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Posts tagged ‘PBL’

History Detectives

I’ve been preaching the idea of history as mystery, of engaging questions for kids, of problem-based learning for a while now. Which makes it a bit weird that I haven’t heard of the PBS History Detectives series before now.

I guess I need to move out of the ESPN football channel range a bit more down to where PBS lives. (But in my defense, the KC Chiefs are leading their division so . . . )

But I am falling in love with the TV show and their very extensive website.

The show is devoted to exploring the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out the facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects.

Traditional investigative techniques, modern technologies, and plenty of legwork are the tools the History Detectives team of experts uses to give new – and sometimes shocking – insights into our national history.

Each hour-long episode of History Detectives features three investigations that delve into family legends, local folklore and stories behind potentially extraordinary objects in everyday American homes, cities and small towns. Follow the twists and turns of each investigation and find out more about the historical events that shaped America.

The viewer is included in each aspect of the detectives’ decision-making process, with explanations and rationales for each evaluative method. The viewers themselves get the chance to become armchair experts as the detectives describe in detail the purpose and method for each test.

Explore all the video, including full episodes and web exclusives, behind the scenes videos and tutorials on how to conduct your own investigations such as dating a house or spotting a fake artifact. So you don’t have record or DVR stuff to share with your kids.

If you need more help with your own investigations, visit Detective Techniques, with guides on how to research a WWII military record and more information on art and photo evaluation. You can also find a step-by-step guide to genealogy, researching buildings, document evaluation and much more.

The site also provides resources for use in the classroom. For Educators includes lesson plans and other tools to reinforce concepts from the programs, and develop student interest in the study of history and other core subjects.

History Detectives is a great way to engage kids in content at the same time as creating great questions for them to solve.

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Chaos and curiosity

Encourage curiosity and don’t be afraid to introduce chaos once in a while.

I like this. We should be doing this in our classrooms.

And, yes, I know most of us like things to be neat, tidy and orderly. But the world isn’t always neat and tidy. We need to push our kids a bit in our classrooms so that they’re ready to survive and battle in the real world.

The advice came from Army Chief of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey as he spoke last week to graduates from the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Dempsey added:

(Your subordinates) need to be a little surprised on occasion.

Your kids need to be surprised as well. He also elaborated a bit on the curiosity issue:

If we don’t deliberately nurture curiosity . . . we could inadvertently squash it.

I like that quote. We need to purposefully find ways to encourage questions and historical curiosity or our kids will settle deep into their chairs and never come out.

So . . . what does chaos and curiosity look like in a social studies / history class? I heard a teacher once describe it as

academic discomfort.

Academic discomfort is when a kid doesn’t have the answer but wants to find it. It’s when multiple choice and true/false questions just aren’t enough. And it boils down to this: Problem-Based Learning. Give kids great problems and questions to solve, provide a path to the resources, organize the groups and then step back and watch them flounder a bit.

It’s okay. You’re right there if they start going under too many times. Throw ’em a lifeline every once in while. But real learning happens when the brain is confused and has to solve the problem for itself.

Here’s a couple of examples that I think are awesome:

1. Is it ever okay for the government to violate the Bill of Rights?
A teacher used this as the guiding question to her WWII Japanese internment unit.

2. What should our response be to the Ogallala Aquifer problem?
In western Kansas, this Aquifer is life to everything . . . crop irrigation, city water supply, etc. The problem? It’s dropping about six feet a year. A teacher in the area tasked his senior level government students to solve the problem and present their findings to the May Water Board meeting.

Chaos and curiosity.

I like that.

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10 Tips for jump starting the school year

Several months ago, I had the chance to listen to and meet Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss at the Laptop Leaders Academy at Mitchell, SD. They are doing some incredibly cool stuff with PBL around the country and so I’ve been following their blog these last few months.

A recent post at Reinventing Project-Based Learning was a link to an Edutopia PDF document that can “jump starting” the beginning of the school year. It’s got ten tips and useful resources to help you integrate technology into your instruction.

Useful stuff! Find it here.

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