Year in Review


The end of the year is upon us and I realized we have done quite a lot in our US History course. I am curious to get your constructive critiques of the projects we tackled and themes covered in class. You can choose to answer those questions you find most relevant to your experience. This will help me as I plan for next year.

Our first adventure was to travel down Wisconsin Avenue to Marquette University to join in the Smithsonian’s video conference on Civil War artwork. We analyzed art along with classrooms form Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland. What were benefits to MU’s facilities and that type of videoconference format?

soldiers home tour

  • We then toured the old Soldier’s Home Grounds near Miller Park. Although we did not complete the video project we did begin the process by compiling research on various buildings and soldiers buried on the grounds. This research will be used by students next year to continue these video efforts. What connections did we make between the Civil War veterans who originally occupied the grounds to the current Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans who are recovering there today? What did you find most interesting about the tour we received of the cemetery and buildings?

skype call

  • Our last major projects were Skype calls with classrooms in Virginia and Georgia.  What were positives and negatives to skyping as a group (Virginia) and in individual groups (Georgia). Explain how the wiki-space site can be utilized better. (Please keep your critique/comments to the process and not the participants).
  • I am curious if you have an idea for a technology tool, web link or site that you think would be useful in my class next year. Please explain why and provide a link in your answers. Can you think of a way to connect that technology to one of the major themes (listed below) that we discussed in class?
  1. Exploration, Colonization and Settlement (World and Space)
  2. Revolution & Founding Documents
  3. Westward Expansion
  4. Social Movements
  5. Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement
  6. Civil War Memory: The Lost Cause and Segregation
  7. Industrialization and Technology
  8. Imperialism & World Wars

Thank you for a fantastic year!


26 thoughts on “Year in Review

  1. I am going to tackle the question of the Skype conference. I really loved skyping other classrooms around the country because we got to see the difference in not only culture but attitude towards history. I liked the idea of skyping, i think that it would almost be better if we got into groups but into different rooms so we can hear everyone louder and ask more questions without being distracted. Overall, i loved the idea! Thanks for the great year.

    • Yes, excellent point. Someone mentioned hooking up the i pads to a docking device which would make it easier to hear as well so guys were would not have to talk as loud. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. In review, I really enjoyed U.S history this year. I thought it was different from a regular history class in the sense that it not only talked about the past, but related the past to the present and the possible future. Through this year we did many projects I enjoyed, others not as much, but I will share my opinion nonetheless.

    My favorite projects this year were the Soldiers home field trip/paper, and the movie project (I was first quarter). I liked these projects because I like being involved in the projects that I do, and I felt like those two really involved me with them. Making the movie for class was rather fun, and going to the soldiers home with all my classmates is defiantly something i’ll remember for a while.

    The Project I did not like a much was the Skype at MU. We had already gone through all the pictures, and analyzed them so it was kind of pointless. In the futures although I feel that the Skype project has great potential to branch out, and become something much greater to next years class than it was to us.

    One way you could relate technology to the topic of industrialization and technology would be online tours, or maybe just even adapting computers more in the class room. An example of this would be doing a project in class renting out the mini lab, or maybe taking a virtual museum tour.

    This link talks about virtual tours:

    In conclusion, thanks for the great year Mr. Lese and I hope I get to take your Civil War class next year.

      • I feel that the video conference where they class went into groups was much more personal. I sadly, could not attend this, but after talking to other students thats what they said. I also feel that the MU conference was a little impersonal because we had already analyzed the pictures, and nothing anybody said was really a “new” idea.

  3. I’ll answer the questions on our Skyping adventures with Virginia and Georgia.
    On the positive side on the Virginia and Georgia Skype, i believe large group and small group talks has its benefits; for example, small groups allowed us to talk and get to know the participates at a more personal view, and large group discussions allowed us to hear the comments of more than just the people in the small group.
    on the negative side, large groups were unorganized and very messy: people would talk in the background and you couldn’t quiet listen to the person talking. in the smaller groups, it was much more awkward because not everyone would talk; the participates would choose one person to talk and all the responses would be coming from that one person alone.

  4. I feel that this class throughout the year was as educational as it was entertaining. Often times we would discuss current issues that related well to the class material, which made certain historical events easier to understand and appreciate. Another very interesting aspect of the class for me was how we often times discussed the future rather than the past. This was very important to me because it made clear for me that History isn’t boring and that is teaches us not only about the past, but also about the future. Also, unlike other classes, this class used technology in a variety of different ways which brought a new and exciting aspect to the class.

  5. First I’ll answer the question about the Skype. I liked it because it really dd give us the polar opposite view of the civil war started and almost the United States in general. But I think one reason I was so surprised is because Virginia had the same opinions we did. If you are going to Skype with two schools again suggest that you keep the school in Georgia but try and find a school that is farther south and has a better southern perspective.

    Unfortunately a couple other people and I couldn’t go to the tour of the soldiers home because of a basketball tryouts but I’ll comment on the art one. It was for sure a good experience, and I think it was good that we saw the pictures before we went to Marquette University. I think that really helped us when we were there, and I think it showed while we were there. In my opinion we were the most prepared and it seemed like we had the most to contribute to the conversation.

    If I had to get one piece of technology for our class next year it would probably be a mic so when we have the group questions people don’t have to get up and go to the front, or I would get a camera that could capture all of us in one shot.

  6. I really enjoyed the tour of the solder’s home because it helped me see how history is present in modern day society. I wish that the solder’s home would have played a bigger role in this years curriculum, because I felt that their was a lot more history about the home just waiting to be rediscovered. Finally while I did like the tour, me and many other students did not like that it was on a half day of school and would of preferred having the trip during school hours like the trip down the Marquette University for the Skype conference.

    • I agree that the Soldiers Home is awesome and there is a lot there to teach and learn. If you are in my Civil War course next year, you will get a chance to dive in deeper. The point of using the half day is to prevent missing time out of school but I get your point. Thank you.

  7. I loved the MU skype. It was easy to work with the mics and the whole technology aspect was flawless. If we got one of those at MUHS, I think we would be set for a long time.

    The Soldiers Home project was very interesting and it was cool to see what was right in our community. I thought that it did not pertain too much to the course and I think we could ha substituted something for this (like another skype at MU). I did not get that much out of it.

    I personally liked the MU skype way more than the personal skypes. Just the technology problems and challenges really deterred us from actually getting opinions/ info from the Southerners.

    I feel this blog is something that you could continue with next year. I loved reading everyone’s comments and views on all of this.

    Overall, I truly loved this course. I like the laid back attitude and the face that we did not rush through much of the material. The way we linked so much to current events and things happening in this age, I found, was very fun and educational. I think every class should be able to do that. If I could say one thing, it would be that we could have spent less time on the Civil War. I know you love it a lot Mr. Lese, but I think it would have been cool if we could have gotten through the World Wars and into history that occurred after the Wars. Thanks for an awesome year!

    • Thank you, Ryan. It is good to hear more positive feedback regarding the MU conference and it will be something I will look into next year. I expect the more we work on videoconferences in school, the more smooth it will be. That is a big reason I love getting all of your responses like this. Regarding the Civil War, I use that event to explain many events that preceded and followed it as the war was so pivotal. I also find it useful to teach skills like historical memory, interpretation and how the story of history can change from one generation to another. But I will keep looking for ways to “diversify” in teaching those skills. Any ideas, on that specifically, please pass them on. Thanks again for the comment.

    • And I am happy you hear you enjoyed the blog so far. I am thinking of ways to get students to write a post for class discussion next year. What do you think?

      • That would be cool to “pass something on” through the blog to your students next year. Maybe the highlights of the course or what to look foward to kind of thing.

  8. This year in history, I was very impressed on how technology effected our learning and helped us to further explore the topics we were studying. I would say that one piece of technology that could effect students’ learning would be Google+. Google+ is similar to Skype; however, with Google+ you can talk to more than one person at a time. This would be great for group projects, review sessions, and other work that a group could do outside of school. With a Google account, you can create a “Circle” of friends and call all of them at one time. I have attached a link that talks about Google+ if you would like the learn more. It would be very effective for group projects that would take up class time to do. (scroll down to “What is Google+?”)

  9. Benefits of Video Conferences:
    We were able to interact with people who had a different cultural aspect on historical events. These Skype conversations widened our knowledge of historical events and how the difference of where you lived makes such a huge impact on your opinion towards a historical event.
    Soldiers Home Tour:
    I thought the fact that the buildings were still standing was very impressive and interesting.
    Skype Calls:
    The Skype calls were great to get incite of what people from different cultural backgrounds thought about topics we were studying at the time. It also was a great experience finding out what they thought of us Wisconsinites!
    I think it would better if the class we are Skyping also goes to a private school because they would behave during the conversation so we can have a more effective discussion!! Also the screen and sound quality should be better, like the Skyping room at Marquette University.

  10. I really enjoyed the video conferences, both at MU and in small groups. In previous years of history classes I’ve done reasearch papers, analyzed topics and events, and participated in the National History Day conpetition. But Skyping for school was something new. It gave us the opportunity to learn about pieces of art in a museum hundreds of miles away and to connect with people from an area contrary to our own but still in the same country.

    A critique of the video conferences would be to use a larger room. It was a tight fit in your (Mr. Lese’s) room for both classes. It would also help to utilize a microphone so people don’t have to keep getting up and moving directly in front of the webcam to speak. An actually video camera might reduce the lag and chopiness as well.

    All in all, I learned a lot this year, and enjoyed doing so! Thanks for a great year!

  11. The video conference was great because we got to see some great Civil War artwork. Being able to go the Marquette for it actually made me more interested in the artwork and increased my enthusiasm. Maybe it would have been better to do the conference when we were learning about the Civil War, but it was good anyway.
    I liked walking through the cemetery of the Soldier’s Home. Seeing graves from the Civil War to the current day was interesting. I got a good sense of how different the Soldier’s Home is today than during the Civil War. The veterans obviously have better care and facilities today.
    I was only able to attend the Virginia Skype, but I have some idea of what the other Skype was like. The Virginia Skype was a success and I thought it was cool to be able to Skype in school. Video and sound quality was a challenge, but I don’t know what could have changed that. The biggest problem with the Virginia Skype was that it was hard to connect with them. We got some good info and insight, but I felt distant from them. The other Skype sounded better because it was a more personal conversation. I think that not having a script or questions would be good because free flowing conversations are the best way to connect with people.
    I liked all of our activities and enjoyed History class. Thanks for a great year!

    • I am happy to hear your response to the artwork conference. I wish it was during our unit but a problem with the “canned” conferences through institutions like the Smithsonian is that you are at the mercy of their schedules. I learned a lot about art too. By the way, all of those paintings and many more are on display at the American Museum of Art in DC so you will be able to see them in person if you desire.

  12. I think overall, I liked your ideas of expanding our horizons, however, I think it should be a little better planned. By this statement, I’m mainly referencing the soldier’s home project and the book projects as well. The soldier’s home project was a good idea, but it comes down to if it’s going to take up too much of our time that we should be learning the material. I think that all of these projects were good ideas, but there were so many of them, that it was a bit overwhelming. I enjoyed the soldier’s home project, but I have to admit, it was hard to enjoy with the bone-chilling weather. Had we postponed it to a warmer or less miserable day, the students including myself would’ve paid a lot more attention to the tour rather than how cold the weather was. The picture you have of s taking the soldier’s home tour depicts this pretty well; we all look very cold and unable to concentrate.

    I think the skype calls were a good edition to our class overall. The only one I was iffy on was the one where we went to MU to skype with the smithsonian. I didn’t expect we weren’t going to tour the actual museum, and I feel it was too much work to travel to MU and then skype with classes that didn’t seem to take it seriously (we didn’t either) and tour an online exhibet that we could’ve done without connecting to the smithsonian directer. Despite its flaws, our first skype call did get the ball rolling. We learned from our mistakes in the first skype call to improve the skype calls to come. I really liked the idea of bloggin with kids from the South, because it presented a whole new perspective, which opened up opportunities for some good discussion. I don’t know how the skype call with Georgia went, but the one with the virginians, I felt, was pointless. They considered themselves a neutral state and therefore believed practically the same things we did. This made it hard to start discussions, because there wasn’t two sides to the issue. Overall, I like how you incorporated the skype calls into our class. You just need to choose more southern states to skype with when talking about the civil war, so there can be a better discussion. Also, tell the teachers of the classes that we are going to be skyping with, and tell them to disipline their class better and encourage their students to make productive, semi-intelligent remarks about the topic.

    When it comes to technology, I’m not too up to date, so I really have nothing to recommend technology-wise other than keeping the skype, but making sure there are going to be no technological difficulties while or before we skype.

    • Thanks, Ben. Sometimes expanding horizons requires going with the flow a bit, taking a risk. You guys were great sports through it all and because of your willingness and open critiques, next year will be (a little) more organized.

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