveless Feeling: Embracing CCSS Ruptures in Instruction and Outcomes

 

This past February the Brookings Institution released The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education. Authored by Senior

Loveless, a "Top Gun" among the Common Core State Standards? Click to find out!

Fellow, Tom Loveless, the report is comprised of three parts

  1. Predicting the Effect of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on Student Achievement
  2. Measuring Achievement Gaps on NAEP
  3. Misinterpreting International Test Scores

For this post, I will only focus on Loveless’ first section which addresses and predicts the potential educational impact of the CCSS. Loveless paints a dreary picture of the CCSS, a project that has been embraced by 46 states and the District of Columbia. He states “Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing CCSS… the study foresees little or no impact on student learning. The conclusion is based on analyzing states’ past experiences with standards and examining several years of scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)”

Education Week responded with blazing guns with an article titled “Brookings Report Based On Flawed Research.” Loveless’  research and conclusion was also questioned by Kathleen Magee of the Fordham Institute. She asserted:

“contrary to the picture Loveless paints, there is some evidence that the right combination of clear and rigorous standards, thoughtful implementation, and accountability can drive achievement. In Massachusetts—a state that has had among the nation’s most rigorous standards in place for more than a decade and that has aligned its entire education system around implementation of those standards—great standards seem to jump started large gains in achievement for all students.”

What will change? To what extent? What is real in virtual learning? How many literacies are there?

Educational dilemma cum laude: What will change? To what extent? What is real in virtual learning? How many literacies are there?

Faulty research (if those claims are valid), however, is not where I took issue with the Brown Report. I noted that Loveless’ critique missed the mark on two important targets; his  misrepresentation of outcomes and silence around instruction expected by CCSS.

Loveless writes that the CCSS  “spells out what students should learn in mathematics and English-language arts from kindergarten to the end of high school.”  This is deceiving, suggesting lock step, mindless, non-differentiated, uniformity. This conceptualization is opposed to the central ethos of the CCSS; student centered learning, collaboration, rigor,innovation, and flexibility. Rather, the “spelling out” Loveless suggests is better understood as attainable, relevant, standards for schools  to target and facilitate students to attain and surpass. Skill mastery can be demonstrated in a variety of ways preparing students for college or a career, or both. The CCSS, implemented ineffectively, or under the unenthusiastic  rhetoric/limited presentation of the Brown Report, does create  a Munch-Floyd-Loveless educational dystopia (pictured on left…click to see more).  Implemented with vigor, systemically, and with clarity, schools will effectively  embrace a paradigm change in education that resonates with 21st century learning models.  Understanding CCSS outcomes in this light is different from the past, because society is different.  In essence, this is education’s (delayed) response to globalization. The response is a sincere effort to address ans understand global realities.

The other element not considered in the Brown report’s conclusions, despite its centrality to CCSS, is  instructional strategy. Loveless’  silence around  instructional strategies may stem from the qualitative nature of this research element.  Indeed, metrics can be especially misleading when used to represent learning, development, transfer, utility, and mastery. Qualitative evidence, and ambiguity around definitions of “success” in education, pose significant challenges for this type research. Nevertheless, for a reliable prediction presented under the banner of legitimate research, Loveless needed to consider the instructional expectations and changes of CCSS.    Primarily, the use of  technology is a game changer.  The accessibility, types, and use of technology wasn’t considered in the report. Instead Loveless relied heavily on NAEP scores from 2000-2007.

Specifically, the CCSS’s call for greater use of student developed arguments, knowledge, and synthesis around the  use of

Students are empowered though exposure to, arguments about, and analysis of historical theory. How can history be fully understood without it?

non-fiction (without eliminating fiction from curriculum) is exciting. Education Week’s recent article,“Districts Gear Up for Shift to Informational Texts”,  explains,  “often our nod to nonfiction is the autobiography or true story version of something. But there’s a real gap in other kinds of nonfiction (which) rely on different kinds of strategies and a lot more explicit teaching.” Note the references to change in outcome and instruction. The article continues, arguing that the new emphasis on nonfiction  and informational sources “bolsters them (students) for work and higher education by building foundational knowledge, vocabulary, and literacy strategies.”

Among the texts mentioned in the article which fit the bill for “informational sources” are social commentaries harkening back to the era of muckraking  (Nicked and Dimed, Fast Food Nation), content journals, essays, speeches, and visual data models.  I would include documentaries blogs, news reports, and op-ed pieces to that list and believe that RSS aggregators are a great tool to use for informational sources (more on that in a future post).

When applied to social studies and history education, an emphasis on non-fiction, implies an emphasis on historical thinking skills. This is not limited to the use of primary sources.  I interpret the CCSS non-fiction move as a call

to use more secondary sources related to history. To do so reinforces the constructive nature of history as an “argument about the past.” Specifically I envision the change in social studies/history to include works about:

  • historical theory and models
  • philosophy of history
  • Varied interpretations and perspectives about the past
  • Essays, journals, and  listservs

A great stating point to for teachers to stay current in these sources is to sign up for one, some, many, all of the listservs offered byH-Net’s discussion networks , a social studies paradise formed by and for  “an international consortium of scholars and teachers. H-Net creates and coordinates Internet networks with the common objective of advancing teaching and research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. H-Net is committed to pioneering the use of new communication technology to facilitate the free exchange of academic ideas and scholarly resources.” In the same venue is George Mason’s History News Network which includes daily articles, blogs, reviews, and an area for educators teaching grades 3-6 and 9-12 (why the gap in grades?).  Together, H-Net and HNN are indicative of how 21st century history and social studies educators should be dialed in to their fields. In turn, this information flow impacts the outcomes and instructional strategies expected by CCSS.

M.I.T. historian Bruce Mazlish describes “rupture” in an historical sense as “a major cut in the continuity of the past. Against the view of the human past as marked by continuity, ruptures mark abrupt change.  Ruptures, when identified as a break in historical continuity, become part of our mental model of the past.  In turn, globalization has “always” been around.  Human rights become a timeless concept that allows us to pass judgement on different societies and people. Applied to contemporary education, I have heard people openly and frequently comment,  “we have been doing what CCSS is requiring for years” or “we are already doing this in our schools.”  Well, maybe that is the case.  But repeated too often and this stance/belief limits and inhibits the potential, newness, uniqueness, and innovation that is central to CCSS  rhetoric. What’s more, an “already done” framework, when used too much, dismisses a something new under the sun moment relegating CCSS to the class of empty policy, jargon, and word-smithing around education. This ultimately interprets the CCSS as veiled continuity in educational practice and not a rupture with the past.  Where you, your school, district, and your organization stands ultimately impacts CCSS implementation, teaching, and learning. Embracing a rupture-esque mentality is challenging, difficult, rewarding, and brings back that loving feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Globalizing America’s Schools: Principles and Theory for Administrators

Happy belated 2012!  My hiatus since October, due to a job change and relocation to the Washington D.C. area, is now officially over.  I plan to be in top form, posting weekly, and taking The Global, History Educator to new levels.

The catalyst for my return was last week’s Global Symposium hosted by The International Research & Exchanges Board  (IREX), “an international nonprofit organization providing thought leadership and innovative programs to promote positive lasting change globally” in Washington D.C.’s L’Enfant Plaza Hotel.  This event celebrated the Teachers for Global Classrooms program; applications for next year are due March 12th! The Symposium brought together IREX’s cohort of global high school educators (over 60!), their administrators, organizations dedicated to global education (like Primary Source, iEARN,  and the Asia Society).  I found the symposium to be filled with positive energy and possibilities- two hallmarks of a successful educational program.

Click here for Tony Jackson's 15 minute speech "Global Competence and its Significance to American Schools"

It is interesting to note that “global education” does carry a range of interpretations and definitions.  What comes to mind when you think of or speak about  Global Education? Is it a flexible concept or set idea?

 

There are some core theoretical  tenets, however, which drive practice, application and policies around global education.  I had the opportunity to present my understanding of these core ideas to roughly 40 school administrators at the IREX symposium.  My segment was followed by an interactive session facilitated by Ms. Julia de la Torre of Primary Source. Together, our session “Principles for Globalizing Schools: From Mission to Practice” was designed to give school administrators  an overview of key principles in global and to enhance their school’s level of global education.

You can view my Global Symposium presentation Power Point with audio on each slide at the link below:

Lessons and Reflections in Global EducationEDUBLOG

If you have any questions or comments  about my presentation, please let me know. I look forward to them and find discussions around this topic to be, well, fun.

After my introduction, administrators were asked to draw what a student engaged in global education would look like. Three of their collaborative pieces are below. They can be a inroad for broader discussions. Some questions that came to mind around these images were: What do they have in common? What are they missing? What do they value? How do the creators understand global education? What would you change, add? Can you list values, skills, or literacies from these images; are they valuable to contemporary education?

“The conclusion:” IREX reported,  “global education spans disciplines, demonstrates 21st century student competence, and is a necessary aspect of U.S. core curricula. “I used to think about global education in a passive way,” an administrator noted following the Symposium, “but now I realize that we need to actively engage our students in international thought.”

Well it is good to be back.  Until next time, see you around the globe.

Global Student 1

Global Student 2

 

Global Student 3

History (does not) repeat(s) itself

I think many of us have heard this statement before, “History repeats itself”,  used as a causal explanation, as a set up for some form of comparison, or to legitimize futurists’ predictions.  This tidbit of conventional wisdom is excusable when uttered by non-history educators. When promoted in a history classroom, however, claims of historical repetition establishes a paradigm defined by inevitability, oversimplification, cycloptic perspectives, and limited agency.  Granted, we all use

Is that you my dear?

mental frameworks and imaginings to categorize the world and engage the past. I am reminded of the ill-fated patient with Korsakoff Syndrome  in   Oliver  Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat  forced to constantly recreate an understandable past in order to exist in the present.  But reliance on a schema of historical re-occurrence limits analytical, nuanced, and contextual understanding of the past.

At its core, history is the narration of change over time.  I recall a professor of mine demystifying the work of Michel Foucault with a metacognitive strategy usable with almost any historical work. To paraphrase professor Tim Brownat Northeastern University, understanding the genealogy of an idea involves identifying its manifestation in the past, defining its existence at a latter date and then explaining how those changes happened.  This approach helps understand and explore historical explanation. Moreover being able to recognize, describe, and analyze “change over time” is an ability promoted by multiple organizations devoted to History Thinking Skills in history education.  Three of those organizations are highlighted below:

  • Historical Thinking Project : “Students sometimes misunderstand history as a list of events. Once they start to understand history as a complex mix of continuity and change, they reach a fundamentally different sense of the past.”
  • The College Board: “Historical thinking involves the ability to recognize, analyze and evaluate the dynamics of historical continuity and change over periods of time of varying lengths, as well as relating these patterns to larger historical processes or themes.”
  • American Historical Association: “Students readily acknowledge that we employ and struggle with technologies unavailable to our forebears, that we live by different laws, and that we enjoy different cultural pursuits. Moreover, students also note that some aspects of life remain the same across time… Continuity thus comprises an integral part of the idea of change over time.

Watch this! I'll be wrapped around your finger...

In his book Thinking Historically: Educating Students for the 21st Centuryprofessor Stephane Levesque argues “If history is, by definition, concerned with the study of historical change, it is reasonable to assume that continuity and change should be concepts of crucial consideration in school history.”  There are a multitude of ways to teach this historical thinking skill.  I prefer using primary source visuals.  To this end, I consider the “Digital Vaults”online tool, created by the National Archives in Washington D.C., to be a fantastic, effective way to engage students with change over time (and use technology,  literacy skills, and student generated knowledge). With minimal practice, students and teachers can become proficient with the Digital Vaults application.     Among its features, students can create posters and films to present their “change over time” content and material. I created one of each as instructional models and samples of learning tools. Check them out!

Combined with the Historical Thinking Project’s Continuity and Change worksheet (found under ‘resources’), these tools are great additions to a teacher’s repertoire and should become an integral part of students’ learning about the past. Building off of what Mark Twain may have said, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme”, students can better provide the “reasons” for continuity and change. This fosters critical thinking skills and a paradigm of history that is a complex, nuanced, and interpretive process about unique events in the past.

We will never forget what… happened to why?

The differences between engaging the past as either “heritage” or “history” crystallized earlier this month around the 10thyear anniversary of 9-11. As expected, there were numerous events  and symbols memorializing, a process central to heritage studies,  “what happened” that day.  Arguably the most prominent commemoration happened during the NFL

Memorializing 9-11: a synthesis of Hollywood, NFL, and Nationalism

Sunday night pre-game ceremony between the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys. This included a brief homage by actor Robert DeNiro  opening  the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.  DeNiro, in his speech, noted a pledge by the NFL and Americans  “to never forget”  emphasizing the importance, meaning, and value of marking an historical event part of national memory.

In conjunction with 9-11 memorializing, a variety of institutions shared lesson plans and resources for teachers to use with their students, typically in history and social studies classes.  These tools impact what was to be remembered, shaping  narrative, memory, and meaning, under the auspices of “history” not as “heritage”. Simply put, what is emphasized in curriculum resources highlight content and  a process of how students should engage knowledge about the past.  Let’s look at four of these 9-11 sources, specifically around how they engage a fundamental historical thinking skill, “causation” – why something happened.

 

History.com: The resources, titled “9/11 Attacks – 102 Minutes That Changed America”,  include  interactive technology , photo galleries, audio casts, and documentary videos about personal reflections, heroes, and the construction of the 9-11 memorial.

The accompanying two page curriculum study guide  is designed to help sort out the impressive resources above. Most noteworthy are the series of questions and activities. Despite a warning to teachers regarding the use of their material and the maturity of their students, there are no questions exploring “why” or “causation”. Instead, History.com notes that their material “fulfills several

guidelines outlined by the National Council for History Education including: (1) Values,Beliefs, Political Ideas and Institutions; (2)Conflict and Cooperation; and (3) Patterns of Social and Political Interaction. Considering the centrality of establishing “cause” in history course, it absence it these tools is a disappointing silence.

 

Choices Series from Brown University:  “Choices Program uses a problem-based approach to make complex international issues accessible and meaningful for students of diverse abilities and learning styles.” Their 9-11 material focuses on a two day oral history project that seeks to:

  • Explore the human dimension of the September 11 attacks by conducting an interview.
  • Consider the benefits and limitations of using oral history to learn about the past.
  • Assess their own views on September 11.

The work sheet has no questions related to causation or implied conversations about “why”. Interviews ask their sources questions about memories an demotions related to that day. Unfortunately, like History.com, Choices choose the heritage route as well. A more apt title for this project is “Reflections”.


9-11 National Memorial:   Under the FAQ of this site, is the question “Why did the terrorists attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? ” Causation is presented as a neat ,simple explanation and historical agency is one sided in the memorial’s explanation: “Al Qaeda hoped that, by attacking these symbols of American power, they would promote widespread fear throughout the country and severely weaken the United States’ standing in the world community, ultimately supporting their political and religious goals in the Middle East and Muslim World.”

This answer carries no citation, lacks complexity, and entertains no other causal explanation. It fails as a historical explanation but fits the needs of a national heritage.

The memorial’s New York lesson plans, categorized under four headings, Historical Impact, Community & Conflict, Heroes & Service, Memory & Memorialization, do not address causation.

Foreign Policy Research Institute: The Philadelphia based think-tank offered videos and lecture notes for the 10th year anniversary under the title: “What Students Need to Know about 9/11: Ten Years Later”

Moreover, the FPRI maintain a large library of resources accumulated over the decade.   The programming done on September 8th, 2011 offers the most balanced explanation of causation around 9-11 and explores historical roots. In one section, FPRI Senior Fellow Edward A. Turzanski  claims, “The American nation was, and still is, not rallied to action with a clear explanation of who the Islamists really are and why the American culture is better than theirs… In somewhat typical American fashion, the terribly messy work of clarifying ideas and redressing deficiencies in strategy has instead led to the creation of large, expensive structures”

Unfortunately, FPRI has produced no lesson plans around the recent program, but has some dated from previous years. One lesson plan from 2005, presents this goal:

Objectives: Students will be able to trace the events leading up to 9-11.

This is a starting point and has potential to flesh out varying narratives, perspectives, and explanations addressing “why” 9-11 happened.

Secondary Education and 9-11:

I am interested in how and when  high school history textbooks explain the causes of 9-11.  I feel the official historical narrative isn’t complete and am not sure when it will be. EdWeek noted in an August 2011 article  that “fewer than half the states explicitly identify the 9/11 attacks in their high school standards for social studies.” The ones that do emphasize what happened , the U.S. response, and how the attacks affected U.S. domestic society.  But where is the “why” question?

High school schools students are expected to identify causes for major events in U.S. history.  The Civil War, Great Depression, World War II, etc, all carry expectations of student knowledge around cause. Separating this aspect of 9-11 will cement it in heritage studies.   One approach would be to explore global explanations of 9-11. This is a pedagogical move beyond the heritage paradigm. DeNiro was clear to point  out that the victims of 9-11 came from other nations; 9-11 is a global not a national event.

Engaging 9-11 as an historical event has recently places 9-11 a “book end” in historical thinking. Attempts at eriodization places the Berlin Wall’s fall (11-9) and 9-11 as the temporal framework for the post Cold War-U.S. Hegemony era. Another

Orlando Lagos won the 1973 World Press photo award for his iconic shot of Salvador Allende moments before his death.

outcome of exploring 9-11 as an historical event frequently takes students and educators to Chile and the overthrow of Salvador Allende by a U.S. supported General Pinochet.  The “Original 9-11” as it as become to be called, broadens student understanding of international relations and its connection to how we understand the past.

Historian Richard Overy reminds us that history “at its best is critical, exciting, thought-provoking, frustratingly ambiguous and uncertain. It is the reflective element of the collective mind. If history becomes just heritage studies, the collective intelligence will be all the poorer.”   Causation around 9-11 needs to be explored not as a balance to memorialization, but as complement to our, and our students’, understanding.  I take it that the information here will still be useful to teachers who will engage students with this topic later in the school year.

History is not heritage.  Both engage our memories and conceptualization of the past, but with two different goals in mind. The resources for 9-11’s 10th anniversary largely fulfill a need for memorialization.  We will never forget what happened. But do we have the resolve to investigate “why”?