Friday, November 14, 2008

Fall Advisory Board Meeting Report

Voices Rising Advisory Board The Voices Rising Project held its first Advisory Board meeting at Suffolk University today. The Advisory Board meets twice a year to hear a status report on the project's outcomes and plan for future activities. Professor Robert Allison, project co-director welcomed the group to Suffolk. TRITEC executive director, Cindy Fiducia, gave a project overview on the project's themes focused on immigrants and disenfranchised groups. She emphasized the project's year three focus on the essential question, How did people in America secure their rights?
Next, Diane Schilder, project evaluator, reviewed the evaluation activities that we are using to assess impact on teacher performance and student achievement. One strong indicator of success was that teachers participating in Voices Rising performed 14 scale points above a comparison group of non-participating teachers. Dr. Schilder also noted a marked increase in teachers' use of primary sources in their classrooms (51% to 86%).
Suffolk University historian Pat ReeveSuffolk historian and Project Coordinator, Pat Reeve, gave an overview of the Summer Institute held from August 18-22, 2008. The group was then treated to a slideshow composed of photographs taken by Robert Simpson during the week-long immersion into American history that ranged from a walking tour of the Black Heritage Trail to a day at the U.S.S Constitution Museum.
Voices Rising Summer Institute Slideshow from Robert Simpson on Vimeo.
Molly Laden demonstrates wiki discussion pageNew communication technologies were presented by Molly Laden, Teacher Learning Center Director in Medford. Molly explained our decision to use a wiki to host fall historian seminar content, teacher discussions and workshop materials. The Voices Rising wikispace allows users to easily add, update, and edit content on the site. We will also use the wiki to begin the lesson development process by sharing lesson ideas across districts and posting primary source materials in the form of images and links. The photo above shows an example of the wiki used by teachers to respond to historian prompts on their seminar readings.
Simpson gives update on PBU Builder 2.0Robert Simpson, Teacher Learning Center Director in Malden updated the group on TRITEC's new PBU Builder site used to host American history lessons and provide easy access to district students and teachers. We then transitioned to a Student Response System (SRS) activity based upon primary source content from the grade 3 Project-Based Unit (PBU) The Grass is Always Greener. We acquired the Qwizdom SRS from a state Technology Enhancement Grant. Half of the advisory board responded using their remotes that they had never used a SRS prior to today's meeting. In one multiple choice question, participants were asked to analyze a painting depicting early 19th century farm life. Answers were sent and then displayed as a bar graph on the computer projector. Simpson emphasized how the SRS engages students and allows teachers to make real-time adjustments to instruction. If you're interested in viewing the full SRS activity visit the Voices Rising wiki.
The meeting ended with a brief discussion on the next round of TAH grant funding which would support up to five years.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

American Revolution Begins Here in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Over Time floor map Professor Bob Allison began the third annual Voices Rising American history summer institute at Suffolk University with a lecture on liberty, equality, and democracy in the Atlantic world. Teachers from Everett, Malden, and Medford school districts gathered for a week-long institute focused on increasing primary source document use in their classrooms. Allison remarked, "primary sources are the stuff of doing history." Teachers introduced themselves at the morning session by sharing one thing that interested them in the study of history. Comments ranged from a love of childhood field trips to local historic sites to understanding the struggles of different groups to obtain basic rights.
Professor Allison, Allison began with the story of British Naval Lieutenant Knowles who in 1747 decided to exercise his right to impress able bodied men from merchant ships docked in Boston harbor. The next morning a mob of Bostonians, dragging several British officers along as hostages, descended on Governor Shirley's home demanding that the sailors be released from the British navy. The Governor attempted to defuse the situation by calling a meeting of his governor's council at what is presently the Old State House. Bostonians literally crashed the council meeting smashing windows and demanding access to the second floor chamber. Shirley adeptly managed a compromise that released most of the impressed merchant sailors and sent Knowles off to New York. Allison stated that Bostonians had more power than most other subjects of the British empire -- there was a different conception of where power came from. Some of the primary source documents studied were;
  • Petition from Peter Bestes and others, Boston April 20, 1773
  • Isaac Backus - A Plea Before the Massachusetts Legislature (1774)
  • Petition for Freedom to Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage, His Majesty's Council, and the House of Representatives, 25 May 1774
  • William Cushing, Charge to Jury, Quock Walker Case
Teachers sharing primary source document insights.In small groups teachers discussed the significance of each document and presented their findings to the whole group. Allison effectively demonstrated how Bostonians used the power of petition and vociferous representation to advocate for what they thought of as individual rights that needed to be protected. Bostonians also struggled with the implications of state supported religion where Congregationalists sought to maintain a system of taxation that directly supported their church to the detriment of the Baptists.

The digital version of the colonial Book of Psalms The afternoon session commenced with an orientation at the Boston Public Library given by Marta Pardee-King. The project is proud to enter its third year partnering with the PBL as our central research facility as well as providing assistance on the digitization of primary source documents. Marta gave a virtual tour of the many online databases containing documents such as the first printed colonial bible, extensive 19th century newspaper archives, and plenty of manuscripts from the archive of Americana. We then made our way through the library stopping at General Reference, Social Sciences, Government Documents, Fine Arts, and Music departments. The music department librarian presented a treasure trove of 19th century original song books dealing with slavery and abolition. Some music is now available with a library card in an iPod friendly digital download format. Teachers will return to the BPL on November 4th for a research day designed to facilitate the creation of their very own primary source-based American history lesson. Boston Seaman's Bethel Church Records sample
The day ended a few blocks away at the Massachusetts Historical Society where reference librarian, Elaine Grublin, showed a wide selection of 19th century primary source documents dealing with slavery and women. A few highlights included The Boston Seaman's Bethel Church Records and the diaries of Boston portrait painter, Sarah Gooll Putnam spanning the time period of 1860 to 1912. The first document can be used to trace the names, occupations, and fate of Boston mariners, while the second gives a personal account of a privileged well traveled Boston women living through the latter half of the 1800s. Two online collections that are excellent resources for our project teachers are Images of the Antislavery Movement in Massachusetts and African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts.

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