Sunday, August 23, 2009

Using "Easy" Podcasting in the Social Studies Classroom

Last year we experimented successfully with podcasts in our AP U.S. History, AP Government, 8th Grade U.S. History , 9th grade American Institutions and our Pre AP class called American History Seminar. In some cases, the podcasts were a way to get additional content to the students that we didn't have time to cover in class. However, in most cases, it was a way to reinforce the key concepts and essential understandings taught in the class. Sometimes we required the students to show the notes they took while listening to the podcasts. Because students were able to download the podcast to their ipod they were able to listen to the information on the go, thus utilizing their valuable free time. Some of the podcasts were reviews to prepare kids for unit tests or semester exams. Kids said these were really valuable review tools and helped them succeed on the tests.

At our school we keep things simple. The teacher takes home an Olympus digital recorder (approximately $70.00) and they hit record and talk into the device. The Olympus model we use pulls apart and the bottom half is a USB stick that we put into the computer and copy to the desktop. We then upload the audio recording to EDLINE where the students can get at them on the web. The disadvantage to this method is that we are unable to edit the podcast, but it sure makes it simple for the teacher. In my AP class I allow students to take the digital recorders home to make their own podcasts on topics that interest them like Hitler or The Holocaust or whatever. After reviewing the podcast I put it on EDline (a program our school uses to communicate with students and parents) for all the students to enjoy.

In the near future I hope to put over 50 podcasts on various U.S. History topics on this Blog for everyone to share and use with their students. I have a series of lectures on American Foreign Policy from 1973 ( Vietnam) to the Present that I use in the Seminar course.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Marshfield, WI. Has Exemplary AP U.S. History Website

Jim Bokern has been an AP U.S. History instructor at Marshfield H.S. in Wisconsin for over two decades. He is President of the Wisconsin Advanced Placement Advisory Committee and is an AP Reader. His AP U.S. History website is outstanding. On his site you will find outlines for every chapter of the John A. Garraty Book, The American Nation as well as information on model essays, evaluating documents, analytical devices, language prompts, how to organize essays, the students view, and topical information on subjects like the Holocaust, New Deal, Social Darwinism, and on and on. Check it out at http://www.marshfield.k12.w...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Find New Resources on HistoryTeacher.Net

If you have not had the chance to visit Susan M. Pojer's site - please do so! I continually find great history resources there such as this interactive history site entitled Have Fun with History - http://havefunwithhistory.c... . The site is filled with resources. It is not your typical site. Ms. Pojer teaches Advanced Placement courses so there are parts of the website designated to various AP courses such as AP U.S. History, AP Euro, etc. You will find review quizzes, primary sources documents, DBQ's and much more. In addition resources for AP teachers, there are hundreds of history links. She is continually adding new resources to her site.

Starting Your Social Studies PLN

What is a PLN? A PLN is your professional learning network. It is a group of people online that you learn from/interact with. Beth Stills recently described PLNs --

I've been using delicious bookmaking for several years. Several history teachers in our district use/add to my delicious bookmarks We have 2,199 bookmarks. Delicious has been very helpful for our teachers. Most recently I started on Twitter and immediately realized the strong impact it can have on teachers. There are so many people sharing outstanding ideas and resources. Of course Twitter quickly leads one to the blogs of some great educators. I've listed a few excellent blogs and one or two websites. Please let me know about other outstanding social studies blogs that I have failed to include here. These social studies bloggers are a great place to start developing your Professional Learning Network (PLN). Another way to learn about PLN oppurtunites is to view Jennifer Carrier Dorman's slideshare.

Social Studies Central- Tons of resources for social studies teachers

Freetech4teachers - technology ideas galore!

Copy/Paste : Dedicated to Relinquishing Responsibility for Learning to the Students

Psychology Teachers Blog

Speaking of History- Langhorst has many podcasts, and other technology tools!

History is Elementary- Great site for elementary teachers.

Blogush- great site of an 8th grade U.S. History Teacher.

World History Teachers Blog

U.S. Government Teachers Blog - good stuff on government here

U.S. History Teachers Blog- under the August Archive a blog about WatchKnow which has short videos to put on a blog
The Henricus - Includes some good posts on assessment - Excellent site for AP U.S. History and Europoean AP teachers - it has lots of quizzes and DBQs

Friday, August 14, 2009

DCE Social Studies Goals 09-10

Welcome back DCE social studies teachers! Our department goals for 2009-10 will focus again on instruction and assessment of student learning. I look forward to working with you all.

1. Improve student learning through the use of argumentative literacy.

- implement strategic learning strategies learned in the Doug Buehl workshop and through reading Janet Allen's book Reading History.

- implement discussion formats like socratic circles, 2x2 debates, retelling, 5 plus 1 format, etc. in order for students to learn argumentative discussion skills.

- improve writing experiences for students through the use of model papers, common assessment rubrics, APPARTS, GSPRITE, and other strategies that will enhance expository writing.

2. Continue Vertical Teaming of Social Studies concepts and skills grades 5 - 12 to improve student learning.

- Implement the Thinking Like a Historian framework at all grade levels (Cause and Effect, Change and Continuity, Turning Points, Using the Past and Through Their Eyes)

3. Increase the use of 21st century technology as a learning/assessment tool in the social studies classroom.

- Use podcasting with students via the use of the digital recorder.
- Continue using blogs with students to enhance writing and discussion experiences.
- Implement use of Google Docs
- Use other Web 2.0 tools to engage students in the learning e.g., wikis, delicious bookmarking, graphic design tools - glogster.
- Develop a PLN (Professional Learning Network)

4. Continue the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLC's) to improve assessment of learning.

- continue to identify and refine unit power standards
- provide daily learning target/objective for students
- continue to write objective common assessments, gather data for remediation and to modify instruction.
- begin/continue to develop common assessment to evaluate student writing
- continue to check for understanding by implementing a variety of strategies for formative assessment. Use this feedback to modify instruction.

5. Continue the use of authentic (hands on) instruction/assessment in the social studies classroom.
- continue 9th grade field trip to Washington D.C.
- promote the use of oral history in the classroom through the oral history project.
- continue authentic project learning through the History Day program.
- implement authentic tasks like attending county board meetings, going on archaeological digs, creating a Civil War Wall, simulating Roman culture through Rome Days, Panic, Forensic Science experiements and simulations, psych sims, Feudalism play, etc.
- use performance based assessments

Advanced Placement - Common Assessment

The following will appear in the Wisconsin Advanced Placement Advisory Council Newsletter in August 2009. This was an interview conducted by Jim Bokern of Marshfield High School with Paul Aleckson.

As K-12 Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator and Advanced Placement (AP) US History Instructor at DC Everest (DCE) High School, Paul Aleckson has continually set high standards of professional excellence. For decades DCE students have been standouts in National History Day; published oral histories on WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans, the Hmong Culture and History, and the Depression Era. Long before the terms of equity and access were common, Paul and other History teachers at DCE reached out to all college bound students sparking their interest in taking on the challenge of AP. This year DCE enrollment in AP US History will surge from 100 students to 150! This spike in participation is an extension of the AP vertical teams that DCE has developed over the years in grades 6-9.

Not surprisingly, Aleckson and his team at DCE have developed a new and promising practice that can increase student performance on the multiple choice portion of AP exams. In an effort to share this grassroots assessment, Aleckson addressed four questions regarding his multiple choice assessment model:

What sparked this new approach?

How does it work?

What were your results from year 1?

What to you see as the future of this multiple choice model?

What sparked this new approach?

Five years ago the Principal at DCE, Dr. Johansen, set common assessments as the number 1 goal of their Professional learning Communities (PLC). After several years of DCE teachers setting Learning Targets, Dr. Johansen pushed the high school faculty to create strong common assessments in shared areas of instruction. Aleckson indicated that the teachers were expected to hit the Learning Targets they set as measured by their newly created common. The idea was to generate data on student learning, reflect on the data, and make adjustments to instruction to increase student learning. Aleckson and DCE teachers of AP US History, AP European History, Regular History and Regular Global Studies embarked on a journey of multiple choice assessment reform.

How does it work?

Once the Learning Targets were set, Aleckson’s AP US History teachers collected old AP multiple choice exam questions and some questions from outside vendors to create a pool of authentic and rigorous questions. Since 1984, over 400 multiple choice questions have been released by the AP program so the DCE teachers did not create the questions. Once the questions were pooled, they broke the AP US History course into 12 periods and grouped the multiple choice questions into the 12 chronological periods. The tricky part was finding the correct question that matched both the Learning Target and skill required by the DCE curriculum. Aleckson indicated that it took about 8 PLC meetings to select the questions but this was the foundation of a well constructed common assessment.

Once the rigorous semester exams were created, the DCE team set standards of 70% and higher as advanced, 60% to 69% as proficient, 45% to 59% as basic and 44% and lower as below basic. These standards closely correspond with the AP standards on the multiple choice portion of the national exam.

What were your results from year 1?

The test results were shared with the students, and work was done on improving student learning gaps. The multiple choice exams pin-pointed student learning gaps and suggested instruction by teachers. Aleckson shared that educators often felt that they taught a concept well in class, but in reality the kids missed it. The common assessment data helps ID these problems allows for correction. DCE teachers found that the data led them to use more quick formative assessments like daily/weekly quizzes to clear-up deficits before the big common assessment at semester.

DCE teachers adjusted testing schedules and gave semester exams well before the end of the semester to allow for data analysis and remediation. This logical adjustment of time allows for reflection on the data and remediation. One of the data analysis discoveries Aleckson made regarding his best students was they most often missed multiple choice questions that used the term “except” in the prompt. For instance, “All of the following deal with the rise of sectionalism in the 19th century except….” These discoveries help both the gifted learner and the student reaching to get a 3 on the AP exam.

As for the remediation and analysis of student deficits, DCE teachers allow the students to disaggregate their test data. With the possibility of raising their grade by retesting in areas they tested at basic or below basic, students have a vested interest, and tend to be both honest in their data reflection and targeted in remedial learning. Aleckson expects student’s to retake portions of the exam that were below standard. This requires a week or two before the end of the semester to accommodate student learning and remedial testing needs.

What to you see as the future of this Multiple Choice model?

Aleckson hopes that other AP courses explore and improve on the multiple choice testing model his social studies department created. He is already looking to remove some of the questions used last year and refine his assessment based on DCE Learning Targets. Next year, Aleckson wants to focus on improving upon interventions for students who score at basic or below basic on their semester tests. The DCE teachers involved in this innovative practice will continue insightful data reflection and hopefully expanding this multiple choice testing model into other subjects.

As most educators embrace open access to AP for all college bound students, strategies like Aleckson’s will provide critical differention of assessment that will lead to greater student success and skill development. Hopefully, educators will create and share these teaching/assessment instruments in the state of Wisconsin as we pursue both Equity and Excellence.