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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

Tip of the Week: Joe Harmon and shared Social Studies PLN goodness

I love Twitter. And I love Google.

So when Dr. Joe Harmon posted his idea on Twitter for a collaborative Social Studies resource Google folder, it was the perfect day. Taking advantage of my Twitter PLN and the awesome #sschat hashtag. Using Google Drive to share, view, and use teaching and learning resources. The only way it could have gotten any better was if Roy’s Pit BBQ had delivered some ribs and toast while I sat there getting smarter.

This is what the Internet was designed to do and what we should be using it for – connecting people and ideas in ways that make the world a better place. What does this look like in this specific case? Read more

Native Knowledge 360: Culturally appropriate & historically accurate materials about American Indians

The Smithsonian is not the only collection of museums in the country. There are others. But I am gonna argue that the collection of 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries is the largest and most awesome and coolest and most educational and easiest to use of them all. I mean, between the 19, they’ve got over 155 million artifacts, documents, resources, and specimens. If you can find what you need in all of that, you’re just not trying.

One of the newest and awesomest Smithsonian museums is the National Museum of the American Indian. And they just updated their education section to make your trying just a little easier.

Why is that a big deal? Read more

7 alternatives to Ted Talk goodness

We all love Ted Talks. You get in. You get out. You walk away smarter. And almost always with smile on your face cause . . . well, they’re just so darn optimistic.

Added bonus? The huge database of Ted Talks give you access to some excellent resources as part of your instructional design. A quick search highlights a wide range of talks on teaching and education. And a list of history related talks. (Use the filter option to narrow down choices in a huge range of other topics as well.)

If you need some sweet ideas about how to use Ted Talks in your class, browse over to this helpful post by Jennifer of the seriously awesome #worldgeochat site. And don’t get me started on the power of TedEd – the Ted Talks tool designed specifically for educators. Start with this list of social studies related TedEd lessons if you need a jumping off point.

But what if, and I’m just saying what if, Ted Talks doesn’t have what you’re looking for? Are there other options out there? Yes. Yes, there are. Start with these seven: Read more

Seriously? Am I the only one who didn’t know about the EPIC reading tool?

Remember that one time when all your friends went out, had a great time, came back, saw you sitting on your lonely bean bag, and acted surprised? “I thought someone asked you to come along,” they said. “We just figured you were in the other car,” they said.

Right. I love you too.

I felt a little like that about a week ago. I had just learned all about this great free online tool and was pumped. This tool is free. It’s easy to use. It helps connect social studies content with fiction and nonfiction resources. So I got up during our PLC’s show and tell time to share, asked if anyone else was using it, and I got thumbs up from literally everyone in the room.

Yup. I love you too.

I am glad that so many already know about it. And are using it. Cause it really seems like a great tool to have handy in your teaching tool belt – especially as we’re all trying to integrate more social studies and ELA. But where was I when everyone else was finding out about it?

So if you already know Read more

Tip of the Week: “I would rather have them hate the class . . . “

Okay. I don’t want kids to hate social studies. Let’s be clear about that from the get go. But . . . I also think that we sometimes fall off the wagon on the other end by working way too hard trying to find activities that our kids will enjoy or projects that are “engaging.”

It’s been almost ten years since I first heard Sam Wineburg speak. I had read his book Thinking Historically and Other Unnatural Acts. Read some of his early articles on historical thinking skills and loved his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history. But it wasn’t until a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference way back in 2008 that I first heard him speak. He opened the conference with a keynote highlighting the main ideas in his book.

And now, of course, he’s a future social studies Hall of Famer having helped to swing the pendulum of social studies instruction over to something more focused on a balance of both content and process.

But something he said back in 2008 has stuck with me: Read more