Saturday, June 29, 2013

Zero Indifference at The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth

Normally this blog posts Monday through Friday, but there were no posts on Thursday and Friday and now there's a post on Saturday.  What's up?
I am now at UC Santa Cruz preparing to teach the Mathematics of Money for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY).  I traveled on Thursday and tied up loose ends that day.  I made sure the sprinklers and timers were working as we were expecting a strong heat wave (which has delivered).  I cut a wine barrel in half for planters and made sure that the chicken coop won't fall over while I'm gone.
Yesterday involved orientation for the instructors, TA's, and RA's.  With the word "talented" in its title, CTY is focused on gifted students, who are mainly economically well off, but there is a large number of scholarship students, which provides a wide variety of economic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.
My favorite aspect to CTY is the insistence of Zero Indifference toward bullying or harassment.  I'm not sure of the genesis of the term "Zero Indifference," but the term and approach are used by both the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network among others.
In my mind, the idea of Zero Indifference is clearest when it is seen relative to zero tolerance.  The idea is that of greater vigilance and consistent intervention in situations where there could possibly be a possibility of bullying or harassment.  According to the ADL website,  "Although there is no one right way to intervene, consistent intervention is key to establishing a school environment where all students feel safe and respected."  The idea is to make sure the seeds of bullying and harassment find no fertile ground by the constant vigilance and intervention.
The CTY Zero Indifference program ties very closely into its honor code which is based on both academic and social honor.  From the introduction to CTY's honor code, "CTY’s summer programs provide a unique opportunity for intellectually curious people from diverse backgrounds to come together in pursuit of academic challenges and growth, within a supportive community built on respect, responsibility, and trust." From the moment the students arrive at CTY, they are educated in both the honor code and Zero Indifference.  In fact, the students are exposed to the honor code at least before they ever set foot on the different campuses.
CTY's students come from across the country and across the world and at UCSC they range from 12 to 16 years old.  As I mentioned before, they are also from all sorts of economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds and are here for three weeks and thus need to be able to feel fully comfortable from the outset so they can hit the ground running and keep running academically and socially and get the most from their time at CTY.
There is absolute clarity from the start as to what is acceptable and what is not.  The staff and students go through a number of workshops with roleplaying to drive home the idea of how the students and staff are expected to treat each other.  In my experience at CTY both codes work excellently, but as with the students, it's not perfect.  However, Zero Indifference sets a very accepting and inclusive tone from start to finish.
We broached this idea of Zero Indifference at my home school last year and are going to put it out again this year and see how it works in a standard high school.  I will let you know how the students and staff buy in and how it works in general.  Have you used ideas and programs like this at your school?  If so, how did it work and how effective was it?  Please let me know.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Google Docs Create Instant Assessment and Evaluation

I think really good teaching occurs when assessment and evaluation take place as soon as possible and when it's not overly burdensome on the teacher.  I've used Google Docs to handle both issues.  As I tell my students, "It's always good to kill two birds with the same stone."
My best example of instant evaluation takes place during presentations.  I create a template of an evaluation form and have it set up to fill out as the student presents.  I basically take notes and make comments during the presentations.
Here is an example of my presenter eval form--APUSH Final Presentation Presenter Eval Form.
I have built it to mirror the rubric we use for our presentations, which is here--Presenter Rubric.
The idea is to give the students a detailed assessment and evaluation of the different criteria under which they have been judged.  Once they have finished presenting and the next student is getting set up, I finish filling out the form and share it with the student so he/she has an evaluation while the presentation is still ringing in his/her head.  If the students have questions, they can ask when the presentations are over for the day or at the end of class.  I also make sure that I make the rounds at the start of the next class period and have the students pull up the evaluation to make sure he/she has read it and that it makes sense.
Here is an example of a finished eval form--Finished APUSH Final Presentation Presenter Eval Form.
Another benefit I've found with this system is that the kids know unequivocally that I have paid attention to exactly what they were presenting and they know exactly how I felt about it.
As always, feel free to copy these forms and use them as you need!
What do you think?  Do you have other ways of instant evaluation?  If so, I'd like to hear about them.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Edmodo--Sharing the Digital File Cabinet, but Better!

I'll admit it.  I still have a file cabinet.  Yes, in that sense, I'm a stereotypical teacher.  I have files in a file cabinet and I rarely look at them.
"But, I have them," I argue!  "They must count for something!  I spent all that time compiling them.  I HAVE to keep them!"
Whew!  Now, I feel better.  I got that off my chest.
However, what about the file cabinet?  It's not going away unless I do something, unless I replace it with something.  What do I do?
I get Edmodo.  That's what I do.  It's my 21st century file cabinet that can be shared with my students, my colleagues, and teachers I see on the road at professional development seminars.  I can organize and reorganize it at the drop of a hat.  I can easily scan my files from my old school file cabinet and make them a part of my Edmodo files (If I don't want to add them to my Edmodo files, maybe I should just throw them away...  It feels good to write those words.  Maybe I actually do that.  Just saying...).
Any time I run into a new and fun or cool resource, I squirrel it away in Edmodo and use it in the appropriate setting.
For me, Edmodo is great for just its folders let alone all the collaboration tools (which are great too, don't get me wrong!).  I have set up my folders to fit my classes and be useful at professional development seminars.  I have links to resources, videos, iPad apps, my assignments, my projects, my rubrics, rubric makers, blogs, how-to resources and anything else I would need in class or in my seminars.  I have organized the folders in a way that I can find everything very quickly whether in front of my class or out on the road.
Another almost equally good aspect is the simplicity of sharing with Edmodo.  If someone wants to see my resources all they have to do is contact me and I can give them the code and they're good to go.  They don't have to borrow a file and return it like the old days.  It's all theirs as soon as they log in.
With that said, if you'd like to use my resources, please contact me on Twitter a@MrKellyIII and I'll take it from there!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Andrew Jackson and the Key to Understanding the Antebellum US

History teachers, who's your favorite president?  Notice, I asked history teachers and I asked for their favorite.  I didn't ask just anybody and I didn't ask for the best or most moral by 21st Century standards.
So who is it?
Mine as the title to this blogpost says is Andrew Jackson and he's a longstanding favorite.  He goes back to my first year teaching US history.  I realized that as a high school student I was a stereotypical teenage boy who, when studying US history, jumped from war to war and focused as little as possible on the interwar years.  I was good in the French and Indian, the American Revolution, and 1812, but there was this "really boring part" from 1815 to 1861 from the end of the War of 1812 to the start of the Civil War.  As my AP US History teacher told me, "You like the blood and guts history."
Fast forward 15 years and as a teacher I saw a huge gap in my curriculum.  Yikes!  I had a textbook and I knew what happened in the time period, but I had no hook.  Jackson provided the hook in a huge way.
Talk about larger than life!  He has as many if not more legends and myths than Lincoln and Washington.  He was an absolute maniac with huge inconsistencies except that he was absolutely devoted to what he thought was best for the United States.  Finally, he also had a hand in and a very polarizing stance on every major issue before the Civil War.  What a gift for a new history teacher!
According to James Parton's biography of Jackson just 15 years after he died,

  • "Andrew Jackson, I am given to understand, was a patriot and a traitor. He was one of the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. A writer brilliant, elegant, eloquent, and without being able to compose a correct sentence, or spell words of four syllables. The first of statesmen, he never devised, he never framed a measure. He was the most candid of men, and was capable of the profoundest dissimulation. A most law-defying, law-obeying citizen. A stickler for discipline, he never hesitated to disobey his superior. A democratic aristocrat. An urbane savage. An atrocious saint."
Wow, a jumble of contradictions, but better yet, an either-or figure, as in, "you're either with me or against me."  He was a lightning rod for all the major issues of the time.  He never took an equivocal stance, except maybe on slavery and then he owned about 150 in the 1840's.  Hmmm...
Okay, let's take a look at the issues and then you'll know why Jackson is my favorite.

  • Indian relations--Jackson made his military name as an Indian fighter.  His brutally driven Tennessee Volunteers helped wipe out Native resistance in the then-Southwest of Alabama and Georgia and Mississippi.  His most famous example was the terribly bloody and vengeful Battle of Horseshoe Bend.  Through his actions and reactions the unbelievable depravity and violence of the Indian Wars come crystal clear.  The costs of American expansion also come brutally clear.  Ironically, Jackson raised a Creek orphan he had found on a battlefield as his own son.
  • Trail of Tears--Jackson disobeyed a Supreme Court ruling and kicked the "Civilized Tribes" (The Cherokee had a written Constitution based on the US Constitution) out of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi so cotton planters could take the land and expand cotton production.  It was a clear continuation of the Indian Wars with a little less violence although approximately 4000 Native men, women, and children died on the journey.
  • War Hero--Jackson's forces luckily won the Battle of New Orleans and he took to the road and toured the country and openly proclaimed himself "The Hero of New Orleans."  He basically started campaigning for the presidency 13 years before he won the office and rode the wave of new American nationalism.
  • Expansion--Jackson had been on the crest of the wave of settlers who moved across the Appalachian Mountains in the late 1700's and helped establish the State of Tennessee.  He knew what it meant to be on the frontier and almost pathologically distrusted the East Coast and the big cities there.
  • Banking and Finance--Jackson almost single-handedly destroyed the Bank of the United States in a delayed reaction to the Panic of 1819 and helped set up the Panic of 1837 and many succeeding panics in the process.  He unwittingly and ironically created the need for the Federal Reserve Bank.
  • Sectionalism, States' Rights, and Slavery--On this one Jackson is most slippery.  The surface issue had to do with tariffs, but the real issues were sectionalism, states' rights, and slavery and the South's and John C Calhoun's fear that slavery would be limited or could eventually be abolished.  Jackson also wanted to assert the power of the federal government over the individual states or collections of states.  This battle in the late 1820's and early 1830's set the ball rolling for the compromise battles and didn't solve the issue of slavery, but merely kicked it further down the road and heightened sectional tensions setting the stage for the horrific Civil War.
  • Rivalries--Henry Clay and John C Calhoun were fellow southerners and Clay was also a fellow westerner, but the three huge personalities were too much for one country and their constant sniping and backbiting added elements of personal drama to the already intense issues being debated among the three.
So, there you go!  These are just a sampling of the issues Jackson had his hand in.  If you know his stances on theses issues and the stances of his adversaries and why they took those stances, you will have a very clear understanding of the issues and a much clearer view of the United States during the Antebellum Years.  The coming of the Civil War will not come as much of a surprise after wading through all the blood guts of what was a relatively peaceful period.  There are all sorts of great projects to put into play during this era.  We'll get to those in a later blogpost.
Finally, with all that said, Jackson is my favorite president, but he's by far not the best, but the most polarizing and sometimes one of the worst.  He did this history teacher a great favor by helping me understanding a very complex and tumultuous period.  After understanding him, I was much more able to help my students learn about the "Jacksonian Era."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Google Certified Teacher Process Reflected Importance of Relationships in the Use of New Tools

The other day I was fortunate enough to be named a Google Certified Teacher.  I had applied twice before only to be rejected.  I very seriously considered not applying this time around, but I reconsidered when I began to more deeply review where I had been the last two years, let alone the last 15.
I realized that since I had moved to Minarets I had begun to find the right balance between new tools and old arts and that what I had begun to do was use the new tools to help learn who my students are and help them understand why they are in school.
Here is a link to my video, "Motivation and Learning Begin with Trust."
I used my video to help illustrate what I had learned since I moved to a 1:1 laptop classroom environment.
Whenever I had interviewed for jobs in the past, often I had been asked about the three R's, rigor, relevance, and relationships.  I had always felt that rigor and relevance were almost unspoken as they were why we were in school.  However, I had always put special emphasis on relationship as I had seen as a student and a teacher that when a relationship had been forged between the teacher and learner, any trouble getting through the rigor and relevance could almost always be overcome through the personal bond that had been created.
I always feel that trust is the bedrock of a strong relationship.  My latest, best example is illustrated by the creator of the "My Soundtrack" from my video.  Angry Girl, I'll call her, and I butted heads when we first worked together two years ago.  She didn't like me and I didn't like her because she didn't like me.  However, she did her work, ALWAYS.  She ALWAYS did it well, but she was an "angry girl" and I didn't know why she resisted me.  I tried to get her to understand that she could do it better, but she didn't want to listen to me.
She and I began to realize that neither was going to give.  She was going to continue to do good work and I was going to continue to evaluate her work and keep suggesting ways she could do better.  About halfway through our first year together we began to see what was going on and began to trust each other because we had realized that we weren't going to back down.
How was this relationship different because it's 2013?  We had used all sorts of great tools to truly individualize our learning and I had seen my student in many different lights and situations.  She had written her quick writes into her blog from internet articles and infographics.  She had created all sorts of different multimedia presentations to illustrate her ideas in US history, economics, government, and psychology.  She and I had also talked many times about her work and how I had evaluated it and how she felt about it.  Through all those different paths, we realized that we could trust each other to continue being the people we were and any time we ran into issues with the rigor or relevance we leaned on our trust and worked our way through the issues.
In the end, had I not been selected a Google Certified Teacher, I realized that I had gained through the reflective experience and that I had begun to develop a balance between the new tools and the old arts and I was looking to further advance my abilities in both areas.  I also realized anew how much I love guiding learners in that it's a constant process, but I also saw that I was not just using new tools, because they were new.  I was using new tools to advance the ancient art of guiding learners into new realms and that's truly awesome!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How and Why I've Grown to Love Twitter... #TwitterLove!

When Twitter started to take off, I reacted against it.  The transient, flippant nature of the tweets I saw had absolutely no place in a classroom.  So when Twitter began to make inroads in education, I thought, "No way!"
However after about a year of playing with Twitter, I have grown to truly love and embrace it in education and in the classroom.
First off, if you're new to Twitter, I strongly suggest you check out this infographic, How to Twitter and maybe watch this great YouTube video by Erin Klein (@KleinErin) Twitter for Teachers.  Now you have a basic overview of what Twitter is and how teachers can use it.  If you're not new to Twitter, these are great resources for teaching teachers, colleagues, and students about Twitter.
Back to the how and why I came to love Twitter.
I started with Twitter as a newsfeed.  I began following news sources like The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle and Wall Street Journal as I had heard that Google Reader was going away.  I got all sorts of articles and videos for current events, which I used almost everyday in class.
Then I began following educational blogs like Edudemic (@Edudemic) and Free Tech 4 Teachers (@rmbyrne) which gave me more school tools and reasons why I could or should use them.
I also started to use Twitter in the classroom.  I would have my AP US History students distill their introductory paragraphs down to 140 characters to get to the core of their ideas and see how quickly and simply they could express their complex ideas.  They were really impressed by how much that helped their writing.  I also would have my students tweet me when I was out of the classroom working as a professional developer and I would show their tweets to the teachers I was teaching.  Sometimes I would have students answer a question and give a Starburst to the first 10 who tweeted the correct answer.  The kids loved it.  At the very least, my students knew what Twitter was and how it worked.
From there, I was looking to connect with other teachers as the listservs I had been using for years had gone away.  My Personal Learning Network (PLN) had begun to whither.  In the last few weeks, that void has begun to be filled as I, once again, applied to be a Google Certified Teacher (GCT).  As I was applying, I realized that Twitter could be a PLN in itself as well as a newsfeed.  All of a sudden, my view of Twitter had radically changed.  I was swapping ideas with intense and motivated teachers from all over.  It's been great.
In the last 18 hours, since I was accepted to be a GCT, my Twitter account has changed radically.  All of a sudden, I have way more teachers as followers and am following so many more teachers, I know the exchange of ideas is going to explode.  My PLN has taken off!
Now, I make a point of checking Twitter at the start of each morning to see what breaking news took place overnight, if there are new school toys and ideas out there, and if any new perspectives have been put out.  I make it a point to respond or retweet or favorite at least something I come across in my browsing.  I've also realized that I'll never get everything that comes through my account and that that's OK.
I'm also thinking of creating a personal account to stay in touch with family and far flung friends, but that's probably for another blog post...
So, because it's great as a newsfeed and it makes following blogs so much easier and it's allowed my PLN to grow greatly, I love Twitter.
You can follow me at @MrKellyIII, which is something I could not and would not say a year ago!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blogs, Blogs Everywhere in a 1-1 Environment--With Design Lessons Learned Too!

Workflow and how students turn in work are issues that need to be dealt up front with in a 1-1 environment.  In my first year, the students turned their work in via email and I was inundated with messages!  Sometimes the students turned in three or four messages per period and they didn't always follow my naming conventions, so until I opened the message, I didn't know what I was getting.  As you can imagine, it was a mess.
My solution was to have the students create their own blogs, create a new blog post for every class, and link all their work to their blog.  Sometimes, the students would write their work or take their notes directly into their blogs.  Either way, there was one location for all their work, which was a win-win for both of us.  The students had no question where their work was for any reviews and I knew exactly where their work was when it came time to grade it.
My district is a Google district, so we used Google Sites and they were a very simple solution.  After the kids had created their sites they customized their looks.  Sometimes the looks were elegant, unique to the student, and helpful as seen below:

Other blogs helped students learn design lessons as seen below!
The design lessons were an unintended bonus, but the fact that each of my 175+ students created their own blog and understood the issues in maintaining a blog everyday where they posted and wrote their work, was definitely intended lessons in communication in the digital age.  
The kids learned the following lessons:
  1. their posts needed to be created everyday
  2. naming conventions needed to be followed
  3. all work needed to be posted to be graded
  4. posts from absences needed to be clearly identified
  5. missing or late work also needed to be clearly identified.
Students were given weekly blog grades and were judged on whether they had done all of the above.  Soon, most of the students were getting an easy A for their blogs each week!
I just needed to create a page with each blog for each class on it and grading got relatively easy.
With some minor tweaking, I am looking forward to using blogs again this year as the tool my students will use to turn in their work.
How do your students turn in their work in a 1-1 environment and how did that work for you?  If you're just starting in a 1-1 situation, how do you plan to deal with work?  Please let me know!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

3D/Virtual World History Apps for iPads

If this is where free educational apps for social studies are going, the future is going to be literally awesome!
I'm talking about three apps created by and one by the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology.  When using these four apps I have been amazed by the ability of technology to transport me across the world and through time.  Every time I have demonstrated these for teachers, they have been equally amazed.
Let's start with the Dome of the Rock 3D Tour, which takes us virtually where non-Muslims can not go, into the shrine on top of the Temple Mount in the heart of Jerusalem.  The tour can be run on autopilot or it can be controlled by the viewer to look in and around the Dome in any direction.  The visuals and colors are truly stunning and for a freshman world history student who has never been to the Middle East.  The same holds for the other two apps, The Western Wall 3D Tour and Holy Sepulchre 3D Tour from
The tours can be used as an activity through the autopilot mode or the user can control it through the specific stops on the tour to answer questions or make observations as they progress through the holy sites. does a great job of handling the holy sites of the three religions with equal enthusiasm.  I was initially skeptical that one of the three would get preferential treatment, but from what I could tell, the tours were created evenhandedly.
These three apps are also available from the website for desktop use.  There are also a number of other tours throughout Jerusalem available at
One caveat about is that the apps require that the user register through Facebook or through  The tours are worth jumping through these hoops.
I strongly suggest if you are a world history teacher that you get these apps and use them with your students.  If you know a world history teacher, please suggest it to them.
Tour of the Nile took some figuring out, but once I "got it," it was amazing.   After I downloaded the app it didn't do anything.  After some researching, I realized that I needed to go to the Petrie's website and download the A-R Markers on to my desktop.  Once I did that, turned on the 3D camera, and pointed my iPad camera toward my laptop's screen, the objects jumped off my screen and could be turned and flipped over and I could click on them to get historical information about the objects.  It was awesome!  I can't wait to show my budding Egyptologist seven year old son.  He's going to love it and I know world history students will love it too!
Have fun with the apps and let me know what you think.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Picturing America--A Great US History (Visual History) Resource

Picturing America is a website resource for a visual program by the same name.  In 2007, the NEH produced a series of large classroom visuals that are durable and easily hung on classroom walls.  In fact, my classroom is mainly decorated with Picturing America visuals.  Most of the visuals are paintings, but there are all sorts of works of art, tools, clothing, and architecture.  The website works best with the actual visuals, but is so well done that with just with the resources off the website, it's really helpful.  Each visual has a set of background resource links as well as a set of the artist or creator's inspirations and biography.
My classes create a quick review project, where each student chooses a visual and has to explain the creator's background and inspiration and how they played a role in the creation of the visual.  Then, they have to explain the significance of the visual and why it was significant.  It's a great way to bring visual learning into US history.
Picturing America was also created in collaboration with Edsitement, which is a huge source of social studies resources, but is so huge that it will require its own blog entry.  Take a look if you want and we'll come back to it soon, Edsitement.

My Favorite Blogs

Whenever I present at a professional development seminar, the first resource I point teachers toward is the amazing blog, Free Tech 4 Teachers, as it is my absolute favorite blog for at least three main reasons.  First off, it produces a treasure trove of digital teaching resources and the resources are always tested and annotated by Richard Byrne, the blog's writer, who is an experienced teacher and presenter.   The second reason is the daily flow of resources.  During the work week, there are multiple resources presented on his blog everyday.  There is always something new!  I am always amazed by the amount and quality of the work he does as he is very straightforward and extremely helpful.  Finally, everything he rates and reviews is free!  In the last couple of years, he has made the move to iPad and Android Apps with iPad Apps for Schools and Android 4 Schools.Take a look and see for yourself!
Another great blog is edudemic.  As with Free Tech 4 Teachers, there are tons of resources which are rated and reviewed, but there is also a very strong angle toward the how and why of pedagogy and prevailing and new theories regarding tech in school.  There are lots of tools and lots of information on how and why to use them.  The flow of resources and ed tech articles is constant and very well written and researched.  Check this one out too, it's great!
I follow both on Twitter and I find myself adding resources to my edmodo folders almost everyday.  If you don't have these blogs on your radar screen, you should do so soon!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Infographics Create Better Writers

Dailyinfographic can be a high school social studies teacher's best friend, but beware.  A new infographic is published every day, so there is always something new to use in the classroom, but it's not really meant for teachers as there are all sorts of infographics covering all sorts of topics.  For instance as of this writing, the last couple of infographics are about beer, which I love, but I don't spend much time talking about in my classes for obvious reasons.  However in my psychology class, I have used infographics on the effects of alcohol and marijuana, which were extremely helpful in understanding states of consciousness.
How to Twitter is one of my favorites for all sorts of reasons as it covers Twitter from start to finish for beginners and experts and is chock full of useful information.
Increasingly infographics can be found all over the internet, but also beware as they come from all sorts of different sources with some being very reputable and others not so reputable.  (Can you see a possible lesson on evaluating sources  and information literacy here???)
From the above examples, you can see some of the range of infographics, but how do they help create better writers?
I believe that students should write everyday as they need to keep working on organizing and expressing their ideas, however, many students on the internet can find something close to an answer in text and then paraphrase or worse, copy and paste their answers.  With infographics very rarely presenting information in a sentence, the students have to create their answers in sentences from the information in the visual or bullet points.  As I started using more infographics, the students' writing got exponentially richer and many students reported that they liked looking at the visuals more than a block of text.  We were killing two birds with the same stone.  While the students were forced to write better and for themselves, many also WANTED to write about the content.  
The two main tools I use with infographics are focused "how" and "why" questions and clear and constantly referenced rubrics.  With those we can use infographics to help create better writers.
What do you think?

The NEW Student-Built Psych Class

This last year I got to teach psychology for the first time in a long time.  Most of the students and I had a great time to the point where I had a core of students asking if they could take a "psych 2" class.  Hmmm.  That was a great idea, but at first I couldn't see it happening as I'm not a psych expert and we didn't have enough students to make up a whole new section of a new class.  I told the kids that we needed to keep talking and keep thinking as I would love to create a new class of psych at a different level.  
After lots of back and forth with the students and our administrators we came up with a new hybrid.  Seven students are going to be AP Psych students as they are going to be prepared to take the AP Psych test, but they are going to be what we call Special Project Coordinators (SPC's) as we don't have an AP Psych class.  The students are going to build the AP Psych class.  We've found a MOOC we are going to use as our "textbook" and we are going to build a curriculum that we'll use in the regular psych class and at an AP level.
The students are going to trade off with different responsibilities for each unit we build while also keeping up with their progress in the MOOC.  Throughout the year, they are going to build iBooks to keep as their individual textbooks which they can keep and I can use and cannibalize for current and future students.
Our units are going to be truly multimedia.  We are going to set a regular length of each unit and in each unit there will be text to use a resource alongside infographics that will be taken from the web as well as built by the students.  We will have exercises and experiments the students will test and conduct to keep the class as interactive as we can make it.  We will also have different videos like feature length movies that have particular relevance to the current unit's concepts.  For example, we'll use "The King's Speech" when we cover therapy.  The students will watch the movies and create guiding questions for future students to use.  Each unit will also have a Simpsons episode complete with guiding questions along with other popular TV shows and documentaries.  The students will also build interactive and multimedia powerpoint presentations which will cover all the relevant concepts for each unit.  Finally, we'll also build short conceptual videos to supplement what we find elsewhere. 
As the teacher/guide, I'll create rubrics with the students to allow them to understand the standard to which they'll be held from the outset, but the most important standard will be the judgement of their fellow SPC's.  As the students collaborate to complete the units, their peers are going to be the people they'll most want to support and please
With the efforts of seven motivated students and an experienced teacher to guide them, we're hoping to learn a ton, create some deep and engaging curriculum, get the kids some college credit, and have a great educational experience.  Check back to see how we progress!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Games in Econ and Government

I love playing games!  I'm a football coach and I love the fact that I get to have the best seat in the house on Friday nights to watch the games.  I love watching football games because there is so much to be learned by watching others play the game.
How does this translate into the Econ/Gov classroom?
First off in both my AP and regular level econ and gov, I combine the classes and intersperse the units.  That way, we can constantly call on both content areas to engage the students.  Neither gets stale or "last semester."  We can always use both for current events, but most importantly, we can constantly interrelate the two disciplines and show how they work together and off each other.
My two favorite game sites are iCivics and Spent.  They bring the issues home in ways kids who play games can understand.  What's even better is that they bring the issues home to students who don't play games too!
iCivics was founded by Sandra Day O'Connor and has at least 20 games and a ton of resources like lesson plans beyond the games.  The kids love the games and will play and play and play until they get the game.  Oh, they also learn something about government and civics, too.  Talk about a win-win!
Spent was sponsored by the Urban Ministries of Durham (NC) and is extremely effective at illustrating the stark choices the working poor have to make every day and every month.  It works for the students on a number of levels including illustrating scarcity, but more importantly giving a glimpse into the lives of millions of Americans who go to work everyday.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Great Government Project Resource--Civic Action Project

At the California Council for the Social Studies convention in Burlingame this Spring, I ran into the Civic Action Project.   I then piloted it with a few groups of my 12th grade government students and it was absolutely great.
The resources are tremendous and the people from the Civic Action Project (CAP) were extremely responsive and regularly run very straightforward and helpful webinars, which got me off and running.
The idea is to connect students to real issues in their communities, schools, or towns.   From there we train them in what is policy, how it is made, and how it can be affected by citizens and then turn them loose to make public policy.  The goal is for students to understand how to take civic action and how to make change.  If they can actually change policy, that's great, but in the end, they will know the process that average citizens like themselves can follow to make their communities better.
In my classes, we ended up with seven groups who followed the dropout rates in innercity and high poverty schools and came up with all sorts of solutions to help keep kids in school.  One group even based their solutions on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and made sure kids had enough to eat and were safe and then had activities to help foster a feeling of belongingness!
Like I said, the resources are comprehensive and the people are very helpful.  With just a bit of uploading to Google Docs, I was able to consolidate all the brainstorming and notetaking forms and readings online on my classroom blog.
I can't wait to roll it out with all my government students this fall.  Please let me know if you have any questions or need any help getting started.  I'd be glad to help point you in the right direction.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Post-Google Teacher Academy Chicago 2013 Application...

Wow, I just posted my Google Teacher Academy (GTA) video to YouTube and sent in my application!  Now it's time to get to blogging for real.  School's over and the app has been sent.
Now, what?
Well, first off I'm going to go through the end of the year and review the good and the bad.  Like this blog, the GTA process got me to take a hard look at what is good in my classroom and what needs improvement.  So, over the next few weeks, I'm going to highlight what practices that worked and why and how and why the clunkers clunked.
As I am a AP US History (APUSH), AP Econ/AP Gov (APEG), Econ/Gov (EG), and psychology teacher, I've got a lot of material to review...
Starting with my senior AP Econ/Gov (APEG) students, their final projects were awesome.  After two years of intense AP work from APUSH forward, they had learned a ton of concepts and all sorts of heavy duty study skills and their final projects were absolutely excellent.  They were all completely different.  As a teacher and mentor, I wanted to give them all a big class hug and I'm not a big hugger.  I even got a little teary eyed as one by one they went up and presented their unique view on what they had learned.  It was the ideal capstone to their project based career.  They needed minimal direction and they all delivered in spades!  They had come so far from those literally wide eyed juniors who started APUSH with the question, "This guy really wants us to read all of this and then write about it?  What is he thinking?"
Like I said, they were wide eyed!  Now, they're gone.  All trained up and turned loose on the world!  The cycle starts anew.  Here we go again.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Getting Started--Why Blog?

Why start a blog?
I would like to write a blog because it will force me to write down my ideas and help me crystallize my theories into words.  By doing this on a blog, I hope to share ideas with people.  I hope to post my ideas, pass on the ideas of others and also gather ideas through this blog.
My experiences through presenting across the county in the last year and becoming more active on Twitter have greatly advanced my ability to gather and disseminate ideas and I see this blog as another step on this journey.
Through all of this, I hope to help my students learn better.  By understanding how I teach well and not-so-well, my students will benefit.  By seeing what others do well, I can adapt my current practices and get better.
In the end, that's what I hope to do overall, get better.
That's why I teach, because it's a constant learning process and I'm constantly working to get better.
Here goes!