Thursday, January 31, 2013

Digital Learning Day

Next Wednesday is Digital Learning Day.  Fourteen of my students and I have been invited by the Alliance for Excellent Education to take part in a panel discussion at the Newseum between 1-2:30 pm.  The panel is being proctored by our ABC affiliate's nightly news anchor and will include such notables as the White House Chief Technology Officer and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  ABC will be filming one of my government classes on Monday so if you are interested in doing something related to technology for the day, here is my assignment for which the students are looking at a number of different items I have detailed.  Above is a flipped class video the kids are watching tonight and then commenting on a Google Form about.  Ultimately the kids are making their own flipped class videos and using a blog page to share them w. each other. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

@apgovhelp is here!

From the same students who brought you @apushhelp, now you can follow @apgovhelp.  Expect 20 or more tweets a week with AP Government related information for the students.  Also, if your students have questions, tell them to send in a tweet and it will be answered within 24 hours (or your money back).

Pass the word around to your AP Government friends.  Right now @apushhelp has 829 followers.  @apgovhelp is in its first week, but we expect the numbers to grow.

For questions on rubric or one way to use twitter in the classroom, email  Here is a blog post from last summer.

Google Forms How To

Here is a new Google Forms how to.  I use it all the time to do the business of our department.  Tomorrow I am starting my fourth class of teachers who want to integrate technology in the classroom and Google Forms is the way I quickly collected their gmail addresses (which can then be put in the share portion of my folder for them thereby instantly sharing my items with them). 

How an Idea Becomes Law in Great Britain

For those of you teaching comparative government, this video on how an idea becomes law in Great Britain, should be of help. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thinglink: Linking Pictures to Video and Articles

David Korfhage tweeted this link to Thinglink. Thinglink allows you to upload pictures and link them to videos and articles. And it does so in a cool way. I watched the video and think the concept is great and has possibilities for class activities, maybe a web quest or something like that. Check it out see what possibilities you can find. Here's a picture of Marx and Engle's that I uploaded to Thinglink and edited. You can hover over the picture and see links and video.

Make Google Chrome More Stable: Turn on Click to Play

Amit Agarwal who writes the blog Digital Inspiration offers a great tip on how to make Google Chrome more stable. Flash Player often crashes and the video you are watching goes blank. Argawal shows you how to make changes in Google Chrome's settings to get Flash Player to play only on demand. That way, Flash Player is not on all the time thus making Chrome more stable. You can follow the steps at his site here.

The Federal Reserve

I am working my way through an econ/financial literacy course which I might be teaching next year and came across this interesting video on the Federal Reserve which might be a nice introduction for your students. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

An RSS Feed Reader for Google Chrome

In his technology blog, Digital Inspiration, Amit Agarwal, describes a great Chrome add-on called "Feeder". It is, as Agarwal explains, " like a mini Google Reader embedded in Chrome – it tracks RSS Feeds and offers instant notifications whenever new content is available."

It's very cool. I installed it this afternoon. Every time you land on a site, Feeder detects the feeds and you can subscribe to them by clicking on the icon in your browser. I like the way Feeder displays your feeds by showing you a list of the most recent entries. And every time Feeder detects a new entry, a little pop up notifies you. You can even add your email to Feeder and it will notify you .  Very cool!

Oversight Hearing

Admittedly this is a little late in getting up.  But if you want an example of Congressional oversight the Hillary Clinton testimony from last week is a good place to start. 

Super PACs and Chuck Hagel

Of course super PACs are not limited to political campaigns as Americans for a Strong Defense are showing the the new advertisement above to stop Chuck Hagel's approval as the next Secretary of Defense.  Here is a NYTimes article on it. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The US Debt Explained

This takes the watcher through fiscal policy and the role of the president and Congress in it and then onto the debt limit.  Thanks to Cynthia Yildirim for putting this on Google+ (which is now the second largest social network, even larger than Twitter). 

West Wing Week

From time to time I like to show West Wing Week which is a great overview and behind the scenes tour of what it is like to be president. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Read, Dictionary, Pictionary Chrome Extension

In three weeks I am presenting to a special education classroom and have started doing some research of education technology I want to show them in my 90 minutes (which I will post here on that day).  For now I found this great extension (watch the video above) which lets Google Drive have the words be read to them (which you can do in Microsoft Word), look up words in a regular or pictionary or go straight to a search for the word. 

New Filibuster Rules

Electoral College Changes?

Nebraska and Maine both have a system where the winner of the popular vote in each congressional state gets an electoral college vote and the winner of the state's popular vote gets two more.  VA will vote on the measure next week and Michigan, PA and Ohio (all swing states) have it on their legislative calendars.  Right now this obviously helps the Republicans, but a lot of people who want direct election of the president see it as closer to that. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

John Kerry's Confirmation

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
John Kerry's confirmation is about as easy as it gets.  Above is a video with some of it that you might want to show your students to highlight how the US Senate confirms a presidential appointment. 

AP Comparative Government Website

While I am going to add lots of things this spring to my site about comparative government, the definitive site is Ken Wedding's Comparative Government.  Ken was a long time comparative teacher and AP grader.  Going with the post below, for example, here are all his posts on the European Union. 

The European Union

The video above comes from an informative site that gives students everything they will need to know about the European Union.  Below is one picture from the site which is self explanatory.
Once my students are done with the EU, they will take this short quiz

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Popularity of the EU

My AP students have finished the AP US part and are starting AP Comparative in earnest on Friday.  Once we go over the intro part the first thing we are going to do is look at the EU and then GB.  So I will be showing them the video above and these pictures on the popularity of the EU remembering that the AP Comparative exam likes to have charts this will the first one we will discuss.  Thanks to Rebecca Small for the heads up.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Professional Learning Communities

I just taught my department about professional learning communities (PLN) last week and would have loved to have had this webpage from InformEd.  PLNs are ways that people find new information beyond their school walls.

It begins with explaining what groups you might want to join and then the protocol you would use when you join.  It also has links to a number of groups you can join.  I actually use Twitter and Google+ which are not on the group, but the author has several others to choose.  I also use Netvibes which allows me to look at updates from webpages to which I just added the InformEd page.

Next it discusses sites you can use to keep your websites.  The one I use is Diigo.  Essentially the sites that are listed are ways to bookmark your webpages in the cloud.  As with the previous section, it has lots of links.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugural Speech

On top is the entire inaugural speech and below are highlights of the ceremony and the speech itself.

Sign Documents without Hassel

For years I have kept a digital copy of my signature to add to recommendations and items sent to me to sign.  Well now there is an easier way from HelloSign that you can use along with your Gmail account.  Watch the movie above to see how and thanks to FreeTech4Teachers for the original post. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Todays' Formal Swearing In

Of course the real swearing in according to the Constitution is today at noon whereas tomorrow will just be a replaying of today's event.  You can see it above. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kahn on Nightline

Sal Kahn was just on Nightline a few days ago.  I like this piece as it is short and hits all the highlights.  The main point is that technology can greatly enhance the classroom by using short videos (mine are now all under eight minutes) and then letting the students work on projects or webquests.  I spend most of the class either working with students who are behind or walking around and checking in on the students who are up to date.  I still haven't reached my own goal which will let students work on a self paced class.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Inauguration Speeches Throughout History

Below is an aggregate of many recent inauguration speeches. If you want to see the actual video of Franklin Roosevelt through W. Bush, go here.  Here are the words from every single one and above is the speech from the first inauguration of Obama.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The NRA and Lobbying

The NRA has gotten a lot of negative feedback from the advertisement above, but it is part of a normal legislative strategy which you might want to highlight if you want to discuss legislative report cards and advertising.  You might even raise the question is the ad designed to increase membership or to convince legislators to vote against Obama's proposals (since we don't know when that is going to happen).  Also, here is a great set of graphics from the WashPost detailing members of Congress' NRA legislative report cards and their corresponding donations.  For more information on their PAC donations go to the NRA Open Secrets page

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blackboard's Free Coursesites for Teaching Online

I have been receiving lots of e-mails about offering my technology integration course online in addition to what I do in my county.  To that end I have been doing a little research.  If you ever want to teach students online for free one way to do it is using Blackboard's Coursesites.  Here are all the amazing things you can do with it.  Essentially it is what you have if you already use Blackboard with your students and it includes the Blackboard Collaborate so you can meet your students online, can have grades, put up assignments, etc.  

CNN Student News

Traditionally a lot of government teachers like to use Thursday/Friday to do current events.  One way to do is to watch CNN's Student News.  Above is the one for tomorrow. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

JSTOR is Free on Limited Basis

Anyone who has been in college or grad school recently remembers JSTOR (journal storage) and the many times you used it to get information.  Well now you can register for free and get access to three articles a week for free.  Especially if you teach an AP class, this will be an invaluable tool for you and your students. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Regular People & Earning Enough to Live

The Cosby Show video above is a nice short overview to teach students in a funny way the amazing number of items one has to purchase when working.  The video is only five minutes and really hits home for the student how much money one has to earn to stay afloat. 

School House Rocks - Tax Man

Perhaps because I mostly grew up abroad, I had no idea how many School House Rocks videos there are.  Here is one I learned about today for training for a new course (my 15th since I started teaching) on personal literacy and economics I may be teaching next fall.  The video above gives a cut overview of the three levels of taxes and briefly outlines what the money is spent on.  

Still Space in my Technology Integration Course

Starting on January 31st I will begin the fourth version of my technology integration course for Fairfax County teachers.  There still are places left in the class.  Participants will, among other things, learn to collaborate with colleagues and between students in Google Drive, better communicate with students, find and learn new technological innovations, integrate e-book into the classroom, create webquests, use mobile devices, and even collaborative video making. The course is tailored to your class and will help participants learn by doing as we look at ways to integrate various websites with social studies content.

If you are interested in taking the course, please go to MyPLT.  Once you have logged in go to the search engine and enter "Enhancing the Social Studies Classroom with Technology" into the top search box (as shown below) and press enter.  When the next page comes, you will be able to sign up for the course. 
The course will begin January 31st and will be from 4:30 to 7:30 at Woodson High School and go for ten sessions.  Please feel free to e-mail me with questions ( 

Google+ Personal Learning Network & Hangout

Google+ was never slow to find users, but it has taken some time to get people to look at it a lot.  It now has more people using it than Twitter.  One of the reason for that is the hangouts in which you can meet with nine other people (and I know Google employees can have up to 30).  If you ever want to do a live interview of someone who can't come to your classroom you can set it so that it can be also watched on Youtube (for students in other schools) and even record it as well.  Watch the top video above to see how to do this. Above is an example of a recent interview I had with two student/atheletes who run for my alma mater William and Mary (where I still run a track blog page and help with fundraising).

If that is not enough you can also follow people on Google+.  I check the feed about three times a week as I do my Twitter and Netvibes accounts (and here is my G+ account in case you want to follow it).  One of the nicest things about G+ is that you can create groups and send them separate messages.  So for example, I sent the interview above just to my W&M friends, but make all of my education posts public so everyone following me can see them.  If you want an awesome list to start following on G+, then go to Edudemic's list here and let the learning begin. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Religion Blog

Here is a link to a World Religions blog that I started over the holiday break. I teach one section of World Religions and thought that it might be helpful to have a central place for all the links and clips that we come across, like the graphic above which, according to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life  shows the rising numbers of people who do not belong to any faith.

There is a lot of information out there for those of  us who teach religion.  Every major newspaper, for example, has a religious section--CNN's Belief Blog, The Washington Post's On Faith, to name just a couple. Some of the stuff that I post might be also be useful for World and U. S History and even government. There are stories about Confucianism and Taoism making a comeback in China. And stories about the middle east and religion are often front page news.  Check it out when you get a chance.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Following Legislative Bills

I would hope most states have a group like which Virginia is lucky enough to have.  It started as an online database that is used to follow campaign contributions, but has grown to be so much more.  This year it has now added this page which allows those following the state legislature (better known as the General Assembly) to follow all the bills introduced in a session which is typically about 3000! The thing I like about this page is that it is broken up into categories so you can say look at education or bill dealing with business.  The legislative sessions opens tomorrow and goes for 30 days (as opposed to 60 in the even years). 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What happens when your lesson goes all wrong

What happens when your lesson goes all wrong and you have to recover in five minutes. Watch as this experienced English teacher tries to figure it out. My thanks to Steve Wheeler who tweeted it.

Electoral College - Obama Wins!

It's official.  Barack Obama is now the president-elect!  I like to show this to my students as it underscores that the election is now official, as of yesterday.
Below you can see the actual members of VA's electoral voters doing their thing.  If you want to see the pre-vote in VA, it is here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

My colleague, Jeff Feinstein, and I jumped into Twitter full steam this week. We both created  twitter feeds for our AP classes.

The purpose of the feeds is to give kids updates, reminders, and links to interesting stories about subjects we are studying. Jeff even uploaded pictures of student projects to his AP European twitter feed. We also used Twitter as an exit assignment. We each created a hash tag for the assignment so we could follow the results.

In AP World, I asked the kids to tweet the most important long-term cause of the French Revolution. Here are links to our class twitter feeds. You can find my AP World class at (@coeapworl and @coewphsreligion) and you can find Jeff’s at (@feinsteinAPUS and @ feinsteinapeh)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Take My Technology Integration Course

Starting on January 31st I will begin the fourth version of my technology integration course for Fairfax County teachers.  Participants will, among other things, learn to collaborate with colleagues and between students in Google Drive, better communicate with students, find and learn new technological innovations, integrate
e-book into the classroom, create webquests, use mobile devices, and even collaborative video
making. The course is tailored to individual classroom needs and helps participants become more
efficient. The goal is for participants to learn by doing as we look at ways to integrate various websites
with social studies content.

If you are interested in taking the course, please go to MyPLT.  Once you have logged in go to the search engine and enter "Enhancing the Social Studies Classroom with Technology" into the top search box (as shown below) and press enter.  When the next page comes, you will be able to sign up for the course. 
The course will begin January 31st and will be from 4:30 to 7:30 at Woodson High School and go for ten sessions.  Please feel free to e-mail me with questions ( 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

John Green and Redistricting

If you look at the world history blog, you know all about author John Green's videos.  Here is his first (just done today) on government.  It mainly deals with redistricting and why legislators are marginalized in the House.  Thanks to a Google+ post from Al Elliott

Technology Lobbying

It seems appropriate on this site to talk about the confluence of technology and lobbying.  Here is an article from the NYTimes on how companies like Google and Facebook spend millions on lobbying the US government as well as make donations to PACs, as well as are being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (lets see: campaigns, lobbying, Congress, president, bureaucracy, courts - we pretty much hit most of the our course!).  While it is a year old, here is how much each of the tech giants spend in D.C. last year.  Here is what each group spent in 2012 and if you click on the names, you can see the individual expenditures.

Come back in a few hours and I will put up an assignment my students will be doing on this post. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

iPad Tips

The video above is one I will be using for my students when we get our iPads.  In the first three minutes, you get some great tips such as how to multi task, swipe, how to lock your view one way or the other and how to split your computer.  Around 4 min it tells you how to take a picture.  I found the video on MacAdvisorUK whose author has lots of how to videos.  

FIscal Cliff Summary

Assuming the fiscal cliff is approved by the House (and then signed by the president), here is a short summary of the deal passed last night in the US Senate.