Memorizing Maps

GIS and digital mapping is my new obsession. I jump at any opportunity to work on digital mapping and teach others how to use it. Am I good at it yet? Nope, not at all. But I’m learning.

Part of my work involves showing teachers how to use GIS and digital maps in their classes. I don’t teach GIS – there are many others with far greater skills. I consider myself the gateway to GIS: how can you use digital mapping and GIS even if you don’t know how to build maps? You can, and your students will get far more out of it than coloring in basic maps. The incredible beauty of this is that you can use GIS/digital mapping with any subject: geography, history, economics, government, environmental science, biology, music, etc., etc.

Just ran across this recent blog post supporting the use of digital mapping as opposed to memorizing maps. We all remember those map tests: fill in the name of the country on a paper map. You might get to color it in if you were lucky. This post is a wonderful justification of why this is stupid.


It puts kids to sleep. And just so ya know . . . that’s a bad thing. (Plus 18 ways to make it better)

Having recently made the jump to a position in higher ed, I found this post especially relevant. Even college students benefit from active learning! Thanks for the post and ideas, Glenn!

History Tech

Shocker. Lecturing to students puts them to sleep.

Who could have guessed?

Well . . . I should have. But I didn’t. During my first few years as a middle school teacher and later, during some time I spent teaching in a college social science department, I lectured.

A lot.

Early on, I didn’t know better. I was taught that way in both K-12 and in my college content courses. There were no real alternatives provided in my ed classes. And I started teaching long before established mentor programs. It was just the way things were done.

By the time I had moved on to higher ed, I had figured out – with some occasional PD and lots of help from some great educators – that there are other alternatives to constant direct instruction. But I was subtly and then very overtly encouraged to lecture rather than use some of the methods that…

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Improving Learning

We can’t use tech because it is “cool and new.” It must improve learning. If it doesn’t improve learning, why are we spending the money?

I met Eric Sheninger when he did the TEDxBurnsville event at the Minnesota History Center (it’s complicated) in 2014. He is an idol, I was thrilled to meet him. Watch his TEDx talk…

Saw this interview with him. It’s worth a listen.

History Podcasts

I have become a podcast addict. It’s getting ridiculous — I won’t even mention how much storage on my phone is podcasts. But I learn a ton! So there.

For reference later – here is a blog post recommending podcasts for history teachers. I’ll check out a couple of these.


The last few weeks since the election have been difficult for me. I can’t even begin to process how people can possibly think that this political climate will be ok. There is much more I could write but I can’t even start — I won’t stop.

So, I ‘m going to post resources I find that could help me and perhaps others process, protest and persevere for the next four years. (It better not be more than that.)

Starting with a great series of videos from the New York Times that helps us understand and work beyond our own bias. Don’t feel guilty about it — work to understand it and not be a slave to it. (I do hope the NYT is making sure the ads before the videos are kid safe…)

Really, Audiobooks do not make you a bad person

I recently ranted about post from an editor at Digital Book World thoroughly dumping on audiobooks.  Seriously? From someone who works in the  digital  publishing industry? Unless, of course, it was a plant to put down another format of book that competes with the ebook industry that publishes in text only – -the one that refuses to come up with a standard way of delivering books that have something besides boring black text, and isn’t doing very well when compared to the booming audiobook business….. (OK – that maybe needs to be a rant for another day.)

I just saw a reference to another post about the value of audiobooks (thanks to Blogging through the Fourth Dimension. She even calls audiobooks “gifts to all learners!”)  It’s even from a scientific perspective! “As far as your brain is concerned, listening to audiobooks isn’t cheating” by Melissa Dahl outlines exactly why reading books doesn’t prove you are  better person, as our society would make us all believe,

If, he argues, you take the question from the perspective of cognitive psychology — that is, the mental processes involved — there is no real difference between listening to a book and reading it.

The “he” referenced above is Daniel Willingham, a Psychology professor who studies and writes about education. His post is awesome – he wrote it because he’s tired of being asked if audiobooks are cheating. He says, “The point is getting to and enjoying the destination. The point is not how you traveled.”Agreed.

He also says that once a person has learned to decode words, reading print is no more work than listening, i.e., it doesn’t make you a better, smarter person.  . The comments at the end of his blog illustrate this view that somehow reading in print makes you a better person than listening to books. It seems there is really very little scientific study about which way of gathering knowledge is “better.”

For a less academic view about audiobooks, see this Reddit thread. (found through Dahl’s article.) I love the snark and, again, the pointed elitism we have about print being a “better” medium than audio.

Mind you, I am not arguing that audio is better than print. It’s like many debates: let’s stop the debating and let people consume knowledge/enjoy a story in whatever manner they prefer. Stop judging and making people feel like cheaters if they, in fact, prefer to listen to a book rather than read it.


Will Richardson is one of my favorite bloggers. Awesome post about the Elephants in the Classroom

In summary (in my words, not his), his elephants are:

  • We forget the specific content we are taught
  • Students are not connecting to school – the content isn’t relevant to them
  • Traditional schools don’t foster learning the way real world learning happens.
  • The stuff on tests doesn’t really matter
  • Grades are valued more than learning
  • “Curriculum” is random (can you say calculus and no statistics? stupid)
  • School is the only place subjects are taught in silos. In reality , subjects aren’t separate.

Just read Will’s post.