Cold War Mashup Projects: The Results

 

This week my Grade 10 students completed their Cold War Mashup projects. I will include two of the 20 final projects here as samples. I learned a lot from the students by teaching this project.

I had planned for students to turn in their final project on blank DVDs so that I would have a reliable copy. That turned out to be time consuming. Not all of the file types (.mp4, .mov) would play on my Mac, so that slowed my ability to assess and report back to students. Next time I would give the students a window of two or three days in which to have the projects uploaded to the school’s Vimeo account. From there I could embed or save a copy to my own drive.

I also learned that I could use reliable DVD-ripping software. Students usually began with video files downloaded from Youtube or Quicktime screen capturing. The results were sometimes not as clear as they might have been if they could have started with their own video file. I have started to ask for software suggestions.

I will have project premiers in class this week. It will be valuable for students to have their videos screened for their peers and receive feedback. I would also encourage everyone to upload to Vimeo and generate traffic so that more people can respond to their work.

I will also want to continue to coach the selection of text font, subtitles when needed, colors, and including establishing shots. Most of these projects could be improved with some refinement in one or more of these areas.

Finally, when I assign this project again, I would include one lesson in which we watch a short movie. It might be Chaplin or Mickey Mouse. The purpose would be to note the ways in which directors use film to tell a story.

Overall, I was pleased with the results and the skills that students practiced while I coached in a flipped style. I look forward to doing more with this in the future.

Garry Leroy Baker

Play, Question, Learn

The final Grade 10 topic is the Cold War. I had thought before how play and experimentation could be guiding philosophies for this unit. I built upon an earlier post about creating mashups by assigning the students a unit project in which they create either  a mashup or remix to tell part of the Cold War story. I wrote the rubric and assignment sheet based in part on the work of Andrew Churches. I will post student samples when they are complete.
I made a sample mashup using Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oyl which I have embedded at the beginning of this post. So far it has gone well. Partners are exploring cartoon archives for public domain material while cross referencing what they find with what they know, and need to find out, about the Cold War topics they have chosen to illustrate. It is an opportunity for them to explore, experiment, and be creative with content and media in a new way. As a flipped assignment, I provide coaching or guidance when I am asked and, occasionally, when I see that a word of encouragement might be good. The students are playing constructively for these three weeks in a setting in which content is the vehicle for practicing questioning, self-directed understanding, and communicating effectively with video. As this New York Times article points out, trying can sometimes be more valuable than extensive planning and history teaching can sometimes be more valuable as a compass than a map.
 This American Revolution role-playing game is the type of activity that I enjoy running in my classes. With a flipped approach, students can use the activity to better understand what the factors were which may have changed an outcome in history. Sometimes I am divided on what I think of the flipped philosophy. I wonder; was assigning textbook readings a flipped approach we used in the past? It was. However, teachers always had to choose from four or five major textbooks and try to adapt our dynamic lessons, and students, to the static readings. Now, I can create resources with my students in mind.  I am familiar with what they have already learned this school year and in a previous year. I know some of their common references, and can refer to those. That I think is the real advancement.
A friend says that the best PD workshops do not teach you something new, but instead remind us of what we know we should be working toward. Like ESL in the Mainstream, planning instruction using a video game model fits that description. I will be trying to include their graphic structure to teaching and learning. One area that I would like to be teaching better is multiple choice for external exams, like Advanced Placement  (AP). The College Board advocates an open enrollment approach to AP classes; if a student wants to be in class and will work hard, he or she should be permitted to take the course. I agree with this approach. My AP European History and AP United States History courses should be designed to work with students for whom English might be a second or third language, this content is relatively new, and are balancing a busy schedule and class load. I found something I could use using video games as a structure.
Perhaps a student could take the first diagnostic MC test and that score out of 40 or 50 possible could be the “starting point” from which we track progress. Incremental goals could be set. For example, for Unit 2 we could agree on a 10% improvement over the Unit 1 score. Further, each student could agree with me on what would constitute an A, B, and C with this approach. With the way that I weigh the essay portion of AP tests, the writing could take a similar approach but would be more holistic and identifiable skills, rather than content, could be the focus.
One thing that I appreciate about teaching at ISSH is that the admin team supports experimentation by the teachers. I work with many teachers who are accomplished in their fields. The admin team encourages teachers to innovate and experiment. That can help make the school an exciting place to teach.
If you matched Flipped Classroom with New Culture of Learning, you would have video links or video lectures for homework with the class time dedicated to simulations, writing, or the creation of new research questions that students could then pursue with the teachers’ resources or online materials. In my Grade 10 class, the current unit is China:  Opium Wars to Cultural Revolution. I keep materials linked to my wikipage for students to explore and during class I answer questions or provide other support, if needed. Otherwise, students are teaching themselves and each other, the content. I have been short writing tasks to help them better understand important changes with Mao. Students do ask very good questions. Lately, these are a few of the questions I have been asked:
–Was it true that Chiang Kaishek’s Nationalist army was exhausted from fighting the Japanese Army (1939-1945), so that it was too weak to fight Mao’s Red Army when the civil war resumed in 1945?
–Why did Mao pick Hua Guafang as his successor if Hua was associated with the Liu Shiaxi’s anti-Mao moderates during the Cultural Revolution?
–Was Emperor Puyi the son of Emerpeor Guangxu?
These were all questions that I had not heard before and could only suggest answers. I keep two good China books on hand, Spence’s Search for Modern China and Chang and Halliday’s Mao: The unknown story.
It was summed up well by Thomas and Brown in their interview with Forbes:
Part of the point we try to make in the book is that inquiry is not about asking a “right” question, but it is a process of asking increasingly better questions. And I think we would say that the best questions are the one that ignites a student’s passion and cultivates their imagination. And it is very easy to tell when that is happening. When students have passion and enthusiasm, it is infectious and impossible to hide.
This is an approach worth developing.
Garry Leroy Baker

Managing Laptops in the Classroom

In the classroom with laptops, I try to continue the tone that I use when I teach in a more traditional setting while including the advice from dskmag’s 23 Things About Classroom Laptops. Students receive a syllabus with each unit which outlines Essential Questions, vocabulary, suggested readings, test and quiz schedule, and the project with rubric. Students may work at their own pace and I provide materials and help or clarification when needed. That means that I walk around the room, listen attentively without interjecting, and offer support if students appear to be stuck. It does not work for me to sit at my desk and work on something which does not relate to the class in session or attempt to lecture. Providing continuity from the traditional classroom and maintaining a working environment helps support making the most of the class time available and the laptops as tools for learning.

It has also meant reconsidering what can be done in a history or humanities classroom. Students can now incorporate what the New York Times recently called Big Data to create, research, and answer questions previously unattainable by high school students. I am rethinking and reconceptualizing what my classroom space is and how it can be used. When I think of history or humanities as Adam Seldis described, as skill-based like analysis and intepretation, then I should continue to shift the focus of my classes. I have always believed in content supporting skills.

It also means taking “tech breaks.” I think that if students are focused on a task, then they should have short breaks in which to relax their minds. They can do something more idle, like check messages or perform a quick Google search for something they have just thought about. This also conforms with learning theory in which frequent breaks allow the mind to begin to transfer information from short term memory to long term memory.

This can also mean knowing when to close the laptops. As this Washington Post story illustrates about high tech vs. low tech schools, we need to be open to using a variety of teaching and learning tools.

We will each need to set realistic goals. For example, in the SAMR model, we anticipate that there will continue to be some substitution in the near future. Some tasks, like essay writing or research report writing, may be transferred to laptops with little modification. Other tasks, like research and organizational skills, may be augmented. Students may now keep schedules, assignments, and drafts of projects in one place, increasing their productivity but continuing to use the computer to replace a binder, textbooks, and a planner.

Be ready to learn along the way.

There are more opportunities for modification and redefinition. My Grade 10 class is studying the Cold War. With ready access to MacBooks, I was able to give this assignment. Students chose to create either a mashup or remix, like the sample that I created above. This task was not possible ten years ago. With consistent access to iMovie, archived public domain animations, learning with laptops becomes more about peer-to-peer advice and technical support. The learning emphasis moves from just content to more skills and research and questioning.

There will be transitions that will not be easy. As we learned from the student interviews from YIS, students will have to learn from our modeling and their own experiences how to reject distractions, like Facebook, when they are working. Their academic and social lives will possibly all appear simultaneously on the desktop. It is a mature skill to alternate time for play and for work. We should understand that students will try, and fail, on the road to successful balance.

Every road offers possibilities.

We should be patient with ourselves and with students. We may adapt some new skills or approaches quickly and others may take longer. Students may feel overwhelmed at times, especially at the beginning of the year when teachers are requiring them to sign up, and keep track of, three or four different sites per course. While they may seem elastic, as with all teaching, we should be attentive as to when it is the right time to push and when to wait. The digital Cold War project seems to have come at a good time. With about four weeks left of the semester, students seem to be ready for a unique, creative challenge and they are taking to this one quickly.

That is the lesson that I am taking from the many anecdotes that I hear from one-to-one laptop teachers. Only the computers are new. They are still young people and our job is to help them to learn and grow up to be responsible adults.

Garry Leroy Baker

Napoleon and the Weather

I read Chie Mizukoshi’s post and it helped me to better understand how connectivism would work in the classroom.

It reminded me of the esteemed Chinese translator Arthur Waley. My favorite anecdote about Waley came from my Mandarin professor in university, who told us that Waley never travelled to China. It seemed unbelievable, and funny, at the time. I am starting to become convinced that Waley and other homebodies were correct and that their approach bodes well for global collaboration and connectivism as part of the digital classroom. We could stop viewing digital resources as substitutes for real textbooks and lectures. Instead, MOOCs, open resources, and online learning communities are the Waley experience writ large. We now have many resources available to us to learn about a country, for example, that we might be able to really grasp or understand many more nuances of a country, like China, because we can now learn about it and visualize many more of its facets. Using infographics and datasets, we can better conceive of economic growth, population factors, and migratory patterns. With Harvard’s GIS that I wrote about in an earlier post, we can see patterns that were invisible to scholars and experts just ten years ago.

Connectivism could be a way to organize history and humanities teaching with this outlook, though it requires rethinking the learning goals. Like using chaos theory for English teaching, history would be full of opportunities to seek connections both between historical events and human, documentary, and data sources. The goals would shift from acquiring content knowledge to asking good questions. Once good questions have been formed, further research can be pursued with the understanding that answers are dependent on the information available today.
I could model this approach when teaching the French Revolution. As a fan of history, I have always wondered why brutal winters appear to correspond with invasions of Russia, like 1707, 1812, and 1941-1942. Would it be possible that there is a link between a by-product of European warfare, like gunpowder smoke, and climactic swings? It would not seem reasonable. I would consult datasets, journals, climate and Russian history experts to try to find possible links. Students could then pursue their own research questions with the understanding that the learning would be in taking advantage of as many diverse and useful resources as possible.
Garry Leroy Baker

 

 


Project Based and Challenge Based Learning

I have been thinking about Project Based Learning and Challenge Based Learning for several months. It has been in the past two weeks that my understanding of how each can be applied well has improved. I began with sorting some real-world examples:

Project Based Learning examples would be Sarah Outen’s epic adventure, Model United Nations (MUN), and, a few years ago, when I wanted to learn how to use my South Korean driver’s license to acquire a Japanese license without taking the written test and the driving test. A person wants to learn something that will help them to do something else.

CBL: What can you do for someone else today?

Challenge Based Learning would include Jody Williams land mine campaign, ISKL’s work with the Turtle Conservation SocietyNepal Seeds, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Second Harvest Japan. These are individuals and groups who look for solutions that they can implement themselves.

Mayuka Thais visited our high school this week as part of Earth Day activities. She became active in helping to raise funds to move elephants from zoos to sanctuaries several years ago. This music video is one of several projects that she has worked on in addition to speaking to audiences in the US and Japan.  I appreciated the work that she is doing and it gave me an opportunity to speak to my Grade 10 students about a chance they have to step from Project Based to Challenge Based Learning in May.

This is the UbD Plan for the CBL extension activity. It has some general wording because each group will begin with research on a different topic and choose different goals.

Project Title:  CBL Action Plan

Standards Met: NETs

1. Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students:
a. apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
b. create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

2. Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
a. interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
c. develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.

d. contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

3. Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:

c. evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.

4. Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources. Students:

b. plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.

c.collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.

d. use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.

Enduring Understanding:

Individuals can choose to make changes if they select issues they are interested in and take action that is within their abilities.

Essential Questions:

What can I do to make a positive change?

GRASPS Task:

Goal: To make a positive change

Role: Plan, organize, implement

Audience: Will vary. Primarily students, family, and friends in Tokyo and Japan.

Situation: You have been invited to plan and implement an event or activity in which you can bring positive change.

Products:

1) Research and presentation on a topic of interest. Past student research topics have included:  clean water, teenage prostitution in developing nations, mangrove forests.

2) A viable plan which would bring about a positive change.

3) Culminating video

Standards or Criteria: Did the plan make the changes desired?

Six Facets of Understanding:

Explain: Draft plan which outlines the goals and methods each project group will use.

Interpret: Students look at other examples of Challenge Based Learning provided as general models for their own action plans.

Apply: Students design and implement a solution to a problem that they have identified from their research projects.

Have perspective: Students look at their own resources to see what they can do.

Empathize:  Students see the issue from the viewpoint of others and anticipate how to reach and mobilize others to meet the plan’s goal.

Have self-knowledge: Students reflect on how successful their projects were in combining the resources that they had available and their plan to make the change that they identified.

We have about five weeks left of this semester for the students to complete the CBL enhancement. I imagine that, of the nine groups, all will design actionable plans. Depending on the reach of each of the CBL plans, perhaps two to three may implement their plans. I will include samples of students’ action plans in a future post, and videos which may be finished. Primarily I see this as a chance to try this approach and learn along with the students.
Garry Leroy Baker

Teaching with NETs

I thought more about David Warlick’s blog in which he proposed a modified, digital, capstone project that would demonstrate what students had learned though application. It sounds initially like a useful model in that it could synchronize Understanding by Design planning, NETs, and the mission statement of each, unique school. This could also be a goal around which a school could design an technology integration model, with different groups taking part. Each department and grade level could be assigned tasks that would prepare students for the capstone project.

It would answer the important question of who will teach the NETs standards. We all would. We already meet many standards when we plan and teach units. For example:

–Safe, legal and responsible use of information includes using bibliographies, footnotes, and citations and understanding how these principles apply to digital information and images.

–Using models and identifying trends are standards already used in the sciences.

–Standard 3:  Research and information fluency list the fundamental skills taught from Junior School through High School that are evident in authentic report writing.

The next step is to continue these fundamental skills into the digital learning environment. Trista Meisner’s blog post on how they approached this at ISB was a valuable overview.

The value of the NETS standards is that they are a good starting point for digital scope and sequence planning, which would be required to prepare students for David Warlick’s digital capstone project. King George County (Virginia, USA) offers a good example. For this to be successful, it must be a school-wide conversation. Guided by UbD, teachers should agree on the principles and general form of the digital capstone project and participate by preparing students at each grade level with the necessary skills and experiences. This also would help the school remain true to its mission statement as the learning moves further into the 1:1 model and, probably, becomes increasingly project-based.

At ISSH, we use what could be thought of as a version of the just in time approach which has been modified to technology teaching. The philosophy has been that each teacher incorporates the hardware or software needed as they become available and meet instructional needs. It allows for flexibility and, as long as each department is checking back at intervals with the TIS or Curriculum Coordinator to demonstrate that NETs guidelines are being met, then it works as a grassroots-driven model. This can work well in an international school environment because new teachers will introduce or emphasize different applications depending on their training and teaching experiences. How well teachers are meeting NETs can be tracked with curriculum mapping tools and regular department and curricular.

This week my Theory of Knowledge students are working on a virtual museum in which they will tell the story of human history by selecting and grouping objects within a virtual museum plan as part of the History and Areas of Knowledge unit. This was based on the a review that I read in the American Historical Review. Students knew how to use either PowerPoint or Google Presentations, so I suggested that as the software. One of my suggestions was to create a hyperlink to a exhibit explanation card. The students who did not know how to do this could learn quickly. When my students created Digital Family History stories in Grade 10, I suggested using Garage Band or iMovie as the tool. Everything they needed to learn to achieve their own goals or incorporate my suggestions they could learn quickly.

We cannot assume that this will always be easy. Some skills, such as using and synthesizing diverse resources, may be better taught using traditional or digital tools. In other cases, there may be strong disagreement and the lines between professional opinions could also be seen as generational, with younger teachers or those with more recent training advocating more digital tools. The expectations related to tools like laptops, Smartboards, and Web 2.0 applications in the classroom (NETs 6.a, b, c) will need to be navigated with respect for both groups of teachers. This is essential in order to retain effective, experienced faculty, and sustain professional relations in the future.

As long as we are all contributing, and trying to incorporate NETs in our teaching, it should matter less which way we take to meet the goals as long as the approach works for our learning community.

Garry Leroy Baker

Betty Boop will be playing the part of Richard Nixon

Mashup Mingus from ISSH on Vimeo.

What would you get if you combined a political address with great jazz and your target demographic was the Remix Generation? Mashup Mingus from ISSH on Vimeo.

Digital storytelling is an obvious partner to history teaching and learning. With the tools easily learned and widely available, digital publishing has quickly joined history’s pillars of books, photographs, and documentaries to convey what has happened and why. The challenge is how to use it well. Digital projects can be time consuming so the content and skills to be learned or practiced should be proportional.  Author Tanita S. Davis posted a good example of this kind of digital storytelling from Singapore American School on her blog.I think that I have found two projects which meet the criteria.

Inspired by the many tools, like Garage Band and iMovie, my Grade 10 students created Digital History Projects in which they told the story of someone in their family using an interview, background research, and, when available, family photos. The results were pretty good. It was an opportunity for students to do the work of historians while applying digital tools and techniques they were excited to learn. When I have developed more experience with this project, I would be interested in supporting students who wanted to submit their work to the National History Day Contest.

I learned about the Internet Archive this week. This has great video and audio resources which are searchable with Creative Commons.

My Grade 10 History students’ final topic this year is the Cold War. I am drafting a unit project in which students would mashup video to tell parts of the Cold War story. I like the Cold War as the basis because the topics are usually presented in segments with little linear narrative to string each to the others. We teach Yalta, Korean War, Hungary 1956, Berlin Wall, Marshall Plan, Cuban Missile Crisis and Prague Spring, for example. A mashup could tell the story of a decade like the 1960s or three interrelated events.

As I watched the Betty Boop cartoons, I recognized how a mashup could be created from three or four to illustrate many different stories. Using Betty Boop’s Snow White and Minnie the Moocher, a story could be crafted about post-1945 Germany. Germany, played by Betty Boop, could experience the struggles between USA-NATO and the USSR-Warsaw Pact. NATO could be played by the seven dwarfs. If you wanted to teach detente, it would be easy to cast Betty as Nixon and find two others to play Mao and Brezhnev.

Popeye stories would also work well. Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oyl reappear. Perhaps the three could play the US, USSR, and different strategic aims: Berlin, Korea, Vietnam. At the 3:40 point of the episode included, Popeye and Bluto compete to plow a field. That could be used to illustrate the Marshal Plan. Again, this project is in draft form. The important element is that the source material is available and licensed to create something humorous, creative, original and educational.

The final mashups would indicate how well a group understands the historical events.  The video, though, would be secondary to the process. I would build in steps that demonstrate, research, planning, storyboarding, and appropriate bibliographic citations. The media will change in the future, but these essential steps should remain constants of good scholarship.

I tried a mashup. My thought was what would you get if you combined a political address with great jazz and your target demographic was the Remix Generation?

I admit that I have things to learn about creating a sense of story and making my mashup more transformative of the original. I enjoyed combining the media and look forward to the next project.

The step that I am working on now is downloading and importing the source video to iMovie, where it can be edited to tell the story that I choose to model. Music and voice-over would follow. The Betty Boop Jump video below is an experiment. This is what I am learning to do so that I can coach others.

Betty Jump from ISSH on Vimeo.

Your advice is welcome.

Garry Leroy Baker

UN Secretary General Ad Campaign

The assignment that I gave to my students was to create a 60-second ad. The ad would support or disparage the candidacy of a current controversial world leader for the fictional election to the position of United Nations Secretary General in 2012. Student groups were given the assignment sheet, rubric, and shown an exemplar that I created with Adam Seldis and Adam Clark. I also referred students to two Mitt Romney ads. Students were required to use factual information only but present it to support their view of the candidate that they chose.

This is the assignment sheet that I gave to the students.This is the assignment summary for teachers that my group created and the rubric.

The group that created this ad spent some time viewing campaign ads for the 2012 Russian Presidential election. They borrowed some of the feel of those ads which targeted younger voters. Overall, I thought that their use of text, music, images, and wording were cohesive in creating the overall message. They have met the assignment’s challenge to make a leader, who can be seen as unpopular in the West, appear more viable.

When I use this assignment again, there are a few modifications that I would make. The first would be to specify, or ask the groups to specify, the target demographic. This ad appears targeted to 18-24 year old females. It might be a greater stretch if the assignment specified 60-75 retired men and women pensioners. There should be greater emphasis placed on citing the sources of the photos and music. That is a good digital habit that we all should practice. I had originally presented samples that used voice-over for narration. I think it would give the fictional ads more impact and substance, but I would like to think about that more before I make the decision for next time.

Garry Leroy Baker

Art, Mashup and Project-Based Learning

Mixup, Mashup, Remix. Pop did it with newspapers. Dadists did it with teacups. You could say that  Raphael did it with the Greek philosophy. What is promising today is that the amount of content is limitless and the possibilities boundless with a simple laptop and a goal or concept.

I have been looking for  a better way to teach art movements in AP European History and AP United States History this year. I think mashup and remix could be the way to go.

What I have found is that students can usually learn and remember the main characteristics of art movements. Italian Renaissance was realistic and more secular than Byzantine. Romanticism rejected the extremes of Enlightenment and industrialization. Surrealism attempted to incorporate Freudian psychology and Einsteinian physics. What I have been looking for is a way to teach the art movements that will help students retain and deepen their understanding beyond this academic year.

The assignment I am developing would be based on three steps. The first would be discovery in which they identify the main characteristics from a set of prints. The second would be a flipped-lecture on the artistic movement and its genealogy. The third would be a remix in which students apply the style and philosophy of the artistic movement create their own video or photographic work.

The successful project would take about a week to complete. In this, students would produce their own works using the philosophies and approaches that the artists of the specified movements followed. For example, I would like students to have a clearer understanding of the work of Cubists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque and the goals involved. They would need to be able to translate an understanding of Cubism’s characteristics and way of viewing the world to their own working piece.

For this project, students would use a combination of their own video/images and those taken from sites, supported by music and/or sounds, to replicate the Cubists goals of seeing a subject from multiple viewpoints simultaneously, flat colors to avoid emotional responses, overlapping planes, no perspective, and traditional African and Oceanic artistic inspirations. I have written before about how Man with a Movie Camera related Russian avant-garde art to film. I am sure that once a student completed this project they could confidently discuss Cubism alone or as it might be contrasted with another Western art movement.

Based on our project in which my group developed campaign ads for UN Secretary General candidates, students will need a good example that I create, a clear rubric, a review of Fair Use, and software suggestions.  I will be working on my sample over the next two weeks and anticipate having it ready to show to my AP class during the upcoming academic unit. I will link to it here when it is ready.

Garry Leroy Baker

 

 

 

 

“I can see clearly now…”

I have been including visuals in my history classes since I began to teach in 1999. They can be a great way in which to help students grasp the abstractions of concepts or historical forces. Some of the classics, and my favorites, include Napoleon’s March on Moscow. This is considered to be a classic because it briefly explains with six factors how 400, 000 men in the French Army who marched on Russia in 1812 were reduced to 40,000 within a few months. This is my standard by which I have always evaluated the usefulness of graphics. Fortunately, the current generation of infographics designers contribute valuable materials to the understanding of the world around us.

I have written previously about the work of Dr. Peter K. Bol and GIS. To paraphrase Dr. Bol, infographics are like the game Jeopardy. Infographics are the answers. You, the students, and I are the researchers who must then ask the right questions which will help to contextualize the information.

Wages of Craftsmen and Farmworkers per day in English Pence Many EyesIn the Grade 10 Twentieth Century History class that I teach the Holocaust is a topic. I appreciated the graphic which divided the Holocaust deaths by nationality. I think this is a good place to begin with understanding the Holocaust. Most people associate the Holocaust primarily with Germany or with France. However, the graphs indicates that some understanding of the Holocaust should answer a question like, “Why were there more victims in Poland and the Soviet Union?”

Another infographic displayed the wages of farm and skilled workers during the European Middle Ages. The first spike of 1348 corresponds nicely with the information we have about wages during the Plague years. Curiosity could lead to other questions. Why did wages for both groups never return to pre-1348 levels by 1500? Wages for farm workers appear to have collapsed three times after 1475. Could this be explained by missing data? This corresponds with the Hundred Years War, is there some correlation? We know that many Europeans were open to Martin Luther’s message in the 1520s because it came during a time of great inflation. Are we beginning to see the trend with this visual? Why other data sets should we find that would help create a more comprehensive picture?

As with many COETAIL topics, the resources are rich and varied while the applications for teaching and learning are limitless. I look forward to including more of these resources in my courses. They are important as visual aids. However, they are more enriching when student-researchers first generate their own graphics and then ask, and answer, their own unique questions.

Garry Leroy Baker