Combat Troops in Context: A Visual Literacy DBQ

» 16 February 2015 » In Ed Tech, Guest post, History / DBQ's, Publishing » No Comments

Howard_Chandler_Christy_-_Gee_I_wish_I_were_a_Man,_I'd_Join_the_Navy_-_Google_Art_Project

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook - Exploring History: Vol II. It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. More in series here.

Combat Soldiers in Context by Kristi Anne McKenzie Download as PDF (6.9MB)

This DBQ project will explore documents that contribute to the popular image of the soldier in the minds of the American people. As you examine the following documents, remember to keep in mind both the source of the document and the point of view that is being expressed.

  • Who created the document?
  • What was the goal in creating this document?
  • How does the document reflect the period in time?
  • How do the documents support or contradict one another?

Reflection by Kristi Anne McKenzie ~ AboutMe

Advice to Future Self on Undertaking a DBQ Project

1. Start with the document(s) first. Learn about it (or them), and place that document in a time period and look at everything that surrounds it. Follow the rabbit trail from MLK’s “Beyond Vietnam” to Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again” and see where it takes you. The themes will show themselves sooner or later. Humans are programmed to seek out patterns and find the stories. But starting with a theme and hoping to find documents to undergird that theme is risky. It could work, but it could also lead you on a search for something that doesn’t exist.

2. Be careful about trusting your crazy brain. Sometimes it does magic tricks when you least expect it. Sometimes it lets you think it can do the impossible. This is when you need to reach out to, and listen to, the friends who will be bluntly honest with you and tell you when you’re headed out onto unfruitful waters.

3. Don’t try to answer philosophical questions with a DBQ project. Yes, there is an inherent discrepancy between perception and reality. Great. But a DBQ is probably not the correct avenue to explore such an idea. However, don’t be afraid to present the unanswerable questions. Part of life is learning that not all questions have answers.

4. If you know how your brain works best, go with it. I tried to learn how to design a DBQ while simultaneously trying to figure out how to use Learnist and Evernote with my brain balking at me all the way. When I finally relented to how I learn best (paper and Pilot G-2 pen), my brain finally began to kick into gear. If I had accepted the truth of how my brain works sooner, I could have just gotten the work done and copied and pasted my work into these new programs afterwards. Trying to learn a design process while attempting to learn a new computer program was too taxing and, ultimately, unproductive.

5. Don’t let your heart get broken, don’t lose anyone you love, and don’t get ill. These will all interfere with your work.

6. Don’t be afraid to suck at something the first time you try it. Scarred knees are simply reminders that you now know how to ride a bicycle. Embrace the suck. Listen to Samuel Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

*** Now that the project has been completed, I might add that, in the end, everything came together fairly easily. My training as a historian turned out to be my secret sidekick. I will do this again, and next time I will do it better.

Image credit: Gee I wish I were a Man, I'd Join the Navy by Howard Chandler Christy (after 1917)
Cooper Hewitt Museum Accession Number 1980-32-1170

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New Deal Poster DBQ: Public Persuasion or Propaganda

» 03 February 2015 » In Ed Tech, Guest post, History / DBQ's, Publishing » No Comments

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This DBQ uses WWII-era WPA posters to examine how art can be used to influence public opinion. Key questions guide student through a close reading of the works.

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America Divided: Teaching Media Literacy and Political Polarization

» 21 October 2014 » In How To, Strategies » No Comments

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Survey tools and interactive data visualization for teaching media literacy and political polarization in America. Based on research by Pew Research Center.

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How to Read Documentary Films

» 26 August 2014 » In History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies » 2 Comments

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Lesson on using films as documents to develop historical thinking skills in sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating and close reading. The lesson compares two documentary films detailing the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. The first film was made in 1943 by the US government to justify the action. The second film was made in 2014 and features interviews with Japanese American incarcerees.

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How to Read Documentary Photographs

» 12 August 2014 » In History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies » No Comments

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Lesson on using photographs as documents to develop historical thinking skills in sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating and close reading. Features material from “Uprooted” a museum exhibit and website that showcases the photography of Russell Lee, staff photographer for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and his work at the Japanese American farm labor camps of WWII.

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Free iBook Explores Ancient Egypt

» 06 May 2014 » In History / DBQ's, Publishing » No Comments

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Ancient Egypt is interactive resource for teachers and students in grades 6-12. Chapters include: Government and Wealth, Power and Protection, Gods and Goddesses, Journey to the Afterlife and a very interactive guide to reading hieroglyphics. Free at iTunes.

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A Satiric Lesson in Media Literacy

» 27 March 2014 » In How To, Literacy, Strategies, Visualizations » No Comments

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Kendra Eash’s essay becomes a satiric video skewering the clichéd corporate message ad as a meaningless montage of grandiloquent pablum. Used as a prompt for a lesson in visual literacy.

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Visual Rhetoric of Women’s Suffrage

» 01 December 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects, Students » No Comments

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Two of my University of Portland pre-service teachers showcase their online DBQ “Propaganda of the American Suffrage Movement, c. 1910-1920.” This DBQ is designed to encourage students to think critically about the American suffrage movement propaganda. The generative questions are: “How do images express biases?” and “How are political, social, and economic factors presented?” Heather Treanor and Cory Cassanova also reflects on the experience of designing DBQs.

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Image and Emotion / WWII Propaganda Posters

» 29 November 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects, Students » No Comments

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One of my University of Portland pre-service teachers showcases his online DBQ “Image and Emotion – WWII Propaganda Posters.” Five propaganda themes are explored through parallel sets of posters from US and Axis power. Aram Glick also reflects on the experience of designing DBQs.

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5 Rules of Infographic Excellence

» 14 October 2013 » In Commentary, Visualizations » No Comments

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xkcd’s brilliant mockery of the explosion of “info-junk” should remind us that the best infographics should efficiently combine quantitative data, prompt pattern recognition and cogent visual storytelling. Perhaps aspiring infographic designers would do well to revisit the work of the Edward Tufte, the guru of the art form. His five rules of “Graphical Excellence” are detailed and illustrated with an example he considers “best narrative graphic of space and time.”

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