Our current state standards have been around since 2013. Centered on five Big Ideas and a balance between content and process, the document is unlike previous standards documents. And after five years, most Kansas teachers are at least aware that we’re asking them and students to approach teaching and learning differently.
That we want students to have both foundational knowledge and historical / critical thinking skills. That social studies classrooms need to be more than drill and kill, lecture, worksheet, quiz on Friday. And that creating engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens requires more than rote memorization and low level thinking.
While our standards look and feel differently than most other state level documents, teachers across the country – like their colleagues here in Kansas – are also being asked to concentrate on training kids to do social studies. Sam Wineburg is a household name. The teaching of historical thinking skills such as Sourcing, Contextualizing, and Corroborating is becoming commonplace. Bruce Lesh and his History Labs are being duplicated by teachers in all sorts of classrooms. The National Council for the Social Studies has also been a huge part of this pendulum shift with its College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards.
Good things are happening.
But . . .
Yup. There’s always a but.
During every standards training I do, every historical thinking conversation I have with teachers, there’s always a but. Read more
Shocker. Lecturing to students puts them to sleep.
Who could have guessed?
Well . . . I should have. But I didn’t. During my first few years as a middle school teacher and later, during some time I spent teaching in a college social science department, I lectured.
Early on, I didn’t know better. I was taught that way in both K-12 and in my college content courses. There were no real alternatives provided in my ed classes. And I started teaching long before established mentor programs. It was just the way things were done.
By the time I had moved on to higher ed, I had figured out – with some occasional PD and lots of help from some great educators – that there are other alternatives to constant direct instruction. But I was subtly and then very overtly encouraged to lecture rather than use some of the methods that I knew worked because “you’re not teaching middle school anymore.”
Those memories came flooding back recently while I was reading an older article focused on higher ed teaching titled 20 Terrible Reasons for Lecturing. Several of the reasons listed are almost word for word to what I heard: Read more
ROI was never something I had to worry about back in the day. If I made to 3:30 with nothing getting set on fire and all 135 middle schoolers accounted for, I checked it off as a major success.
Return on Investment? ROI? I’m not even sure the term had been invented yet. And if it had, I would have had no idea what it meant and how the idea might apply to my classroom.
For anyone without the MBA degree, ROI is a basic business concept that measures the efficiency of an investment of time and/or money. The higher the ROI, the more efficient the investment. Spend $10 on lemons, sugar, and the time to craft a cardboard sign. Make $60 selling lemonade. The ROI is $50. Nice job.
Spend $10. Make $5. ROI is negative $5. Time to go back and rethink your business model.
And back in the day, ROI would not have been something that educators would have worried about. The business model of school was different. Kids showed up. Kids sat in rows. Teacher talked. Kids copied down what the teacher said. Kids memorized what they wrote down. On Friday, teacher asked students to write down what they memorized. Teacher assigned a grade. Repeat.
The world of school is different now. We’re not following the traditional model of kids in rows and teacher centered instruction. (At least we shouldn’t be.) And ROI needs to be a part of this new world.
Before you all jump in with Read more
When I firsted started teaching 8th grade American History, there was no access to primary sources. There weren’t any online archives. DocsTeach? Nope. Stanford History Education Group? Nope. Library of Congress? Nada.
I made due with whatever supplementary materials showed up with my textbook and the few Jackdaw kits that I was able to track down and order. But here’s the thing . . . even if I had somehow gotten access to primary source documents, I’m not sure what I would have done with them. Like most social studies teachers at the time (and more than just a few today), I really didn’t have a clue of how to use primary sources as part of the learning process.
Even worse, I wasn’t really sure why I should be using this sort of evidence. What was the point? Every kid had a textbook. I had a teacher’s version of the textbook. I could lecture. I was set.
But with the help of some amazing mentors, I began moving more towards the idea that kids need to be active users of evidence while solving problems. And there is now a clear shift in social studies and history instruction towards this idea of historical thinking, using evidence, and problem solving. More and more teachers are using primary sources as integral pieces of the learning process.
There has been a cool supply and demand process happening over the last few years. Teachers want and need more primary sources. The internet has made those sources more available and accessible. More availability and accessibility means more teachers are using those sources. More teachers used to this availability of sources demand even more sources.
But there will always be questions about how to best use primary sources. A recent article by Discovery Ed’s Joe Sangillo does a nice job of highlighting five effective integration strategies. I’ve pasted a quick summary of Joe’s thinking but be sure to head over to Discovery Ed to get the full meal deal: Read more
My life pretty much revolves around technology. I just spent 15 minutes helping a colleague set up Messages on her Macbook. My family of four is constantly connected via a text group. (Latest conversation? Dogs during college finals.) I Skype and Google Hangout. I play video games – console and mobile.
I currently have six different types of smart devices within arm’s reach. I travel all over the country helping teachers integrate games and iPads and Chromebooks and web tools and GAFE into their instruction. I’ve got enough SAMR model examples to last for months.
So perhaps the title of today’s post seems a bit out of place.
But a recent article in InformEd has got me thinking. Titled Read more