1. World History 1 (1101) Online, Fall 2019

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2019-10-30: Experiment 8 Graded

Evaluating experiment 8 proved challenging to me. Many students engaged the SIFT process, but did not draw what I consider to be logical conclusions. For example, concluding that the first Silk Road map was not credible becuase it was hosted by ESRI while concluding the second map was credible because it was hosted by StoryMaps (which is made by ESRI) puzzled me.

Many students did the work to figure out that the first map was created by an ESRI employee. While her expertise was not easily verifiable, one could verify the accuracy of her actual map pretty quickly. As the map was only the route, establishing the first maps' credibility should have been easier.

The second map is actually problematic. It is hosted by a reputable company (ESRI) but has no author or institution backing it up, such as a college. In addition, if we review the sources cited in the text (not at the bottom) there are some concerning sources, such as https://halpinsasiatakeout.com/ , http://paradeofthebuddhas.org, and http://qic.com.au. Given how much information is included in this map, we should have a higher standard for crediblity and citations. As it stands, the map has the appearance of a well-organized high school research report on the Silk Road by an Australian high school student (did you note that one of the URLs the author cited ended in the country code for Australia - .au - which gets added when you view some international webites?) There is a mix of credible and non-credible information on the site.

For example, the textile Silk Road picture is undated and comes from a website called "Wowshack." https://www.wowshack.com/the-amazing-story-of-ikat-how-a-textile-wove-itself-into-indonesian-history
This textile map includes the term Bombay for what, since 1995, was been called Mumbai. The citation on the wowshack.com article is to theverge.com, another commercial website.

In short, chasing down credilbity is not always easy but can help improve our understanding of the past. The best answers to the questions this week came from folks who demonstrated the greatest familiarity with the sources' credilibity.

2019-10-25: Still sick(but trying)

I'm still pretty sick, but am trying to grade and post as much as I can. Thank you for your patience as I climb out of this illness.

2019-10-24: Reflections

I'm enjoying your learning reflections. The most insightful are those in which students give careful consideration to their own thinking and learning processes, and the factors that shape them. Many students have struggled with family issues, technology failures, or lack of time. Perhaps my favorite entries are the ones in which students apply what they're learning in a week to another aspect of their interests. For example, did you know that Gameo of Thrones is not at all medieval?

2019-10-24: Grading Closing 8 and Opening 9 quizzes

I eliminated the sixth questions for the Closing 8 quiz: I found the map picture failed to open on some browswers. If I can't gurantee every student saw the same thing, it's not a fair questions.

For closing 9, the best answer to questions 6 on how Stanford calculated travel time combined some combination of experience (sail across the Mediterranean to estimate the time), GIS calculation, and - most importantly but often missed - historical documentation. A number of students offered what I consider to be non-good-faith-effort answers in the form of one-sentence references to modern travel, which was a bit disappointing. Question six is always asking you to show me your historical learning and, given how strong your historical learning is, you should never drop in a single sentence and expect it to suffice.

2019-10-23: Continued absence

I beg your further indulgence as I am still a bit feverish. Minneapolis public schools ask kids not to come back to school until they are 24 hours post-fever, which seems like a good model.

I will be absent Thursday, 2019-10-24, from Normandale.

The Closing quiz 9 and Opening quiz 10 are now posted. Apologies for the 4 hour delay. There will be no 6th question this week as those take significant time and effort to find relevant sources and craft brief but illustrative questions.

2019-10-22: Out sick

With apologies, I am home sick with my son: we're both sick. I've lost my voice all together so email is definitely my friend. I'll try to return to campus Thursday.


2019-10-16: Experiments 5 and 6 graded

Experiment 5 was generally strong. The best StoryMaps tied the pictures to a historical significance clearly. Showing only a picture, without citation or analysis, was less strong.

Experiment 6 was all over the place. Many students struggled to master the Knight TimeLine. If your link didn't display, I noted that in your feedback and asked you to contact me.

The biggest issue for these experiments was the theme or idea tying collections together. Many students articulated a clear connecting theme, such as homosexuality in ancient Greece, or generals in Greece. More challenging were the themes that argued "these people shaped this region, which is why they are important today." Versions of this were "Alexander the Great shaped Greece" or "we would not be the same without these ideas or people." As historians we have to assume that people of the day didn't know they would become great, so we can't assume that historical significant is presumed: we need to explain how it happened. Focussing on tying A to B to C is the very heart of doing history, so the clearer you can articulate how your objects relate to a specific theme, the stronger your timeline.

2019-10-8: Guidance on Consultations
Consultation are designed to be a classroom space to discuss your work for the week. Thus far, that is happening as planned, to my satisfaction. The more attention to your actual work that you can bring to the discussion, the more the class benefits.

Consulation posts that read something like "I have no questions, I understand the material and the technology: thank you" have an honest opener, but deprive us of a bit of the process. History is not math and there is no single right answer. There are answers that have better evidentiary support and those with less evidence for support. In every assignment you answers question that ask you to weigh evidence.

So, writing that you understand everything is more that you are confident in your argument. It's ok to discuss how your arrived a bit. You may save that "how I came to my argument" for the reflection, but I'm seeing some holding back of process in the consultations as well, and so want to encourage a more robust and public airing of what the projects made your consider.

You may also have gone down a research rabbit hole that is history relevant and wish to share that in the consulation. The beauty of the online space is that you can share that tangent in ways that face-to-face classtime would not allow.

Keep up the good work.

2019-10-7: Closing quiz 6, opening quiz 7 graded

The closing quiz that included the image from the Guptan empire was mostly strong. Students asked "W" questions (who, where, what, when, why, how, and what was the historical significance).

The quiz that included the Lysistrata questions was a bit disappointing. Stronger answers included specific mentions of the comedy of the play, the history of the Peloponnesian War, the historical objects in the play (silk, saffron, wine, horses), or the gender relations. Several students seemed to think that Lysistrata was a person, not a character in the play, so this note serves as a corrective to that.

For the sixth question on the quiz, referencing your reading for the week will always make your answers stronger.

2019-10-4: Week 7 For Your Information

On Wednesday, October 9th I'll be heading to Atlanta to present at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. You can see my a description of my talk here.

All of your grades will be the same, and the due dates for your assignments will not change. I will continue to answer questions and converse with you on the discussion boards as usual.

My face-to-face course will not meet on Thursday, but will turn in their work normally.

I have made the assignment for this week straight forward technically.

I am adding an office hour on Tuesday from 1-2 p.m.

2019-10-1: Reflection There's a disturbing split occuring in the Reflections assignments. Half the class consistantly writes reflections and half the class does not consistantly submit reflections. No other assignment has this pattern. To review, you need to write a reflection every week. You'll respond to the same thread. Each reflection earns 5 points. With 16 responses at 5 points a piece, that would equal 80 total points, and with two automatically dropped, that's 70 percentage points. So, you should see your score go up 5 points a week if you are submitting each week.

2019-09-30: Experiment 4 Graded

I assessed your Experiment 4. Overall, students found credible maps and objects. A couple of common errors:

  • Maps from sources that were not SIFTed were the biggest issue. General website can have credible maps, but you need to trace the source back the origin.
  • Any source from a website designed for children is not credible for college. Kids websites rightly filter out content (mostly about sex and violence) that give an incomplete picture of the past.
  • Your paragraphs needed to connect your objects, your maps, and your readings. Many people gave me encyclopedia-like explanations of their societies. I will rarely ask you to summarize the history of a place. I will reguarly ask you what you think about your sources.
  • Metadata needs to be deliberate and consistant. YOU are creating the metadata lists. If you copy and post from webistes, you will have both "16th century" and "1500s" as metadata, a system which would allow you to find only half your sources. You can use their lists, but make the list useful to you and related to the assignment. For example, I use recipes to cook, but I write out the ingredients in my shopping list based on where I know they are in the grocery store, and I shorten them. "15.5 oz Heinz Fire-roasted tomatoes with basil" becomes, "Tomatoes, can."

Errata- For the last 12 hours there's been a broken link on Experiment 6. Reload your browser to see the correct link.

2019-09-27: Reflections I've read and assessed reflections as of 3 pm. Lots of great self-reflection on your learning, what we call metacognition. I look forward to more students writing as metacognition is central to making college relevant to you (and is easy points for your final grade).

I likely won't get a chance to post the assignment until Sunday. This week has been about getting current with grade.

2019-09-23 Closing Quiz 4 and Opening Quiz 5

I've assessed the two quizzes and there is more room for improvement than has existed in past weeks. For the Harrapan seal, there is little we can concluded based on the seal. The accompanying article offers some speculative arguments, but the limited contextual information we have about Harrapa limits any conclusions.

Similarly, with the Harrumabi law question, there is almost nothing we can conclude about our modern death penalty law. As one of your fellow students noted, there isn't enough information to draw any conclusions, other than murder has been prohibited in two different places. Many students commented on the moral implications of the modern or ancient death penalty, which we also do not have evidence to address. That something existed in the past does not mean it shows continuity between the past and today. Several of you pointed out how modern legal systems with juries, mutliple different charges (such as manslaughter), and protections for the accused complicate any easy comparison. Others of you pointed to the dissimilar origins of legal systems. One (super) student noted that without evidence from multiple legal traditions over time, it's impossible to trace a law across 4000 years and two continents.

As we go forward, please consider what we have evidence for, and what limited conclusions we can draw from this evidence. Without evidence, we can impose many possble explanations for what we see, as the Distracted Boyfriend meme suggests

Distracted Boyfriendhttps://i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/001/287/555/106.jpg``

2019-09-17 Closing 3 and Opening 4 Quizzes and Consultations

Both have been graded. You can review the feedback I posted on question 6 for each. Overall, students are grappling with question 6 and writing well-considered responses. Your answer might not display perfect organization, flowing from thesis to points, but overall students have exhibited sound historical thinking.

In a small minority of cases, students write answers that do not display what I consider a good faith effort. Writing one sentence is not showing historical thinking. I don't presume to know why students write short or with little atttention to detail, it can be stress, time constraints, or lack of interest. Still, I feel it unfair to give a 90% to a response does not display a good faith effort. So, starting this week, I'm giving responses that do no display a good faith effort a 1/5. This is a very small number of responses, yet it warrants explanation.

  • Consultations: the consultation discussion board is for working out you thoughts about the week's experiment. I've provided specific prompts thus far. In addition, you can always add your questions, or respond to others there.

2019-09-11: Reflections graded

I've read and graded your reflections. I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness of most reflections. You will earn 5 points for each reflection. Over 16 weeks, that sums to 80, but I am going to drop the lowest two, so your total in the gradebook is out of 70 points. As of today, 2019-09-11, you should have 10 points for two weeks of reflections. A very few of you will have 15 points as you already turned in your week 3 review.

Here are some things to consider in your reflection:

  • This assignment is to reflect on your learning. Some weeks you may focus more on new knowledge you gained, other weeks you may focus on a new skill. I find it all fascinating and useful, just keep those groups (knowledge and skills) in mind so you aren't writing excursively on one.
  • Honesty works best for these. If you had a rough week, didn't understand something, or struggled with motivation, it's better to write that as you discuss your learning as it will shape my next week's teaching.
  • Comments about what you think should or shouldn't be in this course can be honest reflections, but they are not reflections on your learning. As the professor, it's my job to include relevant information, and I have. Reflecting on your interests and how some subjects engage you or turn you off is great. Telling me how to do my job reveals little about your learning and doesn't help me help you learn.
  • Students did a great job copy editing their reflections. I found almost flawless capitalization, punctuation, and language usage: keep it up.
    2019-09-9 Closing Quiz 2 and Opening Quiz 3

The quiz that asked you to evaluate the Tree Octopus (Closing 2) revealed most students are using SIFT to evaluate sources. Please continue to use SIFT as you evaluate sources, remembering that you cannot evaluate a source based on the source alone: opening new tab is your research super-power.

The quiz on agriclutre (Open 3) revealed widely-different understandings of the the article. Including a specific cause (population expansion for example) and specific references to both plants and animals (which are both "agriculture") proved the best answers.

Thus far I've graded credit/no credit on Experiments. Going forward I will include learning goals on which you will be assessed using a rubric.

2019-09-4: Opening Quiz 2 and Quiz Grades

For your quizzes, you will typically have 6 questions: 5 multiple choice questions at one point a piece and one open ended question. Multiple choice checks your comprehension of the reading. The open ended question lets me gage your ability to think historically. I want you to consider how you are developing as a historical thinker as well, so I'll always include an explanation of what basic, developing, and proficient answers look like after you've submitted your answer.

My experience is that students demonstrate learning better when they know they'll receive immediate feedback and they learning is not high-stakes in terms of a grade. So, there are four grades for the open-ended quiz question:

0 = you wrote nothing
3.5 = you demonstrated basic historical thinking skills
3.7 = you demonstrated developing historical thinking skills
4 = you demonstrated proficient historical thinking skills

95% of students wrote in complete sentences with formal language and appropriate capitalization and punctuation, as expected, when answering the open-ended questions.

Because I need to grade the open-ended questions, your immediate grade will appear as an F, such as 4/9, until I grade the open-ended question. I will grade quizzes within one week of when they are submitted so we stay in conversation about where you are as a thinker.

I graded the Opening Quiz 2 and my feedback is here: http://jacknorton.org/askhistorians/ . Please read carefully as most students did NOT accurately evaluate AskHistorians (which I expected and is normal for this early in the semester).


The lab experiment and consultation will be posted Monday before noon. FYI.

For students looking for help navigating D2L, here is a video playlist of how to do things. Playlist is on youtube

The closing quiz is for after you have completed the other assignments for the week. I did not put a start gate on it, as I did not think students would try to take it before completing the rest of the work. I will revisit that assumption. Closing questions will be available by 3 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon. The closing quiz for week one is live.

Welcome to our World History 1 course. On this website you will find most material that you need to prepare for our weekly work. Your grades and graded material will be housed on D2L.

Before you do anything else in our course read this first

Please watch this space as I will post class anouncements here, along with tips on how to succeed in our course.

Looking forward to a great semester. I have confidence you can do well in this course.