When I am asked by people for advice or have the ears of social studies educators I work with (rookie or veteran) I like to share this bit of advice– “Each year, be sure to add at least one new aspect of teaching to your repertoire.” I have come to consider this sentiment to be a core belief, maybe wisdom at this point, of my professional philosophy and personal world view.
This synthesis of professional and personal convictions reminds me of scholar Lee Shulman’s concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Shulman stressed the interplay of two domains often considered to be exclusive aspects of K-16 teaching: subject matter expertise and instruction. He reminds us,
“If teachers are to be successful they would have to confront both issues (of content and pedagogy) simultaneously, by embodying the aspects of content most germane to its teachability… It represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction.” (Shulman, 1986, p. 8-9)
Here is Shulman in 2011 reflecting on teaching and education. The 55 minutes are well worth it. So get a coffee and some ice cream, and enjoy!
Welcome back. In 1987 Shulman co-authored an article I consider part of the pedagogical canon, “150 different ways of knowing: Representations of knowledge in teaching.” In essence, a synthesis of understanding by the teacher is part of each class and, in turn, the educator’s professional expertise. For example, using a high school English class reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin as an example, pedagogical uses of literature and the role of discussion as an instructional strategy in uncovering meanings in the work, combined with subject matter knowledge of the history of slavery and abolition can be represented using a simple Venn diagram labeled with Shulman’s theory.
So, from Shulman, I return to my very simple recommendation: expand your instructional repertoire every year by trying something new that can help students engage with your content. This summer my goal was…well still is… to improve my expertise with a range of educational technology tools so that I can use them with my students and promote them among my colleagues. Each of them can be used with online, traditional and blended approaches to teaching and learning. Moreover, the 6 tools below are applicable to a range of content areas. Mastering them and then using them with intent in your classes will place you in that sweet spot of Shulman’s Venn diagram.
1) Thinglink (Interactive Images)
This tool “develops interactive images that help students develop 21st-century skills and enrich their enthusiasm for learning… It’s an engaging, all-inclusive tool for students to demonstrate their learning, though its full potential depends on how teachers use it.”
I am super excited about this one. You, and your students, can take any image (including maps, political cartoons, data charts, etc.) and add information to it – explanatory notes, prompts and questions, video, additional information, links, etc. I created this one below to collect the Atlantic World via music. In the end, with ThingLink, your creativity, content knowledge. and instructional vision is the limit.
9 Songs About Society from the Atlantic World, 1957-1988
2) Google Cultural Institute: Historic Moments (Online Exhibits/Content) From the f0lks at Google, the Historic Moment portal to their umbrella website “Cultural Institute” provides “online exhibitions detailing the stories behind significant moments in human history. Each exhibition tells a story using documents, photos, videos and in some cases personal accounts of events.” Wow! Be sure to explore tutorials on the site or a growing repository by people online. The content is growing and is useful for online, face to face, ad blended approaches to teaching about the past. So far, my two favorites are “The Second World War in 100 Objects” and “Nelson Mandela: One Man’s Memory.” Bookmark this one and share it far and wide.
3) Joomla! (Content Management Platform) “A content management platform is software that keeps track of every piece of content on your Web site, much like your local public library keeps track of books and stores them. Content can be simple text, photos, music, video, documents, or just about anything you can think of. A major advantage of using a CMS is that it requires almost no technical skill or knowledge to manage. A mobile-ready and user-friendly way to build your website. Choose from thousands of features and designs. Joomla! is free and open source.” How do you organize and present you resources to students? Where can students interact with the assignments, resources, and assessments you create and use? Joomla is ideal for creating your own electronic portfolio as well and getting your research out in the public sphere.
4) Social Explorer (Visualizing Data): This tool was introduced to me by my colleague, Patti Winch. See, sharing does work! “Social Explorer provides quick and easy access to current and historical census data and demographic information. The easy-to-use web interface lets users create maps and reports to illustrate, analyze, and understand demography and social change.” Amazingly, it contains data from each census back to 1790! I am excited to tap into this tool with gusto. Take a look at what can be done.
5) Screencast-o-matic (Presentations) –Screencast-o-matic is video and audio screen capture software. In the classroom, Screencast-o-matic is useful for recording audio commentary on student writing, recording a mini-lecture, narrating a presentation, or any other function you can think of! Ok, so this isn’t a new one for me, but they have recently expanded by adding a bunch of new features. So, I need to catch up. I have students create their own explaining their final paper topic Here is a short example of a screencast I made and use in class.
6) Ted Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing: (Online Lessons) “TED-Ed’s commitment to creating lessons worth sharing is an extension of TED’s mission of spreading great ideas. Within TED-Ed’s growing library of lessons, you will find carefully curated educational videos, many of which represent collaborations between talented educators and animators nominated through the TED-Ed platform.”
My goal is to submit a lesson that will be accepted and then made into a Ted Ed lesson. Review your resources, and your colleagues (because you can nominate teachers too) for outstanding lessons. We all have gems that should be shared with as many educators and students.
Now, if these tools have not captured your interest, check out these two lists for more options.
So, where can this bring us. Back to Shulman of course, and then beyond. By recognizing educational technology as a domain of knowledge for educators’ to master, we transfer PCK to TPCK. “Technological pedagogical content knowledge refers to the knowledge and understanding of the interplay between CK, PK and TK when using technology for teaching and learning (Schmidt, Thompson, Koehler, Shin, & Mishra, 2009). It includes an understanding of the complexity of relationships between students, teachers, content, practices and technologies (Archambault & Crippen, 2009).”
Whatever tools you add to your repertoire, I say congratulations! You have modeled life-long learning and are an inspiration to your students and colleagues. Let me know what works for you, suggest additional tools, and stay in touch via twitter: @CraigPerrier
Enjoy the rest of your summer!