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Your world is about to change. Cause . . . Smithsonian Learning Labs

You may have seen the TV commercial where the tops of peoples head blow off because of the amazing new tool the ad is trying to sell.

The brand new Smithsonian Learning Lab is like that. This will change how you and your kids collect, organize, share, and analyze primary evidence. It is seriously that good.

The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access created the Smithsonian Learning Lab to inspire the discovery and creative use of its rich digital materials—more than 1.3 million images, recordings, and texts. And Darren Milligan, head of the Learning Lab, says that they are digitizing a new resource every six seconds.

It is easy to find something of interest because search results display pictures rather than lists. Whether you’ve found what you were looking for or just discovered something new, it’s easy to personalize it. Add your own notes and tags, incorporate discussion questions, and save and share. The Learning Lab makes it simple. By encouraging users to create and share personalized collections of Smithsonian assets and user-generated resources, the Learning Lab aspires to build a global community of learners who are passionate about adding to and bringing to light new knowledge, ideas, and insight.

There are three basic parts to Learning Lab: Read more

3 ways to foster critical thinking with historic digital maps

I’m in Denver at the 2016 version of the madhouse that is the #ISTE2016 conference. Helping to spread the Best Keynote goodness and doing a session on Google tools later on. And it’s always fun. I see old friends and make new ones. I learn new things. But it can get to be a bit of nerd overload. After a while, the conversation about server loads, bit rates, digital learning environments, edtech synergy, companies that spell their names with a Z instead of an S, and the next technology revolution gets to be a little much.

So it’s kind of nice to slow down a bit with other social studies folks to talk about maps and historical thinking skills. Yes. It is a session with the word digital in the title but it’s digital maps from the Library of Congress. I’m okay with that.

Presented by Sherrie Calloway and Cappi Castro, the session focused on ways to support historical thinking and problem solving while using maps. Sherri and Cappi are part of the very cool Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS)  program maintained by the TPS Western Region people at Metro State here in the Denver area.

And just so you know, the TPS program is awesome, if for no other reason than Read more

Tip of the Week: 5 ways to maximize professional learning

Summer is a perfect time to rethink your professional learning goals. We all need to get better at what we do, to hone our craft, to find ways to improve our skills. In a recent interview, business author Tom Peters suggested that one way to “deal with the insane pace of change” is to “learn new things.”

Seems simple enough. But I think too often we approach our jobs without a growth mindset, without being intentional about “learning new things.” We ask our students to learn new skills and content. But because of time, support, or inclination, we don’t always do that ourselves.

So.

What can we do this summer to maximize our own professional learning? Read more

EDSITEment continues to impress: New election resources & interactives

EDSITEment has always been one of my go-to lesson plan, teaching resources, website referral tools. A partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Trust for the Humanities, EDSITEment offers a treasure trove for teachers searching for high-quality material in the subject areas of literature and language arts, foreign languages, art and culture, and history and social studies.

Everything at EDSITEment is reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom and covers a wide range of humanities subjects, from American history to literature, world history and culture, language, art, and archaeology, and have been judged by humanities specialists to be of high intellectual quality.

If you’re looking for ways to integrate content with language arts and the humanities, EDSITEment should one of the first places you stop at. Lesson plans are searchable by grade level and specific content, are aligned to specific historical thinking skills, and focus on using evidence to build historical thinking skills. You can also find a variety of interactive student resources sortable by grade and content.

There’s a weekly blog written by EDSITEment guru Joe Phelan with helpful tips and teaching suggestions. You can sign up to get their monthly newsletter with updates and special announcements.

And it just got better. Read more

Who needs 1053 free National Park maps? You do.

We may be a nation divided by politics, religion, sports teams, and BBQ type. But we can all agree on one thing.

Maps are awesome.

And free maps are more awesomer.

So when I found out about the map site maintained by National Park Ranger Matt Holly, it was a very good day. Matt, already famous for the cutest stick story ever, is now becoming even more famous for uploading over 1000 National Park Service maps in PDF format for easy online access.

Seriously. How cool is that?

Simply titled  Read more

Tip of the Week: DocsTeach Redesign Creates Super Tool

Our job as social studies teachers is not to give our students the answers. Our job is to create great questions and then train kids to be able to address those questions. To model and facilitate the practice of reading, writing, and thinking like historians.

Rather than passively receiving information from us or our textbooks, students should be actively engaged in the activities of historians — making sense of the stories, events and ideas of the past through document analysis.

And one of the tools that every history / social studies teacher should be using to help with all of this is the incredible National Archives site DocsTeach. I first wrote about DocsTeach when it debuted six years ago in 2010. The idea of the site at the time?

the project is designed to provide useful document-based lesson plans and activities created by both NARA staff members and classroom teachers.

And it was awesome. Tons of primary sources from the National Archives. Activities that focused on and supported historical thinking skills. The ability to create your own activities, save them, and share them digitally with your students. For 2010, it truly was cutting edge.

But it debuted before mobile devices and iPads. Before national standards such as the NCSS C3 Framework and Common Core Lit standards. Before Wineburg’s Reading Like a Historian and SHEG. Before online primary evidence archives were commonplace. So even though it was an incredible idea put into practice, it was a bit clunky and not super user friendly in 2016.

But not anymore. DocsTeach just got a massive upgrade. And now there is no excuse not to use it. Because not only can you still access thousands of primary sources, borrow from an ever-expanding collection of document-based activities, and create your own online activities, there are some very sweet changes and additions to the site.
Read more

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