Social Studies YouTube Channel

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I’ve put a little time in today updating the look of the website. The main reason is to make it look a little sleeker, more minimalist, and allow a clear and easy method of navigating from page to page without all the clutter that existed before. So far I like the new look better than the previous one, and hopefully it achieves the purpose I’ve just mentioned.

In the process of working on the site, I’ve also decided to add a YouTube account to the social media accounts I use regularly for sharing teaching ideas and course material. The idea here is probably less to create new videos, and more to compile playlists of videos relevant to the topics I teach in history and geography. I’ve started a few there, so click your way over there if you’d like to see the kinds of videos sources I use in my lessons. I’ll add more videos as I find them.

Finally, while I was at it, I spent a little time using a cool and simple app on my phone called Quik. It allows you to create slideshows and put them to music, creating neat little videos about whatever topic you like. I created a trailer for Social Studies at Gander Collegiate that provides a glimpse into what’s taught in my courses. It’s a first attempt, but perhaps it didn’t come out too badly.

Trevor Mackenzie on Inquiry-Based Learning

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If you’ve poked around my website, you’ve probably noticed a section dedicated to Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) that was linked to a major paper I wrote while completing my M. Ed. in education. The details of IBL are presented there, but in short this approach to teaching is about formulating driving or “essential” questions and building research and analytical skills through student investigation of knowledge. This is very different from the teacher at the front of the room lecturing all class long while students take notes. IBL has students actively engaged in uncovering or discovering information and using it for a specified purpose. The key point here is that students are not passive, but very much present and participate in the learning they do.

Trevor Mackenzie has been a recent lead teacher in this area, promoting greater use of IBL in classrooms. I recently read an article of his posted on the Edutopia website (the link is here if you want to check it out). A common issue that he tries to address is that students and teachers, especially from more traditional education backgrounds, are not used to this switch in teaching and learning. Teachers who attempt to jump in head first and give their students full freedom to conduct their own inquiries from start to finish are likely to be met with a lot of uncertainty and stress. Trevor advocates for scaffolding (starting at an entry level and building IBL gradually gradually to eventually gain greater independence), which he believes is necessary for the teacher and the student if IBL is to work. This is the same approach I suggest in the paper mentioned above.

Trevor has written a book about just this topic, called Dive into Inquiry: amplify learning and empower student voice, which I’ve picked up and and working my way through at present. It’s definitely worth a read if you think this kind of instructional approach could be for you. Inquiry is becoming a central part of the Social Studies curriculum in Newfoundland and Labrador, so it’s something I’ve already been bringing into my classroom, a little bit at a time.

Inquiry is most successful when strongly scaffolded. The Types of Student Inquiry act as a scope and sequence to support learners in their journey toward Free Inquiry. In my classroom, we begin in a Structured Inquiry model, transition to a Controlled Inquiry unit, move on to Guided Inquiry, and if all goes well, conclude in Free Inquiry. These four types of inquiry make up our time together in the course.

This structure allows us to successfully address the curriculum and the “must know” content and skills of each discipline, grade level, and course. In the Structured, Controlled, and Guided units, I plan to achieve specific learning objectives and unpack particular resources in order to best prepare my learners for whatever summative assessment they will see at the end of our time together. Whether it’s a provincial, state, or governing body exam or the SAT, I ensure that this material is learned during the types of student inquiry I have more control over.

Students should feel connected to their learning, certain about how to plan their inquiry, and comfortable with its responsibility. The Types of Student Inquiry structure our coursework and learning in a gradual release of control model, one where students learn essential inquiry skills throughout the year rather than being thrown into the deep end of the inquiry pool right away.

Here’s a quick video from Trevor’s website that introduces some of these concepts.

 

A City of the World

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I thought I’d share this video, which was posted on YouTube by reallifelore, that answers the question how big would a city have to be to fit the entire human population? It’s a really quite fascinating discussion, which uses examples of large scale population densities that exist in the world today and use these as possible average densities for the human city. It helps put into perspective just how many people are on the planet.

Cuneiform and the Epic of Gilgamesh

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I know we don’t have time to formally look at the Epic of Gilgamesh in Social Studies 3219, which is primarily a history course, but here are a couple of videos for those interested in looking a little beyond the textbook. Both tell the story of Gilgamesh (a great hero king of Uruk in Mesopotamia), but the second also includes a bit on the development of writing and cuneiform script in ancient Sumer. Super cool!

Sunday Morning and a Poem

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A while back I added a video of a reading I did at the Irving West Hotel here in Gander. The reading was part of the Gander Writers Group annual evening of poetry, fiction and song. Here is another poem from that reading that has only now made it’s way into cyberspace. It’s called “Driving the 330 from Gander”.  The beginning quote comes from Lorna Crozier. Enjoy.