There’s nothing like watching a movie in a big screen theater – the kind that bans small children and has heated reclining seats – holding a mega-tub of popcorn with a side of nacho cheese and a Diet Pepsi.
(You mean you don’t dip individual pieces of popcorn into nacho cheese while watching movies? While then . . . you’re welcome.)
And it’s even better when the movie is history related.
I’ve written about movies before. Because I like movies. I’m also convinced, when used appropriately, that they’re great teaching and learning tools. And a recent Smithsonian article highlighting their choices for best history movies of the last ten years got me thinking. So now I’m curious . . . what were the best movies of the last decade? Maybe more important, how can we use them as part of our instruction?
Google tools. Good.
Google map tools. Awesome.
The move by Google to create a web-based version of Google Earth a few years ago made sense. They needed something that would work on mobile devices and Chromebooks. But as a huge lover of the Desktop Pro version of GE, the problem for me was that the web-based version lacked so many of Pro’s bells and whistles.
I loved the ability to create tours and Google LitTrips, to use Historical Imagery, to combine different layers of data tell amazing stories. Sure. There was Tour Builder and My Maps but my heart still belonged to Google Earth.
But apparently Google listened in on enough of my conversations to do something about my need for tour creation tools in the web-based version of GE. A few weeks ago, they finally added the ability to generate tours with some pretty sweet features.
(If you’re semi-new to the Google Earth world, there are multiple versions. There’s the original Pro version that you install directly onto your laptop or desktop, there’s the more recent web-based version that runs through the Chrome browser – including on Chromebooks, and there are mobile app versions that run on tablets and phones. We’re talking about the web-based Chrome version here. While you can view tours created on the Pro and web versions on mobile versions of GE, you’re still not able to create tours on the mobile versions. Clear as mud?)
These new features help you and students Read more
Can you ever have too many maps?
The obvious answer is no. You can never have too many maps.
So when I ran across some very cool old maps last Saturday at the Wichita Flea Market, there really wasn’t any question about whether or not I would buy them. The question was how many will I buy.
I settled on two. Which means my wife helped me decide that I should settle on two. There are quite a few maps already in my house and I was gently made aware of that fact. Which means semi-gently.
Both of the maps I walked away with are almost 100 years old. One is a 1924 map of tourist Rome published in Italian, the other a map highlighting the 1924 British Empire Exhibition with suggested mass transit options from around the London metro area. So cool.
Perfect for displaying, reading, primary source analysis, (the Empire Exhibition and its various colonial pavilions is just asking for some in-depth conversation) or just wafting in the 100 year old smell.
But while we all can agree how cool old maps are, new maps are nothing to sneeze at. I love the ability of digitized maps to allow access to all sorts of data in all sorts of very visual ways. Take a look at these two Read more
Back in the day, Madeline Hunter ruled.
I never actually met Madeline but for a time, it was like we were joined at the hip. College of Ed professors loved her. Principals loved her. Teacher observation and evaluation tools loved her even more. And so all of my early teaching years were focused on her theories and lesson plan designs.
For the non-Boomers in the room, a quick review of Madeline’s design:
- Anticipatory set
Do something that introduces the lesson, hooks kids into wanting to learn the lesson, and establish your objectives for the lesson.
- Direct instruction
Foundational knowledge – the facts, ideas, and skills – is delivered to the students. Usually some sort of lecture, video, or reading.
- Guided practice and application
The teacher helps students apply what they have just been taught.
- Independent practice and application
Students apply the learning on their own.
The teacher measures how well students have met the objectives.
It’s not like this is terrible instruction. Making it clear to kids what our expectations are is good. Finding ways for them to collect and organize foundation knowledge? Good. Independent application? Absolutely. Done right? Pretty darn good.
But like a lot of things, Madeline’s best intentions rarely made it into actual practice. Back in the day, I was usually okay with step one. I could hook kids into content. But after that? Not so much.
I ended up teaching like I had been taught. How the teachers down the hallway were teaching. Direct instruction to me meant lecture, the occasional video, and a lot of assigned readings. If there was any guided practice and independent practice, it usually involved lots of homework and worksheets.
I got better. I started doing more hands on projects and cooperative learning. But there was still a lot of direct instruction. And while the projects were engaging and kids enjoyed them, I didn’t work super hard at making them relevant or tying them to big ideas. So I had a fun class but I’m not really sure students walked any out any smarter than when they walked in.
As my own kids entered and left social studies classrooms throughout their 13 school years, it became clear that they were having similar experiences. There were some hands on projects and occasional awesomeness (thanks Mr. Robb.) But they still experienced a lot of direct instruction and “independent” practice in the form of study guides and worksheet packets.
Is it possible to take the best parts of Madeline’s model and adapt it to a world that needs our students to be engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens? Read more
Six years ago, almost to the day, I uploaded a post titled New standards, the C3, dinosaurs, and Social Studiesball. The state of Kansas was in its very first year of implementing a new set of social studies standards – a set of standards that focused on creating a balance of content and historical thinking skills. A lot less memorizing and a whole lot more application and process.
It freaked some people out.
It freaked a lot of people out.
It was a different way of doing social studies. More student centered. More skills based. More problem solving. More use of evidence to support claims. Less focus on specific content and recall of basic facts. Heck . . . the state department of education basically said “within these rough scope and sequence parameters, teach whatever you want.” No check boxes of required test items. No multiple choice state assessment.
The 2013 post used the Michael Lewis book & Brad Pitt movie Moneyball as an example of how a shift in thinking can impact current practice.
And now, after six years, we’re revising the document and the state assessment with an even stronger focus on the inquiry model and historical thinking processes. It seems appropriate to revisit the 2013 post with a few updates.
A few years back, I picked up a book called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. It focused on the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team and their general manager, Billy Beane. Burdened by a lack of funds, Beane was constantly struggling to win games against teams with way more money to pay their players than he did. But by 2002, during a season that saw his team set a century old record for consecutive wins, Beane had found a way to beat those teams.
Sabermetrics is the application of statistical analysis in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players. But not the traditional statistics. Beane and the A’s looked at a completely different set of statistics in ways that hadn’t been done before. This different way of thinking about baseball gave them a competitive advantage – they could now find solid players that had been ignored by everyone else. And because these players were being ignored by everyone else, the A’s could pay them less and win games while staying within their budget.
Win / win. A sweet team for less money.
The problem? Read more