Thursday, December 31, 2015

A really cool online micro-polling, brainstorming website

The website is called AnswerGarden, and it's similar to PollEverywhere and some online quiz-games. But it has some important differences.
Image result for answer garden
Both AnswerGarden and PollEverywhere let you pose questions to poll your students and get instant feedback.  What makes AnswerGarden so cool is that it can tabulate the responses and display them in a word cloud.  That means that it could be most effective as a brainstorming tool because it would reflect the frequency with which specific answers were given.  You will pose questions to your students and then display their responses using an LCD projector on a screen.  AnswerGarden's Moderator Mode lets you manually approve student responses before they are displayed to the class. (Phew.)

The reason that AnswerGarden is a micro-polling application is that student answers must be limited to just a few words.  So it would not replace review games like Triventy, Quizizz, or Kahoot.   Here's a sample AnswerGarden question ("What makes you happy?) and resulting word cloud:
And here's a tutorial (4:34) on how to use AnswerGarden:
As of now, AnswerGarden operates just with computers, laptops, and iPads.  That's a deal breaker for me because it won't operate on iPhones.  (Our school has laptops but they're not reliable and have other problems.)  I've written to AnswerGarden's developers  about when they might have an iPhone app and am awaiting their reply.

T/H to @rmbyrne for his post on AnswerGarden.

Two amazing interactive historical atlases

Please take a look right now at two amazing interactive historical atlases created by the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond.
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The first atlas is called American Panorama.  The four interactive maps currently in this series include The Forced Migration of Enslaved People (1810-1860), Canals (1820-1860), The Overland Trails (1840-1860), and Foreign-Born Population (1850-2010).  I'll wait to use the first three until next year (because we have already completed our study of those topics).  But I will definitely use the last map this winter and spring.  As you move the timeline slider on the bottom on that map, you can see how the immigrant population of the United States changed--their nation of origin, how many arrived, and where they settled.

The DSL promises that will be adding more maps to American Panorama.  I can't wait to see the next ones!

The second atlas is called the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States.  DSL took that atlas, which was originally published in 1932, and enhanced it with modern mapping functionality.
Image result for digital scholarship lab university of richmond
This atlas has 38 chapters.  Clicking on any chapter (like Political Parties and Opinions, 1788-1930) takes you to a page to look at geographic and voting data on associated topics (like votes in Congress on the Maysville Road Bill, Compromise of 1850, and Dingley Tariff).

This video explains some of the features DSL built into the enhanced map.
DSL also created two engrossing videos that use maps to describe Richmond and its slave market in 1853 and the fall of Confederate Richmond in 1865.

T/H to @MyHNN for the original post on these atlases.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My favorite resource for teaching with historic sites

The National Park Service lists over 80,000 historic properties in its National Register of Historic Places.  With a list that long, historic places -- which include buildings, sites, districts, and structures -- are located in almost every American county.
Image result for national park service national register of historic places

Luckily for us, the Park Service has created over 150 classroom-ready lessons plans to accompany many of the most significant of those sites.
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The site has a searchable index that allows for sorting by state, era (there are seven of them), theme (there are 45 of them), and curriculum standard (based on either the National Standards for History or Curriculum Standards for Social Studies).  It also allows for sorting based on the type (e.g., book chart, image, map) of primary source.

In the routine course of my planning I would generally use the historical era sort to search for lessons that deal with the topics I am discussing with my students.  But I would also use the source "type" search when I was looking to practice with a particular type of primary source.

You can follow the National Park Service's education programs @NPSEducation.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The resource we all should use to explain the Civil Rights Movement to our students

It's a recurring challenge for us to explain to our students about attitudes, especially pernicious attitudes.  When we are studying the Civil Rights Movement we can certainly read and discuss historical events like the murder of Emmett Till or the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing.   But it's much harder to have students understand the pervasiveness and deep-seated nature of the attitudes that made those events possible.

One resource we should all use to explain underlying attitudes that were shared by many Americans is the annual editions of the Negro Motorist's Green Book.
Photograph of the cover of the 1940 Negro Motorist Green Book.
In the Jim Crow era, many African Americans were denied access to lodging accommodations and other facilities while on the open road.  As a result, the Green Books were created to show which businesses would serve African-Americans.  Reading excepts of these guides with your students would be a powerful way to bring these racially-charged attitudes to your students.  Start your lesson by asking your students the most obvious question: "Why were these guides printed in the first place?"  Then lead them through a discussion of racial discrimination in public accommodations.
Photograph of a segregated Greyhound bus rest stop in 1943.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has a terrific blog post on this subject.  At the bottom, it links to a New York Public Library site that has digitized copies of the Green Book.

(Thanks to Cheryl Davis, @digitalteacher, for retweeting a blog post about the Green Books from the Smithsonian's American History Museum, and of course to the Museum for writing the original post.)

Summarize key events in African-American History through the lens of one city

Montgomery, Alabama, is clearly among the most consequential cities in America in terms of African-American History.
Image result for montgomery alabama map
Just take a look at some of the things that occurred there:
  • A slave market operated there.
  • The Confederacy was organized there.
  • It was the capital of the Confederacy for four months in 1861.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was pastor at a church there.
  • Rosa Park's arrest and trial for disorderly conduct was held there.
  • Dr. King's address to a crowd of 5,000 people resulted in overwhelming support for the bus boycott.
  • Federal judges authorized the Selma-to-Montgomery March and Freedom Rides there.
  • The Selma-to-Montgomery March ended there.

You can use a terrific online resource from the Alabama Historical Association to help your students understand that historical era.

First, send them to this collection of Montgomery Historical Markers.  The list is presented in alphabetical order, so instruct your students to search for markers that relate to these four categories: African Americans generally, slavery, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement.  While searching and sorting they should take notes on each event (emphasizing the event's cause and consequence).

Second, have them make a timetable of what they have learned.  They should use different colors to reflect each of the four different categories.

Third, they should plot what they learned on a map using StoryMapJS.  Here's a tutorial on how to use StoryMapJS.

My favorite state-library resource for teaching materials

The Library of Virginia's Online Classroom is my favorite state-library resource for teaching materials.

The Classroom is divided into five features:
  1. The Document Bank of Virginia offers a selection of photographs, diagrams, maps, and printed materials organized into ten historical eras.  Each era's section begins with a helpful explanatory essay.  The entire is collection is searchable with three handy tools.
  2. The Guide for Educators is an overview of the Library's vast collection for classroom teachers.
  3. Shaping the Constitution contains seven lessons about key events in constitutional history, from the Revolutionary Era to ratification of the 19th Amendment's women's-suffrage guarantee.
  4. Union or Secession offers materials and lesson plans about Virginia's decision to join the Confederacy.
  5. The Lessons Plan section collects all the Library's teaching materials in one spot.  (Materials here are presented in random order.  I've written to the Library, asking them to list each lesson in chronological order.)
These materials would be engaging and informative for students anywhere.  (Full disclosure: I live and teach in Virginia.  But the topics discussed appeal to a general audience of U.S. History students and teachers.)

Google Drive Tutorial

This is a nice overview of Google Drive and its power.  If you are like me, you have almost completely (I recently found my first use for Microsoft Word in the last year).  The video above shows you many of the highlights and how to use them in just a few minutes.

You can find technology tips you can use in the classroom on my new blog called eLearning Blog which is designed for students, teachers and administrators who want to learn using technology. 

Does your state song reflect contemporary values or conflict with them?

Poll your students (or colleagues or neighbors) and they probably wouldn't know the name of your state song, its melody, or the lyrics even if they knew the name.  But that hasn't stopped controversy surrounding them.  The latest example of that is occurring right now in Maryland.
Image result for maryland my maryland
An official advisory panel has recommended changes to be made to "Maryland, My Maryland," that state's official state anthem, according to a story in today's Washington Post.  Six options are proposed, from replacing it with new lyrics to abandoning any state anthem for ten years.

The reason for the controversy is that the song was written during the Civil War-era, advocates secession, and uses (really) disparaging language to refer to the North.  (You can read the lyrics yourself here.)

Why the fuss about something that most people don't even know exists?  That would be a good question to raise with our students.  Ask them to read the lyrics for your state song.  Ask them to speculate when it was written.  (This would be a good opportunity to practice looking for contextual clues.)  Ask them, are there any images or phrases that some people today would find offensive?  This will give you the chance to connect the song lyrics (a primary source), to the historical period in which it was adopted, to current attitudes.

This link takes you to the lyrics for all 50 states.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Your best curated daily calendar of lesson resources (lesson plans, websites, and student materials)

EDSITEment!, a site curated jointly by the National Endowment of the Humanities and the National Trust for the Humanities, has created a terrific resource for lesson planning.
Ken has blogged about EDSITEment previously, and how terrific a resource it is, so I would like to focus here on its monthly interactive calendar.

EDSITEment's monthly calendar is annotated with listings of historical events that occurred on that date.  For example, for January, LBJ announced his "Great Society" programs in a State of the Union address in 1965 on January 4; the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973 on January 22; and the Apollo Theatre opened in Harlem in 1934 on January 26.  (Sadly, nothing of note happened on my birthday, January 25!)  Clicking on an event takes you to a fully-formed lesson with resources.

Bookmark this calendar and follow them (@EDSITEment) on Twitter!  Their topics are engaging so you will definitely find several great prepared lessons here.

A Periodic Table of Education Technology

The writers at DailyGenius, an online chronicler of educational technology news, have created a fantastic graphic that summarizes the EdTech products and events that they think are most valuable to teachers.
periodic table of education technology
The graphic is in the form of the periodic table of the elements.  Just like the real elements table, this graphic divides the best EdTech into color-coded categories like social networks, online learning, and hardware.  They also use abbreviations just like the elements table, so Twitter is coded Tw, Dropbox is Db, and ISTE is Is.

Clicking on the graphic opens it into a pdf format for easy printing.

Kudos on the cleverness of the design.  A suggestion for the future would be to make the graphic interactive, so that by hovering over and then clicking on a box would open a new window for that tool.

They say that they'll be updating the graphic several times a year.  That's good to hear.  You can follow DailyGenius @DailyGenius.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Great sites for online review materials

It's never too early to plan for end-of-year assessments.

Here is a list of six sites with terrific online-review materials.  Check them out now, bookmark the ones you want, and then schedule when you will start using these with your students.
RegentsPrep.Org:  This site has resources to help students prepare for the New York State end-of-course Regents exam in U.S. History and Government.  The thematic review materials are generally weak, but the links to practice exam questions and other resources are great.

Image result for varsity tutors

VarsityTutors: This site has practice tests for AP US History and the SAT II U.S. History Exam.  The website also has a corresponding app students can load onto their devices for free.
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Learnerator: The questions in this site are divided into the nine historical periods of the Redesigned AP U.S. History Curriculum Framework.  As such, students can work on the era where they need the most support.  There are lots of questions for each period.  Period 7, for example, has 113 questions.

Here are some more:

->This site has 297 practice questions presented in generally correct chronological order.  The problem here is that students have to complete each of the 297 questions in the order in which they are presented.

->Both these sites (click here and here) segment the course into historical eras and offer review questions in both multiple-choice and matching format.

With so many good resources to choose from, you really don't have to adopt one single site to use.  Instead, rotate their use so that your students get to see questions written in a variety of styles.