I was watching the PBS NewsHour on Friday and was struck by this story about a North Carolina school district that has gone to all digital learning—no textbooks, most tests taken online, and projects in a variety of digital media in lieu of many written assignments. One of the questions the interviewer had was about making sure students went to appropriate websites for research and activities, and the teachers made clear that they vetted these sites (and of course many sites and searches are blocked). There are a number of great conversations in here, but I thought first of the Virginia Textbook Controversy discussion, which included some conversation about open source textbooks, and had me wondering, if your school went all digital, what online social studies tools would you use? What are your favorite online resources for teaching social studies?
I'm also hoping this will allow us to pull together a great list of online resources for social studies, along the lines of the favorite online tools collected in the Online Tools for Educators group (which I highly recommend joining if you haven’t already), too, to share ideas among the group and for reference by future group members.
National Museum of American History
I found a really neat website called If It Were My Home that provides a feature for comparing 10 key statistics about life in different countries. To view the comparisons, you select two countries from a list and then click compare. The site also shows you a size comparison of a selected country centered over your hometown. It's an amazing way to learn facts about countries.
In addition, the site offers visualizations of disasters such as the Pakistan Flood and BP Oil Spill to help you see how these tragedies would have impacted you if they had occurred in your home country.
I hesitate to reply to this post about "digital schools," but since I have been stating my preference for over 10 years, I thought it only appropriate for me to voice my preference here. I think Naomi's suggestion of gathering the most used and effective digital tools that teachers need and use and listing them on a page in American History Museum's Website is a fabulous idea. Agreed, there are other good resources for teaching social studies, but I find the best over-all resource to be Thinkfinity with all the cross-disciplinary emphasis that the Partners bring to the table.Every Partner in the Thinkfinity consortium brings a wealth of information, data, and strategies to the development of a curriculum for social studies.
If I were in charge of the social studies curriculum, and I have had some exposure to this challenge, I would first begin by setting out what I expected to achieve by the time the 12th grade students walked across the stage. This means, that a solid foundation would be laid for the K-4, extended for 5-7, and emphasized and embellished from 8-12. Using the best Lesson Plans available to any teacher through Thinkfinity allows the creation of whatever structure the school hopes to achieve. Additionally, Thinkfinity provides resources for the interjection of the fine arts into the curriculum covering things like culture in Europe, Middle East, etc. No need for me to attempt covering all the bases here on what Thinkfinity can do for a school that goes completely digital for social studies...The same argument holds true for developing a curriculum in Language Arts. Suffice it to say, there is no topic, no lesson, no interactive, that would not be covered if a school used just one resource - Thinkfinity.... And, did anyone mention they school could improve their budget a bunch.... Did everyone get that word???? Thinkfinity is free!
Thanks, Lynne, for that great resource! What a compelling way to help kids consider what life is like in other countries. We always talk about making content relevant to students--that idea clearly lies at the heart of that resource.
And, Karen, I agree, Thinkfinity is an immensely valuable resource! I would certainly hope that Thinkfinity.org would be on any teacher's list. I was wondering about individual resources, though I know one could always check the most popular favorite resources list here in the Community for suggestions--our Life in a Sodhouse and Artificial Anatomy: Body Parts interactives are both there!
But, are there other specific resources on Thinkfinity that don't bubble up on a list of favorites that you think any teacher should use? Or, are there other resources out in the wide world of the web that you go to consistently with students? I know one of our group members really loves this resource on migration, from the National Archives:
Or, what is the response to the idea of a paperless classroom? Your comment about the budget was interesting, Karen, and supports what the NewsHour piece suggested. The superintendent of the districit in North Carolina has noted that their move to a digital classroom hasn't really been more costly, that the equipment costs are largely balanced out by the savings in textbook costs, paper, etc.
And as a heads up, I was hoping to create a list of great resources that could live in this group (maybe in the documents section), but not on the Museum's website
How about if I turn that question around:
How does a resource get on your radar as a teacher?
We launched the online West Virginia Encyclopedia last September, after publishing the text version in 2006. Obviously the online version is much updated and offers many added features, but while a lot of West Virginia teachers know about (and use) the book version, we're having a hard time letting the teachers know about the online version. Amazingly, it seems the best way is a face-to-face demo! Dealing with state education people runs us into a bureaucracy ("We're revamping all our lesson plans etc and we'll be done in about a year."), but when we've demo'd for groups, everyone gets really excited.
When a teacher finds a great resource, does s/he share it with other teachers in the school? Outside the school? By what methods?
Thanks. And by the way, I also check out the various links posted, looking for how other sites do things that might make ours better.
According to Richard Byrne in a post on Free Technology for Teachers, "Scholastic has released a new interactive timeline of immigration to the United States. The timeline is divided into five eras:
Within each era there are multiple sub-sections that students can explore. In each sub-section students will find captioned images and videos that explain the significance of each era in immigration."
Byrne adds that "Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today looks like a great resource for elementary and middle school students. You might want to have students use the timeline in conjunction with the immigration data that Scholastic has published. Ask students if they can make correlations between the stories of immigration and the fluctuations in immigration statistics."
The site includes a virtual field trip and interactive tour of Ellis Island.
What do you think of this tool for for exploring the history of immigration and learning what it is like to be an immigrant today in America?
Thanks for sharing this, Lynne! I took a quick look and am amazed at the depth of resources here on this important topic. My colleagues and I were just revisiting a fascinating interactive map from the NY Times that looks at immigration between 1880 and 2000, another useful resource on immigration. I had been wondering, too, if the Supreme Court hearing on the Arizona immigration law had made its way into classrooms. I'm looking forward to hearing what others think of the Scholastic site!
As I was looking at this latest post, I was reminded of an app produced by Science magazine, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It's a Science Population App, available for $4.99 from iTunes. The app presents a detailed look at global population growth and its impact on critical areas like lifespan, education, health, and economics. You can read more about the app at: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2011/1223ipad_app.shtml. It seems like this app would have applications in the social sciences.
Since I've been watching this conversation, I felt that I neded to share these two resources with you all.
Here in West Virginia, our social studies classrooms are getting rid of textbooks. I have taught the entire year without them this year. Two of the most used resources in my classroom are: http://www.hippocampus.org and http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ .
Hippocampus has video, notes, and primary sources for just about every American History topic. They also have an AP U.S. History section that AP teachers could use.
Spartacus has primary and secondary sources on American History topics and people.
It's always great to read that members are following discussions and sharing their teaching ideas. Thanks for providing the two resources you have used this year in your social studies classroom.
Virginia has a great website with free apps for education if you have digital devices in the classroom that can use this technology. Some of the apps are great for social studies. You may want to check out Learning without Boundaries.
A blog post in Tech & Learning published 13 Good Resources for Social Studies Teachers (January 17, 2013) that I thought might offer some additional good suggestions for digital learning. To get more details about the following resources, check out the blog mentioned here.
Please share your experiences using any of these digital resources or others that you recommend.
Thanks for posting this list Lynne.
EDSITEment is proud to see Mission US high on this list, as our parent agency the National Endowment for the Humanities helped fund this series of video games. Its worth point out that EDSITEment supported the new Think Fast about the Past app which allows everyone to test their knowledge of the historical facts in the two games, For Crown or Colony and Flight to Freedom
If anyone is looking for additional iPad apps, you may want to join the iPad group and/or read some of the discussions posted there regarding using iPads in the classroom and recommended apps for specific subject areas.
This is a great list--thanks for sharing it, Lynne! I'm glad to see all of these suggestions. The recent posts have me thinking about Digital Learning Day--is anyone using a great resource (maybe even one of the resources listed here) on February 6? We're collecting resources to share for Digital Learning Day, and I was thinking one of the resources I would be sure to include if I were a classroom teacher is the Object of History--particularly the creating a virtual exhibit resource.
National Museum of American History
Hi Lynne Hoffman,
My favorite online social studies resource from the Smithsonian's History Explorer website is the Who Am I Interactive History Mystery Game on Civil War people. I tried playing it after taking the Smithsonian's History Explorer Webinar. I included more information about this game below.
In this interactive game, students select a mystery character from the Civil War and examine objects that hold the key to their identity, video footage, first person reenactments, oral history interviews, and lesson plans. This resource was developed in conjunction with the exhibition The Price of Freedom: Americans at War.
Common Sense Media posted a blog listing 13 best websites and games for U.S. history and civics to celebrate President's Day 2014. The author mentioned that these websites and games let students "explore tricky topics from different perspectives and walk a mile in the shoes of important decision makers." These resources can be used by teachers to help students look back in time -- or at current events -- in a whole new way.
Please share your thoughts about these online teaching resources.