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Posts from the ‘social studies’ Category

Thursday Throwback: The humanities are “useless.” (Unless you want a job. Or to change the world.)

It’s Thursday. I’m busy with some stuff that needs to get done and you need something to read. So take five minutes to browse through one of my faves from a few years ago. It seems especially important this spring that we continue to state the case for the social studies and humanities.

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As my two kids weaved their way through middle and high school, they experienced the first waves of STEM, Career Pathways, and the focus by school districts on specific technical skills. As students who were also interested in art, music, and journalism, it became difficult for them to find room in their schedules for those “non-essential” courses.

The reasoning? We need to get kids ready for high paying jobs after graduation. Get them ready for engineering majors in college. For careers in computer science or coding cause that’s where the money is.

Not that STEM and tech and career tracks and coding for 8th graders is necessarily a bad thing. I truly believe that we need to provide all types of learning experiences and opportunities for our students. But it seemed at times as if all of those things were added at the expense of things like art, history, and music.

It’s gotten better as STEM morphed into STEAM and personalized learning plans have become the norm here in the Midwest, giving students more latitude in what and how they study. But I still hear – and maybe you do too – that the liberal arts and humanities classes are “extra” kinds of things in grades 6-12 and something to be completely avoided during any sort of post-secondary experience.

To me, it becomes problematic when there’s a singular focus on specific job skills or career tracks. It’s not just that our students can end up missing out on exploring ways to make sense of and improve the world they live in – developing tolerance, understanding others, building empathy, strengthening communication skills, and solving problems.

It’s also pushes an assumption about the perceived monetary value of some disciplines and the “worthlessness” of others. As social studies teachers, we need to continue to champion the value of what we do. The content and skills that kids learn in a history class are important for everybody, whether they’re repairing wind turbines, managing a hedge fund, or setting up a company wide LAN.

Here’s the point. Read more

Crowdsourcing the standards: How would you make them better?

It’s been seven years. Seems like yesterday. And now it starts again.

I’m not sure if it’s a law or a regulation. Maybe both. Either way, the Kansas Department of Education is required to review content standards every seven years. 2018 is that year for social studies.

Seven years ago, 30 of us got together for the required review. We sat down and started a process that some of us ended up calling “the Philadelphia.” We had a set of social studies standards but we knew they weren’t doing what we wanted them to do. They emphasized drill and kill teaching. Multiple choice assessments. And clearly failed to encourage critical thinking.

The KSDE mandate was to “review and revise as needed.” We agreed to that. Just like the Founding Fathers who gathered in Philadelphia to review the Articles of Confederation in 1787. They knew going in that they wanted to do more than just review and revise. They wanted something new, effective, and powerful. So they threw out the Articles and walked out a couple of months later with the Constitution.

And no. The Kansas social studies standards are not the Constitution. The 30 educators who met back in 2011 were not the Founding Fathers. But the group did come into the room ready to throw out the old standards, start from scratch, and build something completely new.

What we came up with is a document that Read more

Best posts 2017: The 10 best social studies sites of all time

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much Chex Mix, and enjoying the occasional nap.

But if you need a break from all of the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read seven of the most popular History Tech posts from 2017. Enjoy the reruns. See you in a couple of weeks!


Last week at the Kansas state social studies conference, I got into the kind of conversation that really doesn’t have an end. You know the kind. Think best flavor of Thanksgiving pie. The discussion can go on forever.

And last week’s question? What are the best online sites and tools for social studies teachers?

Yup. No problem.

We obviously didn’t finish the conversation. But it was great hearing what others use and see as valuable. So today . . . I’m opening up the discussion to you. Here’s a list of my new top ten best social studies sites of all time, in no particular order. (And of all time, I mean the list as of today. I’m headed to the NCSS conference tomorrow. Trust me. The list will look different next week.)

What would you add or subtract? Read more

History Nerdfest 2017 Day Three: #sschat unconference conversation made me smarter

If you’re not using Twitter to access the #sschat hashtag throughout the year, I will politely suggest that you need start doing that.

Seriously. And if me being polite doesn’t work, you should do because I said so.

Using Twitter and the #sschat hashtag connects you with hundreds of super smart people who can make you smarter. It also connects you with people who need to know what you know so that they can get smarter. Win win.

And this morning at #ncss17, several of the organizers of #sschat put together a three hour unconference session where people could meet face to face. Many of us only know each other via Twitter and so it’s great putting faces with Twitter handles. The cool thing is that the learning is the same. We asked questions. We shared resources. We brainstormed ideas.

And we all walked away smarter.

The cool thing about #sschat is that Read more

#WHA2016 and creativity in the K-20 social studies classroom

Okay. I’m trying to not let my history fanboy nerdiness bubble over too much. I’m sitting in on a discussion at the Western History Association conference and Richard White is one of the panelists.

Yes. There are others on the panel. Brian Collier (Notre Dame University), Linda Sargent Wood (Northern Arizona University), Jean O’Brien (University of Minnesota), Darla Mallein (Emporia State University), Tom Hoogland (Minnesota National History Day), and Brendan Bell (Cristo Rey High School). All wonderful people.

But seriously? Richard White? It’s a bit like my daughter heading to ComicCon and getting the chance to sit next to the cast of Captain America: Winter Soldier. Just so cool.

And once I got over the “that’s actually Richard White right there” phase, I was able to jot down a few things from the conversation. The panel discussed a variety of topics and started by talking about the most important innovation in teaching history.

Several panelists highlighted the impact Read more

Tip of the Week: Seven Social Studies Strategies for Back to School

(When you’re done here, head over to the updated version of Back to School ideas. You’ll find some sweet Geo Goodness, memes, scavenger hunts, art as history, and a handy Bootcamp unit.)

Yup. It’s that time of year already. The annual Back to School Ideas in a Social Studies Classroom post. And I know some are already back in the classroom but most of you crank up this week or next.

So. Here ya go.

Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. Add your own ideas in the comments.

What not to do

Before we get going with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. Read more