Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Did the First Americans Come From Western Europe?

This is an amazing article in the WastPost that posits that the first Americans did not come over Beringia, but rather have been dubbed Solutreans and came from Spain, Portugal and southern France (Iberia, south Siberia!).  Above is a video (part 1 of 9 and the others show after you play it) on the Solutreans and here is another story in Wikipedia

21,000 Hits This Month and Rising

We reached a new milestone hitting 21,000 hits this month.  The top three most hit posts were getting help via Twitter for US history students,  followed by children in the industrial revolution and finally how a Google search works

A Webinar on the Flipped Classroom

Thanks to the head of social studies in my county, Alice Reilly, who gave me the heads up on this which she found on Eschoolnews which is a daily e-mail for people interested in technology news.  On Tuesday, March 20 from 2:00-3pm ET there will be a webinar on flipping the classroom.  Go here to register this seminar.  Attendees will learn what a “flipped classroom” should look like (and what it shouldn't look like), how to develop implementation strategies for a flipped classroom model (needs assessment; selecting resources, such as Tegrity; and measuring success), best practices for using Tegrity to create content for the flipped classroom and tips for most efficient use of class time in a flipped classroom model. 

Tiny Url

From time to time I need to shorten my url.  For example if I am sending out a message using Remind101 to my  students, then my Google Docs url is too short so I get a truncated one.  For example, here is the entire url for a webquest my US government students are working on (concerning the presidential election if you are interested) and here is the tinyurl:  Both end up at the same page. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

PBS Story on Flipping the Classroom

Google Earth of the Panama Canal

One of my teacher-students, Carl Jones, found the video above of a Google Earth tour of the Panama Canal.  Carl enjoys making Google Earth tours of many of his unit destinations.  However rather than having to create a new Google Earth destination and then using Screencastomatic to create a video of it, Carl saved time by finding it (and others on youtube). 

How A Google Search Works

While this is over a year old, it still mostly holds true.  The author, Matt Cutts, is the head of quality control at Google.  He, therefore, is in charge of the search engine and for keeping it "honest" (ie not biased towards Google products).  Play the video for a fascinating look at what happens between when you push return on a search and when you get the results. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Building a Webquest

My students do a lot of webquests where I have them answer a series of questions using their e-books as well as Internet sites and some videos.  I believe that webquests cater to different learning styles and thus help all students learn more effectively. is a starting point for hundreds of different webquests.  If you are like me you can take bits and pieces from others or even start with the key concepts you have to cover and start doing some searching online to build one of your own. 

Twitter Help for US History Students

One of my colleagues teaches at Thomas Jefferson High School a few miles from here.  For those of you who haven't heard of it, it is always #1 on Jay Matthews' AP/IB Challenge as it is a very competitive magnet school.  At any rate Scott Campbell's AP US history students have started a help page on Twitter at @apushhelp.  The kids are pretty eager to help out everyone (and themselves in the process since it reinforce their learning).  So you might want to think about giving it to your students in AP or even regular US history. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Who Was the Richest President?

In light of Romney's wealth Time magazine has a pictorial comparison of the relative wealth of all US presidents in 2010 dollars.  JFK comes in as #1 and Washington (remember he married up when he latched onto Martha Custis) is second.  I found it at a new site I have been following that has a catchy name called "Chart Porn" and, of course, has none of the latter. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chomp and Mobile Apps

So, as you can probably tell, I am learning a lot recently about mobile apps.  Well one thing I have just discovered is that there is a company called Chomp which allows you to more easily search for apps (both Android, iPhone and iPad).  It was just recently bought by Apple who is looking to revamp its app store, but for the time being it will continue as is - namely a search engine for your apps.  So if you know what you are looking for to help with your classes, just go there and do a search.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

National Archives Mobile App

The National Archives have an app for Android and iPhone which gives you a daily document each day of the year including a letter Elvis wrote to Nixon asking to meet him (above).  

Mark Twain In A Thomas Edison Film

Yes Thomas Edison is most remembered for the lightbulb, but if you follow this blog a while you know his earliest film was in 1894.  Above is one he took of Samuel Longhorn Clemons (Mark Twain) the year before he died.  Pretty amazing stuff which I found on OpenCulture.   

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Children In The Industrial Revolution

I believe that using primary documents is essential in any history class as students need to know how to write history.  To that end, this is an amazing set of primary resources (songs, pictures, newspaper clippings, etc.) all about children working in the industrial era.  Here is a very nicely produced sheet which students can use to decipher these documents. Of course if it is too long, you can use my suggestion for pdftoword a few posts below it to change it to a word document.   Finally here is the source where I found it and you will see many other ways to teach. 

Lindbergh's Flight

Lindbergh's Transatlantic Flight
Above is vintage footage of Charles Lindbergh taking off on his transatlantic flight from the US to France. Nothing like talking about history and then showing a quick video of it.

Khan Academy and Flipping from Ted Talks

My colleague, Jeff Feinstein, sent me this link to the "Ted Talk" video by an early promoter of "flipping the classroom." Here's the blurb from the you tube site: "Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script -- give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help."

The Industrial Revolution and Apple

I received this from Janet Babic who is a tremendous teacher in my department who is now connecting the Industrial Revolution to our student's world today in the form of Apple. This clip is the first time that American cameras have gone into Apple factories in China and it does a great job of showing the positives and negatives of the factory work in China.  It was very effective in getting the students to make connections to the mill experience in the IR and also demonstrating assembly lines, working conditions, etc.  It’s about 17 minutes long, but it’s split into 3 parts and my students really loved it and we had some great conversation about ethics in business, etc.

Smartphone As Your Computer

Sorry to be on such a smartphone kick, but I am trying to get used to my new phone quickly.  As most of you know you can edit your Google Docs items from any mobile device.  My students who have tried it get a kick out of working on their phone (and I've lost count of how many have done it on days their Internet have gone down at home or who just plain like doing it) and seeing the changes simultaneously on their laptops.  So the video above shows a person actually working on a GDocs item from their smartphone.  I found this video on Google Operating System and ones like this that allow you use the smartphone as the guts of the computer when docked in a screen/re-charging device.  But what gets me excited is this product from Ubuntu which connects your smartphone to a screen or this one which is essentially an empty laptop for which the smartphone serves as the guts. It is one way that soon schools will be able to provide cheaper access to the Internet for their students (not to mention already inexpensive devices such as the Chromebook).  In other words a cloud based classroom for all our students is getting very close (since schools will hopefully be able to provide laptops to the students without smartphones).   Here is the Android app for Google Docs and here is the iPhone one. 

Pdf to Word

There seems to a ton of times in my life when I have wanted to convert a pdf to a word document but have been unable to do so.  While it is a feature of Google Docs, it does not work as well as Pdftoword which allows you to convert short (3-4 pages) documents.  Just enter in the document and in about an hour the word document is e-mailed to you.  If you have longer ones, you can sign up for the free two week trial or subscribe.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

History Simulations

Speaking of advertising, the first one (look at the right side of this blog for a link anytime) is for "History Simulations" which you can do online when your students are studying World War I, World War II and the Cold War.  Above is a short video explaining how to get the simulations for your students.  What I really like about this site is that it was created by a current teacher for teachers so your students should love it. 

Advertise on The Teacher Sites

After four years and 2500 posts, I have decided to earn some money from this enterprise.  With over 20,000 hits a month (and growing) this site combined with the US Government Teachers and World History Teachers sites have become one of, if not the, social studies site to visit to help your free content and technology needs.  If you are a company that would like to advertise, please contact me to talk about rates.

Likewise if you need presenters at in-services or conferences, I would be happy to discuss rates and tailor the presentations to fit your needs.

Please contact me at 

Dictionary App for Mobile Devices has a free app for Android users as well as people who like Apple's mobile devices

Google Earth For Mobile Devices

Many teachers like using Google Earth in their classroom. Now if you are short on laptops, you can get the students with smartphones to download the Google Earth app for Droid and for iPhone.  The video above shows you how to use it in an Android. 

Flash Cards for Mobile Devices

Here is an Android app that lets you create flashcards for class for free.  Here are three that use the same idea with an iPhone app. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mobile Scanner

Okay, one more before I force myself to go to bed! While I have basically shunned all paper in my classroom, people still insist on giving it to me at various in-services and what not. Well now I can scan in my documents and leave the paper behind! Here is the app for the iPhone and here is the one for the Droid

Use Your Smartphone To Control Your Laptop

Okay so one of my teachers recently asked me to buy him a remote control clicker so he could move around the classroom and show his PowerPoints (and then lost it a day after I got it for him!).  Well now he can use this iPhone app or I, my Droid app, to click my computer screen while I run around the room and teach!   

Wikipedia for Your Mobile Device

Okay, so I am a little bit on a roll.  Followers of this site know that I really like Wikipedia. So if you agree here is an app for your Droid and one for your iPhone.  

Diigo for Your Android/iPhone

Okay, here is installment #2 for your Android or iPhone which lets you save pages to your Diigo account.  If you don't have Diigo, then you might want to consider it as it lets you save urls, categorize them and then even lock them (which is nice if you have a lot of websites for which you don't want to remember login/passwords) so no one can see your url.  Otherwise you can search the open urls and find lots of other people who have saved sites that are similar to yours.  I found idea on Android 4 Schools and here is my last post on Diigo. 

Nixon in China, 40 Years Later

One of my favorite sites on the NYTimes is the Lede which has a lot of "man on the street" video from chaotic scenes around the world (think Arab Spring).  But the most recent post is a short (3 minutes) narrated video of Nixon visiting China 40 years ago.  Here is the entire story from the Lede. 

Relocating Your Smartphone

Okay so two weeks ago my cell phone died and I went from a simple device that could only call someone (yes this is surprising for many who know me) to one who can now text (to my wife's relief) and get on the cloud from my phone.  Bucking most of my students' suggestions, I went for an Android (Verizon's 4G Razr).  So every once in a while I am going to be putting items up on the blog page for cell phones.  First off here is a NYTimes article on Lookout Mobile (for iphone and Android) that can uses a webpage to locate your phone as well as serves as free antivirus and saves your photos and contacts to the cloud in case your smartphone is destroyed or lost.  Actually the latter is one of the reasons I chose an Android as it is completely connected to the web (my contacts, for ex. are just my gmail list and I can seamlessly save any webpage to my phone using the Chrome to Phone extension.  

Flipping the Classroom

This article from The Economist offers a good overview of flipping and its value. It also talks about the interest of the Gates Foundation in the idea.

Friday, February 17, 2012

This Day in History - History Channel

The History Channel has an excellent look at "this day in history." I am not one of the teachers that likes to show a daily show such as this, but there is a search engine so you can see the ton of short films.   Basically if you want about a 30-60 second film on a subject in US history, you will have lots of fun.  For example above, in the second part, is 30 seconds of pictures of Wounded Knee. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spatial History Project At Stanford

The Spatial History Project at Stanford is an awesome site that allows you or your kids to explore the historical evolution and geographical context of the Nazi concentration camps administered by the SS. My thanks to Jeff Feinstein for sending this to me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In-Service on Using Google Docs

Today I and the head of our high school technology specialists (Yvonne Griggs) will be presenting an in-service on using Google Docs in the classroom to our middle and high school chairs.  We have created a how to sheet which includes videos for everything we are doing.  So if you are learning about Google Docs (or as we will be doing, Google Apps for Education), please click here and you can use it as well. 

How Stuff Works Videos

I love the free (and short) videos on "How Stuff Works."  Above is one on the Declaration of Independence and there are a ton more to help you in a history class here. In particular, here is the US history page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Entire School Online

I am surprised I haven't heard about his as this school (Battlefield HS in Prince William County, VA) is just down the road from me.  If you go here you can look on the right hand side of the page and hit the "+" by "social studies" and all of the classes will pop up and then you can see all of the assignments for each teacher.  There are a few that are locked down by a code, but most are right there for the viewing.  So if you need help with AP US and standard US, you might have hit pay dirt.  Thanks for the head up from Jerry Walsh who is taking my tech integration course and showed this to me in class tonight. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Quasi Flipped Class

Like Frank Franz, I’ve done a lot of research on flipping the classroom. I’m trying it for the first time this week in my AP World class with a short lecture on the causes of World War I. I linked the screen cast on Blackboard. The idea is that this will give me more time in class to do more hands on learning or delve more deeply into the lecture topic. For example, I might ask the kids to rank the causes and defend their ranking.

But I wonder if history classrooms are already flipped if we don’t do much lecturing in the first place. The reading gives the kids the same content as a podcast lecture. Here’s how someone on a flipped blog explained it: “But in history, if you are assigning reading for homework then they are already doing the content at home. And if you are doing discussions or other work in class that makes them grapple with what they have read then your history class is already 'flipped'.” I agree but I also think that few kids in history really read the text and process what they read so discussion in class or activities designed to get the kids to grapple with the content often don’t work so well. I’m hoping that short screen casts might help. Indeed, I just got an email from a student who said the video was "super" helpful, so maybe this is a great way to go.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Granted, all of us are long past Thomas Jefferson, but if you are using Google Docs, you can tag this page on his home and link it to your PowerPoint or you could create an assignment now and just tuck it away in your cloud folder for next year.  At any rate one of the best parts of the Monticello website is the virtual tour of all parts of the house.  But there are also a ton of short explanations on things such as a timeline on TJ's life, a "day in the life," Lewis and Clark, slavery at Monticello and a page for teachers. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Teaching Channel Videos - The American War of Resistance

The Teaching Channel has a ton of teaching ideas presented in video format.  Above is one on how the Vietnam War is taught in Vietnam ("The American War of Resistance").  There are over 100 for social studies on the website.  I found out about by using my igoogle feed from FreeTech4teachers

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Newly Flipped Class

After about a week of in-depth research, I started to flip my AP Govt class this past week. I'm now posting videos (screencasts) of content that I would usually deliver at the front of the classroom and having students watch and respond to the videos before they come to class. Once in class, we can go over any confusion students may have encountered when watching the videos, then delve deeper into the topic or apply the topic to new situations.

I'll have more on my progress in the coming weeks, but the equipment/software I'm using are
Screencast-o-matic (hat tip to Ken), an external camera/mic by Logitech ($40), and Google Forms.

For more information, go to:
On Twitter: #flipclass or #flippedclass

I am putting this on the US site even though Frank (Panther fan) is doing it in his government class as I think he will have an interesting discussion in coming weeks on it. 

PBS' War of 1812

Above is the entire PBS film on the War of 1812.  In addition, if you go here, PBS breaks it down into even more usable parts such as the British blockade, blacks in the war, the Canadian perspective and more. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Flipped Classroom

Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture
I've seen a number of references to the flipped classroom and started to do a little research. It's a very interesting concept as you can see from the slideshow above, which I found at this site. You can also find more information at this site. The basic idea is that students watch and listen to your lectures and direct instruction for homework. Students can then use the class for " tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating." Here's a USA Today story about a flipped classroom in Maryland (this was first posted by George Coe on our World History Teachers Blog).

Animated Cotton Gin

This animation lets you see the patent application of Eli Whitney and see how it actually works (ie his drawing comes to life). 

Slave Populations

Here is a very nice map that lets you set dates such as 1790, 1820 and 1860 and visually see the entire population as well as the slave populations. 

The Industrial Revolution

Above is a nice overview of the industrial revolution from the History Channel complete with an oral history, as well as video and pictures. Here is one on the transcontinental railroad. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fake Tweet Builder

I am teaching my "teacher-students" Fake Tweet Builder today and was perusing the Internet for a video or how to sheet when I found one of my students, Matt Levi, from the fall who had made a video for our class. It is actually especially good because occasionally Fake Tweet Builder makes a mistake and Matt does a great job of showing how to overcome this.  We use this for an assignment where students are learning a lot of short facts about say a battle or a number of people that we do not need to learn in depth. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Writing History

There are many reasons why I love teaching in my department. One of them enjoys telling his students that history is just a story and he is constantly finding stories to prove his point.  Well he and I have been struggling how to get his AP US and my AP Gov students together after the AP exam (as we did last year).  Now I am thinking he would be better served having his students find some interesting history in their own lives or in the school.  For example the father of one of my students who graduated two years ago (see above) advises Obama every day on national security (the picture is just three days old).  What sparked my thought is this wonderful NPR story that just aired where a student writer at Brown University unearthed a college newspaper story from 1961 when 19 year old Richard Holbrook moderated a speech that Malcolm X made on campus.  The story was both in how he came to speak at Brown and what he spoke about.  Needless to say whatever our students do it will be completely digital and include several mediums. 

Setting Up Your Twitter Account

Introduction to Twitter for Educators
Last week I introduced my "teacher students" to Twitter by asking what it was.  The first answer was that it lets people know what you are doing during the day.  While that is an excellent answer for a teacher who knows that is what students use it for it is also an amazing way to find out useful information for helping the teacher in the classroom.  Here are tips to set up your Twitter account.  Here is an amazing list of teachers to follow on Twitter broken down into different subjects.   A few tips I would add of my own are that it is nice when you can quickly go through the Tweets.  I use TweetDeck which I embed in my igoogle account.  Also before you add someone you can look through their Tweets to see if they use it on a regular basis and whether you like their tips.  Finally if you want to follow me go to "kenhalla." 

Print on the Cloud From Google Chrome

It is nice that when I talk to people they generally know what I am speaking about when I mention the "cloud."  Here is one great use of it.  If you have Chrome you can set up your browser to print straight to a computer, smart phone or tablet (even if you are not near your printer).  Here is how and here is Google's page on it. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Age of Imperialism

Here is a new site (albeit it is not a new site, just one for me) which has several features on American history including imperialism.  This section has a fair amount on the Spanish-American War, Boxer Rebellion, Latin American intervention as well as the Panama Canal.  It also has a lesson plan for teachers. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hippo Campus for Online US and AP US

When I give my students an assignment I often mix it with reading in their text and then add links to online reading materials and videos.  If you have students who are more visual, Hippo Campus has a video for each section.  For example, here is the annexation of Texas.   If you go here, you will find both the AP and the standard US classes.  Hippo Campus also has objectives, readings, links, key terms, lessons, writing assignments, discussion questions, chapter tests and the answer key.  Here is the frontier unit for standard US and for AP US.