One of the best things about working with social studies teachers is that I get the chance to see all sorts of great ideas and strategies. Several weeks ago, I watched a teacher use something called a SAC or Structured Academic Conversation.
It’s a discussion / debate strategy that I haven’t seen used before. And it worked great so I figured I would share it with you.
History and social studies classes are perfect places for debate. And we’ve all used debates as part of what we do. I’m a big supporter of the idea of having kids research and use that research to create persuasive arguments. I especially like the Fence Sitter idea.
But with these types of class activities, it’s easy for students to lose sight of the objective and get very competitive, focusing more on winning the argument rather than about what they should be learning. And I admit, I’m probably the worst. I love a good social studies argument. And I love to win.
Cause I’m right.
The Structured Academic Conversation can help with this problem. Read more
We’re spending more time online, reading and researching with our students. We often need to print out these online resources for use as handouts or review materials. One of the problems with online research is that if you or your students print out a news article, a blog post, or just about anything on the web, the print job ends up being multiple pages that include ads and other things you don’t need.
And as more districts move to mobile devices such as iPads, the rules change even more. I often work with teachers and students who are struggling with how best to access and use online materials as learning tools. How can we use online resources such as primary source documents without using paper?
But wasting paper and time aren’t the only concerns. Ed tech folks often talk about the powerful impact that appropriate use of technology can have on learning, especially with online tools. The assumption is that web use by kids increases brain wiring—that being online makes students smarter. But we need to be careful with those sorts of assumptions.
A 2010 Wired article by Nicholas Carr does a great job of documenting what happens in our brains when we’re online. And it’s not always good. Carr discusses a wide range of research claiming that hyperlinks, especially those that live inside text, cause comprehension problems.
- “People who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links.”
- “It takes hypertext readers longer to read documents and they were seven times more likely to say they found it confusing.”
- “Comprehension declines as the number of links increase—whether or not people clicked on them.”
So while online resources are powerful tools for learning, they can waste paper, be awkward to use in a mobile environment, and decrease understanding if not used appropriately. What to do? Read more
Okay. Not sure if I should be impressed or freaked out by the fact that the founder of MapStory was also one of the original officers of In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel, as we all know, is the venture capital group working to keep the CIA equipped with the latest in information technology.
I’m gonna go with freakishly impressed.
Because MapStory looks like a very handy tool for teachers looking for ways to incorporate high-level discipline specific thinking skills into their geography and history instruction. And I’m sure there’s not any chance of teachers getting caught up in some sort of illegal international information gathering syndicate through MapStory.
Yesterday I shared some thoughts about using maps to to help generate great questions related to the Kansas state social studies standards and the Common Core. Part of what I didn’t talk about was the last part: Read more
You may be getting tired of hearing about the work of Sam Wineburg. I do talk about his stuff a lot. I do.
But it’s because the stuff created by Wineburg and others over at the Stanford History Education Group is so good. I’m sure you’ve all been to their site and looked at the 80+ lesson plans – all structured around the concepts of high level historical thinking. I’m sure you’ve all been to the newer Beyond the Bubble historical thinking assessment site.
But perhaps all of you have not seen the the very useful Reading Like a Historian videos. The SHEG people have put together a great series of videos that demonstrated what historical thinking looks like.
I spent a lot of time over the last few weeks working with a ton of teachers. Great conversations. Lots of learning. And not just a little frustration on the part of the teachers.
Much of the frustration centered on their iPads.
Getting work from kids is too hard.
There’s too much I have to keep track of in terms of classroom management.
We can’t get the apps we need.
The tech people won’t open up the ports on the server so the iPads can talk with each other, printers and projection devices.
I get it. It’s not easy.
But I think many people, especially admin types, do expect it to be easy. They expect the iPad to revolutionize the educational world. Kids will love them. Teachers will love them. Test scores will go up. Behavior problems will go down.
You can almost see some assistant superintendent in his office, gleefully rubbing his hands together in anticipation:
This is the silver bullet we’ve all been waiting for.
Here’s a secret. iPads are not the silver bullet. Hardware and software won’t change education. Teachers and quality teaching will.
But . . .