US History Websites with the Common Core

Forty-five states have implemented the Common Core State Standards in ELA and Mathematics for every subject. These standards are not intended to drive history and other subjects away from the curriculum, but they are designed to encourage our students to be critical readers who can apply the knowledge they learned.  These standards are intended to engage students in the history curriculum and teach them skills needed to be successful. The websites listed below are useful  to supplement the curriculum and teach students the skills needed to be successful  21st century learners.

Under Common Core Student’s will be encouraged to: 

  1. Examine and analyze primary sources
  2. Use evidence to support an argument
  3. Understand historical context
  4. Read multiple accounts and perspectives
  5. Question: Who? What? Why? When? How? Where?
  6. Take a postion and defend it with evidence


  • Docs Teach: This website is a wonderful resource that has over Four Thousand primary documents from the National Archives. The website also has tons of resources and ready to use tools to enhance your instruction.
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute: This website offers a massive variety of resources to assist teachers and students. It offers professional development opportunities for educators, provides documents and exercises for classroom use, and encourages excellence in student writing with essay prizes.
  • Digital History: This website is another great resource that has tons of useful materials such as an alternative textbook, teaching ideas, primary documents, learning modules, and media rich lessons.
  • NROC: This is the website from the National Repository of Online courses that provides teachers with video clips on every unit, key readings, and so much more.
  • Teaching History: Teaching history is a website designed by the National History Education Clearinghouse. This website offers tons of history materials from “Ask a historian,” teaching materials, and best practices.
  • EDSITEment: EDSITEment is another wonderful website from the National Endowment from the Humanities. The website offers free resources and over 393 history lessons for teachers. These lessons stress primary source documents, critical thinking, and other common core skills.  The website is extremely easy to navigate and it has a plethora of valuable and easy to implement lessons.
  • Pearson Hall: This website has online educational materials FREE for educators such as vocabulary building activities, review games, interactive links, and assessments.
  • DBQ and Thematic Essay: Greece Public Schools in Greece, NY has a wonderful collections of Document Based Questions and Thematic Essays that have appeared on the New York State Assessment.
  • Eye Witness to History is a wonderful website to incorporate primary sources such as first-hand accounts, vintage photographs, and radio broadcasts into your classroom.
  •  Reading Like a Historian is a wonderful  curriculum to engage students in historial inquiry.  The Standford History Education Group produced over 75 Lesson Plans based on primary documents and activities to engage your students in the study of United States History.These lessons seems to align perfectly with the Common Core Standards of reading, analyzing, forming an opinion, and debating primary source materials. Students are not learning the material from a textbook or a teacher but engaging in real and meaningful historical inquiry. 




30 Web 2.0 Tools for Educators

I am sharing this post from Richard Byrne’s blog Free Technology 4 Teachers. Richard presented about his favorite Web 2.0 tools. I’ve used many of the tools he presented. I particularly love EasyBib, Google Reader, Twitter, Evernote, Poll Everywhere, Socrative, Dropbox, DropIttoMe, and Evernote. Check out this great list of tools to implement in your classroom.

View more presentations from Richard Byrne here.

Cellphones: Contraband or a Classroom Tool

Text messaging has become one the fastest and most popular forms of communication. Just a few years ago, cell phones were seen as the newest teenage addiction. Today, however, they can be an important classroom tool, although some schools regard them as disruptive, distracting, and have implemented policies that prohibit using them on school grounds. Most parents are okay with cell phone use, the students are more than okay with cell phone use, yet schools have adopted zero tolerance policies. The reality is that students still use cell phones in school even if they are banned. According to the PEW Internet and American Life Research Project, 58% of teens from schools that forbid cellphones, use them during class anyway.


Some teachers worry that cellphones will increase cheating, lead to sexting, decrease use of proper grammar, and be a distraction to learning.  While I can’t disprove these concerns, I can state that educating students about responsible and purposeful cellphone use is needed. What agitates me most about schools banning cellphones outright is that they are missing out on an opportunity for growth, collaboration, information, and FREE technology.

Increasing  costs and disappearing school funding has made updating technology often impossible and even basic school supplies dwindle. Challenging times require teachers to get creative. Schools across the country need to realize that the technology of the future is already in students’ back pockets, falling out of their skinny jeans, or officially “in their lockers.” How long will it take schools to realize that banning cellphones is not the answer?
Why should cell phones be allowed in schools? 

I polled my students to discover that 95% of my 8th graders owned a cell phone and 55% had smart phones.  My students are not just making calls, texting, and updating Facebook. They are making social connections, collaborating, researching, and sharing information.


Schools across the country need to be more flexible with their cell phone policies. Cell phones can replace reference books, flip cameras, calculators, cameras, student planners, instant response devices, and so much more. They can save schools money and enhance instruction if done in an appropriate way.


With administrative and parental approval, I use a program called to send text messages to my students with reminders, announcements, polls, questions, etc. Students can text me and ask me a specific question such as “what is on the test tomorrow?” or ask “what did I miss in class?” when they were sick. Cell phones have the potential to bridge the gap between the home, school, and social media world.


How can cell phones increase parent communication?

Frequent communication with parents is a necessity, but newsletters, classroom emails, and letters home to parents are becoming outdated.  Last fall at South Western High School in Hanover, Pennsylvania, I encouraged parents to join my text messaging classroom group. I was surprised with the results. Of my 55 US history students, 35 of their parents participated. Parents commented that they appreciated the text message reminders about homework & tests, updates about their child’s progress, and even the in class texting activities. Parents are now more informed about how their kids are doing and are better able to help their children with their schooling, which is key to student success.

One activity in which I involved parents and cell phones I like to call “text a friend.” My students’ assignment was to text a family member or friend asking the question “Did you vote in the last election? Why or why not?”  Through the responses they received they learned firsthand far more than just having the textbook or teacher’s perspective. Cellphones truly brings the world into your classroom.


For More Information: Here is a previous blog post about the ways cell phones can enhance instruction in the classroom. Here is a post about 10 educational apps that can be used in the classroom.


This post was crosspsted at






Animaps- Create and View Animated Maps

Animaps takes Google Maps one step further by letting you create maps with markers, images, and text. I often use Google Maps when discussing a particular location and Animaps can enhance any lesson. These maps can also be “played” like a video with pause, start, and stop as many times as you would like to animate. The best part about this program is that it is completely FREE!


As an educator, you could use Animaps in multiple ways such as describing historical battles with students. A science teacher could use it to demonstrate landforms or the migration of animals. You can have students map the historical locations of the Civil Rights Movement. You can use it in any subject.


Here is a Sample Tutorial on How to Use Animaps  

Here is a sample map


Great Info-graphic for Mobile Devices

I found this infographic  from written by David Andrade author of the Educational Technology blog. The graphic shows how students are using their smart phones for studying and other educational tasks. Many of my students use their phones as homework reminders, research, flashcards on quizstar, and so much more.

55% of my students have smart phones! I think this is truly an untaped technology in education.

Info-graphic from:




Skype in the Classroom

Skype in the classroom is a wonderful way to bring the world into the classroom. Imagine being able to bring an expert or a guest speaker into your classroom to teach a particular subject. You can even collaborate with a classroom halfway around the world. All of this is possible with Skype in the Classroom. 

Skype in the classroom is an online community that encourages teachers to connect and share with collaborative projects, classroom connections, and guest speakers. It officially launched their website less than a year ago and currently has 20,000 teachers using the website to support classrooms around the world. I am currently making arrangements to have a “meeting” with a 9/11 survivor and a Vietnam Veteran with my 8th grade U.S. history students. I know it will be one of my student’s favorite lessons! Check out Skype in the Classroom today.


For more ideas on how other teachers are using Skype in the Classroom visit the Skype blog called Play or the another blog on education. Here is also another great resource from  Silvia Tolisano’s blog, which has a ton of resources for using Skype in the Classroom.



What do you need to do to establish Skype in the Classroom?
• Create a Skype account – Choose your Skype Name and enter your details so friends can find you on Skype.
• Get Skype – Download Skype to your computer.
• Sign in to Skype – Sign in and add your friends as contacts, then call, video call and instant message with them, wherever you are.
• Register for Skype in the classroom – Meet new people, discover new cultures and connect with classes from around the world, all without leaving the classroom.


For more information on how Skype can extend learning beyond the classroom, visit Skype in the classroom or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Blog Citation

Video Citation





Interesting Ways to Use Technology in the Classroom

The Interesting Ways Series is a wonderful resource I just stumbled across to provide teachers with practical examples and ways to use technology in the classroom. This is being shared from the EdTech blog. It is truly a wonderful collection of interesting and creative ways to incorporate technology into your instruction.

Interesting Ways to… 

Use Google Tools

Use Google Forms in the Classroom

Use Google Docs in the Classroom

Use Google Earth in the Classroom

Use Google Search in the Classroom

Use Google Maps in the Classroom

Use Devices

Use the iPad in the Classroom

Use Your Interactive Whiteboard in the Classroom

Use an iPod Touch in the Classroom

Ideas for Class Blog Posts

Use Mobile Phones in the Classroom


Use QR codes in the Classroom

Use Audio / Visual

Use Audio in Your Classroom

Use Your Pocket Video Camera in the Classroom

Use a Visualizer in the Classroom

Use Web Conferencing in the Classroom

Use QR Codes in the Classroom

Support subjects and other class work

Support Reading in the Classroom

Find and Learn about Creative Commons Resources

Make Your Lessons ESL/EAL Friendly

Support Writing in the Classroom

Get to Know Your New Class

Support Spelling in the Classroom

Teach Reading Comprehension in the Classroom

Make Your Classroom a Sparkly Place to Learn

Support Writing in the Classroom

Teach Internet Safety

Images in the Classroom

Support Maths in the Classroom


Use a Nintendo DS in the Classroom

Nintendo Wii in the Classroom

Online Tools

Class Blog Posts

Use Moodle to Support Learning

Use Search Engines in the Classroom

Prezi in the Classroom

Use Voicethread in the Classroom

Use Twitter in the Classroom

Use Wordle in the Classroom

Use a Wiki in the Classroom

Use a Learning Platform in the Classroom

Use Wallwisher in the Classroom


Interesting Ways Citation: EdTech blog

Photo Credit




HelloSlide- Bring your Presentation to Life

As more and more classrooms move into the digital age, instructors are looking for ways to bring an interesting touch to their online lessons. HelloSlide is a wonderful way to transform a lesson into a audio-rich lesson that seems like a live presentation. I learned about HelloSlide from Richard Bryne’s blog Free Technology for Teachers. To get started using Hello Slide, register for a free account, upload a PDF of your slides, then start typing your narration.

Application in the Classroom: I can see HelloSlide being used multiple ways in the classroom. It could be used to teach a particular concept in class, previewing the night before, teaching a lesson using the “flipped” model, can be translated for ESL students, or even used in alternative assessment projects in which students teach the class a particular concept.

HelloSlide is very easy to use: 

1. You upload your presentation.

2. Type the speech for your presentation and HelloSlide automatically generates the audio. I only wish it gave you a feature to record your own voice with the presentation.

Here is a sample project already created on HelloSlide: 


HelloSlide provides key advantages over the video format:

  • Easy to create. Just take the PowerPoint slides already sitting in your computer, write the speech for each slide, and share them with the rest of the world. There’s no need to record any audio.
  • Editable presentations. Unhappy with the audio of your slides? Want to fix mistakes or improve the content? It’s easy: just press edit and tweak the speech until you’re happy with the result. No need to re-record the audio.
  • Auto translation. Make your presentation available in 20 different languages, with no additional effort. Just write the speech in English, and press translate.
  • Searchable content. You can search for audio keywords across all presentations, since everything is text-based.
  • Wider exposure. Your presentation is more discoverable on the web, since search engines can index the audio content more thoroughly.

Citation:  Hello Slide

My School Notebook

I learned about this website from the Make Use Blog. The Make Use blog always has interesting and engaging technology ideas to implement in your personal or professional life. My School Notebook is an interesting idea  and really useful app for students to take notes in a 1:1 school or BYOT program. My school notebook is a new tool to write notes in class both online and off line.  Students can organize their virtual notebooks into different classes. Students can even share notes with friends or classmates. 

MySchoolNotebook offers two different plans. The first program is a free app that allows you to create one notebook, share it, use it online or offline. The Premium plan is $2 per month and you can take advantage of all the wonderful features the program has to offer.

Check it out today.


Citation: My School Notebook

10 Great Mobile Apps to Use in the Classroom

I am a huge advocate of using cell phones appropriately in the classroom. I just found this great article called “Get Smart” written by Tim Walker published in the NEA Today Magazine about incorporating cell phone technology into the classroom. Schools need to harness the power of cell phones and social media in the classroom. 

Banning cell phones is the “easy call to make, but as cell phones have become more sophisticated, powerful, and even more entrenched in students’ daily lives, a growing number of schools have decided to open the door to what are, essentially, mobile computers.”

Schools and teachers need to embrace cell phones in the classroom. “According to some estimates, smart phones, and to a lesser extent tablets like the iPad, will be in the hands of every student in the United States within five years. And as more schools embrace mobile learning, the number of education apps—mobile applications that run on your smart phone—are skyrocketing.” There are countless apps and cell phone technology that will improve teaching and make classroom instruction more engaging.

Great Video about “Cell Phones in the Classroom: Learning Tools for the 21st Century” 

10 Great Applications to Use in the Classroom

1. Edmodo –This microblogging site was created specifically for teachers and students. Edmodo can be used to share notes, files, assignments, grades, and events. For more information click here

2. My Big Campus– My Big Campus is a collaborative learning platform that provides access to resources and people that make learning engaging, fun, and real.

3. Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers by engaging their classrooms with a series of educational exercises and games. Our apps are super simple and take seconds to login. Socrative runs on tablets, smartphones, and laptops. For more information here

4. Google Applications – This free web based suite of tools from Google gives classrooms the ability to collaborate and share assignments online. The suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool For more information click here

5. Quizlet – Quizlet is a free flashcard creation site that can be used to study, create, and share flashcards. Teachers can create their own flashcards for students or use pre-submitted cards. For more information click here and here

6. Wunderlist –makes it downright simple to organize your daily life. Just create a list and start filling it with things that need to be completed. Keep track of your more important tasks with reminders and notifications. It even syncs. For more information click here

7. Dropbox – is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Never email yourself a file again.For more information click here

8.  Hot Seat for Teachers–  Developed by a teacher for teachers, the app makes learning students’ names easier at the beginning of the school year by matching pictures with names. This app also encourages student participation by creating a random list of students to call on.

9. Mobile Mouse Pro– “turns your mobile device into a remote control for your interactive whiteboard and computer, so you can move freely about the classroom during lessons without the need for keyboard and mouse.” Great idea from Tim Walker.
10.  Evernote– allows you to create and organize notes, outlines, lesson plans, etc. in one place. Students can use this application to take and share notes.


Article: “Get Smart” written by Tim Walker published in the NEA Today Magazine

Image: credit

Video: Cell Phones in the Classroom 





What does the Classroom of the Future Look Like?

I had an amazing opportunity to be a panelist on the “Classroom of the Future: How Social Media Can Better Our Education System” in New York City on February 14, 2012. The event was hosted by Sapient Nitro during Social Media Week.

The presentation provided me with an opportunity to improve my teaching repertoire and expand my professional learning community. It was an amazing experience! I made some wonderful connections and learned new ways to incorporate social media into the classroom.

Please feel free to watch the live-stream video of the presentation: click here 

 Here is my presentation modified by the creators at Sapient Nitro.


Citation: Sapient Nitro

7 Golden Rules about Using Technology in schools

1. Technology should not be trapped in a room such as a lab. I could not agree more that technology should be brought into the classroom and harnessed where students are learning and interacting. It should be mobile, assessable, and consistently updated. This week I was talking with one of my students. I asked her how often she uses computers in class. She replied, “once we used them in art class.” My mouth dropped. We are doing our students such a disservice  by not integrate technology into our teaching.

2. Technology is worthless without professional development and administration that supports it. Money and time needs to be spent on not only teaching teachers how to use the new technology, but encouraging creatively to implement technology into an educators’ daily teaching practice. Teachers need to be encouraged to use it and given opportunities to collaborate and enhance their instruction through meaningful professional development.

3. Mobile technology is in our classrooms, why aren’t teacher’s harnessing the power of cell phones? My husband and I went out to dinner this weekend. At the Hibachi table we were surrounded by a room full of 12 year old girls. When the cake came out all the girls (including the birthday girl) took out their cell phones. Out of the 12 girls around the table 7 had smart phones and the rest had basic cell phones. I laughed at the whole experience thinking that these kids probably don’t use them in school, but they are attached to them every single moment of the day. Cell phones can replace reference books, flip cameras, calculators, cameras, instant response devices, and so much more. They can save schools money and enhance instruction if done in an appropriate way.

4. Schools Fear Change. Schools across the country fear change… such as being replaced by the virtual classroom or collaborative web tools that are blocked because of their potential. Schools need to adapt and change to the modern era. Classrooms across the county are the same set up, design, and instruction since the mid 1940’s or earlier. Kids need to be taught how to deal with 21st century social media and taught how to use it appropriately. Blocking is NOT the answer, education is!

5.Technology tools are not just a fad- Everyone is a natural lifelong learning. Technology will change, we need to teach our students the skills to adapt to the changing environment.

6. Money is not the problem. Teachers have access to thousands of free web tools, twitter, and other methods of professional development. Don’t be afriaid to try new technology!

6. INVITE EVERY STAKEHOLDER TO THE CONVERSATION. “Who’s at the table?” Bellow asked. “Mostly administrators, some ask teachers. But here’s a novel idea. Let’s have students come to the table, and parents too!” I could not agree more with this rule. Students and parents need to be included in the conversation about technology in the classroom. Let’s get ALL the stakeholders involved.


Citation: Adam S Bellow  7 Golden Rules about Using Technology in Schools.

Image: credit

GradeCam- the new way to grade

I learned about GradeCam from the Technology Tidbits blog and it is probably the newest test innovation since the Scantron Machine. Camscan is a wonderful way for teachers/students to quickly grade their multiple choice tests/quizzes. Teachers can get instant reports to monitor student progress.You can even have students scan (grade) their own test. You can transfer scores form the GradeCam to an electronic grade-book. You can even link questions to state standards and generate standards-based reports in order to monitor student progress towards meeting them. You can share assessments with other teachers/administrators and even run item analysis results.

How it works?

Students take their test using the GradeCam scantron sheet to take a quiz or test. When you would like to grade the test all you have to do is hold the sheet up to either a web cam, document camera, or scanner. The data is uploaded and automatically graded.

Check it out today! It will change the way you give tests and monitor student assessment.

Video Conference and Live Stream with the Tuskegee Airmen

This sounds too good to not share with other teachers around the world. In just under 20 days there will be a Video Conference and Live Stream from the Tuskegee Airmen. Your class is invited to participate in what the organizers hope will be an engaging once in a lifetime experience for your students.  Currently there are over 4,300 students that will be participating in this event and over 60 schools nationwide.

We have 11  Tuskegee Airmen who will be sharing their remarkable story of heroism and courage including:

DOTA Lt. Harry Lanauze, M.D. (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mr. Don Elder (Columbus, Ohio)

DOTA Joseph Gomer (Minneapolis, MN)

DOTA William Broadwater (La Plata, MD)

Staff Sergeant Homer Hogues (Dallas, Texas)

DOTA Lt. Calvin Spann (Dallas, Texas)

DOTA Leo Gray (Broward County, Florida)

DOTA Douglass Bembry (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Roscoe Draper (Phoenixville, PA)

DOTA Arthur L. Carter, Sr. (Indianapolis, Indiana)

DOTA Maj. George Boyd (Wichita, KS)

Dr. Linda Lane, Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, will be participating via a pre-recorded video message.  Dr. Lane’s Father was a Tuskegee Airmen.  Ms. Susan Morgan, daughter of Col. William Morgan will be participating live from the Osseo Area Schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We also have several Historians participating in the event including Mr. Regis Bobonis, President of the Daniel B. Matthews Historical Society here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Dr. Ruth Jackson, University Librarian at the University of California Riverside.

Several members of the panel served after World War II and were the beneficiaries of the trail blazed by the Tuskegee Airmen.  They include Senior Master Sgt. Timothy McCray and Aaron Watkins, a second generation Tuskegee Airman who served during the Vietnam War.

A detailed agenda can be found by clicking here.

We will begin promptly at 9:00 EST on February 28.  Your school can access the web stream by clicking here.  Your students will have the opportunity to participate in an online chat room.  We will be taking questions from the chat and posing them to the members of the panel.  If your school allows the use of electronic devices, students can also use the Twitter app, including the hashtag #phtuskegee in their tweets.

Tuskegee Airmen and Historians will be appearing live from sites scattered throughout the country including:

Morning Session

1.      Penn Hills High School (Pittsburgh, PA)

2.      Jimmie Tyler Brashear Elementary (Dallas, Texas)

3.      Northview Jr. High (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

4.      Fort Hayes High School (Columbus, Ohio)

5.      Phoenixville High School (Phoenixville, PA)

6.      Meadowdale High School (Dayton, Ohio)

7.      La Plata High School (La Plata, Maryland

Afternoon Session

1.      Penn Hills High School (Pittsburgh, PA)

2.      Jimmie Tyler Brashear Elementary (Dallas, Texas)

3.      Palmer Lake Elementary (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

4.      Champion Middle School (Columbus, Ohio)

5.      Phoenixville High School (Phoenixville, PA)

6.      Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet School (Indianapolis, Indiana)

7.      Brooks Middle Magnet School (Wichita, Kansas)

There will be a one-hour intermission for lunch from 11-12 EST.

Most questions can be answered by visiting our website at  However if you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Skype: brownb82 or 412-793-7000 x5311.  I will be at a conference from Monday, February 13 through Wednesday, February 15, 2012.  The best way to reach me during that time is through email.

Please register on our website at

Thank you,

Mr. Brian Brown

21st Century Teaching and Learning Coach

Cyber Academy Liaison

Penn Hills School District

Twitter: @brownb82

Phone: 412-793-7000 x5311



Create an Online Study Group with ThinkBinder

I was in a Panera the other day and I saw four students studying for a high school exam. Students had their notes, books, computers, and food all over the table. I thought to myself what a great group of students who decided to study together and take ownership of their own learning. Unfortunately, students can not always study together and that’s where technology comes in.

ThinkBinder is a revolutionary way to change the way our student’s study. The new study group is focused around an idea to help students work more efficiently and collaboratively. ThinkBinder provides students with an opportunity for group discussions, shared notes, and real time interactions online. Students can discuss any topic they are studying, share videos or websites or other resources that would be useful. ThinkBinder also has a built in text or video chat feature as well as an collaborative Whiteboard to work on problems together. Check it today!

Meet ThinkBinder from ThinkBinder on Vimeo.