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Friday, January 29, 2016

ABQs (Artifact Based Question) and Instagramming at the MFA

When AP World colleague, Cherie Pinchem and I had a history nerd date at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in December 2015, we were both inspired by the "Made in the Americas" exhibit to do a joint field trip that combined our AP World classes.

Here are some reviews of the exhibit:

For this joint venture, we had several important goals in mind:
1) students must collaborate together - all groups had 2 students from WHS and 3 students from BLS.
2) students would have to explore the syncretism of that time period, and
3) students needed to look at and document the artifacts that helped them devise a historical argument.

All the artifacts on display showed evidence of syncretism. We wanted our students to focus on that as it tied into Period 4 (1450-1750) which highlights the increasing globalization that was occurring in the world.  This exhibit seemed pre-made for a DBQ structure, though one of my students enthusiastically changed the name more appropriately to "ABQ" or Artifact Based Question.

Here are the instructions for students and the prompt that they grappled with during the course of the field trip.

In order to capture the thoughts of 100 or so students, and to allow for easy sharing of those thoughts and documentation, I wanted the students to record and annotate their thoughts about artifacts electronically.  Although there are many great photo sharing sites, I also wanted to use something where students could write longer annotations, and not just quick labels as they would on Flickr or Picasa.  The head librarian at my school (who is amazing with integrating technology into the curriculum!) gave me the idea of using Instagram, which is a social media network that is primarily for posting photos, and allows space to document and comment on each others' work.  Another advantage for using Instagram is that almost all students are familiar with Instagram even if they did not have their own account.  I created 4 separate accounts so that students would not have to use their personal accounts.

Below is the Storify from all 4 Instagram accounts that captures the work of our amazing students.  As we were wrapping up, my WHS colleague commented that the activity felt very authentic, like the work that real historians are doing.  I will have to come back to reflect on the final outcome.

**UPDATE** I received this from a current student as she was grappling with the essay assignment.  I thought it was an apt analogy.  

A Metaphor for Writing Essays in AP World by HL:
A normal CCOT or Compare/Contrast essay in AP world feels like you get handed a piece of granite and you have to chisel it into a beautiful statue with just your brain
A normal DBQ feels like you get handed a piece of granite that has been cut up into many confusing pieces that you must get back together and then chisel into a beautiful statue with your brain
This DBQ feels like you have nothing and must use your brain to create a piece of granite...you will be proud of yourself for even finding a piece of granite big enough even if it can ever be made into a statue or not.

Unfortunately, the exhibit is only here until February 15, 2016, after which it will be dismantled with artifacts sent back to their respective institutions.    However, not to despair, there is an amazing book published associated with the exhibit and written by the curator Dennis Carr entitled Made in the Americas.  My wonderful librarian bought it for our school library on our way out of the museum.

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