Some of them are low tech. Some are more sophisticated. Some are mobile apps. Some are not. Some are completely free. Some start free and allow for upgrades. None of them are silver bullets. None of them are going to save the world.
But I think we need to be using them more. These eight tools, and others like them, can change how we teach and how students learn. And I think any tool that does that – whether it’s paper and pencil or a mobile app – is a good thing.
In a recent article over at Huffinton Post, Dylan Arena, Ph.D., co-founder and chief learning scientist at Kidaptive states that
Technology by itself will almost never change education. The only way to change educational practices is to change the beliefs and values of teachers, administrators, parents and other educational stakeholders–and that’s a cultural issue, not a technological one . . . It’s about processes and people rather than bits and bytes.
These eight tools seem particularly effective at encouraging and supporting literacy skills. I’ve talked about many of these before but I think when they are clumped together, they become especially powerful in helping kids read and write in new and impactful ways.
There has been, and continues to be, a lot of conversation about reading, writing, and communicating skills. When I get to be a part of those conversations, I share the following lists with social studies folks. Pretty sure they’ll work across a lot of other content areas as well. Read more
When I sit back and think about the changes in social studies instruction and learning that have happened here in Kansas over the last few years, I’m always a wee bit amazed. Good teachers across the state have always asked kids to read and write and use evidence and think historically. But up until two or three years ago, the focus for many had been on simply having kids collect and memorize historical data.
The conversation is changing. Teachers and administrators are now talking more about the process of social studies rather than just the data. Teachers are looking at and using Sam Wineburg’s stuff over at SHEG. They’re using more literacy activities, more fiction and non-fiction, and generally having better discussions about what quality social studies looks like.
A huge hat tip to Don Gifford, social studies consultant at the Kansas Department of Education, for driving all of this forward. He put together a team of educators from across the state to rewrite the Kansas standards, facilitated the writing, and maneuvered the document through the hoops needed to get unanimous approval from the state board. He’s busy at the moment trying to create a state assessment that measures historical thinking while combining it with the ELA writing assessment. And, since this really hasn’t ever been done before, it’s an interesting and complicated process.
All of this to say that there is a lot of transformation happening here in the Sunflower state. And that’s a good thing. But change is never easy and so the struggle as been to find ways to ease people into the idea of teaching process AND content. To find resources and scaffolding to help teachers see what this sort of instruction and learning can look like in practice.
One of the powerful pieces of the state document is the Literacy Expectations and Best Practices section. It highlights those things that students and teachers should be doing in a high-quality classroom.
But what I often hear is that Read more
One of the obvious reasons for attending professional conferences and workshops is the opportunity for checking out new BBQ restaurants. Of course, there is that whole learning new stuff, meeting new people, attending sessions idea too.
And last week’s KCHE / MOCHE Best Practices conference in downtown Kansas City gave me the chance to check off both. Got to eat some great BBQ and do all of that other stuff. I really did walk away smarter (and thanks to Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ, also just a little bit rounder.)
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from my two days? Read more
Need a place to connect past with present? Need writing prompts? Need hundreds of articles about current events in an easy to access place? Need articles with leveled reading? Need a searchable database that filters by keyword, grade level, Common Core reading anchors, and articles with machine scored quizzes?
If your answer to even one of those questions is yes, then I’ve got just the tool for you. Newsela is a free (so far) site that provides all sorts of things perfect for social studies teachers looking to integrate literacy and contemporary issues into their classrooms.
I’m spending a lot of time this week working with small groups of social studies teachers, leading conversations about our new state standards and what that can look like in the classroom. One of the things I enjoy most about those kinds of conversations is the sharing that we all do – strategies, ideas, suggestions, web sites, just about anything that’s going to help us do our jobs better.
And Stephenie came through. A fifth grade teacher in a small parochial school, Stephenie has been using Newsela since last spring and loves it. She shared how she was using the tool and we ended spending the next hour or so exploring, talking, suggesting, and generally falling in love with the possibilities of Newsela.
At its most basic level, Read more