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.