Lessons in Cyberspace: Teachers Adapt What They Find to What Their Students Need

Article excerpt

The Internet has become a tremendous resource for teachers both for the sheer volume of information available and for opportunities to connect with each other. Educators can collaborate through virtual learning networks like Edmodo. On Twitter, there is a chat group with the hashtag #edchat, run by Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby), where one can ask questions on all things education and fellow educators respond. You can also find great materials with broad searches, as long as you are willing to adapt what you find to your classroom needs. I recently combined material from different online sources to prepare my students to write an essay on racism.

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My inspiration came during one world history class, when a seemingly innocuous comment about race made by one student was found to be offensive by others. Students began to argue using reasoning based on their own experiences but without any historical perspective on the roots of racism. Our next unit, on 19th-century imperialism, was the perfect opportunity to continue the discussion. For their subsequent writing assignment, I asked my students to examine the political, social, and economic justifications for imperialism and to consider whether it was, or is, valid for one nation or culture to impose its values on another. I posed the question, Was racism an excuse for or a by-product of imperialism?

To provide the right content for the lesson, I needed more than the textbook had to offer. I started my Internet search by typing "imperialism" and "lesson plan" into Google. I found a number of potentially useful sites, including several that charged a fee to join. Not knowing the caliber of the lessons, and working with a tight budget, paid sites were not an option. Looking for lessons that were of high quality and free, I checked one of my favorite sites: mrdonn.org, on which teachers Lin and Don Donn collect the best free history lessons from cyberspace.

Although I found plenty of information, I wanted my students to understand why the imperial powers colonized. While searching on mrdonn.org, I came upon Rudyard Kipling's poem The White Man's Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands. "Kipling wrote the poem in 1899, urging the U.S. to follow the lead of Britain and other colonizing European nations. …

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