Muddling through the blogosphere

March 21, 2010
by blogwalker

Teaching Social Studies – When do we let students in on the “great secret”?

On of the upsides of being a commuter is that I can start my day by listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation. I’m still thinking about Thursday’s topic, Do Your Textbooks Tilt? Neal Conan hosted the show, with New York University history professor Jonathan Zimmerman leading the textbook discussion, and sharing some gems along the way, such as:

  • history is a series of question marks
  • what historians really do is present arguments
  • so when are we going to expose students to the what historians really do? When are we going to let them in on the “great secret.”?..we don’t actually know what happened when talking about events we did not witness.

With Professor Zimmerman’s words on my mind, I paid more attention this week to social studies resources that came into my reader or email this week – and found some excellent ones:

Politics and Civic Literacy for the Digital Generation – Wow! Great resources for teachers, gathered from a number of sites, such as the this challenge-based learning video from the Apple Exchange on what voting is all about to the video below from the YouTube Safety team, Detecting Lies and Staying True:

And if you want to use your phone for keeping current on anything from White House press briefings to C-span’s Podcast of the Week, checkout the Taking It Mobile link.

Smithsonian Education – I’ve been a long-time fan of “our Nation’s attic,” and include their royalty-free, copyright-free photo gallery in my teacher workshops. I re-visited their site this morning after coming across the link in my Edutopia Magazine.  I really like how the Smithsonian has divided the site into easy-to-navigate and inviting mini sites for teachers, students, and families.  The IdeaLabs area for students includes some great annotated slideshows, such as rationing during World War II.

Object of History – but wait…there’s even more from the Smithsonian – Through my subscription to  Thinkfinity, this new resource from the museum came into my email yesterday:

A highly interactive Web site, Object of History, takes middle and high school students behind the scenes with curators at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to explore six objects from the museum’s collections. Students watch videos, listen to historians and curators and then create their own online exhibition. Resources include videos, interviews, primary sources, virtual artifacts and lesson plans.”

Complete with a teacher guide, a forum, and student and teacher walk-through tutorials, what a great resource for helping students get “ready, set, curate!

Heading off to download 60-Second Civics Podcasting🙂

February 14, 2009
by blogwalker

Picturing Words

Pictures reach audiences more directly than the alone. They communicate the author’s tone and approach to the subject, and enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the text. Illustrations explain complicated ideas at a glance and even teach those who cannot read.

The next few weeks I’ll be helping teachers and their students (mostly 4th graders) transform video clips and photos into 1 – 3 minute films, ready to submit to several regional film competitions and events, so I’ve been thinking about the power of images.

Picturing the written word: The above image and quote are from the Smithsonian’s stunning online exhibit Picturing Words: the Power of Book Illustration. As a teacher, I’ve observed over and over how illustrations provide scaffolding to emerging readers. As a parent, I transformed my new-born daughter’s room into the setting from Margaret Wise Brown’s Good Night Moon. (A nice lady in our local hardware store helped find just the right shade of green. OK, and for the picture of the bears, my husband insisted on using some card-playing dogs, but I did have the cow-jumping-over-the-moon picture.) As an auntie whose Christmas present is always a book, my nieces and newphews all have a growing collections of Chris Van Allsburg ‘s books.

Picturing the spoken word: I still claim the title of Queen of Bad Photography, and so I am always on the look for mentor “texts,” Who would argue that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but is there a difference if those words are written or spoken (narrated)? I’m thinking not so much.  Thanks to mentoring and resources shared by Krishna Harrison-Munoz and Mathew Needleman, I’m starting to get a handle on the purpose and possibilities behind the basic camera shots and camera angles.

Shifting from story to film: About a year ago, NWP colleague Kevin H. referred me to a pretty amazing book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. With 284 pages of original drawings that students can identify as establishing shots, close ups, extreme close ups, etc., I think you’ll agree with the publisher’s description: “...Brian Selznick breaks open the novel form to create an entirely new reading experience. Here is a stunning, cinematic tour de force from a boldly innovative storyteller, artist, and bookmaker.” Just seems as though “filmmaker” should be added to that list. Checkout the flash slideshow for a glimpse into the storyline and a possible transition from written word to spoken word.

I’m thinking that the written word is equal to or even more powerful than the accompanying illustration. But for the spoken word, I think it can be overriden by the accompanying camera angles and shots. So I’ll end with a new favorite resource for students: Photojojo: Super-Secret Photo Projects Just for Kids – Back off, Grown Ups! (posted to Instructify by Alice Mercer).

*Image from:
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