Friday, May 31, 2013

Using YouTube In Your Classroom

I found this great slide show on Crash Course for Educators which I found from one of the communities I follow on Google+.  Soon I will do a post on all the amazing new teacher and technology posts you can follow as they are growing quickly.  The video above is ten ways you can use YouTube to improve your classroom from ways to have stations, to flipping your class, to posting message to students and parents and more.

Monthly Most Viewed Posts for US Government Teachers' Blog

Thanks to all of the new visitors to the three blogs (USworld and government) as we now have a new monthly record of 65,000 page views.  The top two most hit posts for the US government teachers' blog were study posts for AP tests which you might want to save when you get close next year.  They were:
The others included

Thursday, May 30, 2013

AP Summer Institutes

The best summer institute I have ever attended starts on June 10th in Salt Lake City where I will be grading AP US Government exams, but I have gone to a number of great summer institutes (World, US, Comparative and US Government) over the years and always came away much richer for the experience.  They are great chances to get lots of assignments (I got tons this year for AP Comparative last summer) from both the presenter and others are the in-service, video clips, how to to understand free response and multiple choice questions.  Generally the presenters also make you go through and answer the multiple choice questions at night which is important as you have to get to know all of the released questions (essay and mc).  It is also a good place to make new friends and connections that can help your teaching in the coming years.  In case you can still swing getting the money from your school district, go here and plug in the appropriate institute you'd like to attend. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Election in Iran

By the time you teach AP Comparative again the June elections in Iran will be long over, but just in case you wanted a primer, this article has a lot in it that is necessary for the class; Supreme Ruler, Guardian Council, runoff election for presidential candidates under 50%, shortness of the campaign, elimination of candidates by the Guardian Council, the press and the Sunni/Shia split. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Follow us on Twitter and Google+

If you want to follow the blogs other ways, I also post all of them on my Twitter ("kenhalla") and Google+ (also "kenhalla") accounts which you can follow by going to the links.  What is also nice about Twitter is that you can see who I am following and follow them as well if you choose.  In Google+ you can create your own circles and start following lots of people.  I have lots of explanations for Google+ and Twitter on this blog to explain how to use them. 

Confirmation of Obama's Judges

In light of Obama's announcement later this week that he will be nominating three people simultaneously to the District Court of Appeals, here is a Brookings (leans liberal) report on the speed for approval for all federal judges.  The bar graphs (and there are lots) say it all. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

This Blog Continues All Summer

Virginia does two things that I'd love to see changed.  1) We have our state end of the year exams several weeks before the end of the year and 2) Our state legislature (both parties) consistently say they are for "education first," but refuse to let schools start before September because businesses want the high school kids to work after the college kids have left for school.

At any rate while schools around the US have already started closing for the summer (and while we are on it should we even be wedded to an agrian calendar?), my kids still are going to the 18th  of June (and yes they are done with their AP and state exams).   This is a long winded way of saying that this blog will, as always, will continue posting all June, July and August.   After all I have a new crop of students to teach this summer and need to find some new things for them. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Use Google Hangouts

I am starting to feel as if Skyping is an old fashioned way to communicate online.  If you have a Gmail address you can Hangout with up to nine others (and more are coming as Google employees can already do up to 40).  At the bottom of the screen are the people not talking and the one who is will be in the main part of the page.  You can also share your screen and, if you use Google Drive, show your documents and even work collaboratively with the others in your Hangout.  You can also post a link to a Hangout in case you want others to watch in which case you can also have it saved to your YouTube account.  Here is everything you need to know to be able to have a successful Hangout.  Thanks to Matthew Faber for the heads up. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

#apgovhelp Makes the Newspaper

Last year Scott Campbell at Thomas Jefferson started @apushelp which he works with his AP students to answer students' questions around the US for US history questions.  This fall Frank Franz and I had great success with our Twittering the debates and election day.  So Elliott Waxman started #apgovhelp this spring and Frank and I added in our students as well.  Feel free to use it if you have students over the summer.  The Fairfax Times wrote a nice piece on the hashtag today. 

NEA Story on This Blog

The NEA just put out a piece on our blogs and will have another one later in the summer on ways to use different devices in the classroom.  The picture above is from a week ago.  

The Tinker Tour For Your School

Today we had the pleasure to have Mary Beth Tinker come speak to our seniors about first amendment cases and her own Tinker v. Des Moines case.  She wanted teachers to know that this, now part time nurse, is willing to come to your school - anywhere in the US to spread her message of empowering students.  She spoke and answered questions for 90 minutes.  Among the interesting items we learned were that her three siblings also wore arm bands at the same time and two (the ones in elementary school) were not suspended, but that her brother and three others were not part of the sensation of the case.  Tinker's school newspaper printed a story about the about to happen protest which was then picked up by the Des Moines Register and  shortly after that the ACLU approached her and offered to help her sue the school district.  Twenty-five years later the same school board invited her back as a V.I.P.! 

If you want her to come to your school go to her website.  If she comes she will also bring some interesting primary documents such as hate mail the then 13 year old received.  If you live in the D.C. area you can see her armband at the Newseum.   If she can't come to your school above is a recent interview she did at the Newseum.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bloom's Technology Wheel

I found this great Bloom's while from a Google+ post from Edudemic.  If you click here, you can see a much bigger post.  You could almost spend an entire year using the technology above.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Amazing Collection of Flipped Class Ideas

I am writing a book right now and one of the items I found in my research is this amazing research on flipped videos.  It gives research, Twitter handles, examples of flipped teaching, sites to go to learn about flipped learning, digital tools explaining how to make the videos.  If you are flipping or thinking about it, it is amazing so thanks to Dan Spencer for putting it together. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

63,000 Page Views Last Month & 4200 Posts to Search

We had a nice bump up last month from a previous high of 48,000 page views to a new record of63,000 (in part thanks to this article that was reproduced in a ton of news sources and school districts).   So to our new viewers please know that between the US history teachers' blog, the US government one and the world history teachers' page, we have nearly 4200 posts in the five years since this blog started.  So go to the search engine on the upper left and look up any content field of our subjects and look at what we have posted.  We also have a ton of technology to show you how to integrate the content. If we are missing something please e-mail me ( and we'll get it up or alternatively if you have a good idea or a great lesson plan, please contact us. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What is a Cookie?

Developed by Lou Montulli in 1994 when he worked for Netscape, cookies help direct what we see on the Internet.  Cookies are being downloaded on your laptop all the time and are collected by the web browsers you use.  Essentially they are individual ID numbers that a website assigns your computer and it collects information on how you used their page.  Some have even better "third party cookies" that collect information from multiple sites that you visit.  Indeed apps that you might add to your webpages often collect this information which is why they can be free as they might sell your information to a group that is trying to reach people like you.  For example I recently visited the Republican and Democratic Virginia party websites and within one day I started getting ads for lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Aneesh Chopra who the microdata thought I might like to select in our upcoming primary (as not surprisingly he was the tech czar for my former governor Tim Kaine and Barack Obama).  The good is that you see what you want to see (ads for your needs) and the bad is that you may not go beyond your own needs (check out this post on the Filter Bubble).  Of course you can go here if you want to delete all of your cookies, but that will also mean when you start to type in a webpage it will not finish out for you as it will know know that you were there before.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

EU Trade Talks and AP Comparative Issues

I think it will be a couple of years before I completely figure out the issues part of the EU exam.  Consider that there is a new WashPost article on discussing the US need for genetically altered crops and Europe's feelings against it and the problems it may lead to between our nations.  So my question is does this rise to an issue that could rise to the AP Comp exam - probably not yet.  But in asking the question there are a lot of great resources such as all the Economist pages for the EU and each comparative country (GB, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, China, Iran) that Ken Wedding recently posted on his comparative blog.  In short, I have learned, that much more than AP US Government this teacher needs to read lots of articles about all seven of the entities (I include the EU as one of them) constantly to be better prepared for next January when we start the next cycle of AP Comparative - my new favorite subject to teach! 

Our Two Month iPad e-textbook Pilot

Last November Houghton Mifflin Harcourt asked me to pilot their new iPad e-textbooks which we did for two months ending just this past Monday.  The pilot was for Patterns of Interaction and I must admit the first day we had them there were some collective groans especially when I told the kids they could no longer make their maps using Google Drive drawings.  But the groans very quickly turns to glee when they saw how the iPads came on instantly and after I had taught them a few procedures to make their iPad life easier we were up and running.  Most of the kids were decidedly unhappy Wednesday when they had to pull out the slow starting netbooks.

So what did I like?  To begin with there are two different versions of the Table of Contents which you can get in landscape or portrait modes.  Secondly you can scroll through entire chapters, the individual pages or using the contents go anywhere in the book you want.  There also is a search box which is not present in our format online.  You can also manipulate all of the pictures flipping them around, looking underneath for objects such as an oracle bone or Viking ship.  Each section also has five multiple choice questions (not available on the page).  There were also movable features such as putting the levels of the Caste system in order.  I actually asked that they do the same for historical maps so students could drag and drop (and be rejected if they are wrong) all the maps the kids have to study.  As with the online version there are also videos in each section, links, etc.  I must admit as the pilot progressed I stopped using my  laptop during the class and just plugged into the LCD or walked around the room with it as I was working with the kids.  Finally we used the four finger method to scroll between open webpages, the ibook, Google Drive and even music which made it very easy to manipulate.

My only beef - and this is with Apple, not HMH, is that the e-book can only be accessed on the iPad it was downloaded on.  So if you forget it at home, you are out of luck.  I should also add that if your district, school, etc. is looking to purchase the iPad book or the online versions of any textbook, you will have to consider restructuring your purchasing plans (easier said than done with state and school board mandates now somewhat obsolete, but still very much unchanged) as the e-textbooks are constantly changed and if you want the newest and latest, you have to put that in the contract (which is probably going to increase the cost).  At the same time textbook companies have to consider "Google Driving" their e-textbooks meaning as changes occur, why not just give them to the school districts.  This would also mean they would not have to service multiple platforms.  With changes coming so quickly today (HMH is also working with Kno for other innovations, but not the ones described in the previous paragraph) the traditional 5-6 year contracts means your e-textbook will be obsolete 3-4 years before the end of the its run in your district.  Of course as is argued in The Tyranny of the Textbook, teachers hate changing textbooks and have to learn (hey isn't that what we teach students every day) to adapt to ever changing textbook formats and  multiple methodologies of delivery (and yes those reading this blog, I know, agree with me - it's the ones who don't that have to be convinced!).

If you go to the iTunes store, you can get a free chapter download for the Patterns of Interaction, The Americans and United States government iPad books and check them out for yourself.

I should add that I wasn't paid a penny, nor received an iPad or e-textbook to do the pilot so these are my unvarnished thoughts.  In if I had my way I'd have a laptop that has a manipulative screen and could access the iPad textbook on any device (smartphone, laptop, etc. and any system (Apple or otherwise) which means you get to decide what works best with your students.  If you already have iPads, you'll certainly love the books. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Knowmia Video Search Tool

Keith Hughes who has a tremendous Youtube channel for US and government (and 17 videos for WH) just told me about Knowmia.   Keith's Knowmia page is here. There is a search engine and you can set up your own page (for free) where you can house videos or tag ones from other people.  For graded K-12, they claim to have 13,000 lessons. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lucid Charts for Chart Creation

A couple of months ago I wrote about a great flowchart maker called Text2MindMap.  Well now you can add Lucidchart to your Google Drive account.  As you can see from the video above it lets you create complex flow charts of different types.which are then added to your Google Drive account.  Thanks to Ken Martin for giving me the heads up on this one. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Flipped Learning Network Interview

Okay so perhaps only my mom will really want to listen to this entire thing.  But there are a lot of websites mentioned, ways my classes work and more in this 50 minute podcast on the Flipped Learning Network interview I did a few weeks ago which was posted today.   

Flip Your Entire Government Class Videos

Here are 44 videos to flip your entire government class.  Actually I wouldn't espouse flipping the entire class as any format done too much gets old, BUT Keith Hughes has a video for every portion of US government and has been chosen by the Kahn Academy as a finalist for the YouTube Next EDU Guru award. Most are all ten minutes and under and feature interesting backgrounds and great ways to remember (dance moves is one of them) to remember them, but I wish he did more visual than himself.  But if you want to save the time making your own flipped videos and want an extremely interesting teacher go no further than his complete Youtube library.  You can follow Hughes on Twitter here and here on Google+.  Thanks to colleague Rich Hoppock for this find.  

First Presidential Ad of 2016

In a few hours my students will be taking the first of their two AP exams, but before then I wanted to post the first presidential ad of the 2016 cycle.  It was put out by one of Karl Rove's super PACs, American Crossroads, and is obviously assuming that Hillary Clinton will be running for president. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cram for the Exam 2013!

Flip with Gerrymandering

When Frank Franz and I started flipping two years ago we thought we should make all of our own flipped videos.  Given time and resources I still do not disagree with this thought, but there is so much out there.  Above is one from the TedEd series that you might want to look at for government.

Secondly when I find videos or lesson plans, I go to my Google Drive, insert the the item where I want it and change the lesson accordingly as I know if I waited until next year it would never happen.  The advantage of Google Drive is that it is incredibly easy to do this.

For the flipped class, I would set up a Google Drive Form so students could ask me questions.  Then I would start the next class by answering the questions and then give a quiz where the students could use their notes.  Then I would have the students look for 3-4 example of gerrymandered districts and at least one where the court system got involved.  Additional questions might include what party was in control of the governor's mansion and the legislature when it was made, etc.

Here are some of TedEd's examples of flipped classes. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Individualizing Education Using Technology

There were many reasons why I had a great day yesterday when Richard Culatta, who is the Director of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education, spent the day in my classroom.  In between my two classes, we spent several hours sharing ideas so I will be sharing some of them in the next week.  Since I am writing a book on using technology to individualize education I was very interested in his Ted Talk above. He mentions great innovations around the country such as an elementary school that has students report to different places in the school depending on how they did the day before, giving three questions at the end of the class to decide how to teach tomorrow, Arizona State U that has figured out how and when students should learn new items and what makes them hesitate to answer a question as well as new innovations the Dept of Ed is doing.

He ends his short talk with something called #PencilChat which is a way to counter anti technology people.  The idea is that you need to put the word pencil in to replace every item of technology such as "Why should we give students computers pencils when they can wait until they get to a job to learn how to use them" or "What should I do if a computer pencil breaks in the middle of my class, how should I be expected to work with such a disruption?"  The video below is a funny collection of many of the pencil chats.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rove, Big Data and How Politics Really Works

So no this won't be on any end of the year test your students are taking, but if you have time after your AP or state exams, perhaps there is a kernel of an idea here for you to take to your students for an interesting project.

The last time we say Karl Rove, he was self destructing on Fox News insisting that Romney still had a chance in Ohio.  Well he is long past that and in fact one of his close associates has inked a $20 million dollar deal with the Republican National Committee to use their data to, at least his opponents state, help with candidate selection, fundraising and voter mobilization.  Of course, these are all the things he did right in 2000.  But the real crux of the article argues there is a battle brewing between the moderates led by Rove and the marginalized Tea Party.   There are a number of links that you could use to expand on the story.  In fact you might also want to look at the impact of big data and politics in general

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Keyboard Shortcuts

My children always ask my wife and me how we type so quickly to which I tell them that their time will come.  But if you want to type more quickly than you already are, you might want to consider using shortcuts
.  Here are one hundred+ of them from everything starting from how to cut and paste to how to do subscript, to finding a word in a document to adding footnotes and basically anything on the drop down menus without go to them. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ted Talks Education Coming to PBS

This is interesting as television is moving more towards online, anytime.  But Ted Talks, perhaps showing how big it has become, will have Ted Talks Education this coming Tuesday on PBS at 10 pm.  The show is dedicated to education.  Of course if you miss it, I would assume you can find it on my link or on the PBS teachers site.

Thanks to the G+ post from Larry Ferlazzo

Become an AP Grader

While we are at it, I have gotten to know the aforementioned Dan Larsen at the AP Government reading.  When I tell people that I grade exams their first reaction is to say that grading is the worst part of their job, so why would anyone want to go.  Well 1) I am a much better teacher because of the work I have done as an AP grader in two different subjects.  After all if I know how to grade an exam, then I know how to better prepare students for future essays.  2) The people I met give me both great friendships, but also colleagues near and far to exchange ideas and assignments.  3) You get to go to great places.  This year I will be in Salt Lake City and even though, yes, you do work 8-5 (with lunch and AM/PM break) we did have time to go hiking one day, go to the Great Salt Lake, on another and see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practice in their 20,000 person arena and usually we catch a baseball game.  4)  I am so much more a proficient grader and can very accurately whip through lots of free response questions - which means I can assign more and better prepare my students (who this year wrote 12 for grades and another 3-4 for practice in my class).

Basically it works like this.  Day 1 - fly to AP grading site  Day 2 - learn the rubric.  They give you all the answers and truthfully most of my AP students could grade given the training.  By the end of the day you will be very accurately grading exams and giving them the identical grade to everyone at your table Day 3-7 - grade all day in 4 quadrants and yes it can get hard at times Day 8 - Finish the grading which means you only get about 50-75.  Only once have I ever graded beyond noon on this day and then you get the rest of the day to do things like do real sightseeing. Day 9 Fly Home.

So if you are interested, here is the place to sign up. 

Cram for the AP Govt Exam on C-SPAN

Every year Dan Larsen and Andrew Conneen (both from Adlai Stevenson HS in Illinois) do a great call in review show on C-SPAN.  The AP Comparative wiki I have on this post is Conneen's.  Above is last year's review and you can send your students to this year's one on Saturday May 12th at 9:15 AM EST.  

While I am on it the CSPAN bus which goes to the NH and Iowa primary/caucus and the conventions is willing to travel to your community.  A month or so ago the bus came to my school, Hayfield.  They do tours of 20 kids at a time and, in our case, stayed for two hours.  

#apgovhelp for AP Gov Studying

With just nine days to go before the AP US Government exam, you might want to tell your students about #apgovhelp which a bunch of us are using for our students to post and answer questions.  If you are like me, you could make it an assignment (alternatively I use an editable Google Drive document for those with a private Twitter account or none at all).  If your students do not want their posts to be seen, tell them to start each one with "@HideTag" and they will be all set. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

DOE Dir of Ed Tech Coming to my Classroom

So I was asked a few weeks ago if I wanted a member of the US Department of Education to come to my class.  They picked well and I ended up with the Director of Educational Technology, Richard Culatta, who will be spending the day in my class this coming Thursday.  That night we also get to meet with Arne Duncan (for the second time in as many months).  So, my question to you is do you have any questions that you would like me to address?  Culatta's DOE page says he is interested in individualized student learning so I have lots to speak to him already, but would love any feedback or thoughts if you would e-mail me (  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Guns and Polling

If you go to the search engine you will see that I have done a lot of posts on polling.  Here is another one that parses the differences between the 88% approval of gun control and the 52% approval of Obama's handling of the issue (which is essentially by party).  There is a nice short discussion on this and other polling issues above. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Top Posts for the Month

It is always interesting to see the top hits for the month.  Usually they are ones that involve something practical in the classroom.  So not surprisingly the top hit post for the months are