Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Skyping With an Expert - Kenneth C. Davis

Recently a good friend of mine and coworker, Blair, let me know that author Kenneth C. Davis was offering to use Skype to connect with history classroom across the country. This sounded like a great opportunity to connect some of my students with a true expert. I submitted my name and crossed my fingers, and a couple of days later I received confirmation that my students and I would indeed get the chance to talk with Mr. Davis! Time and space constraints meant that not everyone would get a chance to participate, but that's the way it goes. The opportunity was open to any 8th grader (those on my team and on the other team) that had an interest in attending...predictably, almost all 8th graders showed some interest. In the end the list was narrowed down to about 28 students...below is a quick recap of the experience...

Mr. Davis began with a 10 minute or so overview of what he does (he even showed us his very first book on the Presidents, circa 1963!)...after that, he opened the floor to questions. My students had plenty to ask, so I was a bit bummed that I didn't get to ask him my question. On every history interview I've been in on we have asked the interviewees "Who had a more influtnetial impact on US history, and why - George Washington or Abraham Lincoln?" I suspect Davis would have said Lincoln...anyway, here is what he was asked...

If you could visit any era fromUS history, which would it be?

Was the Louisiana Purhcase Justifiable? (Note: We are studying Manifest Destiny, and our essential question is "How justifiable was Westward Expansion in the 1800s?" Pleased to hear this question asked!)

How long does it take you to write a book?

Was Andrew Jackson a Superman or Scumbag? (Note: The 8th graders tackle this question in a in-depth essay - read about it here - and we do address the "name calling"...)

Why did you become a writer?

Why do we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July and not the 2nd, or in August?

How much post-secondary education do you have? (Note: This was a really interesting question/response.)

What is your favorite part of history?

Overall this was an absolutely outstanding opportunity that some of my students and I were able to experience. They students really enjoyed the conversation and were incredibly grateful for the chance to talk with Mr. Davis. Many have asked me (some, repeatedly!) when we'll by Skyping with another expert. If you ever get the chance to have an expert or someone from outside your class to connect with your students, then absolutely take the chance! Even if you have to adjust your or your students schedule and not everyone can participate, still take the opportunity. It was definitely one of the coolest experiences I've had while teaching! Thanks again to Kenneth C. Davis - it was a real treat!

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