Thursday, September 11, 2014


One of the questions that is lingering with our newer front against terrorism is what to call our newish enemy.  Here is a succinct article describing why Obama is using ISIL and others are using ISIS.  Basically Obama sees the groups as a greater threat than to just Iraq and Syria (as in "IL) and rather is using Levant to refer to the former French and British colonial areas.   So this is where we see if the "Bully Pulpit" is stronger than the collective press.  Already a slight majority of members of Congress, but certainly not all, on both sides of the aisle are starting to use ISIL.    Also in the link above, you can see the chart above and see the dates of when members of Congress started changing their terminology.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hashtagging Obama's Speech

A number of teachers have asked me about how we use Twitter to conduct a class.  First off you can see our discussion by going to Twitter and putting "#hayfieldgovclass" into the search engine.  To conduct the class, as you can see in the video above, I split my screen to watch the president and use TweetChat to put in comments as well as see what our (three teachers involved) students are saying.   For the students who do not have a Twitter account, we created an editable Google Drive document where they wrote their comments.

By the way we trended for the third straight time.   Wouldn't it be great if some of the readers of this blog copied our idea and during the State of the Union we ended up seeing 3-4 classes trending at once!  Remember we did it with just 150 or so students.  Each student was required to give three comments, but most wrote a great deal more.
While we are at it, below is a video I will show my students tomorrow on the powers of the president relating to war.  

Flipping Your Back to School Night

For the second year in a row I am flipping my Back to School night so that I will have my students come to class tomorrow and text their parents a tinyurl ( the video above.  I actually found that most of my parents watched the video AND came to class.  In class I will answer questions and tell them a bit about me and my motivations.  If you go to my World History Teachers blog tomorrow I will have what I am doing with my non AP students.

If you want to create your own flipped back to school night presentation, here is how to do it. 

Economics Teachers Blog

If you are an econ teacher and haven't heard about my Economics Teachers Blog, you might want to check it out as I already have over 100 posts since it debuted in April.  I new teach two different economics courses (among my four preps) and, as with this blog, am documenting all the resources that I am finding and using.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Remind Now Allows You To Record Homework Reminders

This is a pretty cool addition for those of you who have Remind on your smartphone (iTunes, Android).  You can, as the video shows, record your student assignments for your kids to hear rather than read.  You can also attach assignments if you like.  If you look at this video you can set up and use Remind with your students.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Free Online US Government eTextbook

We are in our fifth year of using an online textbook with our students and so it never ceases to amaze me that Pearson still isn't ready for prime time.  Every year at this point, when everyone is logging in their books, they can't handle the traffic.  Or the one that was really amused with was McGraw-Hill servicing their online books from Thursday - this morning after having had the entire summer to work on their shells.

Having said all that, I still believe that online books are the way to go, but not just because they are online.  Really I hope we are moving towards the days when books will be used as a resource and not the main source.  There are so many videos, links, images, documents online that a book should fill in the gaps or be the starting point.

But if you do want a book, here is one I worked on years ago called and it is not going to go down on your students and it is complete through about 2000.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Will the Republicans Take the Senate?

My favorite forecaster, Nate Silver, has been consistently predicting that the Republicans will take over the US Senate this fall.  Silver took a lot of flack for so overwhelming (and correctly) predicting that Obama would win the presidency (hence the name of his blog = 538 for Electoral College), so this is evening the score.  Most pollsters are making the same call.   Silver's blog is an excellent one for information on politics using quantitative research.  

The Rise of Alibaba and Chinese Commerce

If you teach AP Comparative, you might be interested in the Chinese company, Alibaba, which in a few weeks, will likely have the largest IPO ever.  Right now its value, which is somewhere around $200 billion, makes it worth more than Facebook and most Americans (and a lot of Chinese based on my informal poll) have never heard of it.  This NYTimes article does a good job of describing how Jack Ma (founder) could become a billionaire while straddling the issues of the Chinese government and working with international companies. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Remind to Text Your Students

I have been using Remind (used to be called Remind101) for the past three years (in fact their CEO even wrote a nice blurb for my book which is coming out in a few months).  Students today do not use email very often, but cannot text enough to save their lives!  So when I started using Remind I found that the amount of homework among my standard (non AP/IB) students improved dramatically.  If you have students who do not have smartphones, the service also allows emails.  Additionally you can send a message to as few as three students.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Twitter Warm-up

So I always have a meet and greet on our first day of school, but tomorrow, thanks to @dougzywiol I am going more high tech (imagine that!) and having the kids Tweet their answers.  To do that yourself you can either create your own hashtag by putting a number a hashtag symbol besides a name (make sure others are using it first) and then have your kids add it in of their Tweets which is what I am going to do.  Alternatively you could just have the students write your Twitter handle in their Tweets.  I will then have the kids go to our hashtag and we will go through them.  For the kids who don't have Twitter, we'll just do it orally.   

Amicus Curiae

One of the things you have to teach in US government is amicus curiae briefs or amici briefs for short.  They are "friends of the court briefs.  In the Hobby Lobby case, for example, 80 were sent to the US Supreme Court.  What I always tell my students is that this is a place where the justices and their clerks get many arguments to present in their decision.  Now a W&M (proud alum here) professor has done her research and found that between 2008 and 2013 there were 124 citations from amici briefs.  Considering that there are only roughly 70 cases a year - so 420 total over the period - that means there is a one and four chance of an amici brief having its facts mentioned.  Of course this doesn't forget that oft cited are also the plaintiff and defendant briefs.   More here

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Ugly Business of Attack Ads

The UP table talks about the long tradition of attack ads during political campaigns.

The Problems with Polling - Lesson Plan Idea

It used to be that all a pollster had to do was to call a number of people and interview them to get an accurate poll.  With the advent of cell phones, caller ID and online self driven polls, a scientific poll is becoming harder to find.  This article from one of my favorite blogs, 538, gives a very detailed explanation why polling is so difficult.  

If you want an idea for a class, I would find a poll and have your students watch the video below at home and then come in and have a series of questions to be used to answer the 538 article, remembering key terms such as scientific, straw poll, Literary Digest, sample, etc. that you might want to cover.

How to Interview Someone Using a Google+ Hangout

If you are like me and all of your classes have a state or national exam at the end, you often feel somewhat pressed for time so bringing a speaker is not always something you can do until the end of the year.  But if you use a Google+ Hangout, you can bring someone in, limit the time they are "in" your room and share the live broadcast and or have it recorded to YouTube for later broadcasts. Above is a short video telling you how to do this.

Friday, August 29, 2014

AP Comparative Group on Facebook

The unstoppable Ken Wedding (who retired a few years ago, but still continues to be a force in AP Comparative Government with his blog and his books) has created a Facebook group for AP Comparative which has 450 members and is one more great resource to find ideas and ask questions.  I might add that when I started teaching I hounded Wedding as he is very receptive to questions and loves to help.