Sunday, September 30, 2012

Twitter, Part II

Once you get on Twitter (to follow George's post), you will want to know who to follow.  If you want some suggestions, you can go to my account and then click on "following."  For each person you can see some of their recent Tweets and decide if you want to follow them.  If you want a really long list of social studies teachers, go here. 

How Twitter is Reinventing Collaboration Among Educators

Interesting article at MediaShift about how to use Twitter for collaboration. It includes lots of links to various education chats. There are, according to the article, over 150 Twitter chats on education-related topics. And Edutopia has a story about how to use Twitter to"grow your PLN."  Here is another interesting story about the value of Twitter in education from NovemberLearning.

To set up a Twitter account, here's all you have to do (fyi--I copied these instruction directly from the Edutopia story.)

1) Go to and click Get Started Now. Fill in the fields. Where they ask for your Full Name, we suggest using your real name if you want to use Twitter as a professional networking resource. This way, people can recognize you.

2) Once you've completed the registration process, click Create my account. It will ask you to enter some text to ensure you're not a robot.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

US Citizenship Test

My school district, like many of yours, is now into giving students a pre-test to start the year.  One thought for a US government might be to give the citizenship test.  Here is a practice one from the US Immigration Bureau and here is one from Parade magazine.  The Christian Science Monitor has a 58 question quiz.  


If you look at the today's Parade magazine the cover story is about Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who, in retirement founded iCivics.  The rationale behind the site is that kids like to play games and the best way to teach them about government is just that way.  So there are three levels: elementary, middle and high school.  You can run for president and thereby learn about the steps that are taught in class on elections, not to mention reinforcing the issues.  You can also learn about county government, arguing before the Supreme Court and even learn Constitutional law by pretending to have your own law firm.  All in all there are sixteen games to play. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Shrinking US Court Docket

If you want to teach about the US Supreme Court, you have to go to Scotus (Supreme Court of the US) Blog from time to time.  For example, here is a recent post on how the court docket has been decreasing for decades.  Here, also, is a summary of the court procedure in "Plain English" and includes such important terms we teach such as writ of certiorari, amicus brief, Solicitor General, majority and dissenting opinion, 

First Political Advertisements on TV (1952)

Open Culture put these two clips on their site. They show some of the first political ads in the presidential election of 1952 between Adlai Stephenson and Dwight Eisenhower. The campaign was called Eisenhower Answers America.

2012 Supreme Court Stats

If you go to this WashPost page you can see how often each Supreme Court justice agreed with the other individual eight people on the court.  You can also see the key court cases from 2012 and how each member voted. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

QR Codes for Homework

So I am starting a little experiment with QR codes.  While I had seen them before I was introduced to them in a big way this summer when I was working on apps for teachers and students. So now my students see the code below when they log into Blackboard.  Once they download a QR reader, they scan it and then every time they open the app they just click on my title and it will take them to the newly updated app where they can see the newest homework first. So if you scan the icon below, you will see how my homework looks for one of my classes.
To generate a QR code simply enter your page (Google Drive or web) here. There are many different QR readers, but here is one for Android and iPhone

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Into the (Actual) Cloud

I have put up a cartoon of how the Internet works, but here is a short video of the actual cloud (re: data centers).  It discusses the costs and why it is very hard for it ever to go down.  

First Televised Debate

As we near the first debate between Obama and Romney, above is the first televised one, which most people believed that Nixon won - SINCE they were listening to it on the radio!

Here are the debate dates for president and vice-president.

QR Codes for Homework

Probably today I am going to put three QR codes on a sheet of paper (people who know me will laugh at me using paper) and put it up in my room.  Each one of the codes will be tagged to a homework page for each one of my preps.  The students will have to download a QR reader once and then they will never have to write down their homework again. Then if they open the QR reader on their phone and go to the linked page they will see their new homework without having to do anything else.

One way to create the QR codes on a piece of paper is to use TagMyDoc which will put it on any document when you print it out.  I learned about the tagger at FreeTech4Teachers.

Presidential Campaign Money & Campaign Visits

This tremendous interactive graphic from the WashPost shows where the presidential candidates are getting their money as well as the super PACs and how each is spending it.  Here also is an article on Obama's move to increase the importance of Ohio in the race for the White House
This page shows where the presidential candidates, spouses and VP candidates have been traveling and how often.  This is a great way to show the difference between swing and non swing states. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Using Google Drive to Grade Students & Collaborate with Colleagues

Today two of the teachers in my department printed out essays that were turned in digitally and sheepishly said to me that they just could not grade them online.  About five or six years ago I was with them, but I am not one to give in easily.  I committed to a year of online grading.  My first foray was with my summer school students at George Mason University where I had a number of research papers to grade.   I still remember the first batch coming in and thinking I did not like grading them online and almost feeling as if I couldn't get ahold of their thesis digitally.  But I hung in there and of course now I find grading paper (as little as I do) inefficient as I can write so much more and more thoughtfully when I am typing.

So if you are game to have your students turn in work digitally then above is a video of how to have the kids turn it in and how you can grade.  In addition to your students you can always use it collaborate with your colleagues.  My department does all of our collaboration together and save oodles of time by doing it on Google Drive. 

Presidential Debate Schedule

Here is a website that give the presidential and vice-presidential debate dates. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Webpage for Tons of How to Videos and Documents

Thanks to Craig Perrier, who is our county's head of high school social studies curriculum for this one.  Here is a magazine like format called Educational Technology and Mobile Learning which has a ton of links to how to.  How to do Google Docs, Skype, use of the iPad, Evernote, QR codes, social learning and so much more.  It also has a bit of a news feed so it is certainly not a static webpage. 

Politics and Policy

I will probably start my classes today with a quick overview of this NYTimes article on the confluence of policy and politics.  It shows a number of great examples of how Obama is using his office to impact swing state voters from sending cabinet secretaries to those areas, to announcing support of same sex civil unions before a major fundraiser with a gay group to going against his own government and saying a sagebrush lizard was not threatened by oil and gas drilling and more. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Flipping the Classroom and Free Response Questions

As you know, if you teach AP Government, all students need to complete four free response questions.  I usually devote a day to teach the basics (that Frank has done above) and then I actually pick a question and have the students answer it and then grade several of  the questions using a rubric.  This is exactly what we do at the AP reading as my goal each year is to make them prepared to be as good as the actual readers (graders).  By the way, if you are interested in grading AP Government, we are grading this year in Salt Lake City which has lots of great outdoor activities to do once the grading day is done at 5 pm. 

Poll Results in Swing States

If you are going over polls with your students, and who isn't at some point, here is today's from the NYTimes.  If has the current results and if you hit the arrow by each state, the previous one.  It also has a number of questions and the poll results for each of them.  The most telling result is that the people in the swing states see Obama as doing well enough on the economy and those numbers are somewhat identical to his over approval in those states as are his approval ratings.  Since political scientists say those are the two key statistics, obviously this  is a dangerous sign for Romney, but with three debates and two more job reports before election day, there is still time for the challenger.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Federal Budget Challenge

I've written about a few ways to challenge your students to balance the budget.  I just received an e-mail from Next 10 and the Concord Coalition which has a new budget assimilation out that you might want to try.  

47% Not Paying Federal Income Taxes

Of course by now most people have heard Romney's remarks that 47% of Americans do not pay federal income tax.  Actually Romney just said "dependent on government."  But let's clarify in case your students ask.  Romney was parsing words.  He was correctly pointing to 47% of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes are on income beyond what may be withheld by your employer who sends it to the IRS as well as capital gains.  This is not to be confused with payroll taxes which includes unemployment insurance, Medicare and Social Security and your tax on salary (more).

The Economist did a little research and agrees with Romney - kind of.  First off this article points out that the number of people not paying taxes has gone up more under Republican presidents and most of these people live in Republican states.  Of course Obama ran into similar closed door comments in 2008 when he spoke of bitter gun carrying Pennsylvanians. It might bear mentioning to students that what is said to the faithful at a closed fundraiser and what is said in public is sometimes different.  Of course here in VA we still remember that no place is off limits as our former senator and current senatorial candidate George Allen learned with his Macaca moment

Monday, September 17, 2012

CNN Electoral Map

Right now I am a proud papa as my 8 year old son came home beaming as he had been given a dictionary which has lots of extra things beyond words.  So, he read (no prompting, I promise) the pages on our government and wanted to know all about the electoral college.  Well I used this site from CNN to show him. It is great as it shows different scenarios which you can go through with your students as well as the previous two elections.  Thanks to Charity Fisher, who is across the hall from me for the heads up on it. 

Flipping and rising student scores

Technapex did a survey of some 453 flipped educators in June and found that (a) teachers (88%) reported that they were happier with their jobs because of flipping and (b) students (67%) performed better on tests as a result of flipping. These are the first statistics that I've seen about how much flipping actually improves scores.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


This is one of six videos showing how far we have come in terms of globalization. Edudemic has all six on its site, including the original "Shift Happens" from 2006.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What is the Cloud?

In two weeks I am going to start teaching my tech integration course for teachers and one of the first things I will discuss is the meaning of the cloud.  The video above explains it well, but in summary it is when your pictures, music, documents, PowerPoints, etc. are stored on a server somewhere in the world and you are therefore able to access it from any device and from anywhere in the world.  It also means that the devices can get cheaper (check out Amazon's $199 tablet), thinner and more accessible to more people around the world.  It also means your classroom will change as well.  Is it easy? NO.  I struggle to get my students, esp. the freshmen used to e-books, Google Drive, Blackboard, etc.  But once they learn it, they don't want to go back to the old ways.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Constitution Day

I love that I work with a lot of people who are connected to online sites and technology use in the classroom.   Tim Busch, who is a few doors down from me, is one of those who sent me the above picture and link for facts about the Constitution that you can use on September 17th.  This Constitution Daily site also gives you a lot more information including daily e-mail updates. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Just over four years ago one of my favorite blogging sites started.  It was called and written by a former baseball statistician.  Now it is so popular that the NYTimes bought it out and especially during a presidential year it is a must see site as it aggregates polls, uses multi-variate analysis and comes up with it believes the electoral college will be.  Today's post discusses the bounce or lack of one from the national conventions.  But on the right side of the page you also see the chance of each candidate winning the individual states and the relative importance of mounting a campaign in each one.  What I like about the site is that even though Silver is not a Ph.D., he does know his statistics extremely well and uses them to make non-partisan judgments of political races.  Use the site to look at your own state's senate campaigns and the presidential one and you won't be disappointed. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Revenge of Geography and Comparative Govt

It is not easy to be a teacher at the beginning of the school year.  Too many student names to learn and of course too many books to read.  One is Robert Kaplan's new book title The Revenge of Geography.  Here is a great article from the Wall Street Journal looking at geography and Iran, China and Russia.  So if you are a comparative teacher, you will want to read it. Thanks to Monte Bourjaily for the heads up. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

Comparing the Two Conventions

I like to use Wordle to show the students visually what has been said in a speech or article (click here to read about the device and other similar ones).  Above is a comparison Wordle from the NYTimes and you can even add your own words (blue=Dems, Red=Rep).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Evolution of the Democratic Party

Perhaps it is because the NYTimes leans to the left, but they have made a great short film on the evolution of the Democratic convention (as opposed to making one for the Republicans).  It shows how the Dems have gone from just presenting a liberal wing at the convention to the middle.  It is very interesting for the teacher if not for the students and is only 5:31 long. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Filter Bubble and Our Democracy

The Filter Bubble is a very interesting book I read last summer.  The author makes a great argument for the filtering of Facebook, Google, etc. and how we are limiting what we are seeing and if you go with book titled The Big Sort, it too follows the same hypothesis with the thought that we choose our neighborhoods in much the same way so we can live near people who are similar.

Before listening to the filter discussion above we will read the Hauss e-book definition of democracy which is a five part discussion.  His definition is partly on pages 27-30.  With that definition in mind I will want my students to tell me if what is happening with algorithims is good or not.

Since originally posting this item I received an e-mail from a search engine called Duckduckgo which you might use alongside Google to show the differences. 

WeVideo Coupled with Google Drive

Wow, this is great news.  Google Drive keeps adding small companies that it is partnering with on Google Drive.  Wevideo is essentially a MovieMaker for Google Docs.  In other words you can collaborate with other people in other locations to make a video.  Above is a video that explains how easy it is to integrate it into your Google Drive.  Here is a great video on how to use WeVideo. I found about the new partnership from FreeTech4Teachers

Impact of Congress on You

I like to being my school year with asking students the impact of Congress on their life.  Here is a great place to quickly show the kids just that impact.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Explain and Send (Chrome Extension)

Explain and Send is a really cool extension to your Chrome browser that allows you to snag any part of a web page, annotate it, and send it to someone. It's like the application "snag it" but you have to pay for "snag it" and Explain and Send is free, and I think a lot easier to use.  Once you capture the image or part of the web page you want, you are prompted to save it as an image, to copy it to your clipboard, or to share the link. I found this on Richard Byrne's blog, Free Technology for Teachers.