Saturday, May 24, 2014

Controlling the Press, Part II

Here is yet another "impromptu" walk by the President from the White House to the Dept. of Interior.  It was just put up and already has two million hits.  You could discuss the "power of the pulpit" and ask your kids what message is Obama trying to convey in the video (see my previous post on this).  The person walking besides him, by the way is one of his advisors, John Podesta, who was Clinton's Chief of Staff.   The person who gave Obama the M & Ms is is "body man" who gives him his daily schedule, hand sanitizer and takes all the things he is handed during the day. 

Great Student Made Overview of Studying US Government

Every once in a while I like to look at who is following me and if I like what they have been posting on Twitter, I follow them back.  So Mary Ward is one of these people which is where I found this great student video (above) that is a great overview of what students learn in government.  Clearly the student also understands the relationships between the different learning areas.  If you want to follow me on Twitter, go here

Chromebooks as an Inexpensive Alternative for Schools

It is interesting to me that schools are willing to pay a great deal of money for tablets when laptops can do more.  The problem, of course, is that many see laptops as being even more expensive.  A number of teachers in my county would love to move to Chromebooks (which is taking a while for approval as we are a huge district).  But Chromebooks, as you can see in the video above are cheap ($200-350) laptops that range from 11 to 15".  They are inexpensive because they are essentially online devices.  Yes you have some space on the laptop and yes you can now work offline on Google Drive documents, but think about what you do on your laptop.  How often are you not connected to the Internet?  If we truly want our students to be prepared for the 21st century then they all need devices in school.

Chromebooks utilize the strength of Google Drive, but you can also use Microsoft's OneDrive (which recently changed names from SkyDrive).  I have been using online documents for four years and will admit that I used to download them onto my school's server, but at some point I just stopped as I realized that Google does a better job of safely backing up my work than my school district (who also does a great job).  I also want to be able to access my work anywhere (hey I love my job and work a lot of evenings and weekends) and don't want to have download VPN on every laptop and/or have to be married to one device.

So if you are interested, here is a link to purchasing Chromebooks on Amazon.  A number of schools also lease them for three years (which is essentially the life of a computer anyway).  Since it is a web based device all of the updates are down automatically and of course improvements to Google Drive or for that matter OneDrive are also automatic. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Media, the President and that Baseball Visit

Apparently even impromptu visits such as the one the president made to the Little League baseball game this week are planned out in advance - not much in advance, but the only people who didn't know about it were the press corps as this WashPost article describes.  I can also speak from personal experience that when Michelle Obama came to my school a few years ago, we only were asked six days in advance (the idea was around much longer, but they hadn't selected a school), but from that point on the Secret Service was basically camping in the school to make sure everything was all set. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

No Summer Vacation on the Blogs

I am almost laughing thinking that some of you will actually be out of school in a week or so whereas I go until June 25th (yes indeed) and then start summer school teaching on July 1st (but I love my job so there is no complaining here!).  But please know that our blogs will be up and posting ALL SUMMER.  So if you are refining your classes or just looking for good ideas for summer school, be sure to stop by.

If you are new here there are now five blogs in the family starting with the
US History Teachers' Blog
US (and Comparative) Government Teachers' Blog
World History Teachers' Blog
World Religions (run by the great George Coe who helps on the three above as well)
Economic Teachers' Blog which is the newest member but moving quickly with 25 posts already.

You can also use the search engine in the upper left corner to search the 5000+ posts that we have put up in the last six years.

Boko Haram and Issues in AP Comparative

I believe that part of teaching AP Comparative is playing a bit of a guessing game in that there are so many issues that can be selected to be questioned.  So discussing Sharia law in the northern part of Nigeria, for example, is fair game, but I also think so is Boko Haram.  So I have taken Rebecca Small's idea of having my students research "issues" in addition to our reading and then the kids know they could pop up on a test.  So I have this e-sheet of issues and terms that the students must work into their write-ups (which I like to be about one paragraph).  Sometimes I add an article like this one from today's New York Times or even the 60 Minutes segment on Iran from last night.  That is one of the great things about using Google Drive (or Microsoft's OneDrive) as I do not need to continually upload it to Blackboard, but just change it on the document and the kids immediately can see it.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Iran on 60 Minutes

I teach AP Comparative Government from Jan through the AP exam and in between I try to read as much as I can on the EU and the six countries that are taught in AP Comparative as I find that it reinforces what I already know and gives me fodder for some of the issues that I teach in the class. So I enjoyed seeing the piece on Iran tonight on 60 minutes (see above) as it goes into many "fair topics" on the AP exam such as the Supreme Leader, the president, the nuclear question, media control, etc.  

2014 Released AP Free Response Questions

If you follow Trevor Packer on Twitter (who is head of the AP program), he has been Tweeting out when the College Board releases the 2014 AP free response questions.  Here are the micromacro, US government, US, world and comp questions. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Iran and Censorship

Transparency is one thing that is covered in AP Comparative and, of course, one of the countries studied is Iran.  Well here is a short article on how some pages in Wikipedia and Google Sites (basically a platform for videos and message) have been blocked in recent days.  Since it also mentions Iran's president you could tie it into last year's election or even to the Green Revolution. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Brown vs. Board of Education: PBS News Hour Discussion

Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case. The PBS News Hour had an excellent segment tonight about how far we have come in eliminating segregation. The segment also includes excellent background about the case.

The World's Simplest Cloud Bookmarker

I just discovered today and really like it to bookmark your favorite webpages.  If you just want to bookmark urls and nothing more this is an awesome site for you.  All you need to do is to type a category before "" and then the url and it will create a new category.  It is that simple.  Watch the video above to see the actual steps. 

More Gerrymandering

Here is a great map generated by the WashPost where they have come up with a "gerrymandered index with the highest scores being the most gerrymandered.  Essentially the WashPost generated the score from seeing how far from a circle the districts are.   If you want to see a more even handed group of districts look at this previous post or this FairVote site.   

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Net Neutrality & Democracy

Net neutrality is one of those issues that not everyone understands, but is a great issue to discuss in government class.  In fact it might be what I open my government class with next fall as it would be an interesting discussion to contrast the needs of large companies versus new start-ups.   The FCC today voted 3-2 to move towards possibly ending a neutral Internet meaning some groups would be able to pay to make sure their "packets" get to the user faster than another group.  This article explains it, but also mentions that even if the rules remain as they are right now, that Internet providers still will probably use the courts in their attempt to get their way.  By the way, the public always gets to voice their opinions online and this is potentially a very important issue.

The two videos explain why net neutrality is so important.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Leadership PACs

This is from 60 minutes last night and discusses leadership PACs and how members of Congress can work around lobbying rules.  It is a very interesting 15 minutes and even includes discussion how some members pay their family members from PAC donations - all within the law. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How the Federal Reserve Works

This is a great video on both the history of the Federal Reserve and also the tools it uses to try and keep the US economy sound.  I an also putting it on the new Economics Teachers Blog which now has a number of posts that you might want to check out if you teach economics.  I will also be posting there and there all summer.  Of course summer, for me, doesn't start until June 25th and then the following week I teach my summer online economics course! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

An Electoral Map Without Gerrymandering

Vox is a great news site in line with 538 as innovative.  You will also be seeing more of it on our new Economics Teachers Blog which now has lots of posts for those teaching that growing field.

Well we all know that even if you push gerrymandering to the courts to decide judges are appointed by elected officials or run for office so even there we would see some partisanship.  Well this Vox article talks about a math PhD and an engineer who joined together to create an algorithm to that cuts a state in half, by population, and then half again, until it has the requisite number of House districts.  It needs work as it doesn't account for natural boundaries, historic neighborhoods and don't worry about trying to balance out political parties.  But it is an interesting first step.

More to the point for you the teacher, it brings up ways to consider alternatives to our gerrymandered system.   But, at least according to political scientists, it also brings up the question as to what can be done about the fact that political scientists say that the real problem is not gerrymandering, but incumbency - meaning that after the first re-election it is almost impossible to get rid of an incumbent even with gerrymandering  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

CSPAN Review for AP Government

Dan Larsen and Andrew Conneen do a great CSPAN AP US Government review each year a few days before the AP exam.  Larsen is a question leader at AP Government.  Above is their 2013 review and here are the other past ones.  I will get back to you shortly on the date of this year's live review when your students can call in and get questions answered.

You can watch this year's edition on Saturday May 10th from 9:15 to 10 AM EST on CSPAN.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Midterm Elections Predictions

The WashPost has some new statistical based maps for the 2014 midterm elections.  It is based on previous polls with the latest ones receiving more weight.  Here are the Senate predictions and here are the House.  Both give the edge to the Republicans.

Boko Haram SItuation

With the AP Comparative exam next week the video above of the situation with the kidnapped girls in Nigeria by the Boko Haram and a few words from Goodluck Jonathan may serve as a way to review the problems in northern Nigeria.  Here is the entire NYTimes article and the video below is the Boko Haram leader who is looking to marry off the kidnapped girls between the ages of 9-12.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Quizlet Adds Voice Recording

Quizlet, already a great review app, now lets you record your own voice and put recordings on your review cards.  For those who are auditory learners this will be a great help to the main great features, flash cards, games, timed races, etc. that are already features of Quizlet.