U.S. Holocaust Memorials and Museums
In this assignment, students analyze an interactive map with layers (geographic location of all monuments, and geographic spread of monuments by decade) as well as a timeline showing the number of monuments created in each decade from 1940s through 2010s.
Through this assignment, students will practice the following skills:
- collecting and curating a dataset
- visualizing and analyzing data
- creating and supporting a thesis based using the dataset as a primary source
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ENG112 Critical Reading and Writing II, Fall 2017
This assignment is a pilot for an ENG112 course with a “Remembering the Holocaust” theme. It is meant as a group activity during which students explore, analyze, and discuss an interactive Google Map with layers (geographic location of all monuments, and geographic spread of monuments by decade) as well as a timeline showing the number of monuments created in each decade from 1940s through 2010s. The assignment serves as an example of how to curate and analyze a dataset to use as a primary source for a research essay. Description of attachments ENG112_research_essay_prompt.docx This is the assignment prompt for the research essay students were completing in the course; it prompts them to use their close analysis of a primary source to explore a research question and enter into conversation with other scholars. USHM_Map_Timeline_Class_Findings___Questions.xlsx I created this Excel spreadsheet during our class discussion of the timeline and interactive map; it documents the ideas students generated from their initial analysis, as well as how I modeled the critical thinking process of using an initial analysis of a primary source to generate a line of inquiry and further research. ENG112_Exploratory_Research_Assignment.docx Using the example of my research topic on US cultural memory of the Holocaust, this document guides students through the process of moving from a research question (generated from a lit review) into exploring ideas for a primary source to use to examine that question and, relatedly, the kinds of secondary works that might help them develop that analysis of that source or otherwise pursue their research question. Revised_US_Holocaust_Memorial_Structural_Map.docx This is a sample outline for a research paper that would use the US memorial data set as a primary source to enter into the existing conversation about US cultural memory of the Holocaust, which aims to show students how one might structure this kind of paper as well as how we can use different sources in different ways to develop an argument over the course of an essay.
I piloted my project with my ENG112: Critical Reading and Writing II course this fall (on Nov. 6 and Nov. 8). Our course theme is “Remembering the Holocaust,” and students write a research essay in the final unit. By the time of my pilot, they had completed readings on Holocaust monuments as well as on how the Holocaust is represented in American culture, so they had some context for considering the data. For the purposes of this pilot, I collected the data for the interactive map and timeline on my own, and Jane Tutein created the map and timeline from this data set.My pilot occurred at the beginning of the research unit, when students had already identified an analytical question for their own research essay that stemmed from what they know about the existing academic conversation on the topic of Holocaust representations. (For example, a student might ask: how should we interpret the use of humor in a Holocaust film? The question of whether it is acceptable to have humor in a Holocaust representation is raised in one of our course readings, so a student might do more research on what other scholars have said about this issue, and then they might closely analyze a specific film (a primary source that acts as their case study), like Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful, to weigh in on the debate.) For this pilot, I developed an analytical question about the connection between monuments and a community’s memory of the Holocaust (based on an assigned reading by Peter Novick), and I used my US Holocaust memorial data set as the equivalent of a primary source/case study my students would locate. I then developed a series of class exercises and course materials to use this sample project as a model throughout the research unit. In the first class session, I introduced the data set (and our initiative more broadly) and we began by discussing Peter Novick’s claims about when and why Americans became more conscious of the Holocaust. Then students worked in groups to predict, based on his argument, what a timeline charting the creation of Holocaust memorials might look like from the immediate postwar period (1950s) - today. Then, we looked at the actual timeline generated from my data set, analyzed how their projections compared: Does it affirm what other authors have described? Is there anything surprising or unexpected about it? We discussed how we might account for the similarities and differences, and we asked what new questions it raised. From there, I introduced the interactive map, explained how to access it and how it worked, and gave students time to do an initial exploration of it. I asked them to consider questions like: What can we learn by looking at map? What do we notice that is surprising? What trends do we see? What new questions do these findings raise? We had time to discuss our general observations about trends in terms of where and why memorials were built. For the second class session, I put together a Googlesheet that I used to track that day’s class discussion in order to help students visualize/identify the different steps in our critical thinking process. We began by recapping our predictions and observations, and then we brainstormed what questions our findings raised as well as how the map related to some of the issues raised in our readings, because I wanted them to think about whether/how theoretical frameworks could help us analyze the data set. Finally, we discussed what kinds of additional research would help us answer these questions by gathering more information about the memorials themselves or contextualizing the map/findings. Then, we brainstormed what key terms we would use to search for related academic secondary works, and I used these searches as a model to introduce how use the Halle Library resources. Finally, in the following weeks, I developed several course materials to continue using my sample research project as a model for the different stages of students’ own research. These materials included: an exploratory research assignment that draws parallels to my own project, sample research essay outline, and a sample body paragraph related to instruction on responsible use of sources. This pilot helped me: * become more confident in the process of creating the interactive map and timeline using Excel and Google Maps * helped me gauge students’ ability to analyze the data set itself; while this is a first-year requirement, my current students represent a range of abilities and ages (I have a few upperclassmen who are transfer students), and it was useful to documents students’ observations and initial analysis in the Googlesheet * helped me identify the main findings that emerge out of student discussion, so I can prepare for the more in-depth spring discussion by anticipating where students may need more context, more prompting to take their thinking in a specific direction, etc. * help me think about other kinds of information we might like to gather about the monuments in the spring (my pilot map and timeline will only include location and date of creation)
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HON350 History and Memory, Spring 2018
For this assignment, class members collaborate to gather data on United States Holocaust memorials and museums. Then, students analyze and create visualizations of our data set, such as charts and custom Google My Maps, in order to explore how our data compares to historians' arguments about American Holocaust memory as well as theoretical readings on collective memory. Students must then write a 6 to 7 page essay that presents an argument about how our data on American Holocaust memorials and museums connects to what historians have written about American Holocaust memory as well as to theoretical readings on the topic of collective memory. Students should not simply present a summary of the data, but rather should enter the existing academic conversation by making an argument about how we should interpret the data and why this interpretation is significant. To present this argument, students will need to: * Introduce the topic and why it matters, explain your analytical question, introduce the data set your essay will examine, and state your thesis * Provide an overview of what historians have argued about American Holocaust memory * Contextualize and guide readers through your analysis of the data, interpreting the evidence (data) as well as considering its limitations * Explain how your findings affirm, extend, complicate, or challenge the existing scholarship American Holocaust memory * Draw conclusions about how your findings connect to the theory we have read on collective memory and the new questions your findings raise Students should include four data visualizations in their essays.
When I implemented this project during the spring 2018, I devoted 5 class sessions (approximately 6 hours) to it. However, because we did not work with a pre-existing data set, I would estimate than an additional 20+ hours went into the project as a whole, whether researching and creating the initial data set, working with Jane Tutein to develop the initial data visualizations, or writing detailed homework instructions for each step of students’ data gathering responsibilities, etc. If I were to teach this assignment again, I would: * Provide students with a sample essay to model the goals (critical thinking, data visualizations, etc.) of the assignment and discuss it as a group * Devote two additional class sessions (5/1 and 5/3) to the project in order to: a) model data analysis b) provide collaborative “workshop” time for students to practice generating data visualizations, share ideas, and work together to try out these digital tools.
From the web
- Creating Google My Maps (Jane Tutein created this resource.) (details)
- Data visualizations in Google Sheets (Jane Tutein created this resource) (details)
- Initial interactive map (layers by decade) created from my draft data set (details)
- Instructions for creating charts from Google Sheets. (I worked with one of our Technology Fellows, Tyler Ouellette, to develop this resource. (details)