Featured: "Jews & Muslims" 2017 Summer Program in Morocco

November 28, 2016

UNESCO site at MarrakechCalifornia middle and high school teachers are invited to apply to travel to Morrocco, June 26 - July 26, 2017. 

UC Berkeley's Center for Middle East Studies and Fulbright-Hayes Group Projects Abroad offer this oppportunity:

"At the crossroads of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Europe stands Marrakech, one of the Islamic world’s greatest capitals. As the preamble to the 2011 constitution of Morocco proclaims “[The Kingdom of Morocco’s] unity is forged by the convergence of its Arab, Islamic, Berber, and Saharan components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences.”

Jews and Muslims will delve into that convergence during a month-long program dedicated to the study of the ethnic, cultural, and religious complexity of Morocco through study of darija (the local Arabic dialect) and Moroccan Jewish civilization with renowned specialists Professor Emily Gottreich (UC Berkeley) and Professor Aomar Boum (UCLA). 

Participants will live and study within the madina, a walled city and UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the heart of Marrakech in the 11th century CE. A few minutes’ walk brings one to Jma al-Fna, a plaza like no other in the world. Every night it comes alive with acrobats, storytellers, fortune readers, dancers, musicians, food stalls, traditional dentists and healers, snake charmers, and as of late, a man who dances with three large owls. The nearby Gueliz district reflects the colonial past of Morocco, and excursions to the mellah— the historic Jewish quarter— and various shrines and pilgrimage sites lend nuance and depth to participants’ understanding of interaction and syncretism among adherents of Judaism and Islam. Other, longer trips to the high Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic coast are planned..."

The full cost to teachers will be a $500 non-refundable deposit plus personal spending money. For more details and to apply by January 3, 2017, please visit the website.

photo credit: davidxvx Marrakesh (31 of 133) via photopin (license)

Featured: New ORIAS Speakers Bureau

November 2, 2016

On Thursday, November 10, from 5:00 - 8:00 PM ORIAS will host an Open House to introduce its new Speakers Bureau!

Where: UC Berkeley campus, in 1229 Dwinelle Hall.

Educators are invited to meet our first 12 speakers, hear short teasers for their talks, ask questions, and schedule them to come to classes on the spot.

The inaugural group of speakers are graduate students whose areas of expertise cross both geographic and disciplinary boundaries. Each presenter has worked with ORIAS and with teacher-reviewers to hone a single presentation to make it age-appropriate and engaging. While talks are focused, most are both interdisciplinary and appropriate for a number of subjects. In addition to providing in-depth information in an interactive way, speakers will model skills from the Common Core standards and share their personal academic stories with the students they meet.

Whether you teach social studies, art, science or literature, at least one of these presentations can enrich your course.

This program is generously funded by the Title VI-funded Area Studies Centers along with the Center for Latin American Studies and the Center for African Studies here at UC Berkeley. Visiting your classroom is a chance for valuable professional development for our speakers.

Sign up here to attend our Speakers Bureau Open House on November 10, 2016, from 5:00 to 8:00 PM.

Featured: The Travels of Ibn Battuta

October 5, 2016

The Travels of Ibn Battuta: a Virtual Tour has been one of ORIAS' most successful, most widely used projects. The Travels of Ibn Battuta: A Virtual Tour began as a Web resource written in 1999 by Nick Bartel for his students at Horace Mann Middle School, San Francisco, California. It was one of several large online resource units Nick constructed during the early days of curriculum on the internet. Most units were lost during technical changes over the years at San Francisco Unified School District, where the original pages were hosted. Since that time, online resources for teaching world history through traveler's narratives have increased dramatically, but Nick's pages are still some of the most valuable for classrooms. In 2012 he gave permission to ORIAS to rebuild and rehost the site at UCB, where it could be updated and "rescued" from the virtual void. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies provided funding to help in this process.

This month, ORIAS moved the project to its website. While much of the text is the same, some updates have been added, reflecting the growth of online resources since the project's inception. These include the addition of some new images and embedded videos, as well as updates to possible student projects to reflect changes in technologies and resources widely available to students. Your comments and suggestions for further work are welcome!

Featured: Resources from Women in World History Summer Institute

August 1, 2016

Image for Women in World History Summer Institute

Here's a thought-exercise for World History teachers. It came out of conversations at the ORIAS summer institute on Women in World History, based on an assignment described by one of our presenters:

How would your curriculum change if your default historical subjects were women, rather than men?

How would you assess the importance of the agricultural revolution or Athenian democracy? Would property rights and marriage laws edge out professional status and voting rights in classroom discussions about power? How would you construct narratives of long-distance trade, imperial conquest, and industrialization? Do you imagine the core periodization and themes underlying your course would be altered?

These are not new sorts of questions. Histories of "everyday people" and subaltern histories challenge traditional narratives, reframing periods, political structures, social categories, and philosophical ideals in myriad ways. Many teachers already work to incorporate these various lenses into their courses.

In a similar spirit, the goal of this exercise is not to write men out of the past. Rather, the point is to highlight the way gender already colors every aspect of what we teach in a social studies classroom, from the structure of our units, to the weight we give specific events, to the ways we teach students to think about sources. It illustrates the pervasiveness of a particular sort of generically masculine character as the invisible subject of much classroom (and textbook) discourse. This is especially evident in a World History context, where required curricular content can feel infinite and teaching time is always at a premium. 

Perhaps the most positive takeaway from this event was the graphic illustration that this is not a zero-sum game, in which one set of students can win only if others lose. Collectively, the talks showed that lessons incorporating gender are useful in the social studies classroom.

For example, Beverly Bossler's presentation, "Women in Late Imperial China" imparted a nuanced view of the relationship between Confucian philosophy, personal behavior, and the late imperial state. She used women's experiences as a tool to explain the connection between state power and invididual behavior, to highlight differences between the lives of elites and commoners, and to show ways Han people differentiated themselves from their Manchu conquerors in the Qing dynasty. All of these topics were accessed through questions about how women were expected to behave, how women actually behaved, and how we know the answers to either of those questions. Nothing was sacrificed, a lot was gained.

See the resources and video interviews from our Summer Institute to help you use gender as a fruitful, important lens in your own courses. 

Image credits

Featured: In Favor of Podcasts

May 4, 2016

 My love affair with podcasts began while I was teaching. I don't recall how I stumbled across the show, but after several months of avid listening I began assigning segments from BackStory to augment US History class readings. A little to my surprise, the students liked it. They found the interactions between the hosts funny (in an admittedly dorky way) and were cautiously entertained by history jokes. Also, of course, they enjoyed a periodic break from reading and the fact that they could listen anywhere.

Eventually, segments made their way into the classroom. Sometimes I intentionally integrated them into lessons, but other times a student suggested a relevant bit and we'd pause to take a quick listen. More than once, when we had a few minutes before the bell, they asked me to pick something "interesting" and play it for them. It became such a part of our class experience (and my love for the show so amused them) that when I announced I was leaving teaching, the students actually contacted the producers and arranged a really touching goodbye message on the show.

Why Podcasts?

I could argue in favor of their variety, the always-growing access to different viewpoints, audioshows as an artform. But really, I started listening because when I was teaching time was my most precious commodity. Being able to learn and discover curriculum resources while driving (or exercising, or cleaning the house, etc.) had a completely practical appeal.


How to Choose

A quick perusal of the podcast libraries on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher (or any of many other podcast repositories) will be a little daunting. You'll have no trouble finding Best Of lists online. (There is even an annual Academy of Podcasting Award). But from a teaching perspective, form matters as much as quality. Different kinds of podcasts suit different teaching purposes.

Here are a couple of podcast/purpose combinations you might find useful:

Classroom Use

You want quick, (hopefully) engaging pieces to mix into a class lesson:

Engaging audio pieces, like engaging films, require professional skill and practice to produce. They cut from one audio "scene" to another and use highly textured combinations of sounds to build their narrative. The interaction between the narrator(s) and other show participants are part of the narrative structure. Not only that, but if you're using it for class, you might be interested in some background resources, as well. Radiolab, a radio show also available as a podcast, epitomizes the form. Most episodes include multiple stories and, as a bonus, are backed by a resource-rich web site. One place to start your search for professionally-produced shows is the NPR podcast directory.

Caveat Auditor: Good radio is a mix of journalism and entertainment, not academic scholarship. Many shows interview scholar-experts, but just as you do with other sources, think critically about the show's narrative goals and editorial choices.

Teacher Education - Beginning

You're about to teach a new course and you want to develop some background knowledge about a topic:

One sub-genre within the podcast world is the long-form history series, often (but not always) done by amateur historians. The History of Rome is a famous example, but others include the (THoR-inspired) History of Byzantium, The History of China, and the fairly new Maritime History Podcast, to name just a couple. These shows tend to be largely chronological and more like audiobooks than radio shows in style. If you need to establish a chronological understanding of a topic, you spend a lot of hours driving or walking, and you like the somewhat idiosyncratic style, they are a tempting option. 

Caveat Auditor: These shows vary greatly in the caliber of the history they present. Several of them provide accounts that are better than (or, at least, more detailed than) those in common textbooks, but they suffer from some similar issues. When you don't hear about arguments among historians, consider that topic a subject for further reading.

Teacher Education - Advanced

You've already got a good foundation in a subject area and you're looking to expand your knowledge:

One good option is a podcast produced by scholars or a research institute. The Ottoman History Podcast, for example, features in-depth conversations between hosts and guests who have expertise in the history of the region. You can hear about everything from law to natural disasters to the olfactory landscape of Ottoman Istanbul. Africa Past and Present provides an opportunity to hear about history and current events across Africa from similarly knowledgable speakers. Alternatively, other shows let you listen in on conversations among an experienced (but not necessarily academic) group. One in this style is Sinica, a podcast that explores Chinese history and culture through the eyes of journalists, public officials, and others living and working in China.

Caveat Auditor: It can be hard to find academic shows with good production quality and skilled hosts. Discussion shows, like Sinica, also often suffer from sound-quality issues. It's worthwhile to google guest speakers and become familiar with hosts over a series of episodes so you can develop a sense of how their biases and views compare to others involved in the same field.

Add Variety to Student Resources

You'd like to broaden student resources for homework or research purposes:

Professionally produced, auditorily complex shows have an obvious student-interest-advantage, but short segments or short episodes of simpler shows can also work well. Footnoting History, for example, features graduate students who research and write their own material. Episodes often feature quirky historical anecdotes and discussion about historical sources. 15 Minute History, based at UT Austin, is specifically designed for teachers and episodes are mapped to social studies standards. History Talk, based at Ohio State University, interprets current events within a historical context. All three shows provide information about hosts and authors, as well as a mix of citations, sources for further reading, images, videos, and web links.

Caveat Auditor: Unsurprisingly, students will have varying degrees of success learning from podcasts. On the positive side, some shows offer transcripts for students who prefer to read while they listen. Others may discover that listening while they move around is actually more effective than reading or listening while stationary.

The shows mentioned here represent a tiny fraction of the available options. Shows for younger students are not represented. Nor are any of the dozens of literary, artistic, or pop culture-related options. (The list feels infinite). If you'd like suggestions for a specific topic or purpose, please feel free to contact ORIAS.

photo credit: On The Air via photopin (license)