Category Archives: World War I

Free Technology for Teachers: Explore the World with the Google Cultural Institute

This is reblogged from my post on Free Technology for Teachers

I am a big fan of the Google Cultural Institute; it’s an amazing repository of Artistic Masterpieces, Wonders of the Natural World, Historical Artifacts, and more. By using it as a repository of digital materials, it’s an easy way to access cultural content from around the world in my classroom. I can pull up a high definition image of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and use its powerful zoom features so that students can see the impasto brush strokes. We can explore the Street Art of Sao Paulo with a Google Street View for a unit on modern art or the Ruins at Angkor Wat

Free Technology for Teachers: Explore the World with the Google Cultural Institute.

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NYT – “The Great War: A 100 Year Legacy of World War I” Interactive

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My colleague and friend Kate Bloomfield, a teacher in the Social Studies department at Ransom Everglades School, forwarded me this great link for the New York Times: “The Great War: A 100 Year Legacy of World War I.”

The website includes articles, interviews, archived news reports, and interactive maps from World War I. This is a great resource for educators to teacher both contemporary reactions to war as well as its far reaching implications.

WWI unfolds in 3 minutes across the Map

Courtesy of Open Culture check out this great 3:31 video demonstrating how WWI unfolded across the map in Europe.

The National Archives Needs Your Help to Transcribe WWI Diaries

The Smithsonian often reaches out to the public to help its transcription projects. The most recent is to help transcribe diaries from World War I.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The project is called Operation War Diary, and it comes from a partnership between the National Archives, the citizen science initiative Zooniverse and the Imperial War Museum in the UK. The diaries have all been scanned and posted online for citizen historians to look at and transcribe.

To participate, users just pick a diary and get started. They’re then given a scanned page to classify and document. Users are asked to take notes of particular data points—the date of the entry, whether the entry lists casualties, what people it mentions, if it has a map and more.

Currently, these documents are only available in paper form. However, the Smithsonian hopes to change that by making them fully digitized! To volunteer for this important project, please see their blog post here.

Six Sites for Primary Source Materials

It is officially August and most educators are beginning to feel the pressure that is the beginning of school. As we start to look at rosters and enrollment, we start to pull out and revamp old lesson plans and search for new material. As a History Teacher (with a background in archaeology) I understand the relevance and importance of primary sources in the classroom. Primary sources are not solely essays or primary works, but art, photographs, and other avenues of popular culture.

Finding primary source documents on the web can sometimes be a bit of a scavenger hunt. I know that I have spent hours scouring the web for good translations, excerpted texts, or relevant materials. Additionally, incorporating primary source texts can be a challenge with high school children. My youngest kids are ninth graders and often, when I distribute an original text, it is the first time they have seen a document of this type. Additionally, as much as we educators do not like to admit, sometimes it is a challenge for us to come up with ideas and activities to effectively incorporate this material into our classrooms. How do we make this interesting? How do we make this comprehensible? How do we make this relevant? Bringing in an original work and simply tossing it into a classroom environment is a sure-fire method for failure – students will often be confused, bored, and overwhelmed. Teaching with primary sources requires preparation and method.

In this article, I am focusing on six websites that focus on providing primary sources for educators and students. These sites are all excellent resources for educators in the Social Studies with a broad range of topics: American History, World History, World Religions, Language, Literature, Art, and Politics. There are many more amazing resources out there and I encourage you to add yours as well! So, here are my favorite five (presented in no particular order):

1. Milestone Documents  (Subscribe to their Facebook and Twitter feeds (all free) for regular highlights of documents in their catalogue as well as lesson plan ideas.)

  • Cost: $106.20 for an annual subscription
  • Grades: High School and College  (the material is too sophisticated for elementary and middle school).
  • Subject(s): History
  • Geographic Focus: Milestone focuses heavily on American History, but includes a solid library of texts for all of World History (Ancient, Western, African, and Asian).
  • Additional Subject Focus: In addition to organizing the material by date and region, Milestone has sections of Social History including politics (heavily focused on American political history), religion, and women.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents
  • Navigation: The content area is easy to navigate and great for “browsing.” The search feature is excellent for when you know exactly what you need.
  • Teacher Resources: lesson plans, rubrics, and assessment material.
  • Web 2.0 Focus: Many of the lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements – Google Maps, Mind Mapping, etc.

What sets Milestone apart from the free resources listed below is that each document is predicated with a succinct contextual/historical statement. Students and educators are provided with a solid background for the text. Most works are also followed up with a critical analysis essay as well as provocative questions. Milestone is an excellent investment for teachers and students alike.

2. EDSITEment – Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities,

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Culture, Foreign Language, History & Social Studies, as well as Literature & Language Arts.
  • Geographic Focus: World
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, politics, religion, popular culture, and more. There are many sub-categories that merit exploration.
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

3. Smithsonian Education – Sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12
  • Subject(s): Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, Language Arts
  • Geographic Focus: World (US History most thorough)
  • Additional Subjects: Current event topics, social history, art history
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content areas.
  • Teacher Resources: Educator’s using this resource can readily access a multitude of innovative lesson plans, activities, assessment materials, alignment with Common Core Standards, worksheets, and listings for additional materials and resources.
  • Web 2.0: Many lesson plans incorporate Web 2.0 elements

4. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

  • Cost: Free for Educators and Students (private citizens pay per use), must register for access to materials. Gilder Lehrman encourages schools to register as Affiliated Schools (numerous benefits and access to more resources)
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: American History
  • Geographic Focus: The United States of America
  • Additional Subjects: Social History, Politics, Civil Rights
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Easy to browse and explore content
  • Teacher Resources: some lesson plans and ideas, collaborative weblog, sponsored Teacher Seminars
  • Web 2.0: very little web 2.0 focus.

5. The Library of Congress

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: K-12, College, Graduate
  • Subjects: History
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on the Americas (national and regional histories), limited resources for World History
  • Additional Subjects: Folklore, local histories, veteran history, literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material, audio recordings, maps, video, interviews, etc.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse and search, requires adaptability
  • Teacher Resources: Some sections have extensive teachers resources in the form of lesson plans and activities, others are more spartan in their construct. LOC offers grants for professional development.
  • Web 2.0: Some sections readily incorporate web 2.0 activities, others are more limited and traditional.

6. Perseus Digital Library – Sponsored by Tufts University

  • Cost: Free
  • Grades: 9-12, College, Graduate
  • Subject: History, Art History, Archaeology
  • Geographic Focus: Heavily focused on Greco-Roman (founded as a Classical Library it contains all Latin & Greek works), Arabic, Germanic, 19th century America, Renaissance Europe, Egyptian Papyri
  • Additional Subjects: Humanism, Literature
  • Material Types: Text-based documents, visual material; the Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser provides High Definition images of thousands of artifacts.
  • Navigation: Tricky to browse, excellent search capabilities. This is an fabulous tool so long as you know what you are looking for.
  • Teacher Resources: No lesson plans or activities, purely material resources.
  • Web 2.0: No web 2.0 incorporation.

As you can see, there are numerous and extensive resources readily available to educators. The six that I highlighted are a good start, but hardly an all encompassing list. If you have suggestions or additions, please add them here! In the meantime, get browsing for some great material and lesson plan ideas!

Gilder Lehrman/NEH Institute: The Empire City (Day 2)

So, at the end of a rather full Day 2, I have to admit that I’m a bit on “information overload,” so I’m a little… frazzled. As such, don’t be surprised to see some revisions on this over the next couple of days. It’s been a while since the sheer volume of information has left me felt… exhausted, yet it happened today (and I’m only in Day 1)!

This Seminar Focuses on the Empire City: New York City 1877-2001. It is hosted by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and cosponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. There is no way that I can summarize the entirety of the day, I will just try to relate on some of the experiences that I had.

The first session focused on the resources available via the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. They house thousands of primary source documents related to American History and readily make these resources available to the public. If you have not done so, check out their Affiliate School Program (entirely free), their digital collection, and resources for educators. Their focus is on the importance and practical application of primary sources – they provide documents, resources, and lesson plans for educators (incorporated into common core standards).

The morning, we focused on “The RIse of New York to National Dominance,” in which Professor Kenneth Jackson brought forth the question (and possible answers to) “Why New York? Why did New York become the most prominent and important city in the United States over others like Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.” New York City has a unique history that has led to its (seemingly permanent) position as the economic and cultural capital of the United States. We discussed issues such as geography, economy, culture, and even ‘pure damn luck.’

The next hour we discussed the “Changing Role of Women in Post-Civil War America,” hostd by Professor Karen Markoe. She was quick to point out that investigating the role and position of 50% of the population in a century and a half period is an impossible task – yet feminist scholars always like to pigeon hole the role of women. She highlighted some common and well-recognized names: Margaret Sanger and Hetty Green (the Witch of Wall Street), but was quick to point out that we had only scratched the surface of prominent New York women.

The afternoon, we began to investigate the experience of literature in Gotham, specifically the work of Edith Wharton and her work The Age of Innocence as highlgihted by Professor John Rocco. We discussed the changing atmosphere of New York’s elite from the late 19th century through the “Jazz Age” (as higlighted by Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald) – by the way, if you have not seen the preview of the new 2012 film “The Great Gatsby” it is a highly recommend! Even if the film is terrible, the preview is amazing!

The rest of the afternoon we spent at the New York Historical Society, examining primary source documents and learning about the many, many resources available at Giler Lehrman. It was a vastly stimulating and thoroughly exhausting day… and I’m only 20% through the experience!

Christmas Truce in No Man’s Land – December 1914

Men from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers meet their German counterparts in no man's land somewhere in the deadly Ypres Salient, December 26, 1914. (Smithsonian Magazine)

The famous (and at one time infamous) story of the Christmas Truce of World War I is one of the most indelible and inspiring stories in history. In December of 1914, a group of Germans in the trenches of “No Man’s Land” lit festive fires in their trenches, began singing Christmas carols, and sending wishes of a “Merry Christmas” to their adversaries on the other side.

In spite of its inspiration, the event (at the time) was highly controversial and a military logistical nightmare:

Their truce–the famous Christmas Truce–was unofficial and illicit. Many officers disapproved, and headquarters on both sides took strong steps to ensure that it could never happen again.

Later, in a letter home, an English soldier recorded the event in detail for his family:

‘Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.’ For some little time we were cautious, and did not even answer. Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent. But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy. How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards? So we kept up a running conversation with the Germans, all the while our hands ready on our rifles. Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity—war’s most amazing paradox. The night wore on to dawn—a night made easier by songs from the German trenches, the pipings of piccolos and from our broad lines laughter and Christmas carols. Not a shot was fired.

To read more about the famous Christmas Truce, see the article on the Smithsonian Blog.