Saturday, January 30, 2016

Get Formative Results Live

Formative is a lot like Socrative. Both  use real-time questioning to assess student learning. You compose questions using the program, project a key for students to log in and answer. Instantly, you can see who knows the material.

The big difference between the two programs is that Formative allows you, as the teacher, to instantly provide feedback. While both programs allow students to see their results, only Formative allows the teacher to write feedback to specific students. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

How I keep my students informed about schedule changes when school is closed

We've missed lots of school because of the blizzard, which means that I've had to make changes to my schedule.  How do I inform my students of these changes?  It's easy if you use these tools.

My official class schedule is on Google Calendar.
I put a link to that calendar as a tab ("Assignment Calendar") on my class Blackboard page.

Before I had settled on Google Calendar I had tried to use the calendar on a previous version of Blackboard.  That Blackboard version was far inferior because it would not allow for events to have start times.  In appears that the newest version my district uses solves that problem, but for now I'm going to stick with Google Calendar.

When I need to make changes to our schedule I just make them in Google Calendar, and the changes appear for my students when they check the Assignment Calendar on Blackboard.

To inform my students about these changes I use these three tools:

1st: I post an Announcement in Blackboard that I have updated the Assignment Calendar.  Blackboard then gives me the option to email that Announcement immediately to my students.
2nd: I use Remind to send a text message alert about the changes.  I really like Remind because I can send the text immediately, or schedule it for a later time.  (This is especially good if I'm working at odd hours; I don't want their phone to beep or buzz too early or too late with a text from their teacher!)

3rd: I update the changes on the WhatsDue app.  WhatsDue creates a class calendar for my students that resides on the app on their devices.  Any change I make automatically generates a text alert to my students.  I like WhatsDue because students can use it to send themselves text reminders of upcoming due dates and deadlines.

Monday, January 25, 2016

3D Tour of the Roman Colosseum

This is really cool! the ancient Roman Colosseum in 3D.  It comes from Unimersiv, which has other 3D clips but require you to download software, which only work on window devices.

Why did the Ottoman Empire Decline?

Why did the Ottoman Empire decline?

This Caspian Report explains that despite failures in some important battles like the Battle of Lapanto and the Battle of Vienna, economic problems over time weakened the empire.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My New eLearning Blog

I am stuck at home with two feet of snow, but thankful that I can still do my job as I have recently changed from a classroom teacher and chair to the eLearning Coordinator of our 4000 student, 53 course strong Online Campus.

To that end I have, as you might have noticed found some other to help continue my other blogs and have continued adding posts myself to them.  But my new site - "eLearning Blog" is where I am putting anything related to learning online.  You can also receive the posts using Google+ and/or following me on Twitter.  Recent posts have included

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Summer Programs in Japan & Korea for Teachers

These summer programs, sponsored by the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) and the Program for Teaching East Asia at the University of Colorado are open to secondary teachers nationwide.

Teachers selected for the programs will receive a travel stipend, room and board, and resource materials. Participants in “Japan’s Olympic Challenges” qualify for a Summer 2017 study program in Japan. Full details and application information are provided in the linked flyers. Application deadline for both institutes is March 18, 2016.

Japan’s Olympic Challenges: 20th-Century Legacies, 21st-Century Aspirations. July 10-15, 2016. As it prepares to host the 2020 Olympics, Japan is focused on national renewal, even as it continues to negotiate postwar legacies that impact how Japanese people and the world see that nation.

Open to secondary social studies teachers nationwide, this 5-day institute on the CU-Boulder campus will consider how the past and the future intersect as Japan prepares to showcase its accomplishments to the world.

The institute will explore the impact of enduring issues on contemporary Japanese society, government, global and intra-Asian relations, and Olympic goals and aspirations. Here is a  detailed flyer and application, available now here.

For questions, contact

 2017 study in Japan: 

As a follow-up to this institute, participants will have the opportunity to apply for a 10-day residential seminar in Tokyo in July 2017, pending funding. Korea's Journey into the 21st Century: Historical Contexts, Contemporary Issues. July 24-28, 2016.

In this 4-day residential summer institute, secondary teachers will consider modern and contemporary South Korea's distinct history, geography, intra-peninsular and international relations, and transnational cultural transmissions (e.g., K-pop, film, and design).

Participants will work with specialists to learn about the Korean peninsula beyond the media coverage, drawing on Korean narratives and texts to enrich their teaching about contemporary South Korea in the classroom.

Click for detailed flyer and application, available now. For questions, contact

The Israel-Palestine Conflict Explained

Here's a terrific clip from Vox explaining the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cave Art: Great Ted Talk

Here, Genevieve von Petzinger, a student of ancient cave art, examines the abstract art of European caves, specifically the geometric signs common to many sites.

She sees 32 signs across a 32,000 year time span, the same ones across space and time. She argues that the signs meant something to the artists, something specific. It's a fascinating and engaging talk.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

WWI Mandate System Reviewed by NPR

Here's a great review of the Sykes Picot agreement in which the West divided up the Middle East into spheres of influence after World War I. That agreement was superceded when the League Nations established the mandate system.

Human Cost of World War II: Great Clip

The huge number of deaths in World War II are so great that they often seem meaningless to students.

This awesome clip from Neil Halloran, a film maker, helps them to see the human cost for the different countries and different battles.

The Washington Post says that video has gotten a lot of attention since it was first published and calls it a "stirring presentation."


Monday, January 18, 2016

Another Great World History Podcast

The 15 Minute History Podcast from the University of Texas is awesome!

I just listened to one about The Russian Empire on the Eve of World War 1. The narrator discussed Russian concerns on the eve of the war with Dominic Lieven, a professor at London School of Economics and Political Science. Interestingly, one of Russia's major concerns prior to the war was Ukraine, which Russia saw as critical to its empire because of coal.

Other topics include the Trans-Pacific Slave Trade; Race, Slavery, and Abolition in Iran; and February Revolution of 1917. You can see a subject guide here.

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher.

My thanks to AP World teacher, Bram Hubbell, for tweeting the link. He writes about other good podcasts in his blog which you can access here.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Head Coverings of Different Religions

Remind your students that Muslims are not the only ones to wear head coverings.  Look at all the religious traditions below in which women often wear some kind of head covering.

You can read more about the different religions at my religion blog here.

First 5 Minutes of Class

What do you do with the first 5 minutes of class?

James M. Lang, professor of English and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, in Worcester, Mass., suggests that by making some small changes, we can grab students' attention right away.

Here are a couple of changes he outlines in a recent essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  1. Start class with an interesting and important question about the material you are going cover and let students try to answer it.
  2. Ask students to review what they learned in the previous class.  Lang believes that by reactivating what they learned, students will be better prepared for the next lesson. You can write the key points on the board as students volunteer responses.
  3. Activate students' prior knowledge from other courses. Lang says that this is a good way to deal with preconceptions.
Lang suggests that students might write answers to the previous questions. He believes that frequent low stakes writing like this can increase learning.

Professor Lang has also written a book about testing and cheating as well articles about it, which you can see here.

Thanks to Joanne Fuchs for tweeting the link. 

Digital Learning Day 2016: How will you participate?

Digital Learning Day 2016 is Wednesday, 17 February.  The event, sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, is designed to showcase successful digital teaching and learning in our classrooms, and encourage all teachers to use innovative instructional technology to improve student outcomes.  As the Alliance says, 
"Digital Learning Day is not about technology, it's about learning."
You can plan a special activity or event for that day and register it for free on the Alliance's Digital Learning Day website.  That website also has information about a contests and online resources.  You can follow Digital Learning Day on Twitter @OfficialDLDay.

This video (2:23) from 2015 would be a good introduction to Digital Learning Day to share with your colleagues and administrators.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement: How to discuss what's going on with your students

This official blog post from the U.S. Department of State has an authoritative discussion.  It discusses yesterday's "Implementation Day" as being when Iran was verified to be in compliance with its nuclear commitments.  As a result, sanctions were lifted by the international community.
Secretary Kerry discusses the plan controlling Iran's nuclear program.
This terrific video (3:33) from the Wall Street Journal in September 2015 explains what was agreed to in the deal.  It would make an excellent introduction to your students.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

How the English language grew (by borrowing words from different languages)

In this amazing interactive animation lasting just two minutes, the Oxford English Dictionary shows how words taken or adapted from different languages influenced the growth of the English language, from 1150 to the present day.
Classroom Connection: This map demonstrates visually the concept of cultural diffusion, as new words to English are added because of the interactions caused by exploration, trade, and settlement.

My two new favorite sites for educational videos

There are any number of fine sites for videos to show our students, but these two are my new favorites.  I like these two because they are all generally short and they treat the viewer with respect (meaning that the ideas are presented in a clear, sober, and engaging way).

Image result for the school of life youtube channel
The School of Life is a curated channel on YouTube.  It has sixteen playlists, but the videos that would most useful for World History teachers are in four playlists: History, Philosophy, Eastern Philosophy, and Political Theory.

The History playlist has 10 videos discussing topics like Ancient Greece, Capitalism, Romanticism, and the Renaissance.  Here's the video for Ancient Greece (10:56):
The Philosophy playlist currently has 21 videos on topics like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Nietzsche.  Here's the video on Hegel (6:54):
The Eastern Philosophy playlist has five videos.  Here's the video on Confucius (5:36):

The Political Theory playlist has nine videos.  This list is particularly rich, including videos on Rousseau, Hobbes, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx.  Here's the video on Machiavelli (6:53):

My second new favorite site for videos is from Macat Education.
Image result for macat education youtube channel
Macat calls itself the "guide to the world's big ideas."  And an excellent guide it is.  Macat's curated YouTube channel has 13 playlists, most of which would be useful to use with our students.  This site is different in that it is organized around important books.  For example, it has channels on
  • The Most Important Books in Economics (one video here [3:05] is on JM Keynes's General Theory)
  • The Most Important Books in Politics (one video here [3:07] is on John Stuart Mill's On Liberty)
  • The Most Important Books in Philosophy (one video here [3:20] is on Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil)
  • and, The Most Important Books in Theology (one video here [2:58] is on Augustine's Confessions)
Classroom Connection: I always pair a video like one of these with a primary source.  Then I assign a writing assignment that requires students to synthesize the background information in the video with the ideas in the primary source.

Joe Sacco's Wordless 24-Panel Cartoon of Battle of Somme's First Day

Here is Joe Sacco explaining how he developed a 24 panel cartoon showing the first day of the Battle of Somme.

He published it as a book in 2013. It's stunning in its black and white detail. Sacco notes in the video below how the loss of life struck him. In the first hour of the battle, 10,000 British soldiers were killed.

His 24 panels outline the moment the soldiers went over the top and started to get cut down.

I may order the book and unfold the panels in the hallway outside of class and have the students make observations about each panel.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

If World War I was a Bar Fight and WWI Origins Rap Battle

Here are two entertaining and engaging clips about the origins of World War I. The first is a rap which I found on BBC. I rate it PG.

And the second is "if world War I were a bar fight.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

10 interpretations of who started WW1

Why did World War I start?

Here are 10 interpretations from different historians. One historian blames Germany, another Serbia, and another blames decision makers in Germany, Austria, and Russia.  BBC Magazine printed them last year for the 100th anniversary of the war.

Each argument is short. Students could read them, note the argument and evidence for each and then either discuss their findings or make a written argument of their own about the cause.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Expansion of Early Islamic Empire: Reading Like a Historian

The Stanford History Education Group  (SHEG) has an excellent lesson on the spread of the early Islamic empire with primary documents. You can see the documents below but you should go to the SHEG site to download the teacher material.

If you have never used Stanford's resources, you should definitely check them out. Their documents are terrific and always include good scaffolding instructions.

For this lesson, students consider how the Islamic Empire spread.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sunni/Shia Split Resources

Here's a great map from the New York Times showing the Sunni/Shia split in the Middle East.

Sunni Shiite Wahhabi Ibadi
Lighter shades show areas with sparser populations
Here are a couple of video and audio resources that review the split. The first comes from the Council for Foreign Relations and reviews the origins of the split.

And, here is an excellent and short review from the New York Times.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Children Who Industrialized Britain

Here's an engaging BBC Four documentary about the children who built Victorian England.

You will learn, for example, that these children were the first generation to have their thoughts and experiences thoroughly documented, according to Professor Jane Humphries, who hosts the documentary.

Diaries, letters, parish records, government reports, and newspapers all add to the picture of these so-called "white slaves."

The documentary is almost 60 minutes but students can get a lot by watching the first 15 minutes here.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Moving to New Digital Challenges

This may come as a surprise to many of my readers, but today is the first day in almost 25 years that I won't be in a brick and mortar classroom.  It was a bittersweet last two days with my students as I have an amazing bunch of kids (two classes of which are above), but was offered a great job to head up my county's online campus.  I am excited about the transformation to a new setting as I love learning new things and meeting new people, but saying goodbye to my students and fellow teachers wasn't easy.

So what does that mean for this blog?  I will continue to post, but the daily posts will be led by
  • Jeff Feinstein who teaches nearby at West Potomac High School will take over the blogging on a regular basis for the US History and US Government Teachers blog, but since I am going to teach that subject online for the rest of the school year I will continue on that blog as well.
  • George Coe, whose work many of you know will take control of the World History Teachers blog
  • Rich Hoppock will be blogging on the US government, economics and US history sites
  • Summer Johnson who is a special ed teacher and will be adding a new twist to the US Government blog
My new position is officially titled "eLearning Coordinator" so guess what - I have started a blog called appropriately enough the "eLearning Blog."  It will be useful to both my online and brick and mortar friends as you can see from the early posts.  But as with my other blogs, it will grow as I do in my new job and I hope you will want to stay around and learn.

What this also means is that I am looking for people to join us on all four of the content blogs as I'd like to open this to regular posters who are committed to posting 3x weekly on pedagogy, content and technology.  What I am not looking for is someone who wants to vent.  My focus (I hope) has always been on the positive and I would like to continue in that vein. If you are interested in talking to me, I'd need a few potential posts and then I'd be happy to give qualified people a trial period to see how it works for you and us.  Email me at if you are interested. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Best World History Podcast

Jeff Feinstein just posted his favorite podcast for US History. It's called the Backstory with the American History guys.

On Top of the World is my favorite podcast for World History. It's hosted by Dave Eaton, associate professor at Grand Valley State University, and Matt Drwenski, a former AP history teacher in Houston, Texas and now a graduate student at the University of Pittsburg.

Eaton and Drwenski started the podcast this fall.  Most recordings last about 40 minutes. You can subscribe to them on iTunes or even Stitcher.

Here are some of the topics.
  • Big History and its critics
  • A review of Guns Germs and Steel
  • African topics in world history
  • Content skills in world history
  • Easter Island
On Top of the World's website also includes ideas for lesson plans for some topics. For example, Dave Eaton posted a great lesson teaching the Swahili Coast and another on teaching the Tang Dynasty. 

These so-called subject guides examine what textbooks say about the subject and then "examine more specialized writing and offer some exercises aimed at “unpacking the textbook” or making the topic more engaging."

You can follow On Top of the World on Facebook.

The Mercator Map and Africa

At the beginning of the year most world history teachers need to teach the different types of maps. But this video above is the one I like students to see the impact of the Mercator map which was developed for sailors in the 1500s - not to show what the world really looked like.  Here is a great short article on how African gets the short end of the stick on the Mercator.  I found the article from a tweet from Bill Gross who is a tech guru.  

Friday, January 1, 2016

Chop your video clips

Want to show just part of a video clip? You can use Tube Chop. Once you go to Tube Chops's home page,
  • paste in the link to the video you want to chop
  • Once the video appears, move the bars below the video  to select the part you want to chop.
Once you click, "chop," a new chopped version of your video will appear. You can embed it or save the URL.

Virtual tours of the Auschwitz death camps

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum has created three online virtual tours of the Auschwitz-I and Auschwitz-II-Birkenau death camps.  On these sites the Nazis built the largest of its concentration and extermination centers.  Over 1-million people (men, women, and children) were killed there.

Clicking on any one of the tours takes you to a panoramic bird's-eye view of the site today.  You can then pan left-right, move up-down, and zoom in-out as you "tour" the site.  A short, very helpful guide explains what happened at each site, along with links to additional very-accessible background information.

T/H to @AuschwitzMuseum for this link.

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers with Education

Image courtesy of @dandesignthink & @ASTsupportAAli

Terrorism has increased intolerance and even bigotry. A Sikh man was beaten by two men in Fresno, California last week. The assailants thought he was a Muslim. And a number of Muslim mosques have been vandalized in different parts of the country. 

Some educators are trying to bridge this cultural divide. 

Two new programs that incorporate social media attempt to put together students from different cultures. One is called FaithBoxEd and the other is called CulutreBoxEd. FaithBoxed, founded by Amjad Ali, an English and religion teacher in England, tries to break down cultural barriers and allows students to "interact with each other in ways they never get a chance to do." 

Educators with questions or issues about Islam can tweet them to the Faithboxed hasthag (#faithboxed).  Muslim educators will respond to the query. Eventually, students may be able to tweet questions to the hashtag. Ali explains the process in this short story for UKED Magazine

Ali also founded Cultureboxed. That program pairs two classrooms from different parts of the world. Each class fills a virtual box of cultural items that the other class tries to decipher. Students might share their national flag, or anthem, or national sport. You can read more about the process here. And the short clip below explains the process further.
Face to Faith is another program that attempts to break down barriers  by introducing students from different cultures and faiths.

The organization, which was started by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, offers several different kinds of conferences for students. Multipoint conferences are based on teaching modules. Other modules include topics like the environment, festivals, and storytelling.