Sunday, March 16, 2014

Links: Geography of a Missing Airplane

The case of the missing Boeing 777 out of Malaysia presents some interesting geography questions.  Here are a couple of links to learn more about how rescuers are using triangulation, satellite and radar data to try and find the aircraft:

Satellite indicates Flight 370 still flying seven hours after takeoff - The Washington Post
Excellent infographic about the search with colorful maps and explanatory visuals.

Malaysia officials open criminal inquiry into missing jet - New York Times
Good summary article with video and maps.

Finally, has emerged with a more controversial, hypothetical theory that the plane may be somewhere in central Asia, an area known to harbor terrorist groups.  The article raises several geopolitical issues that would be excellent for classroom discussion.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cold War Lesson 1 - An Iron Curtain Descends Across Europe

Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin discuss how to divide
Europe near the end of World War II at the
Yalta Conference, in 1945. 
In Episode #5 of the SHL Podcast, we start a special teaching series on the Cold War.  Rob and I take a look at how the roots of conflict go back even further than World War II, and stage a mock debate about the principles of capitalism vs. communism.

Download:SHL Ep.#5 Cold War Part I

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ukraine Crisis - Explained

Read this post explaining the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine, then write a short argumentative statement on what position the U.S. government should take on Russian intervention in Crimea.  

For students, the crisis in Ukraine may seem like just another instance of political turmoil on the other side of the world - a faraway place that's hard to find on a map, and people that don't speak English.  But the upheaval is more than just protests in the streets.  It's digging up old rivalries from the Cold War and testing a new generation of political leaders with the same ideology and conflicts that guys with names like Roosevelt, Stalin, Kennedy, and Khrushchev had to deal with decades ago.  Let's take some time to understand what's happening in the context of historical events.

Where is Ukraine? 
Ukraine is located in eastern Europe and straddles two unique cultures.  To the east lies Russia, it's former master in the Soviet Union from the 1920s until 1991.  To the west, the modern economies of Germany, France and Great Britain are a strong draw for many Ukrainians who see their future tied with this part of Europe, rather than keeping with the old Soviet - now Russian - ways of government and economy.

Why is there a crisis? 
The current dispute began last November, when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych declared that he would not be seeking a relationship between Ukraine and the European Union (EU), a clear signal that he favors a closer relationship with Russia, and it's controversial president, Vladimir Putin.  

What's the EU? 
The European Union is an economic confederation between most of the countries on the continent.  Through a complex system of governance, they basically agree to work together on issues like trade, industry, and hold a common currency (the Euro).  For a more in-depth explanation of the EU, check out this Wikipedia article.

Why are there protests against President Yanukovych?
While Yanukovych wanted to strengthen ties with Russia, an overwhelming majority of his people, and the Ukrainian Parliament, disagreed with him.  From December through February there were street protests, attended by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators.  In late February, feeling the pressure, Yanukovych fled the country and claimed he had been the victim of a coup d'etat.  An excited parliament appointed a new president, and things seemed to be turning the way most Ukrainians wanted.  But then the crisis shifted to the Crimean peninsula.

Where - and what - is Crimea?
Crimea is a sort-of independent state within Ukraine.  It has it's own system of government, but is constitutionally bound to Ukraine.  Crimea is also filled with mostly ethnic Russians who don't exactly see eye-to-eye with the rest of Ukraine and its ouster of President Yanukovych.  Crimeans fly the Russian flag, speak Russian, and liked Yanukovych.

So what does Russia have to do with this? 
In response to what he calls an illegal coup, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Crimea on March 4th to "defend" these Russians.  However, many in the new Ukrainian government consider Russia's move an act of war, with Russian troops basically invading sovereign Ukrainian territory.

Check out these maps by the New York Times that give an overview of the geography of the crisis.

Where does the United States stand?
President Obama said this week that the U.S. recognizes Crimea as a part of Ukraine, and that aggression by Russia would not be tolerated.

Does that mean the U.S. and Russia might go to war over the conflict in Ukraine?  
A war between the two old rivals is highly unlikely.  What will probably happen is simply an escalation of tensions in the region between the U.S. and Russia through their allies.  Much like in the Cold War, these two powers never directly fought each other.  They each used proxy conflicts around the world (like Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan) to try and weaken the other side's interests.

For more information on the ongoing events in Ukraine, check out these resources:

BBC News:  Ukraine Crisis Timeline 

New York Times: Russia's Move Into Ukraine

New York Times: Russia's Plans to Annex Crimea 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Podcasts for Teaching

Back in November, Rob and I started the Schoolhouse Lab Podcast as a outlet for social studies-based discussion about current events.  Our goal was to take the opportunity to have long-form discussions about what's going on in the world, and hopefully get our students listening and thinking about those issues.  While we've only produced four episodes, and don't have any data about how many of our students (or others) actually listen, we are really excited about where the project is headed in the future.  We figure that, regardless of how many listeners we have, we take the opportunity with every episode to get better at the art of teaching through conversation in the podcast medium.

Which brings us to yet another purpose of the project - producing content we can actually assign students to listen to as a part of classroom instruction.  Just as teachers produce YouTube videos to supplement instruction, podcast discussions can also be used in a flipped classroom model.  So this week we will record the first in our instructional series about the Cold War.

Why the Cold War?  Why not?  No other event has a more lasting effect on our world today than the prolonged conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union from roughly 1945-1991, the echoes of which are still seen today. Whether it's the icy relationship between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, or the unfolding political crisis in the Ukraine, the Cold War still sends aftershocks around the globe.

Here are some objectives for the series:

1.  Break up a historical event, which is massive in scope, into understandable themes.

2.  Establish a chain of causation for events from 1947-1991 and the post-Cold War era.

3.  Create a framework for understanding how the modern era is fundamentally shaped by the Cold War.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

SHL Podcast Ep. #4 - State of the Union & Superbowl 48

We're back after a long holiday break!  Here in Episode #4 of the Schoolhouse Lab Podcast we take a look at President Obama's 5th State of the Union Speech, and discuss the cultural importance of the Super Bowl as a quasi holiday in American society.  Thanks for listening!

Play:SHL Podcast Ep.4

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Blended Learning Demo - Bethel TAF 2014

Bethel Tech Challenge Video

Use this link to watch an overview of this year's Tech Challenge!

2014 Bethel TAF Tech Challenge

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

SHL Podcast Ep.#3 - Remembering Mandela / Budget Deal / Teaching History Backwards

On this episode of the Schoolhouse Lab Podcast we examine the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, analyze the budget compromise between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and Rob tells us about his year-long experiment in teaching U.S. History backwards.

Play:SHL Podcast Ep.3