Promising Practices in Using the Internet to Teach Social Studies

Article excerpt

In at least two previous columns, I asked readers to recommend teacher or school websites that they thought were exemplary, or particularly unique. I've received about two dozen such recommendations in the past couple of years. In preparing for this issue's column, I concluded that there was no better way to link an article to the theme of this year's NCSS annual meeting, "Promise and Practice," than to highlight some of these promising practices using the internet to teach social studies.

I want to thank all the teachers, supervisors, and teacher-educators who sent me leads and urls; however, I decided not to use sites that require viewers to register or pay to use resources, although some were clearly well-designed and useful. (I did include one site that has advertisements on it, but all the resources are free and downloadable.) Please continue to email me about other notable websites, (including their urls) at risinger@indiana. edu, and I may well feature them in a future column.

I've tried to include sites that would provide models for other teachers. Most of the sites that are listed below were designed by individual teachers; some are a social studies department, school, or school district website. I've used a couple of the websites in previous columns. In any case, those of us who believe the internet can dramatically expand the horizons of individual students and our classrooms will find some interesting examples in the sites described below.

Mrs. Cori Culp's Website

www.bv229.k12.ks.us/bvw_culp

Cori Culp teaches at Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park, Kansas. (The aerial view of the school on its home page is quite striking.) She has done a great job of merging school spirit with her social studies program--there is a banner headline streaming across her home page announcing pre-season basketball workouts. (She's also the head coach of the Lady Jaguars.) Culp went on a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship to China in 2004, and a Fulbright Memorial Program to Japan in 2005. She presented sessions on both these nations at the 2005 NCSS annual meeting in Kansas City. Her website features an excellent syllabus for both U.S. history and East Asian Studies, with day-to-day schedules and assignments. There is a "Research Link" page, where students are guided to such sites as Chinese history, the CIA Factbook, and the local public library. She has a wonderful "Teacher's Pages" link, in which she shares many of her lessons, her PowerPoint presentation from the 2005 NCSS conference, and links to programs supporting international travel by classroom teachers. She also has a "FrontPage Instructions Packet," which outlines how she developed the website. How can she do all this and still be a head coach?

Mr. Williams's 5th Grade

teachers.santee.k12.ca.us/cwilliams/index.htm

Here's another admirable teacher: Mr. Williams of Carlton Oaks School in Santee, California. He teaches all subjects in his 5th grade classroom, including reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. (However, I think I can detect a social studies bias on his site.) He does an excellent job of communicating with his students and their parents through a blog, a series of news articles, and comments by students. Parents can log on, give their child's student number and pin number, and then look at their child's grades and "a complete catalog of his or her work." The "Links" page includes each subject area that Williams teaches. He includes links to the California State Content Standards for all of his subject areas, and he recommends some excellent sources for his social studies curriculum. Williams also has a page of all of the letters he sends home to parents, including those about discipline and grading policies, and homework procedures. There's also a great picture of Williams with his 2006-07 5th grade class on the home page. (Check out those two boys in the middle of the back row. …