EPISODE 36: The Vastness of Social Studies

On Thursday, February 4 at 4:00 pm US-EDT, we present a new episode of Reinventing School on Learning Revolution.

This time, the subject is social studies. The phrase is not often used outside school, but the subject includes many areas of study. These include geography, world history, national history, regional and local history, political science, social history, civics and government, international relations, economics, aspects of humanities, anthropology, cultural history, aspects of geology, population studies, multicultural studies, heritage, and current events. There are only about 10,000 instructional hours in K-12 education, and social studies occupies about 10% of them--about 1,000 hours. (That's the equivalent of 40 hours per week for 26 weeks.) Is this enough time? Too much? Should everyone learn the same stories, or should students follow stories that are more relevant to their own lives? Lots to consider as we discuss a 21st approach to social studies with our guests Emma Humphries,​ Chief Education Officer at iCivics and Deputy Director of CivXNow, high school social studies teacher Nate McAlister, and educator and consultant Glenn Wiebe.

Please join us on Thursdays for our live shows, or visit www.reinventing.school for the recorded versions.

More about this week's guests:

8502846494?profile=RESIZE_400xEmma Humphries is a passionate civic education supporter and scholar of civic engagement, Emma Humphries is the Assistant in Citizenship at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, working to design innovative civic learning opportunities to prepare students to be informed, skilled, and engaged citizens. Her most recent efforts have centered on the creation of a digital course in civic engagement that integrates best practices and the most innovative approaches in online learning.  Throughout her professional career, Humphries has built partnerships with numerous organizations dedicated to civic education and engagement, serving as an instructional consultant for the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, which recently named her as a fellow, and being selected for membership on the National Teacher Councils of iCivics and the Bill of Rights Institute. Prior to her doctoral work, she taught high school American Government and History in Clay County, Florida. Humphries graduated cum laude from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Secondary Education. In 2004, she was awarded the James Madison Memorial Fellowship and went on to receive her master’s degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from the University of Florida. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida with an emphasis in civic education. Her research interests include civic education, innovative online pedagogies, and harnessing digital technologies to promote and support civic engagement.


8502859087?profile=RESIZE_400xNathan (Nate) McAlister is a History Teacher at Seaman High School. McAlister teaches in a project-based classroom focused on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, historical preservation, and creativity while encompassing citizenship components. In his 17 years in education, Nathan McAlister has taught middle and high school history in the Topeka (USD 501) and Royal Valley (USD 337) school districts in a project-based classroom focused on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, historical preservation, and creativity while encompassing citizenship components. McAlister believes that students should be active learners. To this end, his students at Royal Valley Middle School have created and led several historical preservation projects. These include two pieces of legislation, a Civil War mural, student journals, a Civil War Veterans research database, a GI Bill Oral History Project, and an annual History Fair. While teaching at Royal Valley Middle School, McAlister was named the 2010 Kansas and National History Teacher of the Year by the prestigious Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History. Additionally, the Santa Fe Trail Association named McAlister Educator of the Year in 2013. Most recently, the Kansas Association of the Daughters of the American Revolution named McAlister the Kansas Outstanding American History Teacher of the Year. In addition to his teaching duties, McAlister has coached high school football and basketball, and currently coaches middle school basketball. McAlister also serves on the boards of the Kansas Council for History Education and the National Council for History Education. Recently, McAlister was named a Master Teacher Fellow with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, traveling the nation to present and educate teachers at workshops and summer seminars.


8502838654?profile=RESIZE_400xGlenn Wiebe’s love for social studies was kindled in elementary school when he fell in love with his first National Geographic map. Even at a young age, Glenn was beginning to understand what Robert Louis Stevenson meant when he described his treasure map as having the “power of infinite, eloquent suggestion.” Wiebe’s passion for history and social studies continued to grow and is now expressed in sharing that passion with others. Wiebe writes almost daily at History Tech, a 2014 Edublog finalist, and maintains Social Studies Central, a repository of resources targeted at K-12 educators cited in national professional journals. He has published articles for the National Social Studies Supervisors Association journal, the website Teaching History, and has authored numerous discipline-specific curricula. Wiebe acted as co-chair for the 2013 Kansas social standards writing and assessment committee and is president of the Kansas Council for the Social Studies. As the director of two US Department of Education Teaching American History grants, Wiebe introduced the use of mobile learning technology to middle and high school teachers. He is currently working with the Center for Children and Technology to help roll out their innovative Zoom In online software and has piloted a variety of video games and simulations for companies such as Muzzy Lane and Team Treks. Glenn especially enjoys facilitating conversations at the intersection of social studies, gamification, and technology integration. Glenn travels frequently to assist schools as they integrate Apple and Google products. He believes that learning “should be more than cute and engaging activities. Our task is simple – preparing kids to think critically and to have skills needed to be effective citizens.” His focus will always be on providing practical ideas coupled with research that teachers and administrators can use to improve the learning process. His C4 Framework – Collect, Collaborate, Create, and Communicate – provides a structure for all of Glenn’s workshops and presentations.


4995562699?profile=RESIZE_400xHoward Blumenthal created and produced the PBS television series, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? He is currently a Senior Scholar at The University of Pennsylvania, studying learning and the lives of 21st-century children and teenagers. He travels the world, visiting K-12 schools, lecturing at universities, and interviewing young people for Kids on Earth, a global platform containing nearly 1,000 interview segments from Kentucky, Brazil, Sweden, India, and many other countries. Previously, he was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist for The New York Times Syndicate, and United Features. He is the author of 24 books and several hundred articles about technology, learning, business, and human progress. As an executive, Howard was the CEO of a public television operation and several television production companies, and a state government official. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President for divisions of two large media companies, Hearst and Bertelsmann, and a consultant or project lead for Energizer, General Electric, American Express, CompuServe, Warner Communications, Merriam-Webster, Atari, and other companies.


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Before the virus, more than a billion children and teenagers relied upon school for learning. After the virus (or, after the current wave of our current virus), basic assumptions about school and education are no longer reliable. School buildings may become unsafe for large numbers of students. The tax base may no longer support our current approach to school. Without the interaction provided by a formal school structure, students may follow their own curiosity. Many students now possess the technology to learn on their own. And many do not.

Reinventing.school is a new weekly web television series that considers what happens next week, next month, next school year, and the next five years. Hosted by University of Pennsylvania Senior Scholar Howard Blumenthal, Reinventing.school features interviews with teachers, principals, school district leadership, state and Federal government officials, ed-tech innovators, students, leading education professors, authors, realists and futurists from the United States and all over the world.

Each episode features 2-4 distinguished guests in conversation about high priority topics including, for example, the teaching of public health, long-term home schooling, technology access and its alternatives, the role of parents, friendship and social interaction, learning outside the curriculum, the future of testing and evaluation, interruption as part of the academic calendar, job security for teachers and support staff, setting (and rethinking) curriculum priorities, special needs, student perspectives on the job of school, the importance of play, the psychology of group dynamics and social interaction, preparing for future rounds of a virus (or cyberattack or impact of climate change, etc.), college readiness, higher education transformed, the higher education promise in an economically challenged world, and more. Clearly, there is much to discuss; nearly all of it ranks high on the list of priorities for raising the world’s children.