Fifth Piece of Puzzle

My final project is to teach historical thinking using the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. The intended audience is the freshmen of college. This is one activity of a history course. Due to the limited time, my focus is to use the images such as posters, postcards and pictures to teach students to capture and analyze the information they can get from the images such as time, author and caption. The images are selected from both suffragist side and anti-suffragist sides. Through these images, the students will have the knowledge of women’s suffrage, what different groups people thought of the movement and why they thought so. The activity aims to train students to understand and interpret history using the primary sources from the time and imagining themselves as part of the time period. The possible difficulty for some students is to understand why some women opposed women’s suffrage and major anti-suffrage organizations and movements were led and supported by women. But this is the point of the activity that with historical thinking training, students will be able to understand the social ethos of the time, use the facts to interpret the history, and ease “the tension between the familiar and the strange, between feelings of proximity to and feelings of distance from the people we seek to understand” (Sam Wilburg).

The platform is Omeka. Students will see the activity schedule, brief history of women’s suffrage movements, samples of how to capture and analyze information of images of women’s suffrage, group discussion of a few exercises,  and a final project each individual needs to do. As there are a lot of images and pieces of text, Omeka fits the best.  I am currently building this website and slightly modifying some of my original ideas to fit the technology. After building the site, I will ask some people to test using it and I will listen to their feedback to make the website run more smoothly.

Final Project Update

This week, I have been researching for the teaching sources for women’s suffrage movement and planning the different parts of this teaching. I have nailed most of the primary sources I will use for my digital project and the lesson plan is there will be four parts:

  1. The first part is the introduction of the course, objectives, and a few images that may spark students’ interest in finding history in images and women’s suffrage movement in the U.S.
  2. The second part is history learning of women’s suffrage movement. Due to the limited time and the aim of the course, the scope of this section will be limited to a crash course video, pro-and anti-suffrage argument and their primary sources including images, letters and
  3. The third part is image analysis. It will give two examples of image analysis and then will ask students to do their own. After that, students will be divided into groups and discuss the work. Because students can not leave comments and do crowdsourcing on Omeka, I will create a facebook page to display the results of students’ discussions in one or a few posts. Besides these posts, under each image I upload, students can also leave comments, share links and exchange ideas. The facebook page can also serve as a showcase of historical thinking lesson to other teachers and students.
  4. The last part is assignment, the final project. In this project, students have the opportunity to show their historical thinking ability. They can analyze images of women’s suffrage movement, write a letter imagining he/she was a certain person at the time.  Or write a play interpreting or reconstruct an event at the time. Students are free to pick a role but need to be specific because as Dr.Schrum reminded me, different people have different viewpoints. Students can also divide this role-playing along a racial line. The student can imagine he or she is a black woman, interpreting history from both woman and racial perspectives.

After browsing all the students work of previous class and the history education projects, I get clearer about my project such as form, scope and potential challenges. I am impressed with their creativity and the diversity of the forms of the projects. Because my project is women’s suffrage which includes both texts and images, I find and are extremely useful examples for my project. They are the ideal forms I had in mind when I first planned the project. Erin Bush’s platform is wordpress, and she embeded many webpages and links in it. Pethel’s project on Elizabeth I is based on Omeka. These two projects had me think and hesitate about which platform I would use. I finally decided to use Omeka because I am more familiar with it and I have a lot of images in the project.

The next step is building the project on Omeka. I have found all the primary sources I need and made a draft lesson plan. So, the next step is to realize my ideas and solve the problems along the way.

Fourth Piece of Puzzle

My project is to teach students’ historical thinking by using women’s suffrage as the example. The target audience is the freshmen of college. The major part is the analysis of images. This cartoon is the one who opposed women’s suffrage. One of the reasons why some people opposed women’s suffrage is “domestic feminism,” the belief that women had the right to complete freedom within the home. This cartoon well reflects this sentiment that the women’s domain was only domestic. They can’t execute their voting right well because of their home affairs. Students may be confused about this cartoon if they don’t know this historical background. Voting is a serious matter that decides many important things of the civil society. However, in this cartoon, Mrs. Jones ditches this sacred right and civil responsibility for a cake in the oven. It not only shows women care about home affairs (home is their domain) so much but also, they can’t be trusted with voting right.  How can you give up voting because you put a cake in the oven as priority? This cartoon reflects well the viewpoint of anti-suffragism. This is why I choose this image to help students understand the mindset of the anti-suffragists.

I will guide students to understand this image with questions and group discussions. 1. what happened in the cartoon? Describe it with details. 2. What do you think this cartoon want to say? It is pro or against suffrage? why? 3. Why does Mrs. Jones rush to go just for a cake in the oven? And why does this matter as it’s the theme of  the cartoon?  4. What’s the connection between a cake in the oven and votes for women?  5. If you were a person living at that time, were you convinced by the cartoon or not? why? What evidence would you use if you lived at that time to counterargue against this cartoon? 6. Do you have other cartoons that show the similar theme? Share one that interests and analyze it.

Digital Storytelling

Take my final project as the example to answer the questions. My final project is to use images of women’s suffrage movement to teach students how to do historical thinking. The images, no matter pictures, cartoons or videos, show people’ different views of women’s suffrage. There are advocators and opposition and many other information a reader can tell from the images if they examine it carefully and put it in the historical context, such as the clothes, the facial expression and the time. The reasons why I chose to use images to teach historical thinking are: 1. it will keep students’ interest, more engaging than the continuous reading of texts. 2. I hope to let students know that an image may convey a lot of information. 3.  With images, it is easier to make students put themselves in the time period of suffrage movement and imagine they were the people at the time. This empathy, with the historical knowledge of the time, can help students better understand why some people approved and others opposed. 4. I believe students can learn more by this interactive class room teaching and learning than I do all the talking. 5. With multimedia and practice of historical thinking, students will have new understanding of history. It is much more than memory of dates, events and people but more about interpretation with evidences. This critical thinking skill gained from history learning will benefit students in many other areas.

For example, I will use two cartoons during the women’s suffrage movement, one is for suffrage and the other is against suffrage to guide students to think historically.  and

What messages do these political cartoons convey? Which one is pro suffrage and which is against it? Why? From these cartoons, what are the reasons for women’s suffrage and what are against it? What controversies of women’s suffrage can you tell from these cartoons? Students will work on these questions after learning the history of women’s suffrage. Students will do the group work by sharing their views, they will argue and counter-argue with each other because I predict some students have different opinions. In this group work, students can also share the posters that interest them and their interpretations about them. By the cross-examining these posters, students will deepen their understanding and further their inquiry of women’s suffrage.

In the classroom setting, I would use digital storytelling to spark the students’ interest in the topic. For example, I use Finding Kate at the beginning of the class teaching slavery or historical thinking. I could also use the video in middle of the class to shed light on the microhistory, a story of a slave. It is a good example of historical thinking: how you find the life story by putting together and interpreting the historical evidence. I can also use it at the end of the class to stimulate students to explore after class the history of slaver or the history of Kate’s period. How to use the digital storytelling depends on the content and the purpose of the class but it is a great way to animate history teaching and learning and the students, if they are interested, can make their own digital story telling.



Third Pieces of Puzzle

In the last week, I narrowed down my initial plan of the final project. I did not consider much the limited time of the course. After taking the fourth module of the course which is about image in primary sources, I have new ideas about my final project and I find I need to continue to narrow down the scope of the project. I consider making the project only about how to evaluate an image and by this practice, students can learn historical thinking. If so, the final assignment I give to the students should be scaled down to be image-related only.  After learning the module 4 of the course, I think it might be better I arrange the case study after the theories and then the mini archives I set where students can do their own research. My current plan is mini archives first then case study.

If I set the final project to be the analysis of images, my research will be on the images and their related information such as the metadata and historical context. I have found the websites where I can find many primary sources of the women’s suffrage movement.There is a fabulous variety of primary sources. My next step is to select the images and information that can best train students’ historical thinking. I plan to select a few pairs of images only due to the limited time of the course and centering on these images build the mini archives where students can do research on everything related to these images such as historical context, metadata and the authors. It takes time to select appropriate images for students to practice historical thinking because I need to do a lot of research on the images. I will do this after my dissertation defense this Thursday.

A final project I wanted students to do was they have the freedom to choose a topic in the period of women’s suffrage and practice historical thinking. They can create poster of women’s suffrage or the one that is against it, they can write a letter in voice of a suffragist or anti-suffragist, they can write down a view point or reflection on one picture, event or person in the women’s suffrage, if they don’t write, they can present in a video lecturing on the topic, they can even create and act in a play. They can also examine a secondary source, why they agree or don’t agree with it. No matter what form they choose, they need show their interpretation and the historical evidence that supports it. I am hesitating of this assignment, wondering if I should give the students such freedom or I should narrow it to the interpretation of images. I will have an idea after deciding what images I will select and the scope of the mini archives I set up.

Revised Final Project

My final project is to create a project that teaches students how to think historically by examining the Women’s Suffrage Movement of the U.S. from 1900-1920, the final period leading to the 19th amendment to the Constitution. The project aims to train students to research like a historian, such as the skills to critically examine primary sources, counter argue a well-accepted conclusion and use multiple ways to present their findings. The project is made up of five modules.

  1. In the first module, the students will be guided to think about what is history, how they learned history before, in what new ways they think they can learn and research history better. It’s an open discussion on history learning and teaching. The next part is readings on historical thinking. Students will read the journal articles and watch videos to understand what historical thinking is and why it’s important. The third part is the basic skills to examine a primary source such as how to read metadata, how to judge if a source(such as a website) is reliable and what are secondary and primary sources. The students will be given the information of major online sources such as the national archives, digital public history of America.
  2. The second module will be the history of U.S. women’s suffrage from 1900-1920. There will be texts, videos, posters, pictures, news reports, speeches etc to give students an idea of the period. The sources will cover suffragists and those who opposed to the movement. The sources are therefore not selected randomly but on purpose because the scale of the module needs to keep students read all possible sides of the movement but at the same time not wear them out.
  3. The third module is a hands-on experience to do the historical thinking. I will use a women’s suffragist cartoon and Jane Addam’s article “why should women vote”  as the case study to show how to think historically. Students will not see these two videos but I will upload the images and the article online. Students will answer the questions asked about the cartoon and the articles. These questions will guide students to think historically. Then I will list some students’ answers for the group discussion. In the discussion, the class and the instructor will examine these answers, the difference and the reasons. I hope through this group activity, students will see what others think of the questions, what are their strong points and what they miss. After the discussion, the students should have an idea of what historical thinking is and how to examine a primary source.
  4. In the fourth module, the students will have the freedom to choose a topic in the period (1900-1920) and practice historical thinking. Students can do their own research or make use of the information in the last module. For the assignment, they can create poster of women’s suffrage or the one that is against it, they can write a letter in voice of a suffragist or anti-suffragist, they can write down a view point or reflection on one picture, event or person in the women’s suffrage, if they don’t write, they can present in a video lecturing on the topic, they can even create and act in a play. They can also examine a secondary source, why they agree or don’t agree with it. No matter what form they choose, they need show their interpretation and the historical evidence that supports it.
  5. The last module is peer reviewing. I hope this will also be a brainstorm in the student’s project. The peers may provide more good ideas to each other’s project, share resources and make suggestions.
  6. final project. Students will submit their final project two weeks after the peer review.

I will select sources for module three from the websites below:


rethinking the final project

The best thing digital media and or digital tools can give in history teaching is it expands the scope and depth of teaching. It can provide more material—text, images and videos—in unlimited space and time. The teacher doesn’t have to squeeze everything into 50 minutes on his or her own and students only sit there to receive information. Like Teaching Hidden History course, the digital media and/or tools makes student-centered teaching and learning possible.    This can spark the interest of both students and teachers because students play much of a role in class and the teachers do not have to be worn out after a fifty-minute class is done. The access to greater amount of sources can bring more ideas to students because they now know more. It is a trained skill to organize, discriminate and judge these documents.

This digital environment also changes my way to communicate with students. If it is a classroom teaching, I guess they will meet me in classroom and office hours. With this digital teaching, I will devote more time to talking with students and giving feedback because I need to make sure that in this student-centered learning, their questions can be answered timely so that their learning can go smoothly. In addition, I need to pay attention to students’ interaction with each other because with online teaching, they can not communicate with their classmates as they do in the classroom. For this, I consider the online meeting at regular interval and group work such as peer reviewing or pairing them up.

Because of the wide scope of sources the Internet can provide, I want to narrow down my original plan of my final project. I want to focus only on one or two events and use them as the example and the opportunity for the students to practice historical learning. I believe to teach historical thinking with one example or two, if done well, is more efficient and effective than drowning students in the  sources on so many things.

History Can Do More

In 1917, J.Carleton Bell asked the questions, “what is historical sense?” and “how can it be developed?” After one hundred years, today we still ask the same questions: what is historical understanding? How can historical analysis and interpretation be taught? What is role of instruction in improving the student’s ability to think?

Carleton gave five aspects of historical sense:

  1. “The ability to understand present events in light of the past.”
  2. The ability to sift through the documentary record—newspaper articles, hearsay, partisan attacks, contemporary accounts—and construct “from this confused tangle a straightforward and probable account” of what happened.
  3. The ability to appreciate a historical narrative.
  4. “Reflective and discriminating replies to ‘thought questions’ on a given historical situation.”
  5. The ability to answer factual questions about historical personalities and events.

These five aspects overlaps with the historian Mills Kelly’s 15 points of historical thinking that most historians agree upon. The 15 points provide more details than Carleton’s definition but the key points are the same: the ability to discriminate the sources and construct historical narrative or argument and the ability to understand the relation between the present and the past. In short, historical thinking is the with the ability to examine, discriminate and judge the sources, the historians interpret the past rather than simply set forth the historical facts. Historians think of the past not as the settled truths but as a sense-making activity, thus being always interpretive. Historical thinking is a training ground for solving problems when definitive answers are elusive. The difference between Carleton and Kelly is Kelly’s 15 aspects of historical thinking stressed more on the ability to process sources.

The historical thinking most historians have certainly contradicts with the experience most students have in their history classes in K-12 schools. In these classes, teachers convey the content knowledge to the students, the students memorize dates, facts and important events and at the end of a semester, take a test. Students do not play much a role in the class but are usually the mere receivers of information. Although American Historical Association agrees “that the accumulation of facts is not the sole, or perhaps not the leading, purpose of studying history,” yet the recitation of authoritative knowledge continued to be the goal of a coverage-oriented history teaching that retained its dominance through the 20th century and persists today.

This teaching style influenced people’s expectation or understanding of history. Students expect there is a clear answer for every question, like those multiple-choice questions they have in exams. Florida even writes this understanding of history into the state law. A 2006 statute to raise historical literacy requires the state’s public school history teachers to limit themselves to the “teaching of facts,” stipulating that “American history shall be viewed as factual, not constructed . . . and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” (Florida K-20 Education Code 2015).  However, for historians, history is all about interpretation.  This view makes it difficult to assess students’ learning by standardized tests. Meanwhile, colleges have stress to demonstrate the values of the disciplines to justify the dollars students spend on higher education. There is a demand that college education should have their utility and produce economic benefit for students. Some universities asked faculty to develop metrics to better measure learning outcomes

These expectations constrain the teaching and learning of history because historians and non-historians have different understanding of history.  To show the learning outcomes, most schools adopt the tests which ask students to have knowledge of dates, facts and people, and take form of multiple-choice questions. But this further reinforces the teaching of content knowledge rather than procedural knowledge. On college level, the pressure to show utility and economic value forces the schools to have metrics to measure learning and most adopt a similar style of that in the high school.

Technological change in the 20th and 21st century provides an opportunity for the historians to break this vicious circle of teaching-learning-testing. Like the Teaching Hidden History course of George Mason University, the learning can become inquiry-based learning which engage both students and teachers. This style of teaching and learning centers on students and sparks students’ interest in the historical research and learning because they are not mere receivers of information in the class room but can actively participate in the process with intrinsic motivation. With the technological tools, it’s easier and more interesting for students to gain procedural knowledge. It was only after they had learned the methods of the historian that they could be expected to successfully synthesize important facts from lectures. This student-centered teaching and learning breaks the stereotype expectation of the public that history is only teachers teach history and students listen in the classroom. It becomes an interactive mode. Other digital tools brought by the technological revolution also provides hope for the history majors in colleges. Besides the tradition skills historians have such as analytical ability, students have more ways to research and understand history, and more importantly, they gain the interdisciplinary skills which enable them to work better in this history profession or work outside the profession. For example, text-mining and data processing, plus the analytical ability trained naturally by history department, can make them a good analyst in banking and investment companies. This increases the possibilities about what a history major can do after he or she graduates and also meets the social demand which asks higher education to provide utility and “economic profit”. The coding skills enable students to present their work, in matter what they do in the future, to wider public and/or elegantly. The digital skills and the student-centered teaching of these digital skills break the constraints the social expectation put on history teaching and make history majors more competitive on the job market. If this continues, the society will not think history is “boring” and majoring history is impractical. Instead, history majors are more competitive by crossing the boundaries of disciplines and gaining more skills.



First Piece of the Puzzle

The main topic of my final project is Reevaluating the Progressive Era. The main goal is to teach students how to think historically, taking Progressive Era as an example and learn the methodology to examine a piece of primary source when they have one.  The target audience is college students.

I plan to build a website using Omeka. Due to the limited time and the wide range of Progressive Era reforms, I will select a few reforms and focus on the primary sources of these reforms.  I will make a decision on what reforms I would like students to work on after doing a search of primary sources. My original idea is girls’ education, women’s suffrage, racial relation and social welfare.

I will set up a few modules for my project.

  1. The first one is the methodology of thinking historically. Students will read articles.
  2. The second one is the brief history of Progressive Era, this includes texts, videos, pictures, government reports, newspapers etc.
  3. The third one is primary source reading which gives students the opportunity to practice historical thinking. I will select the primary sources for students to read, compare and contrast, and provide their own thought such as why they reach a certain conclusion.  Students can also provide other primary sources the same topic to support their argument. This module will also include group work. Students will make presentations on their work and the class will provide peer review and discussion.
  4. The fourth module is teaching resources. In this module, there will be various things on the Progressive Era such as primary sources, the questions to explore, Internet links etc for future teaching of the Progressive Era or historical thinking. It is a complement to the project the students do in the first three modules. Ideally, there should be a part where students can do crowdsourcing but it needs a professional web engineer I guess.

Final Project Plan

The main topic of the project is Reevaluate The Progressive Era. As this era covers various events, people and reforms, there are a fabulous variety of primary sources. They include president speeches, letters of reformers, immigrant records, articles of professionals such as doctors and journalists, pictures, paintings and government reports. The reason why I choose this era is though it’s progressive from current perspective, it had many controversies that caused fierce debates and had some reforms which were seen as scientific but now as unreasonable such as Prohibition and eugenics. These controversies leave space for students to practice historical thinking. By evaluating the primary sources and by their own research, students are expected to form their own opinion of a reform, an event or a person rather than take what a history textbook says.

My target audience is college students. To train them to think historically, I will give an assignment that asks them to pick one of many topics I list and examine the primary sources of it. They will make a tentative conclusion without learning historical thinking and write an essay of their thought by answering the questions. After that, they will learn the basics of historical thinking by following a list of questions and read literature on historical thinking. Then they will reexamine the primary sources of the topic they choose and write another essay. They may or may not hold the same views as in the previous essay but they need to give the reasons why. The next step is peer review. The students will read each other’s work and provide evaluation and the new information on another student’s topic, if there is any. This exchange of idea is to inspire students to have more thought and rethink their historical thinking.  The final step is to let students make their own conclusion on the topic they choose after self-study and the exchange of ideas with others. The project provides an opportunity for students to learn and practice historical thinking which gives them the ability to understand the past and the present more accurately, cultivating the empathy they did not possess or share.