Tuesday, April 6, 2010

12 Resources All Social Studies Teachers Should Try

One of the things that some readers may not know about me is that I actually do have a day job and don't spend the whole day on the Internet. My day job is teaching high school social studies. For the last couple of years my teaching assignments have been US History and US Civics. In the past I've also taught World Studies courses. Over the last few years I've come realize that there are some websites and free resources with which every social studies teacher should be familiar. Here is my list.

1. Google Earth. The possibilities for using Google Earth in a social studies classroom are almost limitless. In Google Earth students can tour ancient Rome, explore WWI and WWII battle sites, learn about contemporary news stories such as events in Afghanistan, or use Google Earth as an almanac of facts. Students, of course, can use Google Earth to create digital stories. Students can create tours of military campaigns, trace the lives of famous people, or map the expansions and contractions of political borders. If you're looking for some directions to get started with Google Earth, please see Google Earth Across the Curriculum.

2. Google Maps. While Google Maps doesn't offer nearly as many features as Google Earth, it is much easier to start using. Google Maps is completely web-based so students can create placemarks and tours from any Internet connected computer. For directions on creating placemarks on Google Maps, please see pages 25-32 of Google for Teachers.

3. Google Books. Google has scanned and put online thousands of books and documents that are in the public domain. For history teachers this means there is an abundance of books about famous battles, biographies, and other works that your students can access for research.

4. Google Scholar. Teaching lessons about notable US Supreme court cases? Need scholarly works to supplement the information in your students' textbooks? Google Scholar is great place to start that search.

5. National Archives Daily Document. Every day the RSS feed from the National Archives serves up a new primary document corresponding to that day in history. Along with the document teachers will find suggested classroom resources and suggested research links. The National Archives has also made available on Google Video hundreds of films from their records. US History teachers will find a use for just about everything in the National Archives' collection of films.

6. The Avalon Project is a free resource produced by Yale University. The Avalon Project provides digital copies of hundreds of original documents from a myriad of topics in US History. The Avalon Project is a good resource for students that need to find digital copies of original documents. For example, all of The Federalist Papers are available on the Avalon Project website.

X Timeline. Using X Timeline students can collaborate, just as they would when making a wiki, to build a multimedia timeline. Timelines built using X Timeline can include text, images, and video. X Timeline will accept dates in A.D./B.C. format.

8. For teachers of elementary school students Kids Past has an easy to read online World History "textbook" for kids. Kids Past also offers five history games to which students can apply the knowledge the find in the textbook. The textbook and games correspond to each other.

9. History Animated provides animations of the American Revolution, the US Civil War, and the US Pacific Campaign in WWII. In each of the three series of animations you will see the animated movement of armies displayed on a map. Each animation is accompanied by captions describing the strategies of the armies as well as the results and consequences of each battle.

10. BizEd is a great resource for economics lessons and virtual field trips. I started using BizEd a few years ago and it has been a valuable resource to me ever since. BizEd is a UK based website so some of the lessons and activities have to be manipulated a little bit for use in US classrooms, but the overall value of activities is fantastic. Some of the highlights for teachers are frequently updated lesson plans, a comprehensive glossary of terms, slide shows available for download, and fantastic virtual field trips.

11. Playing History is a collection of more than 100 games related to topics in US and World History as well as civics and geography. The games come from a variety of sources across the web. Feedback on every game and suggestions for future additions are welcomed by the hosts of the site. Visitors to Playing History can search for games by using the tag cloud, by using the search box, or just browse through the entire list.

12. Everyday CNN Student News releases ten minute news programs covering news stories around the world. To accompany your use of the video, CNN provides maps and discussion guides.

New and Expanded Free Study Guides from Shmoop

Online study guide provider Shmoop recently released thirteen new study guides. The highlights of the new study guides include Kite Runner, Paradise Lost, and the poem Africa by Maya Angelou. Shmoop has also recently expanded their study guides for Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear.

Shmoop offers more than just summaries of information. If students create an account and log-in, they can use the integrated dictionary to find the meaning of any word in the content they're reading. Students can also create folders where they can store sticky notes of information they record while reading a Shmoop article.

Applications for Education
Shmoop can be a good reference to supplement the reading that students do for your courses. Shmoop's summaries are not nearly long enough to be a replacement for students to rely on instead of doing their assigned readings. As a frame of reference, Shmoop's summaries are shorter than those found in Cliffs Notes or Spark Notes.

Advice for Shy Presenters and Shy Connectors

Sacha Chua, who I've mentioned a few times in the past, creates some of the best slideshows you'll find on the web. That's not just my hyperbole, she's been mentioned by some of the biggest blogs on the web. In fact, I think it was through Read Write Web that I initially discovered her work.
Recently she gave talk titled The Shy Presenter at Ignite Toronto. The Shy Presenter is five minutes packed with advice for shy people who want to be presenters or who have to be presenters. The video is embedded below. But if you're really interested in this topic don't just watch the video, read Sacha's blog post on the topic.

Ignite Toronto 3: Sacha Chua - The Shy Presenter: An Introvert’s Guide to Speaking in Public from Ignite Toronto on Vimeo.

The Shy Connector is another of Sacha Chua's presentations. This one offers good tips and strategies for shy people who need to make connections for work or personal reasons. I've gone through The Shy Connector a few times since I first saw it and have actually put some of her tips to work for myself. Again, if this is a topic of interest to you, don't just flip through the slides, read Sacha's blog post about The Shy Connector.

Applications for Education
At my school all seniors are required to give a fifteen minute exit presentation before graduation. As you might guess we have shy students who are very nervous about giving presentations. Those students would do well to view Sacha Chua's presentations in preparation for presentation day.

The Future of Work

The Future of Work is a neat video produced by oDesk. oDesk is a company that matches freelance workers with potential employers. Aside from the corporate sponsorship (which isn't clear until the end), the video does do a good job of illustrating how the world is changing and illustrating what the new workplace will require of employees.

Applications for Education
Two of the more interesting slides in the video state, "college is the new high school" and "there's no excuse for not knowing." I think these are good reminders for today's high school and college students to keep in mind as they consider educational programs and career choices.