Student Created: Interest Group PSA Videos

This is the second year I assigned a public service announcement documentary film project to my AP Government students. I was really impressed with my students last year and saved so many sample projects to show this years students but my students projects this year blew last years out of the water. This is attributed to the fact that “I” knew what I was doing in terms of scaffolding and previewing each step of the process.

What is the assignment? 
My AP Government needed to learn about interest groups and their effect on the government. Instead of a typical lecture or a boring powerpoint project, my students created 2-4 minute public service  announcement videos trying to advocate their particular interest group.
How did they create them?
My students picked their partner and their interest group from a list. I am all about student choice and ownership! For homework, they researched their interest group. On Friday they spent the entire period creating a google doc. powerpoint in which both partners were able to work on a specific part of the project at the same time. On Monday students created their Animoto video projects by saving their powerpoint as a JPG and adding effects/music.
The Challenge 
I had my class vote for the “best” interest group video. Here are the top three videos voted by my class. The best video based on the student vote won bragging rights and lunch!



How to make the video? 

Project Assignment 

Part 6: Staying Secure with Evernote

This is another wonderful guest post written by Justin Stallings. For more information about Evernote or Justin’s previous posts see below.

 A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine had his home broken into.  The important part is that he and his family were not in harm’s way and are safe.  Unfortunately, however, some items were taken from his home–including his laptop.  When that happened, it got me thinking about my own computer, tablet, and mobile device and what I should do if something like that should happen to me.

Not only have I thought about security of my devices themselves, I have also thought about security with my Evernote account.  Evernote is installed on my desktop, smartphone, and my tablet.  Because I have the ease of access with Evernote on all my devices, I also considered what should happen to my Evernote account should one of my devices were stolen.  Fortunately for Evernote users, there are several ways to have more security with your Evernote account.

What does Evernote say about security?

Here’s Evernote’s official statement regarding security:

Evernote is committed to protecting the security of your information and takes reasonable precautions to protect it. However, Internet data transmissions, whether wired or wireless, cannot be guaranteed to be 100% secure and as a result we cannot ensure the security of information you transmit to us; accordingly, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. Once we receive your data transmission, we make all commercially reasonable efforts to ensure its security on our systems:

  • Your Evernote password is protected by encryption and only you have access to it;
  • Your personal information and data stored in our systems is protected by various physical, electronic and procedural safeguards. It is housed in a secure facility and Evernote restricts physical and network access to this facility to select trained staff and regularly evaluates its technologies, facilities, procedures and potential risks to maintain the security and privacy of our users’ data. As a rule, Evernote employees do not monitor or view your personal information or content stored in the Evernote service, but it may be viewed if we learn that our Terms of Service may have been violated and confirmation is required, or we otherwise determine that we have an obligation to review it; and
  • Certain Evernote services support the use of standard SSL encryption to protect data transmissions. However, this is not a guarantee that such data transmissions cannot be accessed, altered or deleted due to firewall or other security software failures.

If Evernote learns of a security system breach we may attempt to notify you and provide information on protective steps, if available, through the e-mail address that you supplied during registration or posting a notice on our web site. Depending on where you live, you may have a legal right to receive such notices in writing.  


Safety tips with Evernote Desktop

I do a majority of my work on my laptop–everything from blogging, researching on the web, and organizing my resources in my Evernote account.  For quick and easy access, I have the Evernote Desktop installed on my PC.  All I have to do is click on the Evernote icon on my desktop and I’m in.  With that being said, however, if someone were to steal my laptop it would be that easy for them to access my Evernote account (besides of course if they were somehow able to get passed my Windows log-in password).  Here are some safe practices I use with my Evernote Desktop:

1.  Make “signing out” a habit

Is it a pain in the rear to sign into your Evernote account every time you boot up your computer?  Sure.  However, consider this:  Is it more of a pain to sign in your account every time or having someone access your Evernote account and you trying to prevent as little as damage as possible by changing your password and other potent data?  Once you sign out of your Evernote account, you’ll be more secure than just staying signed in the entire time:

If someone steals your computer, don’t make it easier on them by just letting them into your Evernote account with no effort at all.  By not selecting the “stay signed in” option, it makes whoever steals your computer put in your user id and password (see the bottom of this post for tips on how to create a strong password).

Again, this makes things a lot less easy for you to sign in to your account–but anything that’s easy for you is equally easy for for any would-be thieves out there as well.

2.  How to encrypt sensitive data in a Evernote note

We talk a lot these days about going digital in the classroom–everything from assessments, projects, and record keeping.  For educators, some might keep sensitive student data (such as contact information or student ID numbers) in the “cloud” for access to wherever they are at.  The one thing that should be discussed and considered is how safe that data will be once you place it in the online database.  With Evernote, you can add a 2nd level of security to any note data by “encrypting” it in the Evernote note.  Here’s what it would look like and how to do it:

Example of text in a Evernote note:

With this feature in Evernote, encrypting sensitive data might be something you would want to consider.  As in this example, should you choose to use Evernote to keep information about your students, you can encrypt it to make sure that if someone is able to hack into your Evernote account they will have to also hack into the encrypted information.


Example of how to select data you want to encrypt:















Example of creating a encryption password in Evernote:

As with any password, you’ll want to create a strong password for your encryption password as well.  Be sure to check out the end of this post for more information on how to create strong passwords.

(Image credit: Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET “How to encrypt selected text in Evernote“)








How data encryption looks once you are done:

Once you are done, that data will now be “encrypted” for more security.  As you can see in this image, the data is no longer visible just by signing into your Evernote account–you will be required to enter your encryption password to access that data as well.  You can do that by double-clicking the encrypted image and it will then prompt you to enter in your password to get access to it.

Safety tips for your mobile device

Safety while on your mobile device is something that should be practiced just as much as safety while on a computer.  Fortunately, Evernote also takes safety on mobile devices into consideration by allowing you to set up a “pin lock” on your Evernote account.  It is important to note, however, that this is a “premium” feature.  Here’s a post on what you’ll get with Evernote premium, “Ten reasons to go premium“.

Here’s an example of what the “pin lock” feature looks like on Android.  Once you go to the Evernote app, you’ll be prompted to enter in your pin number in order to access your account.  This really is a excellent feature to use for security on your phone, should you happen to lose your phone or if it gets stolen.  You can enable this feature on the Evernote app by going to settings—–>other options–>setup pin lock (Android).  You can do the same thing on your tablet or Ipad should you choose to have that 2nd level of security as well.

Other Security Resources

Though the main purpose of this post is to discuss security with Evernote, it is also important to emphasize the importance of practicing good security measures when you are using your computer and when you are connected to the internet.  Here are some resources that might give you some ideas on how to stay secure on your computer and electronic devices, as well as on Evernote:


Evernote privacy policy

Evernote’s Three Laws of Data Protection

Three simple tools for creating strong passwords

Resources for Safer Internet Day

Cell Phone Security

Android security

Iphone security

E-safety resources

Please see my other posts in this series, Evernote for the Social Studies:

Part 1: Evernote for the Social Studies: What is Evernote

Part 2: Evernote for the Social Studies: Evernote in the History Class

Part 3: Evernote for the Social Studies: Evernote and Skitch

Part 4: Evernote for the Social Studies: Lesson Planning with Evernote

Part 5: Evernote for the Social Studies: Evernote and Study Blue

Evernote for Educators Livebinder


Apply for the Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar Today

Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminars span a range of historical topics, from colonial times to the present. Led by eminent historians, Teacher Seminars are held at major educational and historical institutions and feature content that is intellectually rich and academically rigorous. This year, new coursework and assistance will help align seminar content with Common Core State Standards.

Submission deadline:  February 15, 2013 


I attended the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History on 9/11 and American Memory last summer. The seminar was absolutely amazing! We learned from experts  about how the United States and the world have dealt with tragedy and loss with events such as the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Vietnam, and 9/11. We worked with the amazing team of 9/11 memorial experts who are involved in the planning of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Fire Chief and 9/11 survivor Jay Jonas, and experts in the field of memory such as  the seminar leader David Blight.


Our seminar took a personal tour of the 9/11 museum that is NOT open to the public. Even though it is still under construction, we could instantly observe the beauty, sacredness, and careful planning involved in creating the museum.  I am so impressed with the planning and extensive collection the 9/11 historic site, website, and museum will offer to visitors and generations to honor the victims of September 11th, 2001. I would HIGHLY recommend any of the summer seminars but I particularly enjoyed the 9/11 American Memory session.


Getting in Bed with Gadgets

There’s no question that in recent years, regular smartphone, tablet, and other gadget users have developed a strong bond with their technology. More and more people find themselves riddled with separation anxiety if they leave their phone at home, or even if it’s in a different room. For many gadget users, a popular time to get really plugged in to technology is in the downtime right before bed—in fact, more and more people will say that they can’t sleep without spending time reading a tablet, browsing the web, or watching Netflix. But this particular time for gadget addiction, right before going to sleep, can be more harmful than helpful to good rest.


New studies show that not only are most people sleeping with their smartphones in the bed with them, they’re also struggling to sleep well, even if they don’t realize it. Not only does the light from your gadgets suppress sleep-inducing melatonin, there’s a good chance that you’ve been woken up by a call or text message in the middle of the night recently. In fact, many people say that if they happen to awake in the middle of the night, the natural reaction is to reach for their phone. The psychology behind why we feel so addicted to our gadgets is a field that is just now burgeoning, and for the future health of technology users everywhere, it’s probably worth looking into.

Badgets in Bed Infographic

This graphic and post are from

Nominate your Favorite Blog!

Nominate your favorite educational blog or social media website for the Edublog Awards. It is an annual event that is a nice way to recognize educators making a difference. You have until November 26th to make your nominations, and can learn about the process here.  The purpose of the Edublog awards is promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social mediaWorking together, Edublogs create an invaluable resource of the best-of-the-best on the web!

How Does It Work?

There are 3 parts to the awards:

  1. Nominations – NOW through November 26th
  2. Voting – TBA
  3. The Live Awards Ceremony – TBA

How To Nominate

To nominate your favorites, we’re following the same approach as the last four years, namely asking you to:

  • Write a post with your nominations for the different categories on your own blog (or a website – anywhere public)
  •  Send us the link to your nomination post via the form at the bottom of the Nominations Page

Here are the categories in full – nominations are open from now until Monday, November 26th!

So go nominate your favorite blogs, twitterers, community sites, videos, podcasts and more… for 2012:

  • Best individual blog
  • Best group blog
  • Best new blog
  • Best class blog
  • Best student blog
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog
  • Best teacher blog
  • Best library / librarian blog
  • Best administrator blog
  • Most influential blog post
  • Best individual tweeter
  • Best twitter hashtag
  • Best free web tool
  • Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast
  • Best educational wiki
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series
  • Best educational use of a social network
  • Best mobile app
  • Lifetime achievement


Citation from Edublogs Open Nominations 

Obama re-elected, promises improvement in education reform. What’s next?

Guest Post written by Jillian Terry, who is a retired teacher and freelance writer who likes to help students improve their reading and writing skills. Jillian also actively contributes to a blog on If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to Jillian.

As the polls closed at 7 p.m. on Election Day, voters across the country began waiting in eager anticipation to learn the results of the Presidential Election. After hours and hours of waiting, around 10 p.m., it was announced that the majority of the Electoral College had chosen President Barak Obama over Governor Mitt Romney to lead the country for the next four years.

The Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago erupted in cheers and excitement as the newly re-elected president took to the stage to make a poignant victory speech. As expected, the President took some time to draw attention to the need for improved education policies across the nation. During his speech, Obama promised to expand “access to the best schools and best teachers” for the next four years.

This type of rhetoric is not foreign for President Obama. Time and time again, Obama has turned his and the nation’s attention to the need for education reform. For instance, during the final debate with Governor Romney, which was centered on foreign policy, Obama talked in detail about the Race to the Top program – an education grant that has incentivized the majority of states to implement education reforms. The President also alluded to the need to invest in all schools – ranging from preschool to university education.

Obama’s first term was focused on growing the accountability of schools so students could thrive and grow. During those four years, Obama attempted to pass a revised version of the Federal Education Act as well as a bill that would have significantly reduced teacher layoffs. Both acts were subsequently blocked by the Republican Congress majority. Furthermore, according to the National Education Association, the president also fought to keep class sizes small, protect more than 400,000 education jobs, and double investments in scholarships and financial aid programs. Enough with the first four years though; how will the Obama administration work to reform education the next four years?

“It’s clear the Obama administration will continue to make education a priority,” Jeffrey Henig, a political scientist at Columbia University told the Huffington Post. “It’s been a winner issue for them, even though teachers unions and some elements of the parent community are unhappy about some aspects.” Karen White, political director of the National Education Association – who was also quoted in the article – told the Huffington Post she believes Obama will focus his efforts on education affordability during this next term.

There are a myriad of agenda items Obama has said he wants to address while he is in office, but here are few of the major ones:

1. Tuition costs are rising, but President Obama wants to cut the cost of tuition in half by heavily investing in Pell grants, student debt management programs, education tax credits, and low-interest student loans.

2. Equality is always a controversial topic in education. Obama has said he wants to address the major ethnic disparities and education gaps amongst K-12 schools, colleges, and universities over the next four years.

3. Recognizing the importance of parental involvement in schools, Obama plans to further involve parents in the education process by providing $270 million for new parent-student education programs and activities

4. Back in his first term, Obama proposed a $30 billion bill to innovate and modernize schools throughout the United States. These improvements included new equipment, new textbooks, and numerous other upgrades. Those improvements are expected to continue throughout Obama’s next term.

5. Most importantly, Obama plans to revise the No Child Left Behind law. The changes Obama has initiated thus far have helped do away with the punishment aspects of the law and focus instead on celebrating growth and improvement in schools.

Other items to expect Obama to address in his next term include creating more substantial, long-term jobs for graduating college students; supporting job training initiatives for college graduates; and substantially growing the number of college graduates.

Obama struggled to negotiate, reason, and work with a Republican Congress during his first term, but perhaps the next four years will be different now that Obama has secured another four years. Will the president make significant enough progress in education reform so the U.S. can catch up with nations like South Korea, Finland, New Zealand, and Belgium when it comes to test scores and student performance? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.


Jillian Terry is a retired teacher and freelance writer who likes to help students improve their reading and writing skills. Jillian also actively contributes to a blog on If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to Jillian.

My Presentation at NCSS 2012 in Seattle

I presented at the National Social Studies Conference in Seattle, Washington on November 16th, 2012. What an amazing experience! I love sharing ideas and resources with other teachers. My room was packed with about 20 people standing in the back. My mom who was in the back of the room said people kept trying to come in but there was no room. I made a webpage on my blog with all the resources I used today so please click on the Mobile Devices tab. Here is the video of my presentation or see below.


  • National Council for the Social Studies Presentation: Handout
  • National Council for the Social Studies Presentation 
  • Mobile Device Expectations in my Classroom: Handout
  • Introduction to Technology in my Classroom: Handout 
  • Like I mentioned in the session I said I would post this QR code lesson.
  • Here is also a previous blog post about Breaking the Ban.


Here are the comments from my session using Socrative as a review assessment: 



Use Smartseat to enhance your classroom

I have been using the app Smart Seat  for almost a year now. It is one of the best applications to keep track of student attendance, randomly choose students, and change assigned seating. Smart Seat is an app that provides teachers with so many features such as: changing the classroom layout, taking attendance, choosing student’s for class participation, making notes about students, and learning students names. As a teacher you can move students randomly or you can place students in particular seats. You can also generate a print-out seating chart with photos for your substitute. You can take attendance with the tap of a button using the absent, tardy, or excused feature. Classroom management and organization will never be the same with this app!

Instill Student Ownership and Accountability with Class Participation

Ever since I have started teaching I have tried to instill student ownership and accountability on every student. Every teacher grades classroom participation a little differently. I take pride in that I am sometimes the exception, my students grade  their OWN classroom participation with a specific rubric I designed. They evaluate and justify “why they deserve that grade?” I always joke with them when I say I have the final veto and override power over their participation grade (I’m a history teacher so they always laugh at that joke).


I find they are more critical of themselves when ranking their participation then I would have been. Sometimes I need to increase or decrease a student’s grade on the rubric if I think their participation is different than how they graded themselves. A wonderful of colleague of mine suggested to have a meeting with any student whose grade is lower than their evaluation. That way they can see how I evaluated and encouraged improvement with their classroom participation.


Another strength of the this method of evaluation is how they justify their grade with the why section of the rubric. That way it gives them a chance to reflect on their behavior, attitude, preparedness, and accountability. 90% of the time they write how they can improve their class participation. Through this method of evaluation my students are reflecting on their behavior but more importantly suggesting ways they can improve themselves. Don’t we want our students to be reflective lifelong learners?

Please vote for my class

I entered my class in the My Big Campus Amazing Things Contest. Can you please vote for my class? My entry is called “Give Every Student a Voice.” You can vote by clicking “vote,” tweeting, or liking it on facebook.


Vote by clicking here


Predict the Electoral College Assignment

This year I did a really interesting assignment but unfortunately I can only do it every four years. I figured I would share it with you. My senior government classes have been researching the election, the candidates, and the election process. I thought of an interesting assignment where they would have to predict what states would go Republican and which states would go Democratic (see map below). The day before the general election they predicted the exact vote count of the electoral college.  I had two students exactly predict the count (if Florida goes Democratic). Why is Florida always in question?


Two other teachers helped run a mock election at our school through the Youth Leadership Initiative. A little over half our student population at the high school voted on the ipads, which was actually a good turn out comparing we only had one day to vote because of Hurricane Sandy. Our students elected Barack Obama with a larger majority than the general election.


Encourage full class participation with “chalk talk”

Last week I was introduced to the idea of “chalk talk” from a fabulous co-worker of mine.  What is chalk talk? Chalk talk is a silent way to generate ideas, solve a problem, or reflect on your learning. Student’s remain silent and they can comment on other student’s writing  generate their own ideas, or contribute to the class with a marker or a piece of chalk. You can even make it digital with a wallwisher.


My First Chalk Talk

After my class had a successful socratic seminar, I decided to put a prompt on the board (see image below) and I gave white board markers to my students. They had to go up to the board and write a statement, a reflection, a comment,  or a question. When a student was done writing they gave their marker to another student who did not reflect on the board. By the end of class we had a semi-organized interesting collection related to essencial question about political culture and politicians  My students liked the quiet generated by the class and they liked that they could to reflect on what other students were writing. I was especially moved by their ability to make connections to concepts learned from previous units or current events.  I have to say I was impressed chalk talk and my students said they liked how it made everyone participate silently!

How can you use Chalk Talk in a Lesson about Hurricane Sandy?

I am going to do another Chalk Talk on Monday, our first day back after the Hurricane to reflect about the government’s relief effort.  I think it will be an interesting way to connect the government’s response to my government course. I think I am going to make my question: “Does the government have a responsibility to get involved after a natural disaster such as a hurricane?”


For more information about Chalk Talk visit the Education Alliance from Brown University.