If you haven’t read any of Steven Johnson stuff, you are way behind the curve. He has some awesome insight – especially when he starts talking about the big pictures of history.
For the last 20 years or so, he has taken small events and connected them to larger themes. In The Ghost Map, Johnson connects a 19th century epidemic in London to 21st century urban design. In The Invention of Air, Johnson walks you through English coffeeshops to the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment.
His latest book, How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, he continues the practice of showing how seemingly minor items such as eyeglasses or clocks have had – and continue to have – massive impacts on how people live.
He reminds me of Mr. Tomayko. Tomayko was my high school history / government / econ teacher and he was awesome. Great conversations. Great connections between past and present. And great connections between small and big picture.
The book is very cool. It looks at six broad themes across world history by focusing on specific examples.
But even cooler? Johnson has
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
It’s the final day of the KCHE / MOCHE Best Practices in History Education. Last session of the day? On a Friday? In downtown Kansas City just minutes from the Power and Light District? Yup. That would be me. But lots of fun cause these people are truly committed to learning.
I got the chance to lead a conversation with a full room of folks about using video games to teach social studies. We spent 90 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, 90 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? Read more
It’s that time of year again. Constitution Day 2014. September 17.
You know the story. A group of guys from different parts of the country with different ideas of how to govern got together and came up with a pretty amazing document. My favorite Founding Father?
Ben Franklin. He’s kind of like the sleeper pick in your fantasy football league – everyone knows he’s out there but they ignore him because all the focus is on Jefferson or Madison or one of the other first rounders. But you draft him anyway cause you know he’s got the skills.
Ben was smart, irreverent, great with people, well-read, the ladies loved him, he had that whole kite / electricity / scientist thing working, and was by far the best part of 1776 and John Adams. What’s not to love?
And so it’s fun to go back and read some of what Ben had to say about the document he was preparing to sign: Read more