Teaching History via the Case Method

Have you ever used the case method to teach history?  If not, you may be wondering what it is.  Based on the Harvard Business School case studies of issues that businesses face, it is an immersive way of studying a moment in time.

According to Christine Gross-Loh writing at The Atlantic:

The case method goes beyond historical skills and factual content; it aims to hone decision-making skills. Each case is a concentrated story about a specific episode in history. … It’s not until after they have fully discussed the case that the historical outcome is revealed to them.

The goal is a lively class discussion of options.  The suspense helps feed class participation, and the story-telling qualities help kids put facts in context.  And by using this method more than once, kids get practice in decision-making — helping them to develop judgment.

And that, in turn, helps foster democratic values.  One teacher quoted in the article put it like this: democracy “is not a machine built to specification.”  By experiencing its complexity, students train the skills they’ll need as adults.

If you’re interested in using the case study method in your classroom, you can refer to the teachers in the article, or you can develop your own.  Harvard Business School defines a case as

A case is a description of a management situation. Most cases range in length from two to twenty-five pages of text and exhibits; the latter often present quantitative material. So-called field cases are largely based on data provided by the organization that is the focus of the case. Library cases are drawn from published material in the public domain. A case is not written to illustrate correct or incorrect handling of an administrative situation, nor is there an editorial bias that implies a particular conclusion.

With that definition in mind, create a case study on something you’ve been studying this semester.  And remember, you can always use WorldView Software’s line of programs as a starting point for your research!

BulbgraphOnOffClicking on a hyperlinked person’s name brings up their biography. For example, Document: Gettysburg Address in American History I links to Lincoln’s bio.

Top Ten Posts on WorldView Software’s Blog

These were the posts that were most popular over the past year:

  1. Home page / Archives – See the latest post here
  2. How to Make Teaching Social Studies Easier – Take a tour through how to use WorldView Software
  3. Welcome to WorldView Software’s Blog – the first official post!
  4. Eleanor Roosevelt on Education – and who should be on the new $20?
  5. American Ancestry in Maps – there are LOTS of people with German ancestry
  6. Designing Educational Software, part 5 – how to use our software if you’re homeschooling your children
  7. Finding and Using Government Data – using open data in the classroom
  8. Transgender People in History – definitions, historical examples, and more
  9. Designing Educational Software, part 7 – includes design features for people with disabilities
  10. Presidents’ Day – celebrating both Washington and Lincoln

Happy New Year!

Using Software for Home-Schooling in Social Studies

There’s a bewildering amount of software out there, especially if you’re home-schooling your child (or children) in social studies — how can you decide what’s best for your needs?

First, you should look at what your state requires students to learn.  These state standards can be found on the state department of education websites, and all publishers work to correlate their products and programs with these standards.  The correlations indicate whether or not a particular standard is covered in the program, and in how much depth.  For all WorldView products, just go to our website, select the product you want to use, and then choose the state from the drop-down menu to see the correlation for that product.

Next, take a look at our curriculum guides to get a start on how you would plan your curriculum: what you want to cover, when, and how.  Once you have an idea of the scope and sequence of your curriculum, check out the program and see how you would incorporate specific activities and assessments.

Homeschool users have free access to lesson plans for each type of activity, blueprints for planning the day.  These lesson plans were developed by experienced teachers, with well-defined learning and behavioral objectives that can be measured.  They also give alternatives for students who are having trouble with the material, as well as for those who have breezed through and want more challenging work.

[Featured image is “Mother and daughter in kitchen” by Jason Kasper from Harrisburg, USA – Modified version of 100_4456. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

BulbgraphOnOffWhen assigning students an internet project, remind them they can refer to the “Internet Research Primer” tutorial for help.

Teaching Kids to Research on the Internet

How much do your students know about using the Internet as a research tool? How much do they THINK they know? Do they know how to use search engines, find the most credible and authoritative resources, evaluate those sources for bias, and how to cite others’ ideas and work?

Digital “natives” don’t necessarily know how to make judgement calls about the quality of resources they find. This is a learned skill, and therefore it is one that can be taught.  A great resource to start with is WorldView Software’s tutorial: Internet Research Primer (which is included in every program).  In it, students will learn how to do all of the above and more — such as how to use simple Boolean operators to refine their searches.

Internet research is a highly fungible skill, and one your students will need to use well for the rest of their lives.  As English teacher Beth Shaum puts it:


BulbgraphOnOffGive students who have advanced through the material the challenge of a tutorial: a series of image and document-based questions leading to an essay.

Learning Objects

The “learning objects” approach to creating educational materials is reminiscent of the flip books for pre-school children in which they can mix up heads and bodies for different people or animals to create their own chimeras.  It doesn’t matter if the platform is digital or not — the truth is that teachers have always been making mashups to suit their own students’ needs.

The news that a major educational publisher is once again attempting to create standardized learning objects thus comes as no surprise, nor does the partnership with a technology giant’s proprietary platform (McGraw-Hill-Microsoft).  The biggest change here is the linking of data to the object, thus theoretically enabling personalized instruction to be analytically driven.  David Wiley‘s reaction is that what gets lost in this world of remixes is the context in which the object appears — which gets ironed out into uninformative blandness:

The Reusability Paradox typically leads designers of learning objects to attempt to “strike a balance” between effectiveness and reusability. This generally results in materials that are neither particularly effective NOR particularly reusable across contexts.

He believes the way out is to create open license objects that are platform-independent and not subject to copyright restrictions.  D’Arcy Norman for the most part agrees, with special caveats for closed file formats such as Flash or obscure proprietary (but documented and “open”) metadata and content packaging formats that also make things difficult to share and reuse.

So why post about learning objects here?  Because WorldView was designed to take some of these arguments into account.  First, WorldView’s materials are written in chapters, with specific audiences in mind, whether high school or middle school.  All the ancillary materials associated with that chapter can be thought of as boxes or sidebars in a traditional print textbook.

Screen Capture from American History I, filter view "chapters"
Chapters filter view in American History I

But because our products are software, not print, we can also gather each object — chapter overview or ancillary — into a separate filter that can be used independently to meet learning objectives.  Whether you want to create your own mashup of materials, or use the study questions to assess student learning, or have students practice a particular type of skill such as image analysis, you can use the Resources filter view (just click on the resources icon) to find things easily.

American History I Resources, fliter view "resources"
American History I resources viewed by filter.

These materials can all be regarded as enrichment — students can choose what they find most interesting (and interest is known to foster learning and achievement).  Some provide more structure than others, but all can be used as a springboard to further exploration and learning.

It’s not open copyright (because researching, writing, and coding are not free).  However, it is firmly fixed in a particular context (which is as close as clicking the chapters icon), it is browser-based making you independent of a particular device or application, and data tracking is available through the Progress Report mechanism.  As a teacher, there are multiple reports you can run on a class-wide basis, as well as the ability to monitor individual performance.

BulbgraphOnOffProject the multiple choice questions and have your class use clickers to answer. Then use the mini-lesson answer to kick off discussion.

#EdTech and the Human 1.0

Is there a difference between educational technology and just plain old regular technology? The question used to be whether there’s a point to designing hardware specifically for “educational” use, rather than just using the devices or programs that everyone else uses.  However, the rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) seems to have settled the question for hardware even as it raised questions of access.  Edtech can make educational gaps wider — a recent Pew Research Center poll on smartphone use established that

Today nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 19% of Americans rely to some degree on a smartphone for accessing online services and information and for staying connected to the world around them — either because they lack broadband at home, or because they have few options for online access other than their cell phone.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report, at the current rate of adoption it will be NINE YEARS before the United States achieves 100% internet penetration.  And the question of software that is built for “educational” purposes is still open.  Audrey Watters recently wrote a post titled “Ed-Tech’s Inequalities” in which she points out that the end goals of technovangelists must be questioned:

with a renewed effort recently for one-to-one computing at school, which children get this opportunity? Which get to use computers for self-directed learning? Which children experience this epistemological turn? And which children, which students still experience education technology only on the days they’re taking assessments – with the computers “putting them through their paces”?

The question here is about the use to which technology is put — even in a home or school with zippy broadband access and a laptop for every student, how is that technology being used? Is it limited to selfies on Snapchat while streaming Netflix, or is it being used to explore what is known about life, the universe, and everything?  Consumption or education?

We here at WorldView Software do not believe that the purpose of edtech is to replace teachers, or to drill students to the exam.  The purpose is to enrich the learning experience by making more things possible — not fewer.  We’ve designed our programs to do everything a printed textbook and workbook can do (so you can still print stuff out if you need to), but added the flexibility and reach of software.  Students will need teachers who can reach them no matter their gender, race, culture, or class.  And they should be encouraged to explore the massive amount of content in our programs, and then to follow up on things they find interesting.

After all, the technology is advancing all the time, but humans still learn in the same ways we always have.  Humans are still version 1.0.

BulbgraphOnOffSoftware makes it easy to create multiple levels of the same lesson; enrichment for advanced students, concept development for struggling students.

Designing Educational Software, part 10

We hope you enjoyed this tour through the process of our creative development.

To re-cap, the process of redesigning software for a different delivery system had us considering many different issues, from form to function. The program design process went through several steps: a thorough grounding in the principles of good web design and the construction of several product-use scenarios led us to prioritize certain design features over others. Next came the creation of storyboards and mockups to more completely model the software’s behavior, and the writing of technical design specifications based on these for the programmers and graphic designers. Once the program was complete, we then turned our attention to the management system that gives users access to the program and to their stored data, and gives administrators access to user progress data. The management system was also configured to be able to run different types of reports to track and aggregate user progress data.  The outcome is a truly interactive and customizable educational program.

However, that’s not the end of the story!  Educational software design is a dynamic process, and we welcome teacher input about what works and what would be helpful.  We are currently working on several reporting functions that have been requested: a Targeted Progress Report, allowing teachers to aggregate all the individual Progress Tracker data for a class for a single assignment; and a Complete Progress Report, allowing teachers to aggregate all the individual Progress Tracker data for all of the class’s assignments.

What elements of WorldView work best in your class? What tweaks or features would make your job easier?  Let us know!

BulbgraphOnOffUse the Search feature to find instances of words or phrases — the search results tab will stay open until closed.