... or...

... how participation in an online virtual community has impacted one teacher's understanding of history, and how that has been reflected in actual classroom instruction.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Tour Around the 1920s Berlin Project: Part 1

One thing that is truly wonderful about the 1920s Berlin Project in Second Life is the realism that is pursued there.  As Augusta found out when she first arrived in Berlin, the sim is set up into different districts, and set up to represent life in the era as realistically as possible.  The residents have all kinds of products and services available in Berlin, and depending on your status there, what you might have to do for yourself would vary.

Outside of the laundry owned by Jacob Cohen and Son.
Even though washing clothes is not really needed in a virtual world, it would have been necessary in a Berlin neighborhood, especially one that was inhabited by the working classes.

Our virutal tour of the 1920s Berlin Project will start at the laundromat, which is located across the Steinpforte from the Keller.

One thing that the students I teach are mystified by is the fact that you actually had to do things that today are done by machines.  Ask them how their

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Literary Learning: Die Buchgemeinschaft

I joined a free online course today, sponsored by FutureLearn through the University of Sheffield.  Since school will be out (not-so) soon, and since the title of the course -- Literature of the English Country House -- intrigued me, I registered.  We will be reading selections from different authors, including Jane Austen, my absolute most personal favourite writer.   (The "u" is intentional by the way!)  If you've never tried a  MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) before, I can highly recommend them.

I realized that our Berlin community already does the same kind of thing on a regular basis, albeit with a smaller group.  It is a marvelous way to understand OUR community content.  It can be fiction.  It can be non-fiction.  It can even be in the form of a graphic novel.  Reading (and reading voraciously) about a topic can give anyone a better sense of the era under study.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Augusta has returned!

It has been such a long time since I have posted anything here, and it is now time to start this blog up and running again.

Augusta in her
Hindenburgschule classroom

Many of you who are educators know that the time can be the ultimate villain.  We generally work 7.5 hours a day, but have more work to get accomplished than can ever fit in that amount of time.  Our classes are getting bigger, as are the expectations that everyone seems to have of us.  Toss in a few inconvenient personal or family issues, and what teachers have is a recipe for disaster.  Think of it as working a full year's worth of work, but you get to cram it into a 10-month time frame.

In my case, it has meant an unfortunate pulling back from some of my online endeavors.  With the end of the school year approaching, I am hoping to get back to them.  And that includes my blog.

And do I have some interesting things planned, too!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

1 August 2013: Connecting Family and Society, Part 2

So we have two very different images of Augusta to consider.  First of all, she is a Berliner of limited means.  But she is also a member of the landed aristocracy.  Augusta's present situation is easier to "present" so to speak, but the formative years of the past need to be integrated into her behaviors as well.
Augusta ready
to attend the

A case study that outlines the status and concerns of this social group comes from the volume Royals and the Reich:  The Princes of Hessen in Nazi Germany, written by Jonathan Petropolous.*  Coincidentally, and the reason why I purchased this book, Hessen is the region where I lived and the region where I placed Augusta.  I am not going to be directly connecting her to this family in any way, but using the information in the book to give Augusta context.

German nobility floundered in the era following the First World War.  Technically, the aristocracy was abolished during the Weimar Republic, but in practical terms, it remained very much intact.  The traditional role of the aristocracy in German society reflected the feudal past to a degree, as the figure of the local noble still held a great deal of social status. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Augusta's Journal: 30 April 1929

This is the view from my home at Dorotheenstrasse 11.  It's in one of the lower class parts of Berlin, and it's a neighborhood with a bit of a past.  Last year saw the infamous Mo Galewarden incident happen, right in front of my house!  I guess with Mo living in the neighborhood, it will never be boring... but to be honest, Mo Galewarden had nothing to do with the activities in Berlin on the first day of May in 1929...  

This picture on the left looks toward the other end of Dorotheenstrasse.  On the right, you can see the Wascherei at the corner.  It's right across from the Polizeiamt, which is nice because I don't have a telephone.  So in an emergency, I can just go down the street.
Danitz comes to
Or I can do what I did April 30 when I heard breaking glass: I shouted out and the Wachtmeister on duty came running.  I was fortunate, as Danitz, the Berlin Oberwachtmeister himself arrived. 
He drove up in the Polizeiwagen, and quickly surveyed the situation, with his gun ready.  Truth be told, it was a relief to see that it was Danitz, although either Pinden or Koertig would have been just as helpful.  They are the Wachtmeister that I am most familiar with and they have always been very professional. 

... but there was nothing that could be found, which only added to the tension that was building in Berlin.

Friday, March 1, 2013

17 February 2013: Connecting Family and Society, Part 1

Schloss Biebrich
Augusta's Wiesbaden home
 Where the classroom and role play begin to mix is at the point where I needed to bring some distinct detail to Augusta's personal history.  The basic teaching according to Virginia Standards of Learning for this period (WHII.11b and WHII.11c) do not actually require any great deal of depth on Weimar.  Indeed, the word "Weimar" does not appear in any SOL related documents found on the Virginia DoE website.  However, understanding Weimar is crucial in understanding the Third Reich.

There is more openness in the IB curriculum that I teach.  One of the topic options is "The Rise and Rule of Single Party States" and while we don't formally teach this one at my school, it does relate to the "Causes, Practices, and Effects of War" topic.  So I tend to wrap the two in together, as the resolution of World War 1 is a contributing factor to the start of World War 2.  Therefore, I can put much more time and detail into teaching Weimar at this level.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

24 February 2013: Presenting to the Virtual Pioneers

So after presenting this evening to a wonderful group of Second Life adventurers (which was a lot of fun!), I thought I had better leave a short note to tell anyone who happens into this blog that I am working on my next post.  RL got in the way again, as it tends to do.  But please read what I do have here, and know that there is more to come!

Why is it I can never remember Frau Jo's phrase for the RL virus?  *smiles*

As is often the case with both teaching and attending these professionally-oriented meetings, I tend to get reinspired.  And it was a delight to have so many of my Berlin friends meeting up with so many of my educational technology friends!  I was getting ideas as I was presenting, and getting clarity on the topic as well.  Presenting to the Virutal Pioneers in Second Life is one more way to think out loud... and can generate many good things.