Skip to content

Posts from the ‘change’ Category

The inquiry method, dinosaur teachers, and Social Studiesball

Six years ago, almost to the day, I uploaded a post titled New standards, the C3, dinosaurs, and Social Studiesball. The state of Kansas was in its very first year of implementing a new set of social studies standards – a set of standards that focused on creating a balance of content and historical thinking skills. A lot less memorizing and a whole lot more application and process.

It freaked some people out.

Okay.

It freaked a lot of people out.

It was a different way of doing social studies. More student centered. More skills based. More problem solving. More use of evidence to support claims. Less focus on specific content and recall of basic facts. Heck . . . the state department of education basically said “within these rough scope and sequence parameters, teach whatever you want.” No check boxes of required test items. No multiple choice state assessment.

The 2013 post used the Michael Lewis book & Brad Pitt movie Moneyball as an example of how a shift in thinking can impact current practice.

And now, after six years, we’re revising the document and the state assessment with an even stronger focus on the inquiry model and historical thinking processes. It seems appropriate to revisit the 2013 post with a few updates.

—————————

A few years back, I picked up a book called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. It focused on the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team and their general manager, Billy Beane. Burdened by a lack of funds, Beane was constantly struggling to win games against teams with way more money to pay their players than he did. But by 2002, during a season that saw his team set a century old record for consecutive wins, Beane had found a way to beat those teams.

The answer?

Sabermetrics.

Sabermetrics is the application of statistical analysis in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players. But not the traditional statistics. Beane and the A’s looked at a completely different set of statistics in ways that hadn’t been done before. This different way of thinking about baseball gave them a competitive advantage – they could now find solid players that had been ignored by everyone else. And because these players were being ignored by everyone else, the A’s could pay them less and win games while staying within their budget.

Win / win. A sweet team for less money.

The problem? Read more

1000s of historical Sanborn insurance maps. Cause . . . the more maps the better

I spent yesterday in Topeka, working with KSDE social studies guru Don Gifford and a few others such as @MsKoriGreen and @NHTOYMc to develop the next state assessment. Still in alpha version with beta testing in 2018-2019 but lots of fun talking about what it should look like.

It’s gonna be very cool btw – student focused, locally measured, aligned to historical thinking / literacy skills, and problem based. Look for an update on latest test goodness soon.

So we were all over the place in our conversation. Part of our discussion centered on ways to integrate all of the social studies into the work students will be doing. Including geography. So my mind went to maps. Really cool historical maps. And what it might look like when we use really cool historical maps with kids. So I got a bit sidetracked and did a quick interwebs search for really cool historical maps.

Piece of advice. Don’t do this unless you’ve got more than a few minutes to kill. Cause you will end up in a rabbit hole of geography map goodness. Plus I saved you the trouble.

During my poking around, I ran across the Library of Congress Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps collection. It’s got all the cool historical mapness you’ll need today. Read more

Tip of the Week: History, Government, & Social Studies Skills by Grade and Discipline

When I sit back and think about the changes in social studies instruction and learning that have happened here in Kansas over the last few years, I’m always a wee bit amazed. Good teachers across the state have always asked kids to read and write and use evidence and think historically. But up until two or three years ago, the focus for many had been on simply having kids collect and memorize historical data.

The conversation is changing. Teachers and administrators are now talking more about the process of social studies rather than just the data. Teachers are looking at and using Sam Wineburg’s stuff over at SHEG. They’re using more literacy activities, more fiction and non-fiction, and generally having better discussions about what quality social studies looks like.

A huge hat tip to Don Gifford, social studies consultant at the Kansas Department of Education, for driving all of this forward. He put together a team of educators from across the state to rewrite the Kansas standards, facilitated the writing, and maneuvered the document through the hoops needed to get unanimous approval from the state board. He’s busy at the moment trying to create a state assessment that measures historical thinking while combining it with the ELA writing assessment. And, since this really hasn’t ever been done before, it’s an interesting and complicated process.

All of this to say that there is a lot of transformation happening here in the Sunflower state. And that’s a good thing. But change is never easy and so the struggle as been to find ways to ease people into the idea of teaching process AND content. To find resources and scaffolding to help teachers see what this sort of instruction and learning can look like in practice.

One of the powerful pieces of the state document is the Literacy Expectations and Best Practices section. It highlights those things that students and teachers should be doing in a high-quality classroom.

But what I often hear is that Read more

Google Maps updates mobile app. It’s a sign your world is changing

A few days ago, Google updated its mobile Map app. Probably not a huge thing for you and your kids. But it is a reminder that our world is changing. In some instances, rather quickly. More and more of what we see, use, consume, share, and teach is moving to mobile devices.

When was the last time you pulled over to the side of the road and pulled out that massive print road atlas? Some of you, probably never. I still have one in my trunk cause . . . trust me, there are lots of places in western Kansas where your cell signal goes to die.

Three days ago, my senior in high school freaked out because I asked her to call a neighbor on their landline. She wasn’t even sure if they had a landline. They did. But no one answered. The neighbor texted minutes later to ask what she needed.

I still read the Sunday edition of the Wichita newspaper. I would read it every day if they actually delivered it every day. But they don’t. Because they’re printing fewer actual papers and publishing more online. So like most of North America, I get my news digitally. My favs? Flipboard, Zite, and the digital NY Times.

Documents live in the cloud. Not on paper. Google Drive, Dropbox, Storehouse, and my latest fav, Adobe Voice, store and share work virtually.

Historical documents are archived and digitized. Artifacts are mapped in 3D, shared via the web, and printed out on the other end using 3D printers.

Books and articles are created, saved, shared, and read on mobile devices. (Check out the latest iBook on Ancient Egypt. Perfect for you 6th grade teachers.)

So while the Google Maps update does have some cool features (scroll down for a overview) take the update as a sign. Read more

Great teachers? How do you know?

a fellow history guy, recently asked a simple question. It’s one we’ve heard before:

What principles define great teaching?

But Dave tweaked it in a way that I like. He’s asking the question but wants to break the answers down by sorting responses by who answers it. How do students respond? What do parents say? Teachers? Administrators? And while I’m sure that data exists out there somewhere, I haven’t seen it. (But if you know where that sort of info sits, I would love for you to share in the comments.)

So. An interesting question. Especially since I don’t really fit into any of those categories. But here’s what I’m thinking right now . . . on a slow Monday afternoon without any snacks in sight. Read more