Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Teach Writing with the Help of Technology

Ironically, at the same time one of my classes is starting to write a research paper, I received an email from Robert Morris asking if he could write a post for my blog.  His write-up is so useful I am putting it up in its entirety.   At the top of this post I am also including a video I made last year on the mechanics of writing an essay such as what is a thesis, topic sentence(s), outline sentence(s), etc.

How to Teach Writing with the Help of Technology
If you are constantly frustrated by your students’ inability to understand what you expect from academic assignments, maybe it’s time to turn to technology tools. Teaching students how to write is one of the greatest challenges that professors face. No matter how hard they try to explain different writing techniques and help their students go through the different stages of essay writing, the results are hardly satisfactory.
Every teacher knows that some of the most important aspects of successful academic writing are organization, research, proofreading and editing, but they cannot motivate students to put enough effort in all stages of the project. The following tools will help both you and your students deal with the challenge more easily.

Tools to use during the research stage

This is the part when your students need the most help. If you want to be satisfied with the content they submit, you need to teach them how to do a proper research. Suggest these tools to help your students go through this stage:
Instead of forcing them to spend several days in the library locating proper sources for a research paper, you should suggest this online tool to your students. This is an online library that offers an immense choice of relevant research information.           
You don’t consider Google to be the right destination for finding reliable sources, but your students keep using it. Google Scholar is the compromise – it provides them with a research environment they are used to, but leads to reliable sources that can be used as a foundation for academic projects.
At this website, you can find top-quality eBooks that you can suggest as referencing sources. You can research the online library and tell your students to discuss particular books, but you can also inspire them to conduct the research individually or in teams.

Best proofreading and editing tools

Teachers are really frustrated when their students submit draft version of their papers. Instead of repeating the same things about the importance of proofreading and editing, you should suggest the following tools that will lead to practical results:
If you notice that some of your students need serious assistance during the writing and editing stage, you should suggest them to hire professional writers and editors at this website. A single investment can result with an extraordinary improvement in their research, writing and editing skills, since the students get to learn through collaborating with real experts at this website.
Although this is a basic checker that cannot lead to flawless papers, it will still help your students avoid some embarrassing mistakes. The engine corrects the most common errors in academic writing, so you can suggest it as the right tool to use when your students’ papers need a quick fix.

Plagiarism detection tools

The process of teaching your students how to write involves the issue of plagiarism. They clearly use resources to support the discussion, so the content can easily end up being too similar to something that has already been written before. These are the plagiarism detection tools you should suggest:
This simple engine detects the parts of the paper that have been plagiarized from online resources. When your students see the highlighted content, they will know which parts need to be referenced or improved with their own comments.
This website combines three useful tools: grammar check, plagiarism detection, and writing suggestions.

You can also rely on these plagiarism detection engines in order to make sure that the content your students submit is unique. When they start combining them with the research and editing tools we listed above, they will soon start completing better academic content and making you a happier teacher.    

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Executive Orders and Immigration


Tomorrow night President Obama will announce his new executive order on immigration.  EOs, are fair game for the AP exam and should also be taught in a regular education course.  If you check here tomorrow night,

Here is what you need to know about the EO, if it will be legal and more.

Here, by the way are all of Obama's executive orders and here George W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's. Here is a list of the number of all executive orders by each president all the way back to Washington.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About the 2014 Election

First off you need to always know the bias of a site and Vox is definitely liberal.  Having said that, good luck finding the bias in this great series of images and stats from last week's election.  Not only that, but it has a graphic for each of the 26 items on it, even showing the 2016 election for president should it have been run today.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Learning Pod Student Review System

My two AP classes each have two exams that they will have to take in May which prompted one student to ask me the other day how we would review for both AP exams.  Well the answer, if you read my post below on How We Learn is to go back frequently, but not every day and review old material.

One way to do this is to let your students use Learning Pod which allows students to take review questions on any AP exam that are preparing for without having to even login.  However if the students want to login then they will receive an explanation for their incorrect questions.  

Teachers can also create "pods" of their own tests that they have created which they can make available for anyone or just for their own students.  There are also different ways (url, Tweets), etc that teachers can use to share a pod with students.

If you want to easily see all the AP offering questions, go here or to the logo on the right of the page any time you want.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Net Neutrality and Government


This is a great issue for your government class as it pits Democrats and Republicans.  Google, Facebook, etc. want net neutrality which the Internet services want there to be charges for faster speeds.  Here is a NYTimes article on it.

Opposite to Obama's net neutrality is Ted Cruz (R-TX) who calls it "Obamacare for the Internet."  He sides with the Internet companies.  Below is one of their ads.

Making it more fun is Tom Wheeler who is the chair of the FCC who is in charge of the position. Wheeler raised lots of money for Obama, but is also a former lobbyist.  Finally the decision, in the past has even been attacked in the courts, so that is one more item to bring in.
 

How We Learn

As I have noted before, it is not often that I push something that costs money, but at Frank Franz' suggestion I read How We Learn, by Benedict Carey.  Here are some of the highlights in Scientific American.  The upshot is that the author contends with quantitative backing:

  • that studying day after day is not good that we should have a day or two off after studying the first time and that there will be surprisingly more retention when one tests on the third day after studying than on the day you studied
  • that studying on multiple days, not in succession increases long term retention
  • that brief study breaks to do things totally unrelated such as checking text messages, as long as not done every few minutes help the brain make connections
  • that going back to earlier material all year again helps the learning process
  • that having students think and not just listen and write makes the long term learning better

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Internet Access for All Students

Each year I teach two AP classes, 2 standard ones and one online.  So of my roughly 150 students, about 5-6 start the year without a laptop and all are in my two standard classes.  What is different this year is that all but one has some Internet connection be it via a smartphone or a laptop.  So all students can watch flip videos and see links to items online so the "worst case" is that they have to write their answers on paper - which, yes, even for me works.  But there are still things that just cannot be done on a smartphone.

But a few years ago a girl in one of my classes came in beaming one day and said because of my class her mother had bought her a laptop.  When I asked if this was a bad thing (ie did I pressure her in some way) she said no and that her mother had no idea schools used laptops that much.  Well now I find a time outside of class to talk to all my non connected students and always mention Chromebooks saying that it is what I bought my own children ($250 for 11" and $300 for 14").  Kids today do not need Microsoft Windows and for that matter Microsoft now has OneDrive which allows you to do most of what you do in Word, but online.  So as it has been in the past three years, three kids have come to me so far to tell me that they now have laptops and two more are getting theirs soon.  Not only that but parents have even thanked me for suggesting it.

For me it boils down to this.  I know that students will need online capabilities when they enter the workplace and by not asking, I am helping to foster a situation where my students are far behind most of their peers.  I also stay after school 90 minutes each day and help kids learn how to be connected - as well as how to do their work.   To get to the point, not asking a student is worse than asking so see if you can't get more of your students connected. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

China, Iran and Fodder for AP Comparsative


Above is an audio overview of Obama's upcoming trip to China on Monday and nuclear negotiations with Iran.   

Friday, November 7, 2014

King v. Burwell (Challenge to Obamacare) Explained

So I am really sad that we are losing Stephen Colbert because Jon Stewart often is just a little too inappropriate, but if you want to explain why the US Supreme Court just took the challenge to Obamacare, called King v. Burwell, his video is pretty good.  If you want it in written format, go to Vox's story on the newest case to get certiorari. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Predicting the Electoral College Assignment

In two weeks my students will be completing this assignment to try and predict the Electoral College for 2016.  I have a number of links that should help your students or if you have some, please send them to me as well.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2014 and 2016 Elections

So some important words my students hopefully learned last night were midterm, general election, divided government, majority leader, polls, incumbent, open seat, etc.  To go through the results we are going to look at the 2014 returns in the context of 2016.  In that we are going to put up the 270toWin map and if both senators are Republican we will switch (just tap on the state to do this) the state to that party and the same for Dems.  Then we will make the split states gray and talk about swing states.  You also might want to see this series of comparisons between the more likely presidential candidates.  I will also be devising an assignment for the kids to do which I will put on this blog in the next week. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Howjsay to Pronounce Words

A number of my students are either currently ESOL students or were in the program in the last year or two.  So one of the resources we use is Howjsay.com where you can input a word and it says it for you.  The other day for example, we were looking at Japan and submitted the word archipelago.  It also links the word to a Google search so you can find out more about what you are trying to pronounce.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Awesome Video on Gerrymandering


Not only does this video define gerrymandering, but it also graphically shows gerrymandered districts in North Carolina.  Two minutes and your students will get it! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Senate Not Looking Good for Dems

As you can see from the different news sources above, it is not looking good for the Dems next Tuesday.  Here is what the Upshot, from the NewYorkTimes says about the most interesting eleven races and where is what my favorite - 538 says.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Midterm Election Ads


This is a great set of advertisements, which was Tweeted to me by Mashable, some of which I am going to show my government student tomorrow.  As part of the presentation, we'll review the following terms: midterm, gerrymandering, incumbent, open seat, primary, caucus, Baker v. Carr, Westbury v. Saunders, # in the House, # in the US Senate, general election, etc. Here are all of the ads.

In case you missed the Cowboy - Washington game last night, Ed Gillespie (R) ran an ad tying the Washington team name to over involvement of government