Friday, December 23, 2011

EdCamp Social Studies: From Joke to Reality

Over the past year I've met some pretty innovative, productive and inspiring educators who invigorate and motivate me every day. During that time I've created some excellent lessons and used new tools that have helped my students and me learn better. Some of these teachers I now refer to as my colleagues and we are a collaborative team and at times we push each other to just be better. We have formed a core group who run SSChat on Twitter and maintain a social studies ning SSChat Ning website. Our group was characterized by Dan Callahan as "kind of intense" and we have lived up to that label time and time again.

One of these occasions was the night of our NCSS presentation proposal deadline. Different teams of us were putting the finishing touches on our proposals. I was in the process of submitting a proposal on using video in the classroom that Becky Ellis, Greg Kulowiec and I had brainstormed when another member, Jamie Josephson, encouraged us to quickly put together a proposal on SSChat and social media. Not only was it an exhilirating experience that resulted in a proposal in two and a half hours but it was accepted and we presented it at a national conference. You see, they are a very inspiring and motivating group where the challenges have only just begun.

Sometime in May of this year during our Monday night sschat someone (Brad Campbell...cough, cough) jokingly said that they would love to see us do an EdCamp based on just social studies. Edcamp up to now are "unconferences" for all teachers and grade levels. Well, the jokes went around and someone laughed and said they had a friend in Las Vegas who could hook us up with a facility and the jokes kept coming. No one took it very seriously except a few of us who wondered if we could pull it off. Then during our anniversary chat one of the topics asked what you wish for sschat in the future. Again a few people mentioned an Edcamp social studies. Except this time we took it seriously.

After SSChat Monday evening some of us stuck around and threw around the idea of an Edcamp for social studies. By the next day we were already in the planning stages. Within a month we had our conference EdCampSS put together with a Keynote Speaker in Kenneth C. Davis, a date: March 24th, 2012, and a location: Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Wow, what a rush the month of August was. We sent over 800 emails back and forth during the month. Yes, we are #kindaintense!

Our team is incredible and I owe them so much for making this event happen. Thank you to my colleagues:
Angela Cunningham, Becky Ellis, Greg Kulowiec, Heather Kilgallon, Jamie Josephson, Rachel Labossiere, Shawn McCusker and Susie Nestico(s)

So, now is the time for you to join us for what will prove to be the best experience for collaboration, professional development and friendship. Visit our website EdCampSS, register, and grab our badge for your own website. Oh, and don't forget to spread the word as well as join us in March.

The Art of Storytelling

When was the last time you were told a great story? Do you remember being captivated by the visual imagery conjured up? Was there ever a time when you couldn't wait for another tale to be told by that one person be it your grandfather or quite possibly a teacher? If not, you've missed out. It seems the art of storytelling is declining and it's a shame. Think about it, there was a time when that's all people had.

Before writing people told stories as a means of passing oral tradition as well as entertaining everyone. In ancient Greece there were traveling bards who would command vast audiences at times and would tell tales that would enthrall the crowd. Some of those great tales like "The Illiad and The Odyssey would later be written down by the likes of Homer.

In some parts of the world today storytelling is still an important piece of culture. Some peoples rely on the oral tradition to establish norms, mores or folkways for their society. In every part of the world storytelling is important for the transference of ideas and socialization. Let's face it, everyone likes a good story. 

Those of us who have the task of teaching to the generation of today must be master story tellers if we intend to capture our audience. Weaving in the hidden history of an event or person requires knowledge beyond the textbook. Personally, my favorite reads are ones that include the back stories of history. For example, "America's Hidden History" by Kenneth C. Davis is an excellent source for some of the stories in U.S. History. Other great sources are biographies. I loved "Founding Brothers" by Joseph Ellis, "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff, "Augustus" by Anthony Everitt, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris and many others. They all have great stories you can share with your students. 

Knowing the stories is one thing but you must be able to entertain with them as well. Doing a Ben Stein interpretation will certainly not do. Get animated! Have fun with it and get into character. Stories are what you make them. So go out and read some interesting history and share it with your students. They will thank you for it.