Monday, September 1, 2014

Why the West? Neil Ferguson's 6 Killer ApsExplain

Why did the West surge ahead of the rest of the world in the fifteenth century creating the great divergence? Was it geography? Or was it empire? 

Niall Ferguson argues that it was neither. He finds six reasons why the West surged ahead and calls them the six killer apps. They include, competition, the Scientific Revolution, property rights, medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic. 

These six characteristics set the West apart from the rest, according to Ferguson.  It's a fascinating argument.

Twitter Warm-up

So I always have a meet and greet on our first day of school, but tomorrow, thanks to @dougzywiol I am going more high tech (imagine that!) and having the kids Tweet their answers.  To do that yourself you can either create your own hashtag by putting a number a hashtag symbol besides a name (make sure others are using it first) and then have your kids add it in of their Tweets which is what I am going to do.  Alternatively you could just have the students write your Twitter handle in their Tweets.  I will then have the kids go to our hashtag and we will go through them.  For the kids who don't have Twitter, we'll just do it orally.   

Why Study History?

More often than not, the students who will walk in my classroom for the first time this coming Tuesday (yes I am getting excited for year #24) do not appreciate the reasons for studying history.  So the very first exercise we will carry out will be to consider why we should study it.  If you have a similar plan you might like the these two short clips.  The one above, your students will like best and the one above (only the first minute), you will appreciate more.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to Interview Someone Using a Google+ Hangout

If you are like me and all of your classes have a state or national exam at the end, you often feel somewhat pressed for time so bringing a speaker is not always something you can do until the end of the year.  But if you use a Google+ Hangout, you can bring someone in, limit the time they are "in" your room and share the live broadcast and or have it recorded to YouTube for later broadcasts. Above is a short video telling you how to do this.

Friday, August 29, 2014

ISIS and the Tigris and Euphrates

On Wednesday my county had its in-service day and one of the themes we discussed was connecting material we are teaching to today's world.  Well for those of you who teach ancient world history, this NYTimes article will make it easy as it both has an article as well as a great graphic showing what ISIS (Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) has captured along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and also has Aleppo on the map.   The article also mentions a number of Americans joining the terrorist group.  Talk about making it relevant! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Take My Tech Integration Course

I will be teaching the seventh version of my technology integration course with Fairfax County Public Schools this spring.  We will learn about such items as webquests, pacing your students individually using technology, flipping the classroom, using electronic textbooks, collaborating online, how to use Google Drive and lots more in a ten week course.  You can get more details here on page 43.  To sign up go to MyPLT (if you need help go to page 68) and put either the title or just a few words from the title or even e-mail me and I can add you to the class.  The sign-up period is from August 27th at 4 pm - September 10th.

The class will be on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7ish at Woodson.  It is free to FCPS employees, but if you live in the areas and are not in FCPS you can take it, but you have to pay for it (page 9).  The class fills up quickly, so if you are interested I would sign up sooner rather than later.  If you have questions, please e-mail me at 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Twitter In-Service

Tomorrow I will be doing an in-service on using Twitter in the classroom.  My colleague, Doug Zywiol, joined my department last year having never used it before and attended my Twitter in-service. Now he is a force and will show you how to do warm-ups using Twitter while I will have a hands on demonstration on using Twitter for your PLN and how to use a hashtag for discussions.  We will be in room 228 during session A.  If you are not a FCPS teacher, use the video above to learn how to use Twitter.   If you prefer seeing it all written out, here is a great set of written instructions and below is a summary of them:

For your PLN, a great group to follow is listed below:
Ken Halla @kenhalla
Cool Cat Teacher @letytijerina
We Are Teachers @WeAreTeacher
Larry Ferlazzo @LarryFerlazzo
Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal
Richard Byrna @rmbryne
Shelly Terrell @ShellTerrell

For hashtags, go to this link to see how my classes use it for government discussions returns, presidential debates and reviewed for the exams.  Below is a list of hashtags you might want to follow.  Some other useful ones are #SSChat (social studies), #HistoryTeacher and #GeographyTeacher.  To find a hashtag, type in the # symbol plus the name in the search engine in Twitter and the conversation will appear.  If you want to be really blown away go here for the 300 most popular hashtags for educators.
Educational Chats: #edchat, #schools, #lrnchat, #TT (Teacher Tuesday), #GlobalEd
Technology Chats: #edtech, #elearning, #mlearning (mobile learning), #edapps, #gbl (games based learning), #islide2learn (iDevices & learning), #vitalcpt (effective use of tech in the classoom)

If you want to both follow a hashtag and Tweet at the same time, I'd suggest you use TweetChat.  Below is a video on how to use it.  

Flipped Classroom In-Service

Tomorrow I am teaching two sections of how to flip your classroom to Fairfax County (VA) teachers.  If you are coming, I will be in room 228 during sessions B and C.  If you aren't a teacher in Fairfax or if after our session, you want to watch how to do it again, above is an eight minute video detailing all of the steps and what to do in the classroom after you have done your flipping.  

The PowerPoint below has a number of great resources for more information on flipping.

Finally here is an example of a flipped video, the actual Google form we used and the interactive assignment that followed in class

Monday, August 25, 2014

Snapshot Autobiographies from SHEG: Introductory Activity

Need a good first week activity? 
This activity from Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) has a great introductory lesson that helps students understand what history is about and also allows teachers to get to know their students in the first weeks of school.
They do this by creating brief autobiographies and then reflecting on the process to help them better understand how history is written.
My thanks to LIz Ramos for tweeting the link.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

John Green World History Flipped Videos

Author John Green has completed flipped videos for all of world history.  Above is the first in the installments.  The first minute has the best explanation I've ever seen on why students should study history.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching Thoughts

One of the more interesting education books I have read recently is "The Smartest Kids in the World."  Above is a very interesting interview "excerpt" where she mostly says Finland closed down its education schools and then only opened them again in the prestigious universities.  She even notes that technology is often missing in Finland and Korea (although I argue in my book that it is being used improperly as effectively a way to just digitize paper).

But what you might want to do is to look at the author, Amanda Ripley's blog which has a lot of stimulating articles.  You can also follow her on Twitter.  Food for thought to improve our craft.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Become an AP Grader

I have been grading different AP exams for well over a decade and have found it one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.  Yes it does get hard the fourth and fifth day of grading the same exam over and over (well some subjects like US train you in two), but the rewards are many.  I have a national network of friends whose collective brains I pick throughout the year, learn how to master an AP rubric and generally enjoy the places where we grade (San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Lincoln, Daytona Beach).  Perhaps the best thing, and the reason I go is so I can help my students "beat" the AP exam.  I must also say I am very efficient in grading throughout the year as being a grader has greatly improved my speed and the ability to find the exact mistakes the kids are making (which unlike the real AP exam I mark).

If you are interested, apply here by the end of September.  If you decide to go and they generally look for people in their third year - but last year government took people who had taught fewer - you will have your plane, hotel and food paid for the week and you will get an "honorarium." You will spend your first day learning the rubric, the grade for five full days and part of the a sixth one.  You work from 8 to 5 with two 15 minute breaks and an hour lunch.  Even if you think it would be miserable, I think you owe it to your students to try it once. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Did Neanderthals and Early Humans Coexist?

Scientists, in a new study, using radio carbon dating technology, argue that neanderthals and early humans may have coexisted for years before disappearing. The short video clip above explains and you can read the Washington Post Story here.

Take Our Online Course

Richard Byrne of FreeTech4Teachers and I are going to be leading an online course.  In "Teaching History Using the Web," we take you through the process of developing engaging, web based history lesson plans.  The course features three interactive online meetings along with a discussion forum in which you can further interact with me and Richard and your classmates.  The course meetings are August 27th, September 3rd and September 10th at 8 pm EST.  Click here to register today or read on for more information. 

For $97 you will:
  • Learn how to develop a Google Plus community for professional development and instructional purposes
  • Develop an online Professional Learning Community
  • Learn how to draw virtual maps
  • Learn how to locate and help students find online primary resources
  • Find and use virtual tours on the Internet
  • Find and use flipped videos
  • Create your own flipped videos
Click here to register.  

If you are a FCPS teacher this is a different course than my "Enhancing the Classroom Using the Internet" which will I will be teaching on Thursdays starting Sept. 25th (more the last week of August when registration opens)

Monday, August 18, 2014