Tuesday, December 30, 2014

#compgov to Expand Your PLC

This June I am excited as I will be grading my third different AP exam - this time with AP Comparative.  But before then I will be using my past posts (and future ones) about AP Comparative government to help me teach my students starting the third week of January.  Another way I will get information is from the hashtag #compgov.  If you are new to Twitter a hashtag is a place where you can ask others questions and/or "store" information which anyone can see later.  For example, one of the AP Comparative leaders is Andrew Conneen.  As soon as I made the post below on Gapfinder, he tagged it to the #compgov hashtag and now even more people can see it.  This blog, the Facebook page for AP Comparative and the hashtag are all ways for you to expand your collaborative learning team - especially if you are like me and are the only AP Comp teacher in the building. 

Gapminder for AP Comparative Government

Thanks to Ken Wedding for a post on the AP Comparative Government Facebook page for the information on Gapminder which lets you see a nation's per capita income over time or in one snapshot.  Above and here are the six AP Comparative nations as well as the US from 1800 to the present (which is a real trick since I am assuming it counted Iran as Persia during part of that period!). 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Snag-It for Chrome & Google Drive

This is pretty cool.  I have used Snag-it at school for years, but it is almost a pain as I have to go find it most of the time on my tools and I much prefer to have apps added to Chrome.  Well now I am all set as Snag-it has a Chrome add on that adds each item into your Google Drive account.  It lets you take the entire screen, parts of it and even movies and then annotate them.  Above is a video explaining how to use it. To found about it from TechSmith on Twitter

Friday, December 26, 2014

More Ideas for Good Learning

This presentation adds to the posts I have done on the book, How We Learn.  It repeats the thought that we learn best when we have breaks.  Indeed the technique Barbara Oakley mentions is 25 minutes of focused attention (no texting, looking at unrelated Internet pages) and then taking a break of a few minutes.  This, she says will increase learning retention.  As for tests, she suggest studying many times with flash cards, multiple techniques, etc.  As she points out, would you sing a song once and think you learned it - of course not.  As for underlining parts of a book, she says the most innovative to learn from a book is to read, then look away and see what you can remember.  Also, assume just reading will help you learn.  Mastery comes from repetition and interacting with what ever you are learning. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Intro to China This Year

Two weeks after getting back to school, I will be finished with AP US Government and moving onto AP Comparative.  While China is on the far end of the course, the video above will be the primer I use to introduce China (yes, they will watch at home).  

Monday, December 22, 2014

China, Oil and the Silk Road

When we get back from break, we'll only have a week before I will finish AP US government and then a week later we will begin AP Comparative so I am contemplating how I can use the video above from the NYTimes which is on the Silk Road(s) as it moves through China and the outpost where the country gets much oil for its industrial machine.  The story looks at the division of rich and poor as well as Muslim and Han Chinese. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Learning Pod Needs Test Question Writers

Learning Pod has a tremendous number of resources including AP practice questions for your students.  But they are also a way for you to make extra money.  So if you go here you can apply to write questions for the AP content areas for social studies.  If you want to go to their site and see their resources, go here

Macroeconomics and Russia

Russia is suffering greatly, in part, due to the falling oil prices as the Ruble's value has been dropping precipitously.  Fifty percent of Russia's government's revenue comes from oil.  Above you can listen to the first two minutes of the talk from the Economist and here is a great article from the NYTimes which looks at several things taught in macroeconomics including selling of government assets abroad and raising the interest rate.   This is an article that I can use for both my economics' classes as well as comparative government. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

VideoNot.es for Flipped Video Notetaking

Normally I ask my students to split their screen, but this relatively (it came out last April) new app called Videonot.es that does that for you, putting the video on the left and the notes on the right.  It is then synced with Google Drive so it automatically (if you approve it to do so) puts the notes in your Google  Drive folder.  You will also note that whenever you begin taking notes, it shows where you are in the video and if you click on that line of  the notes, it will take you back to the relevant place in the video.  

It is also available for Google Apps so your students can get it in the free or paid Google Drive.

Above is a video showing you how to use it.

WeVideo for your Video Creations

My daughter is working with a friend of a class video for tomorrow. They took their video clips using my wife's smartphone and then uploaded them onto WeVideo and very easily combined their clips into one video. You can add music, words, images, fade in/out, cut items out, etc. It also is an app in Google Drive so you can then upload it straight into your account (to add it to Google Drive, go to "more" under docs, presentation, etc. and then it will always be on your drop down for programs with Google Drive.

Join Me in Spain for an In-Service

This July 12-13 I am teaching a two day institute on the Mediterranean Sea coast near Marbella in Spain (very near Gibraltar).  The course will be two full days in which where we will be designing lesson plans to personalize learning for your students.  This means we will learn how to create a flipped video and what to do in the classroom once that is done including giving immediate feedback as well as giving formative evaluations.  Finally we will expand your own school PLC to one online so that you can follow-up the session with more collaboration and ideas well after the institute is over.  If you are interested, please go here to sign up for the course.  There is a considerable discount if you sign up by the middle of February.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Education Week Post

Way back in August Larry Ferlazzo asked me to respond to one of his reader's queries which was posted today.  The post looks at "interactives"  which allow students to work in class on "problem sets" where the teacher can walk around the room and act as a facilitator rather than as a passive lecturer.   Interactives are which are explored in my upcoming book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction.  The quote above is from the article but it really comes from a wonderful woman who taught my methods class back when I was learning to be a teacher.  While I have long since lost forgotten her name, the charge she gave us to keep up with student learning as it has evolved as not been forgotten by me in the twenty-five years since she said it to me.  

Mastery Learning Discussion and Examples

I believe watching my own children grow has helped to make me a better teacher.  For example my son is a very good gamer, but he is also very good at failing.  By that I mean he is willing to fail as many times as it takes to master a game which leads to his mastering the material and then moving on to another one.  It strikes me that I need to emulate my son's learning with all of my classes.  By that I mean I have mostly flipped my classes and so have much more time to move around the classroom helping my students.  While we are on a unit I also allow students to correct work again and again and consequently have no late grades and have mostly moved beyond a textbook in three of my four content classes and have set up an individualized learning model (see my book about this).  So it strikes me that I need to fully move to a standards based learning model as the last part of my educational evolution.  So in that move, you are going to see lots of videos and examples of mastery learning as I teach myself and fumble through this process.

So above my musings is a video overview of how mastery learning works in any classroom.  It is a great overview to explain the process and even does something no one has ever done for me which is to define mastery learning.  Below this writing is a video my fellow blogger, Frank Franz, made for his back to school flip parent video.  Watch it closely as it has not only an explanation of flipped learning (which really is the bedrock of mastery learning), but also how he carries out mastery learning, both in terms of objectives, daily learning, grading and, finally showing mastery.  The key, as I am learning, is that if the child is motivated, he/she can redo anything and potentially show better mastery.  But this means that the child might have additional (to the videos) learning and therefore need more motivation.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Obama's Executive Order Explained

This goes with my previous post on Obama's executive order, but this one explains what it is about and the background to it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Google Classroom

If you have your students work in Google Drive, a new way to do it is through Google Classroom.  It allows you to see who has turned in what and when.  You do have to have a Google Apps for Education account as do your students.  The key to the video above is that you can see both the teacher and the students accounts side by side above. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Zaption to Personalize Your Flipped Videos

Thanks to Scott Nichols for this tip.  Zaption allows you to take any YouTube or Vimeo video, edit them, add questions, text and images and then share it with your students using a url.  It is also free! Below is a video explaining how to do it. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quizlet and Studying for Tests

Admittedly one needs to know a lot more than just vocabulary in economics, but it is certainly a place to start.  So one thing you can do is to have your students use Quizlet to see if they know all of their vocabulary.   Quizlet allows students to use traditional flash cards as well as a number of learning games.  You can even set it up for your class and each student can compete against one another.   Above is an example of the what you might study for Congress.  You can choose to make the cards yourself, have your students do so or even just use someone else's as I have done here.  But if you go with the last choice, make sure you like each card.  Alternatively, if you set up an account, you could make a copy of someone else's cards and then make them exactly the way you want them.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Franksgiving and Executive Orders

With all the noise against Obama's executive order on immigration most forget that there was also a lot of unhappiness in moving back Thanksgiving a week in an attempt to stimulate the economy.  This happened in 1939 and those against it dubbed it "Franksgiving."  Indeed several states even refused to go along with it.  It is a good example of the powers of the president and a way to remember what is meant by an executive order. Here is a recent Politico story on it. 

Remind Your Students Using Texts

Today I found an article on the Washington Post that goes with along with what some of my students are doing for homework.  So, today I sent them the link to the article and was able to do it because all of my students voluntarily sign up for Remind.com because they like the reminder.  You can send a simple text and even add an attachment and, if you want to, put it on Twitter as well.  Over the years I have used it I have become convinced that kids, more than not, don't do their homework because of poor planning or organization and Remind has helped immensely on this.  Above is a video explaining how to use it.  Of course the service is free and parents can sign up for it as well.  Finally it is also only a one way text. 

Facebook and Campaigns

Facebook, as you can see in this article, has joined with Acxiom which allows the social networking giant to match postal addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and user IDs (if they don't have them already).  In this way Facebook can sell ads to campaigns and reach you faster than mail and more or less ensure you will read it - as opposed to traditional mail.   This micro-targeting is being done by lots of firms, but none have the 1 billion names that Facebook has.
Here is Facebook's ad page for campaigns.

Below is a PBS story on what is meant by micro-targeting. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Executive Orders in One Chart

538 has put every executive order in one chart (above) and here.  There are also a number of links to related articles. 

How Government Impacts US History on Thanksgiving

I have put this on my blog before and will show it to my students on Wednesday and it is so perfect in describing the interplay between government and US history.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Teach Writing with the Help of Technology

Ironically, at the same time one of my classes is starting to write a research paper, I received an email from Robert Morris asking if he could write a post for my blog.  His write-up is so useful I am putting it up in its entirety.   At the top of this post I am also including a video I made last year on the mechanics of writing an essay such as what is a thesis, topic sentence(s), outline sentence(s), etc.

How to Teach Writing with the Help of Technology
If you are constantly frustrated by your students’ inability to understand what you expect from academic assignments, maybe it’s time to turn to technology tools. Teaching students how to write is one of the greatest challenges that professors face. No matter how hard they try to explain different writing techniques and help their students go through the different stages of essay writing, the results are hardly satisfactory.
Every teacher knows that some of the most important aspects of successful academic writing are organization, research, proofreading and editing, but they cannot motivate students to put enough effort in all stages of the project. The following tools will help both you and your students deal with the challenge more easily.

Tools to use during the research stage

This is the part when your students need the most help. If you want to be satisfied with the content they submit, you need to teach them how to do a proper research. Suggest these tools to help your students go through this stage:
Instead of forcing them to spend several days in the library locating proper sources for a research paper, you should suggest this online tool to your students. This is an online library that offers an immense choice of relevant research information.           
You don’t consider Google to be the right destination for finding reliable sources, but your students keep using it. Google Scholar is the compromise – it provides them with a research environment they are used to, but leads to reliable sources that can be used as a foundation for academic projects.
At this website, you can find top-quality eBooks that you can suggest as referencing sources. You can research the online library and tell your students to discuss particular books, but you can also inspire them to conduct the research individually or in teams.

Best proofreading and editing tools

Teachers are really frustrated when their students submit draft version of their papers. Instead of repeating the same things about the importance of proofreading and editing, you should suggest the following tools that will lead to practical results:
If you notice that some of your students need serious assistance during the writing and editing stage, you should suggest them to hire professional writers and editors at this website. A single investment can result with an extraordinary improvement in their research, writing and editing skills, since the students get to learn through collaborating with real experts at this website.
Although this is a basic checker that cannot lead to flawless papers, it will still help your students avoid some embarrassing mistakes. The engine corrects the most common errors in academic writing, so you can suggest it as the right tool to use when your students’ papers need a quick fix.

Plagiarism detection tools

The process of teaching your students how to write involves the issue of plagiarism. They clearly use resources to support the discussion, so the content can easily end up being too similar to something that has already been written before. These are the plagiarism detection tools you should suggest:
This simple engine detects the parts of the paper that have been plagiarized from online resources. When your students see the highlighted content, they will know which parts need to be referenced or improved with their own comments.
This website combines three useful tools: grammar check, plagiarism detection, and writing suggestions.

You can also rely on these plagiarism detection engines in order to make sure that the content your students submit is unique. When they start combining them with the research and editing tools we listed above, they will soon start completing better academic content and making you a happier teacher.    

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Executive Orders and Immigration

Tomorrow night President Obama will announce his new executive order on immigration.  EOs, are fair game for the AP exam and should also be taught in a regular education course.  If you check here tomorrow night,

Here is what you need to know about the EO, if it will be legal and more.

Here, by the way are all of Obama's executive orders and here George W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's. Here is a list of the number of all executive orders by each president all the way back to Washington.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About the 2014 Election

First off you need to always know the bias of a site and Vox is definitely liberal.  Having said that, good luck finding the bias in this great series of images and stats from last week's election.  Not only that, but it has a graphic for each of the 26 items on it, even showing the 2016 election for president should it have been run today.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Learning Pod Student Review System

My two AP classes each have two exams that they will have to take in May which prompted one student to ask me the other day how we would review for both AP exams.  Well the answer, if you read my post below on How We Learn is to go back frequently, but not every day and review old material.

One way to do this is to let your students use Learning Pod which allows students to take review questions on any AP exam that are preparing for without having to even login.  However if the students want to login then they will receive an explanation for their incorrect questions.  

Teachers can also create "pods" of their own tests that they have created which they can make available for anyone or just for their own students.  There are also different ways (url, Tweets), etc that teachers can use to share a pod with students.

If you want to easily see all the AP offering questions, go here or to the logo on the right of the page any time you want.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Net Neutrality and Government

This is a great issue for your government class as it pits Democrats and Republicans.  Google, Facebook, etc. want net neutrality which the Internet services want there to be charges for faster speeds.  Here is a NYTimes article on it.

Opposite to Obama's net neutrality is Ted Cruz (R-TX) who calls it "Obamacare for the Internet."  He sides with the Internet companies.  Below is one of their ads.

Making it more fun is Tom Wheeler who is the chair of the FCC who is in charge of the position. Wheeler raised lots of money for Obama, but is also a former lobbyist.  Finally the decision, in the past has even been attacked in the courts, so that is one more item to bring in.

How We Learn

As I have noted before, it is not often that I push something that costs money, but at Frank Franz' suggestion I read How We Learn, by Benedict Carey.  Here are some of the highlights in Scientific American.  The upshot is that the author contends with quantitative backing:

  • that studying day after day is not good that we should have a day or two off after studying the first time and that there will be surprisingly more retention when one tests on the third day after studying than on the day you studied
  • that studying on multiple days, not in succession increases long term retention
  • that brief study breaks to do things totally unrelated such as checking text messages, as long as not done every few minutes help the brain make connections
  • that going back to earlier material all year again helps the learning process
  • that having students think and not just listen and write makes the long term learning better

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Internet Access for All Students

Each year I teach two AP classes, 2 standard ones and one online.  So of my roughly 150 students, about 5-6 start the year without a laptop and all are in my two standard classes.  What is different this year is that all but one has some Internet connection be it via a smartphone or a laptop.  So all students can watch flip videos and see links to items online so the "worst case" is that they have to write their answers on paper - which, yes, even for me works.  But there are still things that just cannot be done on a smartphone.

But a few years ago a girl in one of my classes came in beaming one day and said because of my class her mother had bought her a laptop.  When I asked if this was a bad thing (ie did I pressure her in some way) she said no and that her mother had no idea schools used laptops that much.  Well now I find a time outside of class to talk to all my non connected students and always mention Chromebooks saying that it is what I bought my own children ($250 for 11" and $300 for 14").  Kids today do not need Microsoft Windows and for that matter Microsoft now has OneDrive which allows you to do most of what you do in Word, but online.  So as it has been in the past three years, three kids have come to me so far to tell me that they now have laptops and two more are getting theirs soon.  Not only that but parents have even thanked me for suggesting it.

For me it boils down to this.  I know that students will need online capabilities when they enter the workplace and by not asking, I am helping to foster a situation where my students are far behind most of their peers.  I also stay after school 90 minutes each day and help kids learn how to be connected - as well as how to do their work.   To get to the point, not asking a student is worse than asking so see if you can't get more of your students connected. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

China, Iran and Fodder for AP Comparsative

Above is an audio overview of Obama's upcoming trip to China on Monday and nuclear negotiations with Iran.   

Friday, November 7, 2014

King v. Burwell (Challenge to Obamacare) Explained

So I am really sad that we are losing Stephen Colbert because Jon Stewart often is just a little too inappropriate, but if you want to explain why the US Supreme Court just took the challenge to Obamacare, called King v. Burwell, his video is pretty good.  If you want it in written format, go to Vox's story on the newest case to get certiorari. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Predicting the Electoral College Assignment

In two weeks my students will be completing this assignment to try and predict the Electoral College for 2016.  I have a number of links that should help your students or if you have some, please send them to me as well.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2014 and 2016 Elections

So some important words my students hopefully learned last night were midterm, general election, divided government, majority leader, polls, incumbent, open seat, etc.  To go through the results we are going to look at the 2014 returns in the context of 2016.  In that we are going to put up the 270toWin map and if both senators are Republican we will switch (just tap on the state to do this) the state to that party and the same for Dems.  Then we will make the split states gray and talk about swing states.  You also might want to see this series of comparisons between the more likely presidential candidates.  I will also be devising an assignment for the kids to do which I will put on this blog in the next week. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Howjsay to Pronounce Words

A number of my students are either currently ESOL students or were in the program in the last year or two.  So one of the resources we use is Howjsay.com where you can input a word and it says it for you.  The other day for example, we were looking at Japan and submitted the word archipelago.  It also links the word to a Google search so you can find out more about what you are trying to pronounce.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Awesome Video on Gerrymandering

Not only does this video define gerrymandering, but it also graphically shows gerrymandered districts in North Carolina.  Two minutes and your students will get it! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Senate Not Looking Good for Dems

As you can see from the different news sources above, it is not looking good for the Dems next Tuesday.  Here is what the Upshot, from the NewYorkTimes says about the most interesting eleven races and where is what my favorite - 538 says.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Midterm Election Ads

This is a great set of advertisements, which was Tweeted to me by Mashable, some of which I am going to show my government student tomorrow.  As part of the presentation, we'll review the following terms: midterm, gerrymandering, incumbent, open seat, primary, caucus, Baker v. Carr, Westbury v. Saunders, # in the House, # in the US Senate, general election, etc. Here are all of the ads.

In case you missed the Cowboy - Washington game last night, Ed Gillespie (R) ran an ad tying the Washington team name to over involvement of government 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Government Assignment

Today the WashPost has an article on lobbying, candy and laws and since my students just finished Congress and interest groups and are working on the executive branch and the bureaucracy, I expanded on the article and made this assignment.  We'll do it on Friday and end with the question of whether or not the federal government should regulate sugar and if, not should the government pay for the problems (such as diabetes) that come from too much candy consumption. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Book is Getting Closer & You Can Pre-Order Now

So I started my blogs in April of 2008 - which means I have been hawking free wares for quite a long time.  But no more!  My book manuscript should arrive in my in box in a few days and after I initial it, the next stop is the printer.  The publication date is the last week of January, but you and/or your school or district can pre-order it now.  

The title pretty much says it all.  I believe that technology is great since that is the world we now live in, but two terms I use in my book are "first and second order" uses of technology.  First order is just digitizing everything you normally do on paper while "second order" is using technology to do learning with your students (such as individualizing) that you could not do without it.  Not only do I give you the research, but I give you the step by step instructions for how to do this.

Over the next few months, I will be giving you more details on the book so please keep reading if you aren't yet sure if you want to purchase it yet.   If you go here, there is both a very detailed chapter outline as well as the early reviews and a way to order the book.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twitter Warm-up for Your Classes

Today my colleague, Doug Zywiol asked his US history classes to Tweet him the biggest hurdle facing George Washington when he started his presidential term.  If you go to @dougzywiol you can see the student responses.  To have your students do it, they simply need to add your Twitter handle to a text and then you can project the responses on the board or simply have your students use their smartphones to look at and discuss the answers.  Alternatively you could make a hashtag (just put the "#" symbol along side any class name you might invent (such as @Zywiolclass) and then have your students add this to their text.  Then go to the newly made site to see all of the Tweets.

By the way Zywiol's government students were doing their government service hours and met Barbara Comstock (see image above) who is likely to be a new member of Congress come January and of course they Tweeted about it so Zywiol's other students could see it.

Obviously no matter the subject you teach, you can use Twitter to start your warm-up.  If you are like us and have slow laptops, it can be done while the laptops are logging in. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scottish Referendum Explained

This is a great video which does more than just explain the referendum that the Scottish recently voted as it explains Scottish history as well as uses great AP comparative terms such as devolution, referendum, what is meant by Great Britain and has some nice maps.

I found it on Ken Wedding's AP Comparative Facebook page. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Congressional Demographics' Webquest

My colleague, Doug Zywiol found this web quest on Congressional demographics on the Internet, so if it is yours, please tell me so I can give you credit.  I spruced it up a bit, but otherwise it has some great links and questions.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Remind Gets Even Better

Remind (which used to be Remind101) is getting even easier.  Stating in November all your students and parents will have to do is to text "81010" and your unique class code (which you make) and they will be signed up.  I have been using the site for the past three years and their CEO even gave my upcoming January release book (Deeper Learning Through Technology) a nice endorsement.   I can't say enough for how it has improved my students' memory to get their nightly text reminders in finishing any lingering work they may have for me.  

Flipped Videos for AP Comparative

One of my colleagues, Larry Stroud, has flipped all of his AP Comparative lectures.  Above is one on the European Union and here are the other ones (plus some US government ones).  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Redistricting Game

We just went over re-redistricting in class so my students will play the redistricting game next week.  It is a good way to showcase the concept and to help them differentiate between reapportionment and redistricting.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

PACs, Super PACs, Dark Money & Lesson Plan

Today we were discussing interest groups and one of my students asked about super PACs which we are going over next class.  Tonight I just saw that the NYTimes has an article on PACs, super PACs and something new called "dark money" which, while it will not make the AP exam this year is nonetheless exam.  The video from the article is above.

The video below is my favorite from Steven Colbert when he explains the difference between PACs and super PACs.

For those of you who want more, here is what my students are doing on interest groups.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Politics, Hispanics, Immigration & Your Classroom

The Obama administration has been attacked by groups saying they are not doing enough to stem the flow of illegal immigrants.   You can use the issue to discuss the workings of Congress and the executive branch.

  • Obama, above, is speaking to the Hispanic Caucus' annual meeting where he addresses illegal immigrants and giving them permanent status in the US.
  • At the same time the executive branch has increasingly deported a record number of illegal immigrants (which he did not address in front of the caucus, but is more than Bush, Clinton or HW Bush did as you can see in this Pew report)
  • This also can bring up hyperpluralism since nothing has been done on this issue in decades.
  • You can even speak about interest groups.  An Hispanic one is the National Council for LaRaza. You could then have your students go to Open Secrets and see what kinds of candidates the group is donating to each year. 

Communist vs Free Trade China

One of the classes I teach is AP Economics (and you can go here to see my economics' blog) and for that class I use ACDCLeadership.  But this video (and other items such as the Gini coefficient) overlap the two classes).  So above is a super video on China talking about if China is planned or free market economy.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Partisan Gerrymandering

Here and here are stories on a US District court decision that said the 2000 redrawing on a Congressional district in VA has unconstitutionally packed African-Americans together.  Therefore by 2016, the district needs to be withdrawn.  This is just in time for the flipped video my students watch on gerrymandering. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Writ of Certiorari in 43 Seconds!

The NYTimes got it right when it said that the Supreme Court let stand the circuit court decisions on gay marriage, but most news sources generally start by saying something like "The Supreme Court decided..." What this means is that if you are gong to discuss the refusal to listen to the cases then, of course, you'll need to discuss a writ of certiorari and how cases are accepted by the court.  The video above not only explains it, but uses words to help in the explanation.  The best explanation of why the Supreme Court might have denied cert comes from Scotus Blog.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

One Country, Two Systems & AP Comparative Government

So during the AP Comparative portion of our year (which this year will start in the second week of January) we will discuss "issues" for each of the countries we are studying.  As part of these issues, we look at "conceptual terms" which I then add to each country's issues's sheet.  So here is the sheet on China.  Usually I have the students find the resources needed to boil each issue down to 3-4 bullet points, but every once in a while I find an article which is so good I will link it for the kids.

So for example this NYTimes article gives us the back ground on Hong Kong and why it is different than mainland China.  It also links it to Maggie Thatcher who is also fair fodder for the AP Comparative exam.

While we are at it my next book is going to be Strange Rebels which comes highly recommended from a friend and is about 1979 when the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan, Maggie Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping came to power in Great Britain, and the Iranians had their revolution (and yes, there is a part on the new Polish Pope) which means in one book you get half of the comparative countries! 

Super PACs and Teaching

The NYTimes has a great article on Super PACs.  One the featured ones is Americans for Prosperity which is a liberal leaning organization.  Super PACs are part of the AP Government exam so showing students some of the current ads (there are more conservative ones) and explaining Citizens United v. FEC.

Scotus Blog for Everything on the Supreme Court

When I am looking to teach about the current Supreme Court, Scotus Blog is where I turn.  It has analysis, videos, statistics, petitions, interviews and so much more.   Right now the Court is deciding what cases to give cert to and with a lot of speculation of if gay marriage is taken, the place to go is Scotus Blog.  Here is a recent July interview with Yahoo News (which is now led by Katie Couric) that I found on the blog.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Joshua Wong - Demonstrator in Hong Kong

Nearly 60 years ago my father, then a medical student, helped lead demonstrations against the communist government in Czechoslovakia.  So you can imagine that I am loving the actions of the students in Hong Kong while worrying about the repercussions that might come against them.

At any rate, above is a primer on Joshua Wong who is being touted as one of the leaders of the demonstrations.  Here is more on him.  Hong Kong and its status relative to China is fair game for the AP Comparative exam.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Senate - Where Will it Land?

The NYTimes has a 67% and the 538 blog, a 61% chance of the US Senate going to the Republican side with the midterm elections.   Use the links to look at each site's extensive look at the upcoming elections.

If you want House forecasts, go to 270towin.

Monday, September 29, 2014

463 Amendment Proposals Since 2003

Since 2003 there have been 463 amendments to the US Constitution proposed by members of the US Congress.  The last one to get past 2/3s of both houses was for voting rights in the District of Columbia.  Here is more from Pew.  I found out about this from Mr. Cummings on Twitter

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another Continuing Resolution, Naturally!

Above is a short video explaining what is meant by a CR (continuing resolution) and right below it is a chart detailing the number of CRs each year since 1977.  Here is a nice article from my dissertation chair, Sarah Binder, giving a number of details on the recent history and telling us that, as usual, the 12 budget bills will not be passed by Wednesday (end of the month) and instead we have a CR until December 11th.  

Flipping, flipping, flipping!

All three of my preps this year are being flipped so I am really getting into it which is good after four years of practicing the "craft."  Today we are having a tech in-service at Hayfield Secondary where I teach and I am teaching two sections of how to flip one's classroom.  If you aren't a teacher at Hayfield and want to watch how to do flip, above is an eight minute video detailing all of the steps and what to do in the classroom after you have done your flipped lecture.

Here is an example of a flipped video, the actual Google form we used and the interactive assignment that followed in class

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Free Government "Textbooks" for Your Students

While I love our ebook for US government, this year I have been particularly bothered by Pearson's whose servers have been closed at times during the school day.  That being said, I strongly believe the textbook should just be one source of information and not the only place where students learn.  Indeed, if I were a textbook executive I would be scared to death of sites such as CitizenU which has all the videos and short readings to replace the traditional government textbooks.  It even includes thoughtful AP type questions.  In fact the two founders, Andrew Conneen and Dan Larsen are both question leaders at the AP US Government and AP Comparative readings so really know their topics.  Above is one of their videos.

There is also a group I used to work with in Philadelphia which has a great standard government textbook which you can find here.   

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How a Bill Really Becomes a Law Assignment

So I know I put up the bottom one in July, but so many more people come to the blogs during the school year, so here it goes again.  My students still love the Schoolhouse Rock videos.  Most, of course, know the top one, but the bottom one on how a bill really becomes a law is awesome and a must to show your students.   My students will watch it and then write down and explain the real steps of making a bill into a law using this assignment which has lots of other links. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Use Preferences & Make Your Own Short Cuts in Google Docs

This comes from Caitlin Tucker who has made the short video above to show you pre-set preferences in Google Docs and how to additional ones of your own.  This comes in handy when you are grading papers and don't want to write the same comment over and over. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Medicaid Expansion Deliberation

Deliberations allow students to be presented with new information and then have discussions as part of the learning process.  Thanks to Dee Thompson for this deliberation on Medicaid expansion.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Article & Student Questions on Scotland for AP Comp

Here is a great article, complete with videos and here are the questions I am asking my students along with it.  Call it a mini-flipped lesson as there is a nice video with David Cameron.  Generally I have my AP Comp students research "issues" and add them to my "conceptual terms," but since Scotland has been so in the news, I thought I would jump on it early.

By the way, I have long put images on my assignments and this year two of my students started doing it themselves.  I liked it so much that if my students complete any reading assignments - or notes for a flipped video, then they too have to put in images.  Since we think in images and not words, it really is a good technique to remember something.   

Book Recommendation: How We Learn by Benedict Carey

There aren't many books about teaching that truly excite me, but I just finished reading a book that every educator should read. How We Lean: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey details several techniques that teachers and students can employ to increase student learning. Teachers may have heard of or even used a couple of the techniques, but Carey provides the background and details that will allow teachers to say "here's what I'm doing, and here's why it works" to themselves, their students, colleagues, and administrators.
Why will I give chapter pre-tests from now on? To see how much students know? No. To have students see what they know before beginning a new unit? No. I'm going to give chapter pre-tests because studies have shown that even when students fail to answer the pre-test questions correctly, a seed is planted that changes the way a student interacts with the content of the upcoming chapter, with students who took pre-tests performing better on assessments than those students who did not take the pre-tests.
One other technique described in How We Learn relates to those of us who have year-end exams, such as state assessments, Advanced Placement Exams, and course final exams. Carey describes the "spacing effect," which calls for students to space out their studying in a unique way. He's not recommending that students study several days in a row leading up to their test, which many teachers have probably recommended to their students. Carey suggests that non-study days be inserted between study days leading up to a test. Research has shown that retention of information for the long term increases using this method, thus student performance on cumulative tests, such as year-end tests, increases.

Read How We Learn so you can apply the rest of what Carey presents in order for your students to learn more effectively.
Frank Franz
Madison High School
Vienna, Virginia

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Free Market vs Repression in China

I am not yet sure how I am going to do it, but I always have my AP Comp students work on "issues" relating to each of the six comp countries and couple them with terms that the kids have to learn. One of the issues I am thinking of doing is the fact that they have both incredibly big and successful companies coupled with repression of freedoms.  Part of that might include using the short above on China's most successful company - Alibaba - which went public today.  While it is not a household name here, it is as large or larger than any US based Internet company than Google. 

My Book Now Can be Pre-Ordered!

We now have a definitive early January release date for my book, whose name has changed to "Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction."  The name pretty much says it all as I relate research, examples and explanatory tutorials to show you how to effectively use technology for both primary (technology being used in ways similar to paper and secondary (more of the book and ways to allow you to do things you cannot do without technology).   There are also five "teacher challenges" per chapter so that you and your PLCs could set goals for your teams to integrate the techniques into your classrooms and school.    

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Creating a Poll

My doctorate is in political science so this article is particularly appealing to me as my dissertation was steeped in statistics and quantitative research which is exactly what is in involved in polls.  So, while, this article from the 538 blog might be too much information for your students, it would be a great background for you to explain some of the nuisances of how statisticians know who might win an election.  In this case, the author, Nate Silver discusses the fact that the US Senate now has a 53% chance of going Republican - a number that has been going down.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lesson on Writing a FRQ in AP Government

My students are watching this video over the weekend as a precursor for learning how to write for AP free response questions.  I will do an informal quiz to make they know the key words and then we will read an actual FRQ that my students can partially answer with the knowledge they now have. Then I will show them the rubric and they will have to grade each one.  In true AP grader style I will make them tell the class what they have chosen for each FRQ and then we will discuss why it received the grade it did.

During the year I have the kids "grade" their DBQs as they go along, meaning if it is six point response they have to show me where each of the points go.  Then, on the right side I put my points (with a 1 for the first point, 2 for the second, etc.)  So that means if they have a ID and an explain and only get the first 1.  If the second part has an ID and an explain and they got both points, I would give them 1, 3 and 4 for a total of 3 points as in (1+1+1=3).  So each point has a specific meaning.  This also saves in writing explanations since we go over it in class and they have to correct their mistakes.

The Rise of Xi

I'll get something up shortly on the no vote in Scotland, but first here is a nice article on what Xi has been doing in China.  It comes from the Economist.  By the way if you go to that site too often and it starts blocking part of your article, just put the title in a search engine and you will be able to see it in its entirety.

The article on Xi is great as it covers a large number of terms you are teaching your students such as: Cultural Revolution, collectivist consensus, Mao, Deng, Communist Party, corruption,  free market, one child per family policy, the plight of the migrant workers and the Central Committee.  About the only major thing not dealt with is human rights.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014


One of the questions that is lingering with our newer front against terrorism is what to call our newish enemy.  Here is a succinct article describing why Obama is using ISIL and others are using ISIS.  Basically Obama sees the groups as a greater threat than to just Iraq and Syria (as in "IL) and rather is using Levant to refer to the former French and British colonial areas.   So this is where we see if the "Bully Pulpit" is stronger than the collective press.  Already a slight majority of members of Congress, but certainly not all, on both sides of the aisle are starting to use ISIL.    Also in the link above, you can see the chart above and see the dates of when members of Congress started changing their terminology.