Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hanging Out With Fancy Accents

A captured moment of Jaime showing us
 the steam-machine power loom that was used in
the 1780s
As my class moves further into the history of the Industrial Revolution we are beginning to learn the horrid conditions of the factory workers, and their life and routine, in general. Last week we had an amazing opportunity of conversing with textile experts from the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England. Below I will mention the awesome Google hangout our class had with 'dem accented folks from Manchester!

Yes, my class hung out with people from England, and yes, they did have fancy accents. When my class was introduced to this assignment, we were all super excited. Since we were going to talk to "experts", we had to have some idea what they were going to discuss with us. So in order to prepare for the chat, my class and I popped on their website and explored their online "Textiles Gallery" archive. My class and I read all about Richard Arkwright and his water frame, and the several textile designers who designed several fabrics. We then watched a quick introductory video on all the machines and the industry itself, by our "explainer", Jaime. As we watched the video, we kept a running list of words that we didn't know (which was a lot). Later, we did a quick Google search and defined the terms. There were several words I had never heard of, like Hopper Feeder Scutcher (try saying that in a English accent 3 times fast). Just so we wouldn't stare blank faced at Jaime we came up with a list of questions to ask him during the chat, mostly related to the textile industry, and the job of a museum curator.
Finally, after becoming "pros", the day of the awaited Google hangout arrived (on my birthday, in fact, what a nice present). After tackling a few technical issues, Jaime was on the smart-board explaining away. As he showed us all the machines used in the textile process, I realized how long the whole method took. Every employee's work counted into making the final product. We also saw the various improvements in the machines used and how fast they were being "updated"; beginning from the hand loom the industry increased production rates by introducing the power loom.  As the industry progressed forward machines got bigger, louder, and clunkier. In fact, the machines became less safe as more complex methods of cotton-making were popularized. It was sad to hear the various situations the child and women laborers had to work in- Jaime told us about the frequent accidents, harsh punishments, and the lack of food. There were so many children and women who died in the factories, that the mill owners hired orphans to perform the dangerous jobs, such as cleaning, knowing that they didn't have anyone who cared for them. It was also easier to pay them; only some food and a place to stay was more than enough. Along with some information about the textile industry, Jaime also talked a little about his career, and how he became interested in the field. He too became acquainted with the topic when he was young and always had an interest for the machines. I thought the machines were pretty cool, too!
Overall, I thought this whole experience was "enriching" to our minds. I thought it was a nice way to see the machines that were used in the olden days, and watch how they were operated. It gave us a more concrete idea of all the working conditions that were set for the laborers. It was a fun way to learn a lot about the industrial revolution and how the textile mills and factories played a part. I, personally, have never been in a class where we get to interact and learn with people from outside the school, let alone the country; and I can't wait to do more activities like this.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Trying Out New Careers

My group's exhibit on Child Labor on display
Last week in history class, we switched out of our normal job of studious learning and became a museum curator...and visitor. My group of fellow museum curators, were given the task of "curating" child labor during the Industrial Revolution. Below I have written a few paragraphs about my new career experience. 

         My class was given the opportunity of curating one of the several topics of the Industrial Revolution, such as pollution, steam powered transportation, cotton looms, increase in slavery, and child labor. My group and I got to curate the matter of child labor during the revolution. Before I get to my personal experience and enrichment of this activity, let me define the term "curate". A curator, usually found in museum or historical exhibits, has the responsibility of thoroughly analyzing and researching the subject that they expert in, and displaying them for public viewing. They determine what visitors should learn from the exhibit, and they provide key dates, figures, events, etc. Their main goal is to give as much knowledge as possible while being concise and appealing. It's necessary for the curator to analyze their subject keenly because they need to share accurate information with their audience. The more inferences and connections they make the better; and any catchy titles, slogans, pictures, and color are always in favor for curators.
          Since my group and I didn't have much accurate knowledge on child labor during the Industrial Revolution, it was needed for us to research and learn more about it. We were provided several sources such as the 1833 Factory Act, a journal entry about the Bobbin Girls, and many pictures. We evaluated these sources and determined the key pieces of information that we wanted to share with our "visitors", who were pretty much our classmates. We highlighted the crucial points related to child labor, such as the Factory Act, some demographics, and the several hardships the young workers had to go through.  It didn't take us long to come up with a captivating title, just a few alluring vocabulary words arranged here and there, and we invented our fabulous title that set the somber mood of the topic- "Condemning the Innocent: Child Labor during the Industrial Revolution".
          After the hard work of our exhibits, we hung them up and got to view the presentations of the other groups. As we toured each group I was able to grasp the history of the revolution and, personally, I thought it was fun to explore each exhibit and connect them to the other ones. The first exhibit I "toured" was on the pollution during the Industrial Revolution. I learned that many big cities, like Manchester, were the hub for mills and factories. The boom in this industry caused large smoke emissions and many contaminants in rivers. The next presentation covered the topic of steam powered transportation. The multiple diagrams explained the mechanism of the steam engine. The poster also included a nice timeline displaying the progress of transportation in America; it was interesting to see how quickly transportation improved during the revolution. Afterward, I learned about looms and other machines used in the textile industry. I read about the Spinning Jenny and how it allowed textile workers to weave faster than before. These new inventions caused a huge increase in textile productions and allowed the population of cities like London to grow. The last exhibition I visited concerned the escalation in slavery.The poster consisted of a graph which caught my eye; it showed the relation between the increase in the manufacturing industry and the increase in slavery. As the Industrial Revolution became more and more popular and the number of factories tripled the amount of workers grew too. Sadly, this called for slavery and many African Americans were put to work in the factories.
I loved viewing all the exhibits, and I thought all of them were interesting and had museum-like qualities. Each exhibit had their unique features like colorful backgrounds, pictures, and catchy titles.
I thought this whole curating process was a nice way of sharing our understanding and at the same time learn about the Industrial Revolution. I personally like such hands-on and creative projects, and I can't wait to do more!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Revolutionary Recipe

"Industrial Revolution"
Last week my class was introduced to the Industrial Revolution and we explored the four "ingredients" of the revolution- people, technology, resources, and transportation. In the beginning of our lesson we watched John Green's Industrial Revolution Crash Course video (which I've embedded below), to get a basic idea of the revolution. These four ingredients combined made the Industrial Revolution "revolutionary", and I shall explain how below.

     The term Industrial Revolution is still mentioned quite a lot, even though it took place almost four centuries ago. The revolution had a huge impact in many fields, such as agriculture, manufacturing, transport, and technology. The revolution, starting in the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America, shaped the course of these nations, and eventually spread throughout the world. The human population grew drastically, along with the life expectancy rate, due to the agricultural advances and increase of other jobs in factories. Lots of mechanical devices, including steam engines, were invented during this time and resulted in efficient ways in the textile and transportation field. New chemicals were introduced to replace the natural products used, such as urine. The Industrial Revolution marked a critical point in humankind and influenced today's modern technology and living.
     One main "ingredient" for the Industrial Revolution was the people, of course. People put effort to improve agriculture by introducing several advanced agricultural techniques such as crop rotation and enclosure. Farmers created fertilizers from livestock to renew soil, increasing the amount of crop produced. Quality and quantity of farm products were the main focus of farmers during the revolution. Seed drills and dikes were designed to protect the land and use as much of it as possible. Enclosure forced peasant workers to find work in the cities, which affected the economy for the better. Due to the lack of need of peasant workers, profits rose for large fields. The agricultural advances boosted the life expectancy rate and increased population.
      Along with agriculture advances and increase in population, the industrial revolution excelled in the transportation and machinery fields, as well. The invention of the steam engine led to the creation of other powerful machines, such as steam boats/ships, house machines, and factory machinery. With the help of machines, production rates grew, giving the economy a boost, as well. The amount of labor performed in one factory was equivalent to the labor performed in the entire industry of a district. Steam powered ships and boats allowed transportation that was not dependent on the weather, unlike sailboats. The invention of railways and cars allowed travel and communication to improve, too.
     As you can tell, there were many key factors, or "ingredients", that added to this huge transition in society; there are too many to count. But without the Industrial Revolution the standard of living would be completely different and the impact it had on humanity was phenomenal.

John Green's Industrial Revolution Crash Course Video!!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Boring 48 Minute Lectures

"Critical Media Literacy Resource"
I possibly forgot to mention that my history class is a technology based class; which basically means everything is done online- on computers, phones, iPads, TVs, and smart-boards. There is no usage of books and paper. It's essentially a paper free environment. Pretty cool, right? So to get used to this no-paper setting, my teacher spent a class giving a boring forty-eight minute lecture about the art of media literacy. Just kidding! My teacher is much cooler than that. It is scientifically proven that humans learn better by doing rather than being told what to know. So we got to explore the field of virtual media through a few activities like playing A Google a Day, visiting the one and only Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus Website, and then finally, reflecting, (yes we did do educational stuff), on what we learned.  
     Google was nice enough to create a game where three questions are asked to the player who must find the answer. These questions, however, aren't your everyday multiplication facts; they are carefully structured so that pieces of information are put together to give the final answer. Google provides a modified search engine, minus all the junk websites with false information, to help the player answer the question. It may sound complicated but it isn't as bad as it seems; I suggest that you should give it a try. I personally enjoyed A Google a Day by gathering little clues that led to the final solution, it reminded me of a scavenger hunt. The activity also reminded me that Google doesn't function by typing in a complicating question and pressing enter. It was frustrating trying to find answers because it's almost impossible for Google to give correct answers all the time, so it took a little bit of guess and check, as well. 
     I don't know if you've heard of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website; I didn't until my teacher told me about it. Whether or not, that website is a completely unreliable source- because there's no such thing as a tree octopus!! I totally fell for it at first, until I read the whole website. Then I started to get more and more suspicious, because first of all it didn't make sense and also because the website was not accurate, authentic, and reliable.
     These are the three words that came out of our reflection. Every source must pass the three word test, it must be accurate, or correct and as exact as possible; it must be authentic, or genuine; and it should be reliable; or a trusted source. If all a source falls under these categories, it may be used in school for projects and assignments.
     After this lesson on media literacy, I walked with more knowledge on how to use the internet wisely. The internet is a deep and dangerous place filled with inaccurate, unauthentic, and unreliable information. Since my class will be using technology and the cyberspace very often, it is necessary to look out for "spoiler" websites (as Google refers) and work with safer websites. I can't wait!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Student's Definition of Education

Hello readers and welcome to my blog! So here's a formal introduction: my name is Akshita Rao and I am a sophomore in high school this year. This blog is dedicated to my history class this year, and, hopefully, will be filled with bunch of words, thoughts, and opinions related to what I do in class. And now to my first blog post concerning the most school-related topic in school: education...

     According to, the definition of a teacher is "a person who teaches" (Well that's specific, thank you Google!) Sure, that is the job of a teacher, but in my opinion teaching is much more than just an occupation for many. There are two major categories that almost everything falls under- something good and something bad. These categories even apply to teachers- there are good teachers and, unfortunately, there are bad teachers. Sadly, the latter seems to have a slightly greater population among the teacher community. My definition of a good teacher is someone who, along with their knowledge and intellect, respects every student in the class, and is warm, kind, and open to all the younglings in their class. I also feel the most important trait of a good teacher, and all my other favorite teachers in the past, is one who still has a love for learning and shares that passion to everyone. I feel nowadays it's rare to find teachers who are enthusiastic in teaching; they don't seem to have that passion anymore. Based on my observations, as the grade level of a student increases the passion and enthusiasm decreases in teachers- either it's the boring learning material that sucks all these traits out of them or we're just growing up and everybody is decides to be "serious". Personally, I get very bored learning drab material that are taught in drabby ways. I love it when teachers change up the class agenda often and come up with creative ideas to teach, it keeps me (and probably many other students) motivated.
     As stated by rusty-trusty, a student is defined as "any person who studies." (Wow, so descriptive!) This is, overall, the duty of a student, but there must be something more to this extremely specific explanation. So I dwelt in further and with a little help from my teacher, found an interesting video about this whole school-student topic. I watched 'An Open Letter Students Returning to School' by famous author and Youtuber, John Green. (the video is below if you're interested) Here, Green wonderfully describes the job of a student- we are taught by amazing teachers who give us knowledge that will help us in the future. This knowledge that we acquire may be thrown out by a few students, but many use this to make the future a better place. I most definitely agree with John Green. Education is provided so we don't live in a world of stupid people!
     So starting this new year, I wish to become a better student. I also hope to get involved in school- by either joining sports teams or clubs. Naturally, in order to do plenty of things, like me, it is very advisable to be organized, or you'll be sitting up till 3 in the morning. (It's happened before) So, following on this, my overall goal this year is to stay on top of things and be prepared and planned. I am looking forward for my 10th grade in this wonderful education system I tried my best to describe above, and I hope to accomplish all my goals this year!

An Open Letter to Students Returning to School by: John Green