Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Need to share it? Scoop it!

If you are like me, you have seen the incredibly addictive potential of Pinterest. It allows users to create different pinboards of interests, anything from home decor ideas to planning a wedding and viewing art, then "pin" links and images from the web onto a visually-appealing and easy-to-navigate board. So why am I talking about Pinterest?

I have recently discovered a similar tool, Scoop.it, that is formatted similarly to Pinterest, but it shares information, articles and sources instead of craft ideas or recipes. The posts are then organized into "magazines" instead of pinboards and the site even suggests similar sources of interest. While there is a paid subscription service available on Scoop.it, the free edition allows users to store up to five topic magazines.

You can train your students to use Scoop.it to do research and set up accounts for each student, or you can use it as a way to share your own magazines with students. Just like Twitter, Pinterest and other familiar social sharing sites, users can "follow" other users and get updates about their posts and topics. Your students can follow you and you may just find some other educators out there with similar interests to follow yourself!

Your magazines are user-friendly snippets with images instead of just lists of links. They function similar to Pinterest pinboards so some students may need less instruction on how to use them.

Image is from Seth Dixon's board entitled "History and Social Studies Education" for the Rhode Island College.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Breaking News!

Our textbook is pretty brief when it comes to describing the conquistadors and the tragic end of the Aztec and Inca empires. I wanted my students to have an opportunity to do more research and describe the events of the conquests in more detail. I decided to have them retell the story while also flexing their expository writing muscles.

With the newspaper template provided, I asked each small group to create a newspaper-like account of the events of the conquest, including pictures and some "direct quotes." (Clearly they would need to take some creative liberties here.) I gave them a checklist and grading rubric to follow and let them write.

When they were finished, we proofread the documents and printed them on 11" x 17" paper. Just for fun, we used teabags to "age" the paper to make an eye-catching display in the hallway.

I always love to get the kids writing about history, but opening up a blank word processing document can be daunting and unexciting for the kids. Writing is an important part of our interdisciplinary curriculum and I am always looking for new ways for them to express themselves in words.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Flipping on NPR!

As some of you may already be aware, I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of enthusiastic teachers a few weeks ago about the "flipped classroom" model. A few of my former colleagues and I were invited to give a presentation to teachers from cooperating schools in the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools on the basic tenets  of flipping, as well as some use-right-away strategies for integrating it into classrooms.

Imagine my surprise this afternoon to hear a story about flipped teaching during NPR's All Things Considered. Just like so many other technological innovations of the last two decades, the idea of flipping -- which was almost completely unknown just two or three years ago -- is gaining enough traction to be covered in a major news outlet!

So, to all you flippers out there, you are truly on the cutting edge of education, and people are really beginning to take notice!

Columbian Exchange Relay

It may be hard to believe, but before the massive exchange of goods and organisms during the post-Columbian era, many of the crops associated with certain areas simply were not there. Simply put,
"before the Columbian Exchange, there were no oranges in Florida, no bananas in Ecuador, no paprika in Hungary, no tomatoes in Italy, no potatoes in Ireland, no coffee in Columbia, no pineapples in Hawaii, no rubber trees in Africa, no cattle in Texas, no donkeys in Mexico, no chili peppers in Thailand or India, and no chocolate in Switzerland."[1]
In the Columbian Exchange, European explorers and settlers brought livestock, plants and goods to support their lifestyles, to trade with others and to set up farming operations conducive to the New World climate. Similarly, they brought back exotic new goods from the New World and later, farmed familiar products like sugarcane in a hospitable climate with slave labor for massive profits.

I wanted to present this cycle in a way that I knew the kids would remember, so I planned a relay activity. I did, however, also want to make sure to address the topic with the seriousness that it deserved, considering that slave labor and death from disease were tragic parts of this exchange. We discussed the exchange and read personal accounts in the day leading up to the relay, then performed the relay game only after we had studied and discussed it extensively.

At the beginning of the period, we watched a quick BrainPop video that summed up both the positive and negative effects of the centuries-long Columbian Exchange. We then found an empty hallway (or, if we were lucky, an empty room or gym) and set up the game.

I had two buckets, one labeled as the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) and one as the New World (North and South America). One bucket was placed just a few feet from the starting line and the second bucket was about 20 feet away. I made two sets of cards for the activity -- each with about 10 products from the Old World that were brought to the Americas and about 10 products that were brought from the Americas back to the Old World. I color-coded the cards on construction paper and laminated them for durability.

I scattered the two sets of blue "Old World" cards on either side of the Old World bucket, then scattered the red "New World" cards around the New World bucket. In a relay style, each team had to send one person at a time to collect a blue card, bring it to the New World bucket while calling out what it pictured, then grab a red card, bring it back to the Old World bucket, then tag up and send a new team member. We ran the activity twice, each round lasting about 3-5 minutes.

After the relay, we returned to the classroom and filled in some quick notes about the goods, ideas, animals and diseases exchanged during the game. I was impressed with how many items the students could recall after playing the game!