It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I mean, it’s not Christmas or the first four days of the NCAA basketball tournament or the magical four consecutive days in Kansas when it’s 75 degrees and there’s no wind. But it’s pretty close.
It’s MACE. I really enjoy this annual Kansas tech conference ritual. Great sessions. Great people. Great venue. And the best part of MACE 2014 last week? I got the chance to lead a conversation with a full room of folks about using video games to teach social studies. We spent 45 minutes talking about reasons to use games, ways to use games, and different kinds of games – including the potential of MineCraftEDU, SimCityEDU, and serious games.
And no, 45 minutes is not enough time. It was definitely a tip of the iceberg sort of the thing.
But still a great time. My hope was that people would walk away open to the idea of looking into the idea of using video games and sims as part of their social studies instruction. In Kansas, we continue to push the idea of historical thinking skills and video games can be a huge part of that process.
My sticky idea for the presentation? Rewiring brains is a good thing. It’s how kids learn. And video games can help you rewire the brains of your kids.
Get a sense of our conversation by clicking through my short preso: Read more
I’ve been planning to talk about Thinglink for months. I had the chance to learn more about this last spring and, well . . . I just haven’t gotten to it. I’ve been busy. The dog ate my homework. The internet was down. There was football to watch. There was basketball to watch.
Basically I pushed it to a back burner, told myself that I would play with it some more, and never did.
But I was reminded today at MACE 14 about how cool Thinglink is and all of the awesome stuff you can do with it. So today a quick review and sample.
Thinglink is an online tool that lets you and your students Read more
Lisa from Maryland stopped by the other day to browse the Google Maps Gallery post and left a quick comment about the similarities of the Maps Gallery and a site called WhatWasThere.
(Lisa works as a Secondary Social Studies Mentor in the Howard County Public Schools and also made sure to pass on another great D-Day photo source and oral history archive.)
I had never heard of WhatWasThere. I’ve heard of HistoryPin. And Histografica. And I’ve even heard of Smithsonian’s interactive maps. But WhatWasThere?
Nope. And it’s so cool. How have I not run across this before?
The WhatWasThere folks say that their project
was inspired by the realization that we could leverage technology and the connections it facilitates to provide a new human experience of time and space – a virtual time machine of sorts that allows users to navigate familiar streets as they appeared in the past.
The premise is simple: provide a platform where anyone can easily upload a photograph with two straightforward tags to provide context: Location and Year. If enough people upload enough photographs in enough places, together we will weave together a photographic history of the world.
And for the last few years, they’ve been collecting old photos and pasting them onto Google Maps around the world.
Using the site couldn’t be much simpler. Read more
I had a great time yesterday with a group of secondary social studies teachers – we got to spend the entire day talking about integrating technology into their classrooms. How cool is that?
Yup. You’re right. Very cool.
It was the kind of day where we got to chat about a whole bunch of different stuff. We jumped from best practice to assessments to Google Earth to online primary sources to the pros/cons of BYOD initiatives. We also talked a bit about iPads and iPad apps.
So . . . today’s tip? A list of iPad apps aligned to my C4 Framework. The Framework is designed to help teachers develop quality lesson and unit designs that focus on historical thinking skills. Read more
I’m sitting here in a comfy chair warming up by the fireplace, with laptop in hand and a nice cup of coffee nearby. It’s a snow day pretty much everywhere in the state of Kansas and I’m catching up on my to-do list.
One of the things to check off? The Monuments Men.
It’s an incredible true story. It’s a book. And this weekend, it’s a movie coming out starring, well . . . a bunch of my favorite actors. Bill Murray. George Clooney. John Goodman. Matt Damon. Cate Blanchett.
Early reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes seem mixed. But I’ll be going no matter what. I’m a sucker for movies based on historical events. Argo. Lincoln. Band of Brothers. Hotel Rwanda. Glory. Gettysburg. All the President’s Men. The Mission.
I’m hoping for the best but I’m sure that through the whole thing I’ll be making mental notes about the lack of historical accuracy and the jumbling of facts for dramatic effect. Because we all know that the book is always better. Always.
But I’ll also get over it. The book is always better but it’s also always interesting to see how the story “looks,” how the movie tells its version of events. Because the story is a great tale. If you haven’t gotten the drift from all the movie ads, here are the basics: Read more
Think about it for a minute.
Using video games not just as an instructional tool but as pieces of historical content that students analyze like they would a photograph or primary source. Incorporating sections of games or game trailers or perhaps even an entire game into the learning process with the expectation that kids will learn social studies / historical foundational content from that experience.
Yeah. It’s a little weird.
Even today, with lots of research suggesting a positive impact on learning, many educators have a hard time seeing video games as a legitimate teaching tool. I’ve been pushing the idea of both the use of games as an instructional tool and basic game theory as a way to re-work lesson plan and unit designs for a while now. But the negative view of video games and those who play them dies hard. To think about video games as a valid part of teaching and learning is still a bit uncomfortable.
And so even for me, to think about the idea of using games as actual pieces of evidence that students can pull apart as part of the historical thinking process is something I’m trying to wrap my head around.
But why not? Current video games, and even some older ones, contain huge amounts of historical, geographical, and economic data that we need to find ways to use. I’m flashing back to a conversation I had almost ten years ago with an AP US history teacher from outside Kansas City. He was using the game Medal of Honor to help his students understand the events surrounding D-Day and the impact they had on post-war relationships.
He shared how his students laughed while they watched the first 20 minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan. He knew he needed to find way to create an emotional connection to the historical events. The next year, Read more