Monday, April 27, 2009

More on Wikis

THE Journal (April 2009) had a useful article on the use of wikis in the classroom as part of the Web 2.0 concept.

Why Wikis? by Dr. Ruth Reynard, provides an excellent overview of the rationale for the use of a wiki in the classroom. She concludes with:

"The wiki, then, is a great tool to help facilitate students collaboration and knowledge construction, however, teachers must be aware of what that process looks like so that is not shortened or diminished in any way for the students. Additionally, assignment must be designed in such a way that students can demonstrate the kinds of skills necessary for true collaboration and sharing of the learning space to occur. Once the learning process has room to take place and is truly valued and facilitated by the teacher, students will feel empowered and successful in their learning."
I would encourage all to read this article, which provides a foundational aspect to increased use of technology in - and outside of - the classroom.

Essential Question: Are our schools and personnel prepared for Web 2.0 technology in education?

Citation: Ruth Reynard, Ph.D., "Why Wikis?," T.H.E. Journal, 4/15/2009,

Friday, April 24, 2009

FFQF: Peter Brown

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

FFQF: Founding Fathers Quote Friday

“But God in mercy to us fought our battle for us and altho’ we were but few and so were suffered to be defeated by them, we were preserved in a most wonderful manner far beyond expectation, to admiration, for out of our regiment there was about 37 killed, 4 or 5 taken captive, and about 47 wounded….
If we should be called into action again I hope to have courage and strength to act my part valiantly in defence of our liberties and our country, trusting in him who hath yet kept me and hath covered my head in the day of battle….”
The above quote was contained in a letter written by Peter Brown to his mother on June 28, 1775 from Cambridge, Massachusetts. The event described involved the battle of Breed’s Hill – better known as the Battle of Bunker Hill, outside of Boston on June 17, 1775. Outnumbered, ill-trained against the legendary British army, the colonials made their stand, lost the day, but were willing to go on. While I found the letter in a book titled The Spirit of Seventy-Six, edited by Henry Steele Commager and Richard B. Morris, it’s also online at the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Bunker Hill Exhibit and is referenced many other places on the Internet.

Peter Brown would ‘fight valiantly’ throughout the Revolution, and would pass away in 1892, ‘honored among his countrymen’.

When I read the quote, I wondered if Brown could be considered as a ‘founding father’. He was, after all, not a political statesman, he didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence or Constitution… he wasn’t even an officer. He was a corporal in the loosely organized Massachusetts militia.

Founding fathers is a term this is often used, and it is assumed that everyone knows the meaning of it. The results of searching the Internet to find out exactly what the definition of a ‘founding father’ was?

The general consensus was that a Founding Father was: 1. A member of the convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution in 1787; 2. a man who founds or establishes something, such as George Washington was the father of his country. Wikipedia definition: The Founding Fathers of the United States were the political leaders who signed the Declaration of Independence or otherwise participated in the American Revolution as leaders of the Patriots, or who participated in drafting the United States Constitution eleven years later.

I think the Wikipedia explanation – while more comprehensive – is more accurate. Peter Brown was a common soldier who stood up for liberty and was willing to serve, suffer, and run the risk of injury or death for his service.

How willing are we today willing to stand for liberty?

Essential Question: How do we insure that students understand the terminology teachers are using?

Founding Fathers Quote Friday is hosted at Meet the Founders blog.

Monday, April 20, 2009

America 101 and Civics Education

Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, in the Fall 2008 edition, had an article by Eric Lane titled "America 101". The header of the article states "How we let civic education slide—and why we need a crash course in the Constitution today."

The concept of Civics education is currently being touted as a high need for our students - a basic understanding of the Consntitution, the Amendments, the way government is structured, and the duty of the citizens under that government.

This is an interesting article, which you can read in its entirety here. I hope you take the opportunity to peruse it's eleven pages.

However, ALL of the Social Studies are in need of a revamping and a heightened interest. Yes, Civics is important, vital even. But so is the knowledge of American History and the history of the World we live in. So is the study of economics and personal finance. So is the study of geography and geographic awareness of nations and cultures. So is a myriad of other Social Studies content areas.

The state has focused on math, reading, and writing - and sort of science. Those are fine. But citizens cannot function in a nation-state with only intellectual knowledge unconnected to their past - a past presented in an unbiased manner, whether politically correct or not. Our legislators - both at the state and national levels - need to realize, accept, and support this.

Yes, we need to support increased interest - and funding - for the study and application of civics. But we need to do the same with the other areas of the Social Studies if we want to have a nation of citizens who understand where they came from historically, and how to survive economically.

Of course, maybe we have to start thinking of how we are teaching it as well.

Essential Question: What strategies can be used to enhance Social Studies education in our schools and our lives?

Friday, April 17, 2009

FFQF: Sylvanus Wood

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

FFQF: Founding Fathers Quote Friday

The British colony of Massachusetts was a hot-bed of rebellious and seditious thoughts and actions against the British during years leading up to 1775. British actions – such as the Stamp Act of 1765 – led to colonial reactions, which led to further British actions, colonial reactions, and so on until the evening of April 18th, 1775.

The British military commander decided to send an expedition to Concord to seize munitions and weapons gathered by their rebellious cousins before further escalation occurred, changing the economic, social, and political wrangling into armed conflict. As important as the munitions, if not more so, the British troops also sought the rabble-rousing leaders of Massachusetts, men like Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and John Adams.

As the colonial warning system sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on their famed ‘Midnight Ride’ to warn the minutemen of the British advance, twenty-three year Sylvanus Wood joined the militia commanded by Captain Parker on the village green at Lexington during the early morning hours of April 19, 1775.
Fifty-one years after the event, on June 17, 1726, seventy-four-year-old Wood would provide an affidavit at Middlesex, Massachusetts, to the Justice of the Peace, Nathan Brooks. The papers were first published in 1858.

His words make up the Founding Father’s Quote Friday for April 17th.
I, Sylvanus Wood, of Woburn, in the county of Middlesex, and commonwealth of Massachusetts, aged seventy-four years, do testify and say that on the morning of the 19th of April, 1775, I was an inhabitant of Woburn, living with Deacon Obadiah Kendall. An hour before the break of day, I heard the Lexington bell ring, and fearing there was difficulty there, I immediately arose, took my gun and, with Robert Douglass, went in haste to Lexington, which was about three miles distant. When I arrived there, I inquired of Captain Parker, the commander of the Lexington company. What was the news?
Parker told me he did not know what to believe, for a man had come up about half an hour before and informed him that the British troops were not on the road. But while we were talking, a messenger came up and told the captain that the British troops were within half a mile. Parker immediately turned to his drummer, William Diamond, and ordered him to beat to arms, which was done. Captain Parker then asked me if I would parade with his company. I told him I would. Parker then asked me if the young man with me would parade. I spoke to Douglass, and he said he would follow the captain and me. By this time many of the company had gathered around the captain at the hearing of the drum, where we stood, which was about half way between the meetinghouse and Buckman's tavern. Parker says to his men, 'Every man of you, who is equipped, follow me; and those of you who are not equipped, go into the meeting-house and furnish yourselves from the magazine, and immediately join the company.' Parker led those of us who were equipped to the north end of Lexington Common, near the Bedford Road, and formed us in single file. I was stationed about in the centre of the company. While we were standing, I left my place and went from one end of the company to the other and counted every man who was paraded, and the whole number was thirty-eight, and no more.
Just as I had finished and got back to my place, I perceived the British troops had arrived on the spot between the meeting-house and Buckman's, near where Captain Parker stood when he first led off his men. The British troops immediately wheeled so as to cut off those who had gone into the meeting-house. The British troops approached us rapidly in platoons, with a general officer on horseback at their head. The officer came up to within about two rods of the centre of the company, where I stood, the first platoon being about three rods distant. They there halted. The officer then swung his sword, and said, "Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, or you are all dead men. Fire!" Some guns were fired by the British at us from the first platoon, but no person was killed or hurt, being probably charged only with powder.
Just at this time, Captain Parker ordered every man to take care of himself. The company immediately dispersed; and while the company was dispersing and leaping over the wall, the second platoon of the British fired and killed some of our men. There was not a gun fired by any of Captain Parker's company, within my knowledge. I was so situated that I must have known it, had any thing of the kind taken place before a total dispersion of our company. I have been intimately acquainted with the inhabitants of Lexington, and particularly with those of Captain Parker's company, and, with one exception, I have never heard any of them say or pretend that there was any firing at the British from Parker's company, or any individual in it until within a year or two. One member of the company told me, many years since, that, after Parker's company had dispersed, and he was at some distance, he gave them 'the guts of his gun.'"
Sylvanus Wood
Middlesex, ss., June 17, 1826.-Then the above-named Sylvanus Wood personally appeared, and subscribed and made oath to the foregoing affidavit. Before me,
Nathan Brooks
Justice of the Peace.
Sylvanus Wood was living in what is now the west side of Woburn, Massachusetts in 1775. He rushed to the village green to join the ranks of the militiamen who were responding. After being driven off the green in the initial confrontation, Wood and another man took after the rear guard of the British on the way to Concord. Sylvanus Wood took a British Soldier who had fallen out of ranks for a 'necessary action', by surprise and took him prisoner. This made him the first American to capture an enemy in war. He went on to serve in the Continental Army, reaching the rank of lieutenant. Others tried to take credit for the first capture of an enemy soldier, but his claim was eventually verified by congress, and he was granted a pension for this deed.

It took men of courage and dedication to stand up to the British army. Around our nation this week have been a number of “TEA Parties”. Many people think these are just protesting taxes, but actually the protest goes much deeper – delving down to the wasteful spending, loss of business enterprise to foreign countries, government intrusion and expanding control in the lives of American citizens who have traditionally valued that independent liberty fought for by men like Sylvanus Wood. Even our local county seat will have a Tea party this Saturday, April 18th.

Essential Question: How can protests affect government policy?

Founding Fathers Quote Friday is hosted at Meet the Founders blog.

Photo Resources:
01. Drawing of Minuteman: Concord Magazine
02. Sylvanus Wood Gravesite, Woodbrook Cemetary: Find a grave, photo by William Sweeney

Monday, April 13, 2009

History Lesson

The Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 BBC News had an interesting article titled History Lessons Stymied in Lebanon.

Modern history is no longer a part of the curriculum in Lebanon's educational system. As the articles stated:
"Lebanon has a long and varied history, but schools steer clear of teaching about the country's recent past..."
It turns out that the kids aren't taught modern history because the adults can't agree on it. And the division does not stop with just modern history. From the article:
"Even the country's ancient history is a thorny issue here. There are dozens of the government-approved history textbooks that offer different takes on the past. Depending on their religious affiliation, schools can choose books that describe the French as colonialists or liberators and portray the Ottomans as conquerors or as administrators."
This issue was caused by the diversity of beliefs in Lebanon and was a direct result of a bitter civil war that ravaged the country for over a decade. Deep sectarian divisions still exist in the country, as well as religious and political hatred. Because of this, there has been no agreement on a common textbook with a common history.

As Ohaness Goktchian, professor of political science at the American University in Beirut says in the article:
"We are raising another generation of children who identify themselves with their communities and not their nation. History is what unites people. Without history we can't have unity."
Goktchian concludes:
"In Lebanon we don't share values and traditions. And we have an education system which contributes to the divisions among us."
As we start to prepare for adopting new teaching materials in a few years - once the state legislature decides on the year - let us be grateful we don't face the problems Lebanon does in the area of history.

Or do we?

Essential question: What determines the content of a history book sold nationwide?"

Photo: from article listed above.

Friday, April 10, 2009

FFQF: Using the Past to Teach the Present: Pirates

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

Pirates on the high seas, grabbing cargo and crews for ransom? It has to be something out of the 18th and 19th century, right? It could never occur now, not in our satellite imaging, missile firing, aircraft flying, radar sighting 21st century?

As has been shown by the news lately, this piracy is a continuing plague infecting our seas. The International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre provides this map of the world-wide influence of piracy on the high seas.

As the riveting story of a crew that fought back, a kidnapped captain, a U.S. destroyer in the area – and more U.S. ships on the way, along with more pirate vessels, and a negotiating standoff that is expected to result in a hefty ransom being paid. Crews are not allowed weapons, ships are not armed, and the vessels in these heavily travelled waters are encouraged to fight piracy with high-pressure water cannon and evasive maneuvers. While the captain of the vessel is being held hostage on the open seas, the fact that American crewmen actually retook their vessel, the Maersk Alabama, so shocked the world that it is headline news.

Is there any events from our past that could guide us in dealing with the crisis?

Perhaps the words of Representative Robert Goodloe Harper, from an address on June 18, 1798, should be heeded again.

"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."

Harper served as a Federalist in the 3rd through 6th Congresses as a U.S. Representative from 1795 – 1801. He was the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means in 1798 when he uttered his famous statement, relating to Quasi War with France – concerning the infamous XYZ Affair during the administration of President John Adams.

The nation rallied around the cry, and a fledgling navy gained valuable experience in this undeclared war. Later, similar thoughts entered in the first war fought on foreign soil by American sailors and Marines: the War against Tripoli under our third President, Thomas Jefferson. A pattern we are seeing today was established, with pirates seizing American ships and crews in the Mediterranean and holding them for ransom – unless the American government paid ‘tribute’ to the local rulers. At one point the tribute to the Barbary Coast was approximately 10% of the U.S. government’s revenue.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to negotiate with Tripoli's envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman or (Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja). Upon inquiring "concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury", the ambassador replied:
"It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once."
Jefferson argued that paying more tribute to the Barbary States would lead to more attacks. When the declared war by chopping down the American flagpole in 1801, a four-year war ensued, ending with the capitulation of the Barbary states, recovery of hostages, and a pledge to not seize American ships. Of course, that pledge was broken in a decade, and the Second Barbary War was fought, with similar results.

During World War I and World War II a neutral America armed it’s merchant ships and formed convoys.

In the 19th century – the era of gunboat diplomacy – Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary in 1841, remarked "Taking a wasps' nest... is more effective than catching the wasps one by one" and allowed the British navy to destroy pirate and slave trader enclaves.

There is no time nor space to go into what Rome did under Emperor Augustus to end piracy in the Mediterranean, but it worked - for a century of Pax Romana.

Did these methods work? To an extent, yes - sending a message to those who flout the law. Were they controversial? Yes, and doubtless will not be adopted in today’s politically correct world. What solutions could there be to the problem that is politically correct and acceptable? Would dropping some SEALS over the side of the USS Bainbridge (coincidentally named after the Commander of the Barbary War) to rescue the captain of the Maersk Alabama be feasible for the short term?

Last year shipping interests handed over $80 million – money which fuels a livelihood for many in a war-torn, chaotic Somalia. The bribes simply encourage continued piracy. There has to be another solution. Perhaps the past offers an alternative.

Of course, we still try to buy favor of nations through foreign aid – a tribute of sorts.

Essential Question: What discussion strategies can be used with students to analyze the events taking place off the coast of Somalia and to devise acceptable strategies to deal with piracy today?

Founding Fathers Quote Friday is hosted at Meet the Founders blog.


1. Today's Pirate Ship: IMB Piracy Reporting Center
2. World Map of Piracy: IMB Piracy Reporting Center
3. Africa Coast Map: BBC Hourly News
4. Robert Goodlin Harper: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Albert Gallatin, by John Austin Stevens
5. Paying Tribute: Wikipedia
6. Lord Palmerston: Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Original 'Schindler's List' found in Sydney

The Internet has opened up a marvelous world of resources for the Social Studies teacher to use in connecting the past to the present and/or the present to the past. We can also read news releases from a variety of countries - in English editions. I was regularly reading the PRC news releases during the Olympics to get their view of things.

The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) had an article on April 6th revealing an amazing discovery that should be discussed in our classrooms.

Original 'Schindler's List' found in Sydney
April 6, 2009

A list of Jews saved by Oskar Schindler that inspired the novel and Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List" has been found in a Sydney library, its co-curator said.

Workers at the New South Wales State Library found the list, containing the names of 801 Jews saved from the Holocaust by the businessman, as they sifted through boxes of Australian author Thomas Keneally's manuscript material.

The 13-page document, a yellowed and fragile carbon typescript copy of the original, was found between research notes and German newspaper clippings in one of the boxes, library co-curator Olwen Pryke said.

Pryke described the 13-page list as "one of the most powerful documents of the 20th Century" and was stunned to find it in the library's collection.

"This list was hurriedly typed on April 18, 1945, in the closing days of WWII, and it saved 801 men from the gas chambers," she said. "It's an incredibly moving piece of history."

She said the library had no idea the list was among six boxes of material acquired in 1996 relating to Keneally's Booker Prize-winning novel, originally published as "Schindler's Ark". The 1982 novel told the story of how the roguish Schindler discovered his conscience and risked his life to save more than 1,000 Jews from the Nazis.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg turned it into a film in 1993 starring Liam Neeson as Schindler and Ralph Fiennes as the head of an SS-run camp.

Pryke said that, although the novel and film implied there was a single, definitive list, Schindler actually compiled a number of them as he persuaded Nazi bureaucrats not to send his workers to the death camps.

She said the document found by the library was given to Keneally in 1980 by Leopold Pfefferberg -- named on the list as Jewish worker number 173 -- when he was persuading the novelist to write Schindler's story.

As such, it was the list that inspired Keneally to tell the world about Schindler's heroics, she said. Pryke said she had no idea how much the list was worth.

Schindler, born in a German-speaking part of Austria-Hungary in 1908, began the war as a card-carrying Nazi who used his connections to gain control of a factory in Krakow, Poland, shortly after Hitler invaded the country.

He used Jewish labour in the factory but, as the war progressed, he became appalled at the conduct of the Nazis.

Using bribery and charm, he persuaded officials that his workers were vital to the war effort and should not be sent to the death camps.

Schindler died relatively unknown in 1974, but he gained public recognition following Keneally's book and Spielberg's film.

Essential Question: How can we use discoveries such as Schindler's List to relate to the past - and the past to the present?

Photo: DPA

Monday, April 6, 2009

Resources for teaching from the State Archives

I just received my quarterly newsletter from the State Library and Archives of Florida, and found several items to share with our Social Studies teachers that they might want to check out.

1. The State Library and Archives of Florida has joined the Commons Project at Flickr. From the site:

“In 2008, Flickr partnered with the Library of Congress to launch the site as a pilot project. The program's main goals are to feature hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives, and to demonstrate how user input and knowledge can help to enrich these collections. Viewers are invited to help describe the photographs, either by adding descriptive terms known as tags, or by leaving comments. Today, contributors to The Commons include the Smithsonian, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Bibliothèque de Toulouse, the George Eastman House, and other noteworthy repositories.”
This is an excellent source of photos and images for use in your classroom.

2. WPA Stories, published for use in schools.

The Federal Writers Project (part of the WPA – Works Progress Administration) was started in 1935 as an attempt to put our researchers and writers to work during the Great Depression. From the site:

“The Federal Writers’ Project became the most expansive piece of collective research ever conducted by any nation on itself. Writers visited every rural corner, small town, and crossroads in the country, leaving future generations a massive documentation of their own nation unlike any the world has ever seen, before or since.”
It’s worthwhile to browse through the selections available by clicking the links on the left side of the web page to the title of the article. To see the page, go here.

3. A new photo exhibit was established online at the State Archives to provide a celebration and history of NASA’s first 50 years. To see the exhibit, go here.

Essential question: How can we effectively train our students to use resources provided by the various state departments?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Legislative Updates

There are two bills – one in the Florida legislature, the other in the National Congress – pertaining to our field of Social Studies, more specifically American History and Civics. I would encourage you to take a few moments and visit the sites indicated for further information on the bills.

The Florida Legislature House Bill 13 is in PreK-12 Appropriations Committee. Titled Middle School Civics Education Assessment, this bill “provides requirements for civics education course that student must successfully complete for middle grades promotion beginning with students entering grade 6 in 2011-2012 school; requires administration of end-of-course assessment in civics education as field test at middle school level during 2011-2012 school year; provides requirements for course grade & course credit for subsequent school years; requires inclusion of civics education end-of-course assessment data in determining school grades beginning with 2012-2013 school year." For more information on this bill, or to follow its progress (or lack of it) through this legislative session, click here.

To keep up on a variety of issues in the Florida Legislature that concerns educators, and especially Social Studies instructors, bookmark the FCSS (Florida Council of Social Studies) and FASSS (Florida Association of Social Studies Supervisors) blog.

The US Senate bill S659 - titled Improving the Teaching and Learning of American History and Civics Act of 2009 - was proposed by Senators Kennedy, Byrd, and Alexander, and would consolidate many effective civic and historical programs and allocates funds to strengthen the upcoming 2010 NAEP assessment. It places an emphasis teaching American History and Civics in the public schools, and would seek to provide monies for training of teachers in these areas. For more information on this bill, or to follow its progress (or lack of it) through this legislative session, click here.

For Senator Alexander’s speech concerning this bill and the state of the study of American History and Civics, click here.

Will these bills become law? Hard to tell, with the economic cutbacks we’re facing. Right now it looks like Citrus County will face another five to eight million dollars in cutbacks from the monies received from the state. It is the fourth year in a row Civics-specific legislation has been proposed in the US Congress, and the umpteenth time in a row for the State legislature.

A wonderful book that I think all of our Congressmen should read is It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (written in 1935) in which the country moves into a dictatorship for a variety of reasons. I haven’t read it since before most of you were born (I think it was in 1971) – but it was outstanding. The book serves as a warning that political movements akin to Nazism can come to power in countries such as the United States when people blindly support their leaders – and are unaware of their history or civic responsibilities. For a free online edition, click here.

Essential Question: How can students be encouraged to find and use information on bills that concern their future?