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Tip of the Week: Best 10 Social Studies Stuffs of 2015

Over the holiday break, it’s a yearly tradition in my family to watch the movies Elf, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Home Alone. With hot cocoa. While yelling out our favorite lines of dialogue.

“Stuffs” is a bit like that.

It’s become a History Tech tradition. For the last few years, I’ve been listing my personal Top Ten Social Studies Stuffs of the Year.

Yeah. I know. Not an actual word. Though I happen to think it should be. Cause I use the word stuff a lot.

The idea started out with a desire to list my ten favorite books of the year but I quickly realized that there were a lot of other things – websites, apps, movies – that I really liked as well.

So . . . stuffs. The plural of stuff.

I suppose you can call them whatever you want. But here, in no particular order, are the top ten things that I found useful, interesting, or just fun this past year.

Feel free to add your own stuff in the comments.

Google Cardboard
I am so in love with this sort of stuff. And while I know that it’s not what hard core virtual reality folks would accept as “real” VR, it’s pretty darn close. Virtual Reality as part of social studies instruction is a game changer. In the next 12 months, this will be everywhere.

Get your first Cardboard here. Then download the free apps Space Needle 360 & Google Street View. Then look around. Cause it’s super cool!

The Oregon Trail
Author Rinker Buck and his brother have a wagon built and literally hitch up a team of mules. Then travel the original trail. As in months of travel. And while documenting their own trip, he shares historical info about the events of the 1850s. Very cool.

Adobe Slate & Adobe Post
Ever since the very cool Adobe Voice app came out a few years ago, I’ve loved seeing subsequent Adobe apps roll out. This year, I started using Slate and Post. Slate lets you create gorgeous visual stories that easy to create and easy to share. Post is a quick way for you to create beautiful social graphics. Pick a photo, add some text, and apply design filters to instantly produce some pretty amazing visuals.

I can not get enough of Flipboard. Seriously. Flipboard inventor guy, I salute you.

The reason is simple. Find topics, follow topics, learn tons of new things. The unintended consequence, of course, is that you can often fall into a deep, dark, highly entertaining hole of time that you will never get back. I’m willing to pay that price because, like I said, tons of new learning.

The idea is simple. Like many other web tools, Flipboard helps you find, organize, and share a wide variety of online sites and articles. But unlike most of the other tools, it does a much better job of displaying all of the goodies you find. You literally flip pages in your different magazines and boards to read all of your saved content. Powerful personal learning tool.

New York Toolkit
Over the last few years, teachers in New York have worked to create what they are calling the Toolkit. Made up of 84 different Inquiries across multiple grade levels, the Toolkit provides specifics about what historical thinking can look like in your classroom.

The Toolkit is designed to put instructional and curriculum design tools into the hands of teachers and leaders in local districts. The Toolkit resources focus on implementation of the Inquiry Arc, as presented in The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, including the four dimensions.

The Guns at Last Light
The final piece of Rick Atkinson’s WWII trilogy, The Guns at Last Night is a phenomenal history book. It focuses on the European theater and walks you through the events of the war from 1944 to spring 1945 using a ton of primary sources.

“Selma is a passionate movie, commanding and compelling, all about Martin Luther King and his civil rights march in 1965 from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital Montgomery. At some level, it is also about King’s sombre premonition of a sacrificial destiny. Selma takes its place alongside recent pictures such as Spielberg’s Lincoln and McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave as a film that honorably tackles race, so often the amoeba-sized elephant in Hollywood’s colossal Wasp living room. This it does from a position of strength, as well as idealism and optimism.”

West Wing
Yes. I know. The TV series West Wing ended a decade ago. Yes. I know. It’s not a particularly accurate depiction of reality. But over the last six months, I’ve needed a shot of optimism about the future of American politics. And West Wing, realistic or not, helps me stay engaged with current goings-on in Washington. As an extra bonus, it’s got Big Block of Cheese Day and the Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality.

My daughter hooked me on this one. I haven’t seen, you know, the actual musical performance. Cause it’s in NYC and sold out until 2023. But I’ve got the soundtrack, the book it’s based on, and a cool hook to suck kids into the Revolutionary / Constitutional period. And for now, I’m good with that.

The Game Believes in You
What if schools, from the wealthiest suburban nursery school to the grittiest urban high school, thrummed with the sounds of deep immersion? More and more people believe that can happen – with the aid of video games. Greg Toppo, author of this very practical book, shares ideas of what this can look like in the classroom.

Honorable mentions?

Google Forms
I know many of you are using Google Forms. But Google just updated it a few weeks ago and it is now easier to use. Plus you can get all sorts of cool Google Add-ons for it. Flubaroo. Form Limiter. Form Notifications. Choice Eliminator. Form Publisher.

Recognizing & Addressing the Barriers to Adolescents “Reading Like Historians”
In this incredibly useful article, Dr. Jeffery Nokes from Brigham Young University addresses the question of how to best use primary sources as part of the historical thinking process. He acknowledges that using primary sources can be difficult but the return on investment is worth it. He continues by providing specific examples of what that can look like.

What does your list look like?



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