Sunday, December 14, 2008

What the Heck?

What in the heck are these kids doing? If you know put your answer in a comment. I posted this to my students' blog and got some hilarious responses!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

High Level Uses For Web 2.0 Tools

Every once in a while I come upon a use for Web 2.0 tools that make me go "wow". Here are some I've collected so far. This blog is written by Harriett Tubman and this one is written by someone who lived through the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Students wrote blogs as space tourists. Here's Diary of Anne Fairweather, a fictitious convict. Here is a ning (social networking site) done by people who were involved in the Civil Right Movement and people who were at the Continental Congress. My students did podcasts as passengers and crew of the Titanic, you can listen to them here.

Kevin has done this project and says on his website: These sixth grade students have been reading two books -- The Lightning Thief and a graphic novel version of The Odyssey -- and in order to understand the role that the heroic journey plays in both books, they are creating their own imaginary journeys, using Google Maps.We hope you enjoy this project!

These projects, IMHO, raise the bar for critical thinking, synthesis, analysis, and evaluation.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I've seen some neat things done with Glogster using primary sources. This gal has done some neat "pages" on Oskar Schnidler and Itsak Stern. Check them out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Image Detective

Here's another site that struck my fancy, you know me I love old photos. Check out Kevin Jarrett's blog and read all about it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Makes Math Look Easy!

Thought you math guys out there would enjoy this simple problem solving exercise.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Suitcases From A State Hospital Attic

If you are a reader here's a book I'm getting ready to buy that sounds really intriguing-- The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney

From Publishers Weekly: When New York's 120-plus-year-old mental institution Willard State Hospital was closed down in 1995, New York Museum curator Craig Williams found a forgotten attic filled with suitcases belonging to former inmates. He informed Penney, co-editor of The Snail's Pace Review and a leading advocate of patients rights, who recognized the opportunity to salvage the memory of these institutionalized lives. She invited Stastny, a psychiatrist and documentary filmmaker, to help her curate an exhibit on the find and write this book, which they dedicate to "the Willard suitcase owners, and to all others who have lived and died in mental institutions." What follows are profiles of 10 individual patients whose suitcase contents proved intriguing (there were 427 bags total), referencing their institutional record-including histories and session notes-as well as some on-the-ground research. A typical example is Ethel Smalls, who likely suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her husband's abuse; misdiagnosed and institutionalized against her will, she lived at Willard until her death in 1973. While the individual stories are necessarily sketchy, the cumulative effect is a powerful indictment of healthcare for the mentally ill. 25 color and 63 b&w photographs.Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

There is a traveling exhibit that mirrors the findings of the book and they have a neat website. I'm a big fan of using primary sources in the classroom, I wonder if this may be insightful for high schoolers. Let me know if you read it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mnemograph Diary Day 1

I decided to have the sixth graders do a comprehensive timeline on Titanic history using Mnemograph. There are 16 of them and they are working without a net. My co-teacher and I are giving them no help. I gave them a piece of paper with a tiny message in the middle

After they read the assignment I asked if there were any questions. There were a few which, of course, I wouldn't answer. Sam, a member of his school's student council seemed to be an expert on Robert's Rules of Order and set out to elect a leader. Carolina won a majority of the votes, the count taken by Sam with all heads down on tables. She immediately took charge, which for Carolina wasn't hard. All the kids gathered around the chalk board and started throwing out ideas. They decided to break the work up into sections which included The Building of the Titanic, The Voyage, The Sinking, The Rescue, The Inquiries, The Salvage, etc.

Ben took it upon himself to figure out Mnemograph, which he did with great interest. He called me over to see that the program had the capability to mesh Wikipedia with our timeline. My comment? "Waaaay too much information!!" Sam and Quinton are in charge of graphics and Jason is editor. Wonder if that is a good choice since Jason is not one our strongest spellers!

It's fun watching them get organized (which they did) and it's hard keeping my mouth shut (which I almost did). When they are finished the timeline may be posted on the Mnemograph site and will find a prominent place on our project website, Titanic in the Classroom.

I blogged about the timeline on our student blog, A Really Differentplace, and the first response from Chloe mentioned that she had never done a project in school that was not teacher directed and organized! That was a reminder to me because I've taught gifted kids for 25 years!! Note to self--step back.

Another WOW! Digital Vault

Just found out about Digital Vault a wonderful new offering by The National Archives. You can read all about it at Glenn Weibe's blog.

Monday, April 7, 2008

HSI Historical Scene Investigation

I tend to blog about stuff that makes me say "WOW". HSI:Historical Scene Invesigation looks like it has a lot to offer and also has potential to grow into a really usuable site. Check it out!

From the site:
The Historical Scene Investigation Project (HSI) was designed for social studies teachers who need a strong pedagogical mechanism for bringing primary sources into their classroom. With the advent and accessibility of the internet, many libraries, universities and government agencies are housing their historical documents online. Simultaneously, there has been a push in K-12 history education to give students experiences that more closely resemble the work of a real historian. The National Center for History in the Schools (NCHS) provides standards challenging teachers to design experiences in which students:

  • to raise questions and to marshal solid evidence in support of their answers

  • to go beyond the facts presented in their textbooks and examine the historical record for themselves

  • to consult documents, journals, diaries, artifacts, historic sites, works of art, quantitative data, and other evidence from the past, and to do so imaginatively--taking into account the historical context in which these records were created and comparing the multiple points of view of those on the scene at the time (National Center for History in the Schools, 1996, p. 14.

Most social studies teachers accept these challenges but find it difficult to find projects and experiences that are accessible for their students. Researching the "cybraries" of the internet takes time, a precious and scarce resource for the typical social studies teacher. While the Internet provides access to Civil War diaries, newspapers from the 1920's, images from the Jim Crow south, and many other primary sources, the sheer number of possibilities is daunting. Even the most sophisticated search engines provide such a vast number of "hits" that a classroom teacher would find it difficult to gather the necessary resources to launch a primary source investigation/interpretation activity. The HSI project was developed for these teachers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I read this post on Classroom 2.0 and with permission from the author, I'm reposting here. This application looks like it has a lot of potential, I think I'm going to use it with our Titanic unit.

I'm excited to introduce to Classroom 2.0 our new software for creating rich, interactive (Flash, web-based) timelines. It's called Mnemograph. Briefly, with Mnemograph, one enters events (title, date, description) into a database which are displayed on a timeline "ruler" that can scroll and zoom. You can plan the semester ahead or create a history of ancient Egyptian civilization. Each event can have a description and can be linked to a web page or any other URI --- pdf, etc. Images can also be added to the timeline in a similar way as events, and dragged and dropped to position them.

This represents a real sea-change in "timelining". Other softwares out there (xTimeline, the Simile project at MIT, TimelineMaker) are either very restricted graphically, designed poorly, or are restricted to a local PC. We're planning to build a very powerful collaborative environment in which kids and history professionals alike can collaborate to create expansive, deep timelines. Eventually, a single "event" (say the life of Herman Melville) will be able to drill down into an entire biographical timeline. We're also building importing capability for RSS feeds, Dublin Core data, the Library of Congress's American Memory collection, Flickr, iCalendar (Google calendar, Mac iCal) formats, and so forth. One will be able to have two timelines open at once, and simply drag-and-drop an event from, say the LOC into one's own timeline about the Depression. Not quite there yet...

We're in a very early beta stage, so there's a lot to be worked out: I'm excited to get feedback from educators about how they would imagine using it -- especially on the collaborative level. Here are a few major questions:• How would collaboration best be structured? Are there models out there (, Facebook, xTimeline) you prefer when it comes to inviting others to, or requesting to collaborate?• What are best practices when it comes to creating a system (like this collaborative environment) in which kids are safe/secure?

  • To what degree can you imagine using a timeline for planning curricula, recording classroom events, and so forth?Way down the road (with some capital), we're planning
  • keep a robust version free for personal and educational use
  • create ways to display any time-related data: Line and bar graphs which can run alongside historical events
  • have live collaboration tools
  • link to more live, time-related or on-demand data
  • allow zooming out to the big bang, and zooming in to the minute• host all manner of files -- video, etc.
  • create versions for the medical, financial, legal, and scientific markets

Some links:
our home page
Wright Brothers sample timeline

I'm very pleased to have found this amazing community. Please contact me if you have questions or thoughts -- and especially problems -- and I'll try to be as responsive as I can:
Best, Michael Richardson
Boise, ID

Friday, March 7, 2008

Graphing Datasets

We are starting to look at the Titanic "by the numbers". After reading background information about the crew, students made graphs all of the different jobs the crew held. I had no idea when I made the assignment that there would be hundreds of different job descriptions. We used a Web 1.0 application Create a Graph (been around forever, but recently updated) to create our graphs.

The sixth graders then took a look at the passengers and charted their nationalities. The charts made it clear that most of the first class passengers were from America and most of the third class passesngers were not! You can see all our charts and graphs here.

Here is another site, CIESE, that has outstanding activities using "real" data.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Classroom Activities Using Old Photos

My love of primary source documents started innocently enough about 10 years ago. I went to a Classroom Connect Conference in California--my first. I signed up for a workshop presented by Jamie McKenzie, I don't remember what the workshop was about but I remember the activity that started my love of primary sources. He showed us this picture of the Coal Breaker Boys (from LOC) and said "Discuss who the leader is in this group". I thought to myself "Wow!"

Old photographs can make great focus activities, journal prompts, discussion starters or homework. Take a look at this picture of a woman cooking. How does her life differ from yours? your mother? your grandmother? Show your parents or grandparents this picture and see what they have to say. I've used this photo in dozens of workshops. Each time I ask "How does this woman's life differ from yours?" I always get the same answer "she cooks---I don't!" (From Library of Congress: A member of the Wilkins family…Tallyho, Granville County, North Carolina)

Here's another one. How does this store differ from Walmart? What could you buy at Walmart that you can't buy at this store? What can you buy at this store that you couldn't buy at Walmart? (From Library of Congress General store interior, Moundville, Alabama)

President Roosevelt had opinions about children and apartment buildings. Read This article "Why the American Child Is Not Welcome in Apartment Buildings". What do you think about his opinions? (Ohio Historical Society)

Telephones have changed a whole lot since 1943. Discuss the evolution of the telephone. (National Archives The Way We Work)

All you have to do to find images that will inspire discussion or reflection is go to the Library of Congress or The National Archives or the thousands of other historical societies on the Web. The Library of Congress has even placed images on flickr!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mark Adams--Guest Blogger

Hi, I am a guest blogger invited by Mrs. Bosch to post about the collection of primary sources online at the Truman Presidential Library.

I work as the Education Director and Webmaster at the Library and wanted to share the primary sources we have online. We also have a large collection of lesson plans and encourage lesson plan submissions based on our materials.

So, what we do have online? Firstly our collection focuses on the Truman Presidency, so the bulk of the primary sources we have online focuses on the tough decisions President Truman faced. So you can find topics such as his Decision to the Drop the Atomic Bomb, the Korean War, and the Desegregation of the Military. However, the materials we have cover all of Truman’s life, not just his presidency.

So last summer we added materials related to his time in World War One. Truman was a Captain in World War I and we have tons of materials online. Even a red poppy that he brought back from France!

I know many students like to look at visual sources so I just wanted to finish up by pointing out links to online political cartoons and thousands of photographs from the Truman era which are a treasure trove of fascinating information.

If you have questions or would like to submit lesson plans you can email me at: and you can follow this link for more information on our educational programs at the Truman Library.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Titanic Finally Sails

We started the study of the Titanic. I first posted about this curriculum this summer and we are finally starting this week. One of our parents, Mrs. Schroeder, turned out to be a Titanic buff. She came in to visit with the kids and get them excited to answer some big questions. Mr. Sauerbrau is still working on the searchable database. Hopefully he finishes in time for us to use it. Be sure to see our website Titanic in the Classroom and check back often as we add student work.

Mrs. Schroeder told us (I'm still checking out its authenticity) that the "woman and children first" rule set back the suffragette movement. Now, that's a story I hadn't heard.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Library of Congress Meets Flickr

I just read on the Library of Congress blog about the collaboration between the Library of Congress and Flickr.

From the blog: "The project is beginning somewhat modestly, but we hope to learn a lot from it. Out of some 14 million prints, photographs and other visual materials at the Library of Congress, more than 3,000 photos from two of our most popular collections are being made available on our new Flickr page, to include only images for which no copyright restrictions are known to exist."

What a brilliant blending of the old and new. Too bad Flickr is blocked by my school district.