I got the chance over the last few days to spend time with tons of social studies gurus and learn tons of new stuff at the National Council for History Education conference in Washington DC. Thanks to Dr. Richard Satchwell and Judy Bee at Illinois State University and all the folks at the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project for making the trip possible.
Part of our TPS time together was spent with developers of the five Library of Congress interactive civic education apps they’ve created. Very cool stuff that you can find at the LOC. All five are super handy for helping kids make sense of primary sources and for training students to engage as informed citizens. It was great sitting with the developers and learning more about how to use the apps with kids.
But I am just as excited about something , Chief Education Officer at iCivics, threw out at the end of her formal presentation about their DBQuest app:
We’re releasing a new iCivics game tomorrow called Race to Ratify.
She couldn’t really share a ton about it but we got the chance to get a quick taste of the game. And when she said “tomorrow,” she meant last Friday. So it’s been officially out in the wild for a few days. I’ve played with it a bit since then and it’s pretty much like all iCivics content.
Awesome. Read more
Bob Edens had been blind since birth. Fifty-one years of darkness, sounds, smells, and touch followed. But after a remarkable laser surgery, Bob can now see. For 51 years, Bob had imagined what things looked like based mainly on the descriptions of others and what he could feel.
I never would have dreamed that yellow is so . . . yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red.
He’s now seeing for himself what he had only imagined.
Grass is something I had to get used to. I always thought it was just fuzz. But to see each individual green stalk . . . it’s like starting a whole new life. It’s the most amazing thing in the world to see things you never thought you’d see.
Sometimes I think we do this with kids. We tell them about history and have them read about history but we never let them experience history. They never get to actually “see” the individual people and events and details – students rely on us to describe those things for them. We can forget that history is supposed to be a verb, not a noun – especially at this time of the school year when we’re trying to make sure to “cover” everything.
So . . . how can we help our kids see history? Read more
I like bacon.
Bacon cheeseburgers. Eggs and bacon. BLTs. Chocolate covered bacon. Maple and bacon doughnuts. Bacon and onion gravy. Bacon topped baked potatoes. Bacon wrapped Little Smokies. Bacon wrapped anything.
I’m probably not the only one. And I get it . . . some choose not to eat bacon for religious or health reasons. (And have much stronger will power than I do.)
My point? Pretty much everything is better with bacon.
So what’s the bacon of social studies? That one thing that goes better with everything and is so delicious that you really need to find a way to integrate it into your classroom? The answer is simple. Read more
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.
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
So. Much. Learning.
Getting the chance to be part of the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference can be both overwhelming and inspiring. There are so many people to meet, so many new ideas, so many new tools to explore.
I feel smarter just thinking about it.
Two of the things I noticed while I was immersed in the 2017 History Nerdfest? There is a common language and expectation around the idea of historical thinking – that using evidence and primary sources and sourcing and having kids solve problems is a good thing. Second? There is a commitment to using technology as one of the tools for helping kids make sense of the world around them.
It wasn’t always like that. NCSS and its members have come a long way in embracing the power of tech tools as part of social studies instruction and learning. That’s a good thing. A specific example that focuses on historical thinking and technology are the very cool things that the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program is doing with sims and gaming platforms.
One of the coolest? Read more
I had a flashback moment a few days ago as I was reading Lance Mosier’s sweet blog post You Died Of Dysentery! Resources on The Oregon Trail.
First year of teaching. Derby Middle School. Five sections of US history. One section of reading. Thirty plus kids per section. Kansas August with no air conditioning. I was absolutely clueless. And excited about the possibilities.
Desperate to figure out how to fill the time while also hoping to find some sort of instructional focus, I ran across a simple turn by turn game called Archaeology.
We played it on an Apple IIE desktop, with groups of four students taking turns to “dig up” artifacts that eventually revealed the remains of a 18th century New England farmhouse. The game ran on a 5 1/4 floppy disc that I protected with my life because we couldn’t find a way to create a usable backup. My goal was that kids would begin to see that we learn about the past by finding evidence, analyzing the evidence, and by asking questions. I wanted to create little history detectives.
And it worked.
Kids were engaged. Conversation was happening. Stuff was being learned. Of course, I didn’t know why. I just knew something good was taking place. It wasn’t till much later that I started connecting brain research to what happened back at Derby.
The concept and theory of Game Based Learning was Read more