#sschat has made me a better teacher!

Unfortunately, teaching has the potential to be an isolated career in terms of collaboration and support. Before I discovered Twitter I felt alone with my teaching and was most certainly not as reflective. I feel extremely privileged to have discovered #sschat on Twitter. I love observing people’s reactions when I say I use Twitter for professional development. When I was interviewing for my job my husband and I sat down and carefully constructed how I was going to approach the way I introduce twitter as a PLC. I wish more preservice teachers knew about this wonderful asset.  Twitter has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to connect with dynamic educators from around the world and learn interesting ways to engage my students.


Twitter (#sschat) has truly become one of the most inspirational ways I have created my own profesional learning community. Every Monday night at 7 PM EST teachers from around the country log into their twitter accounts and follow the hashtag #sschat. Every week there is a new discussion prompt or topic. It’s pretty AMAZING to say that I connect with hundreds of AWESOME social studies teachers from around the country EVERY week… actually everyday.  Some people joke that #sschat is one massive department meeting, one in which I truly enjoy “going to.” Monday become my favorite day of the week, which is pretty rare for most educators.


In addition to the wonderful #sschat discussions and the #sschat Ning Website  has become an amazing resource! If I am teaching a lesson and need help I can post a question or a problem and I instantly get a response and resources from teachers who teach the same subject. My lonely job is no longer isolating but inspiring! I hope to “see you” Monday Night!

Video Introduction to  Twitter #sschat - http://www.screencast.com/t/GmZv1qmfrneH


Top 4 Apps for Students

Sorry busy week I just wanted to quickly share!

1. Dropbox to save files digitally without the need for a flash drive and storage back up Free link http://db.tt/KNyCU32

2. Evernote for notes http://evernote.com/

3. My Homework- Puts all your homework in one place and it’s $2 a year! https://myhomeworkapp.com/

4. Cam Scanner- makes any paper file —- digital http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/camscanner-free/id388627783?mt=8

Timeline Eons App: A graphic representation of history

Timeline Eons is a graphic representation of the entire natural and human history. The app features an extensive and wide range of topics from Big Bang theories and evolution to historical events. The events are easily displayed and reveal interesting information about historical events. It also has a fun facts section that encourages students to expand their own learning. I really like that is has a today in history feature. Check it out today!

Cellphones in School: Contraband or 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 Time Magazine, “even though the vast majority of students own cell phones–something like 80% by eighth grade–more than half of schools prohibit the use of any mobile device.”


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 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% of them had a smart device.  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 Cel.ly 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.


50 Creative Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom

Skype is a free and easy way for teachers to open up their classroom. Meet new people, talk to experts, share ideas and create amazing learning experiences with teachers from around the world. Skype 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.


I recently stumbled upon the article on 50 Creative Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom. She lists some interesting ways to use Skype in the Classroom and useful links on how to implement the ideas. I couldn’t agree more that Skype is a “phenomenal classroom tool.” I highly suggest reading her article find out how you can put this cool tool to work in your classroom!


Thank You: 40,000+ Views!

I know 40,000+ may not sound like a lot of views compared to other bloggers, but for me that number is tremendous. I got excited the first time it broke 1,000 and now I am averaging that in three days. My hope is that it continues to grow and improve our practice.


I started this blog when I got frustrated when I would share ideas with other teachers and it seemed like no one had time to listen or implement them. I was once asked by a former principal to “change the name of the blog, because it was insulting to other history teachers in my department (which means someone complained).” That blew my mind and you can actually tell when that event occurred because  I stopped blogging for almost two months. When I created the name I was never trying to insult any teacher but i thought it was a clever. I NEVER changed the name because I thought it showed that I am a different kind of teacher that’s willing to push the envelop. That was the only time I rebelled against an administrator (to this date).


I started this blog as a professional outlet to share my ideas and reflect on my teaching practice. My goal is that my blog can provide teachers with resources that can excite a student’s love of learning. I have met some amazing educators, fellow bloggers, and people I now call friends due to my blog.   I am now MORE excited to attend conferences because I am no longer just improving my own practice but helping to share resources and ideas with other teachers.  Thanks for following my blog and here’s to another 40,000+ views!

History for Music Lovers: World History Pop Music

I learned about History for Music Lovers by @magisterWarren. History for Music Lovers was created by  Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona. The videos on Amy and Herb’s YouTube channel – historyteachers – have been uploaded over 3.5 million times. They created the videos with the the purpose of making their curriculum fun, engaging, and educational for their students. They have around 50 plus music videos on world history topics. The videos are educational and they are catchy. The learning process becomes an enriching experience when you combine their passion for history and music.

Here’s a sample music video on the French Revolution:

They were recently featured on TEDx. Here is their TEDx project ”What I learned from Napoleon and MTV?”


Who are Herb and Amy?

Amy is a 19 year Humanities teacher and is a a leader in educational technology. Her work in the History for Music Lovers project has appeared in Wired magazine, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, CBC, NPR, international blogs and media. Herb has been a classroom educator for twenty years. He is a composer, arranger, musician, web designer, and filmmaker.


Resources Share from Pete Laberge

  • Here is Amy Burvall’s Own Official Web Page (c/w Biography, etc.): http://www.amyburvall.com/#!
  • This is Amy Burvasll’s WIX site: http://amyburvall.wix.com/events#!home/mainPage
  • Here is Amy Burvall’s Tumblr Log: http://amyburvall.tumblr.com/
  • Here is Amy Burvall’s Twitter Feed: https://twitter.com/#!/amyburvall
  • Here is Amy and Herb’s HistoryTeacherz Twitter Feed: https://twitter.com/#!/historyteacherz
  • Here is their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/historyteacherz
  • Official TEDX Hawaii, Nov 2011
  • Ignite Honolulu 4 (Aug 2012) : “PARODY-SO: The Unexpected Lessons of a History Teacher Turned Edulebrity”
  • The Creativity Salon Interview (With the late great Neil Tepper)  Ignore the first 1.5 mins, as it is some sort of commercial
  • Here is one young lady who was inspired by them to make her own videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/sarahjoygordonpdx She sings some really cool history parodies.
  • Another good history link (Hip Hughes, Buffalo, NY), not related to the history teachers), is here: Very good USA history, and Civics videos. And animated lecturer, who also does some world history stuff. Hip Hughes Tweets at: @hiphughes
  • Here is a good math/science link (Mr.Edmonds), not related, either)
  • Then, there is Dan Rojas at Green Power Science on YouTube (Kids, do not try this stuff at home, ok!)



Create an Infographic for your Classroom!

I learned about infographics from Twitter’s #sschat. Before Monday I had no clue how to make an infographic. Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. Here is more information: What is an info-graphic?

Easel.ly is one of the simplest websites to design an infographic for your classroom, a lesson, for a school poster, and the ideas can go on and on. Easel.ly is ”easy to use,” free, and within a matter of minutes you can make an infographic, unless you are a perfectionist like me, in that case it will take you a few hours.

Once you create an account you select a theme, select objectives and shapes, design the layout, add text, and you can create an infographic is a short amount of time. Easel.ly is not the only website that allows users to create infographics, another is  visual.ly, which seems to have a fewer resources. I seemed to prefer Easel.ly.

According to Jamie Forshey author of Edutech for Teachers blog, Infographics can be used as a “visual to show students and educators the way that technology is projected to continue shaping our lives, world—and education! What a great way to motivate, encourage, persuade and guide students in post-secondary career planning! It’s also an excellent visual for stressing the importance of exposing students to relevant, real-world tech tools in the classroom setting.”

Here is a sample infographic I made for my classroom. I brought it to staples to enlarge it or you can use the Block Posters web tool to create your poster. I also embedded it on my blog.


Use Splashtop to Remotely Access Any of Your Files Anywhere

I discovered Splashtop from @mraabbe on twitter. Splashtop is an amazing program that true makes a teachers life easier and helps you deliever the “best-in-class remote desktop experience.”  Splashtop is a remote desktop service. It allows you to remote control your Windows or Mac computer from a mobile device, either via local WiFi or over the Internet.

Imagine the possibilities of using your ipad to control your computer.  I am now able to edit/play my powerpoint and play a flash video. It is truly the easiest way to access all of your content from ANY device ANYWHERE!  New York Times called it “both a breakthrough and a bargain.”


Splashtop has won the prestigious “Most Innovative Product” award from PC World, the “Best of What’s New” award from Popular Science and the ”Best of 2012 CES” award from LAPTOP Magazine.


  • view and edit files remotely (no transfer or sync)
  • use your favorite Mac or Windows programs
  • watch videos at up to 30 frames per second
  • stream music collection from another computer
  • give presentations with full audio and video to engage your audience
  • play graphic intensive games and more!


What do you have to install?

All you have to do is install FREEstreamer on your desktop or laptop computer and then download the app from the Google Play or App Store. The app costed $4.99 but it is SOOO worth the money if you want to teach while walking around the room and harness the power of your computer from your mobile device. It is quick and easy- just log in and connect your computer.




Take a 360 Panorama Image

Have you ever wondered how you can bring parents into the classroom and make them feel as if they are truly apart of the class? I discovered 360 Panorama at Edcamp Hudson Valley.  With 360 Panorama you can capture a panorama image of your classroom. Ways you can use this app: you can take a picture of your classroom to show prospective students or parents, you can use it demonstrating any class activity, demo, or lab. The ideas are endless!


It is so simple to use, with either an Android or an iOS device you can take pictures of your locations from multiple angles. You can see the panorama image being built in realtime as every picture is being added. When you’re done, you can save your panorama or share it using any social media website.  Here’s a sample 360 image. View your panoramas as photos or experience them in immersive 360 View. There is nothing else like it!


Use iMotion to display movement with images

I love watching Planet Earth and always wondered how the director showed the images and videos in slow or fast motion. Yesterday at EdCamp Hudson Valley, I discovered a basic editing software that can allow you to edit and make images move using time-lapse software. The iPad app is called iMotion, which is a powerful time-lapse software that allows images or videos to move. It is very simple to use all you have to do is take pictures, edit your movie, and export it directly to youtube or play in on the iPad. It is a technique that displays movement. I could see a science teacher or elementary teacher using this app to demonstrate the life cycle or weather patterns to students. Not sure how I could use it in the social studies classroom, but it seems too cool to not share. Check it out today.


Here is a sample Video:



Multitask on the iPad with Side by Side

I discovered Side by Side at the Edcamp Hudson Valley Conference. Side by side is an interesting app that allows you to split screen on the iPad. For example while you are reading a website or a PDF, you may need a notepad, email, or facebook at the same time. Rather than flip between two screens you can just organize your ipad using Side by Side. You can also open two similar documents side by side to read and compare. When you want to focus on one side, you still can cover the full iPad screen with one of the panels. It is simple to use check it out today!




IWitness: Personal Holocaust Video Testimonials

I learned about iWitness from @ghkcole from #sschat. IWitness is a website for teachers and students that has over 1,000 Holocaust video testimonials of survivors and witnesses. This collection is just a small part of the collection maintained by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute, established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg.


This is a wonderful resource for schools teaching about the Holocaust. According to iWitness, “Students have the opportunity to use technology to become more active learners while encountering survivors and other eyewitnesses talking about their experiences before, during and after the Holocaust. This application empowers them to participate in their own learning by providing them with the tools to think critically, investigate, develop projects, analyze, and collaborate with others.”  I plan on having my students go to the website and do a personal history search a couple nights before I teach about the Holocaust. Students will then come in to discuss, share, and reflect on what they learned about the Holocaust.  You can watch a short video demonstration of IWitness here.




Flocabulary: Much More than Just a Song!

I am always amazed when I talk with social studies teachers who have never heard of Flocabulary. Flocabulary creates hip-hop music and materials to supplement your curriculum. The first time I ever played a US history Flocabulary song my college roommate came in dancing…. little did she know it was about “who discovered it” related to Christopher Columbus. I use everyone of the US history songs as a unit preview. I actually made a powerpoint of images and typed the lyrics to go along with the Flocabulary songs. Through the rap songs we discuss key vocabulary and concepts we will learn with the upcoming unit. Even though Flocabulary is no longer free, it is well worth the money to subscribe to its wonderful features!


Another reason I love to use Flocabulary in the classroom is the Week in Rap. Every week on Friday mornings, Flocabulary puts together the week’s biggest or most interesting current event stories into a rap music video. The week in rap discusses the hottest topics of the week, such as the Travon Martin case, the oil spill, crisis in Syria to name a few. My 8th grade students in White Plains, NY loved the Week in Rap. They actually asked to watch it every week. I was even surprised that after spring break, they asked if they could watch it from the week before!


The best part about the week in rap is not just the music, even though it is good, they love discussing the current events. Yes, you read that right! They love discussing the current events. After I play the week in rap, I ask them if there is anything they want to discuss. Around 18  hands in my classroom instantaneously shoot up. I am often not leading the discussion, but facilitating it. Students respond by saying “oh I heard that on the news,” “my mom was talking about that” “I heard….” The discussions that come from the 3 minute Week in Rap is one of the reasons I became a teacher.


Another awesome feature of the Week in Rap, is that they make the past 18 years in rap for recent high school grads. I always show it at the end of the year, but I also show it at the beginning of the year and introduce the concept: what is history? My students are always impressed with how much history they lived through after watching the past 18 years in rap. It is a great beginning of the school year activity to start the discussion what is history and how we are apart of it.

The Last 18 Years In Rap from Flocabulary on Vimeo.



Flow of History: Reading and Flow Charts

I learned about the Flow of History Website from @shawnmccusker. The 243 readings and flow charts organized by time period and subject, which makes it easy to navigate. Each flow chart provides a one-page overview of a historical topic with a hyper- to the people, events, and forces that affected different periods in history.


The Flow of History can be a quick reference tool for specific historical topics, the starting point for deeper research, or integrated to enhance any curriculum.  According to Shawn the Flow of History is a “great site with helpful flowcharts that connect ideas in History.  Great for breaking free from the textbook.”  You can even get the iPad app.