Thursday, November 29, 2012

Word to Blackboard Test Converter

If you use Blackboard and want to give tests on it, you can use this site to upload Word Documents and then instantly (and for free) convert them to an item that can be used in Blackboard.  The link also tells how to get them into Blackboard. 

Short History of US Debt

This is a very informative piece my colleague Rich Hoppock found on the history of US debt put together by PBS. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Colbert Defines the Fiscal Cliff

This is a nice concise overview of the fiscal cliff.  You can stop it half way through when he gets to the Grover Norquist tax pledge

Twitter for Teachers: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Just found this clip on twitter for teachers--informative and engaging.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Everything You Need to Know About the Fiscal Cliff

The WashPost has a nice article that neatly breaks down the "fiscal cliff" including some nice charts to help out your students.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

50 iPad Tricks for the Teacher

Apps in Education is a new site I just found as I try to incorporate the ipad for my students who have one.  The site has 50 tricks for ipad users including how to see street view for maps,  add a Google calendar and e-mail, use the air printer, find your phone, turn on VPN, create folders quickly dim or increase the reading light, and much more. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Political Playbook Daily Update

I go to a number of places (Twitter, G+, e-mails, Netvibes) each day to help me find items for this blog.  One of the e-mails (which you can sign up by going to the link) I get is from Mike Allen who has both a daily e-mail and a website where he puts his posts.  The posts are rich with inside politics information of what is going regarding the federal government (elections, interest groups, Congress, presidents, etc.).  It also has links for videos and other relevant sites. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Political Ideology Tests

There are a variety of tests out there for ideology.  Here is one called the Political Compass.  While it is lengthy, it will put your students into one of four quadrants to include liberal, conservative, libertarian and authoritarian. Here is a much shorter one that also plots where you stand.  Here is a basic one just for liberal and conservative.  Next is one from PEW which my students take and finally, the PBS News Hour also has one for your students. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Difference Between Raising Revenue and Raising Taxes

This goes with my posts on the fiscal cliff. Speaker Boehner is willing to raise revenue, but not taxes which is what President Obama wants.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hispanic Voters Will Double in by 2030

My dissertation looked at Hispanic voters and how their voting habits are different than African-Americans and whites.  To that end I get updates the Pew Hispanic CenterHere is a short report using exit polls and US Census data that predicts that Hispanic voters will double by 2030.  

The Fiscal Cliff

CSPAN has a lesson on the fiscal cliff. Here is the background they give, the lesson plan the vocabulary that goes with it. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chromebooks for Inexpensive Learning

I keep telling people that we are in the middle stage of converting from teaching using paper to a digital format.  As we move online, we will have cheaper and cheaper devices because all we will need is a delivery device.  If any of your students are looking for a computer that does it all, the $199 Chomebook (11.6") by Acer is made only for the cloud (although it does allow your most recent items to be stored on the laptop and run without WiFi.  Items like this makes online learning much more viable.  Definitely when my own children outgrow our own laptops, it will be the one I purchase for our kids (durable, cheap and capable of doing everything the kids need to do).  

Friday, November 9, 2012

How to Use QR Readers in the Classroom

My teacher students were rather eager to learn about how to use QR codes in the classroom for homework or other uses.  So after class I created the video above to show how to use it.  I explain all the steps from creating a webpage for your homework assignments and how to create a QR generator.  Since my county requires that we put everything for our students in Blackboard, I also include that.  I started using the QR codes for homework with my students in the second or third week of school and am amazed at how many of them use it.  

The bottom video shows you how to download the QR reader on your smartphone.

Students like QR readers as they do not have to write down their homework assignments.  When combined with Remind101, it makes it tough for students to have an excuse not to complete their homework.

If your students ask, there are plenty of Android and iTunes QR readers for their smartphones. 

China Primer

In light of the changes in leadership in China, for those who teach AP Comparative, this "China primer" might be helpful.  Since my e-book has the old leaders, I will just link to the graphic in my Google Drive document and the kids will still know the leaders.  Above is a six minute video about the change. 

What Happens After the Popular Vote?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Videos Describing the Fiscal Cliff

Above is one from NBC and below one from CNN.

The Fiscal Cliff

Here is everything you wanted to know about the fiscal cliff in a very concise article.  It starts with a summary and includes key words such as lame duck session, deficit, debt ceiling, Congressional Budget Office as well as many related articles. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Race Analysis

My government classes had a marathon session last night on Twitter.  We held class from 8:30 until 11:30 (my favorite Tweet was when one of my students asked if she could go to sleep).  Some of the kids actually started at 7 pm and the last Tweet (way after I was asleep) was at 2 am. I am curious as to the kids' feelings, but I feel Tweeting the debates and the election was an incredible way to involve the students in the interactive learning.

At any rate, here is the electoral map I will be using the NYTimes as it has full page graphics my students can bring up in their laptops or tablets.  Here are the presidential results, US Senate and House of Representatives.  For the presidential results, these graphics show how Obama won using women, Hispanics and younger voters in swing states.

VA was obviously one of the swing states and the two key counties were Loudoun and Prince William counties which were solid Republican areas in 2004 and have been growing quickly.  Both went to Obama in 08 and since they were trending (and finally went) for him last night, and threw the state to Obama with their Democratic result.  This is important to point out to students as the campaigns know not only which states, but which counties to target.

State by state results are here.  What I like about this page is that it has both the key congressional races as well as the referenda results.  

Congress All Time Time Line of Laws and Events

Thanks to our social studies specialist, Craig Perrier, for this timeline. It spans from 1933 to the present and has pictures and the major legislation passed by each Congress.  

Review of the Presidential Campaign

Here is a shortish video of the highlights of the presidential campaign put together by the WashPost. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Final 538 Prediction

In a few days we'll get back to non electoral items on this blog, but not until we sort out the election.   Let's see tonight how close Nate Silver and his 538 blog is.  He has now upped the electoral college vote to 315 to 228 (with 92% certainty) and 50.9% to 42% in the popular vote, both for Obama.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tweeting the Election (on TV)

View more videos at:
You can also see it here.

Frank Franz and I have had our students Tweet during the last two debates and will do so again tomorrow night during the electoral returns.  I asked that my students complete at least 3 Tweets over 30 minutes of watching and have found that they do 10-30 and stayed a large part of the debate.  Even better quieter students are "speaking."  Tomorrow night will be a lot of fun "watching" the returns w. my classes.  For those who do not have Twitter I also have an editable Google Drive e-sheet.

So today the D.C. affiliate for NBC came to my classroom. For what it is worth, I was e-mailed about the piece after school on Friday and we have teacher work days today and tomorrow, so I was thankful that I use Remind101 as I sent the kids a message, used Tinyurl to shrink the link to an editable Google Drive document and the kids quickly signed up to come in.  Also, Frank was an integral part of the interview, but unfortunately they only showed his mug on the computer (we were in a hangout using Google Plus).  What I wish they had shown is that even though Frank was at his school, he was as much the teacher as I was, just as we have been teaching other's students in our Twitter sessions.  

Electoral College Explained

The oddities of the first American election

The US of Electoral Map

Thanks to Richard Hoppock for the heads up on this great video above which shows how the electoral map of the US is really quite small as you can see above.  The video above is short, entertaining and rather informative. 

Ballot Design

Exit Polls Sample Precincts To Predict Election Victor

Easiest Way to Figure Out Who Will Win

The NY Times has a graphic that you can manipulate the 512 ways (assuming 9 states are still swinging) to see who will become the next president of the US.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Positive vs. Negative Ads

Here is a piece from Politico looking at negative and positive presidential advertisements. 

Last Weekend of Polls

Unfortunately the only students I will see before election day are the ones coming in tomorrow to be interviewed by NBC about the Tweeting that Frank Franz (Panther Fan, whose Panthers will LOSE today to my Redskins) and my students will be doing on election night.  So I will have to wait for our Tuesday evening Twitter session to point out Nate Silver's (538) final prediction which you can find here.  He claims that only statistical problems (which is explained in the article) can prove him wrong.  I will be making a tally sheet of the presidential swing state predictions and the US Senate predictions so we can keep track of how many Silver gets correct (he only missing one senate and was off by 10 electoral votes in 2008).

Here also is a NYTimes piece on the swingiest of swing states, Ohio. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012


This site, Text 2 Mind Map, allows students to create a mind map of anything such as a historical figure or vocabulary terms or concepts. You just type in the text and then click on "draw mind map." You can download the map or share it online.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Campaign Data Mining

This is a nice (clean) clip from John Stewart which discusses data mining from Nate Silver of 538 NYTimes and his new book The Signal and the Noise.
If it doesn't work correctly, here is the link. 

Pdf to Word

About 5-10 times a year someone sends me a pdf that I want to crack open so I can make it my own.  For most this is impossible. But if you go to Pdftoword allows you to convert short pdfs to word documents.  Go to the site, upload your document and in less than five minutes you will have the word document. 

Swing State Virginia

A short piece on one of the swing states - my own - Virginia. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Top Posts for October for Government Blog

Thanks to you all we matched our #1 month last year (at the end of the year) of 48,000 page views for this, the US blog and the world one.  The top three posts for the government blog were

Electoral Vote

As people who follow this blog know, I like NYTimes 538 as it aggregates polls and adds in economic indicators to decide who will be more likely to win various elections.  Electoral Vote is a new one that Darin Ott told me about.  It takes various recent polls and aggregates them.  The main page has the electoral college (299 to 203 with 33 ties) as opposed to 538 which has 303 to 235 (both favoring Obama).  Both sites also have the US Senate races (here for Electoral Vote and here for 538).