by Matt Doran
For a recent professional development workshop, I set out to create learning modules that would introduce middle school teachers to some interactive online games and simulations. Finding quality interactives that met my search parameters proved be a challenging task, but one that resulted in a good collection of digital interactives.
First, the interactives needed to align with one of five themes based on our middle school social studies standards (created as Google Classroom “breakouts” for the PD experience): American History/Civics, Ancient History, Economics, Medieval/Early Modern History, and World Geography.
Second, to align with the pedagogical emphasis of the PD experience, these interactives also needed to go beyond trivia or review games. They needed to emphasize process standards in the areas of historical or spatial thinking and decision-making skills. Our state content standards are mostly conceptual in nature (cause-and-effect, patterns, processes)-- so most military simulation games really didn’t fit the parameters well.
Third, the interactives needed to be web-based (not downloaded software) and free of charge. Since we are a chromebook district, I did not worry about mobile capability with iOS, so flash games were fair game.
After searching with a variety of keywords and using many online lists (and finding many broken links), I came up with the collection below, organized by theme. (Note: the quality of these interactives varies greatly, but I avoided a rating system for now.)
Medieval/Early Modern History
Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Feel free to comment below)
1. What do you see as the benefits of online simulation activities?
2. How could you incorporate these activities into classroom instruction? (even if you do not have 1:1 devices)
by Matt Doran
John Hattie's meta-meta analysis on visible learning demonstrates the impact of instructional practices on student achievement. Teachers and students can use Google Apps to make these practices more effective. The infographic below highlights some of the top influences on student achievement along with their effect size, and suggested uses of G Suite for implementation.
by Matt Doran
Google Apps include powerful tools for developing student-centered classrooms and 21st century learning. The infographic below highlights 10 strategies for using G Suite to cultivate disciplinary thinking and skills.
by Matt Doran
This year’s election was a keen reminder to all of us in the civic education community of the importance of teaching students how to evaluate online information. Fake news--in the form of click bait, political propaganda, falsified images, and spurious memes--permeates social media feeds today. Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed highlights the problem in the video linked here. How do we teach students (and citizens) to evaluate online information in order to make informed decisions?
The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) and the News Literacy Project (NLP) are both taking up the worthy task helping students evaluate online information. SHEG has recently developed and administered assessment tasks for civic online reasoning--the ways in which students search for, assess, and evaluate online information. Civic online reasoning consists of three core competencies: 1) Who is behind the information? 2) What is the evidence? and 3) What do other sources say?
In increasing order of complexity, here are three performance tasks SHEG developed to assess students' use of online information.
The News Literacy Project has developed a suite of teaching tools and elearning modules for evaluating online information:
We have much work to do in the field of civic education in order to help our students become informed participatory citizens. As the methods of receiving and processing information change in the 21st century, our teaching approaches must keep up. SHEG’s civic online reasoning and NLP’s news literacy tools can help us accomplish this task.
by Matt Doran
The emphasis on historical thinking and critical textual analysis has been one of the most positive developments in the field of social studies education in recent years. Reading Like a Historian, Document-Based Questions, Common Core Literacy in History, the C3 Framework, and the new AP U.S. History all place these skills at the forefront of effective history/social science pedagogy. While these have been important skills within the discipline for some time, they are increasingly being recognized as interdisciplinary skills as well. Accordingly, the myth that social studies must be a “backburner” subject can be thoroughly debunked.
At the 2016 National Council for the Social Studies Conference, I was excited to see how the new SAT is assessing and reporting on students' abilities to critically analyze history and social science related texts on the Reading, Writing & Language, and Math tests. The texts are drawn from a category of “U.S. Founding Documents and Texts from the Great Global Conversation.” These include, “engaging, often historically and culturally important, works grappling with the issues at the heart of civic and political life.” Students need to be able to: read historical sources, cite evidence to support arguments, and interpret informational social science graphics. On the Math test, questions involving problem solving & data analysis can assess students’ understanding of how to draw a reliable conclusion to a social studies research question.
Six full-length practice tests for the SAT can be accessed online here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/practice/full-length-practice-tests. To group the questions related to history/social studies, download the “Scoring Your SAT Practice Test” for each test and scroll to the section labeled “Get Cross-Test Scores” (green).
The inclusion of history/social studies textual analysis on the new SAT also demonstrates the increasing alignment of College Board initiatives. College Board recommends using the practice DBQs and Short-Answer Questions from the new AP U.S. History as SAT preparation tools. This is another positive step in the direction of developing the critically-minded students and citizens we need for the 21st century world.
by Matt Doran
Bags are packed. Guidebook app is marked. It's time for #NCSS16. This will be my seventh NCSS Conference, and I have lost track of how many Washington D.C. trips I have made in the last 10 years. I am a lifelong learner, and I take conferences pretty seriously. They are always energizing experiences. I have a broad range of responsibilities in my job, and even more professional interests, which means I am never at a loss for a relevant session. In fact, my main problem has been deciding among the 4-5 sessions I have marked for each time slot.
A few years ago, a colleague and fellow NCSS conference fan introduced me to the the concept of the conference hashtag and Twitter dicussions in general, both of which have empowered my personal learning network at conferences and beyond. This year I'm hoping to add a few live blog posts to my social media presence. Modeling our expectations for teachers and students, there is no better way to process a day of learning than to immediately write and share out some thoughtful reflections.
On a related note, I am also happy to announce a new collorative effort for the Social Studies for the 21st Century blog. My colleagues, Karen Fiedler and Lynda Ray, will be joining the blog (bitmojis and profiles coming soon!). They are two of the finest educators I have worked with in my career--insightful leaders, inspiring role models, and passionate advocates for all children. I am confident that our team effort will far outshine my quite sporadic blogging efforts!
by Matt Doran Updated infographic with new content literacy tools 2/2/19
Skills: What do we want students to be able to do? Critically analyze texts, research to deepen understanding, and construct evidence-based arguments.
Literacy across the curriculum goals can be summarized in three learning targets:
1. Read Closely for Textual Details
2. Research to Deepen Understanding
3. Construct Evidence-Based Arguments
Here are 13 web tools and apps that support one or more of these targets. All of these tools are free at some level; some also offer upgraded premium versions.
by Matt Doran
According to dual coding theory, knowledge is stored in both linguistic and non-linguistic (imagery) forms. Pictographic organizers combine the linguistic and non-linguistic modes. They use words, phrases, and sentences along with pictures and symbols to show relationships.
The pictographic organizers below provide visual note-taking tools to sharpen historical thinking skills. It is important to note that graphic organizers are only a tool, and must be coupled with inquiry-based pedagogy to maximize effectiveness. Students should be actively engaged in collecting and organizing information in graphic organizers and processing the information from graphic organizers in a variety of ways.
Note: Click on the images to download the .png files. The files are designed in 4:3 format for easy integration into presentation software and apps.
Classify Information (e.g., social, political, economic factors; types of government)
Analyze Cause and Effect Relationships
Evaluate Alternative Courses of Action
Compare Perspectives in Historical Sources
Determine Central Ideas and Supporting Details
Make Claims and Counterclaims
Support Claims with Evidence and Reasoning
Weigh Arguments For and Against a Position
Write Persuasive Essays
What are the big ideas, essential questions, and key thinking skills in your social studies classroom? How transferable are they?
"We don't learn in school just to stay in school for the rest of our lives. We have to be able to transfer what we learn in one setting and use it somewhere else. In order to transfer our knowledge we have to be able to learn things in a way that is flexible, that sees the connections between one use of the knowledge and another use of the knowledge.”
- Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University
“The challenge of education is always to ask: What is the least amount of material we can teach really well that will, in turn, make it possible for students to use that knowledge in the widest possible range of situations, not only situations that we can anticipate, but also situations that no one can anticipate. That is, abstractly, the problem of transfer: how can you learn less, and make much more of it?”
- Lee Shulman, President of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
by Matt Doran
Many observers of contemporary American politics believe we have reached the pinnacle of demagoguery and political posturing. True enough, negative campaigning, vitriolic personal attacks, divisive rhetoric, and other forms of incivility, are commonplace today. This conclusion, however, is drawn from a presentist view of the world, rather than from clear historical thinking. Historically speaking, incivility has been a rule rather than an exception in American politics. It is, however, a rule that surely needs to be (and indeed can be) broken.
The use of demagoguery—an appeal to people that plays on their emotions and prejudices rather than on their rational side—is as old as politics itself, dating back to Ancient Greece. The American founders understood this propensity. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 71, notes, “The republican principle… does not require an unqualified complaisance…to every transient impulse that people may receive from the arts of men who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests.” In Federalist 55, James Madison argues, “In all very numerous assemblies … passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.”
In one of first contested presidential elections in 1800, the campaigns of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams engaged in an acerbic war of words. Among other things, Jefferson supporters called Adams a "hideous hermaphroditical character." In turn, Adams supporters branded Jefferson “the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father,” “an atheist," and “a coward.” The legendary Lincoln-Douglas Senate debates of 1858 were equally vicious, sardonic, and crude. Douglas repeatedly referred to Lincoln’s "Black Republican" party and made frequent use of the N-word. No doubt, hundreds of similar examples could be culled from the archives of twentieth century elections as well.
To point out this history is not to suggest that we should lose hope in a better America. To the contrary, knowing this history is the first step in overcoming it. What we need is not a return to some mythical golden age of politics and statesmanship, but to move beyond the vices of our fathers and our own base instincts. In short, we need a new era of reasoned civil discourse grounded in logic, humility, and empathy.
The key to the future, therefore, lies in humanities education. As Sam Wineburg argues, “My claim in a nutshell is that history holds the potential, only partly realized, of humanizing us in ways offered by few other areas in the school curriculum. … Each generation must ask itself anew why studying the past is important, and remind itself why history can bring us together rather than—as we have seen most recently—tear us apart.”
First, history teaches us how to think. History and civics education must go beyond a curriculum mired in trivia and facts. The answers to the questions we pose should not be Googleable. We must engage students in the compelling, philosophical, and persistent questions that shape humanity. As students pursue answers to these questions, they learn to gather evidence, make inferences, contextualize sources, distinguish facts from value judgments, and identify fallacious reasoning.
Second, when we encounter a multiplicity of voices and human experiences, we are humbled by the vast sea of events, information and ideas, and how little we know. Doing history teaches us to avoid hard-and-fast conclusions, but rather to hold suppositions as tentative. The past is gone; only remnants remain. Sometimes new remnants come to light or new ways of looking at old remnants are encouraged, forcing us to rethink our interpretations.
Third, history teaches empathy. Empathy is walking in another person’s shoes, the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. As Jason Endocott and Sarah Brooks write, “historical empathy is the process of students’ cognitive and affective engagement with historical figures to better understand and contextualize their lived experiences, decisions, or actions.”
The methods we use to teach history are important to cultivating these dispositions. The Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) is a good starting point. This strategy blends the best of evidence-based argumentation with civil discourse. As described on the Teaching American History Clearinghouse website:
The Center for Civic Education’s We the People program is another model program for engaging students in civil discourse. Teams of students prepare oral arguments for a simulated Congressional hearing before a panel of judges, and respond to follow-up questions from the judges. Unlike many recent presidential debates, questions in We the People are deep, philosophical, and provocative. Here is a sample from this year’s national competition:
For fostering both historical thinking and historical empathy, Reacting to the Past, an increasingly popular approach used in university history courses, has created a standard for K-12 to follow. The methodology consists of course-long simulations, set in historical context. Students are drawn into the past with assigned roles informed by classic texts. Class discussions and presentations are run by students, with guidance and evaluation from the instructor.
Indeed, American politics is, and has been historically, an ugly sphere. But the future can be brighter when the light of history, through the lens of logic, humility and empathy, shines upon it.