Dan Krutka and I got to know each other several years ago when he was teaching and working at Wichita State. Dan was one of the original #sschat folks and did a ton for social studies ed here in Kansas. He’s since moved to Texas but continues to be a force in the social studies education and edtech world.
A couple of months ago, we started thinking about doing a series of livestreams. And we figured, why not? We’d get smarter together, maybe a few other people might get smarter, and it gave us both an excuse to spend some time talking about social studies. Cause who doesn’t love talking about social studies? So we sketched out a quick plan that let us hang out once a month, talking about, well . . . social studies tech related stuff.
Dan set up some quick StreamYard / YouTube connections and we streamed a couple of test runs. And last week, we rolled out an actual episode on what we hope will be a regular schedule – the first Monday of the month.
The March episode started with what turned out to be an extended conversation around a Top Ten tech list that Dan had created back in 2017. Dan was curious if any tools that made his list were still usable. We decided yes and no.
- We’re upset about Google Expeditions
- We love Smithsonian Learning Lab
- Docsteach is still awesome
- Chronicling America has been updated
We eventually got to a discussion about the power of Hexagonal Thinking and a few tech tools that can help you pull it off.
Catch the latest episode below and save the date to stop by April 5 on Dan’s channel: Read more
In a 2013 article in Wired magazine, written following one of the government shutdowns of the time, author Clive Thompson suggested that members of Congress should eat their own dog food. Thompson describes the “hardships” Congressmen had to endure as they waited in long airport security lines, rushing out of town on their way to hit up potential donors. Long lines they created by failing to solve federal budget issues, a failure that kicked in the ridiculous sequester idea.
“Critics warned that the sequester would cause hardship throughout the country, but congress-folk didn’t care — until they had to share in the pain. When they discovered that the sequester was eating into their vacation time, they rushed back to the Capitol and passed a law restoring funding to airports, working so fast that part of the bill was handwritten. Congress, it turns out, isn’t paralyzed. It’s just not motivated. In this spirit, there’s one simple way to get our do-nothing legislators off the dime: Have them eat their own dog food.”
Thompson goes on to describe a term I had never heard of before. In the world of software coding, “dogfooding” describes the habit of programmers actually using their own products, “day in and day out.” Invented in the early 1980s, the term – and the practice – continues because it works. Forced to live with their own code, programmers can quickly see what works and what doesn’t work. And just as quickly fix it.
Thompson suggests that Washington would be a bit more successful if Congress actually experienced life as they code it. They don’t live like . . . well, like you and me. Incredibly cheap and well run health insurance. Private schools for their kids. Great pensions. People throwing money at them left and right.
We all know that I spent a significant amount of my formative years digging through old National Geographic maps. You know the ones I’m talking about. They got slipped into the middle of the magazine and unfolded into poster size after you discovered them. I still have an old shoebox full of them. Cause they’re just so cool.
So it shouldn’t surprise any of you that an online article about maps, especially one from National Geographic, is going to catch my attention. But before we head over to take a look, a quick geography mental map quiz.
First step, create a mental map of the world. (If you’ve got a few extra minutes and some paper and pencil, feel free to draw it out.)
Mental map ready?
Okay . . . based on your mental (or actual) map of the world, answer a few simple questions:
- How much of South America is east of Miami, Florida?
- How much of Africa is north of the equator?
- Which city is located further north – Paris, France or Montreal, Canada?
- Venice, Italy is located at the same latitude of what major American city?
- Which is bigger? The lower 48 United States or Brazil?
I can’t remember where I first learned about hexagons in the classroom. But I’ve loved them ever since I started exploring the idea. If you’re already using hexagons, good on you. You are excused. (Though feel free to hang around for a quick refresher and maybe a couple of new tools.)
If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about, you’re in the right place.
Using hexagonal thinking in the social studies classroom is a way for students to think about and understand connections between ideas, people, places, dates, events – basically all the stuff we’re asking our kids to mess with while they’re in our classrooms. Hexagons are a perfect tool for creating intentional conversations between students and content. They give you a great tool to encourage deep and critical thinking about the foundational knowledge that make up the discipline.
Why are they perfect?
A hexagon can connect with six other hexagons. And those six can connect with even more. So when you put a bunch of ideas or events, people or places on a bunch of hexagons and pass them out to different groups of kids, every conversation and every set of connections will be different, even though the decks of hexagons they received are all the same. The discussions that develop will go in all sorts of directions, with kids asking questions and justifying their connections with evidence. And this works in all the social studies disciplines.
The basic idea? Read more
Inquiry is one of the biggest buzz words in the social studies world. And it should be. Having kids use evidence to solve problems is a great way to build foundational knowledge while encouraging critical thinking skills. About I year ago, I ran across a great resource designed specifically to help teachers use and develop there own inquiry based lessons.
So today it’s Throwback Thursday.
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You’re looking to create an Inquiry Design Model lesson and need some resources. Maybe you and your kids are getting ready to start a problem-based project. Perhaps you need some really good thinking or writing prompts. Or four or five engaging primary sources to add to your instructional unit.
Where do you go to find what you’re looking for? What’s your go to?
The Library of Congress, National Archives, and SHEG are my top three. But I’ve got a new favorite.
Developed by the folks at Maryland Public Television, the Maryland Department of Education, and the Maryland Humanities Council with funding from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program, the recently created Social Studies Inquiry Kits give you access to great questions and powerful primary sources.
Each kit contains three guiding questions, five primary sources, and one secondary source. The Inquiry Kits are designed specifically to help as you plan your instruction. We know that it can be hard to work with primary sources in many of our classrooms. Sources are often not accessible, because of illegible text, high reading level, or simply a lack of interest on the part of students.
So how can Inquiry Kits help? Read more
I thought I knew the Smithsonian History Explorer. I’ve been using it and recommending it for years. But I was wrong. I don’t know the Smithsonian History Explorer.
Not like I should know it. Cause they’ve changed and updated it.
So if you teach US history (or even world), you seriously need to head over and do some poking around. The staff from the Smithsonian Museum of American History has added so many new resources, lessons, activities, and themes, I guarantee you’ll walk away with all sorts of stuff you can incorporate into your instruction tomorrow.
Start by using the Read more