Archive for the ‘Issue 3’ Category

Where in the World: Using Inference in the Social Studies Classroom

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Around the Region XIII water cooler, we have been recently talking about inference and how it applies to different content areas.  We were asked, “Which one of these Merriam-Webster definitions relates to your subject area?”


  1. to derive as a conclusion from facts or premises
  2. imply, guess, surmise
  3. (a) to involve as a normal outcome of thought (b) to point out: indicate
  4. suggest, hint

Although an argument could be made for all definitions, the first definition applies best to Social Studies.  The definition was selected after carefully exploring the Social Studies Skills K-12. The skills explicitly outline inference in grades 4-8 and high school U.S. History, World History, Government, and Economics courses.  The following is a student expectation from the Grade 6 Social Studies course, Contemporary World Cultures:

Grade 6 (21)B: analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions. 

Next we were asked, “So what does infer look like in your subject area?”  One example that comes to mind is picture and text analysis.  For grade 6, you could introduce the study of a country by presenting a Where in the World assignment where you provide the students with pictures, text, and factual information to infer the country in question.  The objective of this assignment is to give students evidence and time to analyze (This is the verb in the student expectation.) in order to make inferences and draw conclusions.

Picture A

Picture B



What exactly do you seein the photographs?What people and objects do you see?


Students could be asked additional questions such as:

  1. What clues does Picture A contain that help to determine this man’s general location in the world?
  2. What clues does Picture B contain that help to determine the general location of this McDonald’s?
  3. What role does economics play in Picture A?
  4. What role does economics play in Picture B?
  5. How does Picture B indicate the influence of globalization?
  6. How does Picture B indicate the influence of the U.S. free enterprise system?
  7. Taking it to another level, you could present students with text and factual information such as:

(…) women in my country wear a black cloak which completely covers their bodies.  This is called an abaya.  They also wear a headscarf.  Some women cover their faces and some do not.  Men wear thobes, ghutras, and sandals or shoes.  (…) are Muslims.  We believe in one God.  We pray five times a day.  All shops and businesses close at prayer time so it is easy for people to go to the mosque to pray.  We follow a lunar calendar.  Traditional (…) diets centered around coffee, dates, bread, meat and rice.  We even have a type of traditional chewing gum.  You have to have strong teeth and jaws to chew it.  Some people eat fast food like hamburgers, pizza, french fries, and donuts.  We have restaurants like McDonald’s, Hardees, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and many more.

Most of us speak both Arabic and English.  Women don’t drive in my country.  Our money is called the Riyal.  The Kingdom earns most of its money by selling oil to other countries.  Our king is King Fahad.

(…) is a beautiful country.  Thank you for taking an interest in it.

     –Grade 4 student, 1994

  • Extensive coastlines provide great leverage for shipping
  • Arable land is at 1.67%
  • North of Yemen
  • Official language is Arabic
  • Harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes
  • Only males 21 years of age have voting privileges
  • Natural resources are petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, and copper
  • Geographic coordinates for the capital city: 24° 38′N 46°43′E

 -CIA, The World Factbook, 2011

You may consider providing students with a map or giving them supplementary pictures and vocabulary explanations to help them further in this deduction method.  Ultimately, the students should infer from the material provided that the country of focus is…drum roll please…Saudi Arabia.   If that was your conclusion, then you inferred correctly.


Central Intelligence Agency.  (2011). Saudi ArabiaThe World Factbook.  Retrieved November 29, 2011, from

Hernandez, R. (2006). Picture A: Man with Honey and Picture B: McDonald’s in Riyahd.  Saudi Arabia.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (2011). Infer. Retrieved November 25, 2011, from

Voices of Saudi children. (1996, October). Middle East Resources, 18, 3-4.  Retrieved November 29, 2011, from

iPads and iPod Touches in Primary Grades: Inspiration, Ideas, and Practical Applications

Monday, December 12th, 2011

The writing of this article was prompted by numerous conversations concerning the use of iPad and iPod Touch (mobile learning device) technology in early child learning, primarily grades K-2.  I have been amazed by some of the transformative things happening in classrooms.  So, even if you teach older students, you will find much of this article useful; however, the examples are for the little ones.

As a father of a 1st grader, I am a first-hand witness to the power of iPad technology.  My daughter is actively engaged in practicing literacy and numeracy skills, problem solving and critical thinking each time she sits down with the iPad to “play.”  In your classroom, you can expect that same level of enthusiasm and engagement whether you have access to one iPad/iPod Touch or many.  The key is in how you integrate them into learning.

To begin, I really want you to be inspired by the possibilities.  Take 5 minutes to watch this video that showcases how mobile learning is revolutionizing teaching and learning from the earliest ages through, in this case, medical school.

The first frame-of-mind that must be accomplished is a transition away from thinking of the mobile learning device as a substitute for a laptop computer.  Yes, it is true that many similar tasks are possible, but the intended use and real advantages come from seeing how they differ.  Your mobile learning device more closely resembles an interactive station or learning game center than a productivity tool.  The apps are more frequently designed with interaction in mind, instead of production.

Think in terms of an implementation scale.

You will go from “zero to engaged” much more quickly when the apps you choose to integrate are “launch and learn.”  Along the spectrum, you may include apps that require the students to add input and data, but that is only needed for that learning session.  At the most complex levels are apps that are used to produce products like documents, presentations, photos and more.  These require much preplanning in order to determine the best way to manage and retrieve multiple student products on a shared device.  Remember, these devices were not built to be shared, but to be personal devices.

The next frame-of-mind to consider is: What practical uses for the device will make a difference for my students?  Successful implementation ideas include:

  • Centers – (try Oobies Space Adventure app)
  • Small Group Investigations – (try Pizza app)
  • Extra Practice – (try Letter of the Day app)
  • Chalkboard  or “hold up slate”– (try Whiteboard Free app)
  • eBooks – (try Toy Story app)
  • Story Telling – (try StoryLines, Comic Touch Lite, apps)

An important skill to practice as a teacher is building “Apptivities.”  An apptivity is a document or handout that gives students direct instructions on what and how you want them to use the app.  It should include screen shots of the app in various stages to visually guide them.  To do this, use the app to the point where you want to explain/instruct.  Then press both the home button (big round one on the front) and the power/lock button (top) at the same time.  This will take a snapshot of your screen and add it to the camera roll of that device.  You can e-mail that image to yourself, or hook the device up to a computer and use iTunes, or My Computer to just save it.  Once you have your screen shots, add them to your Word or Pages document along with instructions.

As a final note, I wanted to give you a short list of places and strategies for finding apps that will make your mobile learning devices a central and important part of everyday instruction.

From the Apple App Store, add these two apps:

  • App Tracker
  • Kinder Town

Each of these two apps are “app stores”  in such a way that they find, organize and present apps for you that can be filtered and searched based on your needs.

Also from the Apple App Store, add the app:


AppStart will teach you how to use and manage your devices.  It is full of tips and tricks that most people are not even aware they can do with their devices.