Why Do I Have to Learn History?

Funny how a little question, only seven words long, can throw one for a loop. I had a student ask me that question an hour ago and I am still reeling from it. I’m reeling because I can’t verbalize an answer. William Chamberlain

I articulated an answer to this question years ago. I’m not sure I can reconstruct it adequately, but I will give it a go. We need history (and the other social sciences) because each of us needs to create a personal sense of location.

History adds a fourth dimension to location and we rely upon that. Historical context is augmented reality. The same young people who might question the point of learning a national or cultural history would not question the importance of their own personal history. At some level, they know they tap their past experience to their understand themselves, their actions or values. The trick is to get them to see that their personal geography, where they are in the world, and how this can change, is caught up in the history of their larger culture.

History enhances our perceptions much like colour enhances our visual experience. I talk to my students about how the school they live in is imbued with significant memories. Their home, for instance, is not simply a new location every time it is experienced. It is filled with reminders of past experience that shape who they are. So too are the people they interact with. This may not be acknowledged by the unreflective, but it is inescapable influence on us all. Does that make sense?

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Point of View

I was pulling some ideas together for a lesson on respecting other people’s points of view… while maintaining your own values.

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Trusting student writing to authenticity

Today in the morning I played minecraft on my computer. And I also found this strainge sign in the middle of no where. And it said leave now and at the bottom of the sign it said HEROBRINE!!!!!!!! I was so freaked out the I saw the sign. Then when I went mining I found a tunnel with redstone torches. And so I went into the hole and found a nother sign saying you are trapped and now your dead. Luckily I dug my way out before the lava hit me. When I got out of the hole my house was destriod and I had to rebuild it. It took a while to build it because it was a MANSION!!!!!!! When I was done building it took an hour, I went to find a jungle temple and a desert temple It took a while to find the temples. But I found the temples and in the jungle temple there was a tesla. A tesla is a gun that shoots out lightening. In the desert temple there was lots of diamonds I was rich but then herobrine killed me and that was then end of me!!! Should I get revenge on him or should I forget about everything and just roll with it?????

On the week end i was playing minecraft on the xbox360 and i was minning and i got pushed into a revine by hero brine. There were no monsters around me beacuse i checked around me and it was way way farther than a zombie or skeliton or a creeper. So i tried to get my stuff but herobrine pushed me down again. I rage quited after that. Do guys have any ideas of what to do about herobrine in my world? S

This is my book I got from the library and it is called Haunted.It is about good spirits that come from the dead but there is also a girl named Dee and she has to find a murdurer that she finds out later is her long lost father.There is a person she falls in love with but later she finds out he is a ghost so they can’t be together.Have you ever read a ghost book?You should read a ghost book book because they are really fun to read.

My fourth grade students post on Edmodo for a variety of reasons. Often enough, I dictate a writing topic to them. Many handle that well. A few rely on the prompts. I am interested in the students who struggle with my prompts, yet produce proficient paragraphs on topics they have an interest in.

We all knew it would be this way, yet I persist in structuring the conversation and neglecting to assess the independent samples of their writing. Sadly, my students rarely ask me to consider these writing pieces. Too often, students discriminate between teacher-directed learning and student-directed learning. Last month a student remarked they liked inquiry projects better than school work. We created this false distinction. I need to work harder to eliminate it.

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My first book

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Dealing with our privilege


I found this on Twitter. Here is the original link . This is very accessible. I think it is significant because it acknowledges that we usually cannot opt out of positions of privilege. We need to take a critical stance on our privilege and act responsibly.

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Insuring equity in a BYOD classroom


I noticed that the single Nexus 7 I have in my classroom for social networking has started to be much in demand. I bought it using Scholastic points (way over priced). It is dedicated to out classroom Google account and our Twitter connection to other fourth grade classes.

I want about two or three more now. We need devices like this to provide equity in the classroom. I have strongly encouraged BYOD. That is paying off, but there is so much stress on the school’s hardware that it has resulted in a decided advantage to students who have their own mobile device.

How is everyone else making the transition to BYOD as business as usual?

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BYOD in my 4th grade classroom

Another Android device showed up into classroom this morning. It looks like an inexpensive tablet. The boy has a new iPod that also comes to school. I think he wanted something bigger. I like the eclectic devices we are using. Learning has no official device.


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Reading is a personal experience


It is fascinating to see how each person in my class approaches reading in their own way. Can you spot the differences? Can you find the fourth reader in this picture?

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My Norman Rockwell Moments


I like to capture these moments. So many of them are here in one of the classroom’s reading corners. It was a happy thought to include them in the room. The boy is playing a game. The devices come out in their free time.

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Holding on to what works


I certainly let my blog slip this year. Like many teachers, I have been directing my energies elsewhere. This WordPress blog, and my venerable wikistange classroom page have declined in importance. I am noting a number of successful activities languishing this year. My students don’t have digital portfolios this year. The time and resources went into Edmodo connections. I have not used VoiceThread to organize and share learning either for the same reason. I guess this is inevitable.

The picture is of my classroom in the last half of the 1990s. Seeing my high school class recalled memories of the first half of my career as an English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher. I recall patiently painting the world map across the back of my room. It was awesome! We referenced it often and like so many other things I have tried, it was a success that I abandoned over time. There are so many reasons why this happens, but it leaves me sad none the less.

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