This book represents the beginning of a multi-year project to create a digital textbook based on the Ohio 7th grade social studies content standards. The first two chapters were completed by two different classes and represent information concerning the Middle Ages, Feudalism, the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. Students chose different topics that correspond to specific concepts outlined in Ohio’s curriculum standards.
Students at Beachwood Middle School are creating this book. Beachwood City Schools are located in Beachwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Beachwood Middle School incorporates technology in the classroom through a one-to-one laptop program. The information you read in this digital textbook is completely student-generated (excluding this introduction). Students spent several weeks brainstorming, reviewing their notes and previous projects, and collaborating in small groups. It is because of their dedication and achievement as life-long learners that this project is possible. These students also had the courage to take a risk with their teachers and use the last few weeks of school to do something truly unique.
This textbook is the result of over a year of collaboration between several individuals. Garth Holman, the Social Studies department chair and 7th grade world history teacher envisioned this project as a way to engage students through the use of technology and help them see the “big picture” that is often lost, or ignored, in history classes. Beginning in the summer of 2006, Garth began working with a student teacher, Michael Pennington. Another member of this project was Angie White, an intervention specialist at Beachwood Middle School. Angie provided a strong knowledge of curriculum differentiation and techniques to include students of varying abilities. A project of this nature, allows students to disseminate knowledge in a digital format that is congruent to the world in which they live. Our students are digital natives and this new technological paradigm allows for the democratization of knowledge. Wiki technology and the ability to instantaneously communicate across cultures and physical boundaries means that nothing our students create is isolated. We not only want our students to learn, but understand how the puzzle pieces fit to create the world in which we live.
It all started with a basic question, “how do you engage students and allow them to show what they know”. Burgeoning technologies require teachers to rethink assessment and adapt to their students. Teachers prepare students for their future, not our past. Life does not occur in a vacuum, yet too often textbooks and curriculum categorize and isolate historical episodes. Our students connected the historical dots using written summaries, hyper-links, digital imagery, and iMovie. The ultimate goal of this book is not only to explain important moments in history, but also understand the long-term effects of each moment.