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Tip of the Week: Canva – solution to the end of the year blues

As you count down the final days and hours, many of you are having students create final products and assessments. We often ask kids to create these end of year projects in textual form. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Writing is proof of thinking. But there are are other types of assessments that can also measure levels of thinking that we sometimes forget about, ignore, or just don’t know about.

The Instructional Arc of the National Council for the Social Studies and my own C4 Framework ask kids to solve problems and communicate solutions. Both are based on the national and state literacy standards that ask students share research and solutions in a variety of ways:

  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  • Present adaptations of arguments and explanations on topics of interest to others to reach audiences and venues outside the classroom using print and oral technologies (e.g., posters, essays, letters, debates, speeches, reports, and maps) and digital technologies (e.g., Internet, social media, and digital documentary).

The problem seems to almost always revolve around finding and using a tool that free, easy to use, and that supports the Instructional Arc and literacy standards. One possible answer? Read more

Use Google Public Database Explorer. Your kids get smarter

The shift is on. We’re moving beyond simple rote memorization and direct instruction to a more hands on, interactive and evidence-based learning method. We want kids to solve problems and communicate solutions.

That’s a good thing.

But as we all get better at giving kids problems to solve and asking them to use evidence to solve those problems, it’s easy to focus on certain types of evidence. Diaries. Journals. Speeches. Photos. Maps. You know . . . the basic types of primary source documents many of you having been using forever. Absolutely nothing wrong with those types of evidence. Heck, secondary sources work too.

What can start to happen, though, is that we rely too much on the old reliables and never ask kids to use more complicated kinds of things. And one type of evidence that we need to start using more is the huge amount of public data that is available. Statistics. Population numbers. Demographical data. Movement of people and materials. This kind of stuff is perfect for creating authentic problems and encouraging creative solutions by your students.

The problem, of course, is that the data has been hard to access and even harder to make sense of. But there is a solution. Right there in plain sight. Most of us just missed it. Read more

Personal professional growth and student evals

Billy Landes was probably the best teacher I ever had. Encouraging. Supportive. Tough. Demanding. Helpful. She let our study group leave to do “research” in the library when I’m pretty sure she knew that we usually headed to the donut shop instead. A learner. Smart. Knowledgable.

And someone who always asked our feedback about how she could get better. It was the weirdest thing. A teacher asking her students about her teaching practice? Seriously?

Teacher evaluation is always one of the hot topics here in the Sunflower state. It’s a hot topic pretty much everywhere. How do we best measure whether a teacher is effective or not? What questions do we ask? What data do we look at?

Teacher quality is important. I get that. But I personally have issues with politicians and others not directly involved on the front lines claiming to know best when it comes to measuring teacher quality. Common sense and research suggests that kids are successful or not for lots of reasons.

And while the political mess of teacher evaluation by schools and districts will continue, I still believe that as professionals we have an obligation to reflect on a personal level about our own best practice. Constant improvement is a good thing. And I also believe that there is a lot of value in asking our kids, our customers, to be a part of that evaluation process.

We’re not talking here about formal teacher evaluations here – this is personal professional development.Asking questions about what we do and how it impacts our students. No one else sees the results. Just us. Read more

Tip of the Week: Using Flipboard as an instructional, learning, PLC, everything in one, swiss army knife tool

Using instructional technology can make us feel super smart and 60 seconds later . . . the dullest person on the planet.

And right now, I’m feeling a little bit of both. Last week, I was pushing Flipboard as a a great way to curate and organize a wide range of online resources. “Find topics, follow topics, learn tons of new things.” Every day, I ran across useful and interesting articles, ideas, and materials.

But I’ve been focused too much on using Flipboard as part of my own personal learning and haven’t given it much thought as an instructional tool. At least until this morning. Cyndi Danner-Kuhn, K-State prof and fellow tech trainer, asked me to contribute to a Flipboard magazine she created for her ed tech class.

And the light finally went on.

Duh. Read more

Digging Deeper into World History Primary Sources

Several months ago, I had the privilege to keynote the online Digging Deeper into Primary Sources conference hosted by the South Dakota State Library. The conference was a full day of conversations about why and how we should be using primary sources as part of our instruction.

Teachers, South Dakota library staff, and Library of Congress archivists shared a ton of great ideas and suggestions. Dr. Peggy O’Neill-Jones shared her thoughts on different strategies for document analysis, there were multiple lightning rounds of 15 minute presentations, and author Jean Patrick finished the day with a session titled Footnotes and Phone Calls: My Life as Nonfiction Detective. Everyone walked away smarter than when they walked in.

The cool thing is that the South Dakota library folks archived everything so you can pretend that you were a part of the day. Hand over to their site to harvest all the goodies.

But while we all agree that using primary sources is a good thing, I am often accused (and perhaps rightfully so) of not sharing enough world history resources. And so, for your viewing and teacher pleasure on a beautiful Friday afternoon, ten resources for finding world history primary sources: Read more

7 social media strategies teachers need to use and intentionally teach

I had the chance to work with the awesome Dr. Curtis Chandler yesterday during the ESSDACK Chromebook conference at MidAmerica Nazarene University, sharing a few ideas for teaching and learning in a Googley world. And, no, neither of us are completely sure that Googley is an actual word. But if Google is using the word, so can we. We defined Googley very simply – the world that we teach in, and that your kids live in, revolve around constant access to information and to other people. So what should education look like in that sort of environment? We focused on three basic ideas:

  • Grapple with big ideas
  • Focus on the process
  • Be intentional about using social media

Curtis took the social media section and rocked it. I loved that he started the conversation by quoting Mark Twain: Read more

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