Wednesday, January 28, 2015

So I am Published!

Well the book, Deeper Learning Through Technology, is at the warehouse and after a quick look see (don't ask me I only work here), it will be shipped to anyone who wants it.  So you will be getting pieces of my book on my blogs in hope that you and your colleagues, will find it useful and even change the way you teach.  

The book looks at how you can better individualize student learning in your classroom, but to do so it does something rare in giving the reader some background research.  For example, Project RED (Greaves et al., 2010) looked at 997 schools in 47 states and the District of Columbia to see the impact of the digital learning environment. The report found that in schools where students all had digital devices, test scores went up while dropout rates went down. The report emphasized that for the introduction of technology to be effective, instruction must also be meaningful. Project RED identified two levels of change—“first-order change” and “second-order change”—stressing that teachers and administrators should strive for second-order change if they want to improve student learning. 

An example of first-order change would be when a teacher requires students to submit work online. This might save time that could be used for more direct instruction, but it is not necessarily changing instruction in any meaningful way. Whether assignments are on paper or submitted online, they still very likely reflect a similar quality of work. In contrast, second-order changes occur when technology allows for innovations that could not happen without it. For example, a teacher can assign students to watch an online video lecture (flipped video) for homework, visit and review several websites, and then collaborate with fellow students by commenting on the video and sites on one collective online document housed in the cloud. There are several second-order changes included in this scenario. (1) Placing the lecture online allows students to watch it at their own pace, stopping and starting the video or watching it several times until the material is understood. (2) Collaborating online means that students can work together regardless of where they physically happen to be (home, school, library, etc.). Both uses of technology (online video lecture and online collaborative document) allow students to do something that they could not have done without the technology. 

Of course the crux of my book then is a practical guide to effectively changing the way teachers collaborate and teach.  It comes with step by step instructions as well as classroom examples and teacher challenges.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Win Scholarship to Attend AP Summer Institutes

Over the years I have gone to a number of AP institutes, but my county pays for them - which is good since it is also required!  At any rate go here to apply and if you are in a high minority/low income schools, here is another way to get funding.  

Ditching the Textbook - An Entire Unit Explained

So while I have essentially ditched the textbook in three of my four preps, I am still partially tied to it in AP government.  I did try to kick it to the curb a few years ago when we were doing Congress/interest rates, but three years is a long time ago and the test results were not what I wanted. Well I just tried it again on our courts/Civil Liberties/Civil Rights unit and the test results were the best I have had in years and that is saying something as I had quite an amazing group last year.  So how was it done - nothing magic - just a few risks.
  1. The students watched the background video on the courts.  Notice that it is not just a PowerPoint but it, as with the other flipped videos, used multiple ways to present.
  2. Then we did an "interactive" on the Supreme Court.  Here again, it was not just questions, but looking at the court and looking at several court cases to highlight issues being discussed.   We did it in class so I could help the students as we went along and then go over it.
  3. Afterwards watched this flipped video at home and then did another interactive on the vetting process.  Again I was there to help the students on the work as they did it in class.  Students have to share the video notes and/or take a quiz on the video when they get to class where they can use their notes.
  4. The next assignment at home was watching this video on due process.  This one is harder to understand so I use a Google Form to let the students ask questions virtually and then start the class by answering their questions before their quiz. 
  5. Partially on their own in class and partly as part of our class discussion we use "Court Cases to Know,"which are the key ones to know for the AP exam.
  6. Finally we have a "Civil Liberties/Civil Rights cheat sheet" which is our lecture of sorts. 
  7. Finally I go "traditional" on the kids and have them complete a study guide and look at Barron's.  One can also use Quizlet which lets you use traditional flash cards or games to study the courts, civil rights and civil liberties
  8. Along the way I also gave a quiz on the first ten amendments.  But other than studying for the test, the kids probably never had more than 30 minutes of homework a night and while they did have to read in class, they read from many different sources - not a static textbook. 
Want more - shameless plug here - buy my book which made it to the warehouse today and can be bought here.  It is titled "Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Learning."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What to Flip in a Flipped Class

This is adapted from my book, Deeper Learning Through Technology: How to Use the Cloud to Individualize Instruction, which comes out on the 27th (and you can pre-order now).  

To say you should take your current PowerPoints and break them down into segments of video for your students would be to miss the point.  You might want to first think of what is going to be done in class and then make a flipped video of the background needed to prepare for that work.  If, for example, you were looking at William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, you might want to give students an exercise looking at the main points that Golding was trying to make and his view of our society.  These would be tough questions that students might need assistance in understanding.  A flipped video on Golding’s life and how he was led to his beliefs and subsequent writing of the book, would be a good topic for your video.  This video could even include the short clip found online of Golding’s thoughts on his well known book.

Once you have your lesson and the video idea ready, you will need to line up what
you need for the flipped overview.  I usually include a few Presentation slides since written words often help student comprehension. I also have additional tabs set up on my browser.  Perhaps a very short clip from theLord of the Flies movie might enhance your presentation as would a picture of Golding.  Once these assets are set up, it makes it easy to move through the parts of the video remembering that it is okay to have bloopers as students seem to like it when their teachers appear more human in a video.  Adding in personal touches also make the videos more interesting for your students.  My own children have all had cameos in my instructional videos as have the family pets!  

Flipping, though, does not need to be limited to teachers.  If administrators truly want to initiate a flipped school, they need to model the practice.  If teachers are watching the videos, then students aren’t either and administrators need to learn how to maximize watching so as to work with teachers and students to do the same.  How many times has a school started a new initiative and had training sessions.  Why not give people the option of watching a short video instead.  What about an opening day speech when teachers would prefer to be working on lesson plans.  Have them watch a 10 minute video (or shorter) and answer key questions, much as teachers would want their students to do.  Modeling the practice over and over is the best way to sell flipping to your teachers.

It is important to note that it is okay to use videos from other educators as long as they fit your needs.  Use your Twitter/Google+/Google search engines to look for flipped videos on your topic.  Ask your Twitter followers for recommendations or send a message to someone with a large Twitter following and see if they can help point you in the right direction. There is a growing library of short videos on the Internet that you can add to your digital library by bookmarking them for later use.   

Want to learn how to make a flipped video, get more guidance on where to find flipped videos or even how to use Twitter to benefit your teaching, then you might want to buy.

Below is a flipped video I created on essay writing so my students could do the hard part (ie write the essay) in class.

Our Twitter Fest Makes the Huffington Post

Doug Zywiol and I were interviewed today by a writer at the Huffington Post.  If you want to see what she wrote, it can be found here.  We noticed a number of teachers lurking on our hashtag last night.  Thanks to all of you for coming and here's to each of you trending when you try the activity.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Long & Short of Obama's Speech

Above is Obama's entire speech and here are the highlights in three minutes.   Here is a MSNBC voter poll on the speech right after it was over. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Word Clouds to Highlight Articles & Speeches

Above is a word cloud for the State of the Union speech which means the largest words are the most repeated ones in his speech (found from a Tweet here).  One idea for your class might be to use word clouds to compare liberal and conservative news sources to see, very quickly, how they viewed the speech.

If you want to do this you can go to the originating word cloud maker called 
  • Wordle or 
  • Tagxedo which allows you to compare news sources, Twitter and other streams of information
  • ABCya and TagCrowd allow you to enter in your own work which might be nice so students can see how repetitive they are - or aren't.

Tweeting the SOU - How It Looked

If you look at this post, you can see how to use a hashtag to teach your students while they are at home.  Above is a short clip showing how we Tweet during the state of the Union.  We only had four classes going (so "only" trended in Washington D.C. - normally we are in the top ten in the US) and all the students had to do was comment three times, but they seem to love the Tweeting so make lots and lots of comments as you can see on our hashtag #hayfieldgovclass.

Behind the State of the Union

I just found this video showing how the State of the Union is made - this video about the 2012 one. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Primer on Boko Haram

For those of you just starting AP Comparative, Boko Haram is a group that you will want to cover in your study of Nigeria.  Above is a Hip Hughes video on the group. 

Gay Marriage Case Explained

WSMV Channel 4
Since the Supreme Court announced yesterday it will hear from four cases about gay marriage, you might want to discuss it with your students.  Above is a video which mentions the two issues: do states have to issue marriage licenses to people of the same sex and secondly do states have to recognize gay marriages from other states.   The former cases sets up the argument between the equal protection clause and the 10th amendment while the latter is between the reserved clause and full faith and credit.  Recent history would argue (think of the Obamacare ruling) that cooperative federalism (for gay marriage) is alive and well.

Here is a succinct article from the NYTimes on the topic and here is one in more depth from ScotusBlog which will have lots more in the coming months.  The ruling will come out in late June. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The European Union Explained

So my students will begin AP Comparative next Thursday after we go over their AP US Government final exam.  One of the first things we will look at is the European Union.  I found the video on Ken Wedding's site.  Between the two of us, hopefully you will find lots of items to help teach your classes.  To see what I have you can use the search engine on the top left to see if I have something that might help a part of your course.  

Does Homework Perpetuate Inequalities in Society?

We are doing a study of our homework assignments and amounts in our county.  Interestingly enough it is coming from the best and the hardest working students whose parents see them taking six AP classes and working 4-5 hours a night on homework.  That being the case I have always believed that homework is there to reinforce, introduce, but not improperly burden.  As my principal said the other day, if it adds nothing to student retention, then why give a particular assignment.

With that in mind this article from OECD looks at the PISA results and sees some very interesting results: lower income students complete less homework (perhaps because they are also less likely to take more challenging classes), are less likely to have a quiet place to study (which is very important for my children who prefer their rooms now that they are getting older), have less homework today than a few years ago (or, as the article points out, may be doing less because of competing interests brought on by the Internet and mobile devices) 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"I am Charlie," but Why are we Ignoring the Recent Slaughter in Nigeria?

So we will begin AP Comparative government next week and I believe my homework will be to read two articles encapsulating the cartoon above.  My question will be "Why has the Paris terrorist attack received so much attention and the much larger massacre in Nigeria only a passing mention.  This article looks at why it is hard to nail down the exact numbers (knowing that any count is at least 10 times the deaths in Paris) while this one tries to answer why we have largely ignored the recent Boko Haram attacks.  My students will have to look other items such as what is Boko Haram, where are they located, what type of government does Nigeria have and its impact on BH, the type of religion of BH as opposed to the rest of Nigeria and what type of law BH wants in the northern part of Nigeria. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Watch us Tweet the State of the Union

A number of teachers have asked me about how we use Twitter to conduct a class.  First off you can see our discussion LIVE by going to Twitter and putting "#hayfieldgovclass" into the search engine.  To conduct the class, as you can see in the video above, I split my screen to watch the president and use TweetChat to put in comments as well as see what our (three teachers involved) students are saying.   For the students who do not have a Twitter account, we created an editable Google Drive document where they wrote their comments.

Above is a short video showing what our Tweeting sessions look like. Kids actually behave themselves since the teachers are Tweeting as well and we have very productive sessions.  We only require three Tweets, but the kids like to do 20-30 as we almost always trend nationally and they like to see that.  That being said I would ask that you do not send your students to our hashtag since they don't know us.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What to do on a Snow Day - Tomorrow?

The other day I learned that my book has gone to be printed and will definitely be out on the 27th of this month.  One of the topics I discuss is how to deal with "alternative days" such as snow ones.  If you like what you see below, you might want to pre-order my book: Deeper Learning Though Technology."

I will admit that I can't get away with this with all of my classes, but my AP Comparative (which is AP US Government and AP Comparative in one year) and AP Economics are a motivated bunch. But tomorrow is looking like we will have either a two hour delay or more probably no school at all.  So for me that means I have pre-determined a time when I am meeting my students online.  This will be our second day in a row that we have missed so, as with the first we will just move our classroom into the cloud.  To help you do this, you might consider the following:
  1. For my online kids I use Blackboard Collaborate.  So I created a class and gave my brick and mortar kids the link back in late October and we all agreed that at 10 am on a snow day we would have class.  24 of my 30 kids made the class and the others watched the session which was recorded.  If your school district doesn't have one for you, here are seven free ones you can look at using.  
  2. Alternatively you could Google Plus Hangout live stream where you could send a link to your students and they could watch a live lecture (here's how).    You could then use Today's Meet to send a link to students and you could see their live questions.   You would be able to do this by splitting your screen
  3. If the day is cancelled tomorrow we will spend much of the period answering questions on review problem sets and then I will assign a few more so that we can have our quiz on Wed and our test on Friday without missing a beat.  
  4. But you don't always have to meet your students.  For example last year  I decided not to have an online session and instead made the video above as both an introduction and a continuation of our material.  Then my kids will watched this video to look up these court cases.  
  5. I communicat with the kids by using Remind, Blackboard and even using my grade book which has all of the kids' emails.  For the Remind message I used a shortened tinyurl ( which linked to my normal homework e-sheet. so I didn't have to text the kids multiple times with the assignments.  
  6. So if you have a motivated bunch and you can't afford to miss a day of school you might want to try some of the techniques. 

Ditch the Textbook Facebook Page

If you read most textbooks, they are often (aside from AP ones) little other than the state required "essential knowledge" with verbs thrown in.  I believe they are popular because they are easy as in a teacher telling his/her students to just read pages 33-35 as opposed to giving a flipped lecture and then finding a primary document (something rarely found in a textbook) or exercise (which some books do come with).  In three of our my courses this year my students are using it as a resource and that's it and I am working on the 4th little by little.  At any rate, I just found a Facebook page called "Ditch the Textbook" which I am going to be looking at a lot this year for ideas.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

More 114th Demographics

Thanks to Rebecca Small who has been a great mentor over the years.  She sent me this WashPost article on the demographics of the 114th Congress. It points out that the Congress is one of the most diverse in history, but it still is 80% white and 80% male and 92% Christian.  There are a number of great graphics to along with the article. 

Free Quiz Questions in Most AP Courses

I just received an email from the folks at Learnerator about their free questions (240, for example in AP Macro).  They have most AP courses, including AP micro, macro, government, US and world.   Each time you answer a question it tells you the correct answer and gives you an explanation if you were wrong. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The 114th Congress

Dan Larson and I have been hanging out at the AP US Government reading for years and I am looking forward to doing the same with Andrew Conneen at the AP Comparative exam this year.  At any rate they just put out their 114th Congress preview and it is great.  You can see all of their videos here and their site here.  What I like about Andrew and Dan is that they have dropped their textbook for AP Gov't and are working to do the same in AP Comparative.   You can see how they do it on their site.  Also you can follow Andrew on Twitter.

Wikipedia and the National Journal have some nice graphics on the 114th.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Supreme Court End of the Year Report & My Assignment

Every December 31st the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court issues his annual report.  Each one is strikingly similar to previous one except that this year Roberts mentioned that as early as 2016 all the briefs will be immediately available electronically (even that is absurdly slow for the real world, but a real breakthrough for a court that still prizes paper).  The key for me in the report (p. 13) is the number of petitions and the number of cases that are granted certiorari.  I always have this as a question on my Supreme Court web quest which this year is part of my courts/civil liberties/rights unit that I am trying without the textbook.  More on that later.