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San Francisco and the State of Social Studies in 2017

As I post this blog, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) is just two weeks away from hosting our annual flagship event, the nation’s largest social studies education conference. If you are planning to attend, I hope you’re as excited as I am for a phenomenal week of professional learning in the City by the Bay, and your bags are packed! If you’re reading this and are not too familiar with NCSS, I invite you to learn more about us and our conference at

Even in our digital age, with information available at the touch of a screen, an annual conference represents a “state of the profession.” The sessions presented, the speakers selected, and the sub-themes or session strands created are a window on the topics, issues, and concerns on the minds of social studies educators and our education profession this year. With over 900+ programs including sessions, clinics, tours, speakers, and meetings, the NCSS 97th Annual Conference Program is an official record of social studies education in the year 2017.

So what is the social studies community talking about in 2017? Our conference theme is Expanding Visions/Bridging Traditions. This theme speaks to heart of what we do as educators and as learners through the social studies. Personally, it speaks to our commitment as an organization and as a profession to grow: reaching out to new partners, innovating with new strategies to support educators, and connecting with the wider world. This year’s theme is focused on a central question: How can we help our students make sense of a rapidly changing world? We can address this central question together as a social studies community through our six conference sub-themes:

  • Teaching Students in a Rapidly Changing World. Which philosophies have guided social studies educators in the past? Which philosophies should guide us in the future?
  • Globalization and Global Interdependence. How do we present historical, social, cultural, economic, environmental, and geographic issues, and how do these issues affect others in a globally diverse world?
  • Media Literacy. How do we integrate media literacy into the social studies classroom to create better informed and critically thinking students? How can educators help students to distinguish fact from fiction?
  • Technology and Change. Can new technologies work in the social studies classroom? How can we explore the social and cultural effects of new technologies?
  • Cultivating Empathy through Instruction. How should we address the cultural diversity of our students, and our country, and provide an inclusive, accepting environment?
  • Expanding Visions/Bridging Traditions. What ideas will help forge new molds and help shape our profession?

One major outcome of our annual conference is to address current research, theory, and practice in the social studies. Another outcome can be to build upon the conference program throughout the following year to chart the direction of our profession. In this way, I hope you will consider our conference theme, central question, and sub-themes as the topics that social studies educators are thinking about now – a reflection of social studies education in 2017. I hope you are interested in exploring these topics further in the coming year with us.

There has been a lot of talk both in the association and education industries about the role of annual conferences in the 21st century. Like other professional organizations, NCSS sustains a professional learning program beyond an annual conference. We support a webinar series, summer institutes, online communities, teaching resources, and members’ blogs on our web site. Our conference sub-themes can guide our discussions and shape our overall professional learning opportunities, as well. One great way to continue our theme after the conference is to explore our NCSS Live Learning Center – an online library of more than 30 hours of session recordings from the conference. All conference attendees can access this content as part of their registration. We invite our members and the general public who cannot attend the conference to access this content at a special rate. You can learn more about this post-conference resource at

I’m excited to expand visions and bridge traditions together in San Francisco, and throughout the year!