A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Learning to think rather than regurgitate!

A new year with a new class.

I have to say I think I'm going to really enjoy this group alot. They already have asked great questions and are going to require me to be on my toes to keep up with them.

We started the year with my State's Names exercise. This is the image they have been looking at for two days.

State Names; 2000; Jaune Quick-To-See Smith; Born: St. Ignatius, Montana 1940; oil, collage and mixed media on canvas; 48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.9 cm); Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Elizabeth Ann Dugan and museum purchase; 2004.28; Smithsonian American Art Museum

These are a few their observations ...

It has a rusty red color on the top of it to represent the war
A new generation is coming and the old generation is being stripped away
Caging in America
Chaotic Unification
It looks like it is all moving together into one
Dying ... disintegrating ... falling apart ... no one knows what's going on
Some names have drips covering them but the others seem to pop out
It looks like melting wax
Something is spreading down, like war or migration
Bloody death
It looks like war. And it looks like everything is falling apart.
The top right states look like the drops are icecicles
Blood running down Dakota... most bloodshed there
The oceans are black yet the Great Lakes are grey
Everything to the east side has no borders ... like one big state

I created a word cloud to show them their insights. The larger the word, the more often it was used in the observation.

Without knowing anything about the artwork or artist, they got the tension in the painting. They used the word 'war' and 'conflict' alot and I think that is a fair assessment of the piece. They guessed global warming, immigration and civil war but connected the names as Native American and wondered about the significance of the black oceans. They did a great job.

Below is a profile of the artist done by KU. They're highlighting a different pieces, but it gives a good  overview of the artist's aesthetic.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reconstruction Sucked!

Today's theme in class was Reconstruction. The era lasts for about 10-15 years with the goal of reunifying the North and South. It ends because a people exhausted by a war and struggling with how to best integrate freed slaves into a new order gave up. Ok, that is my opinion. There are other arguments and points to be made and I will concede that they have their worth but the advocates of free blacks were weary and the advocates for the Lost Cause waited them out. I didn't walk in their shoes and so I am not casting judgement. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to 'reconstruct'. Yet, that failure had a devastating human cost.

An image I found last year is one I use in class and explains my feelings about Reconstruction. Its by Thomas Nast in 1868 and starkly points out how the idea of emancipation hasn't rung true for the freedmen.

The other submission is a trailer for a PBS video on peonage titled Slavery By Another Name. Peonage was the enslavement of African Americans for at least two generations after the Civil War for bogus criminal acts.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"A strange little document..."

Transcription: This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.
A. Lincoln [signed on the reverse: William H Seward, W. P. Fessenden, Edwin M Stanton, Gideon Welles, Edwd. Bates, M Blair, and J. P. Usher]
Dr. Pinsker showed us this document today and I am intrigued. The memorandum was written by Lincoln in August 1864. It was then folded and his cabinet was instructed to sign the back of it without ever having seen its reverse. Seven do.

The memo is pretty straightforward: Lincoln has reconciled the fact that he will probably not win re-election. He acknowledges that the new president can not, in all reality, continue the war as it is currently being fought. Lincoln has from election in November 1864 to inauguration in March 1865 to complete the war and is enlisting his replacement to assist in the endeavor to "save the Union." If the two leaders can partner together to end the war before the new President's innauguration, the new administration can manage peace and not the end of a predacessor's conflict.

I am smitten with the document.
I like the covert aspect: written, folded, blindly signed on the reverse. As a teacher, I can see that action being recreated for my students–I wonder if they will sign blindly like the cabinet or blanch at the uncertainty of it.
I like the emotion of it: Lincoln is agonizingly honest and you can sense the distress.
I like the dissonance it will create for my students. On this side of history, we know Lincoln wins in 1864 handily and Lincoln’s worries will be unfounded.  It is helpful, however, to help our young women and men see that history is lived ‘in the moment’ and Lincoln’s moment in August 1864 looks bleak.
That “in the moment” aspect can help make history come alive for my students. When you don’t know how it will turn out, it makes the action more honest, makes the action more profound, more brave.

Monday, August 6, 2012

10 days and counting (or ... what happened to summer?!)

You know how you go along and think you have more time than you really have and then ... boom ... reality rears its ugly head.

That was last Friday. After three really nice sessions in my online course through Gilder Lehrman, I woke up Friday with alot of catch-up errands. Among them was enrolling the boys-sophomore and eight grade. It was at one of the schools that it hit me that there are ten days of summer left. And really, not even ten.

I report back to school, at least part time, on Thursday. That is after two more days of my online class so ... today is really it. Next week is the 'Back-to School Gauntlet'. Ice Cream Socials. Meet the Teachers. In-services. Work days and meetings. And then first day of school!

This is a really exciting part of the year. A chance to hear what everyone did for the summer. A chance to put the thought and schemes into practice. A chance to get back into the rhythm of the year.

This year I'll be teaching a new subject for me, European History. I'll end up teaching three separate trimesters this year of the class. I'm really excited but a little worried as I continue to feel like I'm scrambling to get it all together. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Crowdsourcing with Google Maps-wanna play?

This is the Engine House at Harpers Ferry. Brown was captured here.

One of the tools we were shown today involved Google Maps. You can create your own maps and that has some cool implications for the classroom. I'm still playing with it but have created a map of places John Brown traveled while active in the abolition circuit.

The link is here.

The program isn't as user friendly as I am used to, but it probably points to my laziness more than anything else.

If you want, feel free to add a location. May I suggest looking to see if Brown was near you? My east coasters and Kansans, this is going to be easier for you but who know what we'll learn.

BTW-This is part of a class project so my smart-mouthed friends please note that ... (do I really need to finish this?). The only thing I ask is that you tell me where you got your information. Avoid wikipedia-I've already found a couple errors/questionable facts in their John Brown entries. About.com; ask.com; Jeeves; ...fall into the wiki category as well so avoid those too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

1,600+ words = 1 image

Ignore me, I’m playing.

I have given kids Wordle versions of their research papers before and so wanted to see what Tagzedo could do:

The first is a paper by a young lady who suggested that total war was as much a moral wrong as slavery itself. I tell them if they see “I would have read this one for free” on their paper, I really liked it. She got her paper back and that was the only comment she looked for. It was there. Probably one of the best I’ve read in seven years.

I love that ‘slave war’ ran through the south and ‘destruction land’ across the north. Completely random.

The second paper did not have that commendation on his paper but I loved the ambition of his thesis. The South lost Gettysburg due to arrogance, disregard of orders and poor execution. I’d rather them be ambitious and come up short (I love helping them get the rest of the way) rather than striving for the mediocre.
I love that Longstreet connects the fuse on this one. Its like the guy who designed Longstreet’s statue at Gettysburg now works at Tagzedo.

Do They Miss Me @ Home?

This clip is a student written and produced project we were asked to view for the Gilder Lehrman online program I'm working on this week. This is what I aspire to with my students.  Look for the letter from Lt. Coldwell's young daughter and the wife's 'three teardrops' letter.