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#NCSS14: Day One, Session One, Coffee, Danish, and Vincennes Lincoln High School

I have everything I need. Caffeine, danish, internet access, power outlet, and 10,000 social studies teachers all in one place.

First session?

The Digital Journey: 1:1 in Social Studies. In 2009, the Vincennes Lincoln High School Social Studies department  in Vincennes, Indiana began what it called a “digital journey.” I had a chance to hear the group speak several years ago and am curious on how things are going.

And to steal all of their great ideas.

Presenter is Michael Hutchison, social studies department chair at Vincennes Lincoln HS. He began by sharing a story that highlights how he and his colleagues felt when they started their 1 to 1 process:

The Irish writer Frank O’Connor wrote how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside. When they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall – and then they had no choice but to follow them.

They have spent the last six years trying to figure out what technology and social studies mashed together actually looks like. Lots of struggles but also lots of successes.

One of the earliest issues? Moving teachers from PCs to Macs and creating a digital curriculum. Next issue? Not truly one to one in the beginning but started with Mac labs for students. Convinced them that one to one was the way to go. Moved to iPads in fall 2009 with just 9th / 10th grades after looking at multiple options.

Their takeaways after six years?

  • Tech companies low-balled prices on devices and tried to make up that costs in other areas
  • Purchased Active Classroom – a subscription service that allows for a paperless classroom and works on mobile devices.
  • Especially earlier on, they ran out of money for toner cartridges for the printers. Once they began moving to more paperless, the printers became “doorstops.”
  • Don’t skimp on device cases.
  • Moving now from iPad 2s to iPad Minis to Chromebooks with 9th graders. So will soon transition away from iPad to Chromebook. So teachers have to be able to design lessons that are device neutral. (This is one reason why they went with and have stayed with Active Classroom.)
  • Teachers need to agree – on devices and on philosophy.
  • Admins need to support the process.
  • Teachers need proper training – for tech and for curriculum.
  • Tech upgrades need to be built into the process.
  • Tech needs to be reliable. Wireless network, devices need to work, etc. You need to start with infrastructure (access points and bandwidth) first then look at devices.
  • Filtering / blocking software needs to be dialed in the appropriately. (One year, the tech support folks blocked Google including all of the additional Google services such as Drive, Earth, and Calendar.)


  • Can more effectively tailor short-term and long-term curriculum needs.
  • Using Active Classroom provides an easy way to align to standards.
  • Works for teachers using a Flipped / Blended classroom model.


  • Tech doesn’t solve all classroom issues.
  • iPads not as easy to control. Students breaking through profiles. iPads not as user friendly for creation. Repair costs more for iPads than Chromebooks.
  • Parents not always as informed
  • Sharp learning curve for teachers
  • Consensus is not always possible
  • Tech can and does fail


  • Substantial admin resistance especially regarding costs
  • In their case, there was more teacher resistance
  • Often the teacher is the one that has to develop curriculum and assessment. Not easy, takes time.

What they do without textbooks

  • Analyze visual primary sources
  • Download and interpret documents
  • Research online
  • More effectively learn content and develop concepts

You can find his preso and tons of resources, materials, PPTs, and lessons here.

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