Real or fake?
Biased or unbiased?
Trustworthy or untrustworthy?
During a recent trip through different parts of Texas, I got the chance to lead several teacher conversations around these three questions. We worked together to share strategies and resources designed around creating knowledgeable, thinking, and active citizens.
With a specific goal of training our kids to be effective consumers of online information. So our conversation wasn’t just about fake news – it was also about online civic literacy.
We started with a series of images: Read more
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
All the MCU fans out there know that this phrase was first used in the 1962 Amazing Fantasy #15 issue and then later by Uncle Ben in the 2002 Spiderman movie.
But history nerds know that different versions of the phrase have been around for much longer. Winston Churchill. Teddy Roosevelt. And this guy – Henry W. Haynes from the public library of Boston in 1879:
The possession of great powers and capacity for good implies equally great responsibilities in their employment. Where so much has been given much is required.
Yes. Google has added some new features to Classroom. And yes. There may be a need for them. But . . . we need to use these new features responsibly. Yes. These features will make life easier for teachers. But here’s the problem.
Like any edtech tool or feature, these new Classroom additions can be abused, focusing not on historical thinking skills but low level learning. Focusing on teacher centered, standardized learning rather than student centered, authentic learning.
Especially the one feature that has most caught the attention of teachers. Read more
Our current state standards have been around since 2013. Centered on five Big Ideas and a balance between content and process, the document is unlike previous standards documents. And after five years, most Kansas teachers are at least aware that we’re asking them and students to approach teaching and learning differently.
That we want students to have both foundational knowledge and historical / critical thinking skills. That social studies classrooms need to be more than drill and kill, lecture, worksheet, quiz on Friday. And that creating engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens requires more than rote memorization and low level thinking.
While our standards look and feel differently than most other state level documents, teachers across the country – like their colleagues here in Kansas – are also being asked to concentrate on training kids to do social studies. Sam Wineburg is a household name. The teaching of historical thinking skills such as Sourcing, Contextualizing, and Corroborating is becoming commonplace. Bruce Lesh and his History Labs are being duplicated by teachers in all sorts of classrooms. The National Council for the Social Studies has also been a huge part of this pendulum shift with its College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards.
Good things are happening.
But . . .
Yup. There’s always a but.
During every standards training I do, every historical thinking conversation I have with teachers, there’s always a but. Read more
James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and Teaching What Really Happened, had a huge influence on how I began to see my job as a teacher.
My college history professors were incredibly knowledgable but were also incredibly traditional. As in, required purchases from the book store included sets of Xeroxed class notes in outline format – all followed religiously during daily lectures. So I started my career as a middle school teacher without a ton of experience in what research-based learning looked like. And forced my kids to go through some of the same things I went through simply because I didn’t know any better.
With the help of some incredible mentors, I began to see the possibilities of things like inquiry-based learning, primary sources, hands on experiences and the use of tools like games and simulations. And Loewen was a part of that transformation. His books opened my eyes to a different kind of history and a different way to tell stories.
I also began to realize – shocker – that sometimes the traditional methods and strategies aren’t always the best way to do things. And that we need to be willing to try something new, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
So . . . today? Something new. And it might seem a little strange.
But it comes at the perfect time. The year is wrapping up, your kids are leaving for the summer, and you’re gonna take a bit of a break. Then it’s back to prepping for next fall – books to read, lessons to preview, strategies to explore – looking for tools that can help your kids. Adding this to your summer research to-do list will change how your classroom looks next August.
Badges. Read more
If you haven’t been over to the Barat Education Foundation and their Primary Sources Nexus site . . . well, you need to. Cause they’ve been doing awesome stuff since 2000 supporting education and social justice that empower teachers and students.
And now, thanks to a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program, BEF is focused on integrating civics across the curriculum. Collaborating with the Constitutional Rights Foundation and DePaul University, BEF created the Citizen U curriculum. These grades 3-12 inquiry-based lessons are designed to encourage and instill skills vital for civic literacy and success in the 21st century, including collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, information literacy, problem-solving, leadership, and social responsibility.
They’re all aligned to standards, use primary sources from the Library of Congress, and are designed to develop and activate students’ civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
What they need is you. They’re looking for Read more
How great is the Smithsonian? Seriously. Take a few minutes to think about all the teaching goodness that they provide. Learning Lab. History Explorer. Lesson plans. Podcasts. Webcasts. It goes on and on.
But there’s always been a bit of old school in me. So I still subscribe to the print version of the Smithsonian magazine. Yes. You can get many of the print articles at the online version but I like turning pages.
The problem, of course, is between online versions of things and print versions of things, I’m always playing catch-up with my reading schedule. The March Smithsonian just now just made it to the top of the pile and I was blown away by an article by Abigail Tucker.
Titled A 21st-Century Reimagining of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, the article focuses on the question: Read more