Thursday, December 31, 2015

A really cool online micro-polling, brainstorming website

The website is called AnswerGarden, and it's similar to PollEverywhere and some online quiz-games. But it has some important differences.
Image result for answer garden
Both AnswerGarden and PollEverywhere let you pose questions to poll your students and get instant feedback.  What makes AnswerGarden so cool is that it can tabulate the responses and display them in a word cloud.  That means that it could be most effective as a brainstorming tool because it would reflect the frequency with which specific answers were given.  You will pose questions to your students and then display their responses using an LCD projector on a screen.  AnswerGarden's Moderator Mode lets you manually approve student responses before they are displayed to the class. (Phew.)

The reason that AnswerGarden is a micro-polling application is that student answers must be limited to just a few words.  So it would not replace review games like Triventy, Quizizz, or Kahoot.   Here's a sample AnswerGarden question ("What makes you happy?) and resulting word cloud:
And here's a tutorial (4:34) on how to use AnswerGarden:
As of now, AnswerGarden operates just with computers, laptops, and iPads.  That's a deal breaker for me because it won't operate on iPhones.  (Our school has laptops but they're not reliable and have other problems.)  I've written to AnswerGarden's developers  about when they might have an iPhone app and am awaiting their reply.

T/H to @rmbyrne for his post on AnswerGarden.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Maybe the coolest online politics game (but there's a catch)

Over the weekend my family and I visited the Library of Congress and saw two exhibitions that are closing soon: one on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the other on the Bay Psalm Book and early American printing.  Both were terrific to see in person, and the Library's companion websites are also very valuable (click here to link to the CRA-64, and here for the Bay Psalm Book), ... but they're not the subject of this post.

Walking to the Library I saw this intruiging store-front sign:
When I got home I started reading about PredictIt.  PredictIt is a political forecasting website.  It was created as a research tool by Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.  Scholars there are studying how well markets can make accurate forecasts about the future.  Subjects for their study are participants in PredictIt's prediction market for politics.

PredictIt users make bets on political outcomes, so they are "investors."  Like the real stock market, they buy and sell shares in various industries.  But instead of hi-tech, railroads, and banking, the markets here all deal with the political system.  There are markets for elections (like who will win the New Hampshire GOP primary and who will be the Republican nominee for vice president), for the Supreme Court (how will it rule on the UT-Austin affirmative action case), and for politics (like whether the GOP keep control of the U.S. Senate).  There are many more markets, concerning domestic and international affairs, and all ask relevant, interesting questions.

PredictIt has gotten a lot of media attention.  Here are links to stories about PredictIt by NPR and Politico.

The catch is that the site charges a cash participation fee.  Participating investors are using REAL MONEY here.  Because it uses REAL MONEY there's NO WAY (Repeat: NO WAY!) that I would ever sanction my students participating in this.  But it's okay to look for free without committing any money.  In that regard this could be a fun site to see what the "market" is saying about the state of the presidential campaign by seeing how each candidate's "value" changes from day-to-day.  It could also be fun to compare what is happening on PredictIt with what the polls are saying.  For example, you could monitor PredictIt and correlate its trends with the Real Clear Politics poll averages.

Google Drive Tutorial

This is a nice overview of Google Drive and its power.  If you are like me, you have almost completely (I recently found my first use for Microsoft Word in the last year).  The video above shows you many of the highlights and how to use them in just a few minutes.

You can find technology tips you can use in the classroom on my new blog called eLearning Blog which is designed for students, teachers and administrators who want to learn using technology. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Is it time to modify the "clear and present danger" test?

Is it time to reconsider the "clear and present danger" exception to the First Amendment? That's what some legal scholars are currently debating. A story summarizing the current state of First Amendment law, and the changes that some are calling for, was published in today's New York Times.

The clear and present danger was carved out of the First Amendment by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1919 decision in Schenck v. United States.  You can find a great written summary of that case by PBS here and by the American Bar Association here.  

In that case, Schenck, was involved in encouraging resistance to the World War I draft, and was charged with violating the Espionage Act by obstructing military recruitment.  The only question for the Court to decide was whether Schenck's words and actions were protected by the First Amendment.  The Court ruled against Schenck, but in its most memorable phrase, declared that
The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. ... The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. 

The Court clearly was influenced by the historical context of Schenck's actions.
When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right. 

The Times story summarizes the law on clear and present danger, and then updates it today.  Apparently, some legal scholars say that current online recruiting efforts by the Islamic State justify a reexamination of that now 96-year-old precedent.  Those scholars say that law enforcement and defense officials need greater authority to suppress speech that encourages violence but does not yet advocate a clear and present threat of such violence.

Sharing this story with your students could be part of an engaging activity.  First, poll them on this question: Are First Amendment freedoms absolute, or are there situations where Free Speech can be limited?  Then, guide them through a discussion where it might be possible to limit free speech (examples might include obscenity and defamation).  (This thorough, 35-page report by the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service offers an exhaustive discussion of First Amendment exceptions).  Next, ask them whether they have ever heard the expression, "You can't shout fire in a crowded theatre."  Ask what that expression means.  Then show them this news story and ask them to write case summaries of Schenck and later cases on this topic.  Lead the class in a discussion of whether current Islamic State threats justify modifying the Schenck rule.  Conduct a re-vote on the initial question near the end of the lesson, then ask students to write a paragraph summarizing how their thinking about the First Amendment was affected by today's lesson.

A Periodic Table of Education Technology

The writers at DailyGenius, an online chronicler of educational technology news, have created a fantastic graphic that summarizes the EdTech products and events that they think are most valuable to teachers.
periodic table of education technology
The graphic is in the form of the periodic table of the elements.  Just like the real elements table, this graphic divides the best EdTech into color-coded categories like social networks, online learning, and hardware.  They also use abbreviations just like the elements table, so Twitter is coded Tw, Dropbox is Db, and ISTE is Is.

Clicking on the graphic opens it into a pdf format for easy printing.

Kudos on the cleverness of the design.  A suggestion for the future would be to make the graphic interactive, so that by hovering over and then clicking on a box would open a new window for that tool.

They say that they'll be updating the graphic several times a year.  That's good to hear.  You can follow DailyGenius @DailyGenius.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

[Title redacted because of national security concerns] [Not!]

CIA, America's super-secret spy agency, has been on Twitter since the summer of 2014.
CIA's twitter feed is fun to follow.  They tweet about artifacts from their museum.  (CIA's museum is on its headquarters campus and is not open to the public, but it has a great webpage for those of us without super-top-secret, G14-classified security clearances.)  They honor the memory of its agents who have lost their lives in the service of our country.  They offer commentary and context to historical events, like this Dec. 7 tweet on Pearl Harbor.

The real reason I love CIA's feed, though, is that the tweeter(s?) has a sense of humor.  This was how CIA announced to the world that it was on Twitter:
They followed that inaugural post with this Tweet:
Here are some of my other favorites:
And finally:

Another online game platform (but this one may be the best one yet for promoting mastery learning)

In a perfect world, we would monitor each student's learning and growth by name and need.  One student may need help with mastering causes of the War of 1812.  Another can't remember the 3/5 Compromise.  How to structure instruction so that each student's individualized needs are met?

A free online game platform that could certainly help is called BrainRush.
BrainRush allows you (or your students) to create learning games that adapt to the learning skill of each player.  To learn about BrainRush I took one of the activities that they had prepared on the Civil Rights Movement.  Whenever I answered a question incorrectly (whoops), that question was pushed back into the deck of upcoming questions.  It was then repeated in a different way several times, giving me extra chances to become confident in the correct answer and demonstrate my mastery.

This video (1:23) gives you a good short introduction to how BrainRush works.
BrainRush has four learning-game formats:
  1. Cards Template: Just like flashcards.  Great for vocabulary; students match the front to the back of cards.
  2. Buckets Template: A categorization activity; students drop and drag text, images, and/or audio into the correct bucket.
  3. Sequencing Template: A chronology or list-order activity; students drag and drop items in order.
  4. Hotspots Template: Students are presented with one image containing 10-15 hotspots, each one corresponding to a different concept to learn.  They match the concept to the hotspot on the map.  Hotspots Templates are best for diagrams and maps.
The last template was the most fun to create and play.  For my practice I uploaded a blank outline map of the contiguous 48 states, and created four hotspots.  I then associated a concept (like the Missouri Compromise Line) to each hotspot.

Playing my activity as a student, I was first shown the image (the map) with the four hotspots I had created.  My first concept was in the left margin, and in the first round, I had to click on the correct hotspot to demonstrate mastery.  Later in the Round 2 I was shown a hotspot and asked to type the correct concept in a dialogue box.

What was great was that I could not complete the activity until I gave correct answers to every concept.  And the activity was personalized for my learning.  Every time I made a mistake, questions about that topic were repeated (several times, interspersed with other questions) until I got it correct several times in a row.

Once you create your activity you post it to the online classroom that you create for your students.

One thing that's great about BrainRush is the amount of online teacher support it gives.  It currently has 9 general video tutorials and three other describing BrainRush's game templates.

BrainRush makes creating engaging and effective activities that promote individualized mastery learning that much more achievable.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tracking candidate appearances

During winter break in December 2007, I took my sons to New Hampshire to see as much retail presidential politics as we could see.  Even in a pre-Internet world, it wasn't all that hard to find where to go because schedules for candidate appearances were published in local newspapers.  We had pretty good luck.  We visited campaign headquarters for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and saw John Edwards make a stop at a union phone bank.
The coolest part of that trip was when Mitt Romney sat at our booth and chatted with us during a campaign stop to a local diner.
Today, planning for a trip like that would be much easier.  To track upcoming candidate appearances in Iowa, the Des Moines Register has an Iowa Caucuses Candidate Tracker, where you can sort appearances by party, candidate, date, or city.   That site also aggregates the total number of event appearances each candidate has made in Iowa.
You can find the same information for New Hampshire here on the New England Cable News site.  Democracy In Action's P2016 Race for the White House pages have reports for South Carolina and other states.  This link from the New York Times shows the dates for the upcoming caucuses and primaries.

Watching presidential campaign developments will certainly be a sustained focus when we return from winter break, and so it would be fun to share these sites with our students.  As a recurring activity, we could have them record candidate appearances on a map that they would annotate with news coverage about that event.  

The best online tool to record that same data would be to create a StoryMap.  StoryMapJS lets map tell stories.  It is unbelievably easy to use and makes amazingly beautiful interactive maps.  Here's a tutorial on using StoryMapJS.  (I assigned my US History students to make a StoryMap; the template for entering data and creating the map was so easy to use almost none of them used the tutorial.)

Mark your calendars: The 2016 WHCA Dinner will be on Sat., April 30

The 2016 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner will be held on Sat., April 30.  Mark your calendars now!  You can watch the event live on C-SPAN starting sometime after 10pm eastern.

WHCA represents the White House press corps in its dealing with the administration on coverage-related issues.  Every spring, they hold a black-tie dinner at a Washington, D.C., hotel that is attended most years by the President and First Lady.  Unofficially, the event is called the "nerd prom."  (Make sure to follow #NerdProm on Twitter that day; there's also a movie you can watch about the event that's actually called Nerd Prom: Inside Washington's Wildest Week).  It's the one night where Washington's political establishment (members of the administration, elected officials, and the press) dress up in formal wear and rub elbows with Hollywood celebrities.  (Full disclosure: I once saw a distant relative, a celebrity in the art world, attending a dinner years ago.  That was very cool.)

After the dinner, the president makes formal remarks, as does an invited speaker.  What makes this event so much fun is that the president's remarks are always filled with jokes (most often self-deprecating comments mixed with biting shots at rivals in both parties), and the invited speaker is a top-shelf comedian!  Here's video of the remarks last year from President Obama (22:10) and from Cicely Strong (22:49), a Saturday Night Live cast member, who was the invited speaker.

This year's invited speaker is Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central's "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore."
Photo: Peter Yang/Comedy Central
I watch this event every year and the speeches are always entertaining and often hysterical.  Watch the speeches live, then share and discuss with your students the following week.

PBS is looking for America's most innovative, tech-savvy educators

PBS sponsors a program that recognizes teachers who use digital media in their classrooms and are educational technology leaders.  It's called their PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators program, and you can apply to participate in this program for the 2016-2017 school year.  Applications are due by February 8 at 9:59pm EST.
The application process is easy.  Just create one short video, answer two short essay questions, and complete an application.  And here's the best part: if you submit a complete application by the deadline, you will automatically be invited to join the program!  Benefits of applying include one year of free PD opportunities, invitations to special events, and other benefits.

From that self-selected group, PBS LearningMedia will select 54 teachers to serve as Lead Innovators.  This group will receive a 3-day, all-expense paid trip to Denver to participate in a conference on June 25 and 26, and to attend the ISTE conference on June 27.  They will also receive a Samsung Galaxy tablet.

Here's a video one Digital Innovator submitted last year as part of his application.

Political affiliation: Is it correlated to a person's name?

Are names randomly distributed through the political spectrum, or do they cluster around different political parties?

The Washington Post tried to answer that question by looking at current voter-registration data in Washington, D.C.  Its conclusion, to be published in its Crunched column in tomorrow's Washington Post Magazine, is that "certain names are more popular among members of different political parties."

What the Post story doesn't do is consider the obvious underlying question.  In almost all cases, names are given, not chosen.  So while the data show that (at least in Washington, D.C.) a Tyler is more likely to be a Republican, it's not clear why being given that name as a newborn would result decades later in him choosing to identify with the GOP.

It would be fun to take all 40 names used in this study, alpha-sort them, then show them to our students.  Give them the political party names, then ask them to sort the names by party.  Then you could lead a class discussion where students defend their groupings.  This could lead to a discussion of the larger issue of political affiliation (what it means, how it is formed, what influence it has on voting patterns).

Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2015

Right now there are about 1-billion websites, give or take 50-million.  Which ones are most engaging and rewarding for our students?  Thankfully, a highly-respected authority has already done the scouting for us.

The American Association of School Librarians publishes an annual list of its best websites for teaching and learning.  The sites it recognizes
foster the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration.  They are free, web-based sites that are user friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover. 
One particularly cool website on the list is called WhatWasThere.  That site uses Google Maps to explore what a location used to look like.  I used the site to compare one intersection near my home.  It displayed a photo taken during the 1860s with a Google Street View of what the intersection looks like now.  It was fascinating to compare the two.  WhatWasThere also offers an accompanying iPhone app.
All told, this year's AASL list has 25 sites on it.  With a list that comprehensive it's hard to know where to start.  But by focusing on just one new site per week we would be able to introduce our students to a new type of engagement weekly, almost until the end of this school year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A free app that nicely complements

I use Remind with my students and I love it.
Image result for
Remind creates a whole new communication stream with my students that transcends the 90 minutes we have face-to-face with each other every other day.  When I send them a text message I know that they received it on their phone instantly.

I use it sparingly, however.  I want my students to be responsible to check our class Assignment Calendar (a Google Calendar linked from our class Blackboard site) on their own initiative.  For that reason I use Remind only to announce that I've posted a new assignment, or have made changes to previously-posted assignment deadlines.

The consequence of my policy is completely foreseeable: Students forget (or neglect) to check the Calendar, and consequently forget that they have a project due at the end of the week or a quiz tomorrow.

The ideal solution would be to push to the students the obligation of monitoring their due dates using a more efficient and effective platform.  The WhatsDue app just might be that ideal solution.
Image result for whatsdue app
WhatsDue is a free app for students (and their parents).  WhatsDue lets teachers create a to-do list of upcoming due dates that students can access from their devices.

Teachers register with WhatsDue and share a join-code for each class with their students and parents.  From the teacher dashboard, they then record each assignment and when it is due.

Registered users then get push notifications of upcoming due dates that are added to a clear display on their devices.  This picture shows an example of how that looks:

In this example, the student has six assignments due.  One (the Homework to "Do Assignment 3") is marked in red because it is due tomorrow.  The other assignments are listed in the order in which they are due.

I'll keep using Remind to alert my students to schedule changes.  But WhatsApp seems to go further in helping my students manage their assignments than simply using Remind alone, so I'm going to roll this out on the first day back from winter break.  Even better: Could you imagine how cool it would be if all teachers throughout your building used WhatsDue?  I'll work on promoting that as well.

Another alternative to PowerPoint

This might be the coolest presentation package that I've seen yet.

I have already blogged my thoughts about this topic on the US History Teachers Blog.  If you want to stick with your existing PowerPoint presentations, you can make them interactive by uploading them to nearpod and then your students can watch them on their devices and respond to questions that you embed.

If you want alternatives to PowerPoint entirely, you can make presentations with either prezi or emaze.

But this presentation package was entirely new to me.  It's called PowToon.  PowToon's banner says that "It's free and it's awesome."  I concur as to both.

PowToon makes animated videos and presentations.  I could write paragraphs describing what it does but it would be much better for you to see two short examples.  Both were created with PowToon.
Want more more encouragement about PowToon's awesomeness?  PowToon was named one of the best websites for teaching and learning by the American Association of School Librarians in 2014.  Here's what they said:
Powtoon is ideal for those seeking a nice alternative to more traditional presentation tools. Simple to use, it makes creating engaging, interesting, and exciting animated videos extremely easy. Users can create and show presentations straight from the Powtoon site, or opt for the export to Youtube option, or even download a MP4 video format for use offline.
PowToon has a set of tutorials on its QuickStart Guide page.  I also like this tutorial (6:55).

The PowToon animations are so cool that I will be assigning them to my students to use.  Why should I have all the fun?

A new online quiz-game platform

Which online quiz-game platform do you use with your students?

Kahoot is very popular, and recently I've been experimenting with quizizz.  Both are easy to use and engaging for students.

But I just recently learned of a new platform called Triventy.
I've been giving Triventy a test-drive over the break and have been favorably impressed.  Creating a game is easy, the template for writing questions is straight-forward, you can add images to your questions, it has sound effects as you play, you can limit the time to answer each question, and it's easy to share your activities with your students.  And did I mention that it's free?

My friend and teaching colleague George Coe (Twitter: @ggcoe) also adds that teachers can invite others (like our students) to write questions for a game.  Great idea to increase student engagement.

How new is Triventy?  As of this writing they have just 15 followers on Twitter.  It's so new that there are no video tutorials yet.  But here's a link to Triventy's very easy-to-read printed instructions.

I'm sure that Triventy's Twitter followers will grow and that more help materials will become available soon.  You can follow Triventry on Twitter: @Triventy

Holiday Campaign Ads

These are two fun ads combining Christmas and campaigning from Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz.

While we are at it, here is a super primer on the primary/caucus process.

By the way, especially if you live in the DC area, to follow up Jeff's post below, Mary Beth Tinker does come to schools.  She came and spoke to my government students two years ago and was really good.  She thoroughly entertained the kids and it was great to hear real Supreme Court history. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Can a principal censor yearbook content?

That's the question raised by a recent decision by a principal in suburban Washington, D.C.  (Full disclosure: I have taught summer school at that school over the years, and the principal at issue here was my administrator during at least one of my summer sessions.)  The controversy was discussed in a recent story in the Washington Post.

This year's yearbook editor wanted to include a photograph of a current student that showed her pregnant belly.  According to the student editor, the principal will not allow that photograph to be included in the yearbook.  The student and her father support publication of the photo.  It is not clear yet when or how this controversy will be resolved.

Under the U.S. Constitution, who should win?  That's the question we could be asking our students.

This hypothetical-turned-real would be an excellent way to introduce the topic of the Constitution and student rights.  Here's a possible workflow.

First, summarize the Post story for your students, then poll their answers (by hands, or with an online platform like socrativ or polleverywhere) to this question: Under the U.S. Constitution, do students have the first amendment right to publish photographs like these in a school yearbook?

Second, assign them to read the Post story.  As they read, ask them to write questions they still have about that topic.  (Examples could include: What if the pregnant student later changed her mind about allowing the photograph to be published?)

Third, assign the students to learn about important Supreme Court cases that have addressed the subject of student rights.  A useful collection is this one by the New York Times.   This would be where I would show this YouTube video.  Here Mary Beth Tinker talks (3:20) about Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969), her "black armband" case.

Fourth, guide your students to see that the case most on point to this controversy is Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988), which held that administrators retain editorial control over student publications as long any restrictions are reasonable.  Street Law has an excellent feature on that case that includes a summary of the Supreme Court's 5-3 decision, and key excerpts from the majority and dissenting opinions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My favorite tool for delivering YouTube content to my students

My favorite tool for delivering YouTube content to my students is EDpuzzle.
Students can drift-off when you are showing videos on the screen in front of your classroom.  That's why it's a better practice to deliver the videos directly to your students on their personal devices or computers.  EDpuzzle lets you take online videos, clip them to the length you want, and then make them interactive.  Here's your workflow.

First, you search and select the video you want to use from one of EDpuzzle's ten video channels.

Second, you customize the video using the four editing tools.

The scissors icon lets you crop the length of your video.  The microphone icon let you replace the entire audio track with your own voice recording.  The speaker icon lets you pause the video and insert your own audio note.  The question-mark icon lets you pause the video to insert questions in three formats: open-ended, multiple choice, or poll questions.

When you save your edited video you can assign it to a teacher-created class, or share it with anyone via a link or embed code to add to your website or blog.

Third, students watch the video you selected (on their devices or computers) and answer the questions you created for them.  You monitor their progress on EDpuzzle.

EDpuzzle also lets you download the results onto a spreadsheet, and has an option for teachers to reset a student's score, which makes EDpuzzle a good formative assessment/reteaching tool.  I always allow my students opportunities to re-take a quiz until they earn a perfect score.

The videos I choose for my students are very short, about 3-minutes maximum.  I embed 6-8 questions per video.  The whole activity then takes about 10 minutes to complete.  We watch only one video per day.  It's easy to gauge when the students are finished with the activity, so that's when we discuss as a whole class.

EDpuzzle is 100% free for teachers and students.  It's accessible via a web browser or its own free proprietary app.

The EDpuzzle Help/Support Page is very thorough and well-organized, and contains a great mix of extremely useful text and video tutorials.

Interested?  Watch this video (9:05).
PS: Creating EDpuzzle activities now, in advance of certain snow-day school closures, would be a great idea.

My favorite site for presidential TV campaign commercials

My favorite site for presidential TV campaign commercials is The Living Room Candidate.

This site has collected ads for every presidential election starting with 1952's Eisenhower vs. Stevenson race.  But it's much more than a simply chronological collection.  You can tailor your search to look for certain themes (like Biographical or Commander in Chief) or the issue they address (like war, taxes, or civil rights).

But the best search tool is called "Curator's Choice."  Using that tool takes you instantly to ads like LBJ's 1964 nuclear-armageddon-themed "Peace Little Girl (Daisy)" ad,

Richard Nixon's 1968 ad using the chaos inside and outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to portray Hubert Humphrey as weak and ineffectual,

and (my favorite), "Prouder, Stronger, Better," Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign trumpeting his first term successes.

Living Room Candidate also has six lessons that help guide students to understand what makes an effective ad, the language of political ads, and how to put political ads into historical context.

I've found that the most effective way to use these ads is to ask my students to consider these four questions:
  1. What was the ad's theme?
  2. What strength was the candidate trying to stress, or what weakness was the candidate trying to expose or exploit in his opponent?  
  3. What contemporaneous issues was the commercial referring to, either directly or indirectly?
  4. What symbols did the ad use to manipulate the emotion of the viewers?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Discussing the Second Amendment

When you discuss the Second Amendment with your students, you'll certainly read and discuss District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court's 2008 decision that granted individuals the right to possess a firearm.  You can read a summary of Heller's facts and decision here and the majority and two dissenting opinions here.  This graphic sets out how the Court voted.

And here's a rare interview of Justice Antonin Scalia from 2012 where he discusses his philosophy of constitutional interpretation ("textualism" and "originalism") and how they inform his position on gun control.  (The gun control discussion starts at 3:41).

Heller certainly did not end the debate between Second Amendment and gun-control advocates, and there are any number of good current-event examples to bring that point home.  One example just happened today in Virginia, which announced a change in its policy regarding concealed weapons permits issued by other states.  Previously, Virginia had entered into "reciprocity agreements" with 30 states that allowed anyone with a valid handgun permit from those states to carry firearms in Virginia.

Today, though, it announced that it was revoking 25 of those agreements effective February 1, 2016.  As a result, it will soon be illegal for anyone holding a carry permit from any of those 25 states to carry a concealed handgun in Virginia.

Virginia's decision was hailed by gun control supporters as a "significant step forward in protecting public safety in Virginia."  Opponents, however, called the decision "one of the most galling and senseless gun grabbing moves that Democrats have perpetrated during their ongoing failed campaign against the Second Amendment."

Great fodder for a class debate, right?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A great illustration to use when you discuss Shelby County v. Holder (the 2013 Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act)

Sometimes a single illustration can explain a difficult concept more succinctly and accurately than a video or written excerpt.  A great example is in today's New York Times Magazine.

The illustration by Ben Wiseman accompanies a story ("The New Attack on Hispanic Voting Rights") by Jim Rutenberg.  The story itself reports the impact caused by the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder declaring unconstitutional a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (Click here for a news story reporting the decision, and here for commentary).

Wiseman's illustration shows a maze.  At the center is a ballot box.


There are two entries to the maze.  In the finished illustration printed in the magazine, the entry on the left, labeled "Vote," shows a straight path to the ballot box.  The entry on the right, labeled "Votar," (the Spanish word for "vote") however points toward entry into the unfathomable maze.  (For some reason the online versions of the illustration omit both labels.)  Wiseman's clear message is that Shelby County has made it more difficult for Hispanics to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

It would be fun to show this illustration to your students when you are discussing voting.  Show them the illustration (remembering to add the words "Vote" and "Votar" at the maze entry points) and ask them to decipher it.  What symbols do they see?  (Answers include a maze, a ballot box, two entry ways labeled with different words, and two entirely different paths to the ballot box.)  Ask them to speculate what each symbol represents.  Ask them also to speculate about the point-of-view and/or bias of the illustrator here.

Wiseman's illustration here harkens back to a famous illustration criticizing the "butterfly ballot" used in Palm Beach County, Florida, during the 2000 Bush-Gore election.  Here's the real ballot:
Image result for butterfly ballot

And here's the Mike Collins illustration that mocked it:

You could do the same type of activity using these two illustrations as well.