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Posts from the ‘primary sources’ Category

Google adds new Classroom features. Use them responsibly.

“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.

So.

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

Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tour. Yes. It’s a video game. So . . . yes, it’s also an awesome teaching tool

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.

A lot.

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

Rockwell’s Four Freedoms in the 21st century and rethinking art as history

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

Native Knowledge 360: Culturally appropriate & historically accurate materials about American Indians

The Smithsonian is not the only collection of museums in the country. There are others. But I am gonna argue that the collection of 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries is the largest and most awesome and coolest and most educational and easiest to use of them all. I mean, between the 19, they’ve got over 155 million artifacts, documents, resources, and specimens. If you can find what you need in all of that, you’re just not trying.

One of the newest and awesomest Smithsonian museums is the National Museum of the American Indian. And they just updated their education section to make your trying just a little easier.

Why is that a big deal? Read more

Tip of the Week: “I would rather have them hate the class . . . “

Okay. I don’t want kids to hate social studies. Let’s be clear about that from the get go. But . . . I also think that we sometimes fall off the wagon on the other end by working way too hard trying to find activities that our kids will enjoy or projects that are “engaging.”

It’s been almost ten years since I first heard Sam Wineburg speak. I had read his book Thinking Historically and Other Unnatural Acts. Read some of his early articles on historical thinking skills and loved his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history. But it wasn’t until a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference way back in 2008 that I first heard him speak. He opened the conference with a keynote highlighting the main ideas in his book.

And now, of course, he’s a future social studies Hall of Famer having helped to swing the pendulum of social studies instruction over to something more focused on a balance of both content and process.

But something he said back in 2008 has stuck with me: Read more