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Chronicling America – 1000s of historical newspapers

Are you kidding me? Seriously?

Thousands of historical newspapers from all over the country? Yup. And over 7,892,470 actual newspaper pages? Let that sink in for just a moment. Yup. But where, you ask, can I find such an incredible research tool? The very useful Chronicling America site from the Library of Congress, of course.

You’d think I’d be happy with almost eight million pages to play with. I mean, it’s 7,892,470 pages. Which is . . . you know, a lot. The 7,892,470+ pages cover newspapers from almost all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 1836 to 1922.

But once you get in the collection, it’s easy to get a little greedy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some coverage from the Civil War? The Great Depression? Prohibition? WWII? Vietnam? Hippies? 9/11?

Still . . .  Read more

What would you say to your Senator?

I get the chance this week to spend time with some pretty amazing people. Michelle Herczog. Peggy Jackson. Kim O’Neil. All leaders of the National Council for the Social Studies Board of Directors. And almost 30 other social studies educators from around the country representing state level councils.

We’re meeting in Washington D.C. to discuss ways to support classroom teachers and to advocate for the Social Studies at the local, state, and federal level. Good times. Seriously. I mean, how often does someone like me get the chance to hang out with the movers and shakers of the social studies world? These are all excellent classroom teachers, committed to social studies, and history geeks like me. So I’m loving it.

We’ve had formal and informal conversations about all sorts of stuff and will continue those conversations through tomorrow. But one of the main reasons we’re here is to chat with representatives from the House and Senate, urging continued support for the teaching of high-quality social studies across the country.

Later today, Read more

Happy Birthday!

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress listened as Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed a resolution declaring the United States independent from Great Britain.

“Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

It was a bold move. Several states including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina were not yet ready to support this potentially fatal step. Failure to approve the resolution could lead to the collapse of the shaky alliance between the 13 colonies. And earlier Preamble proposed by John Adams on May 15 declaring that “it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under the said crown should be totally suppressed” barely passed. Four colonies voted against it and the delegation from Maryland stormed out of the room in protest.

Congress agreed to delay the vote on Lee’s Resolution until July 1. Read more

Smarty Pins – Google Maps, geography trivia, and video games

Google Maps. Geography trivia. And video games. Three of my favorite things. And now, they’re all together in one place.

Google’s new Smarty Pins. (Get it? Smarty Pants – Smarty Pins? You nutty Google engineers!)

Smarty Pins is basically a simple trivia game that asks questions with geo-tagged answers using the Google Maps interface. Read more

5 ways to make history “fun”

It was several years ago that I first heard Sam Wineburg. He was speaking at a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference almost six years ago. I had read his stuff, agreeing with his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history.

And his presentation didn’t disappoint.

I’ve been in love ever since.

Much of our work on the recently approved Kansas state standards revolved around the sorts of things that Wineburg is pushing and the websites he’s created – thinking historically, using evidence, communicating solutions. But something he said back in 2008 has stuck with me:

 I don’t think that a history class should be about things such as History Alive or about making cute posters, or about making history “engaging.” It’s about getting students to thinking rigorously about the evidence. Fun is okay, but I would rather have them hate the class and come out of the class having the skills needed to be good citizens than having them enjoy themselves.

I used to do a lot of “project-based” learning back in the day. It was fun and kids were engaged but know now that not much high-level thinking was going on. You know the kinds of stuff I’m talking about – three fold brochures highlighting Civil War battles, oral presentations that required historical costumes, and lots of coloring.

Nothing wrong with fun projects . . . unless kids can do all of it without actually doing some sort of historical thinking.

But I recently ran across a cool article that reminded me that it is possible to teach high-quality social studies while still having fun. Written by Tim Grove, Chief of Museum Learning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and author of A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History, suggests five concepts that we should incorporate into our instructional designs.

Read more

The 7 best places for finding iOS apps

I get the chance to spend a lot of my time working with Apple products and how they can be integrated into instruction. This means, obviously, I also get the chance to work with lots of educators who are looking for just the right tool and just the right app. And we always memorize together the mantra – “it’s not about the app, it’s about what kids do with the app. It’s not about the app, it’s about what kids do with the app.”

But there is still a need to know what sorts of things are out there. So today, seven of my favorite places to go to find just the right tool for what you want kids to do. Read more

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