Thursday, February 28, 2013


Do you ever want to quickly read a webpage or a written document?  I have posted about  It is fun as it lets you input a url and/or something you have copied and pasted.  But I think I like, as a summarizer for documents, FreeSummarizer.  Both of the sites allow you to control how long an answer you want.  So this might be a great way to get students to look at a long Wikipedia page in a short amount of time. 

How Teachers Use Technology: Pew research

The Pew Research Center released an interesting study about how teachers use technology both professionally and in the classroom. It shows that while teachers use technology extensively, they "are hampered by disparities in student access to digital technologies." Here's what teachers say about the impact of technology on their teaching: (I am quoting directly form the site below)

  • 92% of these teachers say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching 
  • 69% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas with other teachers 
  • 67% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and
  • 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Teaching with the e-book American Vision

The best part about being a department chair is helping to hire great teachers.  Five years ago my assistant principal and I hired a super brand new teacher - on her birthday, nonetheless! That teacher, Janet Babic, has already taught four preps in three subjects and been amazingly innovative including one of my favorites of teaching the 60s to the present through popular television shows.  Needless to say she is also a tech wizard and has become our county's (12th largest in the US) American Vision e-book expert.  Tomorrow she is teaching an in-service to other US history teachers.  If you use the book, you might want to use Janet's resources.
  • Before teaching with an e-book, you'll want to teach your students how to split their computer screen so they can see the online resources and do your work. 
  • If you have never had your students use an e-book, you will first want to start with the scavenger hunt
  • Here is her Learn model teaching on how to not only incorporate the e-book, but also many of its ancillaries 
  • Here are all the videos that go with the e-book (look at the drop down menu in the upper right).
  • Above is a how to video Janet made to better know how to use the many extras on the e-book.   
  • For the people in Janet's in-service go here to put your lesson plans (and everyone else will be able to see them Wednesday evening. 
  • Finally here is a folder of Janet's with several other goodies. 

My View on the Future of Education

Last week the Alliance for Excellent Education (which is the inspiration behind Digital Learning Day) asked me to write a blog post for them.  If you care to read the entire post go here where I have a number of links to items my students have done this year to highlight my thoughts.  But here are the money paragraphs:

One day all of our students will have interactive lessons where the teacher will walk around the room connecting information, helping pupils do their work and making sure that the necessary learning is being done correctly and where appropriate, collaboratively.  Classes will be self paced and conclude with interactive assessments that measure students’ ability to find and use online resources to answer probing questions.
Before then we, as teachers, need to remember that the best way to educate students today is not the same way that we learned when we were students.  We need to help move teachers away from lecture based assignments, urge them to change their teaching methodology to be one where multiple Internet based devices are acceptable in the classroom and finally how to recreate their classroom to meet the needs of our high technology learners.  This will mean assigning easier material at home (flipping the classroom) and having more interactive assignments in the classroom.  The focus of the room will change from the front to both increasing individual teacher-student contact as well as increasing interactions between students.

This is just a start. One day we will have algorithms to help drive instruction.  My daughter Madison, for example, prefers to learn by video clips on Youtube  while my son would rather read the information and figure it out himself.  My other daughter Alexandra likes to do all her work in one sitting whereas Madison likes some breaks.  Companies like Knewton are working with educators to create customized classes to meet these needs.  But it will take more than cutting edge companies.  If the FCC can create free bandwidth  for everyone, it will positively impact my lower income students.  Likewise, as we go to more cloud computing, we will be able to see lower price delivery devices such as the Chromebook  which will mean that students will be able to bring their own laptop/tablet devices to school (as they are already doing with their smartphones) and will not worry about cost or theft.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Search by Reading Level

This very short video explains how you can do a Google search for an item and find the appropriate reading levels that would work for your students.   I found this video from a G+ post from Google Gooru

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Marbury v Madison

Thanks to Frank Franz for this short video on Marbury v. Madison.  One of the reasons I put all of my class assignments in Google Drive is that if I wanted to add this video to what I was doing, I do not need to save and re-upload it the place where my students see it.  So my students are mandated to use Blackboard, but I link everything to a document in Google Drive.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Preview Files in Google Drive

Google Drive now or will shortly allow users to preview files by simply right clicking on the file name. Free Technology for Teachers has a good story and some graphics to show you how to preview the files.  The service will fully roll out over the next couple of days. It's nice addition to Google docs.

Free Google Glasses

So for a moment, listen to my inner geek!  Today Google announced that they are giving away 8000 Google glasses.  These devices have the potential to change how we see the world literally - and cause more accidents until we all have self driven Google cars.  As you can see from the video, the glasses let you call up a search, tell you the weather, how to get to a destination - can you say a computer in a light weight set of plastic glasses.  If you want to apply for a pair, go here

Morfu: Historical Perspectives with Ipad

Morfu is an Ipad and Iphone app that allows you to import a photograph, edit it, and then record. The eyes and mouth move as you record.  It's great for creating historical perspectives. I tried using it yesterday and it's quite easy and a neat creative app for the Ipad.  Here's an example that another teacher posted.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Doceri Flipped Class Aide for your iPad

I have been getting ready to use Doceri with my students when they receive their iPads.  The app is like Educreations, but much more dynamic and allows one to create screencasts.  We wil be using them since Google Drive's Presentation cannot be created on the iPad (only viewed).  I also like it as it does not require a login/password.  So my students will create them and then directly upload them into Google Drive and then share it with me effectively giving them a Presentation that can be recorded and annotated.

It is also useful if you like to write on your screen when you are making a flipped classroom presentation.

Doceri has a number of short videos on how to work the product, but each is missing an element. The best one to bring it all together is the one above.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

QR Codes

This is a nice video explaining how to make QR codes and even make them in a variety of colors.    The post also mentions how you could create (see the pictures above) multiple QR codes on a page of paper (I just pass around one and have them scan it right away).  It also shows how you can use QR codes to have students see multiple online pages, videos, etc. for a classroom assignment.  I found this post on Edudemic

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lots of Information on Starting a PLN

Two weeks ago I introduced my teacher-students to Twitter and the reasons why we should use Personal Learning Networks.  Here is a great Pinterest set of posts (not sure what to call this) on PLNs.  There are links to Google+ ones, lists of educator Twitter people to follow, using Diigo (which can be both a PLN as well as a place to put your links), flipped classroom teachers PLN, why you should have a PLN and much more. Eric Sheninger originally posted the link on my Google+ PLN. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

US History Interactive Maps

Here is a set of interactive maps by chapter for the survey course of American History by Alan Brinkley.  There are multiple maps for each chapter that you can use and link for your students.   Here, for example, is one on westward expansion that shows routes over different time periods. 

A Google a Day Search Techniques

A Google a Day is a website that lets you use a different Google search technique each day and it is timed so they students cannot waste time.

If you would prefer to see all the search tips right away, you can go here

QR Code for Bio or Contact Information

Today I am presenting to my county's social studies chairs on QR (quick read) codes.  You probably have seen then all over.   To generate a QR code simply enter your page (Google Drive or web) here. There are many different QR readers, but here is one for Android and iPhone

The logical next question is what should they be used for?  Well while many of my students sign up for Remind101 for their homework, others like to have a QR scanner instead.  If you scan the square above, you will see that it goes to one of my homework sheets in Google Drive.  I always put the newest homework at the top so that the student does not have to scroll down using his/her phone.

I also have a QR code in my school Outlook signature.  Here and here are two ways you can do that.

Another use would be to hang the QR code right outside of your classroom (say for back to school night).  If you have created it for an Outlook contact, then parents could scan it using their phone and would now have your e-mail/phone number.  If you are so inclined my "vCard" information is on the QR code below.
Here is what I hang in my class which has all three of my preps as well as my bio and contact information. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Google Forms for Quick Surveys

I know I did this post fairly recently, but I am doing a double in-service for my county's social studies chairs tomorrow so want to put this up for them (and you).

As a chair and teacher I use Google Forms all the time.  For example I sent the members in my department one on Friday to get their choices for classes they want to teach next year.  Each month I also use it for our student of the month.  When I started my new class for teachers I used it to get their e-mails which I pasted into a folder to share with them (you could do the same for your students).  In short, think of anytime you need to collect information from a group of people and using Google Forms (see video above for how to do it) and you can do it instantly.  By the way if you have your recipients put their last name first, then you can easily alphabetize it.

Above and here is the video how to and if you prefer the written word, you can go here

The Special Education Classroom

In a few days I am going to some present to some special education teachers.  I make no bones about  the fact that I am a regular education teacher, but I share the room with one and have taught many of them in my technology integration course.  So I did a lot of research and thought about what the special education teachers I know like and came up with this document of items that I am going to go over in the 90 minutes (yes I won't get to it all!).  If you teach in a special education classroom, I'd appreciate some comments or e-mails ( with your suggestions. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Real Meaning of the Wizard of Oz

By far the most popular post I have done in recent years (the blog celebrates five years in April) is on the background of the Wizard of Oz.  My students love to know the background to the story and it really helps them remember the gold (Yellow Brick Road) and silver standard (the real color of Dorothy's slippers as well as Oz (as in way we measure gold) and the Emerald City (color of dollar bills).  Here and here are synopses of the meaning behind the Oz and here is a NPR interview about it.

If you want to incorporate it into an assignment, here is one I did with The Americans which can easily be tailored if you have a different e-text. 

History Simulations

If you come to this blog you know that I have a few sponsors one of which is fellow teacher David Harms who has put together a great website with simulations from WWI, WWII and the Cold War.  He also is not content to just let his work be done and is continually updating it.  As a matter of fact if you get his simulations you also get his e-mails which detail his changes and improvements.  Above is an example of one. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

If you are a follower of my blogs then you know I swear by Remind101 and have a ton of people in my county now using it.  But one of my teacher-students told me the other day about Celly which she loves to use to remind students.  It has an added feature where she can poll students and get instant results even when they are not in class.  Here are some examples for class use.  Another cool idea they have is that they can keep a message stream going amongst the students so they could effectively form a study group after school (not that they aren't already using their phones!).  Here are their how to guides. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Saving Your Tabbed Browser Windows

Keeping your tabs open.  We have an iPad, three iPods, an old PC, but only two laptops to share with my three kids and wife.  For some reason my kids still enjoy laptops and often go on my wife's and close her browser that she like to keep open tabs on.  But never fear there are ways to save your browser tabs so that when you open them again, you will still have all of the correct tabs.  This step by step process tells you how to save them in Chrome, Safari, Explorer and Mozilla. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Digital Learning Day

Today was a fun day as 14 of my students and I got to take part in a Digital Learning Day event at the Newseum in DC.  We got to meet Sec of Education Arne Duncan and take part in a 90 minute webinar explaining all of the things that the Alliance for Excellent Education is doing.  As part of the event, on Monday our DC affiliate for ABC came out and filmed one of my classes which you can see above.   Fellow blogger Scott Campbell was also there making a presentation for a program he did at the Newseum. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Using Twitter to find and disseminate ideas, lessons

I follow a history teacher, David Korfhage, who originally tweeted a link to the online program ThingLink, which allows you to tag images with video, audio, social profiles, and web links. Today, I went to his original post and replied, thanking him and including a link to a lesson I created using ThingLink. I created the lesson on Google Docs and shortened the Google Docs URL using Tiny URl. Within minutes about 12 people were viewing the document. You can go into Google docs and it shows other viewers.

This is all very cool and a wonderful way for teachers all over the country to find and share ideas, lessons, and thoughts.

Berlin Wall: 20th Anniversary of the Fall

In 2009, the Denver Post put these great photographs of the fall of the Berlin Wall online. The site includes 60 stunning images --definitely worth checking out when you teach the Cold War later this Spring. My thanks to history teacher, David Korfhage, for finding the images.

Cheating Using Technology

Normally I like to assume the best from my students, but I know they are not perfect.  Some would say that is reason enough to not use anything other than paper, but I see enough kids in the halls copying each other's paper assignments or using their phones to snap others' work to know technology is not the problem - morality is.  But technology CAN be the solution.  This post is how to check if you suspect something.

1.  Plagiarism is the most prevalent cheating in part because kids have been doing it so long and have not been called on it.  Usually it is blatant as in "Of or relating to Greek history" for the definition of hellenistic.  As I like to tell my students, "No one talks like that."  Secondly if they have cut and pasted the work, they are being lazy so you can find the work simply by cutting and pasting it into a browser and the same site will come right up.  I just put the link from the page in their work and have my proof for the student when we talk.

2.  Copying using Google Drive is also easy to catch.  Go to file (picture on the left) and then "see revision history."  Usually when a kid cheats, he/she simply copies and pastes.  I require my students to put their name and title of the assignment in the title part of a Google Doc and have actually found some kids copy the material and forget about that and literally hand over the name of the kid they copied from.   You can also look at the revision history since it shows the days each time it was accessed.  So if a kid cheats, they will probably only have one entry.  Well what if the assignment legitimately was only done on one day.  At the bottom of a revision history you can show "more detailed revisions" and it will then show multiple times for each day (picture on the right).  Each time you click on the date, you can see the changes that occurred.  Thus any assignment should have more than one entry this way.  Please note that I do not check every assignment this way as it would take too long.  But if a kid has had issues in the past or I am suspect, then it is a very quick and easy check.

Finally we all know we can't stop cheating all together, but technology can make it much easier to do.  For me there is so much on the Internet so student products can be infinitely better than say when I was a kid. But part of stopping the problems above is taking the time to teach what is acceptable, what is legitimate collaboration and what is not tolerated.    

Friday, February 1, 2013

Split Screen to See Multiple Items at Once

This is one of the more popular videos that I have made.  If you want to see two items on your computer at the same time, this one minute video tells you how.  If you have an Apple product and don't mind paying $7, you can do the same thing as it mentioned above (otherwise you can just drag the corners until the windows are the size you want). 

You Tube Without Ads

Free technology for Teachers has a story and link to a great Chrome extension called A Cleaner internet. It cleans up every You Tube video of ads. And it works, all automatically I installed it yesterday and all the You Tube videos run without any ads. The extension is a little tricky to install but if you watch the how to video, you should have no trouble. That video is below.