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Posts tagged ‘world history’

Powerful China Educator Toolkit from Chicago Field Museum

On occasion, I have been accused of being too US history centric at the expense of world history, civics, and econ. And it’s possible.


At times.

Yeah, okay. It’s true. But seriously . . . come on. It’s the Civil War. Lewis and Clark. Teddy Roosevelt. Gordon Parks. The Amazon Army in southeast Kansas. Freedom Riders. Who doesn’t love those stories?

But I am working to get better at finding stuff that is useful across the disciplines. So I was excited to get a press release from the Chicago Field Museum about what looks like some very cool and useful Chinese history and cultural instructional resources. If you teach middle or high school world history, this is definitely worth a look.
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Digging Deeper into World History Primary Sources

Several months ago, I had the privilege to keynote the online Digging Deeper into Primary Sources conference hosted by the South Dakota State Library. The conference was a full day of conversations about why and how we should be using primary sources as part of our instruction.

Teachers, South Dakota library staff, and Library of Congress archivists shared a ton of great ideas and suggestions. Dr. Peggy O’Neill-Jones shared her thoughts on different strategies for document analysis, there were multiple lightning rounds of 15 minute presentations, and author Jean Patrick finished the day with a session titled Footnotes and Phone Calls: My Life as Nonfiction Detective. Everyone walked away smarter than when they walked in.

The cool thing is that the South Dakota library folks archived everything so you can pretend that you were a part of the day. Hand over to their site to harvest all the goodies.

But while we all agree that using primary sources is a good thing, I am often accused (and perhaps rightfully so) of not sharing enough world history resources. And so, for your viewing and teacher pleasure on a beautiful Friday afternoon, ten resources for finding world history primary sources: Read more

Throughout the Ages and other World History resources

Yesterday I spent most of the morning talking with a group of K-12 teachers in a small, rural district about how the many changes taking place in western culture impact kids and education. That conversation led us to basic overview of what we as educators can do to add a wide variety of instructional strategies to our tool kit.

I always enjoy this sort of discussion but cross-grade level, cross-content from kindergarten to high school is always, well . . . interesting. Everyone’s needs are so different in those sorts of groups. I’d much rather be in front of a group of history or social studies teachers. And in a perfect world? Middle school teachers.

I mean, these are my people. Who doesn’t love middle level history geeks?

So I was pumped when a teacher started a conversation by sharing that she was the new 6th World History teacher in her building. Turns out she’s never taught World History before. She’s a bit panicked because kids show up tomorrow and she’s struggling to find helpful resources.

I quickly gave a her list of places she can go for some fast help:

But I wanted to give her something specific for the lower grades and was drawing a blank. So last night I spent some time browsing the inter-webs and discovered a pretty handy site called Throughout the Ages.

Throughout the Ages is a visual educational resource from the New York State Archives that focuses on using historical records as learning tools in pre-K-grade 6 education. And while the site is specifically designed to help New York teachers, there’s some awesome stuff here that we all can use.

The site offers more than 500 digital images of historical photographs, letters, broadsides, maps and paintings and incorporates a cool feature called “Build Your Own Worksheet.”

The images are organized by topics, which are divided by subtopics. I ran across Throughout the Ages because it has some nice ancient world history for you 6th graders But US history is also included for other grades and is divided into subtopics that include Native Americans, Colonial America, Civil War, etc.

Each image is accompanied by a caption, and about half of the images also include prepared historical background information, focus questions, key ideas, a historical challenge, interdisciplinary connection activities and a list of additional resources. Images accompanied only by captions provide teachers with the option of writing in their own historical background information and questions.

I’m not a big fan of anything called a worksheet so I’m wishing that the site creators would have selected a different title then “Build Your Own Worksheet.” But the option does allow you to print out what I will call a “customized educational activity handout” for each image. You can select or deselect exactly what information you want to include along with the image.

For example, you can choose to print a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with the caption, historical background information, and questions that are provided. Or you can customize the printout by including only certain portions of the information from the website. I like that you can also edit and/or write in your own caption, historical background information and questions for each image.

So don’t let the word “worksheet” throw you. This customizable feature allows you to combine historical records and technology to promote the development of critical thinking skills, reading and writing skills and understanding of historical content and context.

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How NOT to teach World History in the 21st century


You’re kidding, right? This is the way we want to teach high school World History?

A recent article in the Washington Post describes the current thinking of history teachers at Westfield High School in Fairfax, Virginia. Titled “Curiosity is banned at Westfield High,” the article highlights one of the documents given to students called “Expectations of Integrity.” The document instructs students:

Students are only allowed to use your OWN knowledge, your OWN class notes, class handouts, your OWN class homework, or The Earth and Its Peoples textbook to complete assignments and assessments UNLESS specifically informed otherwise by your instructor.

That’s not all. Students can not use anything they find on the Internet. They are not permitted to discuss their assignments with friends, classmates, neighbors, parents, relatives or siblings.

Well . . . what about people you’ve never met? The instructors have that covered:

You may not discuss/mention/chat/hand signal/smoke signal/Facebook/IM/text/email to a complete stranger ANY answers/ideas/questions/thoughts/opinions/hints/instructions.

Violations of the “Expectations” will result in the proverbial death penalty – a zero on the assignment.


Yeah . . . I get it. Kids can plagiarize and text answers and go to Shmoop and do all sorts of “devious” things by taking advantage of current technology. And, yes, some sort of updated AUP and plagiarism policy is appropriate in any high school class. But there is so much wrong with this particular kind of thinking and teaching that I’m not really sure where to begin.

How about we start with just one?

Collaborative learning improves divergent thinking, encourages innovative thought and generates new questions / solutions. I’m no rocket scientist but I’m going to suggest that the opposite of collaborative learning – the atmosphere that apparently exists in World History classes in Fairfax – ruins divergent thinking, discourages innovative thought and generates no new questions / solutions.

In his recent book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, author Steven Johnson discusses the seven “patterns” that can be used to develop great ideas. Almost all of the patterns involve some sort of collaboration and sharing of resources. Johnson gave a brief overview during a recent TED talk as well as in a much shorter tease that’s making the internet rounds:

Robert Marzano’s research on what works in schools documents the effectiveness of cooperation and collaboration on learning.

cooperative learning has an effect size of .78 when compared with instructional strategies in which students work on tasks individually without competing with one another (individual student tasks).

That’s the equivalent of a percentile gain of 28. Not .28. Not 2.8. That’s 28 as in 14 times two.

Sir Ken Robinson has spent quite a bit of time researching and discussing the ways that education in general and teachers in particular can improve. Much of it has to do with allowing students to be creative and learn from each another and from outsiders. In a recent short talk, Robinson describes what’s really going on at Westfield:

Our children are living in the most intensively stimulating period in the history of the earth . . . and we’re penalizing them now for getting distracted. From what? Boring stuff at school, for the most part.

And I’m half a continent away from Virginia (both physically and apparently pedagogically as well), so I don’t have the complete story. Maybe the teachers have a very good reason for locking down how kids interact with content and others. Maybe there’s a purpose behind working so hard to control access to information, control thinking, control behavior.

But I just have to ask – do we really want to teach like this?

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World Digital Library

Do you teach World History?

Then the new World Digital Library is a must visit.

A cooperative project of the Library of Congress, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and partner libraries, archives, and educational and cultural institutions from the United States and around the world. The project brings together on a single website rare and unique documents – books, journals, manuscripts, maps, prints and photographs, films, and sound recordings – that tell the story of the world’s cultures. The site is intended for general users, students, teachers, and scholars.

world dig library

You can browse for resources by place, time, type of document or topic. You can search by keyword or by simply dragging the timeline bar to the period you’re researching. Once you find a collection or specific document, the site provides all sorts of ways to narrow your search or find related materials.

Pretty phenomenal way to store and access a huge range of stuff! The site seems great for training kids on 21st century search skills and a handy way for you to find useful resources.

If nothing else, it’s a wonderful place for history teachers to spend a couple of hours!