Several years ago, at the 2013 NCSS conference in St, Louis, I had the opportunity to sit in a session by Mark Hofer and Kathy Swan. Mark teaches at the College of William and Mary, Kathy at the University of Kentucky. During their 2013 session, they suggested that student created documentaries are a great way to engage learners, align instruction to standards, and build foundational knowledge.
But they also admitted that using documentaries as teaching and learning tools can be difficult. They warned about serving a green pancake. Eating a green pancake will get someone’s attention but the pancake doesn’t taste any different or provide any more nutrition. It’s just green. But we can get very excited about it because, well . . . it’s green. So it must be really good. Technology can be like this.
It’s the shiny object idea I’ve talked about before. Technology, while important, is not necessary in every step of the documentary creation process. Make sure that kids are focused on the gathering of social studies content, on answering big ideas and rich questions, and on creating original solutions. Then you can begin to incorporate technology.
They also talked about the very practical problem of how much time it can take to use this sort of learning tool in the classroom.
Mark shared his idea of using Evidence-Based Arguments as a starting point. Every historical investigation needs to begin with a great question. Then they asked kids to do research and create videos. But what they got was disappointing. What they got was basically text with pictures, a script with a background. It wasn’t a story, it wasn’t engaging, and it often didn’t really answer the question. They begin to realize that they needed to learn more about how to create high-quality documentaries, how to use images and video to actually tell a story.
Mark and Kathy have continued to develop their ideas of integrating digital documentaries into instruction. And I recently learned about their latest project. Read more
Need some free PD on using primary sources? Need some awesome PD on using primary sources? Want to get smarter? Be a better teacher?
Then you need to join the first Library of Congress online conference for educators on October 27-28 from 4-8 ET. You can pick and choose when you attend and what specifically looking to learn. Titled The Library of Congress and Teachers Unlocking the Power of Primary Sources, the conference has some incredible speakers and sessions. So pick and choose your favorites from below and be prepared to learn a ton.
The keynote speaker will be the distinguished photographer Carol Highsmith, who will discuss her decades-long project of documenting the United States in a one-hour conversation with Helena Zinkham, chief of the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division.
Over the course of those two days, there will be 15 one-hour sessions facilitated by Library specialists, instructional experts from the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources Consortium, and other recognized K-12 leaders. Highlights include: Read more
Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.
Examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past. Helping students analyze primary sources can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.
But maybe you’re not sure what to do with them or how to use them in your classroom.
The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program provides primary source-based, independent study professional learning. Earn a certificate of completion by taking the Library’s self-paced interactive modules. Each multimedia-rich program delivers approximately one hour of staff development.
Head over to get the full details or click a link below to jump in with both feet: Read more
Complete the following sentence in your head.
Every workshop I attend should . . .
My first thought?
include snacks and very large Diet Pepsi.
But I suppose there are a few other ways to complete the sentence. A couple of weeks ago I ran across a very interesting post by Pernille Ripp titled Every Workshop I Attend Should . . . What Attendees Wish We Knew. Powerful stuff. As someone who spends a lot of time working with teachers, it was a great reminder of what a good PD session should look like.
- Teachers want choice
- They want to connect with others and content
- They want to be acknowledged as experts
- They want practical ideas
- They want to be inspired
- They want the focus to be on students
- They want it to be fun
And I’m a big believer in face to face, professional learning in groups. I love the interaction that can happen when teachers passionate about the profession get together. Using Ripp’s list as a guide is a wonderful way to measure whether the learning is of high quality.
But with this new fangled interwebs thing out there, there is also personal professional growth opportunities available that would have been impossible to find even five years ago. So where can you find professional development options that contain all of the things on Ripp’s list? Read more