As 2012 begins and the CEE team shares all we’ve learned in the past year the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference continues to top the list of things we were most excited about in 2011.

First off, it was pretty great to have the opportunity to present our educational resources with Independent Lens. Conference participants were eager (and, in many cases, VERY pleasantly surprised!) to hear about our series’ free resources, including video modules, lesson plans and POV’s free lending library. And we were just as excited to hear from THEM. Check out what one teacher had to say about POV & Independent Lens in the video above, taken by IL’s Annelise Wunderlich. Thanks, Annelise!

Along with presenting a workshop and booth at the conference, we also had the chance to see how many other great tools there are out there social studies teachers today. It was pretty mind-blowing, and so many of them are free! Here are two resources for teaching history in the digital age that particularly excited me –

Mission: U.S.

Mission U.S. In the Classroom
Mission U.S. In the Classroom

Mission U.S. is a multimedia project featuring free interactive adventure games set in different eras of U.S. history. The first game, Mission 1: “For Crown or Colony?,” puts the player in the shoes of Nat Wheeler, a 14-year-old printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston. As Nat navigates the city and completes tasks, he encounters a spectrum of people living and working there when tensions mount before the Boston Massacre. Ultimately, the player determines Nat’s fate by deciding where his loyalties lie.

And I remember thinking Oregon Trail was cool.

The Web site that houses the game also includes classroom resources, activities and social networking opportunities for teachers and students.

At the conference we saw Mission U.S. demonstrated by the producers and funders of the game – Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities, WNET (Thirteen) – and also heard from teachers who have successfully used the game in the classroom.

And even if you’re not a teacher I would still check it out. But be careful: the surprisingly nuanced and addictive world of Mission U.S. might keep you from Downton Abbey for a while.


This presentation was one of the best I’ve ever been to at any conference – ever. The energy and enthusiasm from both presenters and participants was through the roof. I think it’s only a matter of time before every Social Studies teacher in the country catches on to this.

The idea behind #SSChat is to connect social studies educators everywhere. It started July 6, 2010 after Ron Peck and Greg Kulowiec realized that while #edchat – the Twitter chat for educators – was a great conversation, it wasn’t focused on content that would help them where it mattered most–their social studies classroom. At the beginning of 2011 the chat began and it’s grown to include hundreds of social studies teachers sharing links, resources, lesson plans, examples of projects and student work. While #SSchat takes place as a synchronous discussion on Twitter Monday nights, people post to Twitter all week and tag their tweets with #SSchat as a method to share resources and prepare for the upcoming chat. Articles by HipHop Classroom, Herf Jones Nystrom and the New York Times have highlighted the chat in recent months.

In the NYTimes article, #SSchat co-founder Greg Kulowiec says, “The most memorable night for us was when the news of the death of Osama bin Laden broke. People were immediately on SSchat and we were sharing resources and ideas on how to bring this into our classrooms the next day.”

Join the conversation!

For updates from the Community Engagement and Education department at POV, check out @POVEngage on Twitter.

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.