After the challenges experienced with the librarian in our library class, we were able to regroup and recoup our losses. Following the in-class debacle, I sent out e-mail with instructions, including the following:
- Find 5 facts: birthplace, education, people in his life (family, friends, coaches, mentors, opponents, etc.)
- Find a photo (either find one online and e-mail it to me or take a photo with your smart phone ans send it to me)
- Find 3 primary sources–from those sources find a) America’s impression of Germany in 1936, b) America’s impression of Jesse Owens, c) Germans impression of Jesse Owens, d) Marylanders impressions of Jesse Owens
Out of this we have a great a product in the form of a Jesse Owens wall at MyFakeWall.com that didn’t have as much student collaboration as I would have liked, but is a nice finished piece that they helped build more indirectly. The wall posts focus narrowly on the American track teams’ experience in the 1936 Berlin Olympics–commonly referred to as Hitler’s Olympics, with good reason.
Students dug up sources that provided the profile information and some of the pictures. The wall posts were built up mostly from primary sources, in the end only three of these references was found by the students. Most of the wall posts came from a series of interviews that were done in 1986 as part of the LA84 Foundation’s legacy project which interviewed past Olympians, including those who participated in Berlin in 1936.
It was a successful learning process. The students will come out of this with a clearer sense of what constitutes a primary source versus a secondary source. They will also have learned the possibilities and limits of internet searching for research material.
I learned some more about MyFakeWall.com as well. It is pretty stubborn about pictures. A lot of the offered features didn’t work very well. If the site has a preference for a media type it does not specify such a one anywhere!
What we missed out on as a class was asking the students to assume those roles of the various sources. That creativity of trying to think from the perspective of someone who is foreign to you by means of time and geography, is an essential skill for thinking historically. It also working through the challenge of recognizing what is justifiably familiar versus what shows up as a “false-friend” and leads your analysis astray. That opportunity was missed because we did not end up working on the wall together in class.
I do want to thank Glenn Wiebe! His Tip-of-the-Week post put me onto this opportunity.