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Tip of the Week: Use KidCitizen to engage K-5 kids & build 6-12 activities

So. Much. Learning.

Getting the chance to be part of the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference can be both overwhelming and inspiring. There are so many people to meet, so many new ideas, so many new tools to explore.

I feel smarter just thinking about it.

Two of the things I noticed while I was immersed in the 2017 History Nerdfest? There is a common language and expectation around the idea of historical thinking – that using evidence and primary sources and sourcing and having kids solve problems is a good thing. Second? There is a commitment to using technology as one of the tools for helping kids make sense of the world around them.

It wasn’t always like that. NCSS and its members have come a long way in embracing the power of tech tools as part of social studies instruction and learning. That’s a good thing. A specific example that focuses on historical thinking and technology are the very cool things that the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program is doing with sims and gaming platforms.

One of the coolest?

KidCitizen.

KidCitizen is a new way for kids in grades K-5 to engage with history through primary sources. In KidCitizen’s nine interactive episodes, children explore civics and government concepts by investigating primary source photographs from the Library of Congress. They can connect what they find with their daily lives. KidCitizen also includes online software tools that let you create your own episodes and share them with your own kids.

Both the default episodes and the ones you can create use primary sources for rich demonstrations, interactions, and models of literacy in the course of innovative hands-on activities that make academic content meaningful, build on prior experiences, and foster visual literacy and historical inquiry.  Each KidCitizen episode draws on a set of primary source photographs from the Library of Congress.

Most of the episodes ask students to collect evidence and use that evidence to ask questions about what they’re seeing. What are they seeing? What does it mean? Awesome foundational questions that help kids to start thinking historically. At the end of an episode, students are asked to construct a product that builds connections between what they discovered and their own lives.

For each episode, you also have access to a Teacher’s Guide.

One of the cool things about the KidCitizen episodes is that they run on PCs, Macs, Chromebooks and iOS and Android mobile devices. So it doesn’t matter what device your kids are using. Another cool thing? Kids don’t need an account to access the episodes. This is especially huge for your younger kiddos.

The process couldn’t be easier:

1. Go to kidcitizen.net

2. Click the Episodes tab at the top of the page

3. Select an Episode

4. Scroll down and click Get the Teacher’s Guide

5. To play the Episode, click Play This Episode

Easy peasy.

And if KidCitizen stopped there, we’ll all be happy. Some great activities for kids focused on historical thinking skills and specific content.

But . . . don’t forget the sweet extra bonus feature – the ability to create your own episodes.

The KidCitizen Editor allows you to create episodes hosted on a tool called Author and because it runs on Windows, Apple OS, IOS, Android, and Chrome, you’re good no matter what device you prefer.  You can share your finished episodes with students with a simple link or easily set up assignments. With Author, it’s also easy to update episodes later.

Get started by clicking the Create an Episode tab at the top of the page. You’ll need to set up a free account. Once you get your account created, you’ll make your episodes at a separate website and dashboard. So be sure to bookmark the Author site. They’ve created a handy video tutorial and Help page to get you started. I’ve been playing with the tool a bit – seems fairly simple to work with.

Default episodes are designed for K-5 but think about it.  What if we used the Editor tool to create stuff for any grade level? Or have your MS and HS kids create episodes as grade level projects or for younger kids. Think about the possibilities – all sorts of primary source historical thinking activities. Online. Accessible anytime. Adjustable for different reading levels. In groups. Individual writing prompts. Don’t be afraid to try something new with this easy to use, free tool.

So if you’re teaching K-5 social studies, KidCitizen is a no-brainer. Simple. Free. Supports historical thinking skills.

And if you’re teaching middle or high school, the KidCitizen Editor gives you and your kids another tool to use for creating powerful instructional and assessment products.

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