Engaging Twitter On American History

For the last two years, dear ol’ Eduflack has committed much of his professional life to improving the teaching and learning of American history. This started by leading a national research initiative that highlighted the dire need to boost American history knowledge in the United States.

We found that fewer than four in 10 Americans could pass a basic history quiz based on questions from the practice exams for the U.S. citizenship test. We followed it up with a 50-State survey using the same questions, resulting in only one state out of the 50 (plus DC) scoring higher than 50 percent.

Such surveys occur all the time. Working with ASPR, we were able to generate hundreds of news stories across the nation to spotlight the issue. For months and months, newspapers, opinion columnists, radio hosts, and the like have reported on these findings and the need to dramatically improve how we teach U.S. history.

We know, though, that social media is king. In addition to working with the mainstream media, we invested major effort into using Twitter to share this information with those who needed it most. Through a twitter push, nearly half a million Americans took the survey as an online quiz. And millions of voices on Twitter have kept the conversation going, ensuring that this important discussion was not a “one-day” story.

The reaction from media, social media, and the public at large is one of reasons Eduflack has decided to launch a major national initiative to provide interesting, relevant American history video content, lesson plans, and professional development to current classroom teachers. This new effort will officially begin this summer.

But I am incredibly humbled to receive the 2020 Social Media Award for having the most engaged Twitter followers compared to other public engagement campaigns.

Thanks to all who helped make this possible, including Adam Shapiro, Stacey Finkel, Dorie Nolt, and Frances Hannah. The award itself is nice, but more importantly, it signifies how important an issue improving American history education is and how we can use social media, including YouTube, to begin to tackle it.

Communicating During Covid

It’s safe to say that the coronavirus is dominating virtually all corners of public debate and consideration these days. It is definitely true of education, as our collective shift to virtual education is driven by talk of flattening the curve and a timeline for returning to “traditional” school.

Back in the day, dear ol’ Eduflack spent a great deal of time working on crisis and risk communications, particularly in the healthcare space. In 2004, for instance, I collaborated with the Hong Kong Department of Health to examine its communications response to SARS, what it could learn, and how the government could better engage with citizens to address the healthcare crisis.

Over at Medium, I reflect on those lessons and how they can be applied to our current pandemic and the communications response to it. Some of these ideas may seem common sense, but they are essential reading – and essential action – as we all try to deal with Covid19 response.

Please give it a read. And a share.

Learning In the Moment

If the first month of the year is any indication, 2020 is going to be a doozy of potential learning opportunities. Yes, we have a presidential campaign. We also have lessons of impeachment, caucuses, immigration, trade, socialism, and many others that haven’t yet shown themselves.

Our collective instinct may be to shy away from the controversial when it comes to classroom teaching. But with such a focus on the news of the day, we may be missing golden opportunities by not using these current events as the impetus for teaching and learning.

How so? We explore the topic on the latest episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen!

When It Comes to American History, Show Me

As part of dear ol’ Eduflack’s continues efforts to improve how American history is taught and learned, I was privileged to spend a half hour discussing the issue with Missouri’s National Public Radio affiliate.

It was a good discussion, moving beyond the data on how little we know about history and beginning to discuss what we can and should do about it. You can find the full segment here.

Much thanks to KCUR in Kansas City for hosting the segment, and gratitude to KUT Public Radio in Austin, TX for allowing me to broadcast live out of their studios this week.

No, We Don’t Know Much About History

We often hear that kids today just don’t understand American history. But it seems adults in the United States don’t fare better. Earlier this month, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation (where dear ol’ Eduflack lays his professional head) released the results of a 41,000-person survey that provided scientifically significant results for those living in all 50 states and the nation’s capital.

Those surveyed were given 20 questions from previous years’ sample question (and answer) banks for the U.S.citizenship test. Passing grade to earn citizenship in the United States is 60 percent. Approximately four in 10 nationwide were able to hit that mark. Only one state (Vermont) had a majority of residents pass the test, with 53 percent of Vermonters winning a passing grade. All in all, the results were pretty dismal.

The intent of this work was, and is, not to suggest that Americans are stupid or that history instruction is some how falling down on the job. On the contrary, in 39 states, American history is a high school requirement. Millions of American students pass that course in order to earn a high school diploma. And they are taught by highly qualified teachers with history content knowledge, not by the “sports coaches” that so many would want to blame for our historical knowledge shortcomings.

With all we know about cognitive science these days, one needs to ask what happens between high school and adulthood that has us forgetting those names, dates, and places needed to pass American history? And if we can’t remember those basic details, how are we supposed to build on it to be informed, engaged participants in our representative democracy?

Surely, we can see far too many in this country fail to see the relevance of the history basics they initially learn. It isn’t interesting. It isn’t personally important. It doesn’t reflect our families or our backgrounds. It isn’t engaging. It is simply memorizing specifics for a specific purpose, soon to be put out of our memory banks.

I’m excited that the Woodrow Wilson Foundation is seeking to change that, to look at how we can make American history more relevant, interesting, and personal. I’m amped up that we are looking to do so by making history learning more experiential, using a wide range of engagements to move beyond the dusty textbook. And I’m thrilled that we are looking at history instruction not about the information needed to pass a bar night trivia contest, but instead one that helps learners, throughout their lifetimes, learn to ask questions, to probe information, to pursue issues, an generally to begin to think like historians.

It is no surprise that the media has taken note of our 50-state survey. It is always interesting to see how states stack up, particularly at a time when history, politics, and civics seem so important. In the coming weeks and months, Eduflack looks forward to continuing this discussion and looking at what is possible when it comes to transforming American history learning. For now, I’ll share just a taste of some of the media coverage on this survey, and this topic, over the past week or so.

The New York Post – https://nypost.com/2019/02/15/americans-dont-know-much-about-nations-history-survey/

Huffington Post – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/american-citizenship-exam_n_5c6add96e4b05c889d221d43

Fox News – https://www.foxnews.com/politics/why-civics-education-matters

Slate – https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/02/the-political-gabfest-trumps-national-emergency-bernie-sanders-amazons-hq2-in-new-york.html

Washington (DC) Examiner – https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/doh-only-1-state-passes-us-citizenship-test-dc-fails-big

Miami (FL) Herald – https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article226427115.html

Burlington (VT) Free-Press – https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/2019/02/15/vermont-named-only-state-u-s-pass-civics-test-exception-after-all/2868373002/

Detroit (MI) Free Press – https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/2019/02/19/michiganders-citizenship-test/2904395002/

Texas Public Radio – http://www.tpr.org/post/could-you-pass-us-citizenship-test-well-63-percent-texans-couldnt

The Tennesseean – https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2019/02/15/people-tennessee-arent-very-good-u-s-history-survey-says/2868329002/

Axios – https://www.axios.com/happy-presidents-day-history-is-hard-8dbed5a2-07f6-43f4-bfab-0836597bfba8.html

 

 

How Do Dems Spin Education?

Patrick Riccards, a communications and education policy consultant who’s worked with both Democrats and Republicans, said one strategy for these and other candidates would be to avoid getting into the nuts and bolts of their views about schools.

“I would wrap the issues of education into the larger issues that will rally [Democratic] voters to primaries and caucuses,” Riccards said, including “the larger social justice and equity discussions, as well as talk of guns and safety; weaving it into economic policy, as part of a stronger commitment to workforce development.”

From Andrew Ujifusa’s Spin Class: These Democrats Could Face Tricky Questions About Education, in Education Week