WorldView Software for Readers with Dyslexia

There are a few design features of WorldView Software’s social studies programs that make them ideal for learners with dyslexia.  We’ll go over them shortly, but first, let’s define what we mean by dyslexia.

In her seminal 1996 article in Scientific American, Dr. Sally Shaywitz defined dyslexia as a problem with language processing, not visual impairment:

[it is] a deficiency in the processing of the distinctive linguistic units, called phonemes, that make up all spoken and written words…The phonological model is consistent both with the clinical symptoms of dyslexia and with what neuroscientists know about brain organization and function.

According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, some signs a reader might have dyslexia are the following:

    • Read slowly and with much effort
    • Are often the one to solve the problem
    • Can’t spell; have messy handwriting
    • Your writing shows terrific imagination
    • Have trouble remembering dates and names
    • Think out-of-the box, grasp the big picture
    • Have difficulty retrieving and pronouncing spoken words
    • Have excellent vocabulary and ideas

WorldView’s programs have features that can assist dyslexic learners.  First, all of our programs are visible in the web browser of your choice, which means that the reader can adjust the size of the font.  Compare a “normal” size — meaning the size I normally use — pictured here:

to the size the text becomes when it’s enlarged to 125% using CTRL+ (hit the CTRL key at the same time as the + key):

Second, as you can see from the previous screenshots, WorldView programs use a sans serif font for body text which is thought to be easier for people with dyslexia to read.  Third, our programs also use a colored background with a gentle gradient, which assists readers in keeping place when reading on screen.

Fourth, dyslexic readers often find that taking notes and composing writing assignments is also easier on a word processor or computer.  WorldView programs make that easy with our in-program guided essays and short answer questions. 

Finally, we include sound files with our chapter overviews, which allow readers to listen to the text as they read the written copy.  Just look for the sound buttons at the beginning of the section:

If you or your students have dyslexia and have suggestions on other ways to improve the presentation, please let us know in the comments!

BulbgraphOnOffClicking on an image in the overview brings up a larger image plus caption and credit information.

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The Origins of Black History Month

“It started as a program to encourage the study of Black History and was a week-long celebration in honor of Frederick Douglass (Born Feb. 14th) and Abraham Lincoln (Born Feb. 12th) and this is why Black History Month is in February.”
— source: Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Origins of Black History Month

Carter G. Woodson (National Park Service)

[As the post explains, the origins of Black History Month lay in Black History Week, initiated by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926.  Dr. Woodson was a pioneer American historian, setting the standard for rigor and accuracy in recording African American history.  You can read more about his life in this profile by Lerone Bennett, Jr.  Dr. Woodson’s home in Washington, D.C. is preserved by the National Park Service (it is currently undergoing structural repairs).

To learn more about African American history in general, check out WorldView Software’s American History I and American History II Theme: African Americans (also in Basic American History I & II, which are suitable for middle school students).]

Labor Day Roundup

Just in time for the start of the school year is a holiday to impress on everyone that summer is REALLY over. But what is Labor Day truly about? Here is a list of resources that examine the history of the observation.

  • From Digital History, the day’s beginning in the violence that accompanied the establishment of workers’ rights (despite the fact that it is not celebrated on the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair)
  • From the U.S. Department of Labor, a history of the legislation creating the holiday in the U.S.
  • Several videos on the subject — especially the role of strikes from Homestead to G.M — curated by Indiana University Northwest

To review the larger background of labor in America, use the Theme: The Labor Movement in WorldView Software’s American History II and Basic American History II (for middle school students).  In the theme, you’ll find gathered in one place materials such as Case Study: Haymarket Affair, Internet Project: Impact of Mass Production, and Tutorial: Revolution of Industry.

And the history of labor isn’t over — it’s been undergoing a series of revolutions ever since the Industrial Revolution, and labor regulations and contracts still haven’t caught up to events like: the entrance of women into paid work and the two earner-family, the globalization of manufacturing, the increasing use of robotics, and the freelance/gig economy.  You can review the information in WorldView Software’s U.S. Government Theme: Economic and Financial Regulation, U.S. Government with Economics Theme: Globalization, Economics Chapter 7: Business and Labor, and Civics Theme: Globalization (for middle school students).  Take the opportunity to discuss recent developments with your students, and encourage them to develop policy ideas of their own based on clearly articulated principles such as fairness.

The featured image is of an unnamed miner in Silverton, Colorado, who won the Labor Day power drilling contest in September, 1940 (photo by Russell Lee, LC-USF33- 012908-M2).

BulbgraphOnOffAdvanced students can get a lot out of Internet Projects on their own; curated links progressively lead to a hands-on project.

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Resources for Remembering MLK, Jr

Why do we have a holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Explore his legacy in WorldView Software titles American History II, Basic American History II, Civics, and U.S. Government, which all include resources for teaching students about Dr. King and the unfinished struggle for equality.

American History II has the following resources:

  • Overview: The Eisenhower Years
  • Tutorial: Rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Internet Project: Emotional Persuasion
  • Internet Project: Using Protest
  • Notable People biography

Basic American History II has the following resources:

  • Overview: Post-War Prosperity and Civil Rights Movement
  • Overview: Domestic Problems during Kennedy-Johnson Years
  • Tutorial: Rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Internet Project: Emotional Persuasion
  • Internet Project: Using Protest
  • Notable People biography

Civics has the following resources:

  • Art Gallery: Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony
  • Tutorial: Civil Disobedience
  • Tutorial: American History
  • Notable People biography

U.S. Government has the following resources:

  • Tutorial: Civil Disobedience
  • Notable People biography

Once you’ve given students sufficient background, read Dr. King in his own words:

Letter from Birmingham Jail

I Have A Dream

And if you live in the area, invite them to examine the archives available at Boston University, where Dr. King got his doctorate in systematic theology in 1955. (Unfortunately, the archives are not online.)

BulbgraphOnOffUse the outline page in guided essays to spark in-class discussion on using supporting evidence. Click on “Hint” for ideas.

Today in History

Today marks the 377th anniversary of the first colonial constitution: the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut.  It was adopted by representatives from the settlements of Wethersfield, Windsor, and Hartford.

The History Channel website notes:

Roger Ludlow, a lawyer, wrote much of the Fundamental Orders, and presented a binding and compact frame of government that put the welfare of the community above that of individuals. It was also the first written constitution in the world to declare the modern idea that “the foundation of authority is in the free consent of the people.”

The Charter of Connecticut superseded the Fundamental Orders in 1662.  The Charter stood for centuries, despite being revoked by James II in 1687 and an attempt by a royal governor to retrieve it which was dramatically foiled:

Sir Edmund Andros, His Majesty’s agent, followed up failure of various strategies by arriving in Hartford with an armed force to seize the Charter. After hours of debate, with the Charter on the table between the opposing parties, the candle-lit room suddenly went dark. Moments later when the candles were re-lighted, the Charter was gone.

You may remember this as a subplot in the Newbery Award-winning novel “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” where Kit’s uncle is one of the townspeople trying to prevent Connecticut’s annexation. The charter was hidden in the tree pictured above, which is the only known photograph of the famous Charter Oak of Connecticut before it fell in a storm 1856.  [The file record of the Connecticut Historical Society lists one “Edwin P. Kellogg” as the photographer; however, in most available sources it is attributed to Nelson Augustus Moore (1824-1902).]

Find out more about the circumstances surrounding each British colony’s creation by reading the Tutorial: Formation of the Original 13 Colonies in WorldView Software’s American History I and Basic American History I.  (The texts of both the Fundamental Orders and the Charter are available at the Yale Law School’s Avalon Project.)

BulbgraphOnOffUse the answers to the “Questions for Thought” in the overview as a note-taking guided exercise.

Digital Textbooks vs. Online Schools

For K-12 students, online-only learning is likely to leave more people behind than it is to help them advance.  According to a recent report from researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the Mathematica policy research group, online pupils fell far behind their counterparts in the classroom. In math, it was the equivalent of pupils having missed an entire year in school.

The study’s findings: far too little teacher/student interaction time and low levels of student engagement (for a medium that requires MORE student engagement to work):

  • Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction.

  • Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day.

  • Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge.

  • Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56 , and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction.

Read the complete study here.  It’s clear that online-only, while it has its uses, is more limited than supporters would have you believe.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it was already tried at the college level.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were the hot new flavor some time ago.  San Jose State University’s partnership with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider, ended in a “breather” several months later when it turned out that their students needed more of everything that can only be delivered by a teacher in person.

BulbgraphOnOffArt images can be used to discuss the differences between visual and textual sources.

Teaching Gerrymandering

There is a really neat way to teach how complex a task drawing political district boundaries can be, and thus what gerrymandering can do to a political system.  Developed by Ben Kraft at the MIT Educational Studies Program, the exercise  gives students maps of varying levels of complexity, and asks them to draw and justify boundaries.  These “maps” start off simply, with a smaller-population version of “Splashland” called Splooshland:

image with randomly placed dots
A map with no districts.

But as you add dots, draw boundaries, and give the dots affiliations, Splashland’s districting can get pretty difficult pretty quickly:

Image with red and blue randomly placed dots separated by lines.
A map with equipopulous districts and affiliations.

As the difficulty scales up and becomes more like real life, Kraft recommends bringing in reality-based examples from the Voting Rights Act to enrich the discussion.  Students will learn about more than just political boundaries; as Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow put it, “I learned that district-boundaries have a lot more subtlety and complexity than I’d imagined at first, and that there are some really chewy math and computer science problems lurking in there.”

Finish off the lesson by using the Map: Massachusetts Fourth Congressional District in WorldView‘s U.S. Government to give students a real-world example of redistricting (there’s a screenshot of it in the featured image).

BulbgraphOnOffUse social media such as a Facebook group to take and share class notes, share study resources, and ask questions.