Home Grown: Models of Excellence in Teacher-Designed Social Studies Websites
Risinger, C. Frederick, Social Education
I'VE BEEN WRITING THESE COLUMNS for several years now and I hope they have helped classroom teachers, department heads, college-level methods instructors, and students utilize the immense resources of the internet in their work. I've noted a large increase in the number of websites that are relevant to social studies; and I've also observed a dramatic enhancement of the complexity and features of websites. Teachers at all grade levels have learned web design skills. This issue's column takes a look at websites designed by teachers and supervisors--either individually or in concert with colleagues--that are models of how to use the World Wide Web to help students with resources, activities, and other information related to a specific class. In some cases, a school's social studies department may have one website for all courses at that school or school district. Some teacher websites that I reviewed were limited to almost nothing but links to other websites. There was little about the courses the teacher is teaching, classroom and grading policies, or student assignments. I wanted to get a sense of what and how teachers approach social studies content and what instructional techniques they use. Here are some websites that meet those criteria and might give you or others in your school some good ideas about creating or improving your own websites.
Ms. LeBeau's HomePage
Sue LeBeau is currently the Technology/Distance Learning Advisor for the Long Branch, New Jersey, school district. She has thirty years of teaching experience with grades one through eight and her web design skills are remarkable. "Ms. LeBeau's Home Page" doesn't just serve the Long Branch teachers; there are sites specifically for students, parents, and even the school administrators. The home page is a model of clarity and simplicity, but the information and links provided under topics such as "All About Writing," "Social Studies Links," and "Cool Links for Kids" are comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date and quite useful.
Mr. Dowling's Electronic Passport
Here's a classroom teacher (Mike Dowling teaches geography at Roosevelt Middle School in West Palm Beach, Florida) who has taken his website into the "dot-com" category, meaning he has moved his site from his school district's network to another internet service provider that allows ads, which can generate some income. There are literally hundreds of resources to teach just about every topic in history, geography, and cultural studies. On many pages there are some discreet advertisements for books, films, and other teaching resources. These are not obtrusive and you don't have to view the actual advertisement. All of the study guides, lesson plans, homework assignments, and tests are available for free download and you can modify any of the material to fit the needs of your students. All Mr. Dowling asks is for you to let him know how you modified and used his material. If he includes your variation on his site, he'll give you credit for it. The units are comprehensive and complete. For example, his "Western Religions" unit includes a pretest, a study guide, homework assignments, and a final quiz. I don't know if he makes any money from his website, but he's put in a lot of work setting it up.
Mr. D's Website
Ken Detweiler has been teaching in Jefferson County, Colorado, since 1978. While you can reach his site through Oberon Middle School's website, you can also go directly to his dot-com site. Since he teaches U.S. history, his site is not as comprehensive as those that cover many social studies topics. This gives classroom teachers of only one or two subjects an idea on how a single-subject site might be set up. "Mr. D." includes his class policies, hints for taking notes in class, instructions for varied writing assignments, and both individual and group assignments related to historical topics. …