It ranks right up there with the Holiday season, KC Chiefs football, and the first weekend of the college basketball tournament. It’s National Council for the Social Studies conference week. I’m lucky enough to get front row seats and am trying to live blog my way through it.
Dr. Phil Gersmehl is rocking the room with brain science and maps. His basic point:
“Kids like pretty maps. But they usually don’t learn from them.”
He’s using brain research to show how our brains unconsciously encode maps differently. What we remember depends on how we encode it. He highlighted some ways that this works and my mind is officially blown. I’ve always been a huge map fan. And I’ve always known that maps can lie. They can be used incorrectly and be confusing.
But I’ve never really thought about the reasons why. This is why he says:
Kids don’t just learn stuff from maps on their own.
Need an example?
The video game Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag came about five years ago. And as an avid fan of Assassin’s Creed, my son and his friends were some of the first in line to purchase it. And play it.
If you’re not familiar with the Assassin’s Creed line of video games, they’re basically an action adventure featuring a centuries old struggle between two groups of people – the Assassins, who fight for peace and free will, against the Templars, who believe peace comes through control of humanity. There’s fighting, walking around, some fighting, sneaking around, more fighting, some running, and then some more fighting. Fairly typical video game.
The thing that makes the series a little different than many other action adventure or first person shooter games, is the creators of Assassin’s Creed have been very deliberate about mixing the historical fiction of Assassins vs. Templars with real-world historical events and figures. In Assassin’s Creed III, for example, the setting is the American colonies before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. And there’s a cut scene depicting a version of the Boston Massacre that does a great job of creating the sense of place around that event, perfect for creating a idea of what that event might have looked like and the ambiguity around how the event transpired.
My son experienced the same sort of historical involvement when he was playing Black Flag. Set in the 18th century Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy, Black Flag obviously was telling a fictional story. But to be successful in that story, players need to know a lot about what life was like during that period and in that place. I asked him later about his experience: Read more
It’s always fun having my kids around during the summer. We chat about books, take short trips, discuss politics, argue about gardening techniques, and they make fun of my love for the Kansas City Royals.
The youngest one heads back to school in Minnesota in a few weeks. She’s been busy this summer selling snow cones and working in the local library. And . . . wait for it . . .
. . . she’s also spent two days a week as an National Archives unpaid intern at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene. How cool is that? The other day, she got the one on one backstage pass tour of stored artifacts. She knows I love the golf so she made sure to share how, among other things, she held Dwight’s Augusta National member’s green jacket. And his favorite golf hat.
You know. Just rubbing my nose in it.
But she’s also come home excited about Read more
We all love the History Channel. And we all love the Cooking Channel. So why not the History Cooking Channel?
Yup. The History Cooking Channel. A YouTube channel dedicated to exploring all things related to the 1700s – with a cool focus on cooking, food, baking, and eating.
It’s a perfect supplementary resource for you US and World history types. You get hundreds of quick videos highlighting how people cooked and ate during the 1700s. Kids can experience Read more
I’ll admit it. I’ve been on a Google kick lately, especially with the recent release of some new Google gadgets. Led some on-site Chromebook trainings. Hooked a few people on the power of Cardboard. And there have been several recent presentations focused on under-appreciated Google tools for social studies teachers.
It was during my trip to and a preso at ISTE that I ran across significant changes to one of my favorite under-appreciated tools, the Google Cultural Institute. It was a little awkward. Have you ever gone to a Google tool and it’s different than when you last visited?
Yeah. That was me. Together the session participants and I all headed to the Cultural Institute and . . . it was not the same. My collections were in a different place. The ability to annotate items in my collections were gone. Finding historical places and their 3D versions was a different process. Even the name was different. Now it’s called Google Arts & Culture.
But as I’ve played with it since then, the new and improved GAC (Cause using Google Arts & Culture is just too much.) has grown on me. If you’ve never been to the site, this is truly one of those tools that needs to be in your instructional tool belt. We’re always looking for primary sources. For artifacts. For places that provide evidence for our students to use. The AC gives you access to millions of items to use as part of instruction and learning.
Basically the GAC is a Read more
On occasion, I have been accused of being too US history centric at the expense of world history, civics, and econ. And it’s possible.
Yeah, okay. It’s true. But seriously . . . come on. It’s the Civil War. Lewis and Clark. Teddy Roosevelt. Gordon Parks. The Amazon Army in southeast Kansas. Freedom Riders. Who doesn’t love those stories?
But I am working to get better at finding stuff that is useful across the disciplines. So I was excited to get a press release from the Chicago Field Museum about what looks like some very cool and useful Chinese history and cultural instructional resources. If you teach middle or high school world history, this is definitely worth a look.