As I write this message, our global society has undergone rapid transformations in how we live, work, and play – all in the span of a few weeks. When I wrap my head around these changes, I begin to wonder which will endure, and how they will impact our civic life, our general human connections, and our roles, responsibilities, and values.
Closer to home, NCSS has also transformed in quick succession. A few years ago, our staff expanded a flexible work policy in which most of us telework about 1-2 days per week. On Monday, March 16, we began to fully telework with plans to follow common state and federal guidelines to determine when it is safe to come back together in our physical office. We are safe, adjusting to full telework successfully, and will continue to provide you with the same quality services you expect of us. We connect daily via Zoom to share our current projects and an anecdote or two.
Other NCSS business meetings have transitioned to be fully online right now, including our Annual Conference planning and our Teaching with Primary Sources writing project. This past weekend, we even hosted our first fully virtual Board of Directors meeting for two days. Our biggest priority is to ensure all NCSS members, staff, and partners are safe and informed of current guidelines to keep us healthy, help us prevent the spread of COVID-19, and enable our health care providers to take care of those who are sick.
I write often about our NCSS Strategic Plan. NCSS continues to fulfill its mission because our strategic priorities are exactly the changes our society must address moving forward. Collaboration, communication, innovation, inclusiveness, influence and leadership – these priorities are collectively more urgent and relevant to all of us than ever before, as we begin to understand the long-term impact that our rapid transformations will have on our American (and global) education system.
NCSS is already charting its future through these five priorities. We understand that the professional learning, content, and infrastructure needed to support a stronger foundation for online social studies education was already overdue. Educators worldwide have researched and implemented virtual learning environments over the past few decades; now, we have an opportunity to invest our resources into scaling an equitable, inclusive, and quality digital learning environment for all students, and avoid interruptions to education that can happen during crises like COVID-19. How we collaborate, communicate, innovate, include, influence and lead will require significant investments in support for professional learning, content, and infrastructure. Are we ready to make those critical investments?
While most of those investments have historically been in traditional forms of learning, we must work toward addressing the structure and function of social studies education online. This includes three major areas in which NCSS is working to transform itself right now:
- Digital content and instructional resources aligned to NCSS Standards and the C3 Framework.
- Online networking through NCSS membership groups.
- Professional learning programs in virtual spaces.
Our first step is to prepare for teaching online and to provide resources for teaching about COVID-19 and its impact in each of the social studies disciplines. To begin, NCSS presents the following resources:
- NCSS Resources for Navigating COVID-19 (webpage) – Features new and open-access resources from NCSS publications, members, and partners. Please visit this page daily as your most up-to-the-minute guidance for teaching and public safety.
- History and Geography of a Pandemic: COVID-19 (webpage) – Three instructional modules developed by the World History Digital Education Foundation and NCSS.
- LearningKeepsGoing.org (webpage) – NCSS has joined a coalition of education organizations nationwide, led by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), to support LearningKeepsGoing.org, a free online portal with teaching resources, webinar links, and a help desk to provide real-time support for all educators. Read the full announcement for more information.
- When COVID-19 Closes Your School: Ideas and Suggestions for Social Studies Instruction (webinar) – NCSS President Tina L. Heafner joins inquirED for this special webinar on best practices for online social studies instruction. Wednesday, March 25 at 4:30 PM ET.
- More Deadly Than War: How Do We Teach the Lessons of Pandemics — While We Are in One? (webinar) – Author Kenneth C. Davis will discuss the history of pandemics, focusing on what the Spanish flu pandemic during World War I meant in America and around the world. Thursday, April 2 at 7:00 PM ET.
Our next step is to support all NCSS membership communities in their collaboration and connection online. I strongly encourage all members to explore our Special Interest Communities and Associated Groups and join the ones that match your current interests and learning needs. For example, our Communities have discussion spaces on our website, and many also have their own social media accounts to share up-to-date information and resources in their particular areas. We are also preparing for new webinars and online networking programs from our Communities in the coming weeks. Here is an upcoming program and an opportunity for online networking:
- An NCSS Response to COVID-19: A Historic Shift to Online Learning and How to Respond (webinar) – This webinar is free for all members and a chance to learn from a panel of NCSS leaders that will share their perspectives and strategies on transitioning social studies to online learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists and participants will also identify topics for a series of webinars to organize and launch a set of learning experiences and opportunities to connect for support over the course of this spring. Tuesday, March 31 at 5:00 PM ET.
- Share Your Own Ideas (blogs) – NCSS welcomes your original content – teaching strategies, questions, content resources – and encourages you to post a blog in any one of our Community pages. Please see our blogging guidelines for details. Your original post will also appear to all NCSS members and is linked right from our home page.
Our long-term strategy includes more virtual professional learning programs, balancing high-quality digital content with robust online networking opportunities to share best practices among our members. More to come as these plans evolve!
For now, please be safe, and know that your extended NCSS community is here to support you and share with you.