I am Taking the Leap

Another teacher in my department has already done so, it is a collection of worksheets, lecture notes, and primary sources for teaching American History.  Word on the street is, it was the most stressful year of his life, and he never even really published it.  By publish, I mean attain an ISBN number. He simply did it solely for his classroom.  In an effort to make his life easier, it seemed as though he made it a lot more difficult, but who could have predicted? His intentions were pure and not for personal gain.  This guy is by far the most intelligent person in my high school social studies department and if this guy had a hard time doing it, I have no idea how I will be able to, but I am about to try.

You see, the game has changed.  When my colleague wrote his own “textbook packets” it was before our students started to all receive iPads at the start of the school year.  This past year, I was one of 37 teachers of 1,000 in our district to pilot the 1:1 program.  All of my students in my World History classroom were given brand, spankin’-new iPads.  It was a blessing.  It was a curse.  It was an 8 year veteran who felt like a 1st year teacher all over again.  While I had a lot of good things happen in the classroom, I would say that the year long experiment taught me more about what NOT to do. But, the best thing that it did was to stretch my creative noodle and force myself to teach in a whole new way.  Next year, all five of my classes will be given iPads for both my World History and AP Human Geography courses. Things are about to get a lot messier and I plan on being ready.

In World History class, we really only limited our use to around six total apps, and all the better, because less is more (especially when you are starting out).  We have an incredible textbook that is curated and written by academic professionals and the supplementals are fantastic.  It is hard for my to write a better book.  I am sure there are some teachers out there who say that they can do better, but writing history is controversial and I do not have a PhD in History.

In my AP Human Geography course however, we have had three texts over the course of the last 10 years and all of them have something that the others are missing.  Sometimes, we end up having our students use multiple textbooks to fill in their reading gaps and in my opinion, the reading process becomes a jumbled mess. This is where I see the biggest area for improvement. For those of you who may not know, AP Human Geography is a course that teaches kids the fundamentals behind how humans adapt and alter their surroundings.  We discuss agriculture and land use, political geography, economic geography, political geography, urban geography, industrial an economic development, cultural geography (including language and religion), and population and migration.  The class is much more about applying concepts to real world situations.  We study each of these themes regionally and we do not focus too much attention on memorizing the countries and capitals of the World (although it can come in handy). I do at least have a master’s degree in this subject, but still, while I do consider myself to be an expert in the field of teaching World History and Geography to high school students, I am not an expert in driving the field of these two subjects.  After taking a master’s course in historiography, a new appreciation emerged for historians and what they do.

With that being said, the geography handbook that I plan on creating is far from an attempt at rewriting history.  I want my Human Geography text to include all of the concepts that our three books could not manage to get into one.  This class has a lot of vocabulary terms, concepts, and models that all need definitions spoken in a teenage vernacular.  I have some great ideas that I can’t wait to share along the way and some may be out in left field.

I am expecting a lot of criticism and cynicism especially since I plan on selling my text in e-format.  Though I have not seen anything that tells me that I can’t sell a product to my kids and have them use it in my class, somehow it just seems dirty, so I plan on providing it to my district for free if anyone wants to use it. Regardless, I would be surprised if I made more than $8.00 from the project. 🙂   My reasons to monetize are for another post.

Today is May 27th, approximately eight months after I started to conceptualize and start writing drafts of my work. I plan on dedicating my entire summer to the project and I mean business!  I plan on sharing my thoughts and processes along the way.  If you have anything to add and or questions, please post.  I am really excited to be able to share this experience with anyone else who is thinking about going through the same process. Consider it my therapy, the task will be daunting.

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