We’ve been a part of it. We’ve all used it. And we’ve probably all noticed that it really doesn’t work very well.
Brainstorming sounds like a good strategy. Generate new ideas. Encourage creativity. Engage lots of people all at once. In theory, it makes all sorts of sense.
But in practice, it usually falls flat.
Brainstorming was first introduced by Alex Osborn, an ad man in the 1950s. And it’s been used by millions of people, including educators. The problem?
There’s a ton of evidence that suggests that brainstorming actually harms creativity. A recent article by Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker highlights study after study that found individuals generate more ideas on their own than in groups.
A meta-analytic review says that we’re more likely to develop better ideas when we don’t interact with others. Brainstorming is particularly more likely to limit creativity in larger groups, when teams are too closely supervised, and when performance is oral rather than written.
Why? Read more
We may be a nation divided by politics, religion, sports teams, and BBQ type. But we can all agree on one thing.
Maps are awesome.
And free maps are more awesomer.
So when I found out about the map site maintained by National Park Ranger Matt Holly, it was a very good day. Matt, already famous for the cutest stick story ever, is now becoming even more famous for uploading over 1000 National Park Service maps in PDF format for easy online access.
Seriously. How cool is that?
Simply titled Read more
Our job as social studies teachers is not to give our students the answers. Our job is to create great questions and then train kids to be able to address those questions. To model and facilitate the practice of reading, writing, and thinking like historians.
Rather than passively receiving information from us or our textbooks, students should be actively engaged in the activities of historians — making sense of the stories, events and ideas of the past through document analysis.
And one of the tools that every history / social studies teacher should be using to help with all of this is the incredible National Archives site DocsTeach. I first wrote about DocsTeach when it debuted six years ago in 2010. The idea of the site at the time?
the project is designed to provide useful document-based lesson plans and activities created by both NARA staff members and classroom teachers.
And it was awesome. Tons of primary sources from the National Archives. Activities that focused on and supported historical thinking skills. The ability to create your own activities, save them, and share them digitally with your students. For 2010, it truly was cutting edge.
But it debuted before mobile devices and iPads. Before national standards such as the NCSS C3 Framework and Common Core Lit standards. Before Wineburg’s Reading Like a Historian and SHEG. Before online primary evidence archives were commonplace. So even though it was an incredible idea put into practice, it was a bit clunky and not super user friendly in 2016.
But not anymore. DocsTeach just got a massive upgrade. And now there is no excuse not to use it. Because not only can you still access thousands of primary sources, borrow from an ever-expanding collection of document-based activities, and create your own online activities, there are some very sweet changes and additions to the site.
When I firsted started teaching 8th grade American History, there was no access to primary sources. There weren’t any online archives. DocsTeach? Nope. Stanford History Education Group? Nope. Library of Congress? Nada.
I made due with whatever supplementary materials showed up with my textbook and the few Jackdaw kits that I was able to track down and order. But here’s the thing . . . even if I had somehow gotten access to primary source documents, I’m not sure what I would have done with them. Like most social studies teachers at the time (and more than just a few today), I really didn’t have a clue of how to use primary sources as part of the learning process.
Even worse, I wasn’t really sure why I should be using this sort of evidence. What was the point? Every kid had a textbook. I had a teacher’s version of the textbook. I could lecture. I was set.
But with the help of some amazing mentors, I began moving more towards the idea that kids need to be active users of evidence while solving problems. And there is now a clear shift in social studies and history instruction towards this idea of historical thinking, using evidence, and problem solving. More and more teachers are using primary sources as integral pieces of the learning process.
There has been a cool supply and demand process happening over the last few years. Teachers want and need more primary sources. The internet has made those sources more available and accessible. More availability and accessibility means more teachers are using those sources. More teachers used to this availability of sources demand even more sources.
But there will always be questions about how to best use primary sources. A recent article by Discovery Ed’s Joe Sangillo does a nice job of highlighting five effective integration strategies. I’ve pasted a quick summary of Joe’s thinking but be sure to head over to Discovery Ed to get the full meal deal: 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.
Finding primary sources and evidence to use as part of the teaching and learning process can be a massive timesuck.
Back in the day, all we had was whatever showed up with the textbook supplementals. If we were lucky, we might have access to some semi-realistic jackdaw collections. And because the pool was so shallow, there were usually two outcomes. You found something you could use almost immediately or you didn’t find anything at all.
But now with so many digital options available, having too many resources can sometimes be just as bad as not having enough. It can be difficult knowing where to start and how to search for what you need. Which resources can help me find what I need?
Of course, there are the no-brainers. Read more