Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Google the Federal Government

This is a site that lets you look up anything dealing with the federal government.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wiki for Tech Tools

This is one of the nicest assortment of tech tools I have ever seen and since it is a wiki, it is only going to improve over time.  Some of the categories are presentation, collaboration, video, slideshows, audio, drawing, quiz, file storage and more. Each page of tools has a description and in many cases, a video explanation.  I found this from a tweet from "tbris101."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Contract vs. Pledge with America

I am reading "The Shallows" right now that argues in part that our attention spans have been hurt by the Internet. I guess is one example of this. BUT it does give you a point of view very quickly which can save one time as well.  For example, the top picture shows the most prominent words in the Contract with American and the bottom shows the new Promise to America.

Cracking and Packing

This weekend certainly has been a busy one for this site and here is another addition.  I have been teaching about "cracking and packing" for years and along comes the NY Times w. actual examples and a graphic so show this gerrymandering phenomena as well as three other techniques.
Online AP Course w. Teacher
I say "with teacher" since the post below does not have one.  This is a course that I and fellow blogger, Frank Franz, wrote this summer and you and/or your school can use.  It was written to be used without a textbook as all of the information one needs for the course is online.  If you follow it, your students will do very well (as do ours) on the AP exam.
Complete US and AP Government e-book
Here is a complete e-book for regular US government that includes an e-book as well as videos for each section.  Here is the AP version.
Complete US Government e-book
This book is very easy to navigate and is as good as your classroom text. Its only flaw is that it hasn't been updated in the last few years.  So, for most of your assignments, your students will find all that they need for a regular US government class.
This is a website run by the Annenberg Center at the Univ. of Pennsylvania. It is a great site that looks at political ads and statements and then checks the facts and is constantly putting out updates. It also has a page for teachers and includes regular broadcasts.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Splitting A Computer Screen
Last year my department piloted an online US history e-book.  This year it has grown to 18 schools and several different books.  Kids say that they don't like online books because it is hard to look at them and do their assignment.  The video above should help if you are promoting e-books in your school. 

On K Street, An Ex-Senate Staffer Is Worth $740,000 A Year

When you cover the "revolving door," this article may come in handy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Online Movie Maker
Most Microsoft based computers have Movie Maker, but go here and you will see an online movie maker that allows photos, movies and then can be downloaded to a variety of other places such as youtube if you prefer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Watch & Simultaneously Chat About Videos w. Friends Online
If you have students creating a video online or using clips from multiple sources, this might be helpful for you. Here is a site to explain how it works, but basically if you put the word "social" right before ".com" for any video in, you can then e-mail that link to other people and a new screen will appear for all of you. You will be the moderator (ie only you can start and stop the video) and you can write comments on the side (much as you can in Google Docs) that your fellow video viewers can see as well. So students could "talk" online and decide what captions to put in the video as well as which clips to use. Pretty cool! Above you can see the Common Craft video I cited below and see my comments on the side between two different people.

How Great is Wikipedia?!
I am going on a limb here, but I actually do like Wikipedia and go to it all the time when I have questions. I know this bothers English teachers in my building, but they have never seen the Common Craft video above which essentially says that all entries must have be verified and unbiased (thanks to for mentioning a similar video).

Midterm Elections Play Major Role In Redistricting

Obama Approval Below 50% and Other Polls
Years ago I ran for the VA state legislature. The party folks told me that the first time the polls went over 50% - even before election day was the end for the other person. While I do not quite buy that, it is telling that Obama is now below that mark as you can see above. More importantly political scientists still believe the economy is driving the poor poll results and that is why the Dems will take a hit this November. To the point though, for this blog, you can find lots of polls, such as the one above, here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Free Ancillaries for Most AP Books
Magelby, Edwards, O'Connor/Sabato and many others. Go here and you can get many of their ancillaries for free including little review quizzes.

Redistricting Game

This story is less than 5 minutes and a great intro to the importance of the current midterm elections. Redistricting, campaign finance, and the long term ramifications of a single midterm election are all discussed in just enough detail to initiate a class discussion.

The Roots of Federalism
Here is a short film I like to show to my students when we discuss federalism.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Images from the Campaign Trail

For those of you who use photographs in your classroom, this is a great photo blog from the Sacramento Bee. There are various shots from the campaign and election of 2008 that could be of use. The thumbnail that I've included doesn't nearly begin to do the images justice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Facebook and Twitter
Right now I am struggling to find a way (pls. leave a post if you know how) to make Facebook acceptable to use in the classroom. There is Edmodo (read earlier post) that looks exactly like Facebook, but then the kids have to look at it and they are ALWAYS on Facebook. I have figured out that I can create a new organization in Facebook and then the kids can see my posts, but then I could also see their sites, which I don't want to be able to do. In the meantime I have found this post which allows one to post items from Twitter directly onto someone's wall. So the kids could sign up for your school Twitter feed and see it as a "status update" on their site. The problem would be that all of your kids couldn't ask everyone in the class questions (as they could in a Facebook organization) and therefore while it would be a great way to reach the kids, it wouldn't let them work together to answer their own questions. Thoughts on solving my dilemma would be much appreciated as a post or e-mail (

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Changes to Google Docs
My new students just turned in their first papers via Google Docs. It was fun to watch some of them in class as they found out how they can collaborate and have a free suite of docs, excel, PowerPoint, picture editor and survey monkey. If you follow this site, just go to the search engine and type in "Google Docs" for some of my other posts or for now play the video above to see the new improvements.

What Does The Press Think About
This article tells what it is like to be a reporter at a presidential press conference. Above is the author asking Obama a question the other day.

Prezi Adds Live Collaboration to its Presentations
Prezi lets you build a multidimensional PowerPoint all on one slide so that you merely need to move the screen up, down, left, right, etc. Here is a student presentation of the Constitutional Convention that includes, pictures, video, graphics, links and even a worksheet all on one slide. Press the arrow to go to each part. Above is a video describing how you can create a Prezi PowerPoint with other people on other computers anywhere in the world at the same time - much as you can do with Google Docs.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mosque in NY
This is a link to a recent poll the NYTimes did on the question of whether or not a mosque should be built two blocks from the former home of the Twin Towers. The lowest video has a number of people giving their views. I am going to use it tomorrow to introduce the video and then have the kids focus on the different aspects of gov't that it hits (1st amendment, zoning by local govts, role of Obama - if any, role of political opinion in policy decisions etc.)

The middle video is from tonight's interview on Larry King Live interviewing the iman of the center.

Above it is a piece from Bill O'Reilly who attacks the mosque's iman.

Unemployment Stats

I have been using the following interactive maps and graphs to ignite discussions regarding unemployment: NY Times Geography of a Recession and NY Times The Jobless Rate for People Like You.

New Resource from National Archives

The National Archives has created an interactive site that teachers can use to create their own activities (or use ones already made) using historical documents. It's very user-friendly. The site is called

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Political Orientation of SC Clerks
Not surprisingly the more liberal judges on the Supreme Court select clerks who tend to be more liberal and vice-versa according to this article in the NYTimes today.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cobo Cards
I have blogged about Quizlet and Study Stack (which gives you a lot of categories for social studies) which are online flash cards. The advantage of Cobo Cards is that you can add pictures to your flash cards.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How Congress Works Videos
I found this link from a tweet from It has a number of short videos explaining how Congress works. The twist here is that the videos are with members of Congress and their staffs. The nice thing is that it is broken into categories that are very helpful to a teacher. They are the kind that would be great to occasionally show in class or to link from one's online resources.
Google Spreadsheets
Click here to see a video I found on this blog that shows you several useful ways to use Google Docs (surveying kids on several field trips, seeing how well students learned information on a unit and more).
Comparative Government Website
Yesterday I did two different in-services, one of which I mentioned in a post below. One of the questions was is there a website for comparative government. YES! Kenn Wedding was a long time comparative government teacher and AP Reader before he retired. However, don't let the word retirement fool you as he is quite active on his blog site and if you want a great resource, you should check it out here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Education Leads to Higher Salaries

This is not exactly government, but if our nation is changing, our government is going to have to adapt. And as an educator this speaks to the power of education as it can change a society. If American women are 1 1/2 times more likely to earn a BA degree, then perhaps it's not surprising that they are making more money than their male counterparts in their twenties. Here's a longer, but engaging article about the same study and the cultural consequences of women beating men. Just some food for thought.

CNN Student News
Every day CNN produces their student news account of the previous day. My hunch is that they do it in late afternoon (since Obama's speech on troop removal from Iraq is not on there). Nonetheless it is a great recap and an easy way to talk about current events. Above is today's which covers a "powerful hurricane churning through the Atlantic, to the struggles of flood victims in Pakistan, and efforts to rescue trapped miners in Chile. We also explain why NASA is testing a rocket that may never get off the ground. And today's Fix Our Schools segment offers some ideas about what makes a good teacher." flood victims in Pakistan, and efforts to rescue trapped miners in Chile. We also explain why NASA is testing a rocket that may never get off the ground. And today's Fix Our Schools segment offers some ideas about what makes a good teacher.