The Industrial Revolution and Child Labor

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.11.48 AM There are many events and topics throughout US History that I love to study.  The Industrial Revolution is one of my favorites and child labor during that time is a special interest.  I wanted to create a project gave the students the feeling of being in the factories with the children of the time.  

Then I thought, what if the students could truly be in the factories?  Could I use Lewis W. Hine and Jacob Riis’ pictures to put the students in the factories?

Students were told they were about to become true, child laborers.  Each student created a Google Doc, and once they changed the setting to “free to use, share or modify, even commercially”, students used the Google Research tool find a picture of child labor from the Industrial Revolution.  This was a great opportunity to review the photo citation process.  After finding the picture, students took a screenshot of it and saved it to their desktop.

During one class period students brought in clothes that best matched the children in the picture, they were not required to purchase anything.  Most of the boys brought in a button down shirt, while many girls found dresses in their moms’ closets.  Some students even brought in props.  We then dirtied them up a bit with some potting soil, to give them an authentic look fo the  working conditions in the factories.

After taking their pictures we put them into iMovie in order to change them to black and white, or in some cases, sepia.  Students then took a screenshot of the altered picture and using the cropping tools removed all surrounding background.  

The altered screenshot was then copied and pasted onto the screenshot of the original picture.  That allowed us to size the student to fit in with the original.

The finished products are outstanding.  The students are always amazed at their completed “photographs” and are anxious to see pictures from other classes.  This project is a perfect combination of history and technology.

Teaching Tolerance

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Teaching Civil Rights during February is often expected of U.S. History teachers, but it doesn’t have to be the creation of a timeline of key events, or a study of Martin Luther King, Jr. I take a slightly different approach and use technology to drive home a lesson of global tolerance.

I start off by guiding the students to create a class definition of tolerance: the willingness to accept something you do not like, understand or agree with.  Then with the help of Danielle Knight’s lesson from Teachers pay Teachers, students learn the meaning of the lyrics behind U2’s song:  “Pride, In the Name of Love”.  On Youtube, we watch the original video (which always leads to student guffaws over Bono’s hair and dancing) and then a video that sets the same song to a compilation of news footage from the Civil Rights Movement.  It is an engaging way to introduce Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of equality and tolerance.  

We then move onto the technology portion of the lesson.  Using Amy Zschaber’s lesson plan, students create a Tagxedo of who they are and what they want others to tolerate in themselves.  

  1. Using a Google Doc students created a list of 55 words about themselves.  
  2. Open  – it seems to work better in Firefox or Safari.  If you are using a Mac, you will need to install Silverlight first.
  3. Students then click on create, which brings them to the creation page. (Image 1)
  4. Click on load on the left side menu, paste the words from the Google Doc into the enter text box and click submit, the image will then “respin”. (Image 2)
  5. Click on Shape in the left side menu, and choose add Image at the bottom of that dialogue box. (Image 3)
  6. Choose a picture of the student.  When  the image loads will it may look like a black blob, so use the threshold and blur options to make the image more clear. (Using a picture with a white background works best.) (Image 4)
  7. Click accept and the image will ”respin” into the student’s photo with the words within the shape. (Image 5)
  8. I then allow students to change the colors by clicking on theme on the left side menu.  (Image 6)
  9. Students can also choose a new font by clicking on font on the left side menu. (Image 7)
  10. To save or print click on save/share on the left side menu and select the option you would like. (Image 8)

I enjoy teaching this lesson each year because the students really enjoy using Tagxedo, and it opens the door to honest conversation about who we are as a society and how far we have truly come in terms of equality.


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Ignite presentations are structured slide presentations, that feature twenty slides that automatically advance every fifteen seconds.  As an attendee of ISTE I have always been impressed by the educators that participate in the Ignite sessions.  Each Ignite presenter I have seen has given off an air of calm and conviction in their topic.  How do they do it?  How do they not crack under the fifteen second time pressure?  How do they even begin to craft their presentation?  At The Fletcher School I teach Integrated Studies which has a focus on digital citizenship and technology.  What better place to give Ignite a try?  The project lends itself to teaching research skills, photo citation skills, and public speaking skills.

Ignite presentations have an extremely wide range of topics.  Some of my favorites are Better Living Through Fast Food by Jay Thompson and How to Give an Ignite Talk by Scott Berkun. While these topics are fun and entertaining, I wanted my classes presentations to have a little more meat to them, especially as the first student suggested topic was “Why do Reese’s cups stick to the wrapper?”  Definitely interesting, but I was hoping for topics that were a little more worldly and pushed the students beyond the borders of their private school world.  

I stumbled across the Rock Your World curriculum and decided to use it to my advantage.  We began by looking at the Declaration of Human Rights and the Public Service Announcements Rock Your World directed us to on Youth for Human Rights.  We used these to determine the interests of the classes.  After reading the Declaration and viewing the public service announcements, each class gave suggestions and we came to a consensus on a topic to begin researching.  

The best Ignite resource I found was by Olivia Mitchell: The Fastest Way to Create an Ignite Presentation.  She lays out planning an Ignite presentation in six steps:

  1. Create an outline using her presentation planner
  2. Convert the planner into 20 slides – no pictures yet!
  3. Finesse the script so it fits into the 15 second time limit for each slide
  4. Find pictures for each slide
  5. Practice with notes
  6. Present

The biggest mistake I made was to focus on the five minute time limit, not the fifteen seconds per slide time limit.  When verbally reading the written slides each class came in at the five minute mark, I thought we were golden.  After finding the visuals for the slides and thinking we were done, we did a practice run through with a fifteen second timer.  What a disaster!  It turned out the script for some of the slides only lasted six or seven seconds.  We then had to make some very hurried edits in order to be prepared for presentation day.  We practiced in the classroom as well as the room we would be presenting in.  Practicing in the actual room gave the kids a bit of a wake up call of what presentation day would be like.

Our efforts were worth it, presentation day was fabulous.  Parents of the students came, as well as the students from sixth and seventh grade.  There were definitely some nerves, but the each group did a great job.  Parents enjoyed seeing their kids in a public speaking role and each student left the presentation with a sense of accomplishment.

I am thrilled with the outcome of the Ignite presentations.  I am already looking forward to seeing which topics the students will chose next year!