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Professional learning doesn’t have to be face to face

One of the most enjoyable things I get to do is finding things that make life better and easier for teachers and students. Sometimes those things are online sites and tools. Sometimes those things are ideas that teachers share. And sometimes those things are products that are created here at ESSDACK.

Today I want to share three products that we’ve designed specifically to support social studies teachers in their own professional learning and as they teach historical thinking skills. Our goal is simple – find ways to help teachers learn in non-traditional ways. For years at ESSDACK, we’ve worked to create quality face-to-face professional learning opportunities.

But we also want to offer tools and products that encourage you to learn and work where and when is best for you. So I’ve created a few products that you can use as Read more

Summer reading list? Epic fail. Fall learning? 3 ways it can still happen

It really is a noble goal.

I start each June with the idea of working my way through 4-6 books before September that can help me grow professionally and personally. It’s a habit that started way back during my middle school teaching days and it makes a lot of sense – focus intentionally on finding ways to improve my content knowledge and teaching chops.

Of course, it never really happens. I set aside a pile of books – both print and digital – with the best of intentions. But . . . something always sidetracks me from my original list. One year, I got sucked away into a Civil War blackhole. Some years, it’s just that I was too ambitious with my list. Other times, my list turned out to be less than interesting than I thought they would be and I moved onto other titles.

This year? Pretty much the same result – I went four for seven. The theme this summer, of course, was politics and presidential elections. I did actually get through: Read more

National Geographic Mapmaker Interactive just got better

National Geographic has always been the go-to for geography goodies. You get lesson plans, teaching resources, maps, and even more maps.

And they always have had great map making tools. But they just got better. Their MapMaker has been updated with new features, the biggest one for many of you is the ability to use the tool on mobile devices.

But they’ve also added some new interactive tools:

  • Country Facts and Flags – Explore and discover information about countries and territories around the world. Customize the fill and border colors to make this map layer your own.
  • Latitude and Longitude – See the coordinates of any place on earth.
  • Custom Text, Photos, Videos – Use markers, lines, or shapes to tell your story on MapMaker by adding in text, photos, and videos with the rich editing tool.

Start with a blank world map that allows Read more

“I, too, sing America.” Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed –

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes

The National Museum of African American History and Culture officially opened on Saturday, adding one more amazing piece to the Smithsonian collection. Through its collection of artifacts and narrative, the NMAAHC makes clear that the African American story is an American one and that understanding black history and culture is critical to understanding American history and culture.

In his dedication speech, President Obama said that the NMAAHC Read more

Tip of the week: 3 reasons why your kids should be Sketchnoting

Yesterday I spent a few minutes on a quick rant blaming laptops and mobile devices for being the reason for the terrible KC Royals pitching, destroying the rainforest, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, and ruining your students’ educational experience.

Okay. Mostly just the student educational experience thing.

A brief recap. Research is suggesting that when college students use technology to capture lecture notes, both short and long term learning declines when compared to students who captured lecture notes using the old fashioned paper and pencil method. Tech tools seem to encourage verbatim note-taking that focuses on capturing every word rather than on capturing only information that is important – on copy and pasting rather than evaluating and summarizing. Paper and pencil force the student to make decisions about what’s important and then to transform that information into a personal version of the lecture or video.

It’s this personalizing feature of paper and pencil that improves retention and learning.

And, yes, it’s college kids not K-12. And, no, you don’t lecture all of the time. But I’m gonna suggest that the experiences of middle and high school students would not be that much different from the college kids cited in the research.

So using tech to take notes is bad. Now what? Read more

Ed tech is good for kids. Except when it isn’t.

Some things just don’t make sense when we first try wrapping our heads around them. The balloon should move backwards like everything else in the car. Working together to solve a problem makes sense. Chilling water at 150 degrees to 32 degrees should be harder to do than chilling water that starts at 75 degrees.

Only it’s not.

How about this one?

  • Ed tech is good for kids. Except when it’s not.

The whole point of History Tech is focused on finding ways to integrate technology into social studies best practices. Ed tech is a good thing. Ed tech can be used to support data collection and analysis, critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, communication. It’s a good thing.

Except when it’s not.

Recent research seems to suggest that there are times when using technology Read more