Saturday, October 31, 2015

Changing the Face of Instruction

I am a member of several Facebook teacher sites and am in the midst of adding to one where a teacher said his administration has banned front of the room teaching.  A number of the teachers are saying how awful that is.  Truth be known I have a few minutes in front of the room, but have mostly moved away from it.  Consider today's lesson in my economics' class

  • The kids watched a flipped video on graphing perfect competition
  • We started with a quiz where the kids had to draw four graphs and could use their video notes. 
  • In my class I won't count the quiz unless the notes are acceptable and occasionally make them redo it - but I always let them redo it and always give full credit even if it is late and most of the work is turned in on time as the kids know I will call parents if 2 or more assignments aren't done in a two week period - and I rarely have to call!
  • Then four different kids went to the board to draw the graphs.
  • Next the kids worked on their problem sets.
  • I walked around the room and answered questions from the previous day's work and the current ones.  
  • Oh I should say that my room is set up in 8 pods of four desks so the kids can easily help each other.  Each group is set up with different levels of students.  
  • Should I add that we have not opened a book this year either so it is not only cost efficient, but videos are how kids teach themselves now.  
  • We took our second test of the year last week and my average score is up 10% over last year's kids. 
  • I use this format (flip video, quiz, interactive, walling around the room) in all of my classes now and wish I had figured this out years ago!  

Friday, October 30, 2015

Standards Based Learning

On the 5th, one of my educational collaborators, Frank Franz, is coming to my school to discuss standards based learning.  In my county, we are slowly moving there and I want my department to start implementing parts of it, if not all of it so we aren't blindsided in 1.5 years when we have to do it.

First off I have never been told adequately what is meant by "mastery," but the video above helps. After all standard based learning says we should be working towards mastery, so best to start with a definition.

Frank's video below is excellent for explaining how his classes are run and while we're at it, he uses it for his flipped back to school night.  It is definitely worth five minutes to look at it.

Finally, here is Frank's dog (literally as he loves his three dogs) and pony show!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

China Ends Its One Child Policy

These are two nice nice word filled vide descriptions (one from Time and the other from the WashPost) of the end of China's one child policy and here is the accompanying article from the WashPost.  

Highlights from the Republican Debate

Here are two summaries, the top from the NYTimes and the bottom from the British Telegraph.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

30 Ways to Use Chromebooks in the Classroom

Thanks to Stacy Delaney, our school based technology specialist for finding this document titled "30 Ways to Use Chromebooks in the Classroom." Ours continue to be the best thing for my students. When you add in that they now sit in pods of four and help each other, it has been a great start to the school year.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

How Social Media is Reshaping the News

The College Board almost can't win when it comes to how people get their news as it seems to be changing continuously.    I am covering the topic with my online AP kids on Wednesday and so will be referring to this 2014 Pew Research document as part of my bent to keep current.  Never mind that that none of the items will be on the AP exam, it does seem that students need to know how people, especially in their age category, are getting the news.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chat with the US Secretary of Education

Living in the nation's capital has afforded me some unique opportunities.  For example the Dir of Ed Tech for the US Dept of Education spent a day in my classroom and, as a result, I got to meet (in a small group) with Arne Duncan.  My students have also had the chance to meet with him on Digital Learning Day. I even ran into him at a local track while I was running with my son and he was playing basketball with his daughter.

Now you can chat with outgoing Secretary of the US Department of Education, Arne Duncan via Twitter.  There are two hashtags you can join him which are "#ce15" and "#edtechchat."  The meeting is at 8 pm on October 26th.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

James Madison Scholarship

One of our teachers, Doug Zywiol, won a James Madison scholarship last year which funds teachers up to $24,000 for a master's degree to learn more about the US Constitution.  This means it works for both teachers of US history as well as government.  It also is fast.  Doug found out in April and started classes this past summer.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Entire AP US and Comparative Government Course

I thought I had put this up, but perhaps not.  I have an entirely flipped class for both US and Comparative government which you can find here.   Know that this is a "live" link as I am making adjustments constantly as I find better resources.   I also have a lot of my assignments linked here as well.  

The Redistricting Game

Today when my AP Government team was meeting to discuss our next two weeks, Doug Zywiol mentioned the Redistricting Game which he likes to give to his students for an entire class period.  It is all about drawing boundaries for House seats and trying to gerrymander for your party and get it past the state legislature.  As you can see from the video above there are several different games you can play.  Your students will be frustrated and see how hard it is to draw boundaries.  You can also use it to teach the difference between reapportionment and redistricting.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Trump super PAC

Donald Trump may not be taking donations (or not much, he has collected several million dollars), but he did allow a super PAC to be set up - Make American Great Again - and even did some appearance for it this past summer before announcing he was running (which is legal).

According this WashPost article (and this graphic) 62% of funds raised in the presidential race so far have been done by super PACs for Republicans and 12% by Democrats.
Below is a great Colbert video explaining what is meant by a super PAC.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Site with All Presidential Advertisements

Economies of US and China

Thanks to Christian Voltzke for the graphic here on the economies of US and China.  Above is a great summary video from Jacob Clifford on the sam subject.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mastery Learning - Definition and Implementation

First off this is from Jonathan Bergmann who is one of the pioneers of flipping the classroom.  But what I like about this is that in 2 minutes, he

  • defines mastery learning
  • gives the advantages of using it
  • tells how it has opened him up for differentiation
  • discusses how he integrates flipping the classroom and how that is the core of what he does

My FRQ Tutorial Video

I completely forgot that I had done this video, but one of my team members just shared it!  So this is based on my 13 of grading AP US Government exams and all the tricks I have learned.  

Delegate, Trustee, Politico

For some reason I tend to mix up trustee and delegate. If your students do the same this video might help.  It comes from CitizenU which is based in part on giving up the textbook and if you follow their methods, you can do so. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

War Powers Act Assignment

My students are writing a practice FRQ tomorrow on the War Powers Act.  So it just happens that tomorrow my students, as part of our discussion of Congress are writing a FRQ on the War Powers Act.  Having graded AP exams for years, I can tell you this is the most incorrect item ever.  Kids still think the president have his constitutional power of commander-in-chief be limited and so find the War Powers Act confusing.

So, first off above is an interesting discussion of it and here and here is a great description of the specifics (in the first minute or the first paragraph here).   You can't give this whole video to your students as it requires a login/password for longer than a minute.

Here then is an October 12, 2015 example of Obama following the War PowersAct letter (thanks to Frank Franz on the AP US Government Facebook page for that).

Finally, here is the FRQ (#3) question my students will be working on.  While we are at it, I only use released FRQs.  If my students want to seriously remember every single one on each topic, then they and I will only stand to win from that! 

Entire Democratic Debate

Key Moments in the Democratic Debate

Here are two videos you can show to summarize the debate last night. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

FRQ Writing Video

I put up another video on how to answer a FRQ, but I also like Frank Franz's video on how to do it. He also brings you through an example.   It is excellent.  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tweeting the Democratic Debate

I am teaming with several other teachers in my county on October 14th to have our students Tweet the Democratic debate at 9 pm on CNN.  Here is how we do it:
  • We pick a hashtag which our students include in every post.  It can be as simple as #schoolnamegovclass.  Here is what we used last year (but aren't using Tuesday). 
  • We require the students to make three comments during the debate and tell them that school rules apply (ie language, etc.).   Our kids like to see that we are trending so they do far more comments (20-30) and stick around the entire debate.  Our kids then have to take screenshots of their 3 comments and share in a Google Drive document.
  • The teachers teach!  This means you might say that some candidates are already running very low on funds or that the polls are great, but the goal is to win delegates. Having more than one teacher in on the debate makes for a richer discussion.  
  • I use TweetChat (which can be synced to your Twitter account) so I can see the comments from the other students and easily enter in my own. Assume the kids can see all of the comments and know how to follow the discussion.  I also usually watch the debate/State of the Union on my laptop as well and split my screen as you can see from the video above.  
  • What about the kids who don't have Twitter!  I generally use an editable Google Drive document, but one option I am using TodaysMeet which lets you set up a Twitter like screen that does not require a login/password.  We used it for the Republican debate and it was awesome and much better than using an editable document from Google Drive. 
We find that the kids have a dynamic discussion during the debates (or the State of the Union) and can't pull themselves away from the screen (big or small).  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

50% of Funds for Pres. Campaigns Come from 158 People

This is the power of the Supreme Court.  As a result of Citizens United and super PACs (never mind dark money which doesn't need to be reported), 50% of the funds raised so far come from just 158 people.  They are mostly white, rich, males as a NYTimes investigation discovered.  This would make for a very interesting discussion with your classes.  Here is all their names and what they do for a living.

By the way, there are now over 1100 super PACs as you can see here. 

4 Ways to Screencast on Chromebooks

Right now my Macbook Air is on its last legs (pretty good after nearly five years) and I am toying with the idea of getting a Chromebook.  But first I want to see if I can do everything I am used to (a big stumbling block is Blackboard Collaborate which still requires Javascript to watch and is how I teach my online students)

One of the things I do a lot of is make screencasts, so one worry I wouldn't have (or your students if it's approved) is to make screencasts on a Chromebook.  Above are three videos explaining the methods and a fourth can be found here on a very well written (complete with graphics) summary of three methods.  

Friday, October 9, 2015

Study Less, Study Smart

These are some additional tips to what I posted yesterday.  It includes summarizing what you have learned, questioning teachers, using interactive methods, priming your learning before starting, using mnemonics and using images.

If you prefer notes over a video, these are the summary of the lecture above.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to Prepare for a Test

My mom asked me the other day where I get all of my ideas and sites for the blogs.  I told her that I basically just teach and search for answers to all of my questions.  For example the other day a friend asked me for help with her daughter's studying ability.

I actually always start this kind of an answer with asking if the student writes a study guide.  Most of the time, the answer is no.  Bu as I have now come to require my students to fill in one before each summative assessment, I have found that is where most end.   Given no study guide, most, would do nothing.  Given a study guide the most kids do is read them over and hope for the best on the items they don't know.  This is contrary to my kids who insist on us quizzing them repeatedly for days, which is exactly what the research suggests is best.  said she suffered from test anxiety.  She admitted that she never did more than review her notes to which I asked if she wasn't fulfilling her prophesy in that she was taking the easy way out by reading, but not studying and then blaming her low scores on the imagined anxiety.  I asked her if she had every varied her approach to prepare and the answer was,

For this year and last I have made a conscious effort to discuss what is meant by studying - even modeling it repeatedly with my non AP classes.  But here is a list of 22 different ideas to think and perhaps even share some of them with your students such as
  • quizzing one's self (I love Quizlet)
  • studying for multiple days
  • studying in different parts of the house
  • using different memory devices such as songs and story telling
  • writing it out
  • taking breaks and more
The video above echoes many of the points above, but also how to reduce anxiety in a test.

  • In addition to requiring study guides and 
  • giving them the Quizlet links for a particular subject (you can just do a search on the site and say something like "Regents WHI China" and someone has put together a pretty good group of cards. 
  • I tell them about Google Hangouts so they can quiz their friends and not have to worry about getting together.  They can be done on any device and allow you share your screen.
  • or use which allows students up to 999 other participants in a group call
  • or even the old fashioned meeting someone in person!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sanders, Fiorina, Trump and the Changing Political Landscape or Not?

So I am definitely not willing to concede that the party elites (Clinton, Rubio, Bush, etc.) won't be the presidential party candidates.  But this article from Vox and the video above are interesting.  Prior to 2000 the party elites won all the primaries, but since then far fewer have (dare I mention that Obama was 31% points down on Clinton 12 years ago).  But to quote Erza Klein:

"the inside game - courting donors, winning endorsements, endorsements, influencing the primary calendar, securing key committee assignments, luring top staffers, working with interest groups - makes up the bulk of politics."

Indeed a lot of people credit Tom Daschle's endorsement of Obama as the key that led him to get many of the insiders in his campaign.

But Klein, in the article argues that other factors (can you say social media) are changing the landscape.  As Vox points out when Bernie Sanders is mentioned in an article social media goes crazy and so news outlets want to report on him and when you get more press, you get more public support.   It is still too early to know what is going to happen, but as a teacher I love to enter a government class and feel the buzz generated by non traditional candidates.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pearson and Its Impact on Our Students

I got curious about Pearson when I saw this article on how we still have the same Texas Instruments calculators that we had in schools 20 years ago.  Part of that problem is because they are still in our textbooks and part of that, to be truthful, is that teachers hate changes (even in a difference in page numbers) in their textbooks.

The video above is an excellent one on the history of Pearson and the attacks it takes from both the left and right.  It is an $8 billion company that is behind most our state tests.   It does have some redeeming features such as online classes, good textbooks, etc., but it also continues to pursue cheap multiple choice tests rather than project based ones that are more expensive, yet better preparation for life beyond K-12.  (Did you know the pencil and standardized learning were invented the same year - more in my book on that).   Really we should be asking why our state exams are really exercises in Googling and not higher level thinking pieces.  To wit, the tests do drive our instruction.  Create project based end of the years assessments and you'll get more throughout the year.  Create end of the year multiple choice exams and you'll get more during the year and don't even get me started on the awful statistical practices that this has spawned!

At any rate it is always good to learn about "the forces" behind our legislative decisions.  In our state, for example, we have cut some year end tests, but it is bad form for Pearson to lose more of them and you can bet its lobbying arm is fighting more (and more here and here).

To wit, here is a great Politico article on Pearson and here is another recent one from Fortune.  Please take the time to look at these resources and get involved with your state and locally elected officials and ask them when our testing will start reflecting the changes in our society instead of the world one hundred years ago when we first saw the dawn of standardized testing.   

Late Night Humor with SNL

We like to have a little fun in class by watching ads and appearances by the presidential candidates. The top skit obviously features HRC and the bottom stand-ins for Trump and his wife Melanie.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

FRQ Grade Converter

We give a number of FRQs and so, thanks to Rich Hoppock and Dan Maxwell whom I team with for both economics and government, we have a nice converter.  To use it, download it and then upload it into your own Google Drive account, or if you don't have one, open it up in Microsoft Excel.  Then plug in the number you want and it will give a grade percentage. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Article IV Video

Every year there are problems that kids have one of them is that kids confuse the full faith and credit clause with privileges and immensities.  If your kids have the same issue, you might want to give the video above from Hip Hughes to your students.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Embedding Remind Texts in Blackboard

So in my school district a lot of people like using the "Announcement" tab in Blackboard.  The problem with that is if you change it to just a text (which is possible) then all teachers have to be limited to a text.

So, of course, many people who know that students never check emails love to use Remind.  So if you love group texting your students, but have to use the "Announcement" tab in Blackboard, then watch the video above which shows you have you can embed your Remind texts in Blackboard and meet your district's needs as well as meet your students where they best reside - on their smartphones!