Dec 12

Technology in My Classroom

Although this is my 7th year teaching with my current school, this year has mirrored by “freshmen” teaching year in many ways.  This year I’ve started teaching a brand new course, we’ve switched to completely new social studies curriculum, and every student now has a lap top with them for every class.  It’s been enjoyable, and time consuming, to revamp my teaching techniques and I appreciate the opportunities the 1-2-1 programs gives me to diversify student learning.  Every week, I’m learning something new about managing laptops in the classroom. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. Remote Desktop: Our school has invested in Remote Desktop so teachers can view student screens as an accountability feature.  While in theory this is an excellent program, I hardly use it unless I am sitting at my desk while students are working.  Even then, students can join other networks to avoid screen detection.  I feel the best way to monitor student behavior is to circulate the room and give students direct tasks that will fill up the allotted time.

2. Lectures:  My social studies presentations are heavy in content.  Even though I’m trimming down the information I actually put on the slide, the students still need to process a lot of information.  Now that every student has a laptop, I upload my presentations to my website so students can have their own copy of the presentation.  Usually, I cut out key words off of my slides so students have to fill in the blanks, thus paying attention to the lecture.  I also encourage students to use the “notes” section of the Powerpoint program to write down additional information. Also, remember to circulate the room while lecturing.

3. Online Activities:  On my website, I have pages for each course I teach which are dedicated to online activity instructions. I call them “Making History”.  On these posts, my students find instructions, rubrics, and links to help them complete the day’s activity.  Usually, students would have been assigned a reading the night before, then these activities would serve as a reinforcement activity.  One issue I have had is creating activities that balance learning information vs. mastering a program.  Plus, since students work at different paces, it often hard to gauge how long an activity will take.  This is still a work in progress.

4. Sharing Work:  I am a big fan of Google docs, and I love my students to share their thought and reflections on the information we are studying–most of the time.  I have had issues where my students have been too sharing, and have been communicating via Google chat to share answers to homework that would be counted as a quiz grade.  When students are working on assignments outside of class, it is hard to monitor how much they are working together.  I guess it was the same way before online assignments came into the picture.  The best deterrent I have found to avoid this situation is to be explicit with my instructions.  I have to clearly tell the students what I expect, how they are to do the assignment, and the consequences for not following the instructions.

5. Rubrics:  Students like to know what the teacher expects out of assignments, so adding a rubric to an activity instructions helps keep students in check.  If student have to hit certain check points or cover specific material, it helps to spell everything out clearly.  This helps keep students on task, plus it helps for easy grading later.

6. “Lap Top Free Days”:  Just because laptops are available, doesn’t mean they have to be used.  In fact, my students sometimes prefer when we have activities away from technology, allowing them to create something by hand and recall information they have learned.


Dec 12

“To Boldly Go….

About 15 years ago, I was in the 6th grade and I remember a distinct conversation my teacher Mrs. Kormash was having with us.  If we were standing in the room, I could take you to where I was sitting and where she was standing, talking about electronic books.  Mrs. Kormash was sharing with us about how one day in the future we would be curling up in front of our fireplaces with computer screens instead of paper books.  She expressed how she didn’t think that it would be same and that we might lose something with the advancing technology.  I remember thinking, that sound cool–like something off of Star Trek.  Flash forward 15 years.  Now I’m a teacher, and most of my students’ textbooks are web-based.  Technology has changed, but has learning?

Modern technology has given us the advantage of having a world of information at our finger tips. We can share information, search for the unknown, entertain ourselves and loads more; all on a device that fits in our pockets.  With the advancements, learning has become more personalized and self-directed, but I think the basics of learning have remained the same.  A question or topic is proposed, students read, research to find out information and make connections, the group discusses the information gathered and makes new connections, and the teacher assess the understanding of the students.  Technology has shifted the method of learning to fit the new generations, but the basics of learning remains constant.

I know technology is going to continue to enhance learning as the future unfolds.  Online learning communities, social networking, Youtube and Facebook are just the tip of the iceberg.  The future is only limited by man’s imagination, and education will shift to reflect the values of these increasingly technological societies.  To go off topics, all of this makes me think of Star Trek.  My dad is a “Trekkie”, do I grew up watching the various Star Trek series.  Starting back in the 1960s, man’s imaginations started building a vision of what society would be like centuries into the future.  With this, they created scientific instruments and “modern” technologies.  If you go back to the original series, almost all of the inventions (save the transporter) are part of everyday life now.  So it makes me think about the technology I see in today’s sci-fi thrillers–will they be showing up in the next few decades?

Education is a mirror of societal values. And as societies become more global, more technological, I can only see the schools taking the same direction.  Change can be a good thing, but we need to remember that just because something is new does not mean it is better.  Technology can be a great asset to the class room.  Online learning, cross-country communication, information at the touch of the button–all things that can enhance a classroom.  As much as possible, I incorporate technology into the classroom but it is a delicate balance.  Several of my teacher assessment surveys came back with student comments about the use of too much technology being used.  Valid concerns have been raised about the balance of content vs. mastering a computer program.  This is my learning curve.  The core process of learning needs to remain constant, and methods and technology can be shifted to meet the needs of the classroom.

Dec 04

Not Yet Totally Flipped

Last year, a former colleague of mine, Brian Bennett, shared with our staff his efforts to model his chemistry class in as a flipped classroom.  I was intrigued and excited by his efforts.  I had been trying to implement more student mastery learning in my social studies classes over previous years, but lack of technology or a complete vision had held me back.  As I listened to Brian explain his classroom activities and student learning, I attempted to process what a flipped classroom really looked like. Sure, in a science classroom the concepts he brought up seemed to work, but  I was puzzled over how the same processes could be used in the social studies arena.  I still am a bit puzzled.

From what I understand about the flipped classroom, students gain content information–via podcast or reading–outside of class, while spending class time working on mastering skills and getting personal or group attention from the instructor.  Instead of students listening to an in-class lecture, they would watch a podcast or read a website about it and be prepared to complete tasks and demonstrate understanding during class periods.  This does sound ideal, but I’ve been a bit skeptical. I’ve tried doing similar things in the past. For two years, I gave the students a choice of small projects to complete throughout the quarter, allowing them to go deeper on issues that most intrigued them.  My efforts didn’t come to much, accept students forgetting to complete the assignments until the last possible moment and me ending up with a lot to grade the last few weeks of the quarter.

My concerns and interest in the Flipped Social Studies Classroom have equally grown, but am finding comfort in the fact that I not the only history teacher who has these concerns.  I found this thread  comparing the “flipped classroom” to the normal social studies classroom, where most the of the student homework is reading portions of a text and being expected to discuss the information the next day.  This idea comforted me, since part of what I’m doing in class is already a version of “Flipped”.  At least two of my lessons a week are based on students completing a reading assignment, then the class working through some sort of activity to prove the students have grasped this information.  Comprehension-Understanding-Modeling-Creating.

The idea of podcasts still intrigue me, but I don’t think I could ever replace full class lectures with them.  Sometimes, you need to lecture, but I do see the value of creating short podcasts to help students understand key topics or summarize lengthy information.  This year, I’ve been finding podcasts made by other teachers to embed on my website.  Currently, I just don’t have the time, funds, means or knowledge to invest in making all of my own podcasts.  Perhaps soon though.

Nov 30

Technology with a Purpose

In today’s world, technology is taking over much of the modern world. It entertains us, organizes our life, allows to us communicate, and gives us all the information we need.  The modern culture has “integrated”, or as Jeff Utecht pointed out a better word would be “embedded”, itself with technology increasingly over the years.  No wonder Hollywood makes millions off of man vs. machine movies.   One area of society that has been slow to catch on to this “cultural embedding” has been the school systems.  Yes, schools have brought in computers, kids take computer skills courses, but there has been a disconnect between technology and content.

If you ask any of the high schoolers I teach what their most dreaded class is, they will answer “COMPUTER APS”.  True, this is mostly because they are  procrastinators who want an easy A, but I also think it is because they fail to see the purpose for learning various technical tools.  We could point fingers at the computer teacher, but core content teachers should be sharing the blame.  In my history class, I don’t have my students learn information in a chapter without giving them significance of the information or helping them apply the skill.  How can we expect students to value technology education if we never present a significant purpose to how it can be applied to education and the world beyond?  This is a serious problem that I see at my school, and it is probably true elsewhere.

To combat this issue, I am trying to set an example in my classroom on how to purposefully use technology to enhance student learning.  With adding our 1-2-1 program, our high school teachers are all trying to adjust to new teaching methods. I hear that many are doing a good job, but there are a few ways that our school could do better.

First, the computer applications teachers and the content teachers need to be in communication. I have to admit I’ve been lax on actually following through on this idea, but I think it is important.  If the content teachers knew the skills the students were learning in computer apps, we could give meaningful assignments that help students hone their skills while increasing their knowledge in our content area.

Another area I would love to see improved at my school is the use of the Blogger portfolios the students  made during our tech training at the beginning of the year. Each student made a blogger portfolio linked to their school email.  The purpose of this blogs was for the students to have a place to store their projects, reflect on material, and build a portfolio for future use.  Unfortunately, I think many of our teachers forgot that these exist.  The teachers were never really trained on what the blog could be used for, so the idea of them quickly left most of our minds.  I didn’t really start incorporating them into my lesson plans until 2nd quarter.  Now, I love the opportunity these blogs give students to show case their work, process information, comment on each others work, and build a meaningful portfolio.  I’ve linked all my student’s blogs to my webpage so my students and I have easy access to learn from each other.

Examples of Use:

  • Embedding Student Work: Assignments using online programs like bookr , Fakebook, or Google Docs.  This allows the projects to be stored online, and not in my inbox or downloaded onto my computer.  Students can also comment on each others work, learning and processing information as they enjoy their friends’ work.
  • Blogging: Instead of writing an essay, students write a blog post. I did this with an assignment about the “New Immigrants” in late 19th century America.  I’ve had students write essays on the same topics before, but this time they were able to embed pictures and videos. Here are some good examples.
  • Project Reflections:  After students finish a project, they can write a reflection blog summarizing what they’ve learned and the significance of the project they worked so hard on.  I had my Modern World History students create websites on 19th Century Imperialism.  As their final step, they had to write a reflective blog post critically analyzing what they’ve learned and linking their blog to their website.  Here are some good examples.
  • Blogger can be used for so many things, but the important thing for teachers to remember is to have the students “LABEL” the blog entry for the specific task. This allows for easier recall of past posts.

In order for technology and content to be “integrated”, “embedded”, “melded” or whatever the go-to word is at the time, teachers need to be purposeful in their planning.  When my AP students are completing an essay, I teach them to ask themselves “So What?”.  Why is what I have spent the last hour writing of any significance?   How do I prove it’s worth?  Teachers need to ask themselves that as well–whether about the use of technology or the information they are presenting.  Once the purpose is understood, the learning becomes more meaningful and the student becomes a life long learner.

Nov 20

Forest Through the Trees

A  few days ago, our High School Social Studies department sat down with instructions to rewrite and evaluate one of the 12th Grade Social Studies AERO standards.

As we attempted to fulfill our assignment, our discussion wandered into the expressions of frustrations of all the standards we have to be aware of when formulating lesson plans. We have AERO standards, which are broad concepts of Social Studies; ESLERs, which are portray our school’s mission statement; content standards, to make sure we are covering the material thoroughly. In addition, as good 21st century teachers we are attempting to integrate skills that would be reflected in NET or AASL standards.  With all these standards, how can a teacher keep it all straight?

Well, as we reflected on these standards our group consensus was, “We can’t”.  But, there is hope for the standard enthusiast.  Our group also agree that for good teachers, these standards will come naturally.  We won’t need to spend hours building our lessons around the standards, but instead the standards will already appear in our structure lesson plans.  Lesson that are built for the purpose of instructing students to be active, engaged learners will exemplify the needed standards and provide students with the information and skills for them to grow as life long learners.

With this is mind, the same practice can occur as schools try to implement digital age standards.  The reason good teachers will automatically build lessons around skills or content standards, is because those teacher have been prepared with a knowledge base that gives them the ability to create such lessons. In today’s world though, the average student’s knowledge of technology goes vastly beyond the knowledge base of their teachers.  If schools desire their teachers to incorporate 21st century skills into their classrooms, the school administrators and  technology team need to take the time to first education the teachers.

Yes, I realize that educating teachers can be one of the most difficult jobs.  As it is often said, “Teachers make the worst students”.   I do believe most teachers want to adapt to the learning styles of their students, but steps need to be taken not to condemn all old ways of teaching or isolate the veteran teachers.  Those who have been around the “education block”, still have much to offer the community.

Here are my thoughts from contemplating the question:

Whose job is it to teach the NETs standards to students and how do we ensure they are being met in an integrated model?”

 Whose job is it to teach NET standards?  Well, I believe we should be thinking about teaching NET Standards not only to students, but to teachers too. There areNET standards for teachers, as well as for students.  I believe these should be presented to teachers first, with some practical ways for teachers to begin implementing the standards into their classrooms.

Application: I believe these standards are best read backwards. First build a community for professional growth. Perhaps pair a veteran teacher with a rookie.  The veteran can share their experiences in the classroom, and the rookie can help the veteran integrate their content based lessons with 21st century skills.

From this we see the rest of the standards: a digitally responsible community, modeling technology to students, digital based lessons or projects, and the promote of student creators.

How are we sure that standards are being met? Well, referring back to my example above: if teachers have the proper foundation, standards will be naturally be met through well crafted lesson plans that center on promoting life long learning in students.  Good teachers are constantly reworking their lessons for the benefits and needs of their students.  With greater knowledge of 21st century skills, teachers will be more apt to instruct lessons that encourage students to be creative thinkers, researchers, and global citizens.  All of the things that are hit upon in the AASL or NET standards.

I know this isn’t fully answering the question “How do we make sure standards are being met?”, but I believe the best way to reach standards is to build lessons that meet the needs of the students not a check list.  Standardized tests are a way of keeping schools in check, but good teachers don’t really need these test to encourage proper instruction.  Perhaps, a good way to see the integration of 21st century skills is for teachers to require their students to post their assignments on a digital portfolio.  Earlier this year, my school had students create a digital portfolio blog set up through their school gmail.  This quarter, I’ve been instructing my students to post work on this blog, but I notice that I’m one of their only teachers who take advantage of this option.   Again, as more teachers are aware of the technology available to them, the easier it will be to measure the development of 21st century skills.

Tips for the Struggling Teacher:

Now technology is moving at a epic speeds, and it will take time for all teachers to move into complet 21st century thinking.  Here are few helpful hints to help get the ball rolling in incorporating 21st century standards into your classroom:

  • Start slow.  You don’t have to know every computer program or online tool at once. Plus, trying to implement too much into your classroom at once is not helpful for you or your students.
  • Take advantage of your students’ knowledge.  In the past, I’ve had my AP kids come up with “projects” as a project, then I have used their project ideas for my other classes.
  • Use the resources that your school provides.  This might be the tech department, media center staff, or a student technology club.  They are there to help, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Don’t throw out all the “old” lesson plans.  Often, it only takes a little creative thinking to integrate 21st century skills into a lesson you’ve been doing for years.
  • Don’t be afraid to learn something new.  Sometimes, I don’t start something new out of the fear that I will fail at it.  Remember Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Oct 24

Story Mapping the American Civil War

For my Civil War Unit this year, my hope is to have students engage with the material to a deeper level.  They will be researching the big events and leaders, and judging their significance.  Leaving me more time to cover points of the Civil War that are not always in the textbook.  My plans start in motion tomorrow, and I’ll see where it goes…

For full instructions, see my class website.

Unit Project: Story Mapping the American Civil War

Goal: Through inductive study of the Civil War, students will gain a greater understanding of significance of its role in American History.  Students will use this knowledge to create a story map depicting events of the Civil War.

What is a Story Map?

A story map is visual interpretation of people, events and items studied during a unit.  The purpose of a story map is to convey the meaning of events using as few words as possible.  You may use words, but make your words count.  A story map is not a research paper, but a mapping out of the things you have learned in a visual form.  Pictures, drawings, maps, charts, and other graphics are used along with text to convey meaning.

Project Details:
Over a course of our 2 week study of the American Civil War and Reconstruction, students will create a story map using Pages.  The details are explained below, and students will have class time to work on their project.  REMEMBER THOUGH… class time will be given, but most students will need to schedule outside work time as well.

Below is the project outline.  You DO need to include all of the red and blue sections. You DO NOT necessarily have to cover every bullet underneath.  Include the information that is most needed to convey your thoughts and present the best of your information.

Outline of the Project:

  • Page 1: Cover Page
    • Creatively presented, with a Title, your name, your block and the date listed on it
  • Page 2: Table of Contents
    • Creatively organized with the directions to where each of the sections begin
  • Section 1: Readying for War
    • Resources
      • Inventory your side’s (Union or Confederacy) resources
      • Resources include: military goods, agricultural goods, transportation and communication systems, man power, and manufactured goods
    • Preparation
      • Prior to the first major conflicts, how did your side prepare their armies?
      • Questions to consider:
        • How did they get men to join up?
        • How were the men trained?
        • How were they equipped?
  • Section 2: Commanders and Conflict
    • Leaders
      • For your assigned leaders, research the following and then creatively display it on your story map
        • What did they look like?
        • How were they qualified?
        • What major engagements did they take part in?
        • What are some interesting facts about them?
    • Engagements
      • For your assigned battles, research the following and then creatively display it on your story map.  Remember, when you are researching the battle that you need to interpret it through the worldview of your side (Union/Confederacy)
        • Where did the battle take place?
        • Why did the battle begin?
        • Who was leading the battle?
        • Was there anything special about the leader?
        • What occurred at the battle?
        • Why is the battle memorable?
        • What was the outcome of the battle?
        • How did this battle influence the continuance of the war?
    • Minority Groups
      • How did the following groups influence your fighting force?
        • African Americans
        • Women
        • Immigrants
        • Spies
  • Section 3: Americans During the Civil War
    • Camp Life
      • What was life like for soldiers serving in your army?
      • Consider the following topics:
        • What did they do for fun?
        • Did they have all their needs met?
        • What was the survival rate?
        • What types of things did they write home about?
        • How long did they serve?
        • What happened if they abandoned the army?
    • Life on the Home front
      • What was life like for the people left behind?
      • Consider the following topics
        • How did women have to step up during men’s absence?
        • How did this war turn families against each other?
        • How did scarcity and inflation influence the people of your nation?
        • What was life like for people who lived near the battle field?
  • Section 4: The Aftermath of the Civil War
    • Effects of the War
      • What impact did the Civil War leave on your section of the nation?
      • Consider the following topics:
        • How did the battles influence the landscape?
        • How did the treatment of the opposing army influence your people?
        • What did you gain/lose from fighting in the Civil War?
        • What were the lasting sentiments impressed on your population?
    • Reconstruction
      • Explain the purpose of Reconstruction from the viewpoint of your section
      • What were some benefits or mistakes of Reconstruction?
      • Synthesize a Reconstruction solution that could have benefited both North and South
  • Section 5: Bibliography
    • MLA Bibliography
      • Properly Formatted
      • Include 10+Sources
      • Pictures should be licensed for use


Oct 21

Show me a Story

Digital story telling is a wonderful asset to a history class!  Over the past few weeks, my students have shared what they have learned through a number of story telling methods. We’ve used Pages (which was turned into PDF stories when the macbooks wouldn’t read epubs), bookr, and Google presentations.

1st Attempt: Pages to Epub, Failed.  Recovery: Pages to PDF

Story Mapping: Enlightened Revolutions
*Note, I’ve tried to embed items several times into this version of WordPress and have been unsuccessful. I’d love some feedback to see if it is possible.*

Modern World History Students worked in groups of 2-3, and story mapped the Glorious, French, and American Revolutions.  Their task was to describe the major players, the causes of the revolution, the major events and the results of the revolutions.  Click here for full instructions.
From this assignment, I learned the macbooks will not read epubs in the same cool way iPads do.  Also, that epubs are mainly for text conversions.  When students tried to get their picture layouts to format into epubs, frustrations occurred.  We instead turned to PDFs, and the presentations worked fine.  We didn’t get to see the pages “flip”, but students viewed each others work via scribd on my class website.

If you would like to see all of them, go HERE.

















2nd Attempt:  Google Presentation Concept Review, Success but Incomplete

While preparing for their APUSH test, I asked my students to make and ABC book that would present main concepts for the Revolutionary Period of American History.  Their Google Presentation turned out nice, but two students did not finish their letters so the story is incomplete.







 3rd Attempt: Bookr, disappointing  Recovery: Google Presentations

To engage my regular US History students on the causes of the American Civil War, I instructed them to create a story book that included 20 people, events, or ideas that led up to the war.  After researching their information, they were to write 2 sentence summaries and find pictures on Flickr or Creative Commons.  With this information collected, they were to insert the information into a simple site called bookr to create a story book.  In theory, this was supposed to be an easy project to prepare my students to study the Civil War.  There were some problems with bookr though….

  1. If you close the window before publishing, your work is lost. I warned my students of this fact, and instructed them to collect all their information before starting to plug any of it into bookr.
  2. The larger the Bookr book, the high degree of “lagging” on the website. Students began to get frustrated with the wait time to continue to create their book.  Some were able to complete it with no problems, but I instructed others to turn to Google Presentations if their frustration level rose too high.  I would rather view a presentation of a student who was thinking clearly, than a Bookr of a student who despised what they were doing.

I’m in the process of grading these projects, so I am still waiting to see how well my students did.  Once I find the best presentations, I will post them on the student work page of my website.


I believe that creating stories or visuals that reflect student learning is a great asset to any classroom environment.  I often find my students are too wordy when they have to write essays or blog posts, and the story mapping projects are causing them to have to choose their words carefully.  Within the next week, I am starting a new story mapping activity with my Modern World History class.  They will create story maps to reflect the information we are learning in this unit, and by the end of the unit they will have a story map study guide.



Oct 21

Poignant Presentations

My Classroom Presentation Philosophy

Being a history teacher, at times I have to heavily rely on the “lecture”.  I hate to do it, but sometimes its the only way to get the students to fully grasp the material in the time allotted.  I’d love to dig into every concept via inquiry learning or engaging activities, but I have not yet mastered the balance of hitting all the standards in just 2-3 block periods a week. Thus, the lecture still remains part of my history curriculum, and it probably always will.

When I started making powerpoint presentations for my first year of teaching, I found myself heavily relying on the textbook. This caused very wordy powerpoints.  The fact that my students didn’t have good textbooks also influenced my verbose presentations.  My students were pretty engaged with the powerpoints, but mostly because they were trying to copy everything down.  This led to very….slow….presentations, and I couldn’t cover the material I wanted.  In following years, I printed out the powerpoint slides on handouts, leaving out key words for the students to fill in as we went along.  They could also take notes on the side of each slide.  This technique sped up the lecture process, and my students also had better books to refer too.

In recent years, more of my students have had lap tops and now we have a 1-2-1 program in the high school.  This allows me to upload my powerpoints to my website, and students can download them during class and follow along.  I still leave out key words, definitions or charts, so students will have to pay attention in class and not just download the lecture.  I still run into the problem of the students being so intent on filling in the blanks that they tune me out when I ask the a question that is related to the text.  But, this is a simple enough problem to work around.

When it comes to the material I present on the slide, I do think that an educational presentation should have a bit more material presented on the slides than a presentation given in a lecture hall or business forum.  The purpose of using powerpoint, keynote, prezi, Google, or other types presentation devices in my classroom is to present information to students, connect ideas, and prompt instruction.  I can do this through the use of pictures, charts and other minimized slides, but presenting text is also needed in some cases.  When I use bullet points or simple slides to promote complete ideas, I encourage my students to write additional information in their handwritten notes or in the presenters notes section of the presentation.

I do believe that presenters need to be careful not to overload their audience with too much information on the powerpoints/keynotes.  But, I reiterate that the classroom presentation is different than the business presentation, and needs to be addressed differently.  My presentation style has adapted over my 7 years of teaching, and I am using my presentations in more powerful ways.

Ways I use Presentations in the Classroom

Reviewing Information:

After students had read information, I may use presentations to help them remember what they read and make deeper connections.






Synthesize Information:


To trigger students’ prior knowledge before presenting a new concept, I use blank slides and have students come up with information.  Later, I reveal the information on my presentation and we compare how correctly they remembered the information.  From this exercise, we discuss where the information could be leading.

Making Connections

Before entering a complicated topic, I give my students a chance to see how our discussion will fit together.  By establishing connections early, students can better internalize the information.






Getting Students to Pay Attention

When my students read the textbook (if they do the reading), they tend to forget to read the information in the boxes and margins.  They see pictures or charts as something that takes up space, giving them less to read.  Thus, they miss some key information.  In my presentations I sometimes encourage my students to “think inside the box”, and remind them not to miss key information.


Reflections on Using Presentations

I realize that I don’t give the “perfect” presentation.  There is much for me to learn, and I am constantly adapting how I present information to my students.  It’s a strange balance though, giving too much or too little.  If you have the perfect ratio, please let me know.

Oct 19

Hysterical History

As a teacher of AP US History, it need to introduce my students to a number of different skills.  One of my favorite skills to teach is how to interpret a political cartoon.  It is amazing how much you can learn about history and politics through looking at pictures, you just need to know what to look for.  Through tying their historical knowledge to visual literacy, my students are better prepared for what the AP people through at them.

Trying to find political cartoons from US History on Creative Commons is difficult.  I did happen to find one, the “Join or Die” by Benjamin Franklin.  But to engage my students on all the aspects of political cartoons, I use selections from the The Art of Ill Will, by Donald Dewey, and Drawn and Quartered by Stephen Hess and Sandy Northrop.  These books contain a chronological collection of US political cartoons and give readers tips on how to convey the cartoons’ messages.  My students enjoy looking at the pictures, but I’m tricking them into learning.

Before introducing students to the books of political cartoons, we work through a powerpoint presentation that teaches students the basics of what to look in each cartoon.  Since political cartoons can appear on the multiple choice or essay  portions of the AP test, students need to develop several levels of developing their visual literacy of these cartoons.  The cartoons used in the powerpoint are from the books listed in the previous paragraph.  Their copy right is still held by Harper’s Weekly, but are used for educational purposed in AP US History materials.

[slideshare id=9764962&doc=understandingpoliticalcartoons-111019014404-phpapp02]

*Above is my attempt to share the powerpoint with you via slideshare, but the directions I followed didn’t work.  Any thoughts? (I pasted the link into the HTML wordpress page)


Sep 25

Ringing in the New Year

This year brings another first to my teaching career; we are now 7 weeks into our 1-2-1 program in the high school.  With every student having a computer with them during class time, my teaching strategies and lesson content have had to adapt–again.  Isn’t always that way with teaching?  Once you get comfortable with your subjects, a new curve comes along forcing your to change.  It’s difficult, time consuming, and challenging—but that’s good.  Teachers shouldn’t be stuck in the same rut year after year.

Coetail Program Applied to Student Body Learning:

As we introduced that lap top program to our students, our school wanted to make sure our student body consisted of well-informed digital citizens.  To accomplish this, our administration adapted the program fellow cohort member Jessica Hale and I developed as our final project for Coetail course 2.  Jess and I merged our ideas with the work of our technical support team to create a two day digital boot camp for the entire student body.

  • Day 1, Session 1:Digital Foot Prints and Privacy Online
    • Core Value: Truth
    • Digital Skill: Students search for their own digital footprints and try to clean up their online persona
  • Day 1, Session 2:  Considering Excellence in our Use of the Internet
    • Core Value: Excellence
    • Digital Skill:  Students learn the effects of Cyberbullying and talk about issues that have occurred in our school.  students also learn the correct form of citing online data.
  • Day 2: Session 3: Diversity and Web Connections
    • Core Value: Diversity
    • Digital Skill: Through the use of google maps, students visually see the connections our student body has with the world.  Discussion follows to measure the impact of globalization
  • Day 3, Session 4: Create your Online Portfolio
    • Creating Student Blog using Blogger


Coetail in My Classroom

While the information I’ve learned from Coetail has not been too different from material I’ve gained from other technology workshops, I have appreciated how Coetail forces me to think about how and why I use technology.  Technology, like any other tool, has its specific uses.  It can make some jobs easier, like using a nail gun instead of a hammer, but also there are times when it is unnecessary and almost harmful–like a nail gun would be in installing a window panel.  Since my students have the laptop availability in every class, I have taken the opportunities to maximize learning with technology whenever possible.

Examples of Technology Integration:

  • Instructive Class Website
  • Use of Google Presentations
    • Groups of Modern World History students work together to present information they have researched, read, and organized.  Through Google Presentations, students can create various slides of the same presentation at the same time, they can also edit each others work, and share the finished project with the rest of the class.
  • Timelines
    • As a review for their test on the American revolution, US History students created a timeline on Dipity to organize causes, events, and effects of the war.
  • Google Forms for Homework Submission
    • Instead of collecting paper homework to check student understanding, I have students complete discussion forms that are linked to my website.  Most times, these are open ended questions to make my students think. After the answers are submitted, Ican view them all on an organized spreadsheet.  If students have missed the concept, I email them back saying where they went wrong.
    • Before each test, I have my students complete a google form of more objective questions as a way to prepare for their formal assessment.  Grading the spread sheet was faster than grading individual papers, but I still made mistakes. Recently, I discovered a script called Flubaroo that will grade google form spread sheets for you.  I tried it on my last review form, and it worked wonderfully!  I still haven’t tried it for a formal assessment, but I passed it along to some colleagues in the English department who plan to use it in the next week or so.

Concluding Thoughts:

Coetail has certainly given me a stronger foundation of how to properly instruct my students on how to integrate technology.  As my year progresses, I’ll have to continually weigh the benefits and drawbacks to using technology in the classroom.  Here are my thoughts so far.

  • Benefits:
    • Student E-books allow for easy access to text without carrying heavy books.  They also provide online study helps.
    • Macbooks for all students allows for technology integration whenever it benefits the lesson without competing for the laptop cart
    • Website provides students with information any time, so they can keep up with homework, see missed work when absent, and check grades frequently
    • The use of google docs, forms, and spreadsheets cut back on my grading time and help students receive faster feedback
    • Student collaboration is faster through the use of social networking systems and google docs.
  • Drawbacks:
    • Some students prefer paper texts, but I do not have enough to send home with everyone
    • Electronic tests do not always work as planned, so plan B must always be available
    • Even with Remote Desktop, monitoring student use of laptops can be a struggle

Despite the drawbacks, I am quite enjoying integrating more technology into my teaching.  One concern is though, will I still be able to teach without technology when the time comes for me to move on to a less technology based school?




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