Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Resources for Learning and Teaching on Constitution Day

By Nina Kendall

Constitution Day will soon be upon us. The annual observation of the adoption of the United States Constitution is a chance for teachers to share with students the importance of America’s founding documents. It is never too early to start showing students the rights they have as citizens and the role the government plays in their lives. What do you plan to do? If you are still looking for a few options for your social studies classroom, check out our suggestions.

Tests of  Enduring Principles

Explore Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads

Use the flash-based exhibit at the National Constitution Center to explore the political decisions of Abraham Lincoln. Compare your decisions with this talking Lincoln and deeply examine his struggles.

A More Perfect Union

Learn about Japanese Internment and the struggle for Civil Rights at the Smithsonian’s A More Perfect Union Web exhibit. Here you can explore the crisis surrounding the constitutional conflict and citizens of Japanese descent with primary sources, text, and film.

Knowledge of  United States Government

Ben’s Guide to Government

Ben’s Guide is a website with activities for students from K-12 to learn about government with Ben Franklin as the guide. A new beta version is being tested and promises to have games and more.


            Use iCivics to engage student conversations about citizenship and government. Teachers can use their digital resources to teach a lesson or have students plan an interactive game. In Do I have a Right?, students demonstrate their knowledge of the rights of citizens. In Supreme Decision, students explore how the Supreme Court works. In Branches of Power, students show what they understand about the government.

Assorted Activities

            Visit the National Constitution Center for more activities related to the Constitution Day. You can monitor the countdown to Constitution Day or download a lesson plan. Other activities to choose from include video lessons and live chats in the days prior to the celebration. You can even take a quiz to find out what founding father you are most like.

            The National Archives also have lots of Constitution Day options. Use their plan for a Constitutional Convention Simulation or just take the time to learn more about the Founding Fathers.

            Check out these resources and pick what works best for you. We can certainly enjoy every opportunity we get to talk about the United States Constitution.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Getting Started with National History Day

Opening Ceremony National History Day
By Nina Kendall

Are you considering implementing National History Day(NHD) in your school or classroom next year? Are you looking for advice on how to get started? Here are some basic tips on getting started.  Click here for a Georgia version.

Get to Know the Projects

There are 5 different types of projects that are part of National History Day. Project categories include websites, performances, exhibits, documentaries, and papers.  National History Day has a detailed rule book  with detailed descriptions each type of project. Every project except for a paper can be completed by a group. You can certainly allow students to choose any type of project, but you can advise students on what is possible with school equipment and seek advice from others on producing various projects. Perhaps you have a very supportive drama or technology teacher in your building.

Get to Know the Theme

The 2015 theme is Leadership and Legacy. National History Day presents an essay every year to explore theme. It is a useful tool to help introduce students to working with a theme. This may be the first time you and your students have chosen to complete research based on a theme.

Be Prepared with Sample Topics

When you introduce the project, you are going to want have sample topics to share. National History Day creates a list of sample topics every year.  Topics can focus on any part of history. This year you will also find some lists of topics based on the history of individual states. You do not have to use a topic from a list provided by National History Day or any other organization. However, these lists of topics can be sources of inspiration.

Know where to find Help

National History Day in conjunction with several museums hosted google hangouts about each type of project that you can watch. Each state has an affiliate coordinator that supports NHD and conduct contests within your state. These organizations can offer you advice on how to get started, connect you with your regional competition, and possibly host a workshop you or your students can attend. For example, the Georgia Humanities Council, an NHD affiliate, in conjunction with LaGrange College who hosted a teacher workshop this summer. 

Find Out about NHD Contests

If you plan to compete, you need to know about your local competition.  Here are some basic questions to ask about your  local competition.

·         Where is the local competition?

·         When is the local competition?

·         When is the registrations deadline?

·         Is there a registration fee? If so, what is the fee?

·         Are there any specific contest requirements asked of each school?(ie… limit on number of projects, paperwork, photo release forms.)

This information will help you in your planning for a successful year.

Good Luck and Happy History Day!

Bonus: Topics List with Georgia Connections(#NHD2015)

·         Southern Christian Leadership Conference

·         James Oglethorpe

·         Andrew Young

·         Alonzo Herndon and the Atlanta Life Insurance Company

·         Richard B. Russell Jr.

·         Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center

·         Joseph Lowery

·         John Hope

·         Sequoyah and the Syllabary

·         Albany Freedom Singers

·         Martha Berry

·         Xavier Roberts-Cabbage Patch Kids

·         William B. Hartsfield and the City to “busy to hate”

·         Cason and Virgina Callaway

·         Asa Candler and Coca-Cola

·         Martin Luther King Jr.

·         Hosea Williams and Feed the Hungry

·         Morris Rich and Rich’s Department Store

·         Truett Cathy and Chick-fil-A

·         General Lucius D. Clay and the Berlin Airlift

·         Henry Wirz and Andersonville Prison

·         Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts

·         Henry Grady and the New South

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Getting Connected: Preparing to Use Technology in the Classroom

By Nina Kendall

ClassFlow demonstration at #ISTE2014
Technology abounds. It has changed the way you lived and has the power to change the way you teach. However, introducing technology into your classroom is different than getting to know your new tablet or smartphone.  You have to plan for technology just the way you plan for the use of any other resources. In the classroom you can’t pause to access tech support, you need to be the expert in your classroom.

After recent attendance at the International Society for Technology Educators (ISTE) Expo, I have learned about scads of new technology for the classroom.  Educational technology has expanded from teacher tools and websites to new ways to be connected. ISTE had a number of programs had interesting possibilities for the classroom like ClassFlow and BrainPop.  Now is the time to plan for its’ use. Here are a few suggestions to make the integration of new technology in classroom successful.

Become familiar with your digital environment.
What types of systems do you have? You need to know this to be able to select useable educational technology.  I work in a PC heavy environment with a BYOD policy. BYOD  in my building translates into majority of smart phones and a few tablets.  Further an active web filter means that unexpected things are blocked in the system. Therefore when I start to select new technology, I look for resources that work on pcs and have app compatible with both iPhones(iOS) and androids. I need to be able to use it on my phone as well.

Determine the purpose of your technology integration.
What is the ultimate goal of your integration efforts? Is connectivity? Are you trying to find creative ways to address resource issues? Are you streamlining assessment to help increase time spent focusing on students? Are you interested in gamification? These are good questions to ask and answer.  You need to become familiar with what you need to pick out the best tool.

Pick your technology and get access to your resources.
Look for technology to meet your needs. Graphite has a tool that allows you to search through educator reviews of technology for the classroom.  Think about the apps and programs you use. How could they be integrated into the classroom?  What social media do you and your students use? How can it be used in the classroom? Recently, I have played Instagram bingo with the National Archives and have participated in the Instagram outdoor sculpture challenge with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Both these activities have me thinking about how I could use Instagram in the classroom and on field trips.

Try it out.
Much of today’s technology for the classroom can be taken for a virtual test drive. You want to know how easy it is to use and explain. Further, I want to know what the experience is like from the teacher and student view. I do this with every piece of technology I use in the classroom.  When attending ISTE, I tried Evernote. I wanted to know how it worked so I could make decisions about using it and feel comfortable explaining the app.  I did the same with remind last year. It made the program something I was very comfortable talking  about with parents and students . Since ISTE, I have downloaded the ClassFlow app.

Make Directions and Planning Decisions Now
Write the directions for signing up and using the educational technology now. It will make it easier to use and integrate.  Make plans to use the technology so that is becomes an integral part of you classroom. Until the technology because an integral part of you classroom, you will need instructions for use and may need to have a method for managing passwords and usernames. It will also make it easier to share with your colleagues. This could be important for you and your students as their devices have limited memory for apps and use in multiple classes could promote fluency and transfer.

Technology should be something that makes your class more engaging and enjoyable it should not be something that makes your life harder or more challenging. Figure out what works for you. The same tools are not ideally suited to every environment. Below are some of the technology from ISTE and social media options that I am considering for next school year.  Good Luck and Happy Planning!

cloud based tool that merges lesson planning with lesson delivery
a digital overlay you can create for texts
Comic designer  and option for customizing games
Platform that  has games for subject that you can search by state and standard
photo sharing app
web-based program that allows you to curate social media interactions.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Learning How to be EdTech Savvy at ISTE2014

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

I had the privilege of attending the 2014 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Convention and Expo in Atlanta.  ISTE is a nonprofit organization with the mission to “serve educators and education leaders who are committed to empowering connected learners in a connected world.”  This was my first ISTE Conference & Expo, and I can honestly say I was not prepared for how truly big the event would be.  The Conference lasted for four days, and the Expo was one day less. 

I have attended and presented at a variety of conferences in my educational career.  However, most have been in the Social Studies or History field where technological seminars or companies were few.  ISTE2014 was a chance for teachers at all levels to get together and learn more about integrating technology in the classroom.  The Expo was a chance for attendees to see over 500 exhibits and 4,500 industry representatives.  Attendees were so connected to technology that the #ISTE2014 hashtag was trending for the length of the conference. 

One key aspect of the conference for this first time attendee was the realization that technology is evolving and teachers should embrace and not fear it.  Ultimately it is a tool that can make student learning more effective.  Teachers are still the key ingredient. Knowing how to effectively incorporate EdTech is an important part of engaging leaners.  The technology being used is most effective when the teacher is a confident, knowledgeable user or adopter.  The following are just some of the ideas I learned from ISTE 2014 that can help all of us be a more EdTech savvy teacher.

There are wonderful programs that allow teachers to successfully incorporate technology into their lesson planning.  The trend I sensed was that many companies have switched from a downloadable software to cloud based programs.  Programs like ClassFlow and BrainPop allow a teacher to interact with students in real time and obtain real time results.  To use these programs all you need is internet access. For schools like mine, Wi-Fi and a strong BYOT policy make using the programs a real possibility.

Technology is a tool that can make the world a much smaller place.  Teachers can use Skype for a videoconference or virtual field trip.  Twitter can be used to disseminate information quickly via a simple tweet.  It can also be used for a TweetChat allowing students to chat in real time and can later be put into a Storify story to be easily read.  At ISTE2014, I used twitter to communicate to followers and plan a lot of my conference activity.  As a fellow attendee noted, it is much easier to communicate via twitter than email.  It is evident that twitter is the new mode of communication, and teachers not on the platform are really being left behind the technological curve. 

Google has become the mothership for technology storage, apps, and student interaction.  Many of the attendees were Google Certified teachers, or teachers looking to become Google Certified.  Google offers new apps like Book Creator that can be a wonderful tool.  Google Docs is an awesome classroom tool for storage and easy student access and collaboration.  The days of USB drives for obtaining student projects are over.  Using Google Docs means no excuses for a late paper.  As a teacher, I use Google Docs quite a bit and truly have become dependent on it. 

Finally, the conference was a way to contact and communicate with teachers who are all over the tech spectrum.  It allowed for the chance to meet and talk to teachers who can help you incorporate technology in the classroom.  Many of the presenters and attendees were eager to share their knowledge and help with the transition to a tech savvy teacher. The use of hashtags like #ISTE2014 and  #notatiste14 created accessible conversations across multiple platforms that allowed people beyond the conference to learn from ISTE2014 as well.

These are just a few of the EdTech ideas that were discussed at ISTE2014 that I thought were of great value.  What technology would you incorporate into your classroom or urge your colleagues to use?

For more information on ISTE 2014

A Sampling of the ISTE 2014 Expo

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the 2014 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Convention and Expo in Atlanta.  ISTE is a nonprofit organization with the mission to “serve educators and education leaders who are committed to empowering connected learners in a connected world.”  This was my first ISTE Conference & Expo, and I can honestly say I was not prepared for how truly big the event would be.  The Conference lasted for four days, and the Expo was one day less. 

To begin, I must say the Expo was HUGE!  According to the ISTE Expo literature, it is considered to be one of the largest and most interactive EdTech Expos in the world.  There were more than 500 exhibits and 4,500 industry representatives.  All booths offered ideas, or programs, or technology that educators could take back to the classroom and further the education of students.  Many booths also offered an interactive experience to show off products through demonstrations or presentations.  Sadly, many of the companies slanted towards Math and Science.  As a History teacher, I had to seek out companies that could benefit my students and/or me as a teacher.  The following are just a sampling of the companies I think History teachers can benefit from.

Using ClassFlow to teach Ron Clark Academy students
ClassFlow: Perfect for the BYOT classroom, this is a Cloud based “all-in-one” teaching & lesson tool for delivering interactive multi-media lessons across connected classrooms. This is a great tool for teachers who already employ tech in their classroom.  Using the program, a teacher can create interactive lesson plans, connect with students using their device, and receive instant feedback.  The booth for ClassFlow was huge with lots of representatives showing off the program and answering questions.  One of the best components was that the booth had Ron Clark and fellow teachers, teaching a class of  Ron Clark Academy students using the ClassFlow program. 

Historia: This is a game program for learning History that is currently in Beta test mode.  In the game, students team up to lead a civilization through events in World History. After seeing so many games aimed at Math and Science, it was nice to see a game created with History in mind.  One element stressed by the company is that as a teacher, I will be able to use the game to have students research history, debate strategy and take risks that will determine the future of their people.  A big plus is that Historia developers have already aligned the game to meet most Social Studies Standards.  It was also exciting to learn that Historia will be operating a Learning Lab at the National Council of Social Studies Convention in November. 

BrainPop: Another great company that allows for gamification in the History classroom is BrainPop.  Using the GameUp, their educational games portal for the classroom, teachers can create a traditional, blended, or flipped classroom learning environment.  Everything that they offer is supported by their free teacher community, and all content is aligned to academic standards.

Professor Garfield: This is an educational collaboration between Paws, Inc. and Ball State University.  Their booth was a one stop shop for several ideas and programs that could easily translate to the History Classroom.  Under their umbrella, Pixton Comics offers teachers a free version for students to create their own comic book--from a simple comic strip to a lengthy graphic novel.  Storyline Online allows students to see a book being read by celebrities.  They have quite a few books/videos on the site and suggestions of new books are always being accepted.  The Teacher Gaming Network is an online resource where teachers can create and share interactive games, utilizing their curriculum content.  On the site, teachers are given a customized online platform for creating their own games. 

Teachers First: Is a wonderful free resource for teachers.  According to their mission statement, their website is a collection of lessons, units, and web resources designed to save teachers time by delivering just what teachers need in a practical, user-friendly, and ad-free format.

These are just a few of the companies and programs that I thought were of great value.  What stood out in the Expo for you? What program are you excited to share with your colleagues and students?

For more information on ISTE 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teaching Military History

By Nina Kendall

Military history is a specialized field with many different facets.  This field has even found a place in popular culture with many amateur historians. When teaching military history you can focus on the experience of soldiers on the battlefield, military strategy, or significant leaders. Another option is to focus on the impact of war by examining economic production, life on the home front, technologies introduced or deaths and causalities. With each war, I focus on different components of military history.

Here are a selection of websites that can be used to incorporate military history into your lessons.

·         This Revolutionary War Interactive website lets you follow the battles of the Revolutionary War as they happen. The maps provide clear opportunities to illustrate the progress of the war and the strategy of both sides.

·         This article is a great description of George Washington as a Military Leader The focus is often on Washington as a political leader and this article provides the reader with a different prospective

·         This Mexican American War site has a short animated introduction of the Mexican American War and an interactive timeline to aid in teaching this conflict.

·         This interactive website allows the viewer to follow the fighting on the Civil War battlefield.

·         The Price of Freedom: Americans at War  is a virtual exhibit hosted by the Smithsonian. Each section has an introductory video and artifacts to examine. This exhibit spans conflict in American history into this century.

·         The Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress is also a great source for oral histories interviews.

One facet that has been a challenge teaching to students is military strategy. Finding ways to help students connect to this material was a difficult. Either they were very knowledgeable about the subject or had little interest in it at all.  What could be done to engage students across the spectrum? Was there a hook for the disinterested and a challenge for the enthusiast? I found one. I created an activity entitled, “If the Civil War Was a football Game.”

This activity was based on comparing the events of the Civil War to aspects of a football. It worked surprisingly well.  Students had to make comparisons and justify their comparisons. Students could identify teams and began to see military strategy as competition for territory and control.  Even students who struggled were arguing over what battles made the biggest difference in the war and what leader’s decision changed the course of the war.

To introduce this activity and way of thinking, I begin with a whole class activity modeling this effort.  To do this activity well students must use historical evidence to complete their simile. I have tried this assignment as both a writing assignment and as a project. It has worked with students at every ability level. To differentiate I simply increased the complexity requirements and decreased supports as needed.

Here is the writing assignment variation I used one year:

If the Civil War was a Football Game…….

Task: Write a paragraph using the sentence below as a main idea to complete the comparison. You must choose from one of the topics in this unit and include at least 3 supporting sentences, 3 detail sentences, and a conclusion. You must choose a topic we have not already compared.

If the Civil War was a football game then _____________ was ________________ .