Sunday, September 6, 2009

A few resources among many

There are so many resources online for social studies teachers! My quest over the weekend was to find a social science blog, wiki, and podcast to share. Here's what I discovered:

I found the Southern District of Florida blog on my search for a social studies blog. It's not an "official" blog, but I thought it would be a good one to share because as I read through I found interesting information about topics ranging from Justice Souter's retirement, immigration law, and various court opinions. The blogger, Davis Markus is a South Florida lawyer who has a lot of experience under his belt. I like that he presents a lot of information about things going in that have to do with South Florida's federal judicial system without really infusing much of his opinion in it. Again, that's just what I've seen so far--I didn't have time to read each and every post, and I'm sure that like most bloggers, Mr. Markus is not always objective. Another thing that I like is that Mr. Markus has links to information about the southern district judges, which students could use to learn more about them when learning about the federal judiciary system.

I mentioned that this blog is not "official," but I like it a lot more than a so-called official blog I found: "The Official Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building Blog". I just found the blog messy and annoying, and actually very unofficial: the bloggers do not identify themselves, and are really just attorneys down in Miami who are not authorized to speak for the Justice Building.

I also found some great blogs for teachers in general, like The Tech Savvy Teacher, and a few others whose links I seem to have lost. I'll post them as I find them, however.

It was more difficult to find a good wiki than a blog or podcast. There are a lot of incomplete or otherwise useless ones out there. However, the War of 1812 Immersion project is awesome. It's an project completed by Mr. Armstrong of Del Mar Middle School's history class. He gave his student this challenge:

"Due to our country's current economic crisis and California's enormous budget shortfall, many local schools are having to find ways to cut costs and save money. Del Mar Middle School is no exception. The principal and superintendent are searching for ways in which to reduce costs and are seeking alternatives to purchasing large and expensive textbooks for next year. They have heard that some schools and universities have replaced textbooks with wikis and they would now like to see for themselves the type of learning that is possible.

Using the War of 1812, design and create an online wiki that could replace the information in your History Alive textbook and be used by teachers and students.

The students did a great job. Scrolling down, you can see the submissions of each of his students. They used podcasts and a variety of media to create these wikis, and covered the subject really well. These students' teacher gave them a challenge: to learn something well enough to create a teaching resource, and that they did. They also learned to use the internet to create something for the world responsibly.

I was really surprised by how many history podcasts are out there. I listened to a few using iTunes, and some were great. I found that a lot of them were available on The Podcast Alley, like The History of Rome. I really liked this one, though some of the podcasts are really long--not so great for students with short attention spans. I also thought it was a bit mature at times, so it may not be one to recommend for younger students. Appropriate for everyone, though, is the Learn Out Loud podcast, Founding Documents Podcast. It is an audio reading of important documents in our nation's early history, such as Federalist No. 10 and the Bill of Rights. Another great Learn out Loud podcast is the Great Speeches Podcast. These are either readings or archival recordings of famous speeches in history, like Eisenhower's resignation and Bobby Kennedy's announcement of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. I listened to Bobby Kennedy's speech, and the screams of surprise when he announced Dr. King's death were something I'd never heard before and made the situation come alive for me at that moment. The rest of his speech, calling for calm and peace between the races in light of such an event, was great. I think having students listen to these speeches is a great resource to teaching them history and making it seem "real," for lack of a better term.

I'm really happy I stumbled upon these resources, particularly the podcasts. There are a lot available that are helpful to social studies teachers at Learn Out Loud, but also on The Education Podcast Network.


  1. I was also surprise to visit many websites where teachers are using podcast in their classrooms to engage their students on the class assignments.
    Audio reading or archival recording are both great sources to use in classrooms in order to capture students attention and engage them to the class discussion. For example, I remember reading Dr. Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech many time but I will never forget the first time i heard him saying his speech, it was an overwhelming experience that made be feel apart of that time period.
    Listening to someone's speech is completely difference than reading it because you can feel their passion through their vocal expression.

  2. First, let me say that I appreciate the formatting of your post. Some of the other posts I read were not as organized as yours.

    Also, I like what you said about how hearing the screams of people made the speech come to life for you. I think that students will probably feel like you after they listen to it as well. These online resources help historical events seem real and I think that is what will capture students' attention.

    Additionally, I think it would be good to see schools depend less on textbooks. From what we have learned, the textbook industry censors so much content as they are pressured by the desires of political interest groups. It is time to give control of information back to the people. Although it is more work, I'm sure students would rather reconstruct their own interpretations of historical events rather than read watered down versions in textbooks.

  3. Nice post on the podcasts. I had some trouble finding a go-to site for archived podcasts. I will probably use the Education Podcast Network. Many of the podacasts I have found are around 30 minutes long, but I think they are good to interject parts of them in our lectures to make points. They are great tools to keep the students' attention. Nice finds!