Making the Learning Visible: TALONS on the American Revolution

Initial Questions about the American Revolution
Questions after reading homework from 2011

As part reflection on a statement made during the introductory session of Alec Couros#ETMOOC, and part synthesis of the TALONS introductory blogging and commenting on the American Revolution, I wanted to highlight some of the recent dialogue and discussion going on in the TALONS classroom these last few days.

Someone noted during the first #ETMOOC meeting that part of open learning revolved around making the learning visible, and I think a major contributing factor to the success of the TALONS blogging community is an evolving ability to present and share individual and collective learning. But something I have come to appreciate lately is how this knowledge has grown alongside an ability to meta-cognate, and build upon the lessons of networking norms explored by the last few years’ classes.

Old and Bold
Image edit and Interview synthesis by #Talons Yilin, Hayley, Max and Kyler

Now three full years into the class experiment in conducting and presenting our learning on the public web, the community has cultivated an understory of class discussion as the architecture of the initial thinking and conversation allows it to be visible and accessible as it is being created, but also indefinitely into the future

Since we first began experimenting with the form, the TALONS have each maintained an individual blog with EduBlogs, which the class has subscribed to (comments as well) using Google Reader. Every year, links and archives of posts from each of our units of study accumulate across our subject Wikispaces, Delicious bookmarks, and these blogs to become the fodder and foundation of the next year’s learners, and it is striking to see what is possible as these years have begun to accumulate.

The class began this last week with the assigned readings of a host of 2011 American Revolution posts, and a few questions:

More Questions about the American Revolution

    • What is the author’s main idea, or thesis in the post? 
    • How do they support this claim?
    • Who are the key figures / what are the main events discussed?
    • What conclusions about the American Revolution does the post give you? 
    • What questions about the American Revolution does the post give you? 
This led to many new questions, which then erupted in a weekend’s blog posts and commenting.

 

TALONS grade nine Alyssa highlights the Seven Years War as a key ingredient in the outset of the Revolution:

 

Over the course of thirteen years, the American revolution raged on between the British, and the American colonists.  But what were the reasons that brought on one of–or even the most–important revolution? What could could set flame to such a fire that a nation could split in two?

To discover this, we must trace back to the where the first larger scales of disruptions of peace started, at the end of the Seven Years’ War, in 1763. Just twelve years later, the American revolution officially started in 1775.

Picking up where the thread, Sierra does an eloquent job of creating context beyond the Seven Years War to reveal the colonies as anger and violence bound to boil over:

After the Seven years War, the British Empire was markedly fatigued, as the war had, among other things, caused great financial hardships to Britain. This meant that Britain was relying more and more on America, raising taxes to compensate for the splurge. They began enforcing new laws, such as the Navigation Act, prohibiting colonists from shipping and trading with countries other than Britain. Then they began implementing taxes, such as the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, and Townshend Act, taxing everything from printed materials, to lead, pain, and tea.

This angered some of the American colonists, and the propaganda began. Britain began sending over troops, to prevent violent protests, and in 1768, four thousand redcoats landed in Massachusetts to help maintain order. However, despite this, in 1770, on March 5th a rebellious group of American colonists clashed with British troops. Five colonists died in the confrontation, and the event became known as the Boston Massacre.

Following the horror of the Boston Massacre, Owen explains how a revolution about human dignity and democracy is still often seen to revolve around tea:

Nearly all the taxing acts were either reduced or completely dropped, proving that the British still had some leniency to the colonies, which the colonists did not appreciate completely. Wealthier men and others who relied on illegal trade were especially displeased with the taxes on goods as it would eat into their profits. Tea was the only trade item that was left taxed and was sold by the East Indian Trade Company at low prices. Of course, the rich and greedy men who sold smuggled tea could not afford to lose competition. Men like Samuel Adams were essentially so jealous that they organized a raid on the Boston trading ships that saw all tea content dumped into the harbor.

But there are other conversations, and other threads being pulled, with conversations on Monday afternoon exploring ideas of unity, hypocrisy and the nature of historical mythology and symbolism during and since the Revolution.

Marie’s post, Equality? has at present gathered an impressive 21 comments. Among them such insights and questions as the ones Kim addresses here;

Something I have to add is that women in America were fighting for their rights in the American Revolution, and they did win back some rights that should have belonged to them from the very beginning. Do you feel that the American Revolution opened the door for female rights in the future, or do you feel that no change was made (impacting the rights of women)?

Kim’s own entry came in the form of a fictionalized letter from an anonymous woman during the revolution:

As the war began to grow, so did the group of ours efforts, along with women across the country.  We spun thousands upon thousands of yards of yarn, stitched hundreds of clothing items, and took our time knitting far too many stockings for the American men in battle.  We fought to be able to fill the shortage of workers in jobs that were usually occupied by men, but were then left empty during the war, and we won the battle. I took on three jobs during that time: a blacksmith, a ship builder, and a writer.

Many people were not aware that women had made a difference, and had done anything other than sitting at their home raising a family.  Women clothed the armies, signed the petitions, and wrote the books. You would not be able to hear about the war today through the original documents and encyclopedias, if it werent for the dedicated women writers. Through these small actions that we took during this rough time, we opened the door for female rights to come.

Another grade ten, Bronwyn casts her gaze on the men at the center of the struggle to forge a way out of the war with Britain:

After the war, there was much social, political, and economic disorder. It was a country of thirteen governments, each trying to help itself at the cost of the others. Nine states had their own navy and each state had its own army.  Without changing their political and governing system, America was on the road towards anarchy. The saviours of the new independent country were people like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, who worked endlessly to convince a sceptical nation of the concept of unification. Finally, a form of working democracy was created. However, it took them thirteen years of unrest and negotiation to create this government.  Thirteen Years.  Was America’s new governing system a system eight years of fighting and killing and then thirteen years of internal unrest? This is not a question I can really answer, but what I can say is that people’s quest for the perfect government and democracy came with a hefty price and most people believe that it was worth every penny.

And these are only a few. Each of the fifty six TALONS published an initial reflection on the American Revolution this weekend, and three times I have scanned through more than 100 comments in my Google Reader. The class spilled and consumed some 50,000 digital words on different aspects of the American Revolution: themes, opinions, interpretations, relations to current events and personal experience.

Not only is the conversation becoming a sort of living textbook, but it is creating an ecological succession beneath the canopy of the blogging forest that has been established over the last few years. “The learning,” that nebulous, individual struggle for understanding that we negotiate with one another, is visible now and for all of the future TALONS (not to mention anyone else who finds their way into the old-growth forest of now-more than 100 individual TALONS blogs that are still online).

I hope that visitors and residence alike take away that this sort of sharing of ideas and conversation can be a powerful and authentic means of discovery. Like Jabiz says,

…blogging is contagious. As the plants begin to grow, they shield and guide and support the younger saplings. Suddenly we find ourselves in a thriving eco-system of ideas. So I will till the soil, add fertilizer when needed, consider the amount of water every seed will need. I will find sunlight or shade as needed for every fragile sapling. I will wait patiently and stare at what appears to be barren soil. But like every successful gardener I have faith and I have patience. I will wait for every seed to grow.

This year’s individual TALONS blogs can be subscribed to as a bundle by clicking this link. The comment thread is syndicated here

You can keep up with the class’ collective online space, Defying Normality, which was graciously highlighted on the excellent site, Comments4Kids, today, or follow our adventures on Flickr.

Talons’ Showcase of Learning: American Revolution

declaration-of-independence

It seemed a natural extension of the type of learning we put to use in class every day: research and communication, collaboration and presentation.

 

In encountering the context of the American Revolution, and interpreting not only the Founding Fathers’ possible intentions in creating the Declaration of Independance as a political document, but also a living document, and record of human progress, the class wrote a series of their own Declarations of Independent Learning.

A common theme that arose in these statements of purpose was the opportunity for TALONS learners to document, record, and showcase their learning for posterity, their peers, and the extended audiences of their blogs. In assessing the amount of the course content absorbed, and creating an opportunity for an individual synthesis project on a finite timeline, we set out to redefine the history test: an open-computer, Google-able, tes- errr… Showcase of Learning.

At nine in the morning last Thursday, with a blanket of wet snow covering the Lower Mainland – leaving one student to ‘telecommute,’ and complete the test from home – I shared a Google document with the criteria supplied below. They were able to communicate via the chat feature on the document, and in other ways that could be shared publically (Etherpad, or otherwise – no Facebook chat); talking to group mates, and other people in the class was permitted, so long as it didn’t interfere with anyone else’s ability to work productively (another common theme in many Declarations of Learning).

On laptops, with textbooks, and pre-prepared notes, the class had seventy-five minutes to make use of any resource they could muster in responding to one of the quotes, cartoons, or critiques below.

Talons Learners have the right to showcase their learning

TALONS Constitution, written into law November 2010

Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western World, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest through which the events of current history are presented to us.

Noam Chomsky – The Responsibility of Intellectuals (1966)

Respond to one of the statements below to demonstrate an understanding of the colonial context of the period (conditions leading up to the revolution), an introduction to the source of the quotation, and connection to our present understanding of history, and current events.

Your response may be in the form of a blog post, Prezi, Slideshow, or other animation that must be linked or posted on your blog, and must include the following:

  • Title: a statement of purpose, or thesis
  • Links to at least two of your classmates’ blog posts about the American Revolution, or the nature of Learning Rights
  • Links to three outside sources
  • Two quotations (from either of the above)
  • An image (to ensure Nick will read the results)

Select one of the following artifacts, reflections, representations or quotations on the American Revolution for discussion and presentation.

Examples of Talons’ responses can be viewed on the exemplar page of the class’ Socials Wiki.

The rubric below was also attached for reference.

  • Boston Massacre

(originally by Paul Revere)

  • “History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly.”

Benjamin Franklin

  • “We have here a forecast of the long history of American politics, the mobilization of lower-class energy by upper-class politicians, for their own purposes. This was not purely deception; it involved, in part, a genuine recognition of lower-class grievances, which helps to account for its effectiveness as a tactic over the centuries.”

Howard Zinn

  • Benjamin Franklin at the Court of St. James

Benjamin Franklin at St. James Court

  • “They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Ben Franklin

  • “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”

John Adams

  • “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

James Madison

  • The able doctor, or America swallowing the bitter draught

The able doctor, America, swallowing the bitter draught

  • “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

James Madison

  • “No more, America, in mournful strain, Of wrongs and grievance unredressed complain; No longer shall thou dread the iron chain Which wanton Tyranny, with lawless hand, Had made, and with it meant t’ enslave the land.”

Phyllis Wheatley

  • “It does not require a majority to prevail but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set bush fires in people’s minds.”

Samuel Adams

Exceeds Expectations

Meets Expectations

Barely Meets Expectations

Colonial Context

Response provides engaging and well-supported context to relate significance of historical figures and events. Response provides adequate context to relate significance of historical figures and events, but may lack specific detail and authoritative support. Response attempts to provide context and relate the significance of historical figures and events, but may contain flaws in logic, or  lack supporting detail.

Source of the Quotation

Response introduces author or source and is able to compellingly relation their bias and perspective to revolutionary and modern events. Response introduces author or source and is is able to relate their bias and perspective to revolutionary and modern events. Response may attempt to introduce author or source, but does not clearly relate bias or perspective to revolutionary or modern events.

Connection to Modern Politics or Current Events

Response draws multi-faceted connections to modern history and/or politics, and demonstrates a unique correlation between past and present. Response draws connections to modern history and/or politics, but may not demonstrate a unique correlation between past and present. Response attempts to draw connections to modern history andor politics, but may not demonstrate a unique correlation between past and present.