... or...

... how participation in an online virtual community has impacted one teacher's understanding of history, and how that has been reflected in actual classroom instruction.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

1 August 2013: Connecting Family and Society, Part 2

So we have two very different images of Augusta to consider.  First of all, she is a Berliner of limited means.  But she is also a member of the landed aristocracy.  Augusta's present situation is easier to "present" so to speak, but the formative years of the past need to be integrated into her behaviors as well.
Augusta ready
to attend the

A case study that outlines the status and concerns of this social group comes from the volume Royals and the Reich:  The Princes of Hessen in Nazi Germany, written by Jonathan Petropolous.*  Coincidentally, and the reason why I purchased this book, Hessen is the region where I lived and the region where I placed Augusta.  I am not going to be directly connecting her to this family in any way, but using the information in the book to give Augusta context.

German nobility floundered in the era following the First World War.  Technically, the aristocracy was abolished during the Weimar Republic, but in practical terms, it remained very much intact.  The traditional role of the aristocracy in German society reflected the feudal past to a degree, as the figure of the local noble still held a great deal of social status. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Augusta's Journal: 30 April 1929

This is the view from my home at Dorotheenstrasse 11.  It's in one of the lower class parts of Berlin, and it's a neighborhood with a bit of a past.  Last year saw the infamous Mo Galewarden incident happen, right in front of my house!  I guess with Mo living in the neighborhood, it will never be boring... but to be honest, Mo Galewarden had nothing to do with the activities in Berlin on the first day of May in 1929...  

This picture on the left looks toward the other end of Dorotheenstrasse.  On the right, you can see the Wascherei at the corner.  It's right across from the Polizeiamt, which is nice because I don't have a telephone.  So in an emergency, I can just go down the street.
Danitz comes to
Or I can do what I did April 30 when I heard breaking glass: I shouted out and the Wachtmeister on duty came running.  I was fortunate, as Danitz, the Berlin Oberwachtmeister himself arrived. 
He drove up in the Polizeiwagen, and quickly surveyed the situation, with his gun ready.  Truth be told, it was a relief to see that it was Danitz, although either Pinden or Koertig would have been just as helpful.  They are the Wachtmeister that I am most familiar with and they have always been very professional. 

... but there was nothing that could be found, which only added to the tension that was building in Berlin.

Friday, March 1, 2013

17 February 2013: Connecting Family and Society, Part 1

Schloss Biebrich
Augusta's Wiesbaden home
 Where the classroom and role play begin to mix is at the point where I needed to bring some distinct detail to Augusta's personal history.  The basic teaching according to Virginia Standards of Learning for this period (WHII.11b and WHII.11c) do not actually require any great deal of depth on Weimar.  Indeed, the word "Weimar" does not appear in any SOL related documents found on the Virginia DoE website.  However, understanding Weimar is crucial in understanding the Third Reich.

There is more openness in the IB curriculum that I teach.  One of the topic options is "The Rise and Rule of Single Party States" and while we don't formally teach this one at my school, it does relate to the "Causes, Practices, and Effects of War" topic.  So I tend to wrap the two in together, as the resolution of World War 1 is a contributing factor to the start of World War 2.  Therefore, I can put much more time and detail into teaching Weimar at this level.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

24 February 2013: Presenting to the Virtual Pioneers

So after presenting this evening to a wonderful group of Second Life adventurers (which was a lot of fun!), I thought I had better leave a short note to tell anyone who happens into this blog that I am working on my next post.  RL got in the way again, as it tends to do.  But please read what I do have here, and know that there is more to come!

Why is it I can never remember Frau Jo's phrase for the RL virus?  *smiles*

As is often the case with both teaching and attending these professionally-oriented meetings, I tend to get reinspired.  And it was a delight to have so many of my Berlin friends meeting up with so many of my educational technology friends!  I was getting ideas as I was presenting, and getting clarity on the topic as well.  Presenting to the Virutal Pioneers in Second Life is one more way to think out loud... and can generate many good things.

Monday, January 21, 2013

21 January 2013: Family

Unlike the main character of the book The Artificial Silk Girl, Augusta was not fleeing the police, but her own mother.  And this would not have been too outside the boundaries of reality.  As Augusta explains on Facebook:

Augusta reading at the public library
in the 1920s Berlin Project.
I was educated at home by a series of governesses and tutors. I had wanted to attend finishing school in Switzerland after visiting my best friend Sophie at Ch√Ęteau Mont-Choisi in Lausanne. Mamma would have none of it, of course, as this would have meant that I would learn French. I would spend hours in Pappa's library, reading books on all subjects. When the last tutor left, he told my parents that I was well-read and very opinionated, which I took to be a compliment.

Augusta is therefore in a situation where she is obviously different than others in Berlin, but in many way, she is the same as well.  We are all products of our history, both individual and collective, which are concepts that I teach to students in my RL history classes.  Trying to establish the identity of a character in a dynamic immersive role play has really deepened my understanding of both.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

20 January 2013: Reaching into the Past

A watercolor painting of Eltville am
Rhein, where I lived from 1989-91.
  My profile in SL goes something like this:
In the 1920s Berlin Project, I am Augusta Carolina Maria von Nassau-Weilburg, the teacher at the Hindenburg Schule, the namesake of an actual RL member of Hesse's noble family.

 I had researched a historical identity before coming to Berlin, in response to the way RP was being played out in Versailles in SL.  I wanted to be able to relate to the character more, so I looked for a real individual from a section of Germany that I am familiar with.  That would be Hessen, in the Rheingau region in central Germany.

Friday, January 18, 2013

18 January 2013: Developing Character, Part 2

An "identity crisis" is a whole new
issue for people starting to role play
in a virtual environment.
 Introductions tend to be pretty straightforward.  Someone says "hello" and you begin to communicate, and you decide how much of your personal history that you want to share with this new acquaintance.  As an avatar in Second Life, and engaging in your first role play (RP) in a new community, this process is a bit stickier.  Someone says "hallo" and you begin to communicate, but what personal history is there for you to share?  Panic sets in... and one of two things happens.  You either avoid the issue, or you start to make things up.  In RL, making things up about yourself can get you in a whole lot of trouble!  In SL, making things up about yourself is essential!