Saturday, March 15, 2008

Whoops, last thoughts on the Social Studies Conference


I got a little side tracked because of Berkeley Model United Nations, where I'm currently at right now blogging my little heart away.

The last workshop I went to was a terrible little ditty called "Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink". After being in there for five minutes, the presenter explained that teachers should "ignore the state standards" and focus on her lessons that were about how humans waste water through a variety of means. There were no connections to History, Government, or Economics. When she referenced that students should be watching more films like "this one", and then held up An Inconvenient Truth, I rolled my eyes and restrained myself from blurting out, "HE LOST ALREADY!!!! GET OVER IT!!!"

My wife was also done. Her workshop was supposed to be about the Civil Rights Movement and ended up being a sales pitch to go with some group to South Africa. She actually walked out.

Overall feeling from the conference? Like most conferences, its a mixed bag. Some workshops looked like they were really about helping teachers, while others were so blatantly a sales pitch that it was really hard not to verbally slap the presenter. While I can understand that this isn't always easy to control, the committee could do a much better job doing the minimum of screening workshops. Presenters can't say "ignore the standards" in today's teaching climate. It's unprofessional and makes a teacher look the wrong direction in terms of preparing for his/her class. Add to that some Economics textbook presenters that had material that was just crap. Fine, the basic concepts are there, but there are no pictures, boring graphs, and font that is around 11. Mix with that a cheap plastic binding and you have a guy that matches the image of a used car salesman from Modesto.

Saying that, there were organizations that were there to really assist instructors in teaching kids. I can't believe that people weren't flocking to the following organizations in the exhibit hall:

-San Francisco Federal Reserve (The International Economic Summit): Tim Crawley has an excellent simulation that could be used in any Economics class, and is an excellent foundation for an International Relations club or class. The workshops are excellent. Teachers are taught how to run the simulation and then they work the simulation (which is engaging and fun). In fact, more teachers should be taking advantage of the SF Fed. The institution is really trying to reach out to teachers with tours, workshops and the International Economic Summit.

-C-Span (C-Span Classroom): As I stated before, it really looked like C-Span was trying to support teachers, not sell them some crap.

There might have been others, but most were textbook vendors or people trying to get you to go on a tour. I'm a week behind so I can't totally remember.

I think that it's in Ontario next year (SoCal). I think that Teaching American History is slated to go, which means that I'll go if I'm comped everything. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it.
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