Sample Assignment: Charting Your Journey with ORBIS
This assignment asks students to craft a hypothetical journey using ORBIS, a digital humanities project at Stanford University that allows users to plot a route between sites in the Roman Empire and simulate the journey. After rationalizing the choices made when planning their trip, students use a comic strip or travel diary to recount the trials and tribulations of their journey. I first used this with my 7th grade students as I prepared them to take the AP World History exam in the coming years. As part of my drive to explicitly include literacy skills in the curriculum, it coincided with the 7th grade Common Core standards on writing narratives, real or imagined. In addition, it develops the historical skills of contextualization and causation by asking the students to ground their narratives in a place they have already learned about and then justify the steps in their journey.
While designed for middle school students, the attached assignment and rubric could easily be adapted for students ranging from elementary school to entry-level undergraduate. The assignment contains a blank comic strip, as well as the QWANTZ template. Created by Ryan North, QWANTZ uses the same template made up of two dinosaurs, a log cabin, and a car for comics on subjects ranging from birthday parties to gender politics. While there were no dinosaurs in the Roman world, students who use this comic often surprise me with their creativity.
By John Rosinbum
For more about using ORBIS as an easy entry into digital history projects for students, see John Rosinbum's blog post on AHA Today: "Teaching with ORBIS: Maps, Environments, and Interpretations in Ancient Rome."
Teaching with #DigHist
Follow Teaching with #DigHist, a new AHA Today series geared toward instructors at every level who are thinking about using digital history projects in their classrooms. Each month, John Rosinbum, a high school and college instructor in Arizona, will review a digital history project, explore what sorts of historical questions it could help students answer, and provide learning-outcome driven, ready-to-use assignments.