Every once in a while, while traveling around the country, I’ll get the chance to meet and chat with one of them. My daughter calls them fanboys. You might call them uberfans. A polite term might be avid followers. But we’ve all met someone like this. People who just can’t get enough of The Avengers or the Kansas Jayhawks or House of Cards or whatever they’ve decided is the thing around which their world rotates.
And whenever I run into this particular type of fanboy, I have to smile. Because they are so passionate and fun to be around.
I’m talking, of course, about the people who just can’t get enough of Rick Steves. And if you’ve never heard of Rick Steves, well . . . you just haven’t had the chance to spend time with one of his uberfans. Because if you had, you would have definitely heard all about him. They take their love of Rick to a whole new level.
I get it. Rick Steves is the ultimate in travel advice. He has books, TV shows, radio, podcasts, websites, articles, and blog posts – all talking about and sharing information about travel. Where to go. What to take with you. The best places to eat. To stay. The best museums. Suggestions for planes, trains, and automobiles. He does it all and he’s been doing it for a long time.
All of this to say that Rick Steves knows travel. And he has a ton of followers who know he knows travel. So when he shares his ideas about the whys and hows of travel, it’s probably a good idea to listen to what he has to say.
And while I’m not a Steves uberfan, there is one message he shares that I really like. Read more
First things first. If you haven’t hung out at Russell Tarr’s Toolbox, you need to head over there when we’re finished here. Russell has been creating and sharing cool tools for social studies teachers forever and it’s all incredibly handy stuff. (You might have run across Russell’s ideas before on his Active History or ClassTools.net sites.)
About a month ago, I was on his site and ran across something that I thought was very cool. I’d been searching for ideas on how to help elementary kids source evidence. You know – author, date created, audience, intent, the sort of questions that are the foundation of historical thinking.
My goto strategy has been one shared by the Library of Congress that helps kids all the way down to kindergarten start the process of historical thinking – by training them to ask questions about primary sources. The LOC example focuses on the idea of Read more
The more I talk with elementary and middle school social studies teachers, the more I realize that a ton of their kids are playing Minecraft. My question to the teachers is pretty simple. How can you leverage the interest in this tool and begin to incorporate Minecraft into the learning that happens in your classroom?
And the response has been fairly positive. A number of teachers are working to find ways to use Minecraft as part of their instruction. Yesterday, I wrote a quick post about my own experience of being the type of teacher that focused instruction around the memorization of content knowledge, rather than the authentic use of that knowledge.
It was Trivia Crack instruction – random facts that mean nothing without context.
Over time, I moved away from that and begin to realize that there are a ton of ways for kids to learn and for me to teach. One of those methods is to integrate the use of games and simulations into the learning process. The cool thing about games and sims is that to be successful while playing often requires “non-traditional” types of classroom learning: non-fiction and technical reading / writing, research, teamwork, cross-curricular content, emotional connections to content, cause and effect, and the use of lots and lots of evidence.
Another cool thing about the use of Minecraft is the fairly easy ability to mod – modify – the game. Many current games have this feature built in but Minecraft software is basic enough so that even elementary kids are doing it.
And several weeks ago, Read more
I used to be that guy. The Trivia Crack guy. It was all I knew.
Lecture. Have kids outline the lecture. Grade the notes, hoping for just about any sort of organizational structure. Quizzes along the way. Maybe a worksheet. Throw in a map to color. Test at the end of the chapter.
Most of my own history instruction followed this pattern. And I was great at this sort of stuff. 105 Kansas counties? No problem. When did Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address? Yup. I got that. Causes of World War One? MAIN acronym. Boom.
And if you’re old enough to remember the analog Trivia Crack version called Trivia Pursuit, you’re gonna have to trust me – I owned that game. Seriously. Steve Schmidt and I were unbeatable.
(Don’t know about Trivia Crack? Stay away. Stay far, far away.)
So when I became a teacher? Read more
“What thoughtful, intelligent people do with their brains is to mull over inconsistency. When two ideas are in conflict and you have to struggle to make sense of that conflict, that is when thinking starts.”
One of the many topics that a group of teachers and I messed with earlier this week was the idea of using debates in class. How can we set up activities during which kids support specific positions using evidence – which is good – without having the debate disintegrate into emotional arguing – which is bad?
Civil discourse. Evidence-based discussion. Consensus building. Solving problems together.
Yelling. Emotion-based arguments. Talk show pundits acting like children. Winners and losers. No solutions.
And you gotta know . . . Read more
Over the last few months, I’ve tried to be more intentional about listening to and creating more podcasts. I’ve always loved the concept of podcasts – accessing content, anywhere, anytime. Tons of people have shared with me that they love listening to podcasts while they drive places.
That’s not something I can do – listening to stuff while I drive just ends sounding like the adult voices in the Peanuts shows. I get nothing. But if that works for you . . .
Because podcasts are more than just something for us to use as a way to kill time during a commute. Podcasts can also act as a great way to connect content with students and for students to demonstrate knowledge / skills.
So. Podcasts good.
And this morning, Read more