Vancouver, Washington was recently the site of a couple firsts for the TPS Western Region program. Not only was it the first workshop of 2012, but it was our first foray into the beautiful state of Washington. Held on January 12-13, the workshop for Educational Service District 112 focused on the concept of Imperialism. The 25 participants, almost all secondary teachers, were given a tour of the Library of Congress website, and were also shown the power and effectiveness of Barbara Stripling’s Inquiry Model.
There were a few things that made this particular workshop great. One was the use of a tool called TodaysMeet. This tool allows for a backchannel communication between the workshop presenters and participants. Matt Karlsen, grantee and organizer of the workshop, used the tool as a way for the participants to add their comments and thoughts, as well as pertinent web links and other sources to a stream of constantly updating messages. This was used as an additional method of conversation outside of the main presentations.
Here’s an example of one of these side conversations:
- I find that my students Love looking at and analyzing pictures. Luke at 17:16 PM, 12 Jan 2012 via web
- Why do you think that is, Luke? What do you think makes that happen? Matt at 17:17 PM, 12 Jan 2012 via web
- Students that are afraid or do not like to read, realize that they can take part in analyzing a picture. Luke at 17:18 PM, 12 Jan 2012 via web
- I believe that we still need to challenge them to read and interact with difficult texts though. Luke at 17:19 PM, 12 Jan 2012 via web
- I wonder if reading and interacting with images will lead students to start reading and interacting with (interrogating) text. Matt at 17:20 PM, 12 Jan 2012 via web
- Have you observed that, Luke? Matt at 17:21 PM, 12 Jan 2012 via web
- Definitely. A compelling picture can spark interest which leads to an increased desire to read a text. Luke at 17:23 PM, 12 Jan 2012 via web
Participants were also given opportune moments to add their own voices to the presentations, and the messages were projected during breaks, in order that everyone could see what others were talking about.
Dr. Cynthia Stout, TPS consulting instructor and presenter at the workshop, had some reservations when she heard the backchannel would be implemented. She believed it would be a distraction to the material being presented, but it turned out to be an effective addition to the workshop. Cynthia believed that it could be used to aid teachers in their classrooms.
An example of this would be to give a shy student, afraid to speak up in class, the ability to submit their answers or thoughts via this backchannel tool. It could also allow for comments and suggestions not specifically on topic to be asked and answered separately from the discussions. It’s something that we at TPS Western Region program have done in the past, but never in a workshop. We look forward to implementing this in our upcoming events.
The second unique thing about this workshop was the incorporation of the lesson study cycle. Using resources from the Library of Congress, the participants built annotated resource sets that they then used as lesson plans for demonstration lessons. These demonstration lessons will eventually be taught in the classroom, which fellow participants observing and critiquing each others’ lessons.
Although the overall arching theme of the workshop was Imperialism, the participants, after getting into groups, ended up selecting different topics after viewing the plethora of Library of Congress resources. “The Library of Congress takes you to all kinds of places you never knew existed,” Cynthia said. Some of these topics included the 1918 Influenza and WWII propaganda.
After having been asked what the participants gained from the workshop, they were able to share their responses using the backchannel tool:
- I learned how to navigate LOC website as well as how to further stimulate student inquiry. I also learned more about the options on the LOC
- how to filter image searches; large number of LOC preprepared collections; creating ARS.
- The 3 things I learned: To navigate the LOC site, Prezi and the Presentation and Activity link.
Finally, Matt Karlsen who put the entire workshop together had this to say about the power of including primary sources in teachers’ lesson plans:
During last Friday’s demonstration lesson, a group of high school teachers prepared a Prezi on the 1918 influenza epidemic and we gathered to observe a class interact with the sources. When the student I was watching opened the Prezi and saw a photo of a room overflowing with patients on cots, he asked his teacher where the photo came from. The teacher explained that because the influenza was a major event of the day, many photos were taken and remain available. The student looked at the teacher incredulously: You mean these photos are real? Sure, said his teacher. The student’s jaw dropped: Even the baseball game we saw yesterday?
It made clear how difficult it is to whittle away at our students’ misconceptions: Despite the fact that the student had been exposed to primary sources for months, it took until this moment for it to finally sink in that these were real artifacts allowing time travel to an unfamiliar past. I felt lucky to have witnessed the breakthrough!
Read Matt’s post about the workshop at the blog Teaching American History in SW Washington.