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? 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.