The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Month: January 2013

Technology Integration in the Classroom

Edutopia recently put together a short video of why the integration of technology in the classroom is so vital.

Over the past several years we’ve been integrating more and more technology into our curriculum units and our Teaching with the News lessons. With Scholars Online Videos you can bring university scholars and policy experts into your classroom. Now with iBooks Textbooks those scholars are integrated directly in our text.

How are you integrating technology in your classroom?

 

Using Infographics for Policy Deliberation on Afghanistan

by Amy Sanders
Yarmouth ME High School Teacher & Choices Teaching Fellow

Infographic 5 © Newsweek

I incorporate the CHOICES curriculum, The United States in Afghanistan, into my Middle East Studies course. The curriculum is an excellent resource that provides helpful information about Afghanistan’s history, geography, and people, and is the framework around which I build our study of Afghanistan.

When teaching CHOICES units, I often modify the policy deliberation into two distinct phases: first, I have students share key points related to their policy options; second, I move into a “fishbowl” discussion to deliberate the pros and cons of the policy options.

In the past, when teaching the CHOICES unit about the US Invasion of Iraq, I located data that the US Department of Defense reported to Congress. Before we began policy deliberations, I would project some of the data from these reports (which included, for example, graphs of weekly security incidents or percentage of Iraqis with electricity). I would ask students to sit with members of their policy option group and to confer and take notes about how each graph/chart related to their policy option. When we began the fishbowl deliberation, I had color copies of the data available in the center of the table. Students would reach for a relevant graph or chart to back up a point they wanted to make. This method encouraged students to incorporate additional relevant, current evidence into the deliberation.

I wanted to try something similar for our policy deliberation on Afghanistan, and this time asked students to analyze infographics related to the war in Afghanistan. I created a handout introducing students to infographics (which includes an analysis sheet). Students divided into small groups, with each group analyzing one infographic. I used the infographics from the links below:

Infographic 1 – The White House – Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq

Infographic 2 – Internews – Violence Against Journalists in Afghanistan

Infographic 3 – Asia Foundation – Visualizing Afghanistan: A Survey of the Afghan People

Infographic 4 – Plumegraph.org – Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

Infographic 5 – Newsweek – Where’s the Money Going in Afghanistan?

Infographic 6 – US Action  – Ten Years of War in Afghanistan: Bridges NOT Bombs!

Infographic 7 – National Post (Canada) – Blood and Treasure

Infographic 8 – New York Times – Indicators of Worsening Security Situation in Afghanistan

Students rotated the writing responsibility in their infographic analysis and recorded interesting insights and thoughtful questions – including about media bias. Small groups then shared their analysis with the whole group; as teams presented, students within policy option groups conferred about how the data related to their policy option.

Overall, student feedback about the lesson was positive, including these comments:

“Visuals stick in the brain better.”

“This activity gave me a new way to think about data and a new outlook on the war.”

“It made all of the data and numbers relative, which made me better understand the implications of the war.”

“I saw trends that I hadn’t really thought about before.”

“Some of the infographics broke down abstract numbers and helped me to relate to them.”

“The infographics we looked at brought different perspectives and showed how you can manipulate data and numbers to make a point.”

“The infographic about the danger in Afghanistan helped me to see the progression of danger very clearly. It helped me to see visually that conditions there have not necessarily gotten better even after 10+ years of war.”

“This data helped me to better understand and reinforced a lot of what we already learned from the [CHOICES] curriculum.”

“I’d never really thought about how many civilians in Afghanistan have been killed by insurgents vs. the US military. The data showed that far more have died at the hands of insurgents. That was eye opening.”

Immersed in a media-rich world, students are drawn to visualizations of data, and infographics give us new ways to think about and understand information. I believe it’s important for educators to help students both to make connections to their prior learning and to analyze and challenge the information presented in infographics. Students’ analysis of infographics tied into the CHOICES curriculum on Afghanistan and helped extend student learning. It was fun and engaging too… a win/win for my students.


The United States in Afghanistan is available from The Choices Program website. It is also available as an iBooks Textbook from the iBookstore.

Teaching the U.S. Role in the Middle East in 11th & 12th Grade Social Problems

DoD photo by Sgt. KimberlyJohnson, U.S. Army

By Guest Blogger Hayley Vatch

Choices Teaching Fellow

The U.S. role in the Middle East is a surprisingly popular topic of interest for students in my 11th and 12th grade Social Problems class.  Although the class is focused on U.S. domestic social issues such as poverty and racism, I also make time to address more global issues such as the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the refugees who have left these countries.  Studying the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is not only important for my U.S.-born students with relatives or friends who serve in the military, but also for the high population of students at my school who are refugees.  The public high school where I teach in Denver, Colorado has students from over 40 countries, with the second-largest population being from Iraq (Mexico is first), so I mainly focus on the U.S. in Iraq in my teaching.

Since my Social Problems course is only a semester, there is limited time to delve into a topic as complex as the U.S. presence in the Middle East.  Below is a fairly flexible plan that I have used the past two semesters of this course.  Combining Choices’ Teaching with the News resources, the Choices unit A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq with a National Public Radio audio clip, a Veteran guest speaker, and information from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees makes for a concise but informative, well-rounded, and thought-provoking study of the U.S .in Iraq.


Days 1-2 – Essential Question: Where is Iraq and who are its people?

Resources: As a warm-up, students create a KWL chart for the U.S. war in Iraq.  At this time they complete on the “Know” and “Want to Know” sections.  The “Learned” section is completed at the end of the unit. A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq – Student Book p. 2-13, Teacher Resource Book p. 6-7 (Part I reading and study guide questions)


Days 2-3 – Essential Question: Who was Saddam Hussein and what was Iraq like before the U.S. invasion?

Resources: A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq – Student Book p. 14-25, Teacher Resource Book p. 29-30 (Part II reading and study guide questions)


Day 4 – Essential Question: Why did the U.S. invade Iraq?  How does the war in Iraq affect Iraqi people and U.S. military?

Guest speaker: I use a good friend who served in Iraq in 2004 and again in 2007 with the U.S. Marine Corps.  I have my students write down at least one question that they would like the speaker to address.  I give the questions to the speaker a day ahead of time to give him an idea of what the students know and might not know.  Students’ homework is to write a reflection on what they learned from the speaker.


Day 5 – Essential Question: What are the social, political, economic, and human costs of war?

Resources: Teaching With the News lesson The Cost of War. I print out the appropriate reading from the web site and give each group of 3-4 students the graphic organizer handout along with one of the three web site readings.  They complete their own portion of the graphic organizer using the reading, and then we share our notes as a class.  I also always show the Scholars Online video from the lesson plan entitled “Why is it important for high school students to understand the costs of the United States’ wars?”  Students answer this question using information from the video as well as their own opinions as their exit assignment for the day.


Day 6 – Essential Question: What effect has war had on the civilians of Iraq, particularly those who have been displaced by the war?  What is the refugee experience in America like for Iraqi refugees?

Online Resources:

UNHCR data and summary of Iraq’s refugees

NPR audio clip about the struggles of refugees in America


Day 7 – Essential Question: How do people of various backgrounds perceive and experience the U.S. war in Iraq?

Resources: A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq– Blogging Iraq activity found on p. 55-59 of the Teacher Resource Book

Complete the “Learned” section of the KWL chart as an exit assignment.


A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq is available from The Choices Program website. It is also available as an iBooks Textbook from the iBookstore.

 

Martin Luther King Day Speaker Tells of Current Human Rights Violations in Darfur

By Derek Reichenbecher
Choices Teaching Fellow and High School Teacher, Farmingdale, NJ

Darfur

Last summer I attended the Choices Leadership Institute on Human Rights. One of our guest speakers was, El Fadel Arbab , a refuge from Darfur who now lives in Maine.  (Read about his incredible story here). I was so touched by El-Fadel’s story this summer that I wanted to bring him to Howell, NJ to tell his story to our students.  When I relayed the story to my supervisor in September he was hooked.  Our school was shut down for almost two weeks due to Hurricane Sandy, so we will have school on MLK Day.  I’m pretty excited that El-Fadel will be our guest speaker that day.

Inviting a speaker on MLK day to talk about present day human rights violations around the world  is a great way to help students place the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in a broader global context.  A few Choices units that can help teachers make these types of connections are the Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, Competing Visions of Human Rights: Questions for U.S. Policy, and Confronting Genocide: Never Again.

The Choices 2013 Summer Leadership InstituteThe 1960s: Upheaval at Home and Abroad, will include significant content from the Civil Rights unit.

Genocide and The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

By Kenneth Hung, Choices Teaching Fellow and high school classroom teacher, Philadelphia, PA

Peacekeeping

I am putting together a unit on Genocide and R2P to be used in my Contemporary World Conflicts class this January.  The goal of the unit is to have students understand and assess whether R2P could have/should be used as a justification for intervention in the recent Libyan conflict and current Syrian conflict.  This is what the unit is looking like so far:

Intro

Have students define genocide using the “wall” activity in the Choices Confronting Genocide: Never Again curriculum
. Have students read the Genocide Convention and Defining Genocide handouts and answer questions.  I’ll also ask them to evaluate if certain historical events might be considered genocide (see Day 1 of curriculum again), The Genocide map in the curriculum is a great visual for the students.

Lecture

Lecture on history of genocide from Confronting Genocide Teacher Resource book and lecture notes on R2P from the 2012 Choices Leadership Institute.

Film

Show the movie The Devil Came on Horseback, which looks at the tragedy in Darfur as seen through the eyes of an American military observer.  I’ll use movie to critique the argument that R2P should be used in Darfur.  I’ll also use some notes I have on the Arab Spring’s impact on Libya and Syria, including Choices Teaching with the News (TWTN) on “The Conflict in Syria” and other TWTNs on the Arab Spring.

Debate Project

I’ll then divide students into 4 groups – students will conduct research and then debate the following positions, probably in a Structured Academic Controversy format.

  • R2P should have been used against Qaddafi in Libya (YES/NO)
  • R2P should be used against Assad in Syria (YES/NO)

Assessment

Students will post a reflection on my website with their opinion on each debate topic. Students must address at least two arguments used by each side in the two debates.

If anyone knows of some great resources and readings that might be useful to me in this unit, please post them in the comments section below.

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