Thursday, April 16, 2015

Glitzy New Presidential Site


This is a fun video from a fairly new site called PresidentialHistory.com.  The video above is a "live recreation" of the electoral results from the 1916 presidential election pointing out, in a fun way, how we forget the losers, even the close ones (Hughes vs. Wilson) when they lose.

Otherwise the site has lots of really interesting bullet type facts about presidents so of which will be useful to you and some of which are just good for the teacher.

There is also a nice page on links.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to Study for a Test

When I was growing up I was expected to "always do my best."  I translated this to studying for my midterm exams several weeks in advance over the winter break, always doing it two or three times prior to a normal exam and even arguing post test for every single point.  Thus when I started teaching I assumed my students would make their own study guides, and truly study.  But alas I have learned over the years that studying, for more than not means,

  • doing nothing at all and hoping for the best
  • reading one's notes and
  • for only a precious few, actually doing what my daughters are doing right now by quizzing each and helping each other make sure they have actually learned the material.
Two days ago I met a student in an AP US class who 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, "Well sometimes I don't study."

This year 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.  

Associated Press Article on Lincoln's Death

Without the lens of history to see Lincoln's shooting, this is a very interesting article written by Associated Press reporter Lawrence Gobright.  The article is quite graphic, mentioning Mrs. Lincoln's screams and the "brain oozing out."  I love using primary documents through the course of history and with the 150th anniversary of the assassination, this is certainly a good one to read.

Below is a fascinating interview in 1956 with an eyewitness of the shooting.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Win a Free Copy of My Book

So I want to give one of you a free book.  The person who can find me the best review (for US/world history, US/comparative government or economics) will get a free copy of my book.  The catch is that the resource has to be online and more sites are better than one.  My book, Deeper Learning Through Technology, is all about the personalization of your teaching so that each of your students can have more one on one time with you - the teacher.  It also looks at how you can find a professional learning community online so you can go beyond your classroom as well as using many online tools and how to flip your classroom.    Send me a note at kenhalla@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

James Madison Fellowship Scholarship

There is a tremendous scholarship by the name of the James Madison Fellowship scholarship which funds teachers up to $24,000 for a master's degree.  The group selects up to one person per state each year.   So if you are looking for help, you might want to check it out.  One of my department colleagues, Doug Zywiol (@dougzywiol), just won the grant from Virginia.  

My Newspaper Editorial

I have been seeing a lot of negative editorials recently on technology use in the classroom and, not being a shy person, I wrote one and with the help of the Smarter Schools Project it was published today in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  As with many states, Virginia (where I live) has been grappling, in our legislature (as has our Congress), to protect students, often at the cost of using technology.  While it is a fine balance, my thoughts are printed here in full.  About the only thing missing is that I wish a start-up would develop to vet our burgeoning ed tech needs.   

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


The WashPost has had an ongoing series on the Civil War, including this new one on the end of the Civil War which describes Lee's surrender as well as the burning of Richmond.

Above is a video on an 87 year old woman who just gave her "stereo" pictures of the Civil War to the Library of Congress.  Here is the accompanying article. 

Causes of US Entering WWI Lesson Plan

I am engrossed in Erik Laroson's new book Dead Wake which looks at the last voyage of the Lusitania including the view from U20, which sunk it as well as the decoders who knew that there was a great possibility that the Lusitania was going to be sunk.  In one very vivid scene, Larson describes the Lusitania leaving port which you can see above.  I think showing a brief part of this video brings the sinking alive to your students as does showing the Zimmerman Telegraph (here is a lesson plan developed around it).  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Add Text to Images


You can add text to photos with this app called Phonto Photo. It's available for both Apple and Android devices and very easy to use. You can place the text anywhere on the photo and size it. And it's free!

Thanks to my colleague, Jeff Feinstein, who sent me the link.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

National WWII Museum & Teachers

The National WWII Museum is chalk full of goodies for teachers.  For example there is a teacher page as well as a section on Pearl Harbor, Iowa Jima, D-Day, the home front, African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the war.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Our Kids by Robert Putnam

My blog is all about free things you can use with your students, but occasionally I veer as in posting about my own new book.  But for year I have asked the students who do poorly in my classes why they don't care in an effort to better serve them.  The answer is always the same "I don't know." Well, now I have a great answer after reading Robert Putnam's new book, Our Kids which argues that we have created two Americas - those in the middle upper class and above and the rest.  He shows, using lots of statistics, but also anecdotal stories, that members of the lower classes are much more likely to have little or no college, more likely to divorce, be a member of far fewer extracurricular activities, be more likely to go to a school with fewer AP/IB classes, and on and on.  He makes a strong argument (and we have heard this before) that the first three years are essential to the life development.  He builds a case that fifty years ago it was much easier for someone to "rise up," but today that is much harder today.  
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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Sales Are Going Really Well

I had a conversation with "my marketing editor" (yes there are seven editors working on this project!) on Wednesday and she told me that my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction was already selling beyond expectations in its first month out.  So thank you for all of you who bought the book.

If you haven't bought it yet and want some highlights:

  • the goal of the book is to help you set different paces for your students so each can obtain more learning than if you were marching all your students at the same pace
  • to do that you need to expand your PLC beyond your school's borders
  • evaluate your students using free online technology
  • know how to use Google Drive to grade in near real time
  • flip your classroom to better allow students to watch short lectures in a timely fashion
  • know how to mobile devices in the classroom
  • know how to connect to your students using technology beyond the classroom
  • and SO much more.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Daylight Saving & Farmers

As long as we are talking farmers, one myth which I've wrongfully perpetuated is that farmers are the reason we end standard time (which is between the fall and spring) and go on daylight savings time.  The practice was started in England in 1907 and it made it to the US in WWI ostensibly to save energy so we could be awake more during daylight.  In case you want to share it with your students, here is a WashPost article and here is another one from National Geographic

The Great Depression & Taking Notes from a Video

Right about now you should have gotten to the Great Depression (if you are teaching AP).   We are having a discussion in my county about the amount of work we give our students (mostly AP ones). First off we all must agree that most textbooks are written in a rather boring fashion and no wonder some kids don't like history.

Learning from videos works for them as it adds different ways of learning (visual, audio, etc.) and is more engaging to our students.  But they still have to organize something from it.  So if you look at the top video, you can see a CrashCourse video on the Great Depression while on the bottom I show my students (on a government film) how to take notes.   The correct videos cover the main points and give the teacher time to add supplementary material to go in more depth or to bring history alive with primary documents.

If you use Screencastomatic, you can make your own video on how to do this as well.  Below is a video that shows you how.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Free PDF to Word Converter

I have long used Pdftoword to convert my pdfs to word documents, but there is a several page limit and after a certain amount they require you to set up an account.  The latter part might be a positive as you have all of your documents in one place, but...

Now I prefer Investintech.com's pdf converter because

  • there is no limit to the length of the document
  • you can even convert scanned documents
  • you only have to put in your email and you will receive it in 40 minutes or less.
  • there is no membership required