National Council for the Social Studies Community Network
I have been teaching social studies for the past ten years and my biggest struggle has been in finding a textbook that engages my students enough to read the thing. Of course, reading the chapter is just the first step in moving them towards doing the "fun stuff" like simulations and debates.
Out of this challenge I have been motivated to create an online resource called Go Social Studies Go. I'd appreciate any feedback you can send my way.
Is this resource more engaging than the traditional textbook?
What are the challenges in using web based learning?
What methods do you use to overcome the textbook gap?
Nice website! I just spent a few minutes browsing through the US History section of your website, and I have a few comments:
1) Based on my experience, students find websites more engaging than traditional paper texts. It never seizes to amaze me how simply clicking a link can be ten times as engaging as flipping a page. Your website is easy to navigate and aesthetically sharp.
2) One shortcoming of using websites as sources is that students can't mark them up. Active reading and annotations are helpful tools for comprehension. It also makes it easier for students to find evidence later on to support their arguments, whether you are having a class debate or students are writing essays. I find annotating texts particularly facilitates comprehension when dealing with primary sources.
3) My biggest critique of textbooks is that they make history seem like a straight forward narrative. Having students dig into primary sources and question what happened in the past--and examine bias, perspective, etc--separates history from other academic subjects. History class is arguably the best place to develop these critical thinking skills. One suggestion I have to your website is to include more primary sources and to encourage your students to try being historians. Have them dig into the messy past and try to peace together what happened. This could work nicely in your section on the battle of Lexington, as there is substantial debate over what happened there. The following website provides some resources in an online format you might find helpful: http://www.dhr.history.vt.edu/modules/us/intro/evidence.html. Another one of my favorite history websites that promotes primary source inquiry is historicalthinkingmatters.org/.
Let me know what you think. Thanks for your post.
Although I am currently finishing my master's in education program, I can relate to your struggles in trying to get students to engage with textbooks. Textbooks are (obviously) information heavy and can be extremely dry at times, but, for better or for worse, have been adopted as the "authoritative" text in many high school classrooms across the U.S. With that being said, and as Brian had mentioned, textbooks seemingly do present history as linear and static, and do not really enable educators to teach history in a thematic (as opposed to chronological) sense. To overcome the "textbook" gap I try to heavily engage students (calling upon my student teaching/substitute teaching experiences) in primary source documents, as they allow for the transmission of content, while at the same time providing a more intimate look at what "really happened."
But in regards to your website, I believe that you have created a tool with the potential to spur student engagement. You do provide the content for a plethora of historical events, but at the same time you have given this website more of an interactive feel through your use of primary source materials, film, and photos.
As I previously mentioned, I believe that you have created a valuable tool that, if placed in the right hands, can provide students with a way of "doing" social studies outside the confines of a traditional textbook.