Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Whipple Report for Political Junkies

I wonder if other states are so lucky as I am to have an aggregation of all political stories e-mailed out each morning as those of us are in VA.   Theoretically (and many teachers do not follow it), VA teachers are supposed to teach state as well as local government sometimes during the year.  One of the best ways is to go to the link and sign up for the report and then watch it very closely during Jan/Feb when the legislature is in session and in Oct/Nov of odd years when the House of Delegates (in 2013) and the state senate (2015 since they have four year terms) are up for election and especially this year since VA has the only real gubernatorial race in the country (unless you think Chris Christie will have a real challenger).  While you are at it, here is a nice article on the founder of the morning report, Tom Whipple

Friday, June 28, 2013

Supreme Court Justices Graphic

The WashPost has a great graphic which tells you how often each Supreme Court justice voted with each of the other eight.  Just click on each portrait and it will give you the percentage of the other eight.  So how can you use this?  I have this assignment on how the court works and just updated it to include the graphic above.  Since it is already connected to Blackboard (we are not yet allowed to use Google Sites), it took me all of 5 seconds and I am ready to go for an assignment that will not be done for months and will not have to remember to update it until later. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gay Marriage Decisions

Above is a quick explanation of what the two Supreme Court cases on gay marriage are about.  Here is a graphic that also explains the decision.  Below are the full arguments for DOMA (US v. Windsor) and gay marriage in CA (Hollingsworth v Perry)

The Voting Rights Act Decision

There is so much out there on the Supreme Court 5-4 decision to strike down section IV and leave it to Congress, but the video above is a great, concise history of voting rights (or lack there of) in the US.

Some people believe the ruling will make it harder to create minority-majority House seats, but has a piece arguing using statistics that (using GWU professor John Sides of the Monkey Cage) that gerrymandering from the 2010 census has only netted the Republicans 7 seats and therefore the decision today might not hurt Democrats as much as they think.

Here is a third perspective from The Fix which argues that Obama is now in a tough spot since he would have to get through any legislation passed an unfriendly House of Reps.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Behind the Gratz Case

One of the cases I teach each year is Gratz v. Bollinger.  But it is the precedent I care about.  If you want the story behind the case, here is a great article from the WashPost on Jennifer Gratz and how she sued the Attorney General of Michigan.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Whipping the Vote

Here is a nice article on whipping the vote for the recent farm bill in the House of Representatives and here is the actual vote.  This might be a good way to illustrate the concept for your students.   This page from the WashPost also allows you to search for votes from any member of the 113th Congress. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Using QR Codes in Class

Here's a great tutorial on how to get started using QR codes in the classroom. There is also an Itunes course you can take for free all about how to use QR codes in the classroom. Thanks to Sean Junkins, instructional technologist in Myrtle Beach, SC for tweeting the link to the course.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Remind101 Improves Its Site

Our county has an in-service in August for which I have organized ten groups to do presentations.   If you come to this site in August I will be putting all of those in-services and their "handouts" on this blog.  One of the sites we will discuss is Remind101 which has been one of my favorites for years.  I use it to communicate with students and parents about what they should be doing at home.  This year I have also used it on days when I cannot be in class.  So recently I was grading AP exams and I pre-set a message to my class so they would know their assignment.  Since you can use Tinyurl to shorten the link address and then you can send it to your students in class when you are not there.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Fix as a Class Resource

If you ever want to pep up your government class with examples of inside Washington information to jazz up any lesson plan, one of my resources to do so is The Fix by Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza.  It has short stories, video and even short news stories and does so with one to two posts a day about very current stories.  Give it a try on Twitter or Google+ (more for the Hangouts than posts since he doesn't do lots of them) or just go to the WashPost link.

Here is an interesting recent link where he lists his favorite state reporters for politics which might be worth your time to look at to find his favorite for your state.

Above is one fun example of something fun on the page as well as this one on the top fifteen governor races in the next two years including my race in VA which is ranked #5 and is the only real one this fall (since NJ is no contest). 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More on Twitter: Educators Discuss its value

Jerry Bluemengarten and Sean Junkins, a technologist in the Myrtle Beach, SC schools discuss the value of Twitter in the slideshow below. (I collected the tweets into a program called Storify and saved it as a slide show.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Using Voice Comments with Google Docs

If you collect assignments through Google docs, you can grade and comment on on those assignments with voice comments. Tucker English walks you through the process here at TeacherCast.   The process is simple. I tried it it and it works well. When you open a Google document, click connect to more apps, just like the photo in the article. Then, every time you open a document, you just click open with "voice commands."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Moderate Elected in Iran

While the Supreme Ruler will still have the most power, the election of a relative moderate in Iran  is a follow-up to the Green Revolution you might want to discuss in your comparative class next year. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Supreme Court Rulings LIVE!

As the US Supreme Court heads towards the close of its session, one of the best places to go is SCOTUS Blog.  Here, for example is the summary of what has already been released.  Of course next week is when the key courses are coming out.  The site will be live blogging on Monday June 17th at 9:15 am EST and again on the 20th at 9:30 am.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MOOC Free Summer Courses

With summer approaching very quickly (yes I still have students until June 18th!), there may be time for you to recharge and try something else.  One thing you might want to do is to take free courses online called a Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).  Here is the complete list and here are the ones for the humanities. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Explains Motivation

Edward Snowden, identified as the source of NSA leaks, talks about his motivation in this 12 minute clip which is embedded in this Washington Post story.  The story and clip might work well with Ken's post below about Big Data and Democracy. Is Snowden really a whistle-blower?  How much privacy should we sacrifice for safety?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Have Your Students Meet WIth Foreign in Video Conferences

Today one of my 9th grade classes had an usual experience.  We had a video conference with a class of like aged students in Italy set up by Face to Faith.  You can connect with some of the countries that are part of the curriculum in AP Comparative. Yes the name gave me pause at first thinking about our First Amendment limitations, but my hesitation was unfounded.  The organization was founded by former British PM Tony Blair to connect students from multiple countries.  You can do it as a one time shot or meet multiple times and even have your students chat in their closed network. So how did it work?

I contacted FTF just three weeks ago and they were incredibly quick about getting me started.  I checked my equipement with a tech person in India and then set up my files on their website - all within four days of my initial e-mail.  Then I exchanged e-mails with my teaching peer in Italy and we Skyped each other a few days ago.  We also exchanged videos about your schools made by our students (none of which is required) so I knew the Italians were taking an English class and I must say they spoke quite fluently.  You do not need much technical experience other than how to download and run a video conferencing program called the BlueJeansNetwork,  and how to plug in a mic, LCD and speakers.

This morning I got to school about fifty minutes before the conference and connected in 30 minutes before.  We had our tech friend in India, our moderator in London, our school friends in Italy and we are just outside of D.C.  The questions ranged from "What is your typical day like" to what do you do after school, foods you like, items you study at school."  We did briefly discuss religion, but only to ask a few volunteers what religion (not surprisingly all Catholic in Italy and many religions in my school). they practiced.  My kids loved the experience and other than being shy to speak on the mic it went very well.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Big Data and Democracy

While it is still early, one might assume that the story about collecting big data from Verizon, Google and the what like will have some legs this summer, especially when connected to the IRS's looking at groups on the far right. A few posts ago I posted one idea for my first week of government (which is even funny to think about since my year isn't over until June 20th).  It is a look at the different facets of  a democracy.  But now one can use this story (and the video above) to connect in our courts, big data (looking for patterns in a large swath of data) and circumventing the fourth amendment.   If I use this one, 1) the first question I will ask is if it snares a would be terrorist - or even one that has committed a crime, is it okay to tap into our personal data. 2) is it okay if the US government wasn't listening to conversation, but only looking for patterns in the calls and you are safer as a result. 3) where do we draw the line in a democracy to protect the citizens and rounding back to the definition of democracy above.  4) What about protecting our students in our schools and using the many free Internet sites that are so useful to class, but either require login/password or put cookies in our laptops?

Below is Obama's response to the negative press including his asking my question about how much freedom one has to give up to be protected (at 5:50). 

How it all began

Nicholas Kristof tweeted this picture-- How it all began. It's all about how US intelligence has been mining data from internet firms.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Easily Make MC Test in Google Forms

We have a test maker for which we have to cut and paste each part of multiple choice questions into the "a" section and the "b" one, etc.  Well here is a much faster way for you to make convert your multiple choice questions to Google Form tests so students can take them online.  It is as easy as pasting the entire answer into the "a" slot in Google Form (as you can see above).  So very quickly you can make an exit ticket or even and entire test. I found the tip from the Google+ group Google in Education

Who is Xi Jinping?

For those of you who are already refining your AP Comparative course for next year, above is a two minute video about him and here is the NYTimes page on him.   He will be meeting with Obama in a few days so there will be lots more on him and China in the news. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Google and Lobbying

I like to connect what we study in government to what the students already know.  So about now I start thinking of what we will look at when we start the year in the fall.  Perhaps this NYTimes article on Google and its lobbying ($18 million spend in 2012) will be a choice as it covers a lot.

Hans Rosling on Population Growth & Climate Control

Thanks to Tim Stahmer for tweeting the link. Here's a link to a story about Rosling.

Joseph Nye on Global Power shifts

Historian and diplomat, Joseph Nye, discusses power in the 21st century in this fascinating Ted Talk. Nye argues that power is changing and sees two types of change.  The first is that power is shifting from west to east. Actually, Nye says power is returning to the east.  The second change, Nye argues, is that power is moving from states to non-state actors.  He notes, for example,  that non government actors, like terrorists, killed more Americans in 2001 than the Japanese did when they attacked America in 1941.

Nye discusses the implications of these changes and suggests they are not necessarily negative. My thanks to Angela Hamblen Cunningham for tweeting the link to this. You can also find on her blog 23 other Ted Talk videos for government and civics classes.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Odd Presidential Debate in Iran

Above is a video summary (run your cursor over the video to start it) about the first of the four presidential debates (and here is an article)f or the election of the next Iranian president.  The format included 90 second answers, yes/no responses and multiple choice questions.