Sunday, February 1, 2009

Focus on Social Studies: What That Means

Just a few of the things "social studies" can mean, created in Wordle.

I'm going to use social studies as my curricular focus for the course, and in this blog.  In particular, the first content standard as described in the Connecticut Curriculum Framework for Social Studies: Students will develop historical thinking, including chronological thinking and recognizing change over time; contextualizing, comprehending and analyzing
historical literature; researching historical sources; understanding the concept of historical causation understanding competing narratives and interpretation; and constructing narratives and interpretations.

But first, I have to explain my philosophy of education a bit more, and my views of pedagogy and curriculum.  Even though that standard is my stated focus, few lessons and units can, in my view, be taught with such a narrow focus.  Learning, and the world, is by nature interdisciplinary.  Social studies units and lessons will draw on many of the things mentioned in the word cloud above.  We use reading, writing, art, music, and science to understand various aspects of history and culture and people.  

The division of awareness and understanding and learning into specialized disciplines is a development characteristic of the modern world.  In ancient times, they were looked at as parts of a whole.  Look to the Renaissance Man, the embodiment of Renaissance humanism, or the ideal of universal learning.  Today, we see a renewed push toward integrated curriculum, as a more complete way of teaching and learning.  Interdisciplinary learning is an essential tenet of my educational philosophy, so while I will focus on social studies and historical thinking, to accomplish those objectives means to draw from many other fields.  

There are so many ways that technology, including Inspiration, Photoshop, and others, can support learning in this area.  Here, here, here, and here are just some of the ways we can use digital imagery.  One of the great things about these technologies are that they can help us to bridge the gap that's created by the division of disciplines: integrating art with history, using the music of Woody Guthrie to understand music as an agent for social change, mapping out the connections of a central theme across disciplines, breaking down broad historical themes visually to see connecting threads through time...

We can use these things to support historical learning, but in a way that encourages deep, critical historical thinking - recognizing not just change over time but similarities throughout history, not just interpreting history but understanding it and its lessons.


  1. Sure, you can certainly incorporate other concepts into your historical thinking standard - I think you've already demonstrated some nice ideas for visual learning in this area and connected it with art.

    We'll be looking at digital images and historical thinking on Feb 17 - stay tuned!