Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Anatomy of a Romney Rally

The above piece does a great job in showing the show behind the candidate - in this case - Mitt Romney. 

21,000 Hits This Month and Rising

We reached a new milestone hitting 21,000 hits this month.  The top three most hit posts were the video of Nixon's Checker's speech, followed by Obama's weekly wrap-up on West Wing Weekly and finally the summary of the Arizona debate

A Webinar on the Flipped Classroom

Thanks to the head of social studies in my county, Alice Reilly, who gave me the heads up on this which she found on Eschoolnews which is a daily e-mail for people interested in technology news.  On Tuesday, March 20 from 2:00-3pm ET there will be a webinar on flipping the classroom.  Go here to register this seminar.  Attendees will learn what a “flipped classroom” should look like (and what it shouldn't look like), how to develop implementation strategies for a flipped classroom model (needs assessment; selecting resources, such as Tegrity; and measuring success), best practices for using Tegrity to create content for the flipped classroom and tips for most efficient use of class time in a flipped classroom model. 

Tiny Url

From time to time I need to shorten my url.  For example if I am sending out a message using Remind101 to my  students, then my Google Docs url is too short so I get a truncated one.  For example, here is the entire url for a webquest my US government students are working on (concerning the presidential election if you are interested) and here is the tinyurl:  Both end up at the same page. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How A Google Search Works

While this is over a year old, it still mostly holds true.  The author, Matt Cutts, is the head of quality control at Google.  He, therefore, is in charge of the search engine and for keeping it "honest" (ie not biased towards Google products).  Play the video for a fascinating look at what happens between when you push return on a search and when you get the results. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Building a Webquest

My students do a lot of webquests where I have them answer a series of questions using their e-books as well as Internet sites and some videos.  Here is one my students just did on elections.  I believe that webquests cater to different learning styles and thus help all students learn more effectively. is a starting point for hundreds of different webquests.  If you are like me you can take bits and pieces from others or even start with the key concepts you have to cover and start doing some searching online to build one of your own. 

WashPost & NYTimes Apps

If you are like me and check the news twenty times a day, here is the Android app and here is the iPhone app for the Washington Post.  Here is the Android for the NYTimes. 

Legislative Report Cards

My students are working on a election webquest where they have to look at a ton of things such as PAC donations, census data, vote tallies, and lots of other things.  One of the items is their ratings for their legislative report cards.  This site has them for those in office and it is a good way for students to actually see about one of the concepts you discuss during your legislative unit. 

Super PAC Loopholes

Good article in the NY Times on how loopholes allow Super PACs to operate in a coordinated way with candidates.

How Good are Online Schools?

Watch Cyber Schools Gain Popularity, but Quality Questions Persist on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How Does the Republican Delegate Count Works

This is a great (4:32) podcast on how Republicans are counting delegate for their national convention. It covers a lot of important concepts we use in class such as delegates, caucus, Iowa, New Hampshire, proportional voting, winner take all, superdelegates (Republican - who knew and Dems) and the brokered convention.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Political News on The Fix

The WashPost has a great blog called "The Fix"which is all the inside information you'd want to know about the political world, both from inside DC as well as on the campaign trail.  It has both short articles, video and links to relevant Internet sites. 

Chomp & Mobile Apps

So, as you can probably tell, I am learning a lot recently about mobile apps.  Well one thing I have just discovered is that there is a company called Chomp which allows you to more easily search for apps (both Android, iPhone and iPad).  It was just recently bought by Apple who is looking to revamp its app store, but for the time being it will continue as is - namely a search engine for your apps.  So if you know what you are looking for to help with your classes, just go there and do a search.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

West Wing Week

West Wing Week has a quick overview of everything the president is doing in video format.  Above is the 100th edition.   You can find it and a lot of other items on the White House Youtube channel

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gallup App For Your Smartphone

Okay here is the link for the app for both the iPhone and the Android.  So far I must admit I really like my Android and have yet to have a problem finding the apps I want for it as my students promised when I asked them for smartphone suggestions.  I just love, though, how I can sink between any computer and my Android as opposed to the iPhone which requires an Apple device.  For example I can listen to all 4000 of my personal song collection (it did take 48 hours to load on an old laptop) on Google music on my Macbook Air as well as my school Dell 6410 and, of course, my Droid Razr

US Congress Apps

Here is an Android and iPhone app for the US Congress. It will give you  let you see what bills are coming up, what is going on in committee, be notified of important events coming up and more.

While we are at it the great e-magazine, Politico now has both an Android as well as an iPhone app for its daily updates.

Likewise The Hill has both an Android and an iPhone app for more news from Congress. 

Is A Lie Just Free Speech, Or Is It A Crime?

The Living Room Candidate

When we do elections each year I love showing my students "The Living Room Candidate" which has most of the presidential advertisements for the party nominees (including Perot) from 1952 to 2008.  Above is perhaps the most famous one which ran only once and is in support of Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Khan Academy and flipping from Ted Talks

My colleague, Jeff Feinstein, sent me this link to the "Ted Talk" video by an early promoter of "flipping the classroom." Here's the blurb from the you tube site: "Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script -- give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help."

Your Smartphone as Your Computer

Sorry to be on such a smartphone kick, but I am trying to get used to my new phone quickly.  As most of you know you can edit your Google Docs items from any mobile device.  My students who have tried it get a kick out of working on their phone (and I've lost count of how many have done it on days their Internet have gone down at home or who just plain like doing it) and seeing the changes simultaneously on their laptops.  So the video above shows a person actually working on a GDocs item from their smartphone.  I found this video on Google Operating System and ones like this that allow you use the smartphone as the guts of the computer when docked in a screen/re-charging device.  But what gets me excited is this product from Ubuntu which connects your smartphone to a screen or this one which is essentially an empty laptop for which the smartphone serves as the guts. It is one way that soon schools will be able to provide cheaper access to the Internet for their students (not to mention already inexpensive devices such as the Chromebook).  In other words a cloud based classroom for all our students is getting very close (since schools will hopefully be able to provide laptops to the students without smartphones).   Here is the Android app for Google Docs and here is the iPhone one. 

PDF to Word

There seems to a ton of times in my life when I have wanted to convert a pdf to a word document but have been unable to do so.  While it is a feature of Google Docs, it does not work as well as Pdftoword which allows you to convert short (3-4 pages) documents.  Just enter in the document and in about an hour the word document is e-mailed to you.  If you have longer ones, you can sign up for the free two week trial or subscribe.  

Summary of the Arizona Debate

Above is a summary video of the Arizona debate and here are several more from CNN and an article on it.  With a little less than a week to go the polls in Arizona and Michigan are split between Santorum and Romney respectively. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Advertise on The Teacher Sites

After four years and 2500 posts, I have decided to earn some money from this enterprise.  With over 20,000 hits a month (and growing) this site combined with the US Government Teachers and World History Teachers sites have become one of, if not the, social studies site to visit to help your free content and technology needs.  If you are a company that would like to advertise, please contact me to talk about rates.

Likewise if you need presenters at in-services or conferences, I would be happy to discuss rates and tailor the presentations to fit your needs.

Please contact me at 

Checkers Speech

Above is the Checkers speech cued up to the part on Nixon not being willing to give back the dog.  I use in my class when discussing media and elections. 

Dictionary App for Mobile Devices has a free app for Android users as well as people who like Apple's mobile devices

Flash Cards for Mobile Devices

Here is an Android app that lets you create flashcards for class for free.  Here are three that use the same idea with an iPhone app. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New All About Video on super PACs

The video above is about super PACs and the fact that they are raising more than the candidates.  Here is the accompanying article. 

Mobile Scanner

Okay, one more before I force myself to go to bed! While I have basically shunned all paper in my classroom, people still insist on giving it to me at various in-services and what not. Well now I can scan in my documents and leave the paper behind! Here is the app for the iPhone and here is the one for the Droid

Use Your Smartphone to Control Your Laptop

Okay so one of my teachers recently asked me to buy him a remote control clicker so he could move around the classroom and show his PowerPoints (and then lost it a day after I got it for him!).  Well now he can use this iPhone app or I, my Droid app, to click my computer screen while I run around the room and teach!   

Wikipedia for Your Mobile Device

Okay, so I am a little bit on a roll.  Followers of this site know that I really like Wikipedia. So if you agree here is an app for your Droid and one for your iPhone.  

Diigo for Your Android/iPhone

Okay, here is installment #2 for your Android or iPhone which lets you save pages to your Diigo account.  If you don't have Diigo, then you might want to consider it as it lets you save urls, categorize them and then even lock them (which is nice if you have a lot of websites for which you don't want to remember login/passwords) so no one can see your url.  Otherwise you can search the open urls and find lots of other people who have saved sites that are similar to yours.  I found idea on Android 4 Schools and here is my last post on Diigo. 

Flipping the Classroom

This article from The Economist offers a good overview of flipping and its value. It also talks about the interest of the Gates Foundation in the idea.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Virginia's Legislature

Long before I was the "tech teacher," I was pushing (and still am) state and local government (which is actually a requirement, long ignored by many teachers) in the classroom.  If you are in VA, the video above will give you a nice overview of our legislature.  VPAP is an amazing site that gives donations to candidates, PAC information, election returns and it has great graphics as well.   One of the cool things on the site is to go here and see the seating chart of the legislature.  One click will give you the name of the person and two will take you to a page where you can see committees, money, etc.  After the AP exam my students will first do a webquest on how the legislature (and Fairfax County, VA) works and then have to do some hunting on this site to see how much it costs to run for office and where the money comes from.  The other great thing is that for the last year my students can also find out information on our board of supervisors on this site as well. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Relocating your Smartphone

Okay so two weeks ago my cell phone died and I went from a simple device that could only call someone (yes this is surprising for many who know me) to one who can now text (to my wife's relief) and get on the cloud from my phone.  Bucking most of my students' suggestions, I went for an Android (Verizon's 4G Razr).  So every once in a while I am going to be putting items up on the blog page for cell phones.  First off here is a NYTimes article on Lookout Mobile (for iphone and Android) that can uses a webpage to locate your phone as well as serves as free antivirus and saves your photos and contacts to the cloud in case your smartphone is destroyed or lost.  Actually the latter is one of the reasons I chose an Android as it is completely connected to the web (my contacts, for ex. are just my gmail list and I can seamlessly save any webpage to my phone using the Chrome to Phone extension.  

Great site for Political Literacy

This site is an offshoot of, but it's called It's meant for students. Also, check out Thank you Kathleen Hall Jamieson.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Flipping my AP Govt class, Part 3

Here's a few notes on how I design my vodcasts for my flipped AP Govt class.
Keep it under 10 minutes. (Think attention span.) Have a little fun with the video, include pictures on your slides, make fun of stuff, etc. If you can come up with a story to hook the kids, they’ll be eating out of your hand. Include your face, like I do in the corner of the frame, which is easy to do with screen cast-o-matic. From what I researched, kids respond better to their own teacher than to someone else. My dog is in the videos (at the end of the video) because after the first video, my kids asked for it. Don't be afraid to try things out. I didn't know if pulling in a brief segment from CSPAN would work, so I just tried it. (The video worked fine, but the audio from CSPAN is pretty low, so to solve this, I plugged in an external speaker and cranked up the audio for that part of the video.) Good luck!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Awesome Timeline for Party Evolution

My e-textbook has a very nice timeline for the evolution of the political party.  Each section (and there are many) comes with a short (perhaps 100 words) description, a picture and, of course the date.   Your students can see it even if you do not share our text. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Google Docs Training

Today I and the head of our high school technology specialists (Yvonne Griggs) will be presenting an in-service on using Google Docs in the classroom to our middle and high school chairs.  We have created a how to sheet which includes videos for everything we are doing.  So if you are learning about Google Docs (or as we will be doing, Google Apps for Education), please click here and you can use it as well. 

Tracking the Money

This WashPost page tracks where campaign money for television advertisements is being spent around the country.  You can look at it as a whole as well as by each Republican candidate and each respective super PAC.  Likewise you can actually see many of the ads that have been run including a recent one above from the Republican party of VA. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Loving v. Virginia

HBO is running a great documentary on the Loving v. Virginia case, The Loving Story. The case is about interracial marriage in Virginia. I saw it at a film festival last year and it's very good.

An Entire School Online

I am surprised I haven't heard about his as this school (Battlefield HS in Prince William County, VA) is just down the road from me.  If you go here you can look on the right hand side of the page and hit the "+" by "social studies" and all of the classes will pop up and then you can see all of the assignments for each teacher.  There are a few that are locked down by a code, but most are right there for the viewing.  So if you need help with AP US Gov and standard gov, you might have hit pay dirt.  Thanks for the head up from Jerry Walsh who is taking my tech integration course and showed this to me in class tonight. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Great Budget Charts

This WashPost chart allows you to see where the revenue will come from for the $2.9 trillion budget and where the extra money to reach $3.7 trillion will come from.  If you click on an item, you can see how much it has grown over the years and under what administrations.  For example under Obama there have been three years of $707, 732, 781 and 830 for spending on social security.  Likewise you can look at income tax revenue and all other tax revenues as well as deficits.  On the other side of the ledger you could see all the different areas for spending and again compare different presidents.

This is another page that shows the budget in a circle which you can run your cursor over and see where the money is being spent in more categories than from the WashPost, but you cannot compare to previous administrations.  It also gives you mandatory vs. discretionary  as well as a department by department basis.

If you want to see the actual budget, go here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Quasi flipped Class

Like Frank Franz, I’ve done a lot of research on flipping the classroom. I’m trying it for the first time this week in my AP World class with a short lecture on the causes of World War I. I linked the screen cast on Blackboard. The idea is that this will give me more time in class to do more hands on learning or delve more deeply into the lecture topic. For example, I might ask the kids to rank the causes and defend their ranking.

But I wonder if history classrooms are already flipped if we don’t do much lecturing in the first place. The reading gives the kids the same content as a podcast lecture. Here’s how someone on a flipped blog explained it: “But in history, if you are assigning reading for homework then they are already doing the content at home. And if you are doing discussions or other work in class that makes them grapple with what they have read then your history class is already 'flipped'.” I agree but I also think that few kids in history really read the text and process what they read so discussion in class or activities designed to get the kids to grapple with the content often don’t work so well. I’m hoping that short screen casts might help. Indeed, I just got an email from a student who said the video was "super" helpful, so maybe this is a great way to go.

Note from Ken: I added another one of Frank's home videos.  If you want to see George's WWI video go to our US or world site (upper right of this blog page). 

Tremendous Charts on Entitlements

We went over entitlements a couple of months ago, but my students will be looking at these charts probably tomorrow and having to answer some questions such as what is an entitlement, social security, medicare, what changes occurred because of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act and then trying to figure out the reasons why more people are now relying on entitlements.  Here are the large number of different charts which can help answer these questions.  If you go here you can see what percentage of the population depend on entitlements in your area - or any area in the US. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Teaching Channel - New Ideas for Teaching

The Teaching Channel has a ton of teaching ideas presented in video format.  Above is one on using debate to increase analytical skills.  There are over 100 for social studies on the website.  I found out about by using my igoogle feed from FreeTech4teachers

Flipping my AP Govt class, Part 2

Before I started to flip my AP Govt class, I did a bunch of research so I understood what flip teaching meant and how different teachers implement flip teaching. What I found was that there is no one "right" way to flip a class. A flipped class does not have to place all lectures online and have all homework done in class, but if that works for your class, then great. What I did find is that this model seems to work best for math and science classes.

I plan to place as many instruction delivered/lectures online as possible. In class activities posea different situation for social studies teachers. Instead of doing homework in class, I plan on trying to work on skills, such as having students practice writing FRQ prompts. I would also like to spend time using the vodcasts as a jumping off point to go more in-depth on some topics. An example of this would be what I did today with my class.

Students watched the 25th amendment vodcast outside of class and then I had a discussion with the kids about what they wrote in their "I'm still confused about..." responses, which I had them sumbit using a Google form. After that, I set the stage for the Reagan assassination attempt as a case study. I showed the video of the shooting, which generated a lot of questions from the students. Students then read an excerpt from "Rawhide Down," which is a fascinating book on the assassination attempt. This generated more discussion, then I showed the Al Haig, "I'm in charge" excerpt, which generated more good in depth discussion. My purpose was to use the Reagan assassination as a good example where the 25th Amendment should have been implemented, but it wasn't and why it wasn't implemented.

My next post will discuss my thoughts on putting together vodcasts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Flipping my AP Govt class

After about a week of in-depth research, I started to flip my AP Govt class this past week. I'm now posting videos (screencasts) of content that I would usually deliver at the front of the classroom and having students watch and respond to the videos before they come to class. Once in class, we can go over any confusion students may have encountered when watching the videos, then delve deeper into the topic or apply the topic to new situations.

I'll have more on my progress in the coming weeks, but the equipment/software I'm using are
Screencast-o-matic (hat tip to Ken), an external camera/mic by Logitech ($40), and Google Forms.

For more information, go to:
On Twitter: #flipclass or #flippedclass

The Flipped Classroom

Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture
I've seen a number of references to the flipped classroom and started to do a little research. It's a very interesting concept as you can see from the slideshow above, which I found at this site. You can also find more information at this site. The basic idea is that students watch and listen to your lectures and direct instruction for homework. Students can then use the class for " tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating." Here's a USA Today story about a flipped classroom in Maryland (this was first posted by George Coe on our World History Teachers Blog).

GOP Candidates and the Issues

Here is a nice WashPost page on where the Republican candidates are on the issues, here is the NYTimes delegate tracker and here are the results for all the primaries and caucuses.  Santorum is now well into second place for delegates.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Media Chapters Need Lots of Work!

I usually have my students skip the media chapter in our text because they are so poor as to not be warranted (and largely ignored if you are teaching AP).  Well if you go to the Flat Knowledge e-book on this chapter, it is excellent (as is the entire e-book).  Perhaps you could substitute in their FREE e-book for your chapter and then go back to your regular on afterwards.  If you are looking for an amazing and free e-book for US government, then you have found your next text. By the way they make their money by assuming that people (or schools) will want a paper text for the classroom. 

Fake Tweet Builder

I am teaching my "teacher-students" Fake Tweet Builder today and was perusing the Internet for a video or how to sheet when I found one of my students, Matt Levi, from the fall who had made a video for our class. It is actually especially good because occasionally Fake Tweet Builder makes a mistake and Matt does a great job of showing how to overcome this.  We use this for an assignment where students are learning a lot of short facts about say a battle or a number of people that we do not need to learn in depth. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Setting Up Your Twitter Account

Introduction to Twitter for Educators
Last week I introduced my "teacher students" to Twitter by asking what it was.  The first answer was that it lets people know what you are doing during the day.  While that is an excellent answer for a teacher who knows that is what students use it for it is also an amazing way to find out useful information for helping the teacher in the classroom.  Here are tips to set up your Twitter account.  Here is an amazing list of teachers to follow on Twitter broken down into different subjects.   A few tips I would add of my own are that it is nice when you can quickly go through the Tweets.  I use TweetDeck which I embed in my igoogle account.  Also before you add someone you can look through their Tweets to see if they use it on a regular basis and whether you like their tips.  Finally if you want to follow me go to "kenhalla." 

Use Google Chrome to Print From the Cloud

It is nice that when I talk to people they generally know what I am speaking about when I mention the "cloud."  Here is one great use of it.  If you have Chrome you can set up your browser to print straight to a computer, smart phone or tablet (even if you are not near your printer).  Here is how and here is Google's page on it. 

How Many New Jobs Does Obama Need to Win?

I'm debating whether I have my AP students read this entire post by Nate Silver (probably will!).  But if you follow this blog, you know that I have been talking about my political science side (where I earned my PhD) that espouses the fact that presidents win based on the popularity of the incumbent president and the perception of the economy (retrospective voting).  To that end Silver has calculated that if Obama gets to 52% in popularity (he is only at 48% right now) and 107,000 jobs per month growth, he will win.  That (esp. the latter) will not be easy, but it has been growing at the rate of 200,000 recently.  All of this is to say this will be a close, nasty race where super PACs will play a huge role and living in VA, I will get to see lots of ads and appearances by Obama and presumably, Romney. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Where Are You Politically?

My government students are taking this PEW quiz to see where they are on the political spectrum.  This link also includes the above video explaining the different viewpoints and the PEW findings from their findings. 

How the Republican Delegates Are Selected

Thanks to Bruce Miller who used to teach around the hall from me for this piece from the Washington Post.  It shows all the primaries/conventions through Super Tuesday (when we vote in VA and by which time Romney will probably be the presumptive nominee), how many delegates each gets, how many delegates one needs to be the nominee, how many are selected proportionally, how many are winner-take-all, how many are unpledged and how many are a hybrid.  Guess what I am showing my students on Monday! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Supreme Court Blog

Lest we forget that there is more going on than just the Republican primaries, one of the best sources for news on the US Supreme Court is the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US) blog. It has tons of updates on what is going on in the court, decisions. the petitions, amici briefs, super graphs and charts (such as the one above). 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hippo Campus for Standard and AP US Government

When I put together assignments for my students I have now reached the point where a student needs online access (yes I stay after school every day and sometimes at lunch to accommodate the students with it at home) as I like to use my e-book and other ancillaries (many of which are on this blog).  One nice thing is that I can give videos to students who need visuals to supplement the written word.  One source is Hippo Campus which has both an AP US Government and a standard government course which includes chapter videos, objectives, readings, documents, key terms, writing questions, discussion questions, tests (and their answers).

Here is a sample of federalism for AP and for standard, for example. 

Finances of the super PACs

Here is a great link on the financials of each of the major Republican candidates' super PACs. It also has who are their largest donors.