Sunday, May 8, 2016

Use Google Classroom as Discussion Board or Poll

You can use Google Classroom as a discussion board. You can pose a question and students can respond and comment on each others.

Here's how.

Open Classroom and click the "plus" sign.

Next, click "Question."
Add your question. Mary Catherine Keating, a teacher at Chantilly High School who showed me this feature,  asked her students which cause of World War 1 was most important--alliances, militarism, imperialism, or nationalism.

Once a student responds, then he or she can see other comments and responses. After a student submits the comment, you get an email notification of the post.

You can also use Classroom to poll your students. Mary Catherine often uses this feature as a bell ringer.

The process is similar to creating a discussion board
  • Go to the plus sign
  • Click create question
  • Hover over "Short Answer"



  • Click on Multiple Choice

Add your question with choices. Once you add the questions, Classroom will tally the responses.  You can show the students the tally or hide it.

You could use the polling feature as a bell ringer as Mary Catherine Keating sometimes does, or perhaps as an exit ticket.

Here's a blog post from Google for Education about the polling feature.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Intro to Birthplace of Student Civil Rights Movement

Jeff Feinstein, who writes for this blog, recently took his US history students on a field trip to the birthplace of the civil rights movement--  a fascinating museum in Virginia called the Robert Russa Moton Museum.

Few people know that Moton High School provided three-fourths of the plaintiffs in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case.

Feinstein says that one student thought that the field trip should be required because it was so moving.

You can read Jeff's column about the trip here at PBS Education. The PBS NewsHour also mentioned the field trip toward the end of its Friday broadcast. You can can see it below. Just move to about minute 51.30.

If you live in Virginia and teach US History,  you might also consider a field to this amazing museum.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Online AMA review session

AMA stands for Ask Me Anything.  I've scheduled two AMA sessions for my students in advance of next Friday's APUS exam.

Here's how it will work: First, I'll create a classroom in Today's Meet.
Then I'll share the classroom code with my students via Remind.
Today's Meet is a form of online open classroom.  Under the AMA format, I'll moderate the discussion, answering any questions that my students have.  I can also mix it up by asking other students to try to answer questions.  When (or if) things slow down, I'll have prepared review questions of my own to get the students active and engaged.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I'm going to my first EdCamp today

I'm going to my first EdCamp event today.
EdCamp events are free, open-ended professional development get-togethers.  There are no formal presenters.  Participants come with ideas, interests, and a desire to collaborate.  Because I have all three I've been eager to attend since I registered many months ago.

This YouTube video explains the format.  The link comes from Eileen Yaeger, a terrific ESOL teacher currently at Washington Mill Elementary in northern Virginia.
What I'm really looking for at my inaugural EdCamp event is information about 1:1 implementation.  My principal tells us that we're moving to the 1:1 model in 2017-2018 and I want to learn about
  • What does 1:1 look like?
  • How do you prepare for it?
  • How to you roll it out?
Interested in attending?  Here's the link to the EdCampNova website, and you can Twitter follow @EdCampNova and #EdCampNova.

If you're in northern Virginia and would like to come, it will be held at Marshall High School in Falls Church from 8am to 1:30pm.  Click here to register.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Online Seminary

Fairfax County, VA's high school social studies specialist, Craig Perrier, is hosting a webinar on Teaching U.S. History in a Global Context.  Craig is a dynamic speaker and very invested in the topic so it will prove to be a useful discussion.  If you are interested in it, one April 26th go at 8 pm Easter to this link.  

Monday, April 18, 2016

Quizlet ups its game

Quizlet, the popular online review app, now has a live version for whole classroom use.  It's called Quizlet Live and you can learn about it here.

It's team-based and competitive, which will certainly increase student engagement.  One feature I really liked: Just like the Chutes and Ladders review activity I did for my AP US History students and that I blogged about recently, Quizlet Live has a feature that resets student scores to zero if they get an incorrect answer.  That promotes reasoned deliberation before answering a question.  The game gives feedback to teachers that helps them identify the areas and topics that were most challenging to students, so that teachers can develop appropriate remediation strategies.

You can get additional information about Quizlet Live by clicking here.

Cool new exhibit on World War I at the Library of Congress

How did American art influence World War I, and how did World War I influence American artists?  Those questions are addressed in a new exhibit opening in May at the Library of Congress.
The exhibit, entitled "World War I: American Artists View the Great War," features numerous materials (like drawings, cartoons, posters, and photographs) from a wide variety of artists.  Some were sponsored by the government (like those created through the Committee on Public Information) while others were by private individuals with no government connection.

Included in the collection will by work by James Montgomery Flagg (he of Uncle Sam fame).  (Will this particular image be in the exhibit?  We'll have to wait and see.)
The Library promises that it will supplement its onsite exhibition in Washington, D.C., with education plans, public programs, and an online exhibit.  That online exhibit will be available once the physical exhibit space opens to the public on Sun., 7 May.  You can read the press release announcing the exhibit here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

How we used EdTech in our APUS review

The AP exam in U.S. History this year is during the morning session of Fri., 6 May, so it wasn't too early to plan our review activities.  Here's what my team did, and how we used technology to raise the level of engagement for our students.
Our review is loosely based on the children's game "Chutes and Ladders."  (Teachers interested in remembering rules for the original Hasbro game can click here.)  To prepare our variation, we printed 43 pages of released questions from the New York State Regents Exam for United States History and Government and numbered every page in Sharpie from 1 to 43.  The pages were scattered throughout our library.

(Why use review questions from a high school exam for our AP students?  We chose them because they addressed core topics and were written in a way that would allow the students to assess quickly whether they knew or forgot the material.)

Students worked in pairs, and were assigned a starting station when they checked in.  The first pair was assigned to start at station 1, the second pair a station 4, etc., so that students would not bunch up.  The teams located their starting station, then answered each of the questions (usually 7-8) on their page.

Here's where the EdTech kicked in.  Accompanying each question sheet was a separate sheet with a QR code with the correct answers.  (Students were told to make sure their smartphones had a QR code reader in advance.)
This QR code, for example, gives the answers to Questions 22-29 for the June 2015 exam.  (Try it for yourself to see.)

The students checked their answers once they had finished answering the questions.  They could advance to the next numbered station only if they got every question correct.  If they got even one question wrong they would have to return to their base station and start all over.

This activity was tremendously successful.  Students were fully engaged throughout.  It allowed for movement, using their smartphones as a learning phone and not a distraction, and collaboration as they worked out the answers.  Best yet, students offered unsolicited praise both after it was over and the next day in class.

The New York Times discovers educational technology

EdTech has made it to the New York Times.  The story (Kahoot App Brings Urgency of a Quiz Show to the Classroom) by @natashanyt focuses on Kahoot, described as being "like a television game show sliced with a video game."

For teachers, the fact that a story about a single educational technology app like Kahoot makes the New York Times is a big deal.  But let's hope that it's just a precursor of increased interest in the greater role educational technology can play in instruction.  Technology is a simply a tool, but it is a tool with a high potential to inform and engage the diverse community of students we teach.  Educational technology websites and apps can help students learn digital citizenship; get and stay organized; organize their research; collaborate with teachers and classmates on assignments; create new content; practice and review.  It can also help teachers assess and remediate.

That's why many of us have been encouraging and promoting (like with this blog) greater classroom use of technology in our classrooms.  More prominent discussion of the uses and benefits could lead to increased support in our schools and from our central office administrators.

Monday, April 4, 2016

iCivics.org


I subscribe to education alerts from The New York Times, which can be a great way to stay on top of what's going on with education policy.  They also periodically cover different resources, such as these interactive games, which were partially created by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

While not every student will enjoy the games, they look like a great tool for giving students some application of key government concepts.  I experimented with playing one called, "Do I Have a Right", which focused on setting up a mock law firm to handle issues of Constitutional law.  Another game involves staging a race for the presidency.  The games look like perfect tools for students who need more hands-on application of the civics and government concepts.  I could see using the "Do I Have a Right" game to help students review the amendments before the SOLs begin in the next month.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More Nixon resources: Nixon's Trip to China

President Obama recently returned from an historic trip to Cuba.  (This video [2:45] from the Voice of America shows and discusses his arrival.)  You could use that current event to introduce your discussion of an analogous diplomatic initiative: the American initiative to normalize relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) that began under President Richard Nixon.
That initiative began with Mr. Nixon's 1972 trip to the PRC, which ended a quarter-century of isolation between those two nations.  A terrific resource to use with your student's is this curated collection from the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.  That site has excerpts of five taped audio conversations between the President and others.  Each one is accompanied by a transcript.  It would be fun to divide the class into five groups, assign each a different conversation, have them report out, then lead a whole class discussion of President Nixon's goals and methods in dealing with communist China during the height of the Cold War.

President Nixon's diplomacy also set up the next stage in that diplomatic relationship.  More specifically, it set in motion a series of steps resulting in full diplomatic relations between the United States and the PRC during President Carter in 1979.  (This video [4:20] shows President Carter's 1978 address to the nation announcing that agreement.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Make a Presidential Campaign ad

Here's an extension to an already terrific lesson plan from PBS NewsHour Extra.  That lesson plan ("Lights, Camera, Politics: Create Your Own Presidential Campaign Ad") invites students to create a TV ad for a candidate running for president in 2016.  It relies on students using the archives at the incomparable Living Room Candidate website.
How about: Have students follow the exact same steps (investigate and discuss ads from the television era, starting in 1952), but then create an ad for a candidate running for president in the pre--television era?

Adaptation: Have students choose from among these elections:
  • Election of 1800 (the electoral tie)
  • Election of 1824 (the corrupt bargain)
  • Election of 1860 (4 major candidates; Lincoln wins with under 40% of the popular vote)
  • Election of 1876 (the Electoral Commission)
  • Election of 1896 (William Jennings Bryan and the Cross of Gold)
  • Election of 1912 (4-major candidates; Wilson wins over Taft, TR and the Bull Moose Party, and Debs)
  • Election of 1948 ("Dewey defeats Truman" [or does he?] after the Dixiecrat walkout) (Okay, Truman wins)
Once they choose an election, the students make two ads (one each by opposing candidates) addressing a common issue that was important during that campaign.  The students can upload their videos to YouTube, where they can be shared with their classmates.

Extension: Have students show their ads on their devices as students circulate through the class in a gallery walk activity.  Students can tweet their reaction to the ads to a common hashtag, or comment on them directly on the YouTube site.

More Nixon resources: Resignation

The Richard Nixon Foundation has curated a terrific set of eight videos dealing with President Nixon's 1974 resignation.  In this video (4:02), President Nixon discusses his decision to resign.
And in this video (4:19) President Nixon recalls his final day in office.

Video resources to study President Nixon's foreign policy

Here are some terrific short video resources to share with your students when you are studying foreign policy and diplomacy under Richard Nixon (from his vice presidency to his presidency).

Here's video (4:08) of the 1959 Kitchen Debate:
Here's a video (14:22) of President Nixon announcing the 1970 incursion into Cambodia.
In this clip (3:33), President Nixon announces his 1971 trip to China.
This clip (2:33) assesses the impact of that visit.
This clip (2:38) discusses withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Look Back to Primaries in 1968

With all the primary chaos going on this year,  it has been a government/U.S. history teacher’s dream for provoking thoughtful class discussion.  It’s the perfect opportunity to include some discussion of other key election years, particularly the Democratic Primaries of 1968.   


This article from the Stanford Political Journal is slanted, but provides some nice parallels to the Democratic primaries this year.  There is also this article from PBS, which gets into the convention itself.  Finally, this article from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics on the changes Democrats made to their process after the 1968 election. It includes a great explanation of how the Democratic delegate selection works.  


Some classroom ideas might include the following:


  1. Divide the class into thirds, with each group reading a different article.  Students can then hold discussion about each article’s information/perspective.  
  2. Read the articles at home or in class and hold a discussion about the parallels between the 1968 election year and this election year.  Students might be asked to hypothesize what might happen at the Republican Convention during a very divided year.  
  3. A third activity might involve students reading the articles, holding a discussion, then redesigning the convention/primary/delegate system for one of the political parties.  

I teach alternative education, and my students aren’t always known for their enthusiasm for history and social studies, but this has proven to be a topic of conversation they are initiating themselves.  I also teach five subjects simultaneously (World History I and II, U.S. and Virginia History, U.S. and Virginia Government, and Economics and Personal Finance) and this provides a topic that can be connected to all of those subject areas in some way.