Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hello Again: Reflections from C-Span Educator's Conference

Hello!  It's been um, awhile, since I've posted.  This past week I had the opportunity to attend an amazing education conference for social studies teachers in Washington D.C.  Every time I attend a conference, I am very eager to get back to the classroom to try out some new ideas.  Since it's summer I have to wait another month, so I figured a reflection post was the best way to summarize my experience. The CSPAN Summer Educator's Conference is a two day conference held at CSPAN headquarters on Capitol Hill.

I applied for the conference back in January, and was fortunate to be included with some amazing educator's from around the country.  I also received some nice publicity for my attendance at this conference, which I greatly appreciate!
-Lincoln Journal Star Article
-Norris School District Announcement

While at the conference run by CSPAN's education department, 31 teacher's from around the United States engaged in professional development based around utilizing C-SPAN programming and web resources to benefit our classrooms and students.  We were treated to discussions with several of CSPAN's executive directors, programming directors, CSPAN Teacher Fellows, and the three person team dedicated to serving teachers.  It was amazing to me that as a company CSPAN employs under 300 people, and only 3 in the education department!  The first day was focused on familiarizing ourselves with the wealth of resources provided by C-SPAN not only to teachers, but to the general public as well.  Day 1 wrapped up with an amazing discussion with CSPAN's Political Editor, Senior Executive VP, and host Steve Scully.  Steve discussed the 2016 election and gave some reflections on elections of the past, it was extremely interesting to say the least!

Day two was more of a workshop setting, giving us time to use the tools we learned about on day one.  We focused on clipping pieces of video that could be utilized in our classrooms for lesson plans.  We also heard from the three teacher fellows for 2015, who described how they utilized the tools we were learning about in the previous year.

It's impossible to summarize how grateful I am to have engaged in this opportunity.  I always walk away from conferences saying that if I take away one thing that's useful, it was worth it.  I took away dozens of ideas from this conference, and more importantly, networked with some of the best and brightest teacher's from around the country.  I have a great deal of respect for CSPAN and what they do for the general public, but more specifically what they do for educator's.  I highly recommend the PD opportunities they provide and hope to participate once again someday.  I can not wait to return to the classroom this fall and utilized these ideas for the benefit of my students!

In conclusion, here are a few photo's from my trip.  You can't go to Washington DC and not visit the amazing array of monuments, museums, and in general historic sites!  The city is amazing, and no matter how many times you have been there, you see, and learn something new each and every time.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Making History Relevant: Keep it Current

Hello!  It's been awhile since I've written, school is rolling right
along and we are already nearing the end of the 3rd quarter!
Currently in my US History courses we are in the middle of our study
of WWII.  We will continue through this topic into mid March, then
begins the annual mad scramble to fit everything in before the end of
the year!  

The topic I've been thinking about and discussing with my classes over
the past few weeks is keeping history relevant to them, how can we do
it as teachers?  How can we get 14-18 year old kids to be interested
in Historical events when many of them are not even old enough to
remember 9/11/01?

The answer may not be as difficult as we think.  In discussion with
students, and through a little trial and error, it's simple-relate the
material to something in their lives, OR relate the material to
something going on currently in the world.  That's it!  Keeping the
topic relevant keeps students engaged, and shows them how historical
events affect their lives.  Current events is always a focus of mine
in class, and we can always find some parallel between what we are
studying and something going on in the world today. In time, students
will recognize the importance of studying history-and learn to connect
the dots.

Below are a few links to recent events that my class has discussed-all
related to things going on right now-as well as the material we're
currently studying:


Hitler Olympics:

Stalin Sochi:

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Power of Pictures: Part 2-History is Everywhere

About a month ago I came across an idea thanks to #nebedchat and the discussion surrounding "The Power of Photos in Education."  I blogged about the discussion and created a project with my students that included them having an assignment over Thanksgiving Break!  Check out my previous post here.

Basically the students had to each take at least 1 photo of something relating to history-send it to me via email-and that it.  My goal for this project was to reiterate to the students that history is everywhere!  Everywhere you look, anywhere you go--something relates to history.  The students did an excellent job and some sent me several photos.  I had photos as far back as 1804-to some as recent as 2012-in both cases, the students described the photos and their historical significance.

After gathering all of these photos, I used  to create several different collages to display these photos.  Check out all of them below!  Some of the photos are self explanatory-some needed some explaining.  The best thing about this project was hearing the stories the students had about their little piece of history-each photo was unique-each photo had a story.  Also, each student has a different definition of what "history" really is, a great discussion piece!  I really enjoyed seeing all of the photos and discussing with my classes.  I will definitely be doing this project again--the students loved it, and it was a great reminder to them the importance of studying history.  Photos are so powerful in education---students today need that visual to connect the dots, this project validated my thoughts on this topic.

A few notable items I received within the project:

  • relics from the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq
  • numerous military service medals-including purple hearts
  • Civil War Bayonette/lead bullets
  • Nazi issued sword
  • pocket watch from 1809
  • minor league baseball bat used by George Brett
  • Numerous lamps, cars, tractors, sewing machines, typewriters.
  • Wheaties boxes featuring the 94 National Champion Nebraska Cornhuskers (the kids doing this project were not even born!)
After all was said and done-I displayed all the photos in my classroom, quite the conversation piece!

Look closer at all of the photos by clicking the link below--please comment or email if you have questions!  Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Video Vocabulary

One thing all educators can agree on is that understanding vocabulary words, no matter the subject, is necessary to understand concepts,  and think critically about them.  One thing we do not all agree on, is how to teach vocabulary.  In History, I've used a number of different methods, flash cards, act it out, students create their own definition, etc.  For this chapter on American Imperialism I had my students create short video vignettes to illustrate/represent their assigned vocabulary term.  I have done similar assignments in the past, but my interest in doing this came from this article in the New York Times.

The assignment was simple, with a group, they were given 3 vocabulary terms from the chapter, they had to create a short video to represent their words, and upload to YouTube.  Very simple concept, and I received some great videos!  The students enjoyed doing these, and enjoyed learning from one another.  It took 1 class period, they used their own devices as well as school ipads.  I received over 90 videos, here are a few of them, enjoy!

Chapter 10 Vocabulary Playlist

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Power of Pictures in Education

Last Wednesday, #nebedchat examined the topic of photos in the classroom and the power they hold.  (#nebedchat is a Twitter chat that discusses different topics on education on a weekly basis)  After looking at the archive, I began brainstorming the numerous ways in which I could incorporate more photos in my classes.  Also this week, I came across this video-"Why Study History?" on YouTube.  Putting these two ideas together...I will be trying out an assignment over Thanksgiving/Christmas break with my students to reinforce why we study history, as well as the power of pictures.  I have yet to decide on the exact details, but it will go something like this: each student will have an assignment over Thanksgiving/Christmas break (yes homework over break!), they will each find something relating to history at their homes/relatives homes/traveling etc...snap a picture of it and send it to me.  I will gather all the photos (150ish) and place them on some sort of collage to show them the power of photos, and to reinforce the fact that history is EVERYWHERE!  The pictures they take can include nearly anything, from old farm machinery, military uniforms, signs, letters, memorabilia, long as they have historical significance they will work!

I'm very excited to see how this turns out!  I think this is a perfect time of year to reevaluate why we study history/social studies.  On another note-the power of social media is amazing!  If it were not for Twitter, and the amazing educators on #nebedchat, I would not have come up with these ideas and put them together.  (I also found the YouTube video from Twitter.)  I'll be posting the results to this mini project after Thanksgiving break...thanks for reading!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Writing in Social Studies

My classes are currently studying the Gilded Age and the Expansion of cities during the early 1900s in US History.  Recently we discussed European Immigration and Eliis Island, looking back on family histories to see if we could connect the dots!  The students were eager to discuss and desribe what it must have been like for the individuals entering America for the first time.  Writing is something I really strive to do more in my classes, and this was an opportunity for my students to be creative, practice their writing skills, and imagine what it must have been like to have been an immigrant and experiencing the process of Ellis Island, where nearly 40% of Americans can still trace their roots!
The assignment was very open, I provided them with 6 writing prompts, placing them in different situations surrounding the topic...they had to choose four and just write!  I was amazed at the results!  Many of them really painted a picture with their stories, and students who I never would've expected to get into this assignment, surprised me with their skills and creativeness.  Although they may not tell me, I feel as if many students really enjoyed the activity, I hope to do more like this in the future.  Also, in concluding this activity, I explained to the students that writing is a life skill, not just one that they will use in school.  For this reason we will continue to "practice" this skill in my social studies classes!  Below are a few excerpts of student writing, as well as the assignment given to them.  Enjoy!

Writing Prompts:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Google Rules

My students recently completed projects on Native American tribes.  Instead of giving them specific guidelines, I gave the students a choice on how they would display their information.  They could use anything...from a hand drawn poster, a video, or any online presentation website.  I figure I would get a wide variety of presentation tools, I figured wrong!  I have a total of 147 students in 6 sections of American History, 137 students chose to use Google Slides/Presentstions, yes 137 of 147!  The other sites used included Prezi, Glogster, and SlideRocket, with one video and one hand drawn poster.
So what does this tell me?  While I gave the students a choice, an overwhelming majority chose to use Google.  The reasons for this vary, but come down to this: my school is a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school, all students have google accounts and the simplicity is great for the students.  Familiarity of the product, and the ability to work in the cloud (access their work anywhere, on any device) make Google perfect for this sort of project.  Finally, all students have a "hand in" folder that is shared with me on Google Drive, so access to their projects by the teacher is seamless, no "my dog ate my project" excuses!  I joked with my students that they were all "boring" because they all used Google, however I am proud of them in utilizing the tools that our school has provided them with. Keeping it simple, and being pragmatic are both traits that extend beyond the walls of my classroom.  A ton of great projects were turned in, and more importantly they all took responsibility for their own learning, and acquired new knowledge.