Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Loving v. Virginia

By now, I'm sure most are aware that the Loving story has been made into a movie.  This past weekend, it premiered at the Virginia Film Festival, and was featured in an article in our local paper.  For many of the students in localities around me, the incidents in this case took place in a neighboring county, making it a great way to introduce relevancy.  There are a number of great resources out there, some of which have been highlighted on this blog in the past.  If you are in a different part of the country, it might be worth looking into whether any similar cases went before courts in your area, and having a discussion comparing them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Movement to End Child Labor in the U.S.

 Washington Post Article on the Movement to End Child Labor

The Movement to End Child Labor in the U.S.

While you probably haven't made it to the Progressive Movement yet, this set of pictures by Lewis Hine on child labor in the Washington Post looks like an interesting discussion piece and another great way to include primary documents in your classroom.  It might also be interesting to compare/contrast Hine's photography approach with Dorothea Lange and her pictures of migrant farmers during the Great Depression.  Some great discussion topics could stem from these pictures involving discussion on labor laws, childrens' rights, the role of the media in shaping public opinion - all of which would be great ways to tie in the past to the present.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Incorporating Geography and 

Economics in Your History Lessons

Washington Post Article on U.S. Foreign Assistance

I saw an article on in the Washington Post this week providing a set of cartograms highlighting the spending by the U.S. on foreign assistance.  I love incorporating cartograms periodically with my students; it's a great geography skill to review or teach, and it really allows them to visualize quantitative information in a different way.  This article also allows you to incorporate some discussion of macroeconomics principles.  There's definitely plenty of material for group discussions and debates.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Storytelling and Politics

A few weeks ago, I finally sat down to watch the Sandra Bullock movie Our Brand is Crisis.  It would be great to incorporate portions of this movie into a discussion on campaigning, particularly given the current election cycle.  (Note: It has an R rating, so proceed according to your school policy.)

Then, a couple weeks ago, I saw this video in the New York Times, where a real life political strategist talks about the story lines that campaigns strive to create.  He definitely gives some of his own opinions in the piece, so I would talk to students about that before-hand, but it might be an interesting pairing with the Sandra Bullock movie and a discussion on this year's election.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Presentation Options

This is the first year in over ten years that I will not be in the classroom as fall gets ready to start.  I've taken a new position doing program evaluation in my district.  As such, I'm getting nostalgic for all the bulletin board creating, lesson planning and classroom set up this time of year always involves.

I still get to create presentations, however, and I have been looking for some new tools to shake things up a little bit.  Many of us know about Prezi, and this blog has also covered the potential available with PowToon, but I was looking for something that would take some PowerPoints and help step them up a few notches.

I found this blog post by a company focused on presentations that had a great listing of various alternatives, including the ones mentioned above.

A few I'm looking at for this school year include:




SlideDog basically allows you to use existing presentation pieces (PowerPoints, Prezis, PDF files, etc.) and create a play list with all of them into one large presentation, while emaze and Projeqt both allow you to import an existing PowerPoint and 'glam it up' or create a presentation from scratch.  SlideDog involves a download, while the other two are cloud based. All three have a free option, hence their initial appeal.

Happy lesson creating!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

New Archive of 20th Century Resources

Here is a cool new online archive of 20th century resources surrounding Winston Churchill.

The archive includes primary sources such as images, cartoons, and documents.

One of the most interesting parts of the archives are the investigations of significant issues designed for high school students.

Find out what went wrong at Gallipoli or if Britain could have done more for the Jews during WWII. The website gives you an overview of each issue along with a chart of primary sources to help students come to a conclusion.

The database is divided into four themes:

  • Key developments in world history
  • Key development in modern British empire history
  • Anglo-American relations in the 20th century
  • Churchill: Discussion, debate, and controversy

  • 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


    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.  

    Sunday, March 20, 2016

    Resources on US-Cuban relations

    President Obama is visiting Cuba today.  His trip is to draw attention to his policy of seeking normalized diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

    His trip is timely for our students, because US-Cuban relations are an important feature of the post-World War II era we're studying now.  Here are some resources to share with your students about this topic.

    Here's a video (4:26) biography of Fidel Castro.

    This video (6:05, from the Council of Foreign Relations) is about the Bay of Pigs.
    And this video (3:37) introduces students to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    Finally, click here for a link an introductory essay and primary sources on the Cuban Missile Crisis prepared by the National Archives.

    Friday, March 18, 2016

    "20 to watch" EdTech leaders

    The National School Boards Association just published its list of the 20 educational technology leaders for the 2015-2016 school year.  (I'm not on the list.  #Disappointed.)
    The teachers and administrators selected to the list were recognized "for their ability to inspire colleagues to explore and embrace innovative technology solutions and instructional strategies that contribute to high-quality learning experiences for all students."

    Congratulations to the all the honorees.  The work they did to be recognized is impressive.  What was really most exciting about the list was reading about the innovative ways that visionaries like these are using technology with their students.  One teacher, Joanna Beck from Georgia, for example, uses technology to "help level the playing field for all learners" by introducing them to digital tools.  One tool that she uses is Remind "to keep parents informed" and to "strengthen the home-school connection." Another teacher, Josh Stock from Kansas, coaches the school's LEGO robotics team and assigns coding projects to his students.  Those coding assignments led to him conducting a video chat with his students with Bill Gates.

    Kudos to the NSBA and this year's honorees.  Their work validates the work that we are all doing in this area to encourage more technology integration into our instruction, and inspires us to do more.

    Selma-to-Montgomery March: Your Teacher's Toolkit

    Here are some great resources to use with your students to begin to drill down to study the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights.

    A good short general introduction is from the National Park Service (because the route is now a National Historic Trail).  Click here and here.  You can also find a longer, more developed essay here from Stanford University's King Encyclopedia.

    There are a wide range of excellent video resources.  Here is a sampling.  This short video (6:37) is an excerpt from the PBS "Eyes on the Prize" video series:
    This video (1:53) is from UCLA's Hearst Metronome News Collection:
    Finally, this video (10:44) from the LBJ Library shows President Lyndon Johnson discussing his meeting with Alabama Governor George Wallace one week after Bloody Sunday

    Historypod daily videos

    The Historypod daily video is a great resource for teachers.  Each day, Historypod releases one short video focusing on a single topic occurring on that date.  The scope is broad and covers all world history.  Just this month, for example, they released a video (2:44) on the 1968 My Lai Massacre,
    assassination (in 44 BCE) of Julius Caesar (2:40),
    and the first case of the 1918 Spanish flu (2:58).
    The teacher behind Historypod also has a website with lots of terrific resources.  Click here to see it and you can follow him on Twitter @MrAllsopHistory.

    Thursday, March 17, 2016

    Amazing app to make VR images

    I learned about an amazing app tonight while participating on the #nearpodedu edchat.  It makes "dynamic spherical photos," which means that you can scroll across an image to see it in all angles left and right, and up and down.  If you've ever seen this 3D virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  Now you can make images like this on your iPhones.
    They called these images bubbles.  The app is called bubbli and I created my first practice in a few minutes.  It's that easy and is that cool.

    Here's how it works.  Download the app, open it, then click the record icon.  Pivot your body so that you record everything around you.  (Yes, up and down and left and right.)
    When you stop recording you upload the images to the cloud, where they are stitched together into one seamless image.  Once you see the image you'll see why Bubbli's slogan is, "The next best thing to being there."

    The output images are amazingly clear.  You can share what you create via email or social media.  You have the option to record sound while you are recording.  And it's FREE (but only for iPhones...for now).

    It's easy to see how we could use Bubbli with our students.  Make it the presentation tool for projects they would do outside school, as, for example, if they built a World War I trench at home.  Or they could make a Bubbli of a battle scene, like the Siege at Yorktown or the D-Day landings.  Really they could use it for anything they built that was three-dimensional.   

    Bubbli has a well-developed set of video tutorials.  Click here to see them.  

    And click here for a 2013 USA Today rave review about Bubbli.  Add my own raves to the list.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016

    Terrific video series on the African-American experience

    BBC has a terrific series of 51 short videos (each under 9 minutes) on the African American experience from World War II, through the Civil Rights Movement, to more modern times.  The series, titled "Witness," offers a mixture of narrative and first-person recollection to illustrate each topic.  This video is about the World War II-era Tuskegee syphilis study.
    This video is about the 1960 Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins.
    This video is about the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.
    And this video is about the 1992 Los Angeles riots (following the acquittal of police officers charged with beating Rodney King).
    Everyone of the videos in this series is well-produced and engaging.  Click here for the link to the entire series.

    Sunday, March 13, 2016

    John Lewis is coming to my school tomorrow

    Image result for john lewis
    Congressman John Lewis is coming to my school tomorrow.  The timing couldn't have been better, because tomorrow we start our lessons on the early Civil Rights Movement.  So I'm going to focus my lesson tomorrow morning on how Congressman Lewis's activism and leadership is a window into that era.  Among the important facts and resources I'm going to share with my students are the following:
    • He organized student sit-ins to protest racial segregation.  In this video (1:38) he describes how he and his college classmates staged those sit-ins, and how people responded (by putting cigarettes into their hair, pouring hot beverages on them, spitting on them, and forcibly pulling them off the lunch counters).
    • He was a Freedom Rider (drawing attention to segregated southern bus facilities) and faced a beating.
    • He was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
    • He was keynote speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.
    • He helped organize and lead the Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights, where he was attacked by state troopers after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday.
    (This list of John Lewis's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement comes from CNN.)

    Most of us pass through history; John Lewis helped make it.  My thanks to Rob Kerr (@rjkerr), a respected colleague, for arranging Congressman Lewis's timely and important visit to our school.

    Friday, March 11, 2016

    Student work for my early Cold War StoryMap assignment

    This week I assigned my students to create a StoryMap to demonstrate their mastery of key events of the early Cold War era.  I blogged about that assignment a few days ago here, and the first student work is coming in.  Click here to see one terrific example.
    What I really like about this assignment is that it requires the students to drill down deeper than if they had simply filled out a worksheet, or even if we had discussed these events in class.  StoryMap is a presentation tool, and there are other fine presentation tools to use with our students.  The fun is mixing it up so that every new assignment looks fresh.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2016

    My Early Cold-War StoryMap assignment

    It's always hard to find the right balance between what I expect students to do on their own outside of class with what I hope to accomplish with them in class.  Recently I've been focusing on developing skills (reading, writing, and critical thinking) in class, and shifting the responsibility of mastering content to the students.  (Of course in practice it's never that simple.  The skills we practice in class always are driven by the content we are studying, so the two always mesh.)
    Here's my workflow for our unit on Cold War origins: The bulk of our lessons this week are focused on an extended whole-class activity with a set of primary source documents.  The activity involves reading a series of 2-3 documents, ascertaining their meaning, then writing a paragraph comparing the two while answering a question.  We then move to the next series of documents, do the same activity, then compare that second series with the first.  Finally, to tie everything together, we do the same thing one last time, then write an essay incorporating and synthesizing all nine documents.

    At home, students keep up with their textbook reading (there will be a reading quiz), and complete a small project.  For the assignment, I gave the students eight Cold War events to discuss and describe.
    1. Yalta Conference
    2. Potsdam
    3. Formation of the United Nations
    4. Truman Doctrine
    5. Marshall Plan
    6. Berlin Airlift
    7. Formation of NATO
    8. Korean War
    To learn about these eight events, I pointed the students to the extraordinary materials from the U.S. State Department's Office of the Historian for background information.
    The students are to present their findings in a StoryMap.  StoryMapJS is a form a presentation software, and a StoryMap lets you tell stories visually on a map.  I've used StoryMapJS earlier this year and loved it.

    You can see a link to the project here.

    We take our quizzes in class on our smartphones

    My students take quizzes in class on their smartphones.  How's that working out so far?
    One goal this year has been to take advantage of the fact that the most powerful computers in our classroom reside in my students' cellphones.  Almost all my students have them, and when they don't have them they either share with a classmate or I give them one of personal devices (my iPad or Chromebook) or a school computer.  So far this year I've used cell phones to deliver instruction, teach digital citizenship, and help my students get organized, conduct research, collaborate, and practice and review.  I've also used it to assess.

    As part of my assessment, I deliver my reading quizzes with Quia.  Quia is an online testing program.  There are other quiz platforms but I've used Quia for years and think it's terrific.
    So far I've been very satisfied with the results.  Students take quizzes on their devices and get instant results.  The program double-randomizes each question, so each student gets questions presented in a different order, and the answer choices for each question are scrambled as well.  I can easily modify questions so that different sections see different questions.  And when students are absent from class I can easily set up a quiz for them to take.  Quia generates data-analysis reports so that I can see areas where my students struggle, and can then remediate accordingly.  Finally, the actual time I need to set aside for test administration is reduced because there is no time wasted passing out and returning paper quizzes.

    What I really like most about Quia is that it adapts to my review strategy.  I've been doing a lot of reading about "retrieval learning" (also known as the "testing effect") published by Purdue University's Cognition and Learning Lab.  They have shown how testing can be used as a study and review tool, in addition to an assessment tool.  So I give my students lots of review quizzes.  Here's my workflow: After students have taken a quiz, I change the settings on the quiz so that it shows answers.  Then I move it into an "Unlocked Quizzes" folder on Blackboard.  The expectation is that students will study for review quizzes by practicing with the quizzes in this folder.  Once moved to the Unlocked Quizzes folder, these quizzes are fair game at any time.

    One obvious question is test security.  Students discussing test questions from one period to another is a concern with any type of test, but with these cell phone quizzes I address the issue in several ways.  I discuss that one part of digital citizenship is respecting our school's Honor Code, which prohibits receiving or giving unauthorized assistance.  Students also must take quizzes in class,  keep their devices on their desks, and place them face down on their desks when they are finished.  I make it a point to circulate through the classroom so that students know that I am monitoring their activity.  I also weight quizzes differently: Each regular reading quiz (which is scheduled and announced) is worth 15 points, but review quizzes from the Unlocked Quizzes folder (which are not announced and assigned randomly from class to class) are worth 45 points.

    Another concern is network reliability, so whenever a student's phone freezes, they simply stop the quiz and retake it at some other date for full credit.

    So the mid-year verdict: Students seem to like the instant results and I like the ease, facility, and flexibility of smartphone quizzes.

    Friday, March 4, 2016

    OTD in 1933: FDR's First Inaugural

    You're probably studying FDR with your students right about now, so today is a timely anniversary.  Today is the anniversary of FDR's first inaugural.
    There are a wealth of terrific resources to mark that occasion, and more importantly, to put FDR's inauguration and that speech into historical context.

    CSPAN has this 20 minute video of newsreel footage and the address itself.
    Other great resources on the address (including audio and video clips, pictures, artifacts, and teaching lessons) were produced by the National Archives, FDR Library, and Library of Congress.

    Of course we want to put FDR's presidency into context, and material from Miller Center at the University of Virginia is a good place to start.  This essay gives a round-up of the issues facing the nation in 1933, and then includes excerpts from the address showing FDR's plan for addressing them.

    You probably want to discuss how FDR made it to the White House in the first place.  This link to the 1932 general election results is useful because it shows FDR's popular (+7-million) and electoral (472-59) dominance over President Herbert Hoover.  It would also be useful to get students to see the strength of the Socialist and Communist party candidates that year: combined they got almost 1-million votes.  Ask student to speculate the likely cause: guide them to the conclusion that those voters were likely frustrated with capitalism because of the Great Depression.  Don't forget to show them this map; it's striking!
    Other points you will want to discuss with your students:
    • FDR was the last president to be inaugurated in March.  The date was changed to 20 January by the 20th Amendment.
    • This is the speech where FDR said, "All we have to fear is fear itself."  (This 0:29 clip cuts right to this line.)
    • FDR was the only president elected and inaugurated four times.
    • Hitler came to power just months earlier in January 1933.  Gilder-Lehrman compares the two here.

    Thursday, March 3, 2016

    Amazing collection of Lincoln resources (courtesy of Ford's Theatre)

    In a terrific blog post to encourage teachers to bring students to visit, Ford's Theatre has assembled an amazing collection of resources useful for any unit on President Lincoln and his era.  The resources are available elsewhere, but what makes this so valuable is that they are all in this one place.

    One set of four short videos (shortest: 3:40; longest: 9:36) is from the theatre's YouTube channel.  They were produced and donated to the theatre by the History Channel, and they discuss different aspects of President Lincoln's times: the challenges he faced upon taking office, the way he responded to those challenges as chief executive, how Lincoln's relationship with Frederick Douglass influenced his views on slavery, and how the movement to build a memorial to President Lincoln after his death culminated in the monument on the west end of the reflecting pool.  Here's the video about Lincoln and Douglass:
    Also included are videos giving viewers an inside view of the what theatre looks like, and links to interactive exhibits on Lincoln's funeral train and artifacts from his assasination.

    Fun history-quiz app from the National Endowment for the Humanities

    EDSITEment, a service of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has developed a history quiz app that deserves a serious look.
    It's called Mission US, Think Fast About the Past.  It's an role-playing, interactive U.S. History game that asks you to answer questions as you move along a scenario.  I played it and I found it engaging and informative.

    You can download Mission US for free from the Apple iTunes app store.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

    My first Storify assignment: Student work

    I assigned my students to create a Storify discussing the impact World War II had on four social groups: Japanese-Americans, African-Americans, Native-Americans, and women.  Storify is a type of presentation tool.  You can embed pictures, websites, video, and audio into a Storify.  It's free and easy-to-use.

    The first student project just came in (submitted through Google Classroom).  It looks terrific!  Click here to see it.  And click here to see the assignment sheet I gave my students, and the list of online resources they were to use.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016

    An online peer grading option

    Old: Students write essays then hand them in.  You shuffle them, then pass them back for a peer grading activity.  Is there a better way?
    Peergrade.io might be the better way.  With Peergrade, students submit their assignments electronically, then the site distributes them out for peer grading for you.  Student evaluators use your rubric to assess the essay.  The essays are then returned to the authors with the the student feedback.
    What makes Peergrade sound so promising is the teacher reports that it generates.  You can find out whether students are grading the papers they are responsible for, and using an internal algorithm it tells you whether some students are grading too easy or too harshly.  What makes Peergrade so cool is that it is not limited to text files.  Sure, students can submit .doc and .pdf files, but they can also submit images (like with .jpg files), audio files (like with .mp3), and video (like with YouTube videos and .mov files).

    One issue of concern: Peergrade is free but only for classes of up to 20 students.  Above that and a fee structure kicks in.

    Peergrade doesn't have video tutorials yet but click here for its FAQs.

    Sunday, February 28, 2016

    World War II: My teachers' toolkit of the best online resources (Part One)

    I'm concentrating on two topics with my students during my unit on World War Two: how technology impacted the war, and how the war impacted four social groups.  This post will concentrate on the technology; I'll write about the social groups later.

    As a general introduction, though, I'm first having my students watch a selection from the extraordinarily valuable series of 13 short videos called Teachable Moments that was produced by the FDR Library.   Each student watches four videos on her/his smartphone.  The student takes notes on a blank sheet of paper divided with a large diamond in the center.  The diamond itself is divided into four triangles.  Each sheet will look something like this (sorry about the graphic!).
    Notes for each of the four assigned videos will go in a different triangle.  Then the students look for students who watched other videos and share what they learned.  (No copying!  Just listening and note taking.)

    For the technology component, we're going to discuss the atomic bomb and the Enigma machine.  In this video (1:24) from the Newseum, Paul Tibbets, the Enola Gay pilot, describes his mission.  The bomb's devastation is also shown.
     In this video (1:21) President Truman announces the bombing and explains its power.
    This video (2:32) explains the Enigma machine and how British codebreakers led by Alan Turing broke it.  
    This video (2:26) shows how an Enigma machine worked.
    For the atomic bomb, my favorite online print resources are from the Truman Library (link is to primary sources), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (link is to an analysis with alternatives), and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (click on Search by Topic).

    For the Enigma machine, my favorite online print resources are from Bletchley Park (home to the British codebreakers), the BBC, and the Imperial War Museums.

    My First Storify Assignment

    I just completed my first Storify assignment.
    Storify creates online presentations.  It's great because it is free, easy to use, and the presentations you make look terrific.  To make your Storify you simply
    • Write your headline (the topic of your presentation)
    • Write a description of your headline
    • Add content.  The content can be from anything you can find on the web, so you can include material from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
    Once you assemble your content, you can introduce, explain, and describe the content in text boxes.

    The assignment that I wrote for my students concerns the social impact of World War II on four social groups (Japanese-Americans, African-Americans, Native-Americans, and Women).  You can read my assignment here.

    Thursday, February 25, 2016

    Rosa Parks: A new terrific (and timely!) resource

    Rosa Parks's arrest on 1 December 1955 in Montgomery, AL, for refusing to move to the back of a city transit bus was a seminal event in the Civil Rights Revolution.  Of course we devote time to her story in our classes.

    Good news: The Library of Congress announced today that it has fully digitized its collection of the Rosa Parks Papers.  In addition to thousands of images and written works, the collection contains a useful timeline of Mrs. Parks's life.

    Better news: The Library had complemented the new digitized collection with a primary source gallery for teachers.  The teachers' gallery includes pdf versions of 15 primary sources.  My favorite item was Mrs. Parks's four-page handwritten recollection of her bus arrest.  She starts by answering the obvious question directly--Why did she choose that night to defy segregation?  Her answer was poignant, heartfelt, and direct: "I had been pushed around all my life and felt at this moment I couldn't take it anymore."

    Also powerful is her handwritten description of segregation in Montgomery.  This is actually the document I would use with my students first.  Assign it to them to read, and then ask them to list the ways in which one southern town practiced segregation during the Jim Crow era.

    Best news: This resource is available now, as we start planning to study the origins of the Civil Rights Movement with our students.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2016

    How fast is fast?

    Fast is a relative term.  In our U.S. History classes, one theme we trace is the development of new transportation technologies, from the National Road (then through the Erie Canal, Transcontinental Railroad, urban subways, cars, and airplanes) to space ships.

    I just read about a great source to show our students to help illustrate this theme.  It poses a simple question (How far could you go on one day of travel from New York City?) and illustrates the answer in a map.

    In 1800, a traveller would be hard pressed to get much farther south than Philadelphia or much past New Haven to the north in a day.  Antebellum New Yorkers near the eve of the Civil War could get to Maine or Cleveland.  Air travel helped the travel savvy New Yorker get past the Rockies by Black Tuesday and to the Pacific Ocean just a few years later.

    Classroom connection: It would be fun to show your students this map, and ask them to research examples of primary sources describing what early transportation was like for these stagecoach, rail, and air pioneers.  Other students could look for advertisements offering travel on these new carriers.  A third group could investigate the impact these new transportation technologies had on different social and economic groups.


    I learned about this map in a terrific post today (while following the New York Public Library's Division of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy) by Dana Schulz (@danaschulzNYC) in the 6sqft blog.  Dana's post was based on a post in Quartz by David Yanofsky (@YAN0) (NB: That last character is the number zero).  Thanks to both Dana and David!

    Tuesday, February 23, 2016

    BrainRush is back online!

    It's okay, we can exhale.  BrainRush, the adaptive learning site, is back online.  

    I've blogged about BrainRush previously, and why it's my favorite online study and review platform.   BrainRush lets you create four different types of activities: matching (like for vocabulary flash cards), buckets (for sorting), chronologies (for sequencing), or hot spots (for labeling a diagram or map).  BrainRush practices with the students until they achieve mastery.

    There are two things that make BrainRush so special.  First, questions get progressively more challenging, so it really does help students demonstrate mastery.  Second, the BrainRush questions adapt to each individual student's level of knowledge.  If a student answers incorrectly, then the student is given additional guided practice for that fact.

    BrainRush activities are easy to create.  And now that it's back online, I'll be creating more activities for my students right away.