Yup, I’m smarter. Thanks Smithsonian!

A couple of months ago, I felt smart. I had just finished a full day with some of the best social studies teachers around. We had talked about hyperdocs, completed a BreakoutEdu, identified photos as either real or fake, learned about a variety of graphic organizers, and participated in an awesome video conference focused on the Smithsonian Learning Lab with Darren Milligan and Kate Harris.

I felt smart. I had learned some stuff. I had taught some stuff. My brain was feeling good.

I should have stopped while I was ahead.

But after learning more about the Learning Lab, I decided to dig in a bit and see what all might be available online from the Smithsonian. And that’s where I got into trouble. About an hour later, I dug my way out of the incredible amount of goodness that Smithsonian folks have made available for educators. I felt smarter but not smarter all at the same time.

Smarter because I learned about some sites and resources that were new to me. Not smarter because . . . seriously, how I have I not known about these things before?

Just so you know, there is a ton of materials, lesson plans, and resources that the Smithsonian has put online. Seriously . . . a ton. Darren told us that the Smithsonian isn’t really sure how much stuff they have – he rounded it up to around 160 million objects. And that’s just the stuff in their collections, not the lesson plans and online exhibitions.

So just to share some of what I learned, here a few places that you need to pencil into your schedule to visit: Continue reading Yup, I’m smarter. Thanks Smithsonian!

Balancing Security: Past, Present and Future

Hopefully you were able to join us at the Kansas Social Studies Conference earlier this month or were fortunate enough to get to attend National Council for the Social Studies annual conference in San Francisco just before Thanksgiving.  If you’re already looking for your next social studies fix or haven’t had the opportunity yet, might I suggest a trip to Kansas City?


Greetings, my fellow Kansans!  With any luck the year has settled in for you.  It has been a beautiful beginning, and the kids are just as wonderful as ever!  My name is Jeff Benes and I am the Past President of the Missouri Council for the Social Studies.  I live in Westwood, Kansas, but work in Gladstone, Missouri (be honest, how many of you had to Google those two locations). This school year, at the end of February, the Missouri Council is hosting our annual conference, and we wanted to reach out to you as neighbors and fellow teachers.  

National_World_War_I_Museum_-_Kansas_City,_MO_-_DSC07446The conference will be held on the Missouri side of Kansas City, at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the weekend of February 23 and 24 (Friday and Saturday).  If you have never had a chance to visit, this is the time.  The museum itself is worth the weekend to come visit (and if you are a museum buff, you will need more than one day).  On top of that, there will be great presentations in both content and practice, incredible speakers, a great lunch, and the opportunity to network with people just like you:  Passionate teachers looking to hone their craft.   Continue reading Balancing Security: Past, Present and Future

Dressing it up. Cause we’re always advertising

I have been known to walk down the hallways of my school in scrubs, surgical hat, and gloves.

I have also paraded myself around in full-chef-gear – thanks to our culinary arts department.

I have a replica Indiana Jones hat. I wear it. Strutting through the hallway.

But WHY?

Continue reading Dressing it up. Cause we’re always advertising

3 reasons why your kids should be using sketchnotes

A few months ago, I spent a few minutes on a quick rant blaming laptops and mobile devices for being the reason for the terrible KC Royals pitching, destroying the rainforest, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, and ruining your students’ educational experience.

Okay. Mostly just the student educational experience thing.

A brief recap. Research is suggesting that when college students use technology to capture lecture notes, both short and long term learning declines when compared to students who captured lecture notes using the old fashioned paper and pencil method. Tech tools seem to encourage verbatim note-taking that focuses on capturing every word rather than on capturing only information that is important – on copy and pasting rather than evaluating and summarizing. Paper and pencil force the student to make decisions about what’s important and then to transform that information into a personal version of the lecture or video.

It’s this personalizing feature of paper and pencil that improves retention and learning.

And, yes, it’s college kids not K-12. And, no, you don’t lecture all of the time. But I’m gonna suggest that the experiences of middle and high school students would not be that much different from the college kids cited in the research.

So using tech to take notes is bad. Now what? Continue reading 3 reasons why your kids should be using sketchnotes

Kansas teacher of the year winners, lots of social studies nerds, and a ton of learning

About 200 social studies teachers from around the state made their way to the Old Town Conference Center in downtown Wichita last Sunday and Monday for the annual state conference. If you were there, you know this already.

If you were not there . . . well, you missed a lot of social studies awesome. Seriously. Make plans for next year. Great conversations. Great learning. Great networking. Great food. Great people.

We know that Kansas does social studies a bit differently. Ever since 2013, when the latest state  standards document was released, teachers in the state are being asked to focus on five major themes and historical thinking skills rather than just teaching a bunch of dates and places. It’s the balance between process and knowledge that we’re after.

But doing things differently also extends to our state level conference. It seems that in most other states, the different social studies organizations host their own conferences. Econ here. Geo there. History somewhere else. Here in Kansas?

The four major social studies groups – the Kansas Council for Economic Education, the Kansas Council for History Education, the Kansas Council for the Social Studies, and the Kansas Geographic Alliance – all work together to host one conference a year. With the support and encouragement of the Kansas Department of Education, this makes it easier for K-12 teachers to find us all in the same place and increases the cumulative social studies goodness.

This encourages some awesome learning opportunities. It also makes for a great Sunday night reception when we honor all of our different teachers of the year. This year’s winners? Continue reading Kansas teacher of the year winners, lots of social studies nerds, and a ton of learning