Friday, August 31, 2012

Mitt Romney's Speech

My students will be starting on Tuesday (a laugh to those of you who have been with students for the past two weeks).  While the first day will mostly be about bonding and overview of the course, I will show snippets (above) of Romney's speech and connect it to our first concept the definition of democracy as defined by Hauss in his comparative government text (which I use during the second half of the year).   To put it in better perspective I will actually ask the students to rank the five items and see if they can't make connections to his campaign and the election in general and even why the three states he will first campaign in are Virginia (my state), Ohio and Florida.  If you want to see the entire speech, go here

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Screencastomatic for Your Digital Backbpack

Whether or not you like to flip your classroom or just create how to videos, a great free way to do it is using  You do not need to have an account.  Above is how to create a screen cast video and how to save it into your Youtube account.  You will find this very helpful for explaining how to do something to your students that you know you will need to explain lots of time all year (such as how to use Blackboard) and this way you do not need to restate it for your students.  You can also use the videos for other staff members

Ryan's Acceptance Speech

Above are the highlights of Paul Ryan's speech shown in under 2:30.  If you want the entire version go here to see the different sections.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Take My Integrating Technology Into the Classroom Course

Starting tomorrow (August 28th at 4 pm), if you work in Fairfax County, VA you can sign up to take my course called "Enhancing the Use of Technology In The Classroom."  It will be 10 weeks and give you 2 credits and will be offered on Thursdays from 4:30-7:30 pm.  It is course AC2310 and you will need to sign up in MyPLT.  

The course will cover things such as using Google Docs, Study Blue, Diigo (which is an online list of your favorites), Twitter, WeVideo (collaborative video), Fakebook, FakeTweet, integrating your e-book, creating webquests, mobile apps and more.  The class is also very practical as you will be using things we learn to make lesson plans to use during our class session (so we can work out the wrinkles).    

FCPS In-Service, 8/29/12 (Flipping the Classroom)

Today George Coe and Frank Franz are presenting with two others on the flipped classroom.  You can see the presentation by clicking here.

How to Use Magruder's US Government e-book

Today Kevin O'Keefe will be presenting to our county social studies teachers on how to use our e-book for Magruder's US Government which most of the country uses.  Perhaps you can find someone of value here.

The in-service goes through how one should start teaching with an e-book from using a scavenger hunt (just as you might do with a paper textbook), to how to split the screen of your computer (so students can see both the e-book and the work they are doing) and finally some lessons using the e-book.  We use Magruder's for our standard government book (as does about 90% of the country) so hopefully this should help a lot of you.  

Quick Tech Tips from the Blogs

This in-service that I am doing today encompasses a bunch of quick tech tips that can make a big difference in the classroom.  There are how to sheets or videos for each and each can be learned in a minute. It includes items such as converting a pdf to a word document, texting (one way) homework reminders to kids, splitting a screen, translating a document (for ESOL parents), a way to easily read your newspapers, blogs, etc. very easily and more.  

Integrating Google Docs into the Classroom

Today George Coe and I are co-presenting at our annual social studies in-service on how to integrate Google Docs into the social studies classroom.  As part of the discussion we will start with the slideshow above.  Can you answer the questions and imagine if so much has happened so recently, how quickly your classroom will be changing in the next few years.  Then we will essentially (live, not on youtube as I have done above) show explain how our departments use Google Docs/Apps and finally we will use this document to have have everyone learn by doing doing for Google Docs/Apps.  

Mobile Apps for the Classroom

Luke Rosa and I were on a crack team of teachers and technology specialists this summer in whose capacity we came up with a list of mobile apps that can help your classroom expand and do it for free.  Above is an Educreations' presentation that gives an overview of our presentation and here is the e-sheet with 25 apps for smartphones and tablets (including the ones above) that we found incredibly helpful.  For each app, you will see there is an explanation, how to use it in the classroom and some how to videos.  If by chance you want to see our longer list of 75, it is here

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

WashPost's Grid on Everything That is at the Convention

The WashPost has about everything that is going on at the Republican convention this week on one grid that includes video, Twitter posts, speeches, etc. to keep up with the news of the week.  

A New Guide to the Republican Herd

A two minute introduction to the different groups within the Republican Party.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Big Shifts in Education

A history teacher in Portland, Oregon, Mike Gwaltney, posted this awesome TEDX video by Pat Bassett on his blog, "Democratizing Knowledge." Bsssett, a long time teacher, coach, and administrator summarizes the big shifts in education caused by technology in a very convincing and engaging way and explains what he thinks these shifts mean for us, as teachers.

Split Screen for your Digital Educational Backpack

Well, if you are going to use all of my ideas for your digital backpack this year, you will also need to know how to split your screen.  This is essential when you want to read your e-textbook and work on an assignment (or have your students do the work with their e-book).  It will stop you from printing out e-mails that you have to read while doing work and generally get you 100% onto the cloud. Above is a short video telling you how to do it. You could also download Air Display if you wanted to have two of your devices connected together virtually (ie, no cords).  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wow: History's most iconic photos in color

This blog, which I discovered on Twitter through a posting by teacher Ron Peck, has copies of many iconic photos in color, side-by-side like the VJ day photo above. It's pretty cool.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Google Drive for you Digital Educational Backpack

Call me crazy, but I now have everything digital item (and I no longer own paper) in my Google Drive site.  Not only is it as dynamic as I need, but I can get it on my smartphone, tablet or computer.  I can also share items (including entire coursework) in seconds with anyone and can collaborate with other teachers or students.  For the same reason I like my students to have it with the added benefit that, as long as they have a connection to the Internet at home, they cannot lose their work and, with a little help from me, are extremely organized.  Here is an overview of each item in the Google Drive (formerly Docs) suite.  Here and here are how to videos and here are written how to sheets.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

VoiceThread (a Different Kind of Flip)

VoiceThread is one of the coolest tech tools and very popular now. You can upload images, documents, slides, and record questions or even analysis. With the link, students can comment or make an argument. Students can even make a presentation on the material. It seems like a good alternative to a straight screen cast lecture for the flipped classroom. Here's a quick VoiceThread I created on Alexander the Great without going to the Penn State site. And here is another VoiceThread explaining the different uses.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Fuher on TCAP

Once again Larry Ferlazzo has posted some great stuff. This is a hilarious clip with Hitler losing his temper about school test scores. It's one of Ferlazzo's best videos of the year in his "laugh til you cry" category.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Webpage Aggregator for your Essential Digital Backbpack

With iGoogle going the way of the Dodo bird in November 2013, after researching it, I have decided to go with Netvibes.  If you are like me and want to have all of your blogs, newspapers, e-mails, rss feed, Twitter, Facebook, etc. in one place, Netvibes can do it for you.  Above is a short how to video I made. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

25 Ways To Use The iPad in the Classroom

Thanks to former (adult) student Sarah Olson who found this on Edudemic.  

More Essentials for Your Digital Backback

If you search this site for Remind101 you will see that I am fairly obsessed with it as kids today do not use e-mail so this is the way to reach them.  You can create a section for each class and for as many classes as you have you will get a code that students and their parents can use to sign up for a 140 character reminder about any homework you might have for your students.  You can set the time, day, etc. so you can do it during the school day and send it go out later.  If you use tinyurl, you can also shorten urls that you want your students to have via a text.  Finally I like that the teacher cannot see the cell phone numbers and you can keep a record of all of the messages you have sent out.  If you want to load it onto your mobile devices, go here and here for a how to video.

Friday, August 17, 2012

5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools

Richard Byrne posted this on his blog, Free Technology for Teachers. He includes some really good ideas for using Google sites. For example, he notes that you can use the sites as a wiki, a digital portfolio (which I think is a really neat idea), a digital file cabinet, as a blog, and as a website. I use Google sites for class websites and also for web quests and really like how easy they are to develop.

Tax Rates

In light of the fact that Mitt Romney has admitted paying 13% income tax each year, the WashPost has put together a great visual explanation of what constitutes the lowest, middle and highest tax brackets, what percentage they pay of their income, what percentage each pays of total rates earned and more.  When you do taxes the charts would be very helpful to explain to your students.  The bottom line is that Mitt Romney pays the rate of the middle 1/3rd of the population.   This, of course, brings up a good political question to discuss with your students.  For example, Romney was given shares of Bain Capital and is now paying only taxes on capital gains.  Should he pay more, should he release his tax returns.  Political scientists would say it really boils down to how people perceive the country's economic status and in particular in the swing states.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Recently I did a short gig making suggestions for some lesson plans that will be published online.  One of the items I had to assess was the differentiation presented in the plans.  While the ideas were great and varied, there was no differentiation presented.  Likewise my school had a presenter do an in-service on the very subject and he too just gave us a bunch of different (great) ideas on ways to teach, but did not explain differentiation.  As I see it differentiation is having different ways to teach the same lesson, but bases it on the needs of the individual user.  To help my department out, I put this in-service together on differentiation so that we can do a better job with it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Digital Backpack Essential for your School Year

While my students do not start school until September, I know that many of you have more reasonable start times.  With that in mind I am starting a series on "backpack essentials" for teachers.  These are several items that I hope will be essential to your teaching this year.

I am starting with Diigo as one of my views of teaching is that you should have everything you are using in the cloud (no Windows, no video dics, no nothing!).  The advantage of this is that you (and your students) can move between tablets, smartphones and the computer.  So most of you save your favorites to your browser which is (except for Chrome where you would need to be logged in) and that means you are tied to your laptop.  However if you use Diigo, you can open it on any browser on any Internet connected device.  You can allow people to see what you have (which is great when you want to look for ways to better help your students learn as you can click on mine links and find other similar ones from other people).  Here, for example is mine.  Now, you can also lock down a link so no one else can see it. So I use this feature to store codes that I need which has afforded me the opportunity to throw away my many scraps of paper.  Finally you can also create categories and if you want you can suck in your bookmarks from your computer's browser so you don't have to replicate everything.

How to video
  1. A written how to Uses in the classroom

Ayn Rand on Johnny Carson, 1967

Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, has said that he finds Ayn Rand and her book, Atlas Shrugged, an inspiration.  In this clip, Rand talks about her basic philosophy, objectivism.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Selecting Ryan

If you are looking for an objective, data driven overview of the Paul Ryan selection as Romney's running mate, look no further than Nate Silver of the NYTimes. He points out that he is, as judged by DW scores (political scientists use the score to compare members to one another and one Congress to the next) as conservative as Michelle Bachman and adds just .1% to the electoral college count for Romney.  But, I would add that I saw a recent poll that surprisingly said that only 3% of the electorate had not chosen their candidate.  If that is the case, Ryan will certainly excite the base (and motivate the liberal one as well).  

21st Century Icebreakers: 10 Ways To Get To Know Your Students with Technology

Teachbytes published an  interesting list of classroom icebreakers using technology. They include using polleverywhere to ask students questions to get to know them better (favorite movie, music, etc) using google forms or survey moneky, or even using QR  codes for a scavenger hunt.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wikitude and Discovering Tweets in Class

Wikitude is a free app that does a lot of cool things such as tell you where you can get food of your choice nearby, see if friends are near and more.  But while I love using smartphone for positive gain in the classroom, one thing it can also do is see where Tweets are being made (and what is said on them).  You just hold up the phone and you will see where the Tweets are coming from.  You can also set the distance from a few feet up to one-half mile away.  Since kids love using Twitter, it will be a good way to control it in class and use the phone positively.  Thanks to my fellow online teacher, John Downes, for the tip. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cell Phones and Polling

Cell phones have been causing problems for pollsters for years.  Initially they could not get people's numbers and now the question is what percentage of users should they contact, should they count cell users as ones without land lines and are cell only users more likely to vote one way or the other (turns out they are).  This is a fascinating article and shows that even the top pollsters are still trying to figure it out.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Technology in the Middle ages

Guess the complexity of technology hasn't changed much!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Role of Teaching in a Learner Centered Digitally Empowered Environment

Last week I participated in a three person discussion on "The Role of Teaching in a Learner Centered Digitally Empowered Environment."  I used a lot of examples of how I have changed my classroom in the last few years and was joined for a former teacher, technology specialist and now director at the National Board in responding to some great questions that people watching e-mailed us. You can drag the cursor over the inserted videos if you want or even if you get bored of me! 

PenPal News to Connect Students Between Blue and Red States

I received an e-mail from the founder of PenPal News.  Their new group sets up your students with penpals from an opposite color state (i.e., blue with red) who will watch a one minute video (top one) introducing the theme (see an example of health care above) and then read, watch or listen to a news story about a specific topic in the theme (we curate and provide the stories). The student will then answer prompts about the stories and send what they've written to their penpal in the other class. They'll then comment on their penpal's work and hopefully engage in an interesting and enlightening dialogue.   The bottom video details how the site works. Did I say that the service is free! 

Air Display to Virtually Connect Multiple Devices

You will notice that I try very hard to stay away from products that cost money for this blog.  But here is one that just might be worth it.  Many people like to buy a cable to connect their laptop to a second screen.  Well using Air Display, you need only download the software onto two devices and you can virtually connect them together.  It is not free, but then again, neither is buying a second screen and cable when you probably already have two devices.  You can use a tablet, smartphone or laptop and can mix Android and Mac devices if you need to do so.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Top Posts for July

I love, as shown by our continued high stats that there are so many motivated educators out there during the summer.  Here are the top three hits for July are:

Twitter's Presidential Index (Twindex)

Polls have traditionally been used to measure political candidates, but with the advent of the cell phone they have certainly had to overcome recent hurdles.  Twitter now has come up with a new formula which weighs support vs. negative feelings for a presidential candidate.  Their site and this NYTimes article does not explain what exactly the numbers are, but it is obvious they are correlated to the Gallop poll numbers (which you can see in the article).  The site will be updated each evening. 

Apps for Any Classroom

Today I am doing an in-service for school based technology specialists in my county.  Above is an Educreations' presentation I will be showing them about what they will learn in our hour together.  Here is the e-sheet with 25 apps for smartphones and tablets (including the ones I am presenting).  For each app, you will see there is an explanation, how to use it in the classroom and some how to videos.  If by chance you want to see our longer list of 75, it is here