Tuesday, November 18, 2008

National Council for the Social Studies Conference

Houston was my destination for the National Council for the Social Studies Conference. I was off to learn more about the latest trends in social studies.

The keynote speaker was William Bennett (former Secretary of Education) who talked about his endeavors in writing his new American history book, The Last Best Hope, which is filled with down to earth stories supported by online text, pod casts, video, animated maps, tests and assessments. It was a real privilege to have a personal conversation with him and shake his hand.

I was able to attend a session with Kenneth P. Cohen, Vice President of Exxon Mobil, who talked intimately about the work of his company, its plans, and the current state of oil supply. Basically, there is a good supply of easy to reach oil for thirty years. New technologies will make other oil accessible and there will be alternative energies sources. They are investing billions into the future supplies.

I had dinner with Glenn Diedrich who is in charge of product development of the middle school social studies at Pearson. A major, highly innovative, high tech program is in the works and should be available in California for the next adoption. I had a session in which I saw the MyHistory high school program which has many of the elements which will be in the middle school program.

A session on the use of Google Earth introduced me to fascinating strategies for using Google Earth in instruction of social studies. One example is their new virtual Rome 2.0 which was just released. Creating Google tours can be a create way for teachers and students to explore the Earth. Many publishers will introduces Google Earth applications into their programs.

Michael Yell, President of NCSS, gave a keynote talk in which he stressed the important of creating a live curriculum that targets understanding and critical thinking, not just the mastery of factoids for standardized tests. Students need to develop the thinking skills for the dynamic world of flux in which they will live. Students have to embrace the future by understanding the past. Michael is the Guest Editor of the Social Education issue on Developing 21st Century Skills. Learn more about the Framework for the 21st Century Skills at www.21stcenturyskills.org. This framework will shape the course of education in the days to come.

As President of the California Council for the Social Studies I served on the House of Delegates California delegation, the NCSS legislative body that gives direction the the Board in terms of setting priorities and policies. It is great to be able to play an important role in setting the course of social studies instruction in the Nation.

I attended a session on Podcasts and Blogs which has led me to the creation of the blog which will allow me to present my report to a wide audience and have it open for feedback. One of the great side I learned about was slideshow.com which allows one to post their PowerPoint presentations to the web.

The CSPAN bus was there and I was able to learn about their programming for learning about politics in America. I got to sit where President Clinton was when he came though the bus.

The trip finished with a tour of the Johnson Space Center. I got to see the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules as well as the gigantic Saturn rocket. Touching a moon rock was a sensational experience. The briefing on current and future NASA plans was fascinating. We are ending the Shuttle program in 2010 and starting our missions to colonize the Moon! Mars is thirty years out on the horizon. I may not see that, but my children and grandchildren will! Of course, the students in our classrooms will see that day!

There was a vendor of interest to me, Mimmeo, which allowed a projected image to be treated in the manner of a Electronic White Board. As the schools move forward with their digital equipment, having interactive systems is important. I chatted with the President of the National Social Studies School Supervisors and he is having his Florida school classrooms equipped with Electric White Boards, sound systems with microphones for the teachers, and document readers. Will our future be with White Boards or projectors and mimmeo like interactive adaptors?

The future is all about change and we will see amazing changes in education.