Sunday, June 30, 2013

Three Great Informal Assessment tools: Socrative, Wallwisher, Today'sMeet

Here are excellent step-by-step directions from Richard Byrne (Free Technology for Teachers) on how to use three great informal assessment tools--Socrative--Today's Meet and Wallwisher.

  • Socrative looks especially cool. It's a little like Poll Everywhere in that students respond to questions on their phones or another computer.  But unlike Poll everywhere,  you can ask students short answer questions and they can respond anonymously.  You can also create multiple choice quizzes. Socrative  gives you a room number when you register.  You use that number over and over and give it to students when they log into m.scorative on their device.
  • TodayMeet is another way to poll students in real time. Like Socrative, you create a room for students to log into. Once they are in, they can respond to an in-class video with comments or questions. It's a real time discussion that might even work when you give students a  video to watch at home.  Students could discuss the video on TodayMeet.
  • WallWisher, now called Padlet,  is like an online cork board on which students can post images, links, videos, etc about a specific topic.  You can make the wall public or private, use it as a KWL chart, or as way to showcase student work. Here's a slideshow on other ways to use it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Project Based Learning

Interesting clip from the PBS News Hour about Project Based Learning. Thanks to Sofia Georgelos for tweeting the link. Here is more about Project Based Learning.

The10 Best Mathematicians

Pythagoras and Hypatia are among the top ten mathematicians, according to Alex Bellos of The Guardian (the British online newspaper). Hypatia is the only woman on the list and is there because of her translation of Euclid's "Elements."  She worked at the Library in Alexandria and  had a horrible death.  A Christian mob killed her, pulled away her flesh with pottery shards, and ripped off her arms and legs.  Bellos doesn't say why, so I looked it up.

Some believe that she kept Orestes from reconciling with the bishop.  Orestes was a Roman governor who clashed with the bishop of Alexandria.  The fallout caused Hypatia's death. Thanks to F.C. Tymrak for twitting the link.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Archimedes Screw

The NY Times has a great story on Archimedes and his achievements.  The screw is perhaps the most important. Engineers recently discovered that if you run the screw backwards, you can create  electricity. According to the Times, "unlike the turbine blades that spin in huge hydro-power plants like the Hoover Dam, an Archimedes screw permits fish to swim through it and emerge at the other end almost unscathed."

The screw is not Archimedes only invention. He solved abstract mathematical problems and engineered devices to take advantage of physics.

This story might be a great addition to those of us who teach Greece and World History.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gaming & Education: Jane McGonigal

The big talk at the ISTE 13 conference (The International Society for Technology in Education) in San Antonio, Texas, which you can get a taste of on Twitter, is the keynote talk by game designer, Jame McGonigal.  Apparently her talk was so compelling that one attendant set up a Today's Meet to discuss the keynote. For all of us not at the conference, we can get an idea of McGonigal's talk with her TedTalk below. And you can watch one of her more recent talks here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Using QR Codes in Class

Here's a great tutorial on how to get started using QR codes in the classroom. There is also an Itunes course you can take for free all about how to use QR codes in the classroom. Thanks to Sean Junkins, instructional technologist in Myrtle Beach, SC for tweeting the link to the course.

How to Make a Mummy

The Getty Museum demonstrates  how ancient Egyptians made mummies in the first short video below. In the second video, a museum associate offers more detail about their mummy and what it says about Egyptian society. You can read more about it here at Open Culture, where I found the video and story. Another great site about mummification and more interactive, is this one at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Complete World History Review

In my state of VA if you just barely fail the state exam you get to retake the exam.  Two things I did that helped my students were 1) to diversify their learning and give them different assignments based on what they were poorest on (our scores are broken into six categories) and 2) I had them watch (on their phones) this twelve minute video on this history of the world.

Well now here is a series of review videos (see two above and the whole series here) which I found from  who follows my Twitter account.  I plan on using both of these when I need to review in late July with my World History II students for their state exam. 

AP World Test Results Preview

Here's a preview of AP World scores from the College Board's Trevor Packer. He tweets the overall results for each of the AP tests. I storified the four or five tweets he made about the World History exam. Essay scores, apparently, are among the worst ever.

Remind101 Improves Its Site

Our county has an in-service in August for which I have organized ten groups to do presentations.   If you come to this site in August I will be putting all of those in-services and their "handouts" on this blog.  One of the sites we will discuss is Remind101 which has been one of my favorites for years.  I use it to communicate with students and parents about what they should be doing at home.  This year I have also used it on days when I cannot be in class.  So recently I was grading AP exams and I pre-set a message to my class so they would know their assignment.  Since you can use Tinyurl to shorten the link address and then you can send it to your students in class when you are not there.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Storify and Telling a Story Using Social Media

George's post has me searching for Storify items as I have never used it before, but am incredibly intrigued.

The idea is that students can research on the web for information that is found on social media and then create a story.  Video, G+, Twitter, Facebook and several other media can be used.  You can also add in titles and comments and easily manipulate the order.  Here is a written document for how to use it and above is a short how to video.

Below is an example of Storify telling about the Arab Spring.  Think about the possibilities!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More on Twitter: Educators Discuss its Value

Jerry Bluemengarten and Sean Junkins, a technologist in the Myrtle Beach, SC schools discuss the value of Twitter in the slideshow below. (I collected the tweets into a program called Storify and saved it as a slide show.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

10 Tips for Using Twitter in Education

Steven Anderson, instructional technologist for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, NC,offers 10 good tips for using Twitter in education in this article for T.H.E. Journal.. Some of his suggestions include:

  • Find good hastags to follow--they can expand the impact of a  tweet more than the number of followers an account has
  • Check out the hashtag #edchat and check out Jerry Blumengarten's collection of educational hashtags at
  • Who you follow is more important than the number of followers you have
  • Don't use except to register your account.  Use third party software like TweetDeck. Anderson likes the older version and the way it allows you to categorize your tweets.
  • Expand who you follow with lists--you can create lists for different groups--world history teachers, religion teachers, psychology teachers, etc.
  • Save tweets.  You can use Diigo for that. (

Using Voice Comments with Google Docs

If you collect assignments through Google docs, you can grade and comment on on those assignments with voice comments. Tucker English walks you through the process here at TeacherCast.   The process is simple. I tried it it and it works well. When you open a Google document, click connect to more apps, just like the photo in the article. Then, every time you open a document, you just click open with "voice commands."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The China-Africa Convergence: Can America Catch Up?

"Africa will grow faster than any other continent, including Asia," argues Howard W. French in this excellent NY Times story.

The growth is based on a demographic transformation--strong population growth skewed toward the energetic youth and rapid urbanization. According to French, "the continent is urbanizing at rates unsurpassed in human history."

French believes that this unprecedented growth requires America to rethink its African foreign policy. "The United States has a big potential role to play in helping African nations think through issues of urban creation, renewal and planning, as well as the development of better systems of sanitation, power, transportation and housing."

The author, Howard W. French, is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and wrote the article on the eve of president's Obama's visit to three Africa democratic nations.

This might be an terrific story for students to read as they study the post-cold war period in world history.  Thanks to Nicholas Kristof for tweeting the story.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rubrics for Every Assignment

One of the questions I get (and I get a lot of them) is how do you grade online assignments.  My short answer is that I like rubrics, but there are as many rubrics as there are assignments.  So one of the webpages I like is Ribistar which has improved a lot since I wrote about it three years ago.  Now you simply use the drop down menu to answer some questions about your assignment and just like that you have a rubric.  Give it a try. 

DBQ Prezi on the fall of Rome

Believe it or not, I will be meeting my world history students for the last time this coming Tuesday to give them their final grades for the year.  Looking back, though, one of the best things I did is to have them write this essay (above) on decline of Rome which Charlie Perryman put up for his students.  I also made a video telling them how to manipulate the Prezi and be able to see it and your Google Document on which one could write the answers to the DBQ questions.  I liked the DBQ because if you follow the questions on it, the essay almost writes itself and so teaches the students who struggle with writing a valuable skill as well as great facts on Rome. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MOOC Free Summer Courses

With summer approaching very quickly (yes I still have students until June 18th!), there may be time for you to recharge and try something else.  One thing you might want to do is to take free courses online called a Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).  Here is the complete list and here are the ones for the humanities. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Artwork for One and All

The National  Gallery of Art and other museums like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam have begun uploading and offering their artwork to the public to view and and download as they like. In a statement in The NY Times, National Gallery spokesperson, Deborah Ziska, says: "I don’t think anyone thinks we've cheapened the image of the Mona Lisa. people have gotten past that, and they still want to go to the Louvre to see the real thing. It’s a new, 21st-century way of respecting images."

So, if your students are studying art in any period of history, they might take a look at the National Gallery of Art's online exhibit, or the Google Art Project.  But not all museums allow you to copy and download digitized images. According to the Times, for example, The National Gallery of London has digitized over 2500 artworks but does not allow for free downloads.  Open Culture also has a story about this new trend.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

25 People W Should Have Won the Nobel Peace Prize but Didn't

Interesting clip outlining 25 people who did not win the Nobel Prize but probably should have won. Some of these include people like Václav Havel, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oskar Schindler, and Cesar Chavez.  Thanks to Anna Searcy for tweeting the link. As she suggests, it might be good way to end the year.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Abstract-Expressionist Art: An Interactive Tool

Here's a great interactive online tool for making your own abstract or expressionist art. It's from the NY Times Innovation issue and might be fun for students when studying art in the 20th century. My thanks to Jeff Feinstein for sending me the link.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Origins of Turkey's Demonostrations

Excellent short clip, from AlJazeera, about the origins of the demonstrations in Turkey (just less than 3 minutes)

Four Cool IPad Apps

Sean Junkins, in this Google hangout web cast from Edudemic, reviews four I-Pad apps that are great for content creation. Junkins is a learning specialist in the Myrtle Beach, SC school district. He reviews Splice (movie making app), Poplet, (timeline among other things), Haiku Deck (a little like PowerPoint), and Morfu (create famous figures and have them talk).

Have Your Students Meet Foreign Students Online

Today one of my 9th grade classes had an usual experience.  We had a video conference with a class of like aged students in Italy set up by Face to Faith.  Yes the name gave me pause at first thinking about our First Amendment limitations, but my hesitation was unfounded.  The organization was founded by former British PM Tony Blair to connect students from multiple countries.  You can do it as a one time shot or meet multiple times and even have your students chat in their closed network. So how did it work?

I contacted FTF just three weeks ago and they were incredibly quick about getting me started.  I checked my equipement with a tech person in India and then set up my files on their website - all within four days of my initial e-mail.  Then I exchanged e-mails with my teaching peer in Italy and we Skyped each other a few days ago.  We also exchanged videos about your schools made by our students (none of which is required) so I knew the Italians were taking an English class and I must say they spoke quite fluently.  You do not need much technical experience other than how to download and run a video conferencing program called the BlueJeansNetwork,  and how to plug in a mic, LCD and speakers.

This morning I got to school about fifty minutes before the conference and connected in 30 minutes before.  We had our tech friend in India, our moderator in London, our school friends in Italy and we are just outside of D.C.  The questions ranged from "What is your typical day like" to what do you do after school, foods you like, items you study at school."  We did briefly discuss religion, but only to ask a few volunteers what religion (not surprisingly all Catholic in Italy and many religions in my school). they practiced.  My kids loved the experience and other than being shy to speak on the mic it went very well.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Easily Make MC Tests in Google Forms

We have a test maker for which we have to cut and paste each part of multiple choice questions into the "a" section and the "b" one, etc.  Well here is a much faster way for you to make convert your multiple choice questions to Google Form tests so students can take them online.  It is as easy as pasting the entire answer into the "a" slot in Google Form (as you can see above).  So very quickly you can make an exit ticket or even and entire test. I found the tip from the Google+ group Google in Education

Protests in Turkey

Here's  a 90 second clip showing the brutality of the demonstrations in Turkey last week. And here is an excellent article from Mother Jones outlining the causes of the demonstrations. Finally, here are several other stories about the crisis from the New York Times and other sources.

Monday, June 3, 2013

18 TEDTalks for World History Classrooms

Tom Wujec discusses the 13th-century astrolabe in this 9 minute Ted Talk. It is one of 18 Ted Talk videos that Kentucky teacher, Angela Hamblen Cunningham put together on her blog which you can find here. Some of these include: David Christian: The History of Our World in 18 Minutes,David Macaulay: Rome Antics, Tracy Chevalier: Finding the Story Inside the Paintin, and Neil MacGregor: 2600 Years of History in One Object. When you get to Angela's site, you may have to click on "blog" to get to the 18 World history videos.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Joseph Nye on Global Power Shifts

Historian and diplomat, Joseph Nye, discusses power in the 21st century in this fascinating Ted Talk. Nye argues that power is changing and sees two types of change.  The first is that power is shifting from west to east. Actually, Nye says power is returning to the east.  The second change, Nye argues, is that power is moving from states to non-state actors.  He notes, for example, that non government actors, like terrorists, killed more Americans in 2001 than the Japanese did when they attacked America in 1941.

Nye discusses the implications of these changes and suggests they are not necessarily negative. My thanks to Angela Hamblen Cunningham for tweeting the link to this. You can also find on her blog 23 other Ted Talk videos for government and civics classes.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Elizabeth I's Spy Master

This was your fate if you plotted against England's great monarch, Elizabeth 1, and were captured. Elizabeth's network of spies discovered a number plots to overthrow the queen and replace her with the Catholic, Mary, Queen of Scots. As this BBC History story reports, "it is a testament to the success of this secret service that Elizabeth died peacefully of old age and not at the hands of an assassin."

Elizabeth's secret service was headed by Francis Walsingham, and as the story and slideshow suggest, some of the exploits of Walsingham rival some of the best CIA plots today.  For example, Walsingham intercepted coded letters, from Mary, like the one below,  and hidden in beer barrels.
The BBC tells this exciting story in pictures, which you can view here.  My thanks to my colleague, Jeff Feinstein for sending me the link.