Thursday, February 28, 2013

AP Comparative Wiki

I just found this AP Comparative Wiki which is really pretty remarkable as it has almost everything you'd want for each of the countries, including history, government, issues and even pictures.  My students are going to be using it for review. It is made by Andrew Coneen who has done work on the  AP Comparative test committee(ie, trust that it is a great resource).


Do you ever want to quickly read a webpage or a written document?  I have posted about  It is fun as it lets you input a url and/or something you have copied and pasted.  But I think I like, as a summarizer for documents, FreeSummarizer.  Both of the sites allow you to control how long an answer you want.  So this might be a great way to get students to look at a long Wikipedia page in a short amount of time. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Supreme Court & the Voting Rights Act

Wow, talk about a great summary of the Voting Rights Act and what might change in light of the case before the Supreme Court.  If you want all of the key articles on Shelby v. Holder as well as a link to the actual brief, SCOTUS blog has it here for you. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My View of the Future (and present) of Education

Last week the Alliance for Excellent Education (which is the inspiration behind Digital Learning Day) asked me to write a blog post for them.  If you care to read the entire post go here where I have a number of links to items my students have done this year to highlight my thoughts.  But here are the money paragraphs:

One day all of our students will have interactive lessons where the teacher will walk around the room connecting information, helping pupils do their work and making sure that the necessary learning is being done correctly and where appropriate, collaboratively.  Classes will be self paced and conclude with interactive assessments that measure students’ ability to find and use online resources to answer probing questions.
Before then we, as teachers, need to remember that the best way to educate students today is not the same way that we learned when we were students.  We need to help move teachers away from lecture based assignments, urge them to change their teaching methodology to be one where multiple Internet based devices are acceptable in the classroom and finally how to recreate their classroom to meet the needs of our high technology learners.  This will mean assigning easier material at home (flipping the classroom) and having more interactive assignments in the classroom.  The focus of the room will change from the front to both increasing individual teacher-student contact as well as increasing interactions between students.

This is just a start. One day we will have algorithms to help drive instruction.  My daughter Madison, for example, prefers to learn by video clips on Youtube  while my son would rather read the information and figure it out himself.  My other daughter Alexandra likes to do all her work in one sitting whereas Madison likes some breaks.  Companies like Knewton are working with educators to create customized classes to meet these needs.  But it will take more than cutting edge companies.  If the FCC can create free bandwidth  for everyone, it will positively impact my lower income students.  Likewise, as we go to more cloud computing, we will be able to see lower price delivery devices such as the Chromebook  which will mean that students will be able to bring their own laptop/tablet devices to school (as they are already doing with their smartphones) and will not worry about cost or theft.

Great Site on the Problems in Nigeria

Thanks to Rebecca Small for the heads up on this CNN article on the problems in Nigeria, one of the countries on the AP Comparative exam.  The article and the video above brings up lots of items that could be on the AP exam such as the religion in the north, the oil production in the south, the problems of the president, Goodluck Jonathan, the fuel subsidy. The top video discusses the problems with the infrastructure in Nigeria.  The CNN page is also ripe with lots of videos and articles about what is going on in Nigeria today. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Anatomy of a super PAC

After Jesse Jackson Jr. announced his resignation from the House, Independence USA, the “super PAC” created by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, has tried to seize a “distinct window of opportunity” by making gun control an issue in the special election to pick Mr. Jackson’s successor. The group has run television ads in the Chicago market every day since Jan. 30 and spent over $2.1 million on the campaign so far. Here is a breakdown of how that money has been spent.  

How to Search by Reading Level

This very short video explains how you can do a Google search for an item and find the appropriate reading levels that would work for your students.   I found this video from a G+ post from Google Gooru

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Definitive Sequester Cheat Sheet

Forget what I put in the post below, this WashPost site has done a much better job at explaining the looming sequester.  It has multiple graphs and short explanations for each.  Basically this is the fiscal cliff revisited and would impact a lot of people in my area who would be furloughed on a regular basis.

I think the questions that you might want to consider with your students are 1) is it okay to have a large debt 2) are we becoming too beholden to the Chinese (think how quiet Obama has been on Chinese hacking) and the Japanese for their loans to us 3) which is better - across the board cuts or tax raises or both?

Here is the impact to each individual state remembering that the totals will occur only if the sequestration is allowed to run its course completely without a budget fix.

Finally, since we just finished polling, I am going to show my students this Pew poll on support - or lack thereof for it as well as this one showing how much more popular Obama is than the Congress (ie Obama might be assuming that Congress takes the hit if this happens.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


With yet another looming sequestration, here are a series of charts from the WashPost to help you explain it to your students. Here are a bunch of articles detailing impacts such as at the National Zoo, cut backs in work for bureaucrats, slow down of airports and even George Will arguing it is a whole lot of hooey and will, of course, be solved before next weekend. 

Marbury v Madison

Thanks to Frank Franz for this short video on Marbury v. Madison.  One of the reasons I put all of my class assignments in Google Drive is that if I wanted to add this video to what I was doing, I do not need to save and re-upload it the place where my students see it.  So my students are mandated to use Blackboard, but I link everything to a document in Google Drive.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Globalization/Democratization and Hacking

In my AP Comparative class we are looking at the globalization briefing paper today, but I am going to do it in the vein of the numerous hacking by the Chinese government.  It also ties in well with multinational companies and their relationship with governments in light of the fact that Apple was hacked by Chinese sources earlier in the week and now companies are paying groups such as Mandiant who alerted the US to the sabotage. It also brings up the issue of US-China relations.

Of course since Iran is one of the six countries we are studying it is relevant to mention the US-Israel effort to create a virus to hurt Iran's nuclear program.

Finally, we also just read the democratization paper which is also relevant as the hacking brings up a new relationship between democratic and non-democratic countries.  On top is a video on how the Mandiant figured out that 98% of the hacking is linked to a building in Shanghai.  The bottom video is about the entire Chinese case.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Preview files in Google Drive

Google Drive now or will shortly allow users to preview files by simply right clicking on the file name. Free Technology for Teachers has a good story and some graphics to show you how to preview the files.  The service will fully roll out over the next couple of days. It's nice addition to Google docs.

Free Google Googles

So for a moment, listen to my inner geek!  Today Google announced that they are giving away 8000 Google glasses.  These devices have the potential to change how we see the world literally - and cause more accidents until we all have self driven Google cars.  As you can see from the video, the glasses let you call up a search, tell you the weather, how to get to a destination - can you say a computer in a light weight set of plastic glasses.  If you want to apply for a pair, go here

Monday, February 18, 2013

Doceri Flippled Class Aide for Your iPad

I have been getting ready to use Doceri with my students when they receive their iPads.  The app is like Educreations, but much more dynamic and allows one to create screencasts.  We wil be using them since Google Drive's Presentation cannot be created on the iPad (only viewed).  I also like it as it does not require a login/password.  So my students will create them and then directly upload them into Google Drive and then share it with me effectively giving them a Presentation that can be recorded and annotated.

It is also useful if you like to write on your screen when you are making a flipped classroom presentation.

Doceri has a number of short videos on how to work the product, but each is missing an element. The best one to bring it all together is the one above.  

How to Create Bar Graphs in Google Drive

Tomorrow and Thursday my students are working on Gini coefficients in AP Comparative.  We are using a great assignment from Rebecca Small to go over them.  At one point the students have to create a bar graph for the different countries which is quite easy if you use Google forms as you can see in the video above. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

QR Codes

This is a nice video explaining how to make QR codes and even make them in a variety of colors.    The post also mentions how you could create (see the pictures above) multiple QR codes on a page of paper (I just pass around one and have them scan it right away).  It also shows how you can use QR codes to have students see multiple online pages, videos, etc. for a classroom assignment.  I found this post on Edudemic

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Personal Learning Networks

Two weeks ago I introduced my teacher-students to Twitter and the reasons why we should use Personal Learning Networks.  Here is a great Pinterest set of posts (not sure what to call this) on PLNs.  There are links to Google+ ones, lists of educator Twitter people to follow, using Diigo (which can be both a PLN as well as a place to put your links), flipped classroom teachers PLN, why you should have a PLN and much more. Eric Sheninger originally posted the link on my Google+ PLN. 

State of the Union Speech

Here is the entire State of the Union speech and here is Marco Rubio's (R-FL) response. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

State of the Union Word Clouds

These are word clouds from previous presidents and below is one from Obama tonight. 

% of Ideas Becoming Laws from SOTU

If you want this graphic made larger go here

SuperPACs Largest Donors

This is a great resource if you want to see who the largest donors (that we know about) are to Super PACS.  As you hover over each, it will show the amount of money donated. 

A Short Video Explanation of the State of the Union

I will be showing this to my classes today.  If you want more coverage, both in video and written format, go here and see my other posts below. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ten Memorable State of the Union Speeches

The WashPost has compiled (partly in video format) their top ten State of the Union speech moments including the Axis of Evil above. 

State of the Union Speeches - Ike to Obama

It is not surprising that so many themes run through the different State of the Union speeches as this details.

A Google a Day Search Tips

A Google a Day is a website that lets you use a different Google search technique each day and it is timed so they students cannot waste time.

If you would prefer to see all the search tips right away, you can go here

QR Code for Bio or Contact Information

Today I am presenting to my county's social studies chairs on QR (quick read) codes.  You probably have seen then all over.   To generate a QR code simply enter your page (Google Drive or web) here. There are many different QR readers, but here is one for Android and iPhone

The logical next question is what should they be used for?  Well while many of my students sign up for Remind101 for their homework, others like to have a QR scanner instead.  If you scan the square above, you will see that it goes to one of my homework sheets in Google Drive.  I always put the newest homework at the top so that the student does not have to scroll down using his/her phone.

I also have a QR code in my school Outlook signature.  Here and here are two ways you can do that.

Another use would be to hang the QR code right outside of your classroom (say for back to school night).  If you have created it for an Outlook contact, then parents could scan it using their phone and would now have your e-mail/phone number.  If you are so inclined my "vCard" information is on the QR code below.

Here is what I hang in my class which has all three of my preps as well as my bio and contact information. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Google Forms for Collecting Group Information Quickly

I know I did this post fairly recently, but I am doing a double in-service for my county's social studies chairs tomorrow so want to put this up for them (and you).

As a chair and teacher I use Google Forms all the time.  For example I sent the members in my department one on Friday to get their choices for classes they want to teach next year.  Each month I also use it for our student of the month.  When I started my new class for teachers I used it to get their e-mails which I pasted into a folder to share with them (you could do the same for your students).  In short, think of anytime you need to collect information from a group of people and using Google Forms (see video above for how to do it) and you can do it instantly.  By the way if you have your recipients put their last name first, then you can easily alphabetize it.

Above and here is the video how to and if you prefer the written word, you can go here

The Special Education Classroom

In a few days I am going to some present to some special education teachers.  I make no bones about  the fact that I am a regular education teacher, but I share the room with one and have taught many of them in my technology integration course.  So I did a lot of research and thought about what the special education teachers I know like and came up with this document of items that I am going to go over in the 90 minutes (yes I won't get to it all!).  If you teach in a special education classroom, I'd appreciate some comments or e-mails ( with your suggestions. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Making of the State of the Union

This is an interesting piece by the White House on the making of the State of the Union speech which is this coming Tuesday at 9 pm.  My students will be using a hashtag to discuss the speech as it happens.  You might want to consider that or doing an interactive State of the Union Bingo that lets you click on parts of the speech that have already been mentioned. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

2016 Republican Contenders

I like to tell my students that you essentially have to give up your life several years before being elected president.  Obama, for example, was home three days in the year before he was first elected.  So if you are doing elections, it is really not too early to start considering candidates as potential crusaders will start assembling some kind of staff probably next year.  So here is the top ten list given to us by the Fix which is a great WashPost inside DC blog.

If you are a follower of my blogs then you know I swear by Remind101 and have a ton of people in my county now using it.  But one of my teacher-students told me the other day about Celly which she loves to use to remind students.  It has an added feature where she can poll students and get instant results even when they are not in class.  Here are some examples for class use.  Another cool idea they have is that they can keep a message stream going amongst the students so they could effectively form a study group after school (not that they aren't already using their phones!).  Here are their how to guides. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Saving Your Browser Tabs

Keeping your tabs open.  We have an iPad, three iPods, an old PC, but only two laptops to share with my three kids and wife.  For some reason my kids still enjoy laptops and often go on my wife's and close her browser that she like to keep open tabs on.  But never fear there are ways to save your browser tabs so that when you open them again, you will still have all of the correct tabs.  This step by step process tells you how to save them in Chrome, Safari, Explorer and Mozilla. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Digital Learning Day

Today was a fun day as 14 of my students and I got to take part in a Digital Learning Day event at the Newseum in DC.  We got to meet Sec of Education Arne Duncan and take part in a 90 minute webinar explaining all of the things that the Alliance for Excellent Education is doing.  As part of the event, on Monday our DC affiliate for ABC came out and filmed one of my classes which you can see above.   Fellow blogger Scott Campbell was also there making a presentation for a program he did at the Newseum. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What is a good poll?

This is a great succinct video that tells what makes a good poll. 

Gay Marriage and Great Britain

Having just taught Great Britain, this article on the House of Commons passing the allowance of gay marriage is timely as it mentions the House of Lords,  prime minister, Conservative, Liberal Democrats, Labour parties, backbencher, 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

GB's Supreme Court

Thanks to my colleague Rebecca Small for this site on Great Britain's Supreme Court and for the video about the 2009 addition of it.  Can you telling I am doing my background research on the unit we are now working on in class?

Great Britain PowerPoint

I wish I could give credit to the person who created this, but it is not online.  It is, nonetheless, a great PowerPoint for Great Britain.  If you have Google Drive, you can easily make a copy and put it in your folders. 

AP Comparative - Studying for the GB Part

Above is a nice study aid for those studying AP Comparative's GB section.  I'll have my students use it as a review.  Here is a nice concise list of words the students should know for the unit. 

Cheating Using Technology

Normally I like to assume the best from my students, but I know they are not perfect.  Some would say that is reason enough to not use anything other than paper, but I see enough kids in the halls copying each other's paper assignments or using their phones to snap others' work to know technology is not the problem - morality is.  But technology CAN be the solution.  This post is how to check if you suspect something.

1.  Plagiarism is the most prevalent cheating in part because kids have been doing it so long and have not been called on it.  Usually it is blatant as in "Of or relating to Greek history" for the definition of hellenistic.  As I like to tell my students, "No one talks like that."  Secondly if they have cut and pasted the work, they are being lazy so you can find the work simply by cutting and pasting it into a browser and the same site will come right up.  I just put the link from the page in their work and have my proof for the student when we talk.

2.  Copying using Google Drive is also easy to catch.  Go to file (picture on the left) and then "see revision history."  Usually when a kid cheats, he/she simply copies and pastes.  I require my students to put their name and title of the assignment in the title part of a Google Doc and have actually found some kids copy the material and forget about that and literally hand over the name of the kid they copied from.   You can also look at the revision history since it shows the days each time it was accessed.  So if a kid cheats, they will probably only have one entry.  Well what if the assignment legitimately was only done on one day.  At the bottom of a revision history you can show "more detailed revisions" and it will then show multiple times for each day (picture on the right).  Each time you click on the date, you can see the changes that occurred.  Thus any assignment should have more than one entry this way.  Please note that I do not check every assignment this way as it would take too long.  But if a kid has had issues in the past or I am suspect, then it is a very quick and easy check.

Finally we all know we can't stop cheating all together, but technology can make it much easier to do.  For me there is so much on the Internet so student products can be infinitely better than say when I was a kid. But part of stopping the problems above is taking the time to teach what is acceptable, what is legitimate collaboration and what is not tolerated.    

Friday, February 1, 2013

Split Screen to See Multiple Items at Once

This is one of the more popular videos that I have made.  If you want to see two items on your computer at the same time, this one minute video tells you how.  If you have an Apple product and don't mind paying $7, you can do the same thing as it mentioned above (otherwise you can just drag the corners until the windows are the size you want). 

You Tube Without the Ads

Free technology for Teachers has a story and link to a great Chrome extension called A Cleaner internet. It cleans up every You Tube video of ads. And it works, all automatically I installed it yesterday and all the You Tube videos run without any ads. The extension is a little tricky to install but if you watch the how to video, you should have no trouble. That video is below.