Current Events as Interactive Guides

From the E coli outbreak in Europe to the US presidential election 2012- Guardian News and Media takes the top current events from around the world and makes them into interactive colorful graphics complete with images, information, and links.

I particularly like the US Presidential Election, which comes with graphics and information on all the potential candidates.

The website says “No clear Republican challenger to Barack Obama has emerged for the presidential election on 6 November 2012. Click on the faces to see who is standing and who else may join the contest. Use the menu (top right) to see who is a serious contender, who has stood before and who has Tea Party links.”

Flip Snack- Make PDF Files Flip

I am organizing some of my AP government readings  and uploading them to my website. Rather than uploading to word for my students to download, I am uploading them to an amazing program called FlipSnack. This program takes PDF files and makes them into easy to read and embeddable into any blog, wiki, or website.

According to the website, “FlipSnack is an online flipping book software that allows you to convert PDF documents into Flash page flip digital publications. It’s the ideal solution for those who wish to embed a book, magazine, catalog, newspaper, portfolio or any other kind of document into a website or blog. Once created, you can embed your flipping book collection, download them or share them on social networking websites such as Facebook.”

Jing it

I can’t not even begin to count the countless hours I have spent over the phone teaching my parents to use technology. I taught my parents to use Facebook, send an attachment, upload photos, and even create a Google doc spreadsheet for my father’s business. I have spent numerous hours explaining how to do each step over the phone walking them through each step. If only I knew Jing could solve all my problems and explained it in a matter of minutes :) rather than hours :(

Jing is a fast and easy way to capture images and create videos of what you see on your screen. Jing is free software you can use to make a narrated video (if you have a microphone) showing how to do something on a computer. It records your mouse, and everything you click on and show on your screen. Karen had been teaching lessons using a computer and LCD projector.

I am making tutorials explaining and demonstrating the different steps to make a documentary video in class. I will post the screen captured tutorials on a website for my students. After I have saved each video tutorial, I can add arrows or captions to the windows to highlight important features. This feature can allow you to personalize instructions for each student. The best part about Jing is that you can download this neat program off the internet for FREE.

For more information: What is Jing?

Vietnam Guest Speakers

Guest Speaker Richard Lorenz, said a “ a hero is someone who does something extraordinary.”  On Wednesday April 27th my classes at South Western High School had the privilege to have to local Heroes speak about the experiences in the Vietnam War.  William Fissel and Richard Lorenz presented to my 11th grade American History Classes.

One of the guest speakers was William Fissel, a South Western graduate, class of 1964.  He is a long time resident of Hanover whose children and grandchildren are proud Mustangs. He along with other SW classmates were drafted to fight in Vietnam in 1967. Mr. Fissel was part of the “Mekong Delta River Rats.” This was a joint venture with the Navy and the Army.  He provided critical aid and supplies to soldiers in the form of defense, c-rations, and military supplies.

The second guest speaker was Richard Lorenz, a grandfather of a current South Western junior.  Mr. Lorenz was on active duty in the USAF in October 1965 at the height of the build up in Vietnam.  He was selected to serve as an aircraft maintenance officer.  He was actively involved in two activities critical to the mission in Vietnam – the air rescue of downed pilots using a specially equipped C-130 and aerial delivery systems to deliver supplies to field army units.  His unit was apart of the “Blind Bat” mission.  This unit conducted night flare missions over the Ho Chi Minh trail over Laos and Cambodia in an effort to detect and stop North Vietnamese troops that were entering South Vietnam.

Both Mr. Fissel and Mr. Lorenz spoke about their phenomenal experiences of the trials and tribulations in the Vietnam. War.  Students learned about advanced Air Force technology, fighting during the war, and personal stories about local graduates killed in action, as well as the residual effects of the war that are still experienced today. Mrs. Seideman said “although we strive to provide the best instructional experiences we can for our students, we cannot replicate the experiences Mr. Fissel and Mr. Lorenz presented.”

There were many positive comments about the quality of their presentations. Junior Breanna Ruppert said, “I really appreciated the fact that you came and allowed us to learn from your first hand experiences instead of just learning from text books and etc.”  Junior Haley Brigs said, “It made the whole thing much more real and personal, seeing people who actually went through it and saw all we talked about. I think it’s terrible the ways some were treated when they came home, regardless of if us as Americans agree with war or not you did an incredible thing fighting over seas for us and for those you were told to help and protect.” Mr. Fissel and Mr. Lorenz are a true inspiration to all and their contributions are greatly appreciated! Thank you for serving our country and we are proud to call you a hero.

Is there Value in Direct Instruction?

I just received a PLC email from my old school about the value of direct instruction. “In our pursuit of research based teaching methods (aka “best practices”) , see this interesting article on the value of direct instruction. A brief Picture 2summary of the results of one study: We find that students score higher on standardized tests in the subject in which their teachers spent more time on lecture-style presentations than in the subject in which the teacher devoted more time to problem-solving activities… Another way to state the same finding is that students learn less in the classes in which their teachers spend more time on in-class problem solving.”

Ever since John Dewey explored hands-on learning at the University of Chicago Laboratory School more than a century ago, lecture-style presentations have been criticized as traditonal and outdated methods. The Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University found that students did better on asesssments if their teacher’s used lecture-style instruction. If you carefully read the results, the study explains progressive teaching methods might also be Picture 1beneficial if properly combined with lectures.

If you look at the graphics to the left, they show that teachers use a combination of different teaching methods. The results indicate that there might be an adverse impact on student learning. Today’s classrooms require a combination of mini lectures, collaboration, digital literacy, and problem based learning. See a previous post about project based learning called Doing History.

Check out the articles I referenced:

Education Evolution

Watch this short video made by a middle school class from Texas, taught by a friend of mine. We need evolution reform! Our current system, which may have worked 100 years ago, is outdated, and today’s children need a more interactive, more interesting, more collaborative learning environment. Help him spread the word.

Complete restructuring of a classroom, student class placement based on ability/interest, collaborative technology use and evaluation rather than multiple choice and worksheet? As blasphemous as the idea is to people, if kids find education more fun, they are more motivated, and thus they are more apt to learn.

Teaching Post 9/11

September 11, 2001 was a defining moment in American history. It is so interesting that many of the children who were 8, 9, or 10 years old when the World Trade Center towers fell and the Pentagon burned are now in college.  According to CNN news article, The 9/11 Generation’s Bogeyman is Gone, the 9/11 generation is made up of two subgroups, one who were in high school and college and the other who were in elementary school.

t1larg.huot.irptThis generation has grown up in a world very different from our parents generation. We are familiar with increased security, terrorist threats, and an increased awareness of the world. We have  grown up accustomed to long lines at the airport and terror alerts. Since 9/11 this younger generation has feared names like Sadam and Bin Laden.

I as well as my students were forever effected by 9/11/01. I remember exactly where I was when the WTC was attacked.  I was sitting in my US government class in high school. I remember the silence of  the halls. I remember my friends getting called out of class to go home because their family members were unaccounted.This new generation of students are used to filtered news; many watched live television reports of the attacks in their living rooms and classrooms. I remember the  overwhelming sense of pride and love for our nation. I wore red, white, and blue and felt an urgency to plant a tree in honor of the victims of 9/11. These feelings will never leave me.

As a teacher, I think it is so important to educate our students about 9/11 and the residual effects. I used the capture and death of Bin Laden to talk about 9/11 and the War on Terror. I use letters, personal stories, interviews, and newspapers from the day to honor and pay tribute to the men and women who defend our freedom.

For more information on teaching resources visit:

Week in Rap

I am always searching for new ways to get my students engaged in the world. I started using Week in Rap this year and have found it to be a useful and educational way to motivate my students and make them more aware of the news. My students seem to enjoy the rap and are more informed about the world. We usually watch the rap on Monday’s, discuss it, add other current events throughout the week, and they take a ten question quiz on Friday’s. Do you feel more informed about current events with the Week in Rap?

The Week in Rap is a weekly summary of news headlines in the form of a short rap video. The site was created by Flocabulary, and the songs and videos are written by Flocabulary artists.

Sexting: New Law Proposed

The state of Texas is considering a new law focused specifically on the issue of “sexting.” The Texas Attorney General says the goal of the new law is to educate students rather than make them criminals. Today, sexting is becoming a very serious issue with harsh consequences.

A new survey shows one in five teens admitted sending or posting suggestive images of themselves. Nearly four in ten teens admitted sending sexually suggestive messages. The proposed law would charge the teen with a misdemeanor, forcing a court appearance, and require parents to enroll in an educational program. Eventually, offenders could wipe the slate clean at 17 years old.

For more information visit: National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy