Wednesday, January 28, 2015

So I am Published

Well the book, Deeper Learning Through Technology, is at the warehouse and after a quick look see (don't ask me I only work here), it will be shipped to anyone who wants it.  So you will be getting pieces of my book on my blogs in hope that you and your colleagues, will find it useful and even change the way you teach.  

The book looks at how you can better individualize student learning in your classroom, but to do so it does something rare in giving the reader some background research.  For example, Project RED (Greaves et al., 2010) looked at 997 schools in 47 states and the District of Columbia to see the impact of the digital learning environment. The report found that in schools where students all had digital devices, test scores went up while dropout rates went down. The report emphasized that for the introduction of technology to be effective, instruction must also be meaningful. Project RED identified two levels of change—“first-order change” and “second-order change”—stressing that teachers and administrators should strive for second-order change if they want to improve student learning. 

An example of first-order change would be when a teacher requires students to submit work online. This might save time that could be used for more direct instruction, but it is not necessarily changing instruction in any meaningful way. Whether assignments are on paper or submitted online, they still very likely reflect a similar quality of work. In contrast, second-order changes occur when technology allows for innovations that could not happen without it. For example, a teacher can assign students to watch an online video lecture (flipped video) for homework, visit and review several websites, and then collaborate with fellow students by commenting on the video and sites on one collective online document housed in the cloud. There are several second-order changes included in this scenario. (1) Placing the lecture online allows students to watch it at their own pace, stopping and starting the video or watching it several times until the material is understood. (2) Collaborating online means that students can work together regardless of where they physically happen to be (home, school, library, etc.). Both uses of technology (online video lecture and online collaborative document) allow students to do something that they could not have done without the technology. 

Of course the crux of my book then is a practical guide to effectively changing the way teachers collaborate and teach.  It comes with step by step instructions as well as classroom examples and teacher challenges.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Win Scholarship to Attend AP Summer Institute

Over the years I have gone to a number of AP institutes, but my county pays for them - which is good since it is also required!  At any rate go here to apply and if you are in a high minority/low income schools, here is another way to get funding.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Virtual Field Trips

I have done some work recently with SmarterSchools.com and their contact recently asked me if I had done any virtual field trips with my students.  Well yes. If you Google them, you can find lots of them.  For example this is one from the Lascaux cave in France which I had the pleasure to visit as a teenage (before it was closed).  I like this field trip as it literally walks you through the cave and lets you get very close to the drawings on the walls.  Here is another of my favorites on the Sistine Chapel.  If you start at a wide angle, you might ask your students to guess how long it took to do a panel.  Then get real close and ask the question again.   The benefit for any of these "trips" is that you can blow them up in class to show them on the big screen to really help your students see how amazing they are.  Another one is Hagia Sophia which is right here.  Most of the sites you studying come with a virtual tour.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What to Flip in a Flipped Class

This is adapted from my book, Deeper Learning Through Technology: How to Use the Cloud to Individualize Instruction, which comes out on the 27th (and you can pre-order now).  

To say you should take your current PowerPoints and break them down into segments of video for your students would be to miss the point.  You might want to first think of what is going to be done in class and then make a flipped video of the background needed to prepare for that work.  If, for example, you were looking at William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, you might want to give students an exercise looking at the main points that Golding was trying to make and his view of our society.  These would be tough questions that students might need assistance in understanding.  A flipped video on Golding’s life and how he was led to his beliefs and subsequent writing of the book, would be a good topic for your video.  This video could even include the short clip found online of Golding’s thoughts on his well known book.

Once you have your lesson and the video idea ready, you will need to line up what
you need for the flipped overview.  I usually include a few Presentation slides since written words often help student comprehension. I also have additional tabs set up on my browser.  Perhaps a very short clip from theLord of the Flies movie might enhance your presentation as would a picture of Golding.  Once these assets are set up, it makes it easy to move through the parts of the video remembering that it is okay to have bloopers as students seem to like it when their teachers appear more human in a video.  Adding in personal touches also make the videos more interesting for your students.  My own children have all had cameos in my instructional videos as have the family pets!  

Flipping, though, does not need to be limited to teachers.  If administrators truly want to initiate a flipped school, they need to model the practice.  If teachers are watching the videos, then students aren’t either and administrators need to learn how to maximize watching so as to work with teachers and students to do the same.  How many times has a school started a new initiative and had training sessions.  Why not give people the option of watching a short video instead.  What about an opening day speech when teachers would prefer to be working on lesson plans.  Have them watch a 10 minute video (or shorter) and answer key questions, much as teachers would want their students to do.  Modeling the practice over and over is the best way to sell flipping to your teachers.

It is important to note that it is okay to use videos from other educators as long as they fit your needs.  Use your Twitter/Google+/Google search engines to look for flipped videos on your topic.  Ask your Twitter followers for recommendations or send a message to someone with a large Twitter following and see if they can help point you in the right direction. There is a growing library of short videos on the Internet that you can add to your digital library by bookmarking them for later use.   

Want to learn how to make a flipped video, get more guidance on where to find flipped videos or even how to use Twitter to benefit your teaching, then you might want to buy.

Below is a flipped video I created on essay writing so my students could do the hard part (ie write the essay) in class.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

M.A.I.N. Causes of WHI Video

My daughter is asking me questions about the causes of World War I so I found her this great short video on the causes.  

Does Homework Perpetuate Inequalities in Society?

We are doing a study of our homework assignments and amounts in our county.  Interestingly enough it is coming from the best and the hardest working students whose parents see them taking six AP classes and working 4-5 hours a night on homework.  That being the case I have always believed that homework is there to reinforce, introduce, but not improperly burden.  As my principal said the other day, if it adds nothing to student retention, then why give a particular assignment.

With that in mind this article from OECD looks at the PISA results and sees some very interesting results: lower income students complete less homework (perhaps because they are also less likely to take more challenging classes), are less likely to have a quiet place to study (which is very important for my children who prefer their rooms now that they are getting older), have less homework today than a few years ago (or, as the article points out, may be doing less because of competing interests brought on by the Internet and mobile devices) 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Awesome Animation of 17th Century London

Ever wonder what 17th century London looked like? This cool award-winning animation lets you see block after block, as it might have looked just before the great fire of 1666.

According to Open Culture where you can find the story, university students created the animation and note that "the students used a realistic street pattern [taken from historical maps] and even included the hanging signs of genuine inns and businesses” mentioned in diaries from the period."

My thanks to my collegue Jeff Feinstein for sending me the link.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What to do on a Snow Day Tomorrow

The other day I learned that my book has gone to be printed and will definitely be out on the 27th of this month.  One of the topics I discuss is how to deal with "alternative days" such as snow ones.  If you like what you see below, you might want to pre-order my book: Deeper Learning Though Technology."

I will admit that I can't get away with this with all of my classes, but my AP Comparative (which is AP US Government and AP Comparative in one year) and AP Economics are a motivated bunch. But tomorrow is looking like we will have either a two hour delay or more probably no school at all.  So for me that means I have pre-determined a time when I am meeting my students online.  This will be our second day in a row that we have missed so, as with the first we will just move our classroom into the cloud.  To help you do this, you might consider the following:
  1. For my online kids I use Blackboard Collaborate.  So I created a class and gave my brick and mortar kids the link back in late October and we all agreed that at 10 am on a snow day we would have class.  24 of my 30 kids made the class and the others watched the session which was recorded.  If your school district doesn't have one for you, here are seven free ones you can look at using.  
  2. Alternatively you could Google Plus Hangout live stream where you could send a link to your students and they could watch a live lecture (here's how).    You could then use Today's Meet to send a link to students and you could see their live questions.   You would be able to do this by splitting your screen
  3. If the day is cancelled tomorrow we will spend much of the period answering questions on review problem sets and then I will assign a few more so that we can have our quiz on Wed and our test on Friday without missing a beat.  
  4. But you don't always have to meet your students.  For example last year  I decided not to have an online session and instead made the video above as both an introduction and a continuation of our material.  Then my kids will watched this video to look up these court cases.  
  5. I communicat with the kids by using Remind, Blackboard and even using my grade book which has all of the kids' emails.  For the Remind message I used a shortened tinyurl ( which linked to my normal homework e-sheet. so I didn't have to text the kids multiple times with the assignments.  
  6. So if you have a motivated bunch and you can't afford to miss a day of school you might want to try some of the techniques. 

Ditch the Textbook Facebook Page

If you read most textbooks, they are often (aside from AP ones) little other than the state required "essential knowledge" with verbs thrown in.  I believe they are popular because they are easy as in a teacher telling his/her students to just read pages 33-35 as opposed to giving a flipped lecture and then finding a primary document (something rarely found in a textbook) or exercise (which some books do come with).  In three of our my courses this year my students are using it as a resource and that's it and I am working on the 4th little by little.  At any rate, I just found a Facebook page called "Ditch the Textbook" which I am going to be looking at a lot this year for ideas.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New AP World History Chat

A new Twitter chat for AP World History teachers begins next week on Monday, 1/12/15.  The hashtag is #whapchat and the topic for the first chat will be about teaching the different essay formats. 

The moderator will be Angela Lee who teaches in the Boston, Mass area. You can read her blogpost about the launching of the chat  here.  Her blog also has links to resources including good Pinterest boards.

The chat will be a slow chat which means that one questions will be posed when the chat opens and remain open for 24  hours.  You can reply to the question and conversation any time during the day of  the chat.  The chat will probably open at 6 am eastern time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Free Quiz Questions in Most AP Subjects

I just received an email from the folks at Learnerator about their free questions (240, for example in AP Macro).  They have most AP courses, including AP micro, macro, government, US and world.   Each time you answer a question it tells you the correct answer and gives you an explanation if you were wrong. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Cyrus Cylinder: Symbol of Religious Tolerance

British Museum director, Neil MacGregor, argues that the the Babylonian cylinder, discovered in 1879, stands with the American Constitution and the Magna Carta as one of the great documents of religious tolerance.
In this twenty minute Ted Talk, MacGregor relates the story of the cylinder.  Written in Akkadian script, it says that after Cyrus conquered most of the Middle East, he released the Jews and all the other people  in captivity and allowed them to return to their countries and recover their gods.
MacGregor notes that the god, Marduke, told Cyrus to free the Jews. The Hebrew Bible relates a similar story, but in this story, Jehovah, God of the Israelites, not Marduke, calls on Cyrus to release the Jews.
It's fascinating story and shows how one document can relate so much history.

You can find other posts about the different religions on my religions blog here.

Friday, January 2, 2015

CCOT Explained: Great Prezi

Here's a good Prezi I found that outlines the steps of the CCOT essay for AP World students.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Magna Carta; 800th Year Anniversary

This year marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta,and that means new resources for those of who teach the document.

BBC Magazine reviews a new book about the Magna Carta. The review does a terrific job of summarizing the importance of the document and of King John.

The British Library has an excellent site with several articles about the the Magna Carta including an introduction, a timeline, and an overview of the people and society in 1215 when King John signed the Magna Carta.

And here is a site dedicated to the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

Thanks to F.C. Tymrak, @Sheffield68, for the tweeting the link to the BBC story.