Saturday, February 28, 2015

Read My Book, Earn Graduate Credit

Thanks to Julie Halse for the heads up on this one.  You can now earn graduate credit by reading my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction.

The book has multiple practical ways to help teachers and administrators develop online professional learning communities, flip the classroom, use Google Drive, evaluate students’ ability and much more.  Most importantly it shows teachers how to set up their own classrooms so the needs of each individual student can be better met and so all students can more easily meet their full potential.  

It also has examples of how technology is being used in classrooms to personalize instruction and gives teachers and administrators “Educator Challenges” that can be used to integrate the learning models in the book into the classroom.  

So if you are interested, buy the book (and go here if you want discounted volume purchases) and go here to learn how you can complete an assignment and earn graduate credit.

Friday, February 27, 2015

WWI - Cold War Instructional Resources

The Imperial War Museum has some great instructional resources on the main historical events from World War I through the Cold War. Simply click on "Events and Themes" and type in a key word like "Cold War" and a series of downloadable PDFs appear. Some of the results for the Cold War include source packs and instructional activities. Here's a link to one called "A Mad World, Why did civilians live in fear during the Cold War?  Thanks to Jeff Feinstein for the great link.

The museum also has a series of 32 podcasts about World War I. They are part of the museum's exhibit on the centenary of World War I. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Most Important Invention Ever - the Clock?!

This is a fascinating video arguing that the invention of the clock lead to a completely changed way of life for all of us, changing our sleep patterns, hurrying our lives, but also making us think more in terms of accounting for all part of our life and even leading to such inventions as the Industrial Revolution.  It gets me thinking that after the VA Standards of Learning exam, this would be a nice basis for a project - namely to find one invention that changed our history and led to multiple other changes.  The kids could make a video such as the one above and show their writing skills, arguing ability and synthesis.

I found the video on OpenCulture

Looking for Paid Writers

Recently I have posted about a start-up that I have been working with called ContextU.  We have our beta site up and now have sub domains up for the American Revolution and the Civil War and will soon be adding Reconstruction and the Gilded Age.  We have a team of fifteen engineers, marketing, etc, but we need people to help write the content. Basically we are trying to contextualize learning as we believe that we learn best when connecting items to other, what we call, "nodes."  So we need people to write 1) 150 word descriptions 2) find cause/effect (and it is mostly from a list we already have 3) relations to other groups.

Right now we are looking for people to write on the World War I through World War II era. We are offering either "micro-shares" or pay which is better than anything my county pays!  If you are interested, please email me at 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

60 Second Presidents by PBS

This is a pretty awesome series put together by PBS covering all of our US presidents, each in one minute.  It is pretty amazing how packed they are.  I found it from Teaching HS Daily

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oklahoma, the APUSH Redesign & A Lesson in Government

I do have some biases here as I am on the College Board's 7-12th Grade Advisory Panel for Social Studies and have graded AP exams for the past fifteen years.  But certainly the roll out for APUSH History has not been as smooth as it should have been (hey changing the time length on a FRQ fewer than nine months before the AP exam is really inexcusable).  But too many groups have been taking pot shots at the changes for political gain.  In the case of Oklahoma, all of their students will be at a disadvantage when applying to national universities when compared to those in the other 49 states if the course is eliminated and parents aren't going to stand on the sidelines and let this go away - especially parents of kids taking AP classes.  So (perhaps optimistically) I am not convinced the bill will make it through as it stands right now.   To see what I mean let's use this as an exercise in government as well.
  1. The bill, HB 1380, has only passed a committee - albeit on party lines in a conservative state (11 Republicans, 4 Democrats).  Although normally a bill that goes through committee with unanimous support of the state's dominant party almost always becomes law.  But...
  2. It still has to pass the OK Senate and get the governor to sign it.  With only seven Democrats on the Senate side, it is logical to think it can get out of both houses and to the governor. 
  3. BUT even if the above happens, if you look at HB 1380, it requires an alternative course to be in place by this coming fall which most curriculum specialists would tell you is all but impossible.  It also mandates that $3 million be set aside for the endeavor.  Compared to the state budget in OK of $6 billion, that is chump change, but not when considered next to the other needs of the state.   The $3 million also does not include the cost of purchasing new textbooks which schools purchase no fewer than every six years.  To get the funding the bill also has to go through the Appropriations Committees (Senate and House) and this is where it is likely to run into problems. 
  4. As someone who has worked in the VA legislature (and years ago ran for the VA General Assembly) my sense is that this bill will be amended in conference committee - if it gets out of the Senate - to call for a recommendation for not teaching AP US, but leaving it up to the localities to decide and come up with the money - which wouldn't happen.  In other words it will be a way to both attack the College Board as being un-American while allowing APUSH to continue in OK schools.  
  5. If you want to follow the bill's progress click on this link as it moves forward.

Another government lesson.  The College Board does lobby at the federal level and while I can't find it, you can be pretty sure Trevor Packer and his team are doing some lobbying of key Republicans in the OK Senate's Education committee to kill this bill over there or at least return it to a committee for "further study."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mastery Learning

One of my students came back the other day lamenting that colleges do not offer second chance tests! Another teacher said, "As it should be!"  But I was reminded that the doctor who helped bring my son Grant into the world had only delivered ten kids prior to us and while he came out just fine despite her having to push awfully hard on my wife's stomach.  Lawyers who can't win for their clients the first time, can appeal and law makers often have to try year after year to get their bills or amendments through.  But as a father of two middle schoolers, I see how motivated students can be and how much they (my girls) want to improve their scores if they didn't do well enough the first time.

I have been transitioning (I have not yet gone to pinpointing parts of a summative test and only re-testing on that) the last few years to mastery teaching.  Rich Hoppock first convinced me to give second chance tests, which led to unlimited formative quizzes and my now late principal Dave Tremaine convinced the entire school to cut late grades to 20%.  I have gone even further cutting out all late grades, but then again I won't allow anyone to take a test until they turn in their study guides.  I even let students turn in assignments multiple times if they want to raise their grades.  Believe it or not I have not had any more late grades (yes I use Remind the night before an assignment is due, send weekly grade reports and call lots of parents when students start slipping), but the bottom line is that as a parent I see the need to master the material, not figuratively beat up students.  Sure I am frustrated with some of my students for whom mastery is "just passing," but I see them as a challenge to teach better rather than give in.

I think mastery teaching has also been possible as I work more one on one with each of my kids than I have ever had time to do before.  Of course this is in large part thanks to the help of technology. It has also been possible by staying after school a great deal more, but here is the bottom line: if the kids are learning better for longer periods of time and in a timely fashion, isn't that better for us as educators?

If you want more detailed research on all of this here is a nice Ed Leadership article going all the way back to 2003!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Kahoot for Copetitive Quizzes

I really enjoy the way the Internet works.  I just finished watching a movie with my girls and now that they are headed to bed, I just checked Twitter and found a new follower on my account by named Mr Koz who in turn led me to Glenn Wiebe both of whom had posted on Kahoot.  That made me wonder if Richard Byrne had posted on it and sure enough he just did a few days ago.

So what is Kahoot.  It is a bit like PollEverywhere which I have posted on in the past which lets you put up questions in front of your classroom using your LCD and your students can answer quick review questions using any Internet connected device.

  • The difference here is that students compete against others in the classroom
  • they can use any name they want 
  • do not have to give anything other than that) 
  • you can take other people's quizzes and use them as well.  
  • you can set a timer
So for example here is one on
Now it is looking less like I will have school in person on Tuesday so I am thinking that I might use Kahoot in my AP Comparative's online classroom (yes we meet on snow days) to see if my students have done their work.

Crash Course US History Videos

Some of the best produced videos on US history come from tweenager author John Green who apparently loved his history courses.  Here are thirty-three videos on US history including the one above on American imperialism above. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cybrary Man for Writing Rubrics

Cybrary Man has an amazing number of lists that can help you, but one that is going to be a super help to you is the list of rubrics.  My favorite is Rubistar which allows you to enter information about your project and then spits a rubric back at you which you can use with your students.  Both of these are featured in my "interactives" section of my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Diigo for Bookmarking

I have been using Diigo for years and have written a number of posts as it allows you to bookmark websites and share them (or not). You can categorize the sites you select and find them on the web or on your smartphone.

Above is a great video I found today on FreeTech4Teachers.

Flip Your AP US History Class (A Complete Set of Videos)

So I suppose there our students need to read the textbook since we did as well and others who feel that they should be able to outline textbooks.  But if we are preparing students for a life beyond school shouldn't the dull reading of most textbooks be tossed out and instead working on document analysis, compare/contrast, change over time, etc. be the focus.  As one of the APUSH teachers in my department today said, as long as the work is done, the material learned, does it really matter if the learning comes from a video, a textbook, or another resource.

To help you in flipping your class "Jocz" productions has made a series of APUSH videos which he toots as a review (and certainly could be if you still want the kids to read the textbook).  Each is about fifteen minutes long and he covers the entire course.  If it matters, Jocz uses American Pageant.

I have also posted on Jocz' three videos that you will want to see as you adopt your students to the new re-write of APUSH.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Grooveshark or Spotify to Help Student Focus

So my students have been listening to music long enough in class that they used to just start the songs on their iPods and not have to worry about it.  Now they often like going to YouTube.  The problem with that is that the kids have to find a new song, oh every three minutes and that is not productive. So I tell them they get one change a class.  So many use Spotify or my suggestion which is Grooveshark.  Both are free and let students find an artist and play any group of songs.  This will show my age, but when an album comes out it is the first place I go (everything is there) to see which songs I want to buy for my own playlist.  Try it out for you and your students.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Personalized Learning on the Mediterranean Sea

Okay so this summer I am teaching a two day institute on personalized learning.  Yes, it will highlight some items from my book such as

  • how to flip your classroom
  • building your PLC beyond your school walls
  • finding resources for your classroom
  • and creating one or two lessons you can actually use in your classroom next fall.
So if you love the Spanish coast and want to combine some vacation with learning, then you might want to check out my course which you can register for right now

Civil War SImulation

If you like Fakebook, you will enjoy the Civil War simulation which is also by Russell Tarr.  It is a great way to review the Civil War as it has lots of images in addition to making kids answer questions about the war.  

Selma Movie on Historical Accuracy

Here Selma director, Ava DuVernay, addresses some of the historical controversies in her new movie about the civil rights protests in the 1960's. She appeared on the PBS News Hour last night.

Free AP Questions in Most Subjects

I just received an email from the folks at Learnerator about their free questions (240, for example in AP Macro).  They have most AP courses, including AP micro, macro, government, US and world.   Each time you answer a question it tells you the correct answer and gives you an explanation if you were wrong. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Still Working on It

As you can tell the top ten posts on this blog are not clickable and I am still doing everything I can to fix it.  However the search engine still works as do all but the first ten posts.  Also if you see something you like, type the name in a search engine and it will pop up.  The last time this happened it was fixed in about a week by Google.