Sunday, September 29, 2013

Understanding Obama Care

ObamaCare also known as the Affordable Health Act is also an extension to Medicaid and is at the center of the budget impasse going on in Congress right now.  Here are a series of videos that explain the act for those who are insured, uninsured, college students, retired, small business owners, etc.  Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for finding this. 

Weekly Student News

I have done posts on CNN Student News, but here is a new site aimed at students using CNN feeds called InZaNews.  The difference is that it is an entire week as opposed to CNN student news which does a daily feed.  Thanks to Barry Pintar for an e-mail on it. 

How to Take a Screenshot

I use screenshots all the time for how to items and because I believe students should have several illustrations to make them look more appealing.  Here is how you can take a screenshot on all devices. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

What is a Continuing Resolution?

While all of this is good for teaching real life, living in the DC area, somehow I would prefer to be teaching about continuing resolutions when none of my friends are concerned about their income next week. 

Gini Coefficient v Palma Ratio

Of course those of us who teach AP Comparative have to cover the Gini coefficient, but this article argues that we should instead consider the Palma Ratio for inequality.  What is that? Read here and see how it ranks the US below one of the comparative countries we study, Nigeria, in the income gap. 

Iran Relationship Thawing

Last year I taught Iran in early April, but perhaps this year I will teach it first if we keep seeing changes on Rouhani.  This is a nice press conference from the president earlier today which speaks on several aspects that you will touch upon in your class including the Supreme Leader.

Below is a two part interview by Christine Amanpour with Iran's president.

The Shutdown Step by Step

I am still betting on no shutdown next week, but just in case here (WashPost) and here (NYTimes) are great department by department listings of what will happen should we shut the government down next week. 

Using QR Codes to Differentiate Instruction

Edutopia has a great story on how to use QR codes to differentiate instruction.  You can use QR codes to send students to the same website and create differentiated activities or you can create different codes for different groups. The article explains exactly how.  My thanks to Sharon Dickens who sent the link.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why is There a Debt Ceiling?

This WashPost video answers the question of why there is a debt ceiling. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Digital Study Buddies to Improve Retention

Too many kids do not study for tests and still more think studying is just filling out a study guide. Sure you could argue that our students have become desensitized to them due to the incredible number they take, but I try to get them to get into groups using technology - knowing that not all my students (esp. my 9th graders) can get together with one another.  What I tell them is that studying in a group is going to force the kids to prepare (rather than risk embarrassing themselves in front of peers and then help them work on weaknesses.  Here are the sites I give my students.
  • Free Conference Call - Barack Obama made this famous in 2008.  If could use it on a winning presidential campaign your students can use it to call as many friends as they want which is especially helpful if one or more do not have laptops.  

  • Google Plus Hangouts will allow up to ten students to talk, see each other and share Google Drive documents.  Below is a easy to follow video.

  • Oovoo lets you video conference with up to 11 friends.  Here is a hot to tutorial. 
  • Quizlet and Study Blue allow kids to find already done study cards for tests.  I like Quizlet better as the kids do not even have to join to be able to search.  Both allow you to even put pictures as part of the study cards. 

Bitly Tutorial for Shortening Urls

I did a post a month ago on which allows you to shorten a url (much as Tinyurl and allow you to do).  The advantage of this shortener is that you can tailor (as you can with Tinyurl) your link to something your students can remember (such as  But with you can also save it to a folder in your account so that you can have it as long as you want and you can even see how many times it has been clicked on.

So I have Bitlys saved for my homework pages for my students and did another one for my Back to School night flip.  There is no limit so have at it. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

McAuliffe - Cuccinelli Campaign Spending

If you want to teach about campaign spending the only real state wide race of consequence this year is VA's gubernatorial campaign (since NY is a foregone conclusion).  Here (and above) is a great graphic on where the two are spending their and other people's money.  McAuliffe, the Democrat leads by 8 points over Republican Cuccinelli, in a race that always picks the opposite party from the previous presidential election.

Rouhani - Khamenei Relationship

For those of you who are teaching AP Comparative, The NYTimes has a nice article out on the relationship between President Rouhani and Ayatollah Khamenei as Iran moves slightly towards a bit of a detente with the West.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Possible Government Shutdown Exercise

I don't think this looming government shutdown will happen, but it is a good way to teach some government.  If anyone has some suggested questions to what we have developed, would you please leave a comment.  

AP US Government Free Response

Frank Franz made this last year and I am having my students watch it this year.  I would add only the way that essays are graded:
  • identify/define = 1 point
  • identify + explain (meaning how or why is something done) = 2 points
  • explain along (make sure you identify something and then say how or why) = 1 pt
  • reading a chart often asks for two things that occur over time = 1 pt
  •  describe = more detailed description than an ID
  • if it asks to id two things (do three in case one is wrong)
  • if it asks for the "fundamental" purpose only do one thing since by definition, you cannot have two fundamental things (definition of party is the example).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reminder Texts for Your Students

Three years ago I started telling teachers in my tech integration course about Remind101 so it was kind of cool tonight when I found out a third high school has now shown their entire school the site based on word of mouth that has been passed around by my former teacher students.  Even more interesting is that they have now secured "Series A" funding for $3.5 million to expand their operation.

While there are certainly other competitors Remind101 remains the simplest one to use to one way text your students reminders for their homework.  But don't limit it to that.  Students can use it to Remind their members about meetings, schools can use it to tell parents about upcoming events, etc.  You can also set the day and time.  If you use it not all students will sign up right away, but if you mention it a few times, it will grow.  Last year I had more signed up then I have students because so many parents wanted the reminders as well.

The video above will show you the easy to set up instructions.   

Politico's Throwback Thursday

James Hohmann of Politico has a weekly web-video where he makes connections between current events history.  They are short, but informative and are great for a U.S. History class or an AP Gov class.  Thus far he has done videos on Presidential Oval Office addresses, choosing a Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and today on Farewell Addresses.

Government Shutdown and Newt Gingrich

I disagree with Chris Cillizza that we may be heading towards a government shutdown, but this is a fascinating short interview with Newt Gingrich where he talks about both the potential of a shutdown now as well as when we had one in 1995-96.

If the government does close on October 1st, here is a "guide to the shutdown." 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

West Wing Week

If you want to show students what Obama does in a typical week, one of the best ways is to show the weekly "West Wing Week" which is put out by the White House, so while it is biased, it does give a lot of inside video of Obama at work.  Here is the site for it. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back to School Flipping

Stealing from Frank's idea to flip by Back To School Night, above you will find the video I am sending my parents.  I am also sending them a Google form so they can think of questions both at home and when they meet me.

To make the film I used Screencastomatic which I have featured a bunch of times on this blog

Library of Congress Launches Twitter Feed

The Library of Congress is sharing ideas on Twitter.  You can follow the library by typing in the Twitter search box, @TeachingLC. 

According to the Library, their twitter feed will be a "great venue for educators to learn from each other and to explore the primary sources and teaching resources offered by the Library of Congress.” 

My thanks to my colleague, Jeff Feinstein, for sending me the link.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

CNN Student News

CNN Student News might be a good way for you to start the day.  For example, today it looks back at 9-11 and always has a short summary of yesterday's news.  For those of you who want it, below is Obama's speech from last night. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tweeting Your Class Warmup

As our students leave Facebook, more and more are using Twitter, among other social media. One of our new hires, Doug Zywiol, is using Twitter as a warm-up for his students.   Most of our students have phones that can text, but for those who do not, Doug is pairing those kids up into groups.  Doug asks his students a question to begin each class (he teaches US and government) and then the kids answer using his @DougZywiol in their text (as opposed to using a hashtag which would do the same thing).  What is great is that his students have to think (key word) and then write succinctly to answer his students, but it also serves as a way to quickly see what others are thinking.  I should add that Doug has always been a tech integrating teacher, but until this year was a "phone phobic," but very quickly has grown to love it.   If you want to see what he is doing, look at the link. I might add that some of his students from when he was in North Carolina are also participating!   

Adding a Video into Google Forms

Yesterday Google added the ability to insert a video into Google forms.  All you need to do is to go to the "insert" tab and then go down to "video" and then find it on Youtube.  Alternatively you could watch this one minute video to do it.  It is a great way to give your students a flipped video and then give them multiple choice or short answer questions.

By the way it does not yet work in Google Apps.  I should add that Google Apps are always behind the free Google Drive due to the fact that Google Apps just gets things later and school systems in general have to decide whether or not to turn something on for its students/staff and there are a lot of considerations in that prospect which is why I put my materials in my personal one and correct all my students' work in Google Apps.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Everything You Need to Know on Syria

Chris Cillizza has a great political blog called "The Fix" which gives a lot of inside information to politics in DC.  In the last year he has added video summaries such as the summary above on what is going on in Syria. 

Live Twitter Chats

Cybraryman has an incredible site that has a ton of hashtags and their times if you want to follow different subjects.  These are "live" hashtags where one goes at the time they are live and discusses topics with teachers from around the world.  As with any Twitter hashtag, discussions are limited to 140 characters, but you can add urls (shrunk - look at my recent post on this). 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lingro to Translate, Define and Give Parts of Speech

So this year two great things have already happened.  1) I decided to improve my teaching by taking on a co-ESOL teacher and taking 10 very new to the US kids in addition to my load of 20.  Secondly my AP and I hired several very tech savvy people for the department including Caitlin Kimak who found Lingro which lets you click on any word on a page and trnaslate it with several examples, lets you hear the word and tells you what part of speech it is.  So yes, while Google Translate lets you look at more at once, Lingro gives you a different angle.  Above you can see what it did for a running site that I like. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Three Ways to Shorten Your Urls

There are a bunch of ways to shorten a long url which you will want to consider using.  If you use Google Drive, you have some very long urls that you may want to send to your students using something like Remind101 (for homework) or if you want to write it on the board so students can get to a webpage quickly.   Here are some ways to do it:

  • Google's shortener is which not only shortens it, but also allows you to track click on it
  • Tinyurl is the original shortener.  It will allow you to not only shorten a url, but you can also write customized ones (as long as no one else has done so).  This is a good idea if you want your students to go to a page continuously (think homework).
  • Bitly is one where you can shorten, customize and, if you create your own account, you can keep a list of your shortened and customized urls.  So for example here the one for my AP Comparative students for homework.  

Background on Syria

George put this on our world history blog, but I think it will be helpful for government teachers as well.

Here's a great overview of the civil war in Syria from the Washington Post--why it started, why the US might intervene, why Russia opposes intervention,  and why there are no good choices for the US or any other country.

It's great for students if you cover current events and it's great to use during the end of World War II when the boundary lines of Syria were drawn.  Thanks to Bridgette Wagoner for tweeting the link.