Sunday, March 29, 2015

Add Text to Images

You can add text to photos with this app called Phonto Photo. It's available for both Apple and Android devices and very easy to use. You can place the text anywhere on the photo and size it. And it's free!

Thanks to my colleague, Jeff Feinstein, who sent me the link.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

National WWII Museum & Teachers

The National WWII Museum is chalk full of goodies for teachers.  For example there is a teacher page as well as a section on Pearl Harbor, Iowa Jima, D-Day, the home front, African Americans and Hispanic Americans in the war.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Our Kids by Robert Putnam

My blog is all about free things you can use with your students, but occasionally I veer as in posting about my own new book.  But for year I have asked the students who do poorly in my classes why they don't care in an effort to better serve them.  The answer is always the same "I don't know." Well, now I have a great answer after reading Robert Putnam's new book, Our Kids which argues that we have created two Americas - those in the middle upper class and above and the rest.  He shows, using lots of statistics, but also anecdotal stories, that members of the lower classes are much more likely to have little or no college, more likely to divorce, be a member of far fewer extracurricular activities, be more likely to go to a school with fewer AP/IB classes, and on and on.  He makes a strong argument (and we have heard this before) that the first three years are essential to the life development.  He builds a case that fifty years ago it was much easier for someone to "rise up," but today that is much harder today.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Sales Are Going Really Well

I had a conversation with "my marketing editor" (yes there are seven editors working on this project!) on Wednesday and she told me that my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction was already selling beyond expectations in its first month out.  So thank you for all of you who bought the book.

If you haven't bought it yet and want some highlights:

  • the goal of the book is to help you set different paces for your students so each can obtain more learning than if you were marching all your students at the same pace
  • to do that you need to expand your PLC beyond your school's borders
  • evaluate your students using free online technology
  • know how to use Google Drive to grade in near real time
  • flip your classroom to better allow students to watch short lectures in a timely fashion
  • know how to mobile devices in the classroom
  • know how to connect to your students using technology beyond the classroom
  • and SO much more.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Daylight Saving & Farmers

As long as we are talking farmers, one myth which I've wrongfully perpetuated is that farmers are the reason we end standard time (which is between the fall and spring) and go on daylight savings time.  The practice was started in England in 1907 and it made it to the US in WWI ostensibly to save energy so we could be awake more during daylight.  In case you want to share it with your students, here is a WashPost article and here is another one from National Geographic

The Great Depression & Taking Notes from a Video

Right about now you should have gotten to the Great Depression (if you are teaching AP).   We are having a discussion in my county about the amount of work we give our students (mostly AP ones). First off we all must agree that most textbooks are written in a rather boring fashion and no wonder some kids don't like history.

Learning from videos works for them as it adds different ways of learning (visual, audio, etc.) and is more engaging to our students.  But they still have to organize something from it.  So if you look at the top video, you can see a CrashCourse video on the Great Depression while on the bottom I show my students (on a government film) how to take notes.   The correct videos cover the main points and give the teacher time to add supplementary material to go in more depth or to bring history alive with primary documents.

If you use Screencastomatic, you can make your own video on how to do this as well.  Below is a video that shows you how.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Free PDF to Word Converter

I have long used Pdftoword to convert my pdfs to word documents, but there is a several page limit and after a certain amount they require you to set up an account.  The latter part might be a positive as you have all of your documents in one place, but...

Now I prefer's pdf converter because

  • there is no limit to the length of the document
  • you can even convert scanned documents
  • you only have to put in your email and you will receive it in 40 minutes or less.
  • there is no membership required

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Read My Book, Earn Graduate Credit

Thanks to Julie Halse for the heads up on this one.  You can now earn graduate credit by reading my book Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction.

The book has multiple practical ways to help teachers and administrators develop online professional learning communities, flip the classroom, use Google Drive, evaluate students’ ability and much more.  Most importantly it shows teachers how to set up their own classrooms so the needs of each individual student can be better met and so all students can more easily meet their full potential.  

It also has examples of how technology is being used in classrooms to personalize instruction and gives teachers and administrators “Educator Challenges” that can be used to integrate the learning models in the book into the classroom.  

So if you are interested, buy the book (and go here if you want discounted volume purchases) and go here to learn how you can complete an assignment and earn graduate credit.

Friday, February 27, 2015

WWI - Cold War Instructional Resources

The Imperial War Museum has some great instructional resources on the main historical events from World War I through the Cold War. Simply click on "Events and Themes" and type in a key word like "Cold War" and a series of downloadable PDFs appear. Some of the results for the Cold War include source packs and instructional activities. Here's a link to one called "A Mad World, Why did civilians live in fear during the Cold War?  Thanks to Jeff Feinstein for the great link.

The museum also has a series of 32 podcasts about World War I. They are part of the museum's exhibit on the centenary of World War I. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Most Important Invention Ever - the Clock?!

This is a fascinating video arguing that the invention of the clock lead to a completely changed way of life for all of us, changing our sleep patterns, hurrying our lives, but also making us think more in terms of accounting for all part of our life and even leading to such inventions as the Industrial Revolution.  It gets me thinking that after the VA Standards of Learning exam, this would be a nice basis for a project - namely to find one invention that changed our history and led to multiple other changes.  The kids could make a video such as the one above and show their writing skills, arguing ability and synthesis.

I found the video on OpenCulture

Looking for Paid Writers

Recently I have posted about a start-up that I have been working with called ContextU.  We have our beta site up and now have sub domains up for the American Revolution and the Civil War and will soon be adding Reconstruction and the Gilded Age.  We have a team of fifteen engineers, marketing, etc, but we need people to help write the content. Basically we are trying to contextualize learning as we believe that we learn best when connecting items to other, what we call, "nodes."  So we need people to write 1) 150 word descriptions 2) find cause/effect (and it is mostly from a list we already have 3) relations to other groups.

Right now we are looking for people to write on the World War I through World War II era. We are offering either "micro-shares" or pay which is better than anything my county pays!  If you are interested, please email me at 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

60 Second Presidents by PBS

This is a pretty awesome series put together by PBS covering all of our US presidents, each in one minute.  It is pretty amazing how packed they are.  I found it from Teaching HS Daily

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oklahoma, the APUSH Redesign & A Lesson in Government

I do have some biases here as I am on the College Board's 7-12th Grade Advisory Panel for Social Studies and have graded AP exams for the past fifteen years.  But certainly the roll out for APUSH History has not been as smooth as it should have been (hey changing the time length on a FRQ fewer than nine months before the AP exam is really inexcusable).  But too many groups have been taking pot shots at the changes for political gain.  In the case of Oklahoma, all of their students will be at a disadvantage when applying to national universities when compared to those in the other 49 states if the course is eliminated and parents aren't going to stand on the sidelines and let this go away - especially parents of kids taking AP classes.  So (perhaps optimistically) I am not convinced the bill will make it through as it stands right now.   To see what I mean let's use this as an exercise in government as well.
  1. The bill, HB 1380, has only passed a committee - albeit on party lines in a conservative state (11 Republicans, 4 Democrats).  Although normally a bill that goes through committee with unanimous support of the state's dominant party almost always becomes law.  But...
  2. It still has to pass the OK Senate and get the governor to sign it.  With only seven Democrats on the Senate side, it is logical to think it can get out of both houses and to the governor. 
  3. BUT even if the above happens, if you look at HB 1380, it requires an alternative course to be in place by this coming fall which most curriculum specialists would tell you is all but impossible.  It also mandates that $3 million be set aside for the endeavor.  Compared to the state budget in OK of $6 billion, that is chump change, but not when considered next to the other needs of the state.   The $3 million also does not include the cost of purchasing new textbooks which schools purchase no fewer than every six years.  To get the funding the bill also has to go through the Appropriations Committees (Senate and House) and this is where it is likely to run into problems. 
  4. As someone who has worked in the VA legislature (and years ago ran for the VA General Assembly) my sense is that this bill will be amended in conference committee - if it gets out of the Senate - to call for a recommendation for not teaching AP US, but leaving it up to the localities to decide and come up with the money - which wouldn't happen.  In other words it will be a way to both attack the College Board as being un-American while allowing APUSH to continue in OK schools.  
  5. If you want to follow the bill's progress click on this link as it moves forward.

Another government lesson.  The College Board does lobby at the federal level and while I can't find it, you can be pretty sure Trevor Packer and his team are doing some lobbying of key Republicans in the OK Senate's Education committee to kill this bill over there or at least return it to a committee for "further study."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mastery Learning

One of my students came back the other day lamenting that colleges do not offer second chance tests! Another teacher said, "As it should be!"  But I was reminded that the doctor who helped bring my son Grant into the world had only delivered ten kids prior to us and while he came out just fine despite her having to push awfully hard on my wife's stomach.  Lawyers who can't win for their clients the first time, can appeal and law makers often have to try year after year to get their bills or amendments through.  But as a father of two middle schoolers, I see how motivated students can be and how much they (my girls) want to improve their scores if they didn't do well enough the first time.

I have been transitioning (I have not yet gone to pinpointing parts of a summative test and only re-testing on that) the last few years to mastery teaching.  Rich Hoppock first convinced me to give second chance tests, which led to unlimited formative quizzes and my now late principal Dave Tremaine convinced the entire school to cut late grades to 20%.  I have gone even further cutting out all late grades, but then again I won't allow anyone to take a test until they turn in their study guides.  I even let students turn in assignments multiple times if they want to raise their grades.  Believe it or not I have not had any more late grades (yes I use Remind the night before an assignment is due, send weekly grade reports and call lots of parents when students start slipping), but the bottom line is that as a parent I see the need to master the material, not figuratively beat up students.  Sure I am frustrated with some of my students for whom mastery is "just passing," but I see them as a challenge to teach better rather than give in.

I think mastery teaching has also been possible as I work more one on one with each of my kids than I have ever had time to do before.  Of course this is in large part thanks to the help of technology. It has also been possible by staying after school a great deal more, but here is the bottom line: if the kids are learning better for longer periods of time and in a timely fashion, isn't that better for us as educators?

If you want more detailed research on all of this here is a nice Ed Leadership article going all the way back to 2003!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Kahoot for Copetitive Quizzes

I really enjoy the way the Internet works.  I just finished watching a movie with my girls and now that they are headed to bed, I just checked Twitter and found a new follower on my account by named Mr Koz who in turn led me to Glenn Wiebe both of whom had posted on Kahoot.  That made me wonder if Richard Byrne had posted on it and sure enough he just did a few days ago.

So what is Kahoot.  It is a bit like PollEverywhere which I have posted on in the past which lets you put up questions in front of your classroom using your LCD and your students can answer quick review questions using any Internet connected device.

  • The difference here is that students compete against others in the classroom
  • they can use any name they want 
  • do not have to give anything other than that) 
  • you can take other people's quizzes and use them as well.  
  • you can set a timer
So for example here is one on
Now it is looking less like I will have school in person on Tuesday so I am thinking that I might use Kahoot in my AP Comparative's online classroom (yes we meet on snow days) to see if my students have done their work.