Saturday, October 31, 2015

Changing the Face of Instruction


I am a member of several Facebook teacher sites and am in the midst of adding to one where a teacher said his administration has banned front of the room teaching.  A number of the teachers are saying how awful that is.  Truth be known I have a few minutes in front of the room, but have mostly moved away from it.  Consider today's lesson in my economics' class

  • The kids watched a flipped video on graphing perfect competition
  • We started with a quiz where the kids had to draw four graphs and could use their video notes. 
  • In my class I won't count the quiz unless the notes are acceptable and occasionally make them redo it - but I always let them redo it and always give full credit even if it is late and most of the work is turned in on time as the kids know I will call parents if 2 or more assignments aren't done in a two week period - and I rarely have to call!
  • Then four different kids went to the board to draw the graphs.
  • Next the kids worked on their problem sets.
  • I walked around the room and answered questions from the previous day's work and the current ones.  
  • Oh I should say that my room is set up in 8 pods of four desks so the kids can easily help each other.  Each group is set up with different levels of students.  
  • Should I add that we have not opened a book this year either so it is not only cost efficient, but videos are how kids teach themselves now.  
  • We took our second test of the year last week and my average score is up 10% over last year's kids. 
  • I use this format (flip video, quiz, interactive, walling around the room) in all of my classes now and wish I had figured this out years ago!  

Friday, October 30, 2015

Standards Based Learning


On the 5th, one of my educational collaborators, Frank Franz, is coming to my school to discuss standards based learning.  In my county, we are slowly moving there and I want my department to start implementing parts of it, if not all of it so we aren't blindsided in 1.5 years when we have to do it.

First off I have never been told adequately what is meant by "mastery," but the video above helps. After all standard based learning says we should be working towards mastery, so best to start with a definition.

Frank's video below is excellent for explaining how his classes are run and while we're at it, he uses it for his flipped back to school night.  It is definitely worth five minutes to look at it.

Finally, here is Frank's dog (literally as he loves his three dogs) and pony show!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Freeman-Pedia resources for World History

Run, don't walk, to this site, especially if you teach in Virgnia.

Feemanpedia has great resources for each unit in World History and for each unit in AP World history.

In World History, Benjamin Freeman, the site's curator, reviews what the SOLs want you to know, then includes a list of the people the state wants you to know along with video clips for enrichment.

Freeman does the same thing in AP World history but with key concepts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

World History Through Songs


Over the years I have put a number of videos up on using songs to teach history.  Well here is another one, Mr. Nicky, who uses popular current songs to teach ancient world history.  Above is his video on Greece. 

30 Ways to Use Chromebooks in the Classroom

Thanks to Stacy Delaney, our school based technology specialist for finding this document titled "30 Ways to Use Chromebooks in the Classroom." Ours continue to be the best thing for my students. When you add in that they now sit in pods of four and help each other, it has been a great start to the school year.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

EasyBib for Citations

My son is working on his research paper (on how the brain works) and wanted to know how to cite his resources.  The best free source is EasyBib which asks you to input the url, press enter and then you will have the citation.  You can find many free items like this in my book Deeper Thinking Through Technology: Using the Cloud the Individualize Learning.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chat with Sec of Ed Arne Duncan

Living in the nation's capital has afforded me some unique opportunities.  For example the Dir of Ed Tech for the US Dept of Education spent a day in my classroom and, as a result, I got to meet (in a small group) with Arne Duncan.  My students have also had the chance to meet with him on Digital Learning Day. I even ran into him at a local track while I was running with my son and he was playing basketball with his daughter.

Now you can chat with outgoing Secretary of the US Department of Education, Arne Duncan via Twitter.  There are two hashtags you can join him which are "#ce15" and "#edtechchat."  The meeting is at 8 pm on October 26th.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mastery Learning - Definition and Implementation


First off this is from Jonathan Bergmann who is one of the pioneers of flipping the classroom.  But what I like about this is that in 2 minutes, he

  • defines mastery learning
  • gives the advantages of using it
  • tells how it has opened him up for differentiation
  • discusses how he integrates flipping the classroom and how that is the core of what he does

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Population Bomb: What Happened?

President Nixon and others warned in 1969 that a population crisis was looming.

Indeed, a newscaster announced that "if we do not by humane means limit our numbers, then our numbers are going to be limited by more famines and shortages and consequent social conflict."

According to Stanford researcher Paul Ehrlich, "we have a finite planet with finite reources."

What happened? How did Ehrlich and other get it so wrong? This short 13 minute documentary from the New York Times explains.

Two Version of the Chinese Dynasty Song

If your students are required to learn the Chinese dynasties, you might want to teach them the Chinese Dynasty song.  The top one is fun for its stuffy professor types singing it and the bottom one is just plain fun. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

4 Ways to Screencast on a Chrombook


Right now my Macbook Air is on its last legs (pretty good after nearly five years) and I am toying with the idea of getting a Chromebook.  But first I want to see if I can do everything I am used to (a big stumbling block is Blackboard Collaborate which still requires Javascript to watch and is how I teach my online students)

One of the things I do a lot of is make screencasts, so one worry I wouldn't have (or your students if it's approved) is to make screencasts on a Chromebook.  Above are three videos explaining the methods and a fourth can be found here on a very well written (complete with graphics) summary of three methods.  

Friday, October 9, 2015

Study Less, Study Smart


These are some additional tips to what I posted yesterday.  It includes summarizing what you have learned, questioning teachers, using interactive methods, priming your learning before starting, using mnemonics and using images.

If you prefer notes over a video, these are the summary of the lecture above.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to Prepare for a Test


My mom asked me the other day where I get all of my ideas and sites for the blogs.  I told her that I basically just teach and search for answers to all of my questions.  For example the other day a friend asked me for help with her daughter's studying ability.

I actually always start this kind of an answer with asking if the student writes a study guide.  Most of the time, the answer is no.  Bu as I have now come to require my students to fill in one before each summative assessment, I have found that is where most end.   Given no study guide, most, would do nothing.  Given a study guide the most kids do is read them over and hope for the best on the items they don't know.  This is contrary to my kids who insist on us quizzing them repeatedly for days, which is exactly what the research suggests is best.  said she suffered from test anxiety.  She admitted that she never did more than review her notes to which I asked if she wasn't fulfilling her prophesy in that she was taking the easy way out by reading, but not studying and then blaming her low scores on the imagined anxiety.  I asked her if she had every varied her approach to prepare and the answer was,

For this year and last I have made a conscious effort to discuss what is meant by studying - even modeling it repeatedly with my non AP classes.  But here is a list of 22 different ideas to think and perhaps even share some of them with your students such as
  • quizzing one's self (I love Quizlet)
  • studying for multiple days
  • studying in different parts of the house
  • using different memory devices such as songs and story telling
  • writing it out
  • taking breaks and more
The video above echoes many of the points above, but also how to reduce anxiety in a test.


  • In addition to requiring study guides and 
  • giving them the Quizlet links for a particular subject (you can just do a search on the site and say something like "Regents WHI China" and someone has put together a pretty good group of cards. 
  • I tell them about Google Hangouts so they can quiz their friends and not have to worry about getting together.  They can be done on any device and allow you share your screen.
  • or use FreeConferenceCall.com which allows students up to 999 other participants in a group call
  • or even the old fashioned meeting someone in person!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pearson and Its Impact on Our Students


I got curious about Pearson when I saw this article on how we still have the same Texas Instruments calculators that we had in schools 20 years ago.  Part of that problem is because they are still in our textbooks and part of that, to be truthful, is that teachers hate changes (even in a difference in page numbers) in their textbooks.

The video above is an excellent one on the history of Pearson and the attacks it takes from both the left and right.  It is an $8 billion company that is behind most our state tests.   It does have some redeeming features such as online classes, good textbooks, etc., but it also continues to pursue cheap multiple choice tests rather than project based ones that are more expensive, yet better preparation for life beyond K-12.  (Did you know the pencil and standardized learning were invented the same year - more in my book on that).   Really we should be asking why our state exams are really exercises in Googling and not higher level thinking pieces.  To wit, the tests do drive our instruction.  Create project based end of the years assessments and you'll get more throughout the year.  Create end of the year multiple choice exams and you'll get more during the year and don't even get me started on the awful statistical practices that this has spawned!

At any rate it is always good to learn about "the forces" behind our legislative decisions.  In our state, for example, we have cut some year end tests, but it is bad form for Pearson to lose more of them and you can bet its lobbying arm is fighting more (and more here and here).

To wit, here is a great Politico article on Pearson and here is another recent one from Fortune.  Please take the time to look at these resources and get involved with your state and locally elected officials and ask them when our testing will start reflecting the changes in our society instead of the world one hundred years ago when we first saw the dawn of standardized testing.   

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Document Analysis Sheet, Rubric and Grade Converter

Our middle and high school social studies teams came up with SHIPPO which is an acronym which we use to help our kids analyze document based questions.  We also came up with a rubric in case you were looking for one.

While we are at it, go here and look at our grade converter developed by one of my econ partners in crime, Rich Hoppock.  To use it, download and then re-upload it into Google Drive or Microsoft. Then plug in whatever number you need for the rubric and you will have instant grades.

WHII Quizlet Set & Other Resources


Thanks to Crystal DeLong who wrote me with her set of World History II Quizlet reviews.  If you go to the link, you will see a group of e-cards for each part of WHII.  You can also use it to play many other games to make it more interesting for your students.   Above is a scatter game for the Reformation from Crystal's set.

By the way, check out Crystal's Wiki page as it has all part of WHII including her PowerPoints, videos, Quizlets, etc.  If you are thinking of making the move to flipping or a new teacher looking for great things, it would be a good place to start.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Embedding Remind Texts in Blackboard


So in my school district a lot of people like using the "Announcement" tab in Blackboard.  The problem with that is if you change it to just a text (which is possible) then all teachers have to be limited to a text.

So, of course, many people who know that students never check emails love to use Remind.  So if you love group texting your students, but have to use the "Announcement" tab in Blackboard, then watch the video above which shows you have you can embed your Remind texts in Blackboard and meet your district's needs as well as meet your students where they best reside - on their smartphones!