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.   

Saturday, October 3, 2015

DBQ Rubric and Grade Converter

Our middle and high school social studies teams came up with SHIPPO which is an acronym which we use to help our kids analyze document based questions.  We also came up with a rubric in case you were looking for one.

While we are at it, go here and look at our grade converter developed by one of my econ partners in crime, Rich Hoppock.  To use it, download and then re-upload it into Google Drive or Microsoft. Then plug in whatever number you need for the rubric and you will have instant grades.

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!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Causes of the American Revolution in Four Minutes

This might be a nice way to summarize or even introduce the causes of the American Revolution.  

Make Videos with WeVideo

One of our special education teachers made the video above using WeVideo.  First off I should say we flip for not just mainstreamed students, but also special ed and ESOL (ESL) students.

WeVideo is an app that you can add in Google Drive or sign up for separately.  As with everything else here, it is free and pretty amazing as it lets you add in sound, video, words, effects, etc.  Best of all, you can use it with your students in groups as it lets them collaborate much as one can do on a document in Google Drive.

Below is an introductory video on WeVideo and here are all their (short) tutorials

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chromebook Shortcuts

So last Friday the two wonderful SBTS (school based technology specialists) in my building delivered thirty Chromebooks to my classroom.  We spent about 20 minutes logging in and then connecting to the two WiFi accounts that we have at school.  I was surprised first by the number of kids who hadn't heard of them and then later by the number who said they liked them so much they were going to looking into buying their own.  My favorite comment came from a young man who said he no longer had time to text in between going from webpage to webpage.  Yes they are lightening fast.

So I promise to blog about using Chromebooks this year and will start with what I mentioned in class today which is the list of shortcuts that you can use on the laptops.

By the way if you are like some of my students and haven't heard about Chromebooks then you should know that they are a very cheap, but high quality laptop ($200-250 is where most fall for school needs).  The ones we have are sturdy and from signing in to being on a webpage is less than ten seconds.  There is some space for downloading, but not enough room to run programs that require java script.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

The DBQ Project for Amazing Essay Writing

I don't often promote items that cost money, but the DBQ Project is simply amazing.  First of all they adhere to standard curriculum and secondly they are so good that you do not need to cover the section beforehand.   They all come with a one page summary and then each document is broken down into a series of questions, the last of which is always the topic sentence question.  I have used them with my standard students and find they write better using the DBQ Project items than a standard essay where they have to find all of the information.  The best part is that the essay does the teaching of those facts.

I usually set aside two class days for each one and insist that the kids correct all of their mistakes after they have turned them in so they can truly learn the correct way to write.

If you want to see an example, here is one on  Jamestown.  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New Voice Typing for Google Docs

It takes a bit of getting used to, but you can say things like "new paragraph," or "exclamation" and it will do them in addition to regular old typing on your Google Drive documents.  I found this on Google+ from Carlos Guerrrevo

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Grading and Returning Assignments in Google Classroom

I am going to be testing Google Classroom this year so will be putting tutorials in how to use it this year.  Above is a great video I found on the International Educators IT Leadership and Integration page on Facebook.   The video takes you through all of the grading steps and options.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Flipping Back to School Night

I started flipping my back to school night a few years ago.  It gives you more time to discuss items with your parents since we only have ten minutes with each group.  I have found this method works well with honors and AP classes, but not standard ones.

You can create your own Back to School Night using Screencastomatic and this tutorial. 

How to Write a Book and Influence History

If you think about it, biographers and historians have a huge impact on history.  Case in point is McCullogh's book about Truman, that no one considered first rate until the biography.  Another example is how Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote about Lincoln's cabinet which many compared to Obama after taking on Clinton.   Of course this is important to history teachers as these books often end up as one liners in our textbooks and essential knowledge guides.

All of this makes me wonder how historians do it with thousands of pages of notes.  It was one thing to write my book completely online as it is only 150 pages, but what about much longer ones.  One day last spring I stumbled on Erik Larson's blog (as I was reading Dead Wake; he also is well known for Devil in the White City) and asked him how he does it.  Initially he told me he was too tired from his book tour, but as you can see here, he finally settled down and wrote a very detailed answer - in case you are interested.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Doodle to Schedule Meetings

Last week I used Doodle to figure out when my department should have its fall party.   Our count's online teachers also use it to determine what time is best for our weekly chats with students.  The great thing is that you do not need to join, but do need to give them an email.

By the way I have a junk email that I use when signing up for new things out there to make sure I like them (since you can always change your email later).  This helps to cut down on the emails you receive and don't really want.

Doodle sends a link (such as this one my department used) which allows users to identify themselves and then to select a time that would be useful.  It certainly is much easier than sending a bunch of emails and quicker than creating a Google Drive form.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Before Rosa Parks There Was Another

Before Rosa Parks there was Claudette Colvin.   She actually sat at the front of the bus (as opposed to Rosa Parks who sat in the African American section) and her situation became park of a court case. But why did history remember Parks and not Colvin.  Perhaps, as the article points out, because she got pregnant at 15 shortly after the incident and made less of a perfect civil rights figure.  If you have the time, it might be fun for your students to look back at historical events and see why they became known. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Effective Classroom Methodology

As I begin a new school year - my 25th,  (my student have their first day on Tuesday) I always like to reflect on what setup (beyond the physical part) is best for my students.  So

  • Hip (Keith Hughes) has a great list of what is most important in the classroom starting with setting up an engaging classroom which lead inevitably to better classroom management.  My favorite on his list, though, is to be a little cray cray.    Teaching is like any good relationship. The more fun the teacher is having, usually the more fun the students are having.  The list isn't something you don't know, but it is good to hear it and make sure you are following each item. 
  • If you are a new teacher, look at Keith's rules for new teachers.  
  • Here is a great list of the elements of an effective classroom 
  • If you want to see some research on what goes into a good classroom going as far as the necessary light (hello 70s era schools without windows!) then go here for a great overview. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Rewordify to Simplify Readings

In my World History I ESOL classes I have usually have 25 kids who have been in the US less than four years and half who have been here just two years of fewer.  So one thing I use is Google Translate when I am trying to get them to learn to write (they write in their native language and then translate it to English as the writing part is more important than the English part).  But there are also lots of words or even combination of words that make it tough to read a textbook or newspaper.  So for those (if they are done electronically), one option is to use Rewordify which literally simplifies what one is reading.