5 Things I Learned at #NCSS13

So this was my first time at a NCSS conference, and I have not been to a Social Studies specific conferences since I presented with one of my favorite professors at Michigan State University, Dr. Timothy Little, at MCSS back in the spring of 2001.  I had been to quite a few technology conferences but to me, this journey to NCSS was a return home – back to the subject that I love.  Here is what I learned…

1)     When it comes to the Common Core, we are doing good things already in our curriculum and the C3 standards makes it even better.

Common Core, which has been treated like a four letter word in the past (and by keynote speaker Oliver Stone) is where we are going as a nation and we have to accept it. I equate it to throwing up, you can fight it all you want but its gonna happen!  The good news is from the presentations I went to, we have already been doing a lot of what the Common Core asks of us! If anything, we now have more autonomy! Wait you want me to teach skills and I get to have some freedom over what content I get to use to teach it? Score!  The NCSS’ C3 standards even give more direction for teachers to focus on while developing those skills.  We are well on our way – which may be why we are left out of most state and national tests!

2)     Civil engagement – now more than ever – is key

From the C3 framework to the numerous sessions put on by the likes of the McCormick Foundation, Dr. Peter Levine at Tufts University and Diana Hess the message was loud and clear – students need to get involved with what is going on in their community, state and the world around them.  Considering the current political climate, I couldn’t agree more.

3)     There weren’t enough “really make you think…” sessions.

As I sat through Kenneth Davis session a colleague mentioned “wouldn’t it be great if Davis and Oliver Stone did a panel discussion/debate together?”  I couldn’t agree more! Dr. Diana Hess’ session on Friday morning highlighted a statistic that said “students in like -minded classes are more likely to be less tolerant of other people’s views” and that we as teachers owe it to our students to expose them to ideas and viewpoints contrary to their own.  Aside from Oliver Stone’s speech (he does not mince words!), Rep. Lewis’ speech, and an poignant yet respectful comment by a Vietnam Vet directed at Mary Beth Tinker I didn’t see or experience too much controversy at this conference.   I think we missed out on a chance to grow as a community from the controversy that a good keynote or a great session provides.

4)     Technology and gaming is really starting to catch fire…

As a former tech coach and a self-described nerd I was very excited to see all the sessions on gaming and technology! I have used iCivics in the past with great success and it is good to see that these simulations are starting to take hold within our curriculum! If you get a chance to look at iCivics do it. I’m excited to see what Historia could do for our feeder school students and their understanding.  What I would like to see more sessions of are ones on the use of social media in Social Studies.   Hmmm, proposals open up in December…maybe I will fill one out!

5)     Speaking of social media, I was surprised by how few people were using the #NCSS13 tag on Twitter!

Perhaps the Twitter thing hasn’t caught on yet with NCSS but considering the amount of people at the conference the feed seemed relatively quiet.  The networking that was going on was incredibly helpful to me and I only write this as a way to encourage more people to start using Twitter! Next year let’s get the #NCSS14 feed trending!

All in all it was a great conference and I am looking forward to going to Boston next year! On a side note, although I didn’t attend any sessions I LOVED the idea of the “unconference”! How cool was that? I hope that stay for the Boston conference.

Thanks to all those who worked tirelessly to put on this conference.  I had a great time and am looking forward to next year.  See ya at Harvard yard!


About jjanczak

A secondary social science teacher jumping into the world of education technology and trying to make classrooms centered around technology the rule, not the exception in the school systems.
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