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Posts tagged ‘primary sources’

Oh so sweet iPad app – The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924

With over 1,500,000 apps available in the iTunes App Store and more being added every day, it’s not easy keeping up with the latest iOS tools for social studies. But I’m still a bit surprised that it took a year for me to run across The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924. When a great app comes out, there’s usually at least a little bit of a buzz. A blog post somewhere. A mention at a conference. A cutting edge teacher tweeting out a lesson plan idea.

But The New Immigrants was released way back in December 2014, a lifetime in the app world, and I just this week ran across it. I know that some of you have probably already been using it but for those of you who haven’t? You need to jump on this because the app is oh so sweet.

Sweet for several reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is that immigration and refugees and “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” and the principles on which this country was founded are part of the current conversation. One of the most difficult things you are expected to do is to connect past and present – to find ways to help kids see how what happened 120 years ago still has relevance. And having intelligent conversations about how America reacted to immigrants and refugees in her past can lead to intelligent conversations about how she should respond to current immigration and refugee issues.

(The key phrase here being intelligent conversations – a skill that I think could use some improvement considering what we’ve been hearing lately.)

So . . . sweet because it’s relevant.

And doubly sweet because the app uses hundreds of primary sources, great guiding questions, and a focus on using evidence to solve problems to support high-quality historical thinking. Did I mention that the apps is free?

It’s a win / win / win.

Created by the New York City Department of Education, The New Immigrants iOS app includes Read more

10 things to think about as you integrate primary sources

As the social studies and history disciplines move more to a “doing” model that focuses on developing thinking skills, it becomes even more important to incorporate different sorts of evidence into instruction. But sometimes in the rush to use a variety of evidence, we can get too caught up in the “all primary sources, all the time” school of thought.

Yes. We need to use primary sources as part of the process. But we don’t always think it through completely. We add primary sources without any conversation about how or why we should. How many primary sources? Which ones? Why not these? How do we balance perspectives? Should we balance perspective? Should we modify the documents? Why and how should we modify them?

In the October History Matters newsletter from the NCHE, Lee Eysturlid does a nice job of addressing these sorts of questions in his article title The Top 10 Considerations When Using Primary Sources with Grades 8-12.

I’ve summarized his ideas here but you need to head over there to get the full effect. Read more

Digital Docs in a Box

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

Tip of the Week: Teaching with Primary Sources Teacher Network

Most social studies and history teachers are aware of the vast amount of resources, lesson plans, and teaching materials available at the Library of Congress. You can spend hours and hours browsing through their Teachers page, their standards aligned lessons, professional development tools, and their primary source sets. Or their teaching blog. Or their ten Twitter accounts and other social media tools. Or Today in History. You might spend time at their Places in the News page. Or perhaps their site for elementary kids. Maybe their interactive iBooks. And if you get really lost, you can always just Ask a Librarian.

You get the idea.

They have tons of stuff.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve been missing out on another Library of Congress related tool. Titled the TPS Teachers Network, Read more

Library of Congress Online Conference: It’s free, it’s awesome, and you’ll walk away smarter

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

StoryCorps, oral history, and Thanksgiving

October 30, 2015

You might find this YouTube video useful as you and your kids conduct your interviews. Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, provides some specific interviewing tips. It’s a great resource!


I’ve been on the road quite a bit over the last few months and staying alert during long car rides was becoming a problem. Enter the technology. Both my kids suggested I check out the NPR RadioLab podcast, an incredibly interesting collection of incredibly eclectic topics. I listened to stories about the history of football with a focus on the Indian school in Carlisle PA to using forest fires as a way of increasing bird populations to POW camps holding captured Germans in the US to how Mel Blanc was brought out of a coma by an impression of Bugs Bunny.

Seriously. RadioLab is awesome stuff.

But that got me looking around for other things to listen to. Which led my to another  excellent NPR audio program called StoryCorps. Read more


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