Identifying the “Why” in Education -10 Theories For Educators to Know, Apply, and Share

Throughout this past school, the concept of “starting with the “Why” has consistently appeared in various settings.  The mantra is emphasized in meetings,  promoted by AVID leadership in our county,  referenced at the NCSS meeting in Seattle, and is a guiding principle around professional development.  At the orientation meeting for judges at the the National History Day tournament, an explanation of “Why” was used identifying  our TheGoldenCirclecollective enjoyment of history and support for students’ engaging with the past. I researched the concept and its “Golden Circle” approach to leadership.  Applying this to education is, I argue, is essential to the professionalism and artistry of our field.  We should all be able to answer the “Why” for our personal practices, content area, school mission, and national purpose… and provide that answer to our students and their parents.

Now that summer is upon us, it is a perfect time to reflect on the Why.
The Golden Circle

Beginning as a student in anthropology, Simon Sinek turned his fascination with people into a career of convincing people to do what inspires them. His earliest work was in advertising, moving on to start Sinek Partners in 2002, but he suddenly lost his passion despite earning solid income. Through his struggle to rediscover his excitement about life and work, he made some profound realizations and began his helping his friends and their friends to find their “why” — at first charging just $100, person by person. Never planning to write a book, he penned Start With Why simply as a way to distribute his message


The 10 theories below are obviously not a comprehensive list.  They represent what happens to be synthesizing in my current experiences, reading, and discussions with colleagues and my PLN.  They help me answer the Why which in turn guide the How and What of history and social studies education. What theories would you add to the list?  What do you think of these?  Enjoy!


  1. Carol DweckMind Set :
    Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and mindsetsuccess—a simple idea that makes all the difference.In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships.

Test your Mindset here!


2. Daniel GolemanEmotional Intelligence:   The phrase, or its casual shorthand EQ, argues that IQ, or conventional intelligence, is too narrow; that there are wider areas of Emotional Intelligence that dictate and EQ at workenable how successful we are. Success requires more than IQ (Intelligence Quotient), which has tended to be the traditional measure of intelligence, ignoring essential behavioural and character elements. We’ve all met people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially and inter-personally inept. And we know that despite possessing a high IQ rating, success does not automatically follow.

“Most gratifying for me has been how ardently the concept has been embraced by educators, in the form of programs in “social and emotional learning or SEL. Back in 1995 I was able to find only a handful of such programs teaching emotional intelligence skills to children. Now, a decade later, tens of thousands of schools worldwide offer children SEL. In the United States many districts and even entire states currently make SEL curriculum requirement, mandating that just as students must attain a certain level of competence in math and language, so too should they master these essential skills for living.”

3. Sugata Mitra – Minimally Invasive Education:  MIE is a pedagogic method that uses the learning environment to generate an adequate level of motivation to induce learning in groups of children, with minimal, or no, intervention by a teacher.  Mitra suggests this approach develops “functional literacy” in students and demands reflection on how time and money  is being spent in education: “If computer literacy is defined as turning a computer on and off and doing the basic functions, then this method allows that kind of computer literacy to be achieved with no formal instruction. Therefore any formal instruction for that kind of education is a waste of time and money. You can use that time and money to have a teacher teach something else that children cannot learn on their own.” 

Minimally Invasive Education in school asserts there are many ways to study and learn. It argues that learning is a process you do, not a process that is done to you. Another advantage is that MIE ensures that children themselves take ownership of the Learning Station by forming self-organized groups who learn on their own. Finally an unsupervised setting ensures that the entire process of learning is learner-centric and is driven by a child’s natural curiosity.

Mitra has recently announced the Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE).  SOLE is a place where children can work in groups, access the internet and other software, follow up on a class activity or project or take them where their interests lead them.  Download the toolkit and try it out.

4. Phil SchlectlyEngagement Theory:  Schlectly focuses attention on student motivation and the strategies needed to increase the engagementprospect that schools and teachers will be positioned to increase the presence of engaging tasks and activities in the routine life of the school. The Theory of Engagement proceeds from a number of assumptions. The most critical ones focus on the way school tasks and activities are designed and student decisions regarding the personal consequences of doing the task assigned or participating in the activity.  The use of technology, although commonly supposed, is not a requirement for Schlectly’s theory. In fact,  the technology – engagement relationship has spawned its own body of research and literature. In turn, the theory looks at the effectiveness of teachers leading students through discussions and action planning.  Letting students take control of their learning, and use the school as a network, would definitely be a step in a different direction.  Schlectly also mentions “that relationships, and the work assigned directly impacts student’s performance.”


5. Paulo FreireCritical Pedagogy: Critical Pedagogy is a domain of education and research that studies the social, cultural, political, economic, and cognitive dynamics of teaching and learning. Critical Pedagogy emphasizes the impact of power relationships in the educational process. Emerging in the late 1960s with the work of Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, Critical Pedagogy has evolved as a cross-disciplinary field. “Critical Pedagogy would never find it sufficient to reform the habits of thought of thinkers, however effectively, without challenging and transforming the institutions, ideologies, and relations that engender distorted, oppressed thinking in the first place — not as an Freireadditional act beyond the pedagogical one, but as an inseparable part of it. The method of Critical Pedagogy for Freire involves, to use his phrase, “reading the world” as well as “reading the word” (Freire & Macedo 1987). Part of developing a critical consciousness, as noted above, is critiquing the social relations, social institutions, and social traditions that create and maintain conditions of oppression. For Freire, the teaching of literacy is a primary form of cultural action, and as action it must “relate speaking the word to transforming reality”(Freire 1970a, 4).




6. George SiemensConnectivismAt the core, connectivism is a form of experiential learning which prioritizes the set of connections formed by actions and experience over the idea that knowledge is propositional. It shares with some other theories a core proposition, that knowledge is not acquired, as though it were a thing. Knowledge is, on this theory, literally the set of connections formed by actions and experience.  One aspect of connectivism is its central metaphor of a network with nodes and connections.In this metaphor, a node is anything that can be connected to another node such as an organization, information, data, feelings and images. Connectivism sees learning as the process of creating connections and elaborating a network. Not all connections are of equal strength.

The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.

7. Lev VykotskySocial Constructivis Theory:  Vykotsky, when juxtaposed to Piaget, emphasized the social interactions between students and teachers.  In short positive relationships are significant to learning.

His Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) are two of Vykotsky’s major legacies found in contemporary education. ZPD addresses the difference between what a child can achieve independently and what a child can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner. Vykotsky sees the area in the ZPD as where the most sensitive instruction or guidance should be given – allowing the child to develop skills they will then use on their own – developing higher mental functions.

Vygotsky believed during the learning process children first learn by imitating adults. In the beginning, children are unable to complete a particular task without assistance. Over time, this child may be able to complete more complex tasks with adult assistance because the ZPD of a child isn’t stagnant, it continuously changes as he or she conquers increasingly difficult work over time. Focusing more on education, ZPD can be useful to educators because it should remind them how students can be expanded to reach goals with or without adult direction and support. This is often referred to as “Scaffolding.”

The MKO strongly relates to ZPD: “it refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept.

Although the implication is that the MKO is a teacher or an older adult, this is not necessarily the case.  Many times, a child’s peers or an adult’s children may be the individuals with more knowledge or experience. In fact, the MKO need not be a person at all (website, video).   The key to MKOs is that they must have (or be programmed with) more knowledge about the topic being learned than the learner does.”

8. Gary Marx16 Trends: Sixteen Trends … Their Profound Impact on Our Future, and Future Focused Leadership … Preparing Schools, Students, and Communities for Tomorrow’s Realities, lays out evidence for major trends and then speculates on their profound implications for society at large and education systems, such as schools and colleges, in particular.  He adds, “We have a distinct choice–we can simply defend what we have…or we can create what we need to get our students, our schools, and our communities ready for a fast-changing world.”

His new book will build upon his 16 trends.  Marx states “The next generation in the trends series focuses on political, economic, social, technological, demographic, and environmental trends. Among more than 20 societal forces that will get special attention in the upcoming book are identity and privacy, sustainability, scarcity vs. abundance, and energy. They are in addition to dramatic developments in aging, diversity, the flow of generations, technology, interdependence, and the environment, to name a few. Massive trends that impact the whole of society provide an outstanding launch pad for active learning, project-based education, real-world education, teaching thinking and reasoning/problem solving skills, and learning through inquiry. Students are drawn to using futures tools, such as trend analysis, issue analysis, and gap analysis because each one comes with an invitation to consider implications for shaping their own futures. The new book will be published by Education Week Press.


9. Howard Gardner –  Multiple Intelligences:  Arguably the most influential educational movement of recent educational practice, MI has had to contend against rampant misconcpetions and faculty application of Gardner’s theory.  I have come across this numerous times in my career. So, please, be on guard when practioners reference Gardner. Gardner defined the first seven intelligences in Frames of Mind in 1983.  He added two more, Naturalist and Existentialist,  in Intelligence Reframed in 1999.  “Based on his study of many people from many different walks of life in everyday circumstances and professions, Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner’s MI Theory challenged traditional beliefs in the fields of education and cognitive science.  According to a traditional definition, intelligence is a uniform cognitive capacity people are born with.  This capacity can be easily measured by short-answer tests.  According to Gardner, intelligence is:

  • The ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture9_MI
  • A set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problems in life
  • The potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge

In addition, Gardner claims that:

  • All human beings possess all intelligences in varying amounts
  • Each person has a different intellectual composition
  • We can improve education by addressing the multiple intelligences of our students
  • These intelligences are located in different areas of the brain and can either work independently or together
  • These intelligences may define the human species
  • Multiple intelligences can be nurtured and strengthened, or ignored and weakened
  • Each individual has nine intelligences (and maybe more to be discovered)



10. Benjamin Bloom/Lorin Anderson – Revised Taxonomy:  “In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. During the 1990’s a new group of cognitive psychologists, lead by Lorin Andersonblooms_gears_ipad_720x952-2cpl0pd1 (a former student of Bloom), updated the taxonomy to reflect relevance to 21st century work. The change from nouns to verbs associated with each level is significant.”   It is important to know that the list of action words that are typically associated with each level does not guarantee that students are engaged at that level.  Specific expectations and follow up questioning is essential to the process.  For example, asking students to “Compare and Contrast two images”  does not automatically place student thought at the “Analysis” level.  More is needed from the teacher.  For example “Compare and Contrast two images.  Explain your 3-4 findings that address the economic and social contexts of both images. Which do you find more appealing and why?”

Debate about the need to master a lower level of the taxonomy prior to advancing to the next one is prevalent.   Can student’s engage with a higher level first or is the lowest level the entry point for Bloom?  My belief is yes students can be engaged at higher levels first. In fact the “hierarchy” dimension of Bloom has been challenged and conceived as a fluid network of thought and action.







Publish and Prosper: Infographics, The Networked Classroom and Student Generated Knowledge in the Public Sphere

Greetings.  April proved to be a busy (good busy) month. I apologize for the delay in this post.

I delivered my presentation “Publish and Prosper: Tips on Promoting Student Generated Knowledge in the Public Sphere” on March 27th  during the inaugural  School Leadership Summit.  The mission of the conference was “to kick off an event that would perpetuate and would be a place for broader conversation amongst school leaders and the ed tech / blogger / social media crowd.” Stay on the lookout for future online conferences.

This post expands upon my conference presentation. A special thanks to my session moderator Jason Borgen, program director at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Check out these links.

So… on to this week’s post.


Infographic: An umbrella term for illustrations and charts that instruct people, which otherwise would be difficult or impossible with only text. Infographics are used worldwide in every discipline from road maps and street signs to the many technical drawings in this encyclopedia.”  -PC Magazine


A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a collaboratively  generated, student infographic is priceless.  Infographics, at their best, are research based student products synthesizing text, design and visuals– typically specialized maps, charts, themes, graphs, and illustrations – in one creative and specially designed media.  At their worst,  infographics are glorified collages or posters. What distinguishe(and  elevates) an infographic beyond these static items is technology’s impact on design, crowd sourcing, and the abiltiy to edit and update information. What’s more, their educational appeal has grown with the advent of “media literacy” and “information literacy” as 21st century skills related to college and career readiness and the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

  • They convey a lot of information using specific  language selection.
  • Useable with low language levels.
  • Visual and mathematical / statistical aspects can help to convey meaning.
  • They are much easier to read then dense text on a computer screen.
  • They lend themselves to be used across disciplines.
  • You can find infographics quickly and easily on almost any topic.
  • They develop multiple literacies and intelligences in students.
  • You can help students to become more critical of information sources.

I am arguing that infographics should be promoted as student generated media/knowledge that add to existing discussions,  can be effectively shared and modified, help achieve the demands of 21st century education, and promotes a culture of connectivism (see below).  When combined, these represent the culture of a “Networked Classroom.”

Two Infographics about infographics

  1)         From EVR: Informed Ingenuity   


2) From Huffington Post


Infographic Resources: Deciding which inforgraphic tool to use in your classroom is based (in my experience) on personal preference and school approval around privacy issues (do students have to register) and technology specs.  There are advantages to having students in a district use multiple, common (2-3) formats.  Here is a selection of infographic tools inspierd by the Daily Tekk’s 100 list.

  1. Visually is a one-stop shop for the creation of data visualizations and infographics
  2. Create infographics in just a few minutes. No design skills needed.
  3. Create and share visual ideas online.
  4. Piktochart: Our Mission is to simplify information and make it exciting
  5. Tagxedo: Turns words — famous speeches, news articles, slogans and themes, even your love letters — into a visually stunning word cloud.
  6. iCharts: Create great-looking charts in minutes with interactive and easy-to-share data.

These are a great start. But if you want to see some dynamic  samples on infographics done professionally, as well as links to more information on infographics, try these:

  • NY Times:  Focus on social studies and history infographics
  • Daily Infographic Every day we feature the best information design and data visualization from the internet.
  • Cool Infographic: highlights some of the best examples of data visualizations and infographics found in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet.
  • Information is Beautiful… see the TED video below. This collection is incredible!
  • Infographic a day: What is new is that infographics’ volume, frequency, and the richness of the media.


Infographics require students to access, arrange, evaluate, and create information.

What is Meant by the Public Sphere in Education?

The networked classroom encourages a culture of investigation, knowledge creation, connectivism, trust, and personalized learning.  Teachers utilize their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and students can identify and tap into their own Student Learning Networks (SLN). Notice in the video below the comment that “His teacher rarely lectures. “I recognize there is use for lecture and that there are degrees of lecture substance and purpose.  However, it is clear that the style argued against is the “drill and kill” teacher centered, sage-on-stage style which some teachers erroneously claim will be the only style used in higher education.

Once your students are collaborating with peers beyond your classroom, teachers can empower their 21stcentury classroom by placing student work in

Who is your students’ audience? Where do they get feedback?

the public sphere.What is meant by the “public sphere.”  Simply put, the public sphere is anything beyond the teacher’s eyes only.  The idea of students writing a paper for a teacher’s eyes only is an anachronism. Placing student in the public sphere is easy to do with social media. One suggestion is to do this in a secure course in your school’s LMS. Moreover, students accept greater responsibility and are more invested in their work. Consider the list below a continuum moving from “narrow” to “broad” public spheres. Next to each dimension are a few suggested ways student work can interact beyond teacher-eyes-only models.

a) …classroom:  gallery walks, class discussion of student work.

b) …department:  peer editing from other sections, presenting to other classes, discipline website highlighting student work

c) …school: display tables at lunch, displays in hallways, newspapers, library archives,  part of parent nights

d) … community: student work in civic buildings, displays, local newspapers,

e) … nation: engage in projects like National History Day, collaborate with schools, and colleges, engage in contests

f) … international: establish sister schools, link with non-profits, video conferencing

g)… cyber space: present at online conferences, post work on websites, establish a learnist board, comment on blogs, utilize web 2.0 tools.

Who is calling for students to generate knowledge and publish it for public consumption? In NEW DIRECTIONS IN SOCIAL EDUCATION RESEARCH: The Influence of Technology and Globalization on the Lives of Students  it is argued  that “As pressures mount for society to equip today’s youth with both the global and digital understandings necessary to confront the challenges of the 21st century, a more thorough analysis must be undertaken to examine the role of technology on student learning (Peters, 2009).”  Likewise, “youth are active participants, producers, and distributors of new media. The digital production of youth includes over 38% of designing personal websites, 23% constructing online videos and slideshows, and 8%launching digital causes campaigns….The internet has allowed youth new opportunities in fostering global awareness of civic, humanitarian, political, economic, and environmental causes (Maguth p.3).

The arrow chart (above) frames the public sphere in spatial terms. An0ther model (below) emphasizes the level of student engagement and teacher management.  The best approach to teaching and learning will draw from both spatial dimensions and personal interaction.


Student work in the public sphere  can manifest in a variety of forms. Overall, this is a very exciting part of contemporary education that should be part of any collaborative classroom in the 21st century. The infographic is part of this educational model.



The popularity of Infographics have spurred a variety of rubrics for teachers to utilize.  My favorite are here:

If you find one that you think is just as good or better, let me know.

Synthesis – Connectivism and Media Literacy

At least two epistemologies drive networked classrooms to use  infographics as the format for student generated knowledge to be shared in the public sphere.  These two ideas, Connectivism and Media Literacy,join with other learning theories (constructivism, behaviorism) and competencies (college, career, civic etc.) in the world if contemporary teaching and learning.  Both are described below.

Live long. Publish and Prosper.

According to professor  George Siemens, “connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired and the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. Also critical is the ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday” (Siemens, 2005).


Center for Media Literacy: Media Literacy is a 21st century approach to education. It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages (information) in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.





The Connected Educator’s Full House: 8 “Ace” Resources

As legend and history relates, the “Dead Man’s Hand”, 2 pairs – Aces and Eights, was Wild Bill Hickok’s final deal.  He was killed at the poker table in Deadwood in the Dakota Territory at the Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon in 1876.  His murderer, Jack McCall shot him through the head from behind.  Despite some “authoritative” claims to what the fifth card was in Hickok’s star crossed hand, it remains a mystery. One poker website notes:

 “The transcript of McCall’s trial, for having shot Hickok, has a witness claiming that the fifth card was the jack of diamonds. The card used in the

Hickok’s final hand. How will educator’s play their hand?


re-creation of the shooting in Deadwood, as well as the card supposedly suggested by other eyewitnesses is the nine of diamonds.” And finally, the Deadwood museum uses a five of diamonds that is on display in Deadwood. “I suppose nobody will ever know, considering the town of Deadwood, and alot of its records, burnt to the ground in 1879”

I like to imagine, at least for this blog post, that the mystery card was actually an Ace or an 8.  Bill’s hand would have been better, at least.


So, what hand has been dealt to contemporary educators?  In March, the Huffington Post reported  their findings from a teacher satisfaction survey.  The findings are not optimistic; and maybe not too surprising.  “As school districts continued to cut budgets, increase class sizes, and implement teacher performance evaluations, teachers’ job satisfaction plummeted in 2012, reaching an all-time low…Teachers’ job satisfaction has declined 23 percentage points in the five years since 2008, according to the long-running survey of educators and principals. Only 39 percent of teachers reported they were very satisfied, the least since 1987, the survey showed. The percentage of teachers who said they were very satisfied dropped five percentage points in 2012.”

No quick fixes here. However,  I have found that there are benefits when educators are networked.  I believe it increases morale, innovation, collaboration, inspiration, and general support.  Overall, a sense of professionalism increases.  I have created two categories network benefits below.  Have fun exploring them, getting involved, sharing and using them.

I wonder if any cards were wild in Wild Bill’s last hand.  Regardless, all of the resources below have wild benefits for you and your students. No bluff. Your deal!



4 Ace Online Professional Development/Networking Opportunities


1- The Connected Educator Month Archives:  Funded by the US Department of Education.  The Connected Educator Month 2012 Archives have been officially released, with nearly one hundred recordings, transcripts, and other professional development resources to date from CEM 2012, searchable by format, audience, and topic.  Be sure to check out the session “Professional Learning and the Learning Profession” which addresses such questions like

  • What and where are the best (social) opportunities for educators to work on and learn for their practice in the coming year?
  • What steps should every educator consider taking to become more connected, and what are the key resources that can help?
  • In what kinds of learning do teachers (and other educators) need to be engaged in the 21st century, and how will technology help?
  • What are the key methodological and content trends in the classroom (e.g., flipped classrooms, core standards) with which technology (in general) and communities or networks (specifically) can impact and help?




2- The School Leadership Summit: Thursday, March 28th, is the inaugural, online, and free School Leadership Summit.

It is a unique chance to participate in a virtual and collaborative global conversation on school leadership with presentations by practitioners.  Conference strands are aligned to the internationally-recognized ISTE National Education Technology Standards for Administrators and include the leadership topics of: Vision in a Changing World, Teaching and Learning in a Changing World, Professional Learning in a Changing World, Data-driven Reform in a Changing World, and Ethical and Responsible Use in a Changing World.  TICAL (the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership) is the founding partner of the conference.

 The Summit is held online using Blackboard Collaborate and open to anyone to attend.  The conference schedule is kept current at and during the conference will be viewable by specific world time zones. Visit my session at 7:00 pm.
3 –ASCD Webinars:  ASCD’s free webinar series brings experts in the field of education to a computer near you. Their webinars address timely and relevant topics like the Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning strategies, and closing the achievement gap.  Bonus hand, they archive each webinar, so you will never have to miss your deal.  Also, ASCD takes suggestions. Be sure to fill out their request feature.
4- The Educators PLN: This is a ning site dedicated to the support of a Personal Learning Network for Educators. Resources, blogs, other websites, discussion forums and more make this a hyper active community. Browse the “Leader Board” to get an idea of who is doing what and who is most active. So, sign up, create your profile page and let the networking begin.

4 Ace Online/Classroom Resources:

1-Show World: The website creates a map morph based on the criteria you select. All you do is select a subject from the top menu and watch the countries on the map change their size. Instead of land mass, the size of each country will represent the data for that subject –both its share of the total and absolute value. The main topics “People, Planet, Politics, Business, and Living” have a multitude of sub categories to choose from. Also, the site allows you to explore data for the World, the US, and Japan.  Data sources are cited, there are zoom options, a table that ranks the category leader and much more. The search for the  screen shot is based on the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the world.  Eat up…


2- Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square: The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria leading journalists at TIME and CNN, and other international thinkers.Record his show and watch a segment in class. Features include


3- TED Ed: TED-Ed is a website for teachers and learners. Lessons worth sharing allows you use, tweak, or completely redo any lesson featured on TED-Ed, or create lessons from scratch.  You can also get involved or recommend someone: “The most meaningful TED-Ed videos are collaborations between the TED-Ed team and at least one of the following: a curious learner, an exceptional educator, or a talented visualization artist. If you are one of these types of people, or if you know someone who is, please help guide our effort to create a library of lessons worth sharing…”  Check this out!


4- Open Culture: Formed in 2006, Open Culture brings together high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community. Web 2.0 has given us great amounts of intelligent audio and video. It’s all free. It’s all enriching. But it’s also scattered across the web, and not easy to find. Our whole mission is to centralize this content, curate it, and give you access to this high quality content whenever and wherever you want it. Free audio books, free online courses, free movies, free language lessons, free ebooks and other enriching content — it’s all there!  I just watched Waiting for Godot.


Publish and Prosper: Tips on Promoting Student Generated Knowledge in the Public Sphere

In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1997 novel Timequake, there is an exchange about the “innocent question: ‘Art or not?'”.  Here is what Vonnegut comes up with.

RIP 1922-2007: With the publication of his novel Timequake in 1997, Vonnegut announced his retirement from writing fiction. He continued to write for the magazine In These Times, where he was a senior editor.

Listen: “Contemplating a purported work of art is a social activity (emphasis added)… People capable of liking some paintings or prints or whatever can rarely do so without knowing something about the artist. Again the situation is social rather than scientific… If you are unwilling (or in education, unable [my addition]) to claim credit for your pictures…there goes the ball game.”

The social action Vonnegut stresses at the close of the 2oth century, has become a pillar of 21st century education manifestos and best practices.  The “social activity” mentioned above, transferred to contemporary education instruction, manifests in the call for students to generate knowledge through a variety of production styles which are then placed in the public sphere. Simply put, the traditional practice of  students writing a paper for one set of eyes (the teacher’s) to see, digest, comment and evaluate is an anachronism.  Continued practice of this type of assessment is a remnant of the sage on the stage model of education. It is indeed time to reinvent the wheel.

So, who is calling for students to generate knowledge and publish it for public consumption.  First, let’s explore some perspectives from  the recent publication NEW DIRECTIONS IN SOCIAL EDUCATION RESEARCH: The Influence of Technology and Globalization on the Lives of Students edited by Dr. Brad Maguth  “As pressures mount for society to equip today’s youth with both the global and digital understandings necessary to confront the challenges of the 21st century, a more thorough analysis must be undertaken to examine the role of technology on student learning (Peters, 2009).”  Likewise, “youth are active participants, producers, and distributors of new media. The digital production of youth includes over 38% of designing personal websites, 23% constructing online videos and slideshows, and 8%launching digital causes campaigns….The internet has allowed youth new opportunities in fostering global awareness of civic, humanitarian, political, economic, and environmental causes (Maguth p.3)

Student generated knowledge is a powerful educational experience.  These clips are a tribute the unleashed potential of celebrating student interests and sharing work in the public sphere.

1) “Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.”

2) Nikhil Goyal is a student at Syosset High School in New York, United States. He wrote a book: All Hands on Deck: Why America Needs a Learning Revolution to be published in September 2012. Goyal writes for the Huffington Post, guest blogs for the New York Times, and contributes to NBC Education Nation.  “Students are left out of the debate, even thought we have the most important opinions.  Instead of schools cherishing students’ passions and interests, they destroy them. Let’s raise kids to dream big and think different. America will need to re-kindle the innovative spirit that has propelled in the past. It’s a do or die moment. Bring on the learning revolution!”

These messages and practices are supported by present, influential movements in 21st century education. Consider the following frameworks and strategies for the future of education practice. How close do your schools and classrooms meet these goals and aspirations for our students and educators?

A) Vision for the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards:  Dimension 4  highlights the ways students use to present their ideas (e.g., essays, debates, video productions), the venues in which they present their ideas (e.g., classrooms, school gatherings, public meetings), and the ways in which they work (e.g., individually, small groups, whole class).
Readiness for college, career, and civic life is as much about the experiences students have as it is about learning any particular set of content, concepts, or skills. Thus the learning environments that teachers create are critical to student success. Students will flourish to the extent that their independent and collaborative efforts are guided, supported, and honored.

B) Succeeding Globally Through. International Education and Engagement. U.S. Department of Education. International Strategy. 2012–16 “The Global Competence Task Force … defined globally competent individuals as those who use their knowledge and skills to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, recognize their own and others’ perspectives, communicate their ideas effectively with diverse audiences, and translate their ideas into appropriate actions.

C) Common Core State Standards:  “Although information is provided in both arguments and explanations, the two types of writing have different aims.
Arguments seek to make people believe that something is true or to persuade people to change their beliefs or behavior. Explanations, on the other hand, start with the assumption of truthfulness and answer questions about why or how. Their aim is to make the reader understand rather than to persuade him or her to accept a certain point of view. In short, arguments are used for persuasion and explanations for clarification.

I guess another question to ask is to what extent do these statements actually carry weight in state standards and testing and school cultures.  Are these ideas valued? Buy whom?

Well, I still believe that the most important factor in educational experiences is the classroom teacher.  If you are still doing the one way practice of student –> teacher publishing, fear not.  Below are some tips on student products. But first, what is meant but he “public sphere.”  Simply put, the public sphere is anything beyond the teacher’s eyes only.  Consider the list below a continuum moving from narrow to broad spheres of public. Next to each dimension I included a few suggested ways  student work can interact beyond teacher eyes only models. Of course the list is not complete but hopefully gets the idea juices flowing.

The Public…

a) …classroom:  gallery walks,  class discussion of student work.

b) …department:  peer editing from other sections, presenting to other classes, discipline website highlighting student work

c) …school: display tables at lunch, displays in hallways, newspapers, library archives,  part of parent nights

d) … community: student work in civic buildings, displays, local newspapers,

e) … nation: engage in projects like National History Day, collaborate with schools, and colleges, engage in contests

f) … international: establish sister schools, link with non-profits, video conferencing

g)… cyber space: present at online conferences, post work on websites, establish a learnist board, comment on blogs, utilize web 2.0 tools


But what to publish?  Well, the sky is the limit here. One suggestion is to do this in a secure course in your school’s LMS. Here are some concrete (not a total) list of suggestions.

Publish what?

*Writing (all types)      *Visuals/mind-maps        * Blogs/Wikis         *Infographics

*Presentation                  *Video/Audio/Media posts       *Comments to an established webpages

Overall, this is a very exciting part of education that need not be done always, but should be part of any model classroom.  Agreed?

and so it goes…

Seattle to St. Thomas: 5 Reflections from the U.S. Empire

This past week I traveled to two parts of the US empire.  People, American citizens especially, still resist and wrestle with this concept.  High school history courses, promoting the narrative that the US flirted with imperialism during the Spanish-American War but then quickly abandoned the idea,

What does the French soldier mean when he says America fights for the biggest “nothing” in history?

don’t help.  I find it amazing that this narrative persists as the dominant one despite the scholarship that has discredited the national myth.  For me, the first book that really drove the idea of American empire home was Niall Ferguson’s 2004 Colossus.  Ferguson points out “Many Americans doubtless play Age of Empires…But remarkably few Americans -or, for that matter American soldiers – would be willing to admit that their government is currently playing the game for real. This book argues not merely that the United States is an empire, but that it has always been an empire.”

Six years later, the 2010, 500 page plus tour de force Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference  by Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, compares the development of two mighty land based empires the USA and Russia.  In essence, anything beyond the boundaries set by the treaty of Paris in 1783, were imperialistic gains via war, treaty, and treasure. “Within the extension of continental empire to the west, the Euro-American “pioneers” marched along the road to full political participation and statehood; Indians were on a path to the reservation…”  Native Americans are the conquered peoples of the overland American Empire (Seattle, Washington included). The US Virgin Islands, bought from the Danes in 1917 were part of the overseas island empires (Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Samoa, Guam etc) and are classified by the UN as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, and are currently an organized, unincorporated United States territory. But if you go to the US VI, you realize that trading deeds and making inhabitants citizens (of sorts) doesn’t erode a culture of difference.   The resort staff is almost entirely black. And as I talked to a white immigrant from Ohio on the island, she recognized that she had moved to the US imperial hinterland and lived “where the white people do” on the island.

So, while at a conference in Seattle, former home to the Duwamish and Suquamish, and then on vacation in St. Thomas VI where resort workers uncomfortably wished me a “Happy Thanksgiving”, I reflected on these 5 items related to global, history, education, and teaching. Enjoy.


1) 3rd Annual Global Ed Conference:  Wow! Another great conference. For three years Lucy Gray and Steve Hargadon  have co piloted a landmark event. This year’s conference was co-sponsored by iEARN. With an expanding staff, following, presenters, archive, and energy, the conference is part of the present and future of professional development.  Check out the archives over the past three years, there is so much there.  Time and space no longer restrict PD opportunities.  My two presentations are linked below. The first as a presenter and the second as a guest panelist. Get involved!

(a) Navigating a Flat World: Teaching Globalization in Secondary Education:  Recording is found here    This is my 3rd presentation at GEC conferences (See my blog menu for the other two).  How come the most influential concept, process, and phenomenon not explicitly taught in high school? How can we claim to have a 21st century education without it being part of school curricula?

(b) Keynote Speaker Ed Gragert: Conference Wrap Up: Recording is found here  . I presented ideas about the future of professional development (PD) and how it can catch up to how we teach students – Personalized, Teacher Created Knowledge, and Technology Enhanced and Networked PD.It was a great tribute to all those who made the conference possible.


2)  93rd NCSS Conference:  The theme of the 2012 conference, held in Seattle WA, was “Opening Windows to the World.” The event offered 3 days programing and presentations across the social studies educational landscape.  Everyone knew, however, that the main event was the unveiling of the NCSS social studies framework.  That event, however was pushed back until the next conference in St. Louis.  In the interim, a panel outlined what had been done, what future work can be expected,  fielded questions from the audience, and shared the Vision for the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards .  This document “provides guidance for states to use in enhancing their standards for rigor in civics, economics, geography, and history in K-12 schools. The C3 Framework, currently under development, will ultimately focus on the disciplinary and multidisciplinary concepts and practices that make up the process of investigation, analysis, and explanation which will be informative to states interested in upgrading their social studies standards. The forthcoming framework, to be released in 2013, will be a significant resource for all states to consider in their local processes for upgrading state social studies standards, rather than set standards for states to adopt.”   Take a look, start the discussion, and post your comments.  For example… where does sociology, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology fit?  Is civics a discipline?

3) Online Facebook Debate: Anyone can engage Harvard Historian and Department Chair David Armitage in an online Facebook debate! Sponsored by the journal Itineario, Armitage’s opening statement addresses the question “Are we all global historians now?”  Part of Armitage’s response is “But in one strong sense we could say that we all have to be global historians now. By that I mean, if you are not doing . . . this formulation will get me into trouble, but let me nevertheless put it in these strong terms: if you are not doing an explicitly transnational, international or global project, you now have to explain why you are not… The hegemony of national historiography is over.”   Join the conversation and comment on Facebook here. Armitage’s full interview is here.

4) Contributors Wanted: American Imperialism and Expansion: ABC-CLIO Press is publishing Imperialism and Expansionism in American
History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia, an ambitious, 880,000-word, 4-volume project that will serve as ABC-CLIOs lead American history title for 2014. Each of the 4 volumes will include an historical overview, chronology, thematically organized A-Z entries, primary sources, glossary, and bibliography. For topics pertaining to the 18th and 19th centuries, including expansion within the continental U.S.: David Bernstein:    For topics pertaining to the 20th century: Chris Magoc:   I have signed up for three so far – “Isolationism”, “GI Joe (yes the toy)”, and “Top Gun (film)”.

5) Online Education & Best Practices What makes an online class a successful experience for students and teachers.  One answer is the same one we can yse for a F2F classroom… good  teaching.  Effective online educators are made not born. Regardless of the platform you use or the subject you teach, these 20+ characteristics should be core beliefs and practices for online education shared by teachers and students.  Sponsored by edudemic, the list will reinforce some strategies, remind you of ones forgotten, and reveal new pedagogy to consider.  My favorite is number 2 “Online should never mean easy, for teachers or students“… which is yours?








Tricks, Treats, and Tony Blair

Happy Halloween! I survived the 2012 Zombie Run in Darlington MD this past weekend…barely. I had one flag on my belt left.  It is interesting to see what holidays and festivals catch on in nations AND how they are interpreted, what meanings are given to

The Zombie Run in Maryland 2012. Click here for VIdeo

them, symbols used, traditions created, and rituals practiced. I have always been a fan of Halloween’s regional boundedness (in the US -New England,PA, NY, NJ,  made sense… but beyond those states, it never resonated with me). Halloween in Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana… just doesn’t seem to fit. What about in India, China, or Saudi Arabia? When I lived in Brazil, there was a quasi-visceral movement against celebrating Halloween. It was seen as cultural imperialism by the US; non-sensical practice to sell candy.  Halloween was a pop-cultural event celebrated beyond the expat community.  What other parts of the globe had it expanded? A quick search found this map charting global Halloween created on ChartsBin (more on this website in the future). ChartsBin does reference its sources!


So, what is behind my Halloween mask today. I have one history trick, one technology treat, and a Tony Blair Global…BOO! Enjoy.

TRICK:  Video games can teach.  Growing up playing simulations/adventure games on my Apple IIGS like Pirates!, Revolution ’76, and Balance of Power expanded my vocabulary and conceptual frameworks, introduced me to historical people and events, and reinforced time and space contexts. It goes without saying then, that I felt blissful nostalgia when I saw ads for Assassin’s Creed 3 a historical action game set around American Revolution. Great. Another generation would engage the American Revolution in a different format and enjoy it.  But then I read CNN’s review by Larry Frum “American history unfolds in ‘Assassin’s Creed 3”.   The article takes nothing away from the game. It is Frum’s opening paragraph that makes me wince: “History, we are told, is immutable. What has happened cannot be changed and, when lessons are not heeded, is doomed to repeat itself.: UGGGHH.

Issue 1:  History is not immutable.  History is a rendering of the past, a human conceptual construct that changes according to sources used, experiences, intent etc.

Issue 2: What has happened changes because interpretation changes.  This is an empowering aspect of historical study. History is not an external canon to be memorized.

Issue 3: History doesn’t repeat itself. History doesn’t DO anything. History is not a mystical force that directs. Most of all, history is not inevitable. When people speak in these terms they are sharing their world views, and limited understanding of historical studies, theory, and epistemology.

A potential fix addressing these issues can be found in The Big Six a new publication by Peter Seixas and Tom Morton.  Add it to your professional development reading and “to do ” list.

TREAT: The University of Texas at Austin, Hemispheres and Not Even Past are pleased to announce the launch of 15 Minute History, a podcast—with supplementary materials—about World and US history.  This podcast series is devoted to short, accessible discussions of important topics in World History and US History. The discussions will be conducted by the award winning faculty and graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. They are off

Channel Warhol with these15 minutes of fame!

to a great start!  As of Halloween 2012, they have 5 episodes:

Another neat feature is that they are taking suggestions! Email the staff (they got back to me within minutes). Combine that with a transcript of the podcast and further reading, and 15 minute history’s future looks bright. Add them to your bag of tricks… I mean treats.

TONY BLAIR:I was recently introduced to an outstanding Global Education program/curriculum used in over 600 schools worldwide called Face to Faith. Started in 2008, the  The Tony Blair Faith Foundationaims to promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions and show how faith can be a powerful force for good in the modern world.  The former Prime Minister of the UK notes “I have always believed that faith is an essential part of the modern world. As globalisation pushes us ever closer it is vital it’s not used as a force for conflict and division. Faith is not something either old-fashioned or to be used for extremism.”  This sentiment may unsettle some individual’s world views and narrative of a secular progression through world history.  Meeting with a teacher who uses the program in Utah public schools, curriculum coordinators, representatives from the DOE and NCSS, I soon realized that Face to Faith was an empowering curriculum that trains educators how to teach global issues through religious perspectives. Amazing!  The program is in 19 countries; Australia, Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Singapore, UAE, UK, Kosovo, Ukraine and USA. Face to Faith guarantees an interactive, global and life-changing experience for participating schools, teachers and students.

If interested, you can contact Dr. Charles Haynes  director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, or Marcia Beauchamp at



5 Easy Pieces for a Global Classroom

Adapting classroom practice should be an easy, ongoing set of processes drawing from a range of resources and nodes of information. Professional teaching, and teachers, are at their best when they are agile, adaptable, open, and look to improve their craft. Of course there are ranges of willingness, complexity, time, and opportunity around this aspect of education.  Focus and organization are key attributes as well. However, classroom improvements need to not be paradigm shifts in teaching.  Small pieces which explore the possibilities of education, address contemporary educational demands, and indulge teachers’ interests form the base for continued evolution. This includes changes made in the name of global education. I suggest this need not be an all encompassing move. Likewise, static teaching is like bad customer (and existential) service…


If Jack was the student and the waitress a teacher set in stagnant practice, the order (adaptive teaching) never gets delivered (authentic, relevant learning).  Thankfully, their is no lack of ways teachers can explore and improve their craft.  Below is a menu of 5 global education resources.  They can be engaged in varying layers of depth, explored individually or with  a group, and implemented according to your students, personal, school, and community needs.  Let me know what you think about them and how you use them. I am going to get a chicken salad sandwich.

Global Nomads: Connect -> Collaborate –>Create –> Change!  So simple, yet so effective a formula is the central mantra of Global Nomads.  “Global Nomads Group (GNG) is an international NGO whose mission is to foster dialogue and understanding among the world’s youth. GNG engages and empowers young people worldwide using media, including: interactive videoconferencing, webcasting, social networking, gaming, and participatory filmmaking. GNG operates at the intersection of international and peace education, striving to serve as a vehicle for awareness, bridging the boundaries of cultural misconceptions and instilling in our audience a heightened appreciation and comprehension of the world in which they live.”   Heads up…. their  Election Watch Webcast is coming up:

  • WhenThu, November 1, 12pm – 1pm
  • DescriptionGrades 7-12 Join us as we follow the 2012 Presidential election campaign. In this four-part program, we will explore the following topics: • Voting in the USA & Campaign 101 • Political Parties: Policies, Perspectives & Promises • Voting Day
  • Register at

Collabornation: Whoa! You have to check this interactive website designed by Susan Fisher of Ridgeview IB Charter School in Georgia. In her own words “This is the gamification website I created as an integral part of my “Dream Classroom” where students can experience and interact with the  curriculum in an exciting and unique way. It includes elements of flipping, webquest design, differentiation, gaming, and project based learning… just to name a few. Areas the students explore include Noob Quests, Cartographer’s Workshop, Shaman’s Insight, Capital City, Economist’s Lair, Library, Urgent Evoke and Arcadia.The names are all plays on the themes we visit throughout the year.”  It feels like Blade Runner meets Khan Academy… a great mix indeed.


Tourwrist: This is pretty amazing.   “In less than 60 seconds, you can now create, label and submit your own 360°panorama (pano) with the totally free TourWrist iOS app.”   Although not designed as an educational tool, using Tourwrist in social studies and history classes adds a visual element to lessons, projects, etc not available before. Be sure to scroll up and down to get the full effect.

UN Cyber Schoolbus: “The United Nations Cyberschoolbus was created in 1996 as the online education component of the Global Teaching and Learning Project, whose mission is to promote education about international issues and the United Nations. The Global Teaching and Learning Project produces high quality teaching materials and activities designed for educational use (at primary, intermediate and secondary school levels) and for training teachers. The vision of this Project is to provide exceptional educational resources (both online and in print) to students growing up in a world undergoing increased globalization. The Global Teaching and Learning Project is part of the Outreach Division of the United Nations Department of Public Information. ” My favorites include their curriculum of 20 global issues and their interactive game on refugees.

US Peace Institute:  I had the pleasure of visiting the institute at its new, stunning headquarters in Washington D.C. this past week.  The institute, “the

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
Baruch Spinoza

independent, nonpartisan conflict management center created by Congress to prevent and mitigate international conflict without resorting to violence”, recognizes that conflict is part of humanity but need not lead to violence and war.  Their education programs, many of them found at the Global Peacebuilding  Center, are extensive including classroom resources, professional development, networking, and online resources.  There is something very every level of educator… don’t miss the conflict style assessment test, virtual passport, and essay contest.

OK…. 6 easy pieces. Consider this dessert.  Mmm.. Enjoy.

My Hero:  “Educators use The MY HERO Project in schools, libraries, after-school workshops, and community and media centers around the world to build student’s 21st Century skills, stimulate character development and engage them in thinking critically about heroism, personal and cultural values, human rights, and environment issues.”  There are numerous resources on their educators page   A great feature is the numerous ways to share projects to the community on their site form around the globe.

Laboring to Implement Global and Transnational Contexts in Secondary History Education

Baseball is an international sport. What is the purpose behind national claims to ownership of an event, idea, person, invention etc? Exploring systems and networks is indicative of a 21st century education. Click here to see the Asia Society’s explanation of “Systems Thinking.”

Happy Labor Day. This summer, I took a minor league baseball  pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach, SC (home of the Pelicans and Kenny Power’s fictional Merman) via Durham North Carolina to see the legendary Durham Bulls play.  Combined with the Washington National’s success, this season has been a very fun one indeed.  As I drove through North Carolina, however, I had repeated flashbacks to my time living in Brazil, specifically during 2003.   The source of my memories was NC’s license plate which boosts the claim “First in Flight.”  It was on the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brother’s 1903 Kitty Hawk run that I became aware that a counter argument and broader circumstances even existed concerning first flight narratives. Enter Mr. Santos Dumont, Brazilian inventor, aviator, and eccentric. (I had been flying into the airport named after him for years at that point but hadn’t bothered checking who he was).  At a recent visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, staff there had never heard of Dumont despite his achievements and this entry in Smithsonian Education. Dumont, I am confident, remains in obscurity in US education and thus North Carolina’s claim has been elevated to “truth.”

This post is not to engage in the Dumont v. Wright debate.  Rather, I would like to use it as an inroad to address the state of Global and Transnational historical perspectives in secondary history/social studies education.  I think there is little doubt that the national paradigm, including celebratory claims to “firstness” and national “ownership” of events, ideas, inventions, people etc. are unfortunately alive and well.  Wjile at Virtual High School, a course we offered included a discussion prompt asking students to identify what sports are truly “American.”  This was done without exploring what a national claim entails , detailing the limitations of such national claims, examining theories of nationalism, or considering systems thinking beyond national boundaries. It seems these types of inquiries are more relevant, higher order, and rigorous.  Contemporary histories embrace global and transnational paradigms. Certain universities, like Georgetown and University College London have established centers around these models of thought.  The result has been an abundance of scholarship using these theories and methods.  In a recent article in the Globality Studies Journal, historian Akira Iriye notes

Does Santos Dumont reinforce national claims of flight (US, Brazil or otherwise…) or can he be an inroad into exploring alternative narratives and investigate flows of ideas? I say YES! Fasten your seat belts… and watch this video (CLICK HERE).

“The privileging of the nation as the key unit of analysis, and of international relations as the basic framework in which to look at the world at a given moment in time, had led to an incomplete understanding of the past, not a full view of how humankind had evolved. It may be said that historians finally caught up with history when they became interested in paying greater attention than their predecessors to non-state actors and transnational phenomena, not just to nation-specific stories or to vicissitudes in interstate affairs.”

Also,  The “Making History” website hosted by the University of London is an excellent resource for historical theory and practice.

The La Pietra Report of 2000 formally announced  the need for globalizing historical understanding and perspectives beyond the nation. This practice had been carried out, however, for decades.  SUNY Stonybrook’s Center for Global and Local History (directed by Wolf Schafer) recognizes British Historian Geoffrey Barraclough as a key figure in the development global history. Likewise Randolph Bourne’s 1916 essay “Trans-national America” indicate a that contemporary calls for perspectives broader than the nation are a return to a past approach, not a new movement to undermine national identity. Still, clarity over these terms is not crystal clear.  Andre Kuech in his article “A Survey of World History Studies: Theory, Methodology and Networks” wrestles with the peculiraties and lack of universal agreement around  global, transnational, and world history. He contends, “Each different historical approach essentially works to map out a network of actors and connections, or a series of networks of actors and connections, in order to account for the large-scale processes of human interactions over time. The differing units of analysis used in world, global and transnational studies directly affect the geographic scales they can cover.”

Kuech concludes that “exploring and investigating the underlying characteristics of human interactions, world and global historians will be better able to comprehend not just the who, what, and when of global connections, but also the why and how these connections have increased, spread and varied over time. My contention is that historians should carefully consider their usage of the terms ‘global,’ ‘transnational’ and ‘world’ before employing them in historical projects.”   I contend that history education in high school is indeed one of the historical projects Kuech alludes to.

Bridging the gaps that exist between the academy, the public, and secondary history education can be effectively done by teachers.  To that end, I offer a

National boundaries don’t stop flows, connections,and exchanges. Why would they? A sample transnational map. Click on it for the full details.

list of prompts to start the conversation and action around the integration of global and transnational perspectives in high school. In the broad scheme of things, I believe this move will elevate history and the social sciences to a level held presently by STEM education.  The skills and mental constructs that develop from global and transnational studies better equip students for the future than that provided by national models of the past.

Prompts to consider:

  • Discuss the concepts of agency, structuralism, and knowledge construction with students.
  • Use multiple Periodizations and discuss the the role of the nation and nationalism in our world views.
  • Use online timelines to engage technology and collaborative practices. (A suggested list is here)
  • Utilize multiple narratives that run counter to and problematize textbook and heritage studies.
  • Discuss the purpose of history education in your school.
  • Engage in Professional Development in global and transnational history.
  • Communicate to the community what these types of history entail.

Professor Bruce Van Sledright, in his 2010 work  The Challenge of Rethinking History Education: On Practices, Theories, and Policy identifies History (with a cap) as being the national/official narrative reinforced in schooling, media society etc (I tend to call this heritage). With a small “h” history supposes that constructing stories about the past are complex, varying, multiple and together provide a clearer understanding of the past.  Typical things identified as “American”, jazz, jeans, democracy, football, etc, all have a global and transnational history. Moving beyond the national model is waaaaayyy overdue. What are you doing to make it happen in your school and community?

Gold Medal Global Education

Sorry for the delay in this post.  Vacation got in the way.  Nevertheless, I am back and excited about the 2012 Olympics.  The mascots are a bit bizarre and their cycloptic vision is certainly not something that should be promoted in history or global

Wenlock and Mandeville, a bit Hux-wellian? Click hear to see a classic opening ceremony.

education.  Also, is was unfortunate that during the opening ceremony’s parade of nations, all Bob Costas could muster about Uganda was a reference to Idi Amin.  Why he did so is probably best explained by reading John Willinsky’s classic text Learning to Divide The World. Beyond these non-athletic based observations,  the spirit  of the Olympics and athletic competition is infectious.

A friend of mine suggested a fitting icebreaker, which also gives me the opportunity to use, for the first time in this blog, a polling toll. Check it out and be heard!

What is your favorite Summer Olympic event?

I recall, from my classroom days,  students consistently asking what the 5 Olympic Rings represent.  Do you know? Here is the explanation taken from the Olympic website:

The rings are interlocking and arranged in a trapezoid shape in colors blue, black, red, yellow, and green.Pierre de Coubertin first proposed this symbol at the1914 Olympic congress in Paris. Upon its initial introduction, de Coubertin stated

“…the six colors [including the flag’s white background] thus combined reproduce the colors of all the nations, with no exception. The blue and yellow of Sweden, the blue and white of Greece, the tri- colours of France, England and America, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, the yellow and red of Spain next to the novelties of Brazil or Australia, with old Japan and new China. Here is truly an international symbol.”

5 continents or 7? Remember this great cold-war era soccer gold medal match?

The Olympic flag flew for the first time in an Olympic stadium in 1920 during the Antwerp Games. If the number of rings represents the continents, the colors (six of them, counting the white background) were chosen to ensure that every country would have at least one of the colors in its national flag included. Overall, the five rings that make up the Olympic symbol  represent the universality of the Olympics  and of athletes from around the globe.

For purposes related to this blog, I see the rings as an opportunity to share some “gold medal” global education programs. Check them out, share them, leave some comments, explore, and enjoy .

1)       IREX: Teachers For Global Classrooms

The Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) Program provides a professional development opportunity for middle and high school teachers from the United States to participate in a program aimed at globalizing teaching and learning in their classrooms. TGC is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by IREX. Participants are selected through a national, open competition. Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens and full-time secondary-level (middle or high school), teaching professionals with five or more years of classroom experience in disciplines including English as a Second Language, English Language or Literature, Social Studies, Mathematics, or Science.

2)    Connected Educators Month:

Online communities and learning networks are helping hundreds of thousands of educators learn, reducing isolation and providing “just in time” access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration. However, many educators are not yet participating and others aren’t realizing the full benefits. In many cases, schools, districts, and states also are not recognizing and rewarding this essential professional learning.For these reasons, the U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators initiative is launching Connected Educator Month in August 2012. Throughout August, there will be coordinated opportunities to participate in events and activities in dozens of online locations to develop skills and enhance one’s personal learning network.

Be sure to check out the webinar I am leading on August 20th at 11:00 am EDT on the AHA’s Tuning History project.

3) Google World Wonders Project:

The World Wonders Project is a valuable resource for students and scholars who can now virtually discover some of the most famous sites on earth. The project offers an innovative way to teach history and geography to students of primary and secondary schools all over the world. By using our Street View technology, Google has a unique opportunity to make world heritage sites available to users across the globe. With advancements in our camera technologies we can now go off the beaten track to photograph some of the most significant places in the world so that anyone, anywhere can explore them.

4)  The Longview Foundation: 

Founded by William L. Breese, the Longview Foundation for World Affairs and International Understanding has been helping young people in the United States learn about world regions and global issues since 1966. At the dawn of the 21st century, knowledge of other peoples, economies, languages and international affairs has become a necessity for every child. Eliminating global poverty, solving international conflicts, working in new markets, and addressing global health and environmental problems require international knowledge and cooperation. And in our increasingly diverse communities in the United States, knowledge of other cultures is essential to strengthening our own democracy.

5)   Teachers Without Borders:

At over 59 million, teachers are the largest group of trained professionals in the world. As transmitters of knowledge and community leaders, teachers are powerful catalysts for lasting global change. However, teacher professional development is often irrelevant, inconsequential, or missing entirely. Teachers must therefore have a support network to provide the resources, training, tools and colleagues they need to fulfill their important role. Teachers Without Borders offers that support. We do not send teachers from the West to the East or from the North to the South; rather, we provide the space for teachers around the world to find and learn from each other.

6) OER Conferences (two events)

Open Education has come of age. The tiny movement that began in the late 1990s as a desire to increase access to educational opportunity has blossomed into requirements in national grant programs, key strategies in state legislatures and offices of education, content sharing initiatives at hundreds of universities and high schools, and a wide range of innovation and entrepreneurship in both the commercial and nonprofit sectors.

The Past: The presentations at UNESCO’s June 2012 conference in Paris are archived and can be viewed here.

The Future:  OpenEd12, the ninth annual Open Education Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia  “Beyond Content”

All the World’s an Online, Open Courseware, Cloud Based, Professional Development Stage

An important question contemporary educators should reflect upon asks where they sit with innovations in professional development opportunities. Long gone are the days when PD is delivered in a whole staff assembly over a few days throughout the school year (at least they should be). To many teachers, this model was irrelevant, pointless, or  extra grading time. Personalized learning, a strategy long practiced with students, is found in some districts allowing teachers to pick from a personalized menu of presentations. I was part of that model in Springfield, MA and found I could utilize my time better. I also felt more professional.  However, another move, one that goes from the personalized to the personal, is upon us. Learning Analytics, the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occur, bridges that move to personal learning. Toronto educator Melanie McBride , explaining the import of personal learning, notes:

All the World's a Stage. Isn't it? Click here to find out...

“Autonomous learning is self-directed and self-selected according to the learner’s own needs, preferences, and learning arrangements… Truly autonomous learning means making our own choices about what…and with whom we wish to learn with or from, where we want to do this learning, when we prefer to… and how we want to learn.”

McBride’s statement was targeted at students. I contend that her sentiments are just as relevant when applied to the teaching profession. Moreover, a personal approach to PD addresses the contentious theme of teacher  professionalism  by empowering educators to demonstrate all they do to improve and inform themselves in their content area and in the field of education in general.  In turn, personal PD plans should be used in evaluations and impact promotion decisions. In other words, this model of PD is available, As You Like It.

So, in relation to self-designed PD,  what stage of development or activity (Shakespeare suggests there are 7!) are you in?  Are you a main character,supporting cast, behind the scenes, in the audience, looking for a ticket?  Has your involvement with online PD involve been a tragedy or comedy? Are you making history?  The great news is, that wherever you are, there are always ways to improve, expand, or sharpen your present practice.   Online opportunities for educators to grow professionally abound. You can  take a course, create a PLC, explore recorded webinars, and build a network of educators. You can act as a catalyst for your own learning and impact the learning of those connected to you. Overall, this area of education is exciting, daunting, and rapidly expanding. It is an aspect that was probably not covered in most teachers’ pre-service training. But it is never too late to start or return for a cameo.

I have found that demystifying online technology is important in order to attract hesitant educators. Simply put, online technology, courses, and communities…

a) Remove the limits of space and time concerning learning and collaboration.

b) Allows educators to design their own innovative PD plan  and teacher evaluation.

c) Act as a gateway for building networks, meeting people, and exposure to ideas.

Will Richardson, during a recent webinar hosted at the Center for Learning, emphasized the advantages of engaging in and developing your own online personal network. In his book, Personal Learning Networks: The Future of Learning, Richardson reminds us that among the triple A of online learning  (Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone),  “Anyone” stands out as most important. Engaging in a  public network of professionals, as opposed to having  nodes of contacts, places ideas and perspectives on center stage. Moreover, it is more likely that comments will not only be from “yes men” but will invite challenging discussions to help refine your educational philosophy and practice.

Below,  I have included a brief list of options for teachers to take online courses or modules. This is only a sampling and I am confident they will expand. Enjoy…

Seven possible stages of development, London sculpture version. Kind of like Thomas Cole's Course of Empire series. As one of my respected colleagues noted "Wait until Wal Mart enters the field of online education." Well, until then, check these out and I hope to see you in my future network.

Coursera:We are  a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students. Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few.

Udacity: Udacity was founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in our first class,

Open Culture: Open Culture brings together high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community. Web 2.0 has given us great amounts of intelligent audio and video. It’s all free. It’s all enriching. But it’s also scattered across the web, and not easy to find. Our whole mission is to centralize this content, curate it, and give you access to this high quality content whenever and wherever you want it

P2PU: The Peer 2 Peer University is a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities. P2PU – learning for everyone, by everyone about almost anything.

Learning Space The Open Univeristy: Try over 600 free online courses from The Open University.Available from introductory to advanced level, each takes between 1 and 50 hours to study.Complete activities to assess your progress and compare your thoughts with sample answers.

Academic Earth: We are building a user-friendly educational ecosystem that will give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars.  Our goal is to bring the best content together in one place and create an environment in which that content is remarkably easy to use and where user contributions make existing content increasingly valuable.We invite those who share our passion to explore our website, participate in our online community, and help us continue to find new ways to make learning easier for everyone.

iAcademics:iAcademics is a group of teachers of the teaching department of Catalonia who has created a collaborative portal of courses of any fieldThe objective of iAcademics is to create a learning environment which makes it possible to share some resources among all its users.

Tufts Open Courseware Tufts OpenCourseWare is part of a new educational movement initiated by MIT that provides free access to course content for everyone online. Tufts’ course offerings demonstrate the University’s strength in the life sciences in addition to its multidisciplinary approach, international perspective and underlying ethic of service to its local, national and international communities.

Ted-ED: TED-Ed’s commitment to creating lessons worth sharing is an extension of TED’s mission of spreading great ideas. Within the growing TED-Ed video library, you will find carefully curated educational videos, many of which represent collaborations between talented educators and animators nominated through the TED-Ed platform.

EdX: EdX is a joint partnership between The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University to offer online learning to millions of people around the world. EdX will offer Harvard and MIT classes online for free. Through this partnership, the institutions aim to extend their collective reach to build a global community of online learners and to improve education for everyone.


Will you get involved in the world stage? The Bard would... Click here to see.

Global Education Conference: the third annual Global Education Conference, a free week-long online event bringing together educators and innovators from around the world, will be held Monday, November 12 through Friday, November 16, 2012 (Saturday, November 17th in some time zones). The entire conference will be held online using the Blackboard Collaborate platform (formerly known as Elluminate/Wimba) with the support of iEARN worldwide as the conference founding sponsor, who will be running their annual international conference in conjunction with this event.

Hope to see you at the Global Education Conference. If you don’t attend or  watch at least one of the over300 sessions, or submit a proposal to present  a great idea and share it with educators on a global scale, please comment to this blog an share your excuse why you decided not to. By not participating, you perpetuate the vision of educators as profession filled with people who were motivated to teach by three reasons; June, July, and August. If teachers are to be viewed as professionals, anything must be done to bury this view;  “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”