USGS historical topo maps

map explorer

Maps are so cool. Historical maps are way more cooler. And online historical maps are even way more cooler. (I like saying way more cooler cause it makes me feel like a rebel.)

A couple of months ago on the helpful GoogleMapsMania site, I ran across a way cool tool created by the United States Geological Survey. This is the group that, among other things, is responsible for creating topographic maps.

The cool tool that the USGS has created is called USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer.

Basically, you do a map search with a Google Maps-like interface, click on a specific place on the resulting map, and the Historical Topographic Map Explorer will provide a timeline with topo maps from the past.

You can then select maps from Continue reading USGS historical topo maps

It’s not about the nail: Thinking about the assessment

Many of you are anticipating or have already administered the Kansas State History, Government, Social Studies summative assessment field test.  We just want to  remind everyone that it is a field test and so is more for us at KSDE and the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) than for teachers and districts. 

This is KSDE’s attempt, a draft if you will, before the final edit of next spring’s assessment. We are using the field test to figure out if the format, footprint, items, and scoring are appropriate, proper and valid. No reports will be created, no scores will be given.

That being said, I sense a great anxiety among teachers around the state. I have presented many times throughout Kansas informing teachers about the assessment and the expectations associated with that assessment.  Teachers are concerned and have questions.  I am reminded of that great video clip popular several years ago called It’s Not About the Nail.

I understand that KSDE sounds a bit like the woman in the video, when we say things like:

Don’t worry about the assessment.


If you are teaching your classes using high-quality strategies, the assessment will take care of itself.

The anxiety and the nervousness in the field is, in part, caused by the nail (assessment). Many teachers and perhaps administrators feel that education is about the nail (assessment) and that the summative assessment is a measure of their effectiveness as teachers.

If we could remove the nail (assessment), life would be much easier. Alas, that is not the world we live in. But the assessment is only one of many measures of teacher effectiveness.  Have fun, challenge your kids to think differently about things, and work with primary sources.

You are in the most challenging yet rewarding professions in the world. Continue doing what you do for kids.

In the meantime, avoid wearing sweaters.

Don Gifford
Social Studies Consultant

4 Corners (not the ones in your classroom)

Recently I had an administrator observe a group activity in my classroom which required students to summarize the facts from a lesson into a well constructed paragraph.  After watching the lesson, my administrator asked me “How do you hold individual students accountable?”  I had an answer to the question, but the question itself stuck with me for several days.  Yes, I can walk around the room and listen in to each group to see which students are participating and which aren’t, but with several groups in the classroom it is hard to get a good grasp on everything that each individual student is contributing to the group.  So, I put in some time researching and came up with several options, one of which is the strategy 4 Corners.

Continue reading 4 Corners (not the ones in your classroom)

National Council for the Social Studies: The Civic Mission of Schools

ncss_boston2014I had the great fortune several weeks ago of attending the Council for State Social Studies Specialists (CS4) and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) annual conferences, this year held in Boston. I always look forward to this event as it is the only time I get the opportunity to meet up with state social studies supervisors (people in my job) from around the nation.

Colleagues from Maine to Hawaii – It’s true. Kristi from Maine and Rosanna in Hawaii – meeting face to face in a single place. We get the chance to talk about issues common to our states as well as issues that aren’t common among us. I had the opportunity to hear Continue reading National Council for the Social Studies: The Civic Mission of Schools

Get the KCSS fall update. And try out Smore

KCSS is giving an online tool called Smore a test drive for publishing our quarterly newsletter. First things first. Head over and get the newsletter here.

But I also think that Smore is a handy tool for teachers and students for creating all sorts of products and projects. It seems very easy to use and has some cool sharing tools.

Create a free account and Continue reading Get the KCSS fall update. And try out Smore