My daughter was able to spend some time last year in Washington DC waiting to start an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. And she had a few days to act like a tourist – touring monuments, exploring great little eateries, and visiting museums that have remained open. One of her new faves is the Folger Shakespeare Library. And to be honest, it’s a site I haven’t spent a ton of time exploring until she started texting photos and links to it.
One of the most interesting images for me as a history nerd?
A photo of a botany book from 1672.
Written by a guy named William Hughes, the book focused on the “roots, shrubs, plants, fruit, trees, herbs Growing in the English Plantations in America.” Hughes, who apparently was also a pirate, added a separate “Discourse of The Cacao Nut Tree and the use of its Fruits with all of the ways of making Chocolate into Drink.”
So I’m hooked already. Old books. Chocolate. And piracy. How have I never heard of this place before now?
Here’s the point. We can sometimes get in a rut in our instruction. Textbooks. The occasional SHEG lesson plan. Some Library of Congress documents now and again. And a test. There always seems to be a test.
But we shouldn’t forget that Read more
You all know how much I love the Smithsonian. Between their 19 brick and mortar museums, the amazing Learning Lab, the History Explorer, and their handy digital resources, it can be difficult deciding where to start.
And the decision just got a bit more difficult. The Smith just released a new site called Open Access focused sharing almost three million still images, text, sound recordings, research datasets, 3D models, and collection data. It gives you free and easy access to 2D and 3D images from all 19 Smithsonian museums, its nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo, all in the public domain. Use however you want for whatever you want as mush as you want.
All perfect for teacher lesson plan creation and student research.
I especially love the 3D objects and images of artifacts. With Smithsonian Open Access, they’re increasing our ability to use millions of digital assets all carrying what’s called a CC0 designation. This means the Smithsonian dedicates the digital asset into the public domain, meaning the collection is free of copyright restrictions and you can use it for any purpose, free of charge, without further permission from the Smithsonian. How cool is that? Read more
Art is hard. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that sometimes I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s modern art that causes me trouble. Maybe I’m just too literal. The piece to the left hanging in Seattle’s art museum? I got nothing.
But with the help of an older sister and a daughter, both strong with the art force, I’ve gotten better at making sense of color, shape, perspective, of context and hidden messages. And with the help of a lot of bright people at places like the Smithsonian and Library of Congress, I’m also getting better at looking at art as a form of primary source information, as another way to understand place and time,
For the last few months, I’ve been highlighting the very cool way that teachers are using Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms to help students think about the Bill of Rights and contemporary issues. I love using interpretations of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere and Alonzo Chappel to talk about historical accuracy and encourage historical thinking. The National Portrait Gallery has been huge in showing me ways that we can use portraits such as the Lansdowne image of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart and John Brown in his US Army blanket by Ole Peter Hansen Balling. And who hasn’t used images such as John Gast’s American Progress to lead conversations about Manifest Destiny and the interactions between settlers and American Indians?
But I’m starting to believe even more in the power of artwork as story and primary source. So it’s always great to find another site and set of tools that help integrate art into instruction and learning. I recently ran across SmartHistory and am loving it.
Smarthistory believes that: Read more
We had just spent an hour or so using Russel Tarr’s simple but powerful Breaking News Generator. I wanted to talk a bit about online civic literacy and combating fake news. So I had asked our ESSDACK social studies PLC that had gotten together to use Russel’s tool to create two different stories – a factual Breaking News story and one that was biased or fake.
And, of course, the group came through in typical fashion.
The activity led to a great conversation around effective tools and resources that teachers and students can use while accessing and organizing online information. But it also led to another discussion about all of the tools available at Russel’s awesome ClassTools.net site.
Most of the group hadn’t heard of or used ClassTools.net before. So we explored some other tools including Headline Generator:
She says that it’s been both a blessing and a curse.
My daughter is in Washington DC waiting to start an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The position was scheduled to begin on January 14. But . . . mmm, yeah. She’s had a couple of weeks of free time due to the inability of grownups to get along and do important things such as paying people and funding the government. And like 100s of thousands of others, she’s looking forward to getting in to work over the next few days.
The silver lining, of course, is that she’s had a few days to act like a tourist – touring monuments, exploring great little eateries, and visiting museums that have remained open. One of her new faves is the Folger Shakespeare Library. And to be honest, it’s a site I haven’t spent a ton of time exploring until she started texting photos and links to it.
One of the most interesting images for me as a history nerd? Read more
The video game Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag came about five years ago. And as an avid fan of Assassin’s Creed, my son and his friends were some of the first in line to purchase it. And play it.
If you’re not familiar with the Assassin’s Creed line of video games, they’re basically an action adventure featuring a centuries old struggle between two groups of people – the Assassins, who fight for peace and free will, against the Templars, who believe peace comes through control of humanity. There’s fighting, walking around, some fighting, sneaking around, more fighting, some running, and then some more fighting. Fairly typical video game.
The thing that makes the series a little different than many other action adventure or first person shooter games, is the creators of Assassin’s Creed have been very deliberate about mixing the historical fiction of Assassins vs. Templars with real-world historical events and figures. In Assassin’s Creed III, for example, the setting is the American colonies before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. And there’s a cut scene depicting a version of the Boston Massacre that does a great job of creating the sense of place around that event, perfect for creating a idea of what that event might have looked like and the ambiguity around how the event transpired.
My son experienced the same sort of historical involvement when he was playing Black Flag. Set in the 18th century Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy, Black Flag obviously was telling a fictional story. But to be successful in that story, players need to know a lot about what life was like during that period and in that place. I asked him later about his experience: Read more