Saturday, February 28, 2015

Keeping up With Super PACs (and why you should ditch your textbook)

In my school I am the social studies chair and in that role I have an ongoing dispute with a good friend who is the chair of the math department.  I keep giving him a hard time saying that math teachers should be embracing the Internet since it is written by math majors and he keeps clinging to his old school math textbooks claiming that students retain more by using paper books.

The Vox link here on super PACs is why I argue that we should teach our students to better learning using online resources.  After all even if you have an old school math textbook, you can still be diverted by a smartphone (which no researcher seems to want to add to their research in paper vs e-books!).  

Case in point is the link above which explains, not just super PACs, dark money, McCutcheon v. FEC but all the Citizens United v. FEC - all of which came about AFTER the e-book (we still have to use a six year contract in my county for electronic books, rather than get yearly updates - an old world problem clashing with modern technology) was put online.  Really, think about the technology you were using six years ago (the average length of a textbook) and think how much your teaching has evolved (or not if you are still using paper because of belief systems or lack of funding).  All of which is to say my textbook is going the way of the Dodo bird because of the many resources we can use in class and my students can easily access on the smartphones they walk into my class with each day.  

Here is an article talking about the "first primary" in the presidential race - the one to raise money for individual and super PACs.  

By the way one of my late spring or summer projects is going to be to put all of my assignments, flipped videos, etc. for AP US Government and AP Comparative Government on a Google Drive document so you too can choose to teach your students as they learn best - on the cloud! 

Boko Haram in 3 Minutes

This about the most packed 3 minutes ever!  It gives historical background on British colonial rule, the Muslim north, Christian south, poverty in the north, the current presidential election and yes, a lot on Boko Haram.  

Read My Book, Earn Graduate Credit

Thanks to Julie Halse for the heads up on this one.  You can now earn graduate credit by reading my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction.

The book has multiple practical ways to help teachers and administrators develop online professional learning communities, flip the classroom, use Google Drive, evaluate students’ ability and much more.  Most importantly it shows teachers how to set up their own classrooms so the needs of each individual student can be better met and so all students can more easily meet their full potential.  

It also has examples of how technology is being used in classrooms to personalize instruction and gives teachers and administrators “Educator Challenges” that can be used to integrate the learning models in the book into the classroom.  

So if you are interested, buy the book (and go here if you want discounted volume purchases) and go here to learn how you can complete an assignment and earn graduate credit.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Right to Work

There aren't many right to work states, but I live in one in VA.  In case you teach state government near me, then you might want Hip Hughes new video.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Globalization Assignment

Thanks to Rebecca Small, my students read the AP Comparative Globalization Briefing Paper and answer these questions.  But just this morning I noticed this NYTimes article on the topic of how American workers aren't being protected from overseas impacts (ironically something I pointed out to my World History students the other day).  Here is another article from the Business Insider on how the diets of people in poor countries have gone downhill thanks, ironically, to their eating more Western diets. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why Does Iran Hate the US?

I just found this site called TestTube which goes into many issues that you might deal with in US government or Comparative government class.  For example, the last country I cover in AP Comparative is Iran and the short video above gives a good overview of the history between the two countries. 

Crash Course Choices: Articles of Confederation & Constitutional Convention

Okay so CrashCourse now has come out with its fifth video for the failure of the Articles of Confederation and the formation of the US Constitution.  If you are ditching the textbook, you can choose from the US government series (above with Craig) or the US series with John Green (bottom).  Each works fine, but I am going to go with the top one. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Country Review Sheet AP Comparative

Last year I started having my students fill out these country e-sheets for AP Comparative.  I credit the assignment with as one of the reasons why my kids had some great scores last year.  While it is becoming a bit old (2007), this resource is a good starting point after we watch our flipped videos and discuss them.  For my discussion I use the Socratic method and do it in a comparative sense so that the kids are constantly referring back to previous countries we have done.  If you look at the AP Comparative multiple choice and FRQs this is what they do, so it is a good idea to constantly do it in class.  We also constantly refer back to US government so they do not forget that material as well.

Amazing Set of Maps on Nigeria

Leave it to Ken Wedding to find great AP Comparative resources.  Here is a set of maps on Nigeria that include the ethnic cleavages as well as the major political, health poverty and other divisions. This is a BBC primer on the upcoming elections.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oklahoma, the APUSH Redesign & A Lesson in Government

I do have some biases here as I am on the College Board's 7-12th Grade Advisory Panel for Social Studies and have graded AP exams for the past fifteen years.  But certainly the roll out for APUSH History has not been as smooth as it should have been (hey changing the time length on a FRQ fewer than nine months before the AP exam is really inexcusable).  But too many groups have been taking pot shots at the changes for political gain.  In the case of Oklahoma, all of their students will be at a disadvantage when applying to national universities when compared to those in the other 49 states if the course is eliminated and parents aren't going to stand on the sidelines and let this go away - especially parents of kids taking AP classes.  So (perhaps optimistically) I am not convinced the bill will make it through as it stands right now.   To see what I mean let's use this as an exercise in government as well.
  1. The bill, HB 1380, has only passed a committee - albeit on party lines in a conservative state (11 Republicans, 4 Democrats).   Although normally a bill that goes through committee with unanimous support of the state's dominant party almost always becomes law.  But...
  2. It still has to pass the OK Senate and get the governor to sign it.  With only seven Democrats on the Senate side, it is logical to think it can get out of both houses and to the governor. 
  3. BUT even if the above happens, if you look at HB 1380, it requires an alternative course to be in place by this coming fall which most curriculum specialists would tell you is all but impossible.  It also mandates that $3 million be set aside for the endeavor.  Compared to the state budget in OK of $6 billion, that is chump change, but not when considered next to the other needs of the state.   The $3 million also does not include the cost of purchasing new textbooks which schools purchase no fewer than every six years.   To get the funding the bill also has to go through the Appropriations Committees (Senate and House) and this is where it is likely to run into problems. 
  4. As someone who has worked in the VA legislature (and years ago ran for the VA General Assembly) my sense is that this bill will be amended in conference committee - if it gets out of the Senate - to call for a recommendation for not teaching AP US, but leaving it up to the localities to decide and come up with the money - which wouldn't happen.  In other words it will be a way to both attack the College Board as being un-American while allowing APUSH to continue in OK schools.  
  5. If you want to follow the bill's progress click on this link as it moves forward.

Another government lesson.  The College Board does lobby at the federal level and while I can't find it, you can be pretty sure Trevor Packer and his team are doing some lobbying of key Republicans in the OK Senate's Education committee to kill this bill over there or at least return it to a committee for "further study."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mastery Learning

One of my students came back the other day lamenting that colleges do not offer second chance tests! Another teacher said, "As it should be!"  But I was reminded that the doctor who helped bring my son Grant into the world had only delivered ten kids prior to us and while he came out just fine despite her having to push awfully hard on my wife's stomach.  Lawyers who can't win for their clients the first time, can appeal and law makers often have to try year after year to get their bills or amendments through.  But as a father of two middle schoolers, I see how motivated students can be and how much they (my girls) want to improve their scores if they didn't do well enough the first time.

I have been transitioning (I have not yet gone to pinpointing parts of a summative test and only re-testing on that) the last few years to mastery teaching.  Rich Hoppock first convinced me to give second chance tests, which led to unlimited formative quizzes and my now late principal Dave Tremaine convinced the entire school to cut late grades to 20%.  I have gone even further cutting out all late grades, but then again I won't allow anyone to take a test until they turn in their study guides.  I even let students turn in assignments multiple times if they want to raise their grades.  Believe it or not I have not had any more late grades (yes I use Remind the night before an assignment is due, send weekly grade reports and call lots of parents when students start slipping), but the bottom line is that as a parent I see the need to master the material, not figuratively beat up students.  Sure I am frustrated with some of my students for whom mastery is "just passing," but I see them as a challenge to teach better rather than give in.

I think mastery teaching has also been possible as I work more one on one with each of my kids than I have ever had time to do before.  Of course this is in large part thanks to the help of technology. It has also been possible by staying after school a great deal more, but here is the bottom line: if the kids are learning better for longer periods of time and in a timely fashion, isn't that better for us as educators?

If you want more detailed research on all of this here is a nice Ed Leadership article going all the way back to 2003!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Kahoot for Competitive Quizzes

I really enjoy the way the Internet works.  I just finished watching a movie with my girls and now that they are headed to bed, I just checked Twitter and found a new follower on my account by named Mr Koz who in turn led me to Glenn Wiebe both of whom had posted on Kahoot.  That made me wonder if Richard Byrne had posted on it and sure enough he just did a few days ago.

So what is Kahoot.  It is a bit like PollEverywhere which I have posted on in the past which lets you put up questions in front of your classroom using your LCD and your students can answer quick review questions using any Internet connected device.

  • The difference here is that students compete against others in the classroom
  • they can use any name they want 
  • do not have to give anything other than that) 
  • you can take other people's quizzes and use them as well.  
  • you can set a timer
So for example here is one on
Now it is looking less like I will have school in person on Tuesday so I am thinking that I might use Kahoot in my AP Comparative's online classroom (yes we meet on snow days) to see if my students have done their work.

Federalism & Crash Course's New Government Series

So I know textbooks are dear to many teachers hearts, but in the long run I would be worried about their end when it comes to government.  Look at this video put out by Crash Course yesterday that covers: federalism, cooperative, dual, FDR, commerce clause, grant in aid, categorical aid (formula and project), AFDC, block grants, marble cake, unfunded mandates, reserved clause (10th amendment), new federalism, layer cake and devolution.  It even reminds students not to confuse separation of powers with federalism which is a common mistake. In other words next fall my students will get the option for taking notes from their static and somewhat boring e-book or the stimulating video above.

So you know Crash Course just started doing videos on US government, so go here and look for  it.  I use my own videos for the intro chapter in our book (here and here), and below is one I will use for the Constitutional foundations chapter.

What to do in class after the videos (and how to make your own videos) is tackled in my new book which you can now get from Amazon

Thursday, February 12, 2015

John Green on Nigeria

This is touted as a video on Boko Haram, but it also has a great background on Nigeria as a precursor for Boko Haram.   I found out about this post from the AP Comparative Teachers' Facebook page.

John Green and his brother have created a tremendous series of videos for teachers which include World History I, World History II and US History.  

Illiberal Democracy in Nigeria

Here is an article in the Economist detailing the corruption and the pros and cons of Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Party. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Question Time in Great Britain

We just went over Question Time in Great Britain in my AP Comparative government class.  Above is a recent example of Conservative David Cameron answering the questions of the members of Parliament.  I used it as a way to go over terms such as: prime minister, question hour, backbenchers, shadow cabinet, cabinet, Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, coalition, etc. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cybrary Man has an amazing number of lists that can help you, but one that is going to be a super help to you is the list of rubrics.  My favorite is Rubistar which allows you to enter information about your project and then spits a rubric back at you which you can use with your students.  Both of these are featured in my "interactives" section of my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction.

Great Chinese Propaganda Film

I found this propaganda film on the Chinese Communist Party on the AP Comparative Facebook page and plan on showing it to the kids during our unit on China.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

Diigo for Bookmarking

I have been using Diigo for years and have written a number of posts as it allows you to bookmark websites and share them (or not). You can categorize the sites you select and find them on the web or on your smartphone.

Above is a great video I found today on FreeTech4Teachers.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Postponement of Elections in Nigeria

This is a fantastic Economist article (with lots of graphics), on the postponement of the elections in Nigeria (ironically we were going to start Nigeria in class on about the same day of the elections). Right now it looks like Christian southern President Goodluck Jonathan would lose, but as this article argues, with more time and much more resources he might pull ahead of Northern Islamic candidate General Muhammadu Buhari.  

By the way, rather than check the Economist each day, I just look at my Economist Twitter feed to quickly see what comparative government articles there are. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Grooveshark or Spotify to Sharpen Student Focus

So my students have been listening to music long enough in class that they used to just start the songs on their iPods and not have to worry about it.  I let them listen to music as it actually helps most of them focus.  Now they often like going to YouTube.  The problem with that is that the kids have to find a new song, oh every three minutes and that is not productive. So I tell them they get one change a class.  So many use Spotify or my suggestion which is Grooveshark.  Both are free and let students find an artist and play any group of songs.  This will show my age, but when an album comes out it is the first place I go (everything is there) to see which songs I want to buy for my own playlist.  Try it out for you and your students.  

Flipped AP Comparative, Part II

I gave my students Larry Stroud's flipped video on the European Union and my students far preferred it over our book.  His videos are concise, cover all the main points and allow for more activities in class.  So if you are interested in using them, I put them all in one folder on YouTube so you can easily access and share them with your students.    Since Larry has multiple topics in his folder, I thought this might be easier for you and your students if you were to use his video presentations.   Larry used the material from Ethel Wood in his videos. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Personalized Learning with Me This Summer

Okay so this summer I am teaching a two day institute on personalized learning.  Yes, it will highlight some items from my book such as

  • how to flip your classroom
  • building your PLC beyond your school walls
  • finding resources for your classroom
  • and creating one or two lessons you can actually use in your classroom next fall.
So if you love the Spanish coast and want to combine some vacation with learning, then you might want to check out my course which you can register for right now

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Great Britain's 2015 Elections

This is a great article about the 2015 Parliamentary elections in Great Britain.   The article purports that neither the Labour nor the Conservative parties will win a majority of the votes.  This means England has gone from two to three parties to six.

Here is another article that says that of the 650 districts fewer than 20 will be throw-ups - not unlike our own House of Representatives.  I found this article on the Facebook AP Comparative page

Flipped AP Comparative Videos

One of my colleagues, Larry Stroud has put together videos for all of AP Comparative which you can see here.  Above is the one he did on the European Council. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Boko Haram vs ISIS (or is it ISIL)

If you look at a few posts ago, I asked my AP Comp students why the killings in France got so much more attention than the ones in Nigeria.  A similar question is why does ISIS get more attention when Boko Haram is arguably more lethal.  This WashPost article looks at this question