Monday, August 13, 2018

Revise What You Teach about the Black Death

Professor Monica Green, a specialist in medieval European medicine at Arizona State University, argues that we should change the way we teach about the Black Death. (pdf copy here)

She lays out four new "truths' about the Black Death that she believes should be taught in middle and high schools.
  1. Genetics has given us a "unifed evolutionary history" of the plague.
  2. The Black Death was probably more devastating than previously imagined
  3. Sources are not always reliable
  4. The Black Death never ended.
Professor Green challenges William McNeil's argument that the plague spread from southeastern China to the Crimea in the decades between the 1330's and 40's. She notes that McNeil's map that you can find at World History for Us all and in some AP World textbooks is wrong.

New evidence shows that the "strains involved in the two areas would likely have had no direct relationship, other than both being the result of centrifugal spread out of a central Eurasian focus; pan-Eurasian transmission does not accord with any narrative accounts we have either of plague’s spread or of commercial activities in the period."

Map reflecting views of William McNeil
We also need to reexamine the way the plague spread. It did not spread by rats, but researchers are not really sure exactly how it did spread.  Professor Green suggests that it is "unlikely that any single mechanism will explain everything."

What about the Mongols?  Did they spread the plague?  Professor Green believes more multidisciplinary research needs to be done to really understand the role of the Mongols.  Their written sources do not mention the plague but that does not mean that it did not exist.

Professor Green cites threee advances in plague research as the basis for her argument. New genetics, for example, offers "a whole new mode of thinkng" about the disease."

Various types of new proxy evidence allows historians to reevaluate the severity of the plague's impact. Professor Green believes that we may have underestimated the extent of plague mortality and the extent of the geopgraphic spread of the disease.

Finally, medical research shows that the Black Death never ended. "Between 80 to 90% of plague strains identified in the modern world took their ori-gin after the great late medieval polytomy. Looked at another way, all those modern strains are evidence of how many locales proved continually hospitable to plague after the Black Death."

Professor Green links other Black Death resources within her essay. Her class syllabus, which you can find here, offers some resources and here is an extended reading list.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Going 1:1? Consider SAMR & TPACK

My school will go one to one in 2019.  I'm on the school technology committee and our principal wants us to design professional development to help teachers migrate from Blackboard to Google Classroom and to think about ways to help teachers infuse technology into some of their lessons.

The SAMR model and TPACK are two terms about which I hear a lot.  I had to look them both up to understand them.

Here's a brief overview of what they are and how they can help you engage students more effectively.

SAMR is an acronym for the following.


Simply moving a written assignment to a digital assignment is substitution while sharing a digital assignment with a partner is augmentation.  Modifying or redesigning the assignment is called modification.  

For example, let's say you substituted a written timeline for an online timeline and modified it to include images and videos, and quizzes using an online platform like Sutori.  You might redesign the assignment entirely and create an assignment that can only be done digitally. So, instead of a timeline, students might create a short video documentary using an online video maker like Flipgrid.

Here a two-minute video overview of the SAMR model.
The TPACK framework provides a guide fto help teachers incorporate effctive technology in the classroom. It focuses on three ideas:

CK-Content Knowledge
PK-Pedagogical Knowledge
TK-Technology Knowledge

Here's a short video overview of TPACK.

According to technology coach, Stephen Anderson,
"SAMR is what makes lessons more engaging. It shows teachers (and students) that technology can be truly transformational and allow them to do things they couldn’t do before. That’s what makes the use of technology exciting and engaging. TPACK is what makes learning more effective. Without a clear understanding of what content is to be taught, the desired learning outcomes, the pedagogical techniques that effectively integrate technology into learning, then how can the learning be effective?
You can read Anderson's blog post about these frameworks here.

And below you can see graphic showing the TPACK framework.
Here is a chart that shows some example lessons  that reflect  SAMR and TPACK frameworks. Click here to see the chart with working links.

In addition to this exemplar chart, the site published the chart above,  called Technology is Learning, offers some good resources to consider from digital portfolios to flipped lessons.

Monday, August 6, 2018

AP Virtual Summits for Teachers & Students

This weekend AP teachers learned tips on how to score the LEQ, SAQ and DBQ at a virtual summit. One presenter explained how students might tackle the multiple choice.

And world historians like Ross Dunn, the founder of the website, World History for Us All, and the author of a number of world history textbooks, and Dr. Laura Mitchell,  Professor at the University of California at Irvine and the president of the World History Association, spoke about teaching the big questions in AP World History.

If you missed the August summit, you can still sign up for other summits during the school year. And for $49, you can access the archived materials from this weekend which include presenter videos and slides. Click here and scrolll to the bottom.

An organization called Fivable, founded by Amanda DoAmaral, an AP World and US teacher, organized the summit.

DoAmaral started Fiveable last spring to virtually tutor AP students before the AP Exam. Students reviewed the different essays as well as highlights of each unit. In addition, DoAmaral gave out review packets for each unit.  She also developed a You Tube channel with both writing and content reviews. A couple of my students signed up for the review and loved it.

This fall review sessions for students will run twice per month in the fall and then every week in the spring!

Students can join Fiveable for $59 and teachers can join for summits like the one this weekend (the cost for that was $79), which helped defray the cost of the the Fiveable website and webinar platform.

This weekend's summit was amazing and beneficial to both new and veteran teachers. For example Tom Richey, an AP Euro and AP US teacher in South Carolina with a terrrifc website and You Tube channel, argued that the new mulitple choice is a content test, and not a reading test and suggested that more often than not, the stimulus is not neccesary to answer the question.

Josh Bailey, an AP World teacher in Chicago, offered interesting ways to scaffold the writing. He begins the year by teaching students about evidence. He gives students thesis statements or arguments about the reading they just completed. Students then have to provide evidence for the argument.

Bailey argues that planning an essay begins with good evidence.

Historian Bob Bain, who teaches at the University of Michigan School of Education and helped design the Big History Project, spoke to teachers about creating "a set of inquiry problems that unifies and builds coherence around that curriculum.”

For example, in US History, you could ask how big government should be and what government should do for people and who should receive benefits.  Bain suggests that questions like this could drive the whole curriculum because it raises questions about the American Revolution, the Constitution  and even the Civil War.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Implementing Standards-Based Grading

Some teachers are moving away from the traditional 100 point grading scale to a four or five point scale that measures mastery of essential standards.

Homework, classwork, projects, and formative assessments might be recorded but not graded because they do not reflect mastery of a standard.

Proponents of standards based-grading argue that a small scale based on four or five and mastery of specific standards make grades more accurate, consistent, and meaningful.

In the video clip below, educational consultant Rick Wormeli, argues that the 100 point scale is confusing. Is 89% almost proficient or is 87% almost proficient? Maybe 92 is almost proficient.

Instead, grades should be tied to specific evidence, or standards. "The smaller the scale," Wormeli argues, "the higher the inter-reliability."

How does standards-based grading work in the classroom?

AP world history teacher, Kathryn Byars, presented her reflection on implementing a standards-based grading system  at a California education conference this summer.  She offers some great resources to help us understand the system.

Byars also put together a standards-based grade book aligned with the AP World curriculum. It's a work in progress but you can see her notes and explanations for everything she does.

You can read Kathryn's aweseom blog posts here about implementing a standards-based grading system.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

How to Create A Bronze Shang Vessel: Awesome Interactive

How the Shang Dynasty , which began around 2000BCE, develop bronze vases.

Here's an awesome interactive from the Princeton University Art Museum that shows how artisans made  these Shang vases.

Click "start the process" and you can begin decorating the vase with a special carving tool. Next, you get to make a clay mold and fire it in the kiln. The process continues until you pour molten bronze into the mold.

Thanks to to David Korfhage for tweeting the link.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Birth of Indian Art: Ajanta Caves Restored

Photograph: Prasad Pawar
Photograph: Prasad Pawar
Panting and art helped make the Gupta Empire one of the greatest. The paintings in the caves of Ajanta represent the best example.

According to author and writer, William Dalrymple,  the restored paintings on the Ajanta cave walls in Maharashtra, western India are, "possibly the finest surviving picture galleries from the ancient world."

Restoration of the paintings in Cave #10 began in 1999 using infrared light, micro-emulsion and "cutting-edge Japanese conservation technology."

 In a story for the Guardian called "The Ajanta Cave Murals: 'Nothing Less Than the Birth of Indian Art,' " Dalrymple reports that archaeologists "succeeded in removing 75% of the layers of shellac, hard soot and grime from 10 sq m of the murals."

Here are some interesting facts about the murals that come from the story.
    • 31 caves make up the Ajanta Caves
    • The paintings tell Jakarta stories which are stories about the earlier lives of the Buddha.
    • Cave#10, the one that was restored and about which Dalrymple writes, dates to about the 1st or 2nd century CE, while most of the others date 600 years later.
    • The paintings, Dalrymple notes, "open a window on to an age about which we know little."
    • The turbans, for example, seem to denote rank  and status.
    • And artistic techniques suggest a Hellenistic influence.
But above all, says Dalrymple,
The murals of Ajanta are now recognised as some of the greatest art produced by humankind in any century, as well as the finest picture gallery to survive from any ancient civilisation. Even today, the colours glow with a brilliant intensity: topaz-dark, lizard green, lotus-blue.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Upcoming Changes to Google Classroom

Google is rolling out some major changes to Google Classroom in August. I've been playing with a Beta version for the past few weeks

The major changes include a stream that simply provides a snapshot of upcoming assignments, a page called Classwork that provides more detailed information about upcoming assignments and a page for "People" that allows you to add co-teachers and even parents if your school division will allow it.
Announcements now only appear in the stream and not in Classwork.  I love the ability to separate assignments from announcements.

Within the Classwork page, you can organize your assignments by unit.  For example, you will be able to group all your assignments for the Renaissance/ Reformation Unit or the unit on revolutions.

You can also reuse assignments from a previous year and you can organize assignments by date.  Previously, you could only organize them by topic.

Perhaps the biggest change, at least for Chromebook users, includes the ability to make quizzes within Classroom and to lock browsers when students take the quiz. This function only works with Chromebooks right now.

Other changes are more subtle but make using Classroom much easier. For example, you can now access the class drive folder within classroom. You no longer need to search for it in your drive.

In the video below, John Sowash explains the upcoming changes in much more detail.

Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS)  has a terrific series of lessons about the Arab-Israeli conflict.   The series includes five lessons, each with videos, primary sources, maps, timelines, quizzes, and fill-in graphics. Each lesson opens in Adobe Spark with colorful and engaging graphics.

The lessons are balanced and offer both sides. For example, each lesson includes four primary sources, two Arab and two Israeli.

The first lesson examines the development of Zionism and Arab nationalism. Documents about the development of Zionism include an excerpt from Theodor Herzl, and one from the First Zionist Congress in 1897.  The lesson examines the development of Arab nationalism with excerpts from the writing of Sati' Al-Hursi and another from the First Arab Congress in 1913.

The second lesson looks at the promises made to both Arabs and Jews after World War I.  The first two primary sources focus on the promise made to the Arabs with an excerpt  from the Hussein-McMahon correspondence in 1915, and the Sykes-Picot Agreement.  Promises made to the Jews include the Balfour Declaration and the Feisal-Weizmann Agreement in 1919.

Thanks to Aiesha Hassan McFadden for posting the link to this site.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Atlantic Slave Trade Case Studies

The Understanding Slavery Initiative (USI)has a terrific website about transatlantic slavery. (Note, this is an archived website and no longer maintained by USI)

One of the best features of the website are the case studies. They are all pdf files, short, and readable.

One study reviews the history of Queen Nzinga of Ndongo (modern day Angola).  She negotiated with the Portuguese in 1582 to evacuate Ndongo's capital in return for Portuguese prisoners of war. Sadly, the Portuguese broke the treaty.  But Queen Nzinga eventually became her country's monarch, captured the neighboring state of Matamba, and allied with the Dutch against the Portuguese, eventually forcing them to sue for peace in 1654.

Another fascinating case study involves a British slave ship called the Zong which sailed in 1881 for Jamaica with 442 enslaved Africans. The ship got lost and  many of the slaves got sick. The ship's captain threw 132 emaciated slaves overboard to drown because he did not think they would fetch much at market. The story goes on. There's a a trial in London and even a retrial.

Dave Drewinski tells the story of the Zong in his podcast, On Top of the World.

Students can read other case studies like Zong. One examines the centuries old centuries-old sea-faring commercial history of Kingston upon Hull.

Another looks at Liverpool, which had become the largest slave-ship construction site in Britain. All together there are five case studies.

I might assign different ones to student groups and have them summarize their case on Flipgrid.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

China's New Silk Road

Is China becoming a new global superpower? 

A new initiative reminds many of China's role in the ancinet Silk Roads.

Today, the Chinese government is spending trillions of dollars building ports and highways over land and along maritime routes in the Indian ocean. 

Over land, for example, a railroad line connects China to London and gas pipelines run from the Caspian Sea to China. 

The Chinese are also spending billions of dollars building ports in the Indian Ocean. Some of these ports are built in weak countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who cannot repay the cost. Consequently, China got a 99 year lease on the port in Sri Lanka and a 40 year lease on the port in Gwadar, Paksitan.

Check out this excellent short clip from Vox and this story from BBC, which includes some excellent maps. The World Economic Forum also has an excellent story.
Thanks to Angela Lee for posting the link to this story.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

College Board Now Says AP World Will Start in 1200 not 1450

The College Board recently responded to complaints about starting AP World History in 1400 instead of with prehistory, where it has started since the inception of the course.

Now, according to the correspondence below, the course will start in 1200 (great, if you love the Mongols, but not so great if you also love the rise and spread of Islam).

Many teachers are furious and think the changes do not go far enough. Check out the stories below from Inside Higher Ed and Forbes Magazine and the Twitter response from Amanda DoAmaral. Her exchange with Trevor Packer at an Open Forum duirng the AP World reading in Salt Lake City in June, went viral.

Check back. I will try to update the news stories about the new start date of 1200.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Story and History of Human Rights

How did the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights develop?

Facing History and Ourselves produced the video below which decribes Elenor Roosevelt's isntrumental role in its devlopment.

And here's an excellent overview of Human Rights from The Youth for Human Rights.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Complexity of Islamic Design: Ted Talk

Here's a terrific TedEd clip on how Islamic artists use geometry to develop their designs. Eric Brough developed the clip and even has a book about the geometr of Islamic design.

Monday, July 9, 2018

BBC IWonder Guides about Religion


BBC developed IWonder interactive guides in 2014. The guides "explore a range of factual and education topics from Science and Natural History, Arts, History, Religion and Ethics, Food and more."

They are colorful, interactive, and easy to read and often include short video and audio clips, infographics, and excellent written summaries.

The IWonder guides that deal with religion are terrific and can work well in the classroom. For example, the guide, "Why do Buddhists meditate" includes a terrific video clip with host, Betttany Hughes, the British historian.

The guide on the Baha’i, "Can a religion accept other faiths," includes a clip with host, Rev. Peter Owen Jones, the English Anglican clergyman and author,  and a great slideshow of important Baha’i sites.

Here are IWonder guides that deal with religion.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hinduism: Resources

Here are two excellent resources for studying Hinduism, both short documentaries.

The first is a 23 minute overview from the The Himalayan Academy, which publishes Hinduism Today Magazine.

The documentary is engaging and includes great photography. It's divided into five short parts: origins, sacred texts, Hindu society, beliefs and practices, and finally, festivals.
Another resource comes from Freer Sacker Museum and shows Hindu devotion, called Puja.

Finally, you can see a terrific graphic that explains the caste system.