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Terry's Cherries: Innovation at NCSS

Terry L. Cherry
Terry L. Cherry
Photo by Joy Lindsey

While watching the news on Internet videos (as well as on television, reading news reports, and listening to the radio), and while speaking with our colleagues, we realize that the changing world calls for innovative education practices. In many ways, how instructors prepare students today for civic life is different from what we might have been doing in the classroom as recently as five years ago. 

My last two messages in this newsletter were about “Collaboration” and “Communication,” which are the first two priorities of the NCSS Strategic Plan.  Priority three is “Innovation: NCSS responds to challenges and changing needs through innovative practices, policies, and solutions to prepare students for civic life.”

Training students to identify what is a reliable source of information has become more challenging. What do we look for on the Internet and how do we recognize a reliable source? Providing instruction that students can apply to their own research requires innovation. On a regular basis, the members and friends of NCSS want to address these changing needs as we all seek to become skilled at informing and inspiring out students.

NCSS strives to lend a hand to teachers using innovative methods to teach controversial subjects. For example, our flagship journal Social Education has assisted teachers in facing the challenge of bringing controversial topics into classroom discussions, for example: sports and society (issue of September 2017), LGBTQ history and education (October 2017), monuments to the Confederacy (November/December 2017), and the legality of drone warfare (January/February 2018). If your students want to exercise their right to petition their government on any issue, you can help them do that by reading about “tracking Congress” in an article by Ralph Nader in the January/February 2018 issue of Social Education.

Blogging is another way to communicate inventive ways to instruct. Members have contributed some fascinating blogs to NCSS Connected, where the whole world can read them (but only members can post and comment on a blog).  A wide variety of topics are there, for example, Professor Margaret Crocco's review of the book Screen Schooled. Visit the Connected social media space and browse the blogs. You who are reading this piece can contribute your ideas and assist other educators in being innovative. Post a blog. Submit a paper for peer review. Beginning in 2018, authors can now submit their manuscripts to NCSS Publications online at a website and track their submission there. This online service improves the efficiency and user-friendliness for NCSS's authors and volunteer peer reviewers.

In 2017, NCSS launched The Voice of Rho Kappa biannual newsletter to serve the teachers and students of our social studies national honors society. If you are a high school teacher, and have not already done so, please consider establishing a Rho Kappa chapter at your school.

At NCSS, we have made this easier for you to keep up with news and opportunities related to your work. Looking for your summertime professional learning experience? Want to preview who's been added to the lineup of speakers at the NCSS Annual Conference in Chicago this coming November 30–December 2? Want to join a vital preconference meeting of one of NCSS’s affiliated groups in Chicago November 28–29? You will find these announcements in the online newsletter The Social Studies Professional, which is there for you 24–7. Over the last decade, TSSP has evolved from paper-in-the-mail, to a PDF, to a MailChimp venue today. In short, it's both an email message (that members receive eight times a year) and a webpage that can be viewed any time at More innovations are to come. The benefits of this new medium are many. For example, no longer do you have to hunt through back issues of TSSP to find that teaching resource you vaguely recall and suddenly need. Teaching Resources (a section of the newsletter) is now a standing webpage. It’s a collection that grows bigger week by week.

Collaboration, Communication and Innovation are three of the five NCSS Strategic Plan Priorities.  By working together, and sharing our thoughts and practices. we help our profession evolve to better prepare students for career, college and civic life.