Friday, April 22, 2011

Lascaux Cave Drawings - A Virtual Visit to the Cave

This website is simply AMAZING!

Imagine being able to take your students into the Lascaux Cave's in France to truly experience the depth and wonder of the Lascaux Cave Paintings...  now you can. 

Instead of analyzing the Hall of Bulls from afar using a 2-dimensional image you are given the feeling of going into the cave and exploring the paintings close-up and in-depth.

I'll let the website verbiage tell you more:

"To celebrate this prehistoric wonder, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication's is pleased to present its latest multimedia publication – an update of the original Lascaux website, which was first put on line in 1998. The new site has been entirely reworked in both form and content, reflecting the latest advances in archaeological research."

"Visitors to the site are presented with a three-dimensional digital version of the cave, which allows them to go from room to room, completely immersed in the site. As they travel from the Great Hall of the Bulls all the way to the Shaft of the Dead Man, they can stop at each of the many images, read descriptions, play video sequences and examine overlay lines that helpfully reveal some of the more difficult to identify figures. A zoom feature enables visitors to get as close as possible to the walls that these talented artists decorated. "

Monday, March 28, 2011

Art of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation - A VoiceThread Conversation

I recently had my students contribute to an online discussion comparing Reformation and Counter Reformation Art.  To keep them honest I also thew in some Medieval Art as a review.  The point of the discussion was to demonstrate their knowledge of the evolution of art from the Dark Ages through the Renaissance and then the characteristics of both Catholic and Protestant art after Martin Luther's reformation.

I was quite pleased with the results.  The kids had a great time with it. 

You'll notice with VoiceThread the students had several options as to how they wanted to comment: Text, video or audio. 

By the way, if you're an educator, you can sign up for a VoiceThread account and use up to 50 conversations at one time.  Go to for more details.

I did this with four classes, this is simply on of those classes.  Towards the end of the thread, I chose a medieval painting to demonstrate how to comment, and there was very surreal moment with the sun behind me, like I was in a Medieval Paintings with a halo... it was quite funny. See if you can find that.

I realize some of the students may have mislabeled the art, but rest assured that any inaccuracies by the students were cleared up the next day...  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to teach Longitude and Latitude - A Conversation

Conversations: This is my way of starting a dialogue with readers, teachers, etc... I'll start the conversation with a suggestion/idea, and then I'd like the comments to be filled with YOUR IDEAS.

Please use this as an exchange to trade and share lesson ideas...

If you're like me, then you understand the importance of maps in teaching world history.  There is not a unit that goes by without my using a map or studying the geography of a certain place. 

Map skills and geography are an essential part to truly understanding world history.  Just knowing the geographic make-up of a certain culture will allow students to understand, why the culture developed the way it did, and give a deeper understanding of the development of that region.  For example, in studying Greece it is vital to understand that the Greeks (Minoans and Mycenaeans)  were a coastal people who had a very mountainous and rocky terrain.  Because of this, they were excellent fisherman and developed vast networks of trade to import wheat and grains.  This is best learned by looking at maps and studying the landforms in and around Greece. 

But what can be challenging sometimes is teaching the simple concepts of Longitude and Latitude, and having the students understand its importance.   (Can't we just use GoogleMaps? or "Then why do we have GPS?")

Maybe watch the video... have kids take notes.
Watch the video again and discuss.
Then do some kind of activity where they implement the knowledge they've gained.  But what kind of activity can you do that has purpose?

Since something like this is most beneficial early in the year, I'd suggest having students find out where their ancestors are from.  (Germany, Liberia, Dominican Republic, Russia, Ireland, etc...)
Then have them give coordinates for their places of origin.  And then map it. 

Simple enough, but an even better idea would be to then create a world map for the entire class or classes.  Students love to see where they're from and how many other students share their culture.  Then continue by turning it into a culture lesson.  Find similarities and differences between each student's backgrounds.

National Geographic (naturally..) has a good activity:
This is not a bad idea for middle schoolers:

How do you teach Longitude and Latitude?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Secrets of the Silk Road - More Online Lectures...

In honor of their Silk Road exhibition, The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has created a 9 part lecture series dedicated to the Silk Road.  Once a month from October through June 2011, a different Silk Road scholar shares their view of the famous trade route.

For those that live in the Philadelphia area, you can still reserve a ticket for the last 3 lectures.

March 2, 2011
Samarkand in the Age of Tamerlane (Timur Lang
April 6, 2011

May 4, 2011
Looking East from Constantinople: Byzantium and the Silk Road 

June 1, 2011
From Venice to Xanadu: Marco Polo's Silk Road Adventure

 As a baseball coach and father of an 18 month old son, the 6pm time frame is a little tight for me, but perhaps I can have short practice and miss the bedtime routine in exchange for some knowledge.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to Go to Harvard for Free: Harvard Online Lectures

As I develop my craft of teaching 9th grade World History, I find myself more and more interested in all the aspects of my subject area.  I read more about world history topics, I always look for connections in everyday life to my history classes and my magazine subscriptions are for the sole purpose of bringing ideas to the classroom.  In other words, I'm a student of my own profession.  Additionally, I want to be able to answer any question a student brings me.

At this point in my life I can't answer every question. (I probably never will be able to answer every question...but at least I can try.) Students are curious and will always ask questions that I can't answer.  I usually then offer them extra credit if they do the research and come back to class with the answer.  Students love to do this.

One way I've been learning more is by listening to many online lectures.  The David Kalivas lectures are amazing, and now I've just found a small gold mine of more through Harvard's Open Learning Initiative.

The Open Learning Initiative is part of Harvard University's Extension School which is basically a series of 650 classes open to the public.  That's right... you don't need a perfect SAT score to learn from Harvard professors.

The Open Learning Initiative offers many of the class lectures from Harvard faculty online to the public for free.

I haven't listened to any in full yet, but am looking forward to it.

Here's the link to all the lectures:

Important Note: When selecting which type of video/audio to watch/listen to select LAN as it seems like the DSL/Cable Connection was crashing my browser (Safari, Mac OS X 10.5.8)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Roman History Simplified through Song and Comic

This guy is genius...

Jeffrey Lewis who is a musician/artist/comic has created an excellent overview of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and simplified it in an entertaining way with cartoons and a song.

For more videos by Jeffrey Lewis click here to see his take on the Peloponnesian War.  He's done similar songs for the Mayflower and Sitting Bull.

On a side note, Jeffrey Lewis is soon to perform in my hometown of Philadelphia...
check out his site.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Put Yourself in a Chinese Propaganda Poster

In reading An Edible History of Humanity, I came across a chapter about Chairmen Mao's Great Leap Forward and his mimic of the ill-fated Stalin creation of Collective Farms.   In their efforts to boost exports and increase industrialization, both leaders ended up starving millions and hiding their faults from the world. 

In doing some research on the topic, I came across this site:

Not only does this site have thousands of Chinese propaganda posters that  you can share with your students and purchase, but it has something else I've never seen before. gives you the ability to have yourself painted into a Chinese Propaganda poster.  It's a pretty cool idea, but it does coast a few hundred dollars. 

So if you've ever dreamed of being a Communist Revolutionary... here's your chance.