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Quick and easy way to find the perfect Google Expeditions tour

Even after a couple of years working with Google Cardboard apps and tools, I am still fascinated with the possibilities of virtual reality as part of the instruction and learning process.

And, yes, there are other VR viewers and apps out there. But the price (free) and ease of use (super duper easy) of the Cardboard viewer and associated Google VR apps makes it a quick and simple entry into integrating virtual reality into the classroom. I especially like the power of Google Expeditions.

You can catch up with a longer description of the Expeditions app here but the quick overview is that the app allows you and your students to experience virtual reality together – each on your own device.

As the Expedition Guide, you have some control of what students experience while using the app and allows you to direct the learning that happens. I also like that students can switch roles in the app, moving from Explorer to Guide. This makes Expeditions not just a consumption tool but a creation tool as well.

(Want to extend the learning? While it’s not yet possible to upload Tours to the app’s database, you can still ask students create their own “Tours” – researching a specific place or event, finding or producing their own 2D or 3D images, and writing contextual information for each of their scenes. Share their “Tours” with with a Google Sites or Doc.)

It’s a great way to create emotion as part of the learning process and build empathy.

One of the shortcomings in the app has always been actually finding just the right tour to use with your students. There is a search function and several categories that you can browse through. But as new Tours are added, these simple search features become a more cumbersome to use.

The solution? Read more

Tip of the Week: Edji and 5+ ways emjois can improve historical thinking skills

No, I didn’t see it.

So I can’t say with 100% certainty that The Emjoi Movie was as terrible as the critics say it was. But apparently  . . . it really was terrible. Not even Patrick Stewart and Sofía Vergara could save it.

But . . . wait for it.

Using emojis as part of your instructional design can help improve student thinking and literacy skills.

I know. I know. You’re thinking that using little graphic images instead of text is no way to teach historical thinking and literacy. And you’d be right. But what if we used little graphic images, great guiding questions, proven historical thinking strategies together with reading and writing activities?

Now I think we’ve got something.

You can get an idea of the potential by taking a look at how Omaha middle school teacher Lance Mosier used emojis to help kids understand what life was like for soldiers fighting in the Civil War. Read more

The Vietnam War, Ken Burns, and 7 useful resources

I still remember the week of The Civil War by Ken Burns. It was early in my first teaching position as an 8th grade US history teacher in Derby, America. And it was amazing. So Ken and I have continued to hang out over the last few decades.

Jazz. Baseball. World War II. The Roosevelts.

And now . . . Vietnam.

But this one feels different somehow. Still mesmerizing. Still great production values. Still engaging. Still solid history. But maybe it just feels too recent to be comfortable history.

Vox writer  Read more

Memes: Fun waste of time or incredible literacy integration tool?

We all love a good meme. Visual. Easy to understand. And just the right amount of snark.

But can we use them as part of our instructional designs? Or are they just a questionable way to spend way too much time online? Ask me that question five years ago and I probably would have said waste of time. Fun, sure. But a waste of time.

Now?

I’m starting to believe the combination of visuals and text needed to create a good meme can be used in a variety of ways.

So . . . today, a few meme / social studies / literacy integration ideas: Read more

Be part of a super big lesson plan. (And change the world while you’re at it.)

Some of the best days of the school year are when I get the chance to spend time with the #ESSDACK social studies PLC. Yesterday was one of those days. We talked about a ton of things including the idea of Twitter chats as a professional learning tool. Most of the group already have Twitter accounts and some like @JillWebs@thewarsnak@coachschutte, and @megan_nieman are more serious users. But it was fun working together with the whole group to do a sample online chat with everyone in the room at the same time, exploring the power of scheduled chats. Lots of learning and discussion.

But I’m always amazed at the rabbit hole that you can fall into once you start with the Twitters. And yesterday was no different. As several of us were exploring different social studies hashtags, I ran across something called the World’s Largest Lesson.

The goal of the WLL is simple – support and foster the idea of Sustainable Development Goals.

Several years ago, a ton of world leadership folks got together and finalized 17 different things that will make the world a better place. They titled them the Sustainable Development Goals.

Basic stuff like zero hunger, quality education, reduced inequalities, peace and justice. Yeah. The biggies. Saving the world kinds of things.

The cool thing is that they also developed a plan for actually finding ways to make it happen. To follow through and find solutions.

Another cool thing? Read more

Tip of the Week: 11 Awesome Constitution Day Resources You Know You Need

We all know the story. A group of guys from different parts of the country with different ideas of how to govern got together and came up with a pretty amazing document. It’s a great story with a pretty amazing cast. (I’m looking at you #Hamilton.) And we all have our favorite actors in that story. My fave?

Ben Franklin.

He’s kind of like the sleeper pick in your fantasy football league – everyone knows he’s out there but they ignore him because all the focus is on Jefferson or Madison or one of the other first rounders. But you draft him anyway cause you know he’s got the skills.

Ben was smart, irreverent, great with people, well-read, the ladies loved him, he had that whole kite / electricity / scientist thing working, and was by far the best part of 1776 and John Adams. What’s not to love?

And so it’s fun to go back and read some of what Ben had to say about the document he was preparing to sign in 1787: Read more