Feedback From Users:<\/h1>\n

Educators who have used these materials have provided the following feedback and suggestions based on their experiences with students. If you would like to provide feedback, send your name and comments to: pls_feedback@ithaca.edu<\/a><\/p>\n

David Rhodes<\/span>, HS History Teacher, The Alternative School for Math & Science<\/h2>

The Causes of the American Revolution<\/em><\/strong> kit is identified as appropriate for elementary school and I have no doubt that it can be used effectively in that context.  With that said, I know firsthand that it can also be an invaluable resource for middle school.  <\/p>\r\n\r\n

I teach 8th grade U.S. History in Corning, NY, and I begin the year with a unit on government.  We explore the causes of the American Revolution, analyzing different perspectives and seeking to understand the role of bias in the presentation of the history and in our interpretations of sources.  The rich media documents contained in the kit provide thought-provoking tools for engaging in this inquiry together with students.  Beyond the documents themselves, the sample sequence of questions and answers in the teacher guide provides concrete and accessible insight into the constructivist pedagogy at the core of media literacy.  I wondered whether some of the questions might be too simplistic, and I found that the less complex questions were useful entry points for students to engage, especially when tied to the follow-up question prompting students to connect their answer to evidence.  The level of depth of analysis can vary from class to class and the time spent on each document can also be adjusted to meet different needs and constraints.  I found that a minimum of 15 minutes allotted to decoding would be important, and it could go on for significantly longer, especially when combined with techniques like think-pair-share.  <\/p>\r\n\r\n

A particularly useful sequence of questions that I have found to be powerful as a facilitator involves asking to either agree or disagree with a particular statement made by a fellow student.  Anyone in the class can then engage with the follow-up question, linking their own position to evidence.  This can help build the skills of inquiry in every participant and can be useful to open the conversation to different voices.  Especially towards the beginning of the year, this helps build a strong foundation in the framework for analysis that we develop.  It reinforces an essential element of safe space as well, presenting opportunities to explicitly and implicitly highlight that disagreement is an opportunity for learning and that seeking to understand different perspectives with the associated underlying evidence is highly valued in the course. The only pieces of the kit that I found less directly useful were the student worksheets.  While providing historical context is essential, I found that students could be more enthusiastic about alternate presentations of the context, making much of the same content accessible in a variety of different ways.<\/p>\r\n\r\n

  • One example is “Defending the Redcoats” in Reasoning with Democratic Values (a story about John Adams) which can be found at: https:\/\/www.amazon.com\/Reasoning-Democratic-Values-Ethical-Problems\/dp\/0807760951.<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n\r\n

    And, speaking of context… for me, the earlier documents in the kit lead perfectly to a decoding that I add to the mix using some of the famous artistic renderings of the Boston Massacre. We decode the documents, and then build towards a mock trial of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.  We study primary and secondary sources connected to the trial (see http:\/\/www.famous-trials.com\/massacre), we learn about the trial process and the relevant legal concepts and students are assigned roles as lawyers, defendants, witnesses, or jurors.  As the trial progresses, the jury is presented with conflicting primary source accounts of the same event, and jurors are forced to weigh the evidence presented by both sides in order to reach a verdict.  The jurors essentially need to model the mindset and process of inquiry that lies at the heart of media literacy and we reflect on this after the trial is complete.  Students not only deepen understanding of the concepts of the right to a fair trial and the rule of law, but they also learn the direct application of media literacy to civic engagement and decision making in the context of ethics and justice.  By the time we get to talking about the present later in the unit, the students have developed foundational understandings and skills that enhance analysis of current events and the way forward.<\/p>\r\n\r\n

    A powerful aspect of the mock trial lies in the fact that jurors needed to intentionally seek to understand their own biases in order to reach the fairest conclusion possible.  John Adams highlights this incredibly powerfully in his closing argument as a lawyer for the defense, and I highly recommend using excerpts from the HBO mini-series “John Adams” as a document to decode in association with this topic.  <\/p>\r\n\r\n

    After using the kit, the final decoding in association with the American Revolution involves a history channel film clip about the Revolutionary War, followed by a guest presentation by a British educator about how the war might be taught differently in England with built-in discussion and reflection on why that might be.<\/p>\r\n<\/p><\/div>"}