Wednesday, February 15, 2017

7 Questions with Tony DiSario, Social Studies Teacher on Special Assignment

Anthony “Tony” DiSario, M. Ed., graduated from the University of Florida with professional specializations in Elementary Education and American History. With the exception of three years teaching at Georgia State University, Mr. DiSario has spent the better part of twenty years providing engaging learning opportunities for elementary students. Currently, Mr. DiSario supports Elementary Social Studies instruction in the twenty-eight elementary schools in Henry County, Georgia as the Elementary Social Studies Teacher on Special Assignment. When not teaching, Mr. DiSario coaches wrestling and enjoys watching his son and daughter compete in athletics. Mr. DiSario can be seen traveling from school-to-school on his deep orange, Harley Davidson Road King CVO, lovingly nicknamed, “Betsy.”
1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I took two courses in high school that really hooked me on history. The first was called POD – Problems of Democracy. I had a really engaging teacher who was great at telling stories and at pointing out the difference between myths and probable facts. Then, I took one of the most incredible courses in my career. It was simply titled, Humanities. Three teachers taught three classes of kids at the same time in a large room. One teacher was a history teacher, one a Language Arts teacher and the third was an Art teacher. Between the three of them, we looked at the multi-faceted components of our history. It was a truly integrated course, the likes of which I have never seen again.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
This question would require a whole book of my personal history to answer fully. Instead, I’ll respond in unrelated bullets:
  • I keep ordinary documents. Movie stubs. Check stubs. Love notes from 5th grade.
  • I can argue with people on Facebook.
  • I don’t freak out when I watch the news. Historians can always point to a previous time that was worse.
  • I am cynical. I want to see the evidence before I take a side or agree with an opinion.
  • I rarely believe in conspiracy theories.

3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
I “Do History” every single day. I am charged with finding new and better ways to help learners to seek out their own answers to their own questions about history.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
Studying and knowing history leads to freedom. Personal historical “perspectives” are spewed in all sorts of media. Knowing history gives the historian the ability to question those, typically baseless, perspectives. Understanding history gives one the power to seek the truth. To me, the ability to question and seek the truth define freedom.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
The part when the aliens came and the President of the United States and a scientist saved the world. I guess, knowing that’s why we celebrate Independence Day, is my favorite part.

6. What does your job as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) entail?
Specifically, my job is to assist the Social Studies Coordinator in supporting our twenty-eight elementary schools in Social Studies instruction. The focus of my daily work is on professional development, but I deal with all areas related to Social Studies in the elementary schools including, materials, technology, and instructional design.

7. What are some high points and low points of being a social studies TOSA?

I love my job. I literally get to work with history every single day. I get to learn more everyday about history education and I get to do my favorite thing in the world – help other people. I love traveling to see and learn new instructional strategies and to hear new perspectives on history. I love working on new materials and strategies that will excite teachers and their students about history. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is that I don’t get to have my own students any longer. Not hearing, “Mr. D.! Mr. D.!” in the hallways hurts my heart.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

7 Questions with Kevin Lyle, President of Politicraft

Kevin Lyle is the President of PolitiCraft, Inc., and Rachel Lyle is the Director. The mission of PolitiCraft, Inc is to transform traditional civics learning by developing students’ social-emotional skills, literacy skills, systems thinking tools, and design learning mindsets, while fostering improved communication, civil discourse and real-world civic engagement both locally and nationally. PolitiCraft is a narrative-based ACTION CIVICS card game that guides students through varying levels of civic engagement. Through game play, students are guided by the cards to craft narratives based upon a student selected civic issue, informing them of the multiple pathways available to achieve real change in their school and community, while fostering greater civic participation nationwide.

1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I got hooked on history at an early age, starting first with an interest in aviation and then aerospace.  From the Wright Brothers, to Lindbergh, to the Mercury astronauts, I devoured whatever I could find at the public library.  Growing up through the missions to the moon, Skylab and the Space Shuttle, I was an avid collector of books and magazines documenting these events, knowing they would be “history” someday.  Some of those items even came in handy when my two daughters were in school.  I then developed an interest in politics and our political system, fed by the Watergate scandal in my early teens.  One of my favorite photos, and the one my family laughs at the most, is my smiling as 13-year-old behind Walter Cronkite on the steps of the Supreme Court on the day the verdict they ruled on the Nixon tapes.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
As a Political Science major in college, history was a basic component of the curriculum.  It fostered a curiosity about why things happen, where the answer virtually always lies in an understanding of the what happened in the past.  That curiosity is even stronger today, as putting events into perspective now, as things change so rapidly and seismically, seems more important than ever.

3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
My career has spanned a number different fields, with both the earliest and most recent ventures touching the most on history.  Working in journalism in my twenties, and on PolitiCraft over the past 5 years, history was always a piece of the puzzle.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
Understanding the people and events that preceded us is, in my opinion, the only way we can successfully navigate today.  We certainly learn from mistakes, but we also learn from all the successes, the people, the events and the beliefs of what has already happened.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
If it is not clear by now, politics and political events are my greatest interests, specifically American history.  I’ve wondered many times where I would go if I was given the chance to travel back in time and observe first hand historical events.  Would it be the first Constitutional Convention, the Lincoln White House, FDR during World War II, the missing 18.5 minutes on the Watergate tapes or anyone of hundreds of other moments that have sparked my interest over the years?  I would love to have to make that decision.

6. What is PolitiCraft?
PolitiCraft is a non-partisan action civics card game which was created in partnership with the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), nationally recognized Civics teacher, Mary Ellen Daneels, as well as business and thought leaders in the fields of social-emotional learning, communication and civil discourse. The goal of the game, in which the students/players choose a real world issue that they care about and use the card game to guide them through various levels of civic engagement, is to inform players of the multiple pathways available to them to make real change in their community. The game has been officially endorsed by NCSS.

7. How can PolitiCraft change civics and government education?
The top priority in the game’s development was to identify and integrate key tools for engaging in civil discourse including, but not limited to: collaboration, active listening, negotiating, compromising, and building partnerships. NCSS and their C3 Framework, which emphasizes the acquisition and application of knowledge to prepare students for college, career, and civic life, helped ensure that the game would meet school standards and be a real tool for learning in the classroom. The result was PolitiCraft, a fun, interesting, challenging, and inspiring game with original artwork by a Los Angeles artist.

In addition, a comprehensive set of game resources has been released on the PolitiCraft website ( Additional game materials, original curriculum, instructional videos, quizzes and other civics resources can all be found on the newly updated site. A PolitiCraft user forum has also been built for all teachers and players of the game to come together and discuss the game, trade classroom ideas, and ask questions.

PolitiCraft Inc., a registered 501c3 organization, has far reaching plans for the game. Net proceeds from the organization will be helping achieve the goal of providing the game free of charge to any schools/districts that lack the resources to purchase it, while at the same time developing new versions for different levels (starting with a middle school version), and organizing community events which will bring together students and community leaders to play through the game around an issue that needs to be discussed. Ultimately, the nonprofit wants to transform traditional civics learning and build a new generation of engaged citizens.