Monday, December 13, 2010

Life Lessons from Paul Revere

My freshman honors students complete a long-term research project during the second semester that approaches history from two directions. First, they are providing a bit of biography of a key figure from the American Revolution. Second, they have to demonstrate an understanding of the themes of the revolution as a whole by explaining how that one person affected the direction of events. The result of the project is a 10 minute documentary complete with images, music, and student narration.

After reading David Hackett Fischer's Paul Revere's Ride, I confirmed that Paul Revere should definitely remain on the list of historical figures that students may choose for the project. The trick for the students who chose him last year was to sort out the mythology from the scholarly historical evidence. David Hackett Fischer’s book is definitely a source I will lend to the student(s) who select Revere this spring. He articulates the truth about Revere with eloquence and evidence, something we are striving for our students to accomplish.

Some of the characteristics of Revere that students should understand, in context of the impact an individual can have on the course of historical events, are:


  • Paul Revere relied on others in order to accomplish his goals. He was not a lone rider single-handedly saving New England from the dastardly Regulars.

  • Paul Revere was not a man of privilege, nor was he impoverished. He worked for what he had and stood firmly on his morals, even if it meant sacrifice. Few lessons from the media our students are exposed to are focused around this philosophy of life. Revere is an example of real-life success as a result of strong ethics alongside a strong work ethic.

  • Paul Revere did not ask for his leadership role. He gradually took on responsibilities and was trusted by the leaders of the movement because he proved himself trustworthy.

  • Paul Revere knew when to speak and when to listen. He never made any quick calls to action in the weeks leading up to Lexington and Concord. Although rumors flew about when Gage’s men were going to march and where they were going, Revere kept a cool head and listened to all the information before making a call to sound alarms. In a second example, although he remained defiant during his brief captivity on that fateful night, he always addressed his captors with respect and never pushed them hard enough to earn execution. His good judgment during a time of such tension, when New England was a powder keg ready to explode, is a quality to be admired.

  • Paul Revere pushed through exhaustion in order to accomplish something that really matters. Even after his long ride had ended, he continued to work toward the Patriot cause. While his fellow rider gave up and went home when faced with opposition and obstacles, Revere remained in Lexington to hide Hancock’s trunk and continued to work through the night.

While these are historical lessons, they are also life lessons. In order to have a positive impact on history, we and our students need to strive for these characteristics and values. I do not mean to imply that Revere was not flawed at all. He was human and he certainly made mistakes. But when all is weighed and measured, he did more right than wrong in helping to organize and struggle toward to goals of the Whig cause.

Please Note: This reflection was completed as part of the author's participation in the History Connected program. Please see the History Connected Wiki or the History Connected Official Website for information on the federal grant that provided the opportunity.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lexington & Concord: Blood Spilled Between Brothers/Enemies

The Revolutionary War was a bloody conflict between men who had once been loyal to the same government. Over time, they had grown apart until it seemed as if they were not even speaking the same language. The truth is that they did speak the same language. But while they used the same words, those words started to have different meanings to the men and women on either side of the wide Atlantic Ocean.

If I were to teach based on passages from Robert A. Gross's The Minutemen and Their World, I might choose the following passages and propose prompts that required the following analysis:

The search-and-destroy operation was largely conducted with restraint – perhaps because British officers, appalled by the break-down of discipline and by the bloodshed at Lexington common, were determined to avoid further incidents. In the town center an officer demanded admission to Timothy Wheeler’s storehouse, where numerous casks of provincial flour lay. Wheeler readily let them in. Playing the ever-cooperative country bumpkin, Wheeler put his hands on one of his own barrels and explained, “This is my flour, I am a miller, Sir. Yonder stands my mill. I get my living by it… this… is my flour; this is my wheat; this is my rye; this is mine.” “Well,” he was told, “we do not injure private property.” Many Regulars were equally conscientious when they entered private homes. Famished after their long night’s march, they asked for refreshments and generally insisted on paying their hosts. Colonel Barrett’s wife, Rebecca, at first refused compensation: “We are commanded to feed our enemies.” But when the British officers threw money into her lap, she sourly accepted it. “This is the price of blood,” she said. (pg 121)

This demonstrates a tense camaraderie between the British and Americans. They came from societies with similar traditions, rituals, ethics, and even values. Although they felt as if their values had drifted farther and farther apart by the time the encounter in Concord occurred. Two examples from this excerpt are striking to me. Wheeler, the miller, demonstrates a keen knowledge of the value of private property to Americans and British citizens alike. He knew that his clear expression of ownership through work would be meaningful to the soldiers who had entered his place of business. If the British and Americans did not both hold private property dear, his polite but firm statement might not have been received so cordially. Rebecca Barrett serves “the enemy” in her home and initially refuses compensation. While Americans and British felt worlds apart, they were all Christians who subscribed to Christian values such as “feed our enemies.”

At the same time, there were clear differences between the values of the British and Americans, as demonstrated in this next excerpt.

The fighting grew fiercer and bloodier after the Redcoats left Concord. This was war as provincial Indian fighters had long known it: every man for himself. To the British accustomed to open field fighting, it was the action of “rascals” and “concealed villains,” as one put it, “making the cowardly disposition… to murder us all.” (pg 129)

While the British Redcoats viewed the Americans’ tactics as cowardly and villainous, the Americans had only been trained that way due to their fighting and sacrifice, in the name of the British Crown, in the French and Indian War in the two decades prior. Good solid fighting from a few years earlier constituted murderous acts as the British retreated from Concord.

There are more passages from the book that could certainly be used in the analysis, but in the interest of integrating primary sources as well, students should be directed to two broadsides available online:

Students can note the use of the black coffins as an image of death and murder. The same image was used in newspapers and other published accounts after the Boston Massacre as a way of inflaming American sentiment against the British. Also, the use of words like “bloody” and “runaway fight” seem to cast the Regulars as villains and the Minutemen as horoes.

The reader must acknowledge the use of the word “circumstantial” insinuates that this particular account of the events at Lexington and Concord is the most accurate and truthful. Also, the fact that the author chose to call it an “Attack… on his Majesty’s Troops” presumes that the British Regulars were the cause of the conflict. In fact, the title goes on to specifically blame “a Number of the People of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.”

Taken together, both scholarly and primary accounts indicate the two following conclusions about the people involved in the incidents at Lexington and Concord:

  • They were Christians who subscribed to essential values such as charity and generosity, and the importance of work ethic and earned property.
  • As the British and Americans economies and social structure developed through the 17th and 18th Centuries, they understood each other less and less.

Bibliography

Gross, Robert A. The Minutemen and Their World (American Century). New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.
“Bloody Butchery, by the British Troops: or, The Runaway Fight of the Regulars” (1775). TeachUsUSHistory.org: The American Revolution. http://www.teachushistory.org/Revolution/ps-bloody.htm (Accessed November 16, 2010).
“A Circumstantial Account of an Attack that Happened on the 19th of April 1775, on His Majesty’s Troops” (1775), TeachUsUSHistory.org: The American Revolution. http://www.teachushistory.org/Revolution/ps-account.htm (Accessed November 16, 2010).

Please Note: This reflection was completed as part of the author's participation in the History Connected program. Please see the History Connected Wiki or the History Connected Official Website for information on the federal grant that provided the opportunity.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wordle One-Upped: I Tagxedo-ed My Blog

Upon the suggestion of a friend and colleague who commented on a previous post, I went beyond Wordle and "Tagxedo-ed" my blog!


Thanks Danja (a.k.a. @MagistraM on Twitter or read her blog, Magistra's Musings)



I like the newest large word: LEARNING! Now that one makes me happy.

What makes Tagxedo better than Wordle?

  1. You can decide design the word cloud color scheme, word font, cloud shape, file size, and more!
  2. You don't have to create an account and you can add a bunch of words or put in the URL of a blog or website.
  3. There is a cool part of the website called "101" that has 101 ways to use Tagxedo. I can think of at least 20 off the top of my head, but even if you aren't a teacher it is a great tool!

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Wordled my Blog!

Wordle is an easy-to-use tool that can help teachers and students analyze primary source documents, poems, blogs, or anything else that contains text. I have used it with my students before, but a video blog that Howie DiBlasi tweeted this morning reminded me to check it out again.

This is how Wordle works:
Once you enter the text, Wordle creates a word cloud that makes the words used most often appear more prominently. I thought I would Wordle this blog, to see if I am truly addressing the topics I set out to address when I started it: history, politics, and technology in the high school classroom.

I have to admit that I was pretty happy with the results:

Wordle: KerryHawk02's Thoughs on Education 11-4-10
Click here for a larger view.

The Results that Made Me Happy
  • students: The fact that "students" is the largest word means that I use that word the most. It also means that it seems to be the primary focus of most of my posts. This thrilled me because it means that I truly have followed through on my goal of putting students first and considering how my use of technology and methods of teaching history and politics will affect them and their learning.
  • content: I use this word often when discussing the history that I teach day in and day out in the classroom. So the relatively large size of the word pleased me because it means I spend a decent amount of time considering history as well.
  • questions & think: These two words help define the purpose of my blog. I hope to consider my students' questions and ask my own questions through my writing. Publishing these questions to the world helps me further define these questions and maybe come to some answers. I wouldn't be able to do it without all of your comments, so thank YOU to my readers!
  • technology & tool(s): These two words are also relatively large, but not as large as I would have thought. Upon further consideration, I think this might actually be a good thing. After all, when teaching with technology, it isn't about the tools themselves. Rather, the emphasis should be on how the tools and technology help the students learn.

The Results that Surprised Me

  • names: There are several names of presenters and education technology leaders who I have had the opportunity to meet at conferences recently and have subsequently written about in my blog. I hope Darren Kuropatwa and Brad Ovenell-Carter know how much their ideas have inspired me and my teaching!
  • get & use: I was surprised that these words were so large. Obviously it indicates that I utilize them often. Was I talking about "getting" and "using" information, online applications, or just getting tired? I'll have to go back and do more reading.
  • political language: It surprised me that words like "Democrats", "Republicans", "Conservatives", and "Liberals" were so small. I hope to spend more time posting about elections, voters, and politics over the coming weeks and months.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Great Questions

Teachers often complain that students are only driven by physical needs and their shallow desire to bring their GPA to the highest number possible. We want our students to have their physical needs met before they enter our classroom, so they are ready to embark on the 1 hour adventure we have planned for them. We want our students to be excited to learn the content, because we are passionate about teaching it. As a result, we sometimes tire of calling on a student who has raised his/her hand only to hear questions like:
  • Can I go to the bathroom?
  • Can I get a drink?
  • Does this count?
  • How much is this worth?
  • I left my binder/homework/book/calculator/sweatshirt/fill-in-appropriate-item-here in my locker. Can I go get it?
  • I was out yesterday. Did I miss anything?
In an effort to lift my own spirits and remind myself of the natural curiosity my students have, I decided to sit down and write some of the great questions I have heard lately. Here are some examples of great questions my students have asked me recently:
  • What is the difference between raw materials and natural resources?
  • I know we are studying the Commercial Revolution, but I have heard that we are in the Information Revolution. When do you think that started, Mrs. Gallagher?
  • Why were the Africans willing to sell their own people to the slave traders?
  • Why do they call it [the journey of slaves on crowded ships from Africa across the Atlantic Ociean to the Americas] the Middle Passage?
  • If slaves outnumbered their owners, why didn't they just kill all the owners?
  • What is it like to get typhus or smallpox? How come we don't hear about people getting those anymore?
  • Are the Liberals and Conservatives from the 1800s like Liberals and Conservatives today?
  • Are arches considered neo-classical or gothic architecture?
  • How is it possible to get the most votes but not the majority?

These are just the questions I thought of in the 10 or 15 minutes I took out of my preparation period today to type up this post. I'm sure the rest of you have many more examples from your own classes. What great questions have your students asked you lately?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Restoring Sanity... in the Public School Classroom

I have been reading some of the bloggers' reactions to John Stewart's rally in Washington D.C. this past weekend. Stewart always adds quite a bit of humor to his liberal-leaning presentation of the news. He was joined at the rally by his dubious conservative counterpart on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert.

Here is a short clip of the opening festivities:


While the introduction is comical, it is delivered with intelligence and sharpness that have made Stewart a success. This is exactly what young Americans who are still interested in politics, despite the anger and mediocrity with which the talking heads deliver it to us on network news, are searching for. Despite the stereotyping, young Americans do not require everything to be entertaining (well, maybe some of them do). The larger point is that the political parties that run the elections and government have become farther and farther apart, leaving most young Americans standing in the middle trying to decide between two somewhat ridiculous options:
  • The Republicans would have us believe that we should be angry, really furious, about the economy, high unemployment and taxes. According to the Republicans we should blame our situation on the Obama Administration and the Democrats. Therefore, we must vote for a republican candidate in the midterm elections tomorrow.
  • The Democrats would have us believe that every problem that exists in the United States of America can be blamed on the Bush Administration and the Republicans. Since, according to the Democrats, their actions from 2000-2008 are the root of all evil, we must vote for only democratic candidates tomorrow.

What about the rest of us?

What do the voters think... I mean on their OWN, not based on what the parties tell them to think through unending mailings, emails, and campaign tv and radio advertisments?

What about FUTURE voters?

Tomorrow, I plan to ask my students

  • What they think about how the campaigns in our state have played out?
  • What campaign ads do they think help voters decide? Which don't help at all? We might even watch a few on YouTube.
  • What messages are candidates sending? What messages should they be sending?
  • If they could vote, who would they vote for governor? or for congressman?
  • How should voters make their decisions before checking a box or filling in a bubble inside a voting booth?

Those of you who are reading this and are parents or teachers or just citizens who know teenagers, I beg you to have a similar discussion. They are future voters. They see all the same media that we do. They need to tools to filter all of it and then make an educated decision based on how THEY think and feel, not based on how the media TELLS THEM to think and feel.

Friday, October 29, 2010

MassCUE = My Cue for a Fresh Start

I have to admit that I have neglected my blog in recent months. My excuses are typical: I got caught up in having summer fun with my toddler, I was busy with beginning of school year planning, and the autumn seemed to get away from me. I can't believe it is almost over.

So I have to thank MassCUE and the TGL2 Conference for inspiring me to make a fresh start.

Now that I have had the opporunity and honor to attend 3 educational technology conferences and present at 2 within the past 6 months, I have some reflections.



  • Presenter & Attendee: I learn just as much as a presenter as I do as an attendee at ed-tech conferences. (But being a presenter makes the whole event a bit more stressful.) You can check out my presentation if you click here. I will post more about it soon!


  • Idea Versus Reality: I leave conferences with a lot of energy and ideas. I use some of them right away and they stick with me. Other ideas, especially those that involve my desire to get more of my colleagues excited about how Web 2.0 can enhance their students' learning, tend to fizzle. It isn't that I don't have high hopes for these changes in our schools, I just wish that they could happen faster.


  • How Lucky Am I?: Interacting with teachers from other districts reminds me of how incredibly lucky I am to work in a place that makes 21st Century skills and technology integration a priority. (Anecdotal Evidence: When I mentioned that my district allows Facebook and YouTube access on school computers, other teachers and administrators reacted in horror. We USE these in our classrooms to teach our content and 21st Century skills. If we aren't teaching kids how to utilize social media properly, who is?)

I often find I leave with more questions than answers, but I suppose that is what learning is all about.

For those of you who went to MassCUE, or any other education technology conference for that matter, within the past couple of months... what questions or realizations have come from them?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Difference is the User, Not the Tool at BLC10 Day 3

My third and final day at BLC10 (Building Learning Communities 2010 from November Learning) brought yet another valuable message that will sure have an impact on my teaching:

Web 2.0 tools don't make the difference, it's the user strategy that makes the difference.

Class Blogs
Darren Kuropatwa (see @dkuropatwa on Twitter) hosted a workshop called A Day in the Life. He talked about several ways that he allows his students to create their own academic content online that is related to his class. While he used many tools, he brought it all together to a central blog to share it with the world. The quality of the student entries on the blogs improved over the course of the year and the class got more and more visits.

As a teacher, I have seen class blogs that teachers use to post their own lessons and handouts and other information, but they never let the students themselves control the content. Mr. Kuropatwa allows the students to run the class blog. This is why his workshop was a lesson in the strategy and not in the tool. The attendees really got the message. Here are some excerpts from the backchannel discussion to prove it.



  • Their pride in having an audience will encourage their best

  • I think it's important to try to show the principal and parents how "sharing" improves work.

  • A sense of awareness that they have an audience asks them to do their best

A class blog with content controlled by the teacher is just another reading assignment for students. A class blog with student controlled content is a new way for students to engage and interact with the world beyond their classroom walls.



Yes We Can... with Social Media
Rahaf Harfoush (see @rahafharfoush on Twitter) was the keynote speaker today. She volunteered in Chicago for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The focus of her keynote was all about how social media has an enormous impact on the every day lives of our students and how we, as educators, can be a part of their world by leveraging that power to our advantage. It was truly fascinating to see how she and the rest of the Obama campaign were able to reach millions through social media... at very little cost with a whole lot of payoff. It really reaffirmed my desire to use Facebook more actively with my high school students.

Verbs of Web 2.0 in School
Brad Ovenell-Carter (see his blog here and @braddo on Twitter) talked about the 5 verbs we need to use around technology in schools.

1. research
2. produce
3. publish
4. discuss
5. manage

He explained how he did not push individual tools like wikis or Jing. Instead he simply taught kids to use the web browser and let them decide what to use. He asked them to "produce something" but did not tell them which tool to use. Mr. Ovenell-Carter gave examples such as:

"Let's have a discussion."
"Today we are going to produce something."

He was specific about the verb terminology, but not about the tool they might use to accomplish these tasks. He was pushing the idea that, "The essence of technology is by no means anything technological." When he posed these tasks to the students, sometimes they chose blogs for discussions or Wikipedia for research. In the end, if they accomplished the task, the tool did not matter. But, they used many many tools throughout the year! In fact, if the students had the opporunity to choose the tool, the work they produced was higher quality. In the end, it's about the students accomplishing a task, not tinkering with the latest and greatest tool.

Mr. Ovenell-Carter sums up his philosophy in this video:


What Did I Learn About Choosing EdTech Tools at BLC10 on Day 3?
1. When students control the content of a class blog, it will get more hits and the blog posts will be more interesting.
2. If you want to get teenagers and 20-somethings to listen, go to them online. TV is good, Facebook is better.
3. Instead of designing a lesson around the latest and greatest technology, let the goal of the lesson be the determining factor in choosing the Web 2.0 tool. And let the kids be the ones to make the choice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Give Students the Power at BLC10 Day 2

Today at BLC10 (Building Learning Communities 2010 from November Learning) the theme of the keynote and workshops I attended seemed to focus on providing students with an experience that blends classroom interaction with online participation. When students learn through face-to-face discussion AND online interaction, they are empowered to create and publish their own new ideas.

Why We Need Classroom AND Online Interaction
Dr. Michael Wesch (see @mwesch on Twitter) started the day with a keynote address that ended in a standing ovation. Those of you who are reading this post and are educators yourselves know how difficult it is to get faculty meeting full of teachers to be enthusiastic about a speaker's message.... imagine that situation multiplied by 5 or 10 or 25 (depending on the size of the faculty you work with). Dr. Wesch brought a room filled with hundreds of teachers to their feet. He showed various examples of how user participation on the Internet can lead to change and true meaning for our students. His published videos on YouTube have gone viral. Check out his channel here. There are two videos that I have watched before, and that he showed during his presentation, are posted here. They do a great job of putting his whole message into perspective.





Moodle as a Tool to In/Out of School
The second workshop I attended was a teacher demonstration showing the use of Moddle within a class and to connect classes. In this case, the teachers, Michelle Anderson and Lucy Howard, connecting their students from Prairie Vale, Oklahoma and Buckingham, England using Moodle. I had be playing around with Moodle and was relatively unimpressed prior to this session. I even felt stuck and limited. The demonstration reignited my interest and showed me how much growth and potention my Moodle, Honors History 9 - Renaissance Through Revolution, really has. I hope to build on my Moodle and really give it a shot during the 2010-2011 school year. Since the session, I have already added multimedia images, better design features, and a forum activity to the bear-bones of my Moodle. While it isn't published yet, I hope to launch it by the time the school year begins in late August.

Blended Classroom: Why? and How?
WHY?
Jeff Utecht (see @jutecht on Twitter)explained that 80% of today's undergraduates will take at least 1 online course. He also explained the universities are investing the majorit of their money in development of online content and courses. They can bring in more tuition money without building more dorms or classroom buildings. Students today can even get a bachelor's degree without ever stepping foot on a college campus. This well-known advertisement from Kaplan University is a perfect example of Mr. Utecht's point on the flood of online higher learning.



Teachers need to prepare students for online sharing and interaction because they will have to use those skills in higher education and the professional workplace.

HOW?
Mr. Utecht talked about how we need to allow ourselves and our students to have the time to go through all of the stages of technology use. As a way to challenge students to play with technology and use Bloom's Taxonomy-style thinking skills, Mr. Utecht gave us 10 minutes in small groups to research a corporate/political/economic problem with limited information. Participants used Google, Facebook, iPhone apps, and many more resources to accomplish the task. We then had to email a solution to one of the problems. It was exciting for us! I can't wait to dream up something similar for my own students.

Not only should students have time play with the technology, they should also have the opportunity to share their discoveries. His students at his International School of Bangkok, Thailand are blogging (a.k.a. writing, creating, interacting, multitasking...) on their own. Their blogs are hosted by the school, but not graded by the teachers. Their lives as students throughout their 13 years in the school are recorded in the blog in one big portfolio. The key to all of this is a teacher who is already connected with her own network of educators from around the world. We can use our connections to other educators to spread the word about our students' work and build their digital identity on the web and apart from Facebook.

Social Media in the Classroom
Howie DiBlasi calls himself an "Emerging Technologies Evangelist" (see @hdiblasi on Twitter) He opened the session with this remix video by Discovery.



He argued that remixes (a.k.a. mash-ups or montages) are going to be one of the most powerful ways for our students to develop literacy. In order for them to reach the resources they desire for these remixes, he proposed a solution in his workshop called Using Social Media in Your Class - 50 Ways.

Social Media is...

  • social networking (i.e. Facebook, Twitter)
  • social bookmarking (i.e. Delicious)
  • sharing and remixing (i.e. YouTube, blogging, wikis)


He challenged us to challenge our school districts' policies on the uses of these resources with our students. I left with many ideas and have posted about Facebook in the classroom in the past. I might just move forward with it!

How Did I Learn to Empower Students at BLC10?
  1. Students are more invested in and connected to your curriculum if they are communicating and creating the content themselves.
  2. Moodle has the potential to empower quiet students and bring about more meaningful student discussions.
  3. Students should be able to create their own content online and your classroom will be a more meaningful place if you help do it.
  4. Social media is unlimited. There are a LOT of tools out there. Teach your students to use them carefully and well so they are building a responsible identity online.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tearing Down the Walls at BLC10 Day 1

The theme of the Building Learning Communities 2010 conference from November Learning seems to be:

TEAR DOWN THE WALLS OF YOUR CLASSROOM


Four different presenters followed this same theme. Here are my reviews of their workshops throughout the day.

Create and Share Video Games!
Today's keynote speaker, Dr. Mitchel Resnick, demonstrated Scratch, program from MIT that allows users to create cards, posters, animations, video games, and lots more. They can then share their creations on the Scratch website and encourage others to build on, or remix, their work. Most of the work on Scratch was created by kids, like this one about a girl who hates alarm clocks. Dr. Resnick's biggest message was that taking what others create and then making something new out of it or even contributing to it causes a new kind of learning. Not only are children creative when they remix, they are collaborative. Click here for his paper on Scratch and how it fosters learning.
"The Smartest Person in the Room is the Room"
In the first breakout session I attended, Dean Shareski (see @shareski on Twitter) talked about what do to when you, the teacher, are "not the smartest person on in the room." He suggests making the room the smartest person in the room. It may sound like tricky word-play, but really it is about teaching your students that they become smarter by learning from each other. It isn't about who is the smartest person in the room, it's about learning from the expertise that each of us has to become smarter collectively. What I liked most about Mr. Shareski's presentation was that he practiced as he preached while he was preaching! Participants posted on Wallwisher about their favorite teachers, sent in pictures of weather from all over the world to Flickr, and watched while others participated via Twitter (see #blc10weather).

DO Something With Primary Sources
After lunch, the next breakout session I attended was from Stephanie Greenhut at the National Archives. She showed us Docsteach.org where teachers can create or use premade activities with questions and tasks based on primary sources. These can all be gathered in online "classrooms" like this one. What I love about this is that students to do the reading and analysis part at home, and then we can talk about their individual impressions and make connections with each other in a live class discussion the next day. Another way to extend the classroom to resources outside of our four walls.

Tear Up the Textbook

Textbooks are not bad, but they present information chronologically. Teachers can follow that path, or create their own. This is the idea Thomas Daccord (see @thomasdaccord on Twitter) puts forth. You can look at his Prezi presentation below. Some of the questions he asked of hte students in his American history class were:

  1. To what extent is American the land of opportunity?
  2. What is the proper role of government in the lives of Americans?
  3. What is America's place in the world?
  4. What is the role of race in American history?

Mr. Daccord argues that this thematic, rather than chronological approach, gives the course more purpose and the students are more invested on the goals of the course. Students learn about history through these essential questions and learn to research effectively through their investigations.




How Did I Learn to Tear Down the Walls of my Classroom Today at BLC10?

I can't wait for tomorrow!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tech Ed in America Started in 1778... at Valley Forge

Tech Ed is a big part of many successful and inspirational teachers' classrooms. But who in American history was more successful and inspirational than George Washington? While he was not necessarily knowledgable in the technology of war, he knew how to find the diverse groups of experts he needed to educate his men. This post is about two of those Revolutionary technology expert educators.


Revolutionary Tech Expert #1: Daniel Morgan
Morgan knew how to party, but he also knew how to handle a new kind of weapon in a new style of warfare. At General Washington's request, Morgan commanded a unit of 500 elite sharpshooters. Their weapon was a long-barrelled hunting-style rifle. The innovation in the design were grooves inside the barrel that spun the shot as it exited. This American technology made Morgan's marksmen accurate at distances that doubles to range of the British musket. He took already talented frontier hunters, and made them into lethal sharpshooters that the seemingly unbeatable British Army could not find, nevermind fight.

In addition to the technology Morgan's men held in their hands, they had tactics that the British had never seen. They hid in forest brush, climbed trees, and picked off British officers and soldiers as they attemped to march through western New England and New York. His best shot, an Irishman, kiled a key British officer while seated in a tree 200 yards away. This type of warfare, hidden rather than on open fields, was considered cowardly by the British... but it was innovative and lethal: part of the reason a rag-tag wannabe nation had the opportunity to become a proud strong world-power. Morgan was an expert in the tools and the tactics, the technology of the 18th Century, and he educated his men to victory.


Revolutionary Tech Expert #2: Baron Friedrich von Steuben

After a crushing defeat in New York that left the powerful British Navy and Army to burn and occupy America's center of commerce, Washington's inexperienced undersupplied Continental Army felt hopeless. In early 1778 they wintered at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania while the British Army enjoyed the luxury of the city. Plagued with an overabundance of disease and a severe shortage of food and shoes, they needed a new plan. At General Washington's request, Baron von Steuben arrived from Prussia with that plan and the technology that came with it.

Von Steuben understood that sleeping quarters, latrines, and kitchens must be separated from one another to prevent the spread of diseases like dysentery. Technical knowledge that the Americans needed to keep their numbers strong. They grew healthier and Von Steuben prepared to educate them with more essentials.

Next Von Steuben trained a model company of 100 men. They learned a new faster way to reload their muskets during battle. He utilized 8 counts and 15 motions, a much faster process than the British. He also taught them to make and use bayonets in hand to hand combat. This new piece of technology and the ability to use it would help Americans successfully carry out the siege of Yorktown, Virginia: final and deciding battle of the war. Von Steuben then challenged his model company to each train 100 more men. In today's terms, his lessons in technology went viral!


The Legacy of Technology in America
We have a diverse groups of technology experts and educators to thank for the foundation of American innovation. We cannot forget that we must draw knowledge from all people, just as Morgan relied on an Irishman and Washington relied on a Prussian. While we might consider our society on the edge of a great turning point in technology, I think the real turning point occured hundreds of years ago in the trees of western New England and the mud of Valley Forge.

Image Credits:
http://allthingsbraddock.org/files/attic/daniel_morgan.jpg
http://drillpad.net/Graphics/steuben.jpg

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blueprint for Educational Excellence

Teaching is about passion, creativity, and caring about the well-being and happiness of your students. Through the keynote speakers and workshops available at the Blueprint for Education Excellence National Institute, this message was clear. While the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence organization has a fantastic reputation for encouraging teachers to impart 21st Century skills alongside their content, this institute seemed to cement that mission in a real an tangible way. Each of the workshops I attended taught me something different and relevant in my classroom, and yet all of them can be used in conjunction with one another to produce something better. Here are a few examples:

SMART Toolkit 2.0 Activities and Anti-Bullying Culture
On Friday I attended two sessions that are seemingly unrelated. In the morning Alan Jacobson, from the Riverside Trauma Center, hosted a lecture and discussion on Cyber Bullying. In the afternoon I was fortunate enough to be a part of a session about the SMART Toolkit 2.0 suite of software hosted by Shayla Rexrode from SMART Technologies.

Alan discussed the various types of bullying that are possible through Web 2.0 tools, like Facebook and Twitter. Shayla taught us about some fantastic Activities and Games in the Toolkit 2.0 suite we can use with our students.

How are these two workshops related?
In all five of my classes I have created and run entire lessons based on the SMART Toolkit 2.0 Activities. EVERY student in EVERY class I have got an opportunity to go up to the SMART Board and play one of the games. Activities ranged from Anagrams to Word Biz to Pairs to Sentence Arrange and many more. Every time a new student was at the screen, the rest of the class shouted encouragement and clues from their seats. Some had a hard time staying in their seats! While there was no mention of cyber bullying the SMART Toolkit 2.0 session, the positive peer feedback and competitive spirit the games created in my classroom seemed to be just the right kind of anti-bullying environment that Alan was hinting at. While it did take a little preparation time, all I did was sit back for the 50 minute class period and watch the kids make sure everyone had a turn, encourage each other to succeed, and clap enthusiastically for their classmates when they beat the games. The class periods in which I implemented the SMART Activities rank with some of the most fun I have ever had as a teacher. The classes really came together as peer groups, too.

SMART Board Games and MY Presentation on Weebly
On Thursday afternoon I presented a 90 minute workshop (click the link above to see the resources) on how I have used Weebly in my classroom and in professional development settings during the 2009-2010 school year. There were a few technical difficulties, but I got through it. The session attendees were incredibly patient when our bandwidth capacity was insufficient to handle the number of people log in on to try Weebly, a Web 2.0 tool, but the real credit goes to the four 9th graders who were there to help me with my presentation. Kylee, Scott, Mike, and Eric took my very loose instructions and delivered with a BANG! They impressed me with their clear reflections of how they used Weebly to blog or publish their research. And, they impressed the session attendees (teachers and administrators from districts nationwide) with the technical assistance they provided when the experimenting-with-the-tool phase on the workshop kicked in.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I attended an early bird session with Jennifer Webster about SMART Board Games that she plays every day in her classroom. While her sound effects and jeopardy-style games were great, the moment that had the most impact on me was when she took both fists and pounded as hard as she could on the SMART Board in the front of the computer lab. The noise that resulted was loud, but she yelled over it, "You have to let the kids touch the SMART Board. They can't hurt it!" A light bulb went on in my head at that moment. Whenever I have a student at the SMART Board, I remind them it is a tool, not a toy, and that they should touch it carefully. Inevitably this results in students who barely brush the screen with their fingers and have trouble getting elements to move or react to their touch.

How are these two workshops related?
While the attendees were arriving at my workshop, seating themselves at a laptop, and getting acquainted, the students were at the SMART Board at the front of the room drawing daisies and playing with the SMART Notebook software. My gut reaction was to tell the to be careful, but I had asked them to help me present that day because they are some of my best and brightest. In a few moments they would exhibit exemplary intelligence and perception for an intimidating audience, but at that moment they were a bunch of kids having fun. And, as Jen said in her SMART Games session, they can't hurt it. So I let them play. This translated to a more relaxing and fun experience later when I let the kids play the SMART Toolkit 2.0 Activities in class too! If they can't hurt the Board, I can relax and let them get as enthusiastic about the game as they want.

The Blueprint for Educational Excellence Institute helped to re-ignite my passion for teaching, my creativity when designing lesson plans, and helped my students have more fun!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Facebook in the High School Classroom

Let me start this post out by saying that I love Facebook. I check and update Facebook daily. It has provided me with the opportunity to get in touch with people from high school, college, and law school that I otherwise would not have maintained relationships with due to our busy lives and families. But.... I have always been wary of keeping my personal Facebook life separate from my online professional life (like my Twitter page, my blog, my Podbean page, and email contact with parents and colleagues).

The Webinar

Well, I participated in a webinar yesterday that opened the door to the possiblity of using Facebook with my students in a safe, responsible, and efficient way. Click here to see my notes from the webinar.

Benefits of Using Facebook With Students

Why should we use Facebook to communicate with our students?

  • Students (who must be 13 or older according to Facebook's user policy) are already checking Facebook at least once per day. Although there are exceptions, they are less likely check Edline, Ning, or email unless we require it as part of an assignment. As proof of this, Facebook surpassed Yahoo in January and became the second most visited site on the Internet.






          • It is an easy way to share videos, pictures, and due date calendars with your students. AND, they can share them with each other.
          • The Group Page for your class can be a forum for students to post questions to you and to each other about assignments and projects. Click here for a video on how to create a Group Page for your class.
          • They can share research resoures with each other by posting links.
          • Facebook has lots of great learning apps, like "Mathematical Formulas" and "Flashcards" that aren't as well known as Farmville. You can learn about the top 20 in this video on YouTube.
          • Students can check you class Group on Facebook using mobile devices, not just on their computer. So, they are connected to what is going on in your class at all times!

          Concerns With Using Facebook With Students

          With all of the benefits, there are definitely also concerns:

          • To avoid putting yourself in a difficult position by seeing students personal pictures or updates on Facebook, ask them to create a limited profile. This way, only true "friends" can see their full profile while members of your class Group page will see the protected limited version.
          • If you are planning to post pictures of the students in the class doing work in school or on a field trip, be sure to get parent permission if you want to tag them.
          • You might want to create a Public Figure Page or a Profile that is exclusively for professional use, which is separate from your personal profile. Click here for a great video on how to create a profile.

          You can find out more about Facebook in education in this incredible article called 7 Things You Should Know About Facebook.











          Also, if you are already on Facebook, think about joining the Educators Using Facebook Group for more ideas and discussion from other teachers.

          My Thoughts and Plans

          It is a lot to digest and I want to think more about how I will use Facebook, what guidelines I will set for my students, and how I will inform parents of Facebook's role in my courses. I don't think I'm going to add Facebook to the Web 2.0 part of my class this year, but it will definitely be part of my students' experience in social studies class in 2010-2011!

          Thursday, April 1, 2010

          April Fools' Day & Media Literacy

          I was looking for something fun to do with my high school classes today. After a little searching, and some help from my PLN on Twitter, I found this:

          Yes, that's right, you are seeing a woman harvesting spaghetti from a tree! The BBC broadcasted this story on April 1, 1957 as a joke. The kicker is that spaghetti was not a commonly consumed dish in the UK at the time. It was rare and considered a delicacy, so many had never given thought to how it is created. As a result, people all over the UK were fooled into believing that spaghetti does, in fact, grow on trees.

          Click here to see the short video new story that BBC aired that night.

          Further reading an investigation of the web page revealed some first-hand accounts of people who were fooled by the ruse. Here are two of my favorites:



          I remember it well, I was five at the time, and watched this with my dear old Dad. Mum was out for the night. We were taken in totally.

          Very pleased with ourselves that we knew how spaghetti was produced, we told Mum when she got back in. We could not understand why she fell about laughing! I still have fond memories of Panorama in the old days.
          Sue Elsey, England



          When this was broadcast I was just eight years old and - of course - believed everything I was told or saw on the television.

          The TV was a bit of a novelty for my family in 1957 and I had no reason then to disbelieve this new and amazing media.

          My problem was that for years and years afterwards I believed that spaghetti grew on trees. It wasn't until many years later when I was in my late teens that I realised this was perhaps not the case and even now at 56 I'm hopeful of spotting one or two trees as I drive around the country and the continent.

          One of the great April Fools jokes and one I'll always cherish.
          Tony Frost, England


          While it seems somewhat unbelievable that so many could fall for such an obvious fallacy, I had a follow-up discussion with my students about the role historical context plays in gullibility. All of this also led into a discussion of media literacy. Our students laughed at the people in the UK who were taken by this April Fools' Day joke, but they admitted to having been fooled by the media in the past as well.

          Funny how an April Fools' Day joke can lead into a discussion of 21st Century Skills.

          Weaving With Web 2.0 in the History Classroom

          My graduate class and cohort are winding down. Our last in-class project was a reflection on the integration of Web 2.0 tools in our class and curriculum. This was a labor of love. I thought I would share my project with all of you.

          Part 1: My presentation began with a 4 and a half minute video I created using Photostory. It is a statement of my pedagogy now that I have taken this class. While I was primarily focused on content before (with blogging and research integrated into my curriculum) I now feel that my responsibilities go beyond the history itself. Web 2.0 skills have become an essential part of my classes.


          Part 2: I decided to aggregate some examples of student work into a single website. I pointed out a few of these projects as examples of the integration of a few Web 2.0 tools throughout the year.












          Part 3: Since I wanted the presentation itself to be an example of Web 2.0 technology, I added a feedback page. My hope is that some, or maybe even all, of you will write your questions and ideas about my work on the feedback page. Both encouraging and critical thoughts are welcomed.












          Reflections: Before concluding this post, I want to thank all of my fellow cohort members for inspiring and prodding me along through this journey. I feel like I have been a better teacher for my students as a result of all the time and effort put toward these projects. In addition, I have found a new passion for my job. While I loved being a teacher before, I can hardly stop talking about the latest project a student has turned in, or the latest free online tool I have discovered, or the latest blog I have read by another educator. Truly, my husband and family have heard about all of our adventures in "expanding our boundaries." Without all of them I would not have discovered this new passion. So thank you.

          Sunday, March 28, 2010

          Twitter and #PTChat

          As a member of Twitter (KerryHawk02), I have participated in several #EdChats. But this past week, on Wednesday night at 9pm, I participated in #PTChat. It is a discussion about parent-teacher communication and the role of parents in the education process at school. Some of the participants were just teachers, some were just parents, and some were both. It was really interesting and eye-opening.The moderators are @Parentella and @ShellTerrell. I have been following both of them for a while and found them both through participation in #EdChats.

          Here is a taste of the conversation, from KerryHawk02's posts (my posts):


          The part of the conversation I liked was that it wasn't all positive. Many people posted issues involved in parent-teacher communication. Some of problems discussed included working v. non-working parents, child care for parents of other young children, and teachers talking to parents as if they are students. All of these are real issues that are not easily solved. In the end, most of us agreed that parent communication should be a part of teacher education.

          Friday, March 19, 2010

          Technology, Teaching, and Tradition... Are They Compatible?

          Will Richardson, the beloved author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts..., recently posted an interesting, and somewhat troubling, anecdote on his blog. His blog is called Weblogg-Ed and the post is entitled Reality Check. It is compelling, and yet brief, so I'll post the entire text here:

          Recently a school administrator shared a story that reminded me why I need to spend more time talking to more people outside of the echo chamber.

          She said that a group of parents had requested a meeting to discuss the methods of a particular teacher and his use of technology. It seemed this teacher had decided to forgo the textbook and have students write their own on a wiki, that he published a great deal of his students’ work online, that he taught them and encouraged them to use Skype to interview people who they had researched and identified as valuable voices in their learning, and that he shared all of his lectures and classwork online for anyone, not just the students in his class, could access them and use them under a Creative Commons license.

          When the administrator got the phone call from the parent who wanted to set up the meeting, she asked for some sense of what the problem was. The reply?

          “Our students don’t need to be a part of a classroom experiment with all this technology stuff. They need to have a real teacher with real textbooks and real tests.”

          Sigh.


          What is so troubling about this story is that these students were acquiring knowledge through an authentic process. The teaching may not have been traditional, but it was good teaching. The content and Web 2.0 skills they learned by taking this class will outlast most of the information they memorized from textbooks and regurgitated on tests in other classes. If we want to prepare our students for real world careers, we need to start holding them responsible for creating real products in school.

          Now, after taking a deep breath, I took comfort in the fact that Reading parents, in my experience, have been more forward thinking. My freshmen students have grown so much since September. I have started holding them more responsible for their own learning, although I have to admit I haven't done anything as daring as the teacher mentioned in Will Richardson's post. In one of our recent units we had a couple of student-centered activities in which I was merely the facilitator. They students took responsibility for their own learning and the learning of their classmates.


          Classroom Museum

          First, they created museum-style exhibits complete with interactive elements and even artifacts, to help teach their classmates about some portion of the unit. Then they created worksheets for their classmates to fill in as they visited the exhibit so that they would have accurate notes to study when the classroom museum activity was over. I don't have electronic copies of the worksheets, but here are some pictures of the kids with the exhibits they created.


          Review Rap Podcast

          Later in the unit, I decided not to create the traditional study guide or run the traditional review session. Instead, I challenged students to get into groups and write raps that explained the major concepts from the unit. Then, I promised to let them record the raps and publish them on our class Edline page as a podcast. Not only did they have fun, but the discussion we had after listening to the raps truly helped the kids understand the material better in preparation for the unit test. (Yes, I'll admit I gave them a "real test" as the parents in Will Richardson's post demanded.)






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          The parents' responses to both the pictures and recordings of their kids was positive. Here are quotes from a couple of the emails.

          Mrs. Gallagher,

          Cool! Congratulations to you and your class for doing great research and using the wonderful technology you have at RMHS. Please keep sharing!



          Dear Ms. Gallagher,

          Megan and I loved the podcast! Thanks for sharing with us and making history fun!!


          What was so exciting about receiving these emails is that they were completely unsolicited. I hope to continue implementing Web 2.0 tools.

          My next undertaking is a long-term research project that will culminate in a documentary. I assigned it today and, although their eyes grew large when I explained the scope of the assignment, they left the classroom excited about their topics and the prospect of sharing their final documentaries with each other when we have our "Viewing Party" in May. It isn't the traditional research paper that students are accustomed to writing in history classes, but I hope it reflects the same research process with a final product that better reflects many 21st Century skills, including writing. Wish me (and my students) luck!

          Tuesday, March 16, 2010

          The Power of Wikis In/Outside the Classroom

          A little over a month ago Anne Low, an 8th grade teacher at Parker Middle School in my town, and I had the idea to help ease the course placement and transition process for 8th graders by hooking them up with 9th graders. Although I now teach high school, we taught 8th grade history together at Parker for the past two years. We noticed that students get a lot of information in a formal way (through presentations from RMHS administrators and guidance counselors during the school day or through evening meetings at RMHS that are expressly for incoming feshmen) but they never get a chance to really ask the questions that make them the most nervous about high school. Questions like...

          • I think I have the choice of going into all honors classes for my freshman year. Do you think I could be able to do that and still have a social life at the same time?
          • I heard there are different lunches for each grade. So is there some freshmen in a lunch with a few kids from each age? And how many kids are in each lunch at a time?
          • How often do we use the computer lab? Do we use things like Google Docs and wikis like we did in middle school?
          • How much time does it generally take to complete all your homework? When we get projects how much time do we usually get to do it?

          These are real questions from the wiki, and there are more where that came from! We decided that the easiest way for our students to communicate would be via wiki.

          You can check out the results here.

          The process:

          1. First we created the wiki. Since both Anne and I are administrators, we both edited the home page with our expectations for our respective students.
          2. Next we showed the wiki to our students. The freshmen were excited, but had to wait before they started editing because we needed the 8th graders to post questions. Anne took the 8th graders to the computer lab for a day or two at Parker to help them become members of the wiki and post their questions on the appropriate page.
          3. The freshmen followed suit, but they had to learn to become members and edit the wiki on their own time. Based on the amount of exposure and experience they have had with Web 2.0 tools in my class so far this year (and based on the fact that they are all honors level students) I told them that I expected they would be able to figure it out. There were a few who had trouble and came for extra help before and after school last week, but in the end we accomplished our mission.

          Although the results aren't necessarily pretty, mostly because there were almost 200 students editing one wiki website, the students did a nice job coming up with and answering questions. Some of my freshmen even embedded video clips, images, and provided links to some examples of their work from the school year so far. I'm not sure how satisfied Anne was with the process I have a few reflections.

          • I wish my freshmen were able to answer each and every question on the wiki, but without assigning certain students to each other it was not possible. Maybe we can set it up that way next year.
          • The freshmen really liked the activity. Some remarked to me that they had the same questions as 8th graders a year ago. They also liked that they felt like the "older kids" for a change. As the lowest underclassmen at RMHS, it was a nice moment for them.
          • I was pleased with how genuine the 8th graders' questions seemed to be and how considerate the freshmen's responses were. They really took the time to answer the questions the way the 8th graders wanted them to.

          Monday, March 1, 2010

          Marblehead: Connecting Me with Alan November

          Ellie Freedman, RMHS principal, shared this video with us, her faculty, after attending a session with Alan November over February vacation and listening to his ideas. I was intrigued by the setting November chose for the video.

          November juxtaposed the history of Marblehead, Massachusetts with the need to assign class work and projects that all students to be contributors, not just workers in the classroom. I worked at Marblehead Veterans Middle School as an 8th grade social studies teacher for 4 years prior to coming to Reading. I'll admit the connection is tenuous, but it was enough to help me recognize many of the narrow colonial streets and coastal landscapes in the video.



          Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November from Brian Mull on Vimeo.

          Based on this video (and a complimentary article by November you can find if you click here) we have both learned a few things from our time in Marblehead:

          • Technology for technology's sake is NOT an improvement in education.
          • Students like to be told what to do, because it is easy to receive and follow instructions. The best way to challenge them is to ask them what they need to do in order to learn.
          • Students do better work when they are going to share that work with their peers, or with an even wider audience via the web. The quality of work goes down when the only eyes that will see it are the teacher's.

          There are a few other things that November does NOT cover in his video, but I think they are important to remember.

          • Rolling out these ideas takes time. Once the kids know what to do, it may not take much time out of your curriculum instruction, but you have to make some sacrifices early in the year to set them up.
          • It is best to try one or two ideas at a time. Become an expert at those applications (and allow your students to become comfortable experts in their own roles) before you roll out another idea.
          • Don't let yourself, or your students, get frustrated if it doesn't work right away. Students need reminders. They need encouragment when they are taking part in self-directed learning. It is frustrating and requires a lot of mental effort. They need you to remind them all along that you believe in them and that their effort will be worth it in the end.

          Thursday, February 25, 2010

          Two Great Ideas for Using Podcasts in the Classroom

          Podcast Use #1: Allow parents to hear, from their child's own mouth, what went on in class today.
          "So, what did you learn at school today?"
          Now parents will actually know the answer to the question before they ask at the dinner table! My F block honors freshmen started researching various topics related to slavery in the American colonies during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Here are the results of their preliminary research today. After allowing them one class period to research certain online databases and the online textbook, I asked one representative from each group to talk about an interesting fact they learned today. Using a digital voice recorder, iTunes, and Audacity (an audio file editing program) I pulled their recordings together into a podcast. I posted this on our Edline class website and emailed a notification home so parents can check it out as well!






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          Podcast Use #2: Provide students with step by step audio-visual instructions for tasks that are somewhat complex.
          "Can you show me that again? I wasn't paying attention!"
          "Mrs. Gallagher? I don't get it!"
          These questions can be things of the past! As I plan for our next units on the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, I found a great analysis activity in a relatively obscure section of the ABC-CLIO database. While my students are familiar with using ABC-CLIO for research purposes, they have never quite used it in this new way. So, I typed up step by step directions AND recorded a video demonstration using SMART Recorder. Then I put it on our Edline class website so students can download and watch it whenever they find the time to do the assignments within the due date parameters.



          Audio and visual instruction and news has become the standard in today's media-driven society. A classroom teacher that shares student work and explains instructions and concepts to students using these tools truly has a 21st century classroom that extends outside of the classroom walls.

          Monday, February 22, 2010

          A Week in Paradise... WITHOUT the Internet

          Over February Break my family took a trip that we have been planning for an entire year. We rented a beautiful three bedroom, three bathroom home in the mountains of Breckenridge, Colorado. There was even a hot tub on the deck for us to enjoy while the snowflakes danced around us in the steam coming off the bubbling water. We could take a short shuttle ride to the chairlift each day, and ski right to our door each afternoon when our legs were finally too tired to carry us down the mountain any more. We had everything we needed... full kitchen, washer and dryer, even a crib for my little daughter.

          And yet... there was no wireless Internet connection. I can't tell you how many times my father said they words, "We could look it up if we had wireless!" He actually called the property management company and complained contending that wireless Internet access should be considered a basic amenity in resort accomodations. Finally, on the last night my brother worked a little magic and we "borrowed" some bandwidth from a nearby unsecured wireless network so we could check into our airline.

          I have to admit I had a few anxieties about my lack of Internet access. Here are a few:

          1. I was unable to blog for the past two weeks. (The week before February break was a flurry of correcting, professional observations by my supervisors, visiting administrators from abroad, and more. I had planned to write my blog after arriving at our destination, until I found out that I had no Internet access and would be unable to do so.)
          2. I was unable to register my daughter for the mountain's daycare online. I actually had to flip open a telephone book, dial hte number, and speak to a real person on the phone to make the arrangements!
          3. We decided to spend one day skiing in Vail, Colorado. It was a 45 minute drive. Normally, we would look up the address online so that we could plug it into our GPS. Instead, we had to (again) open the phone book and find the address in print.
          4. I knew I would arrive home to copious emails for work. And I have to admit that it was a little overwhelming when I returned.

          Despite the lack of a wireless connection, we managed to use technology to our advantage. We have a tradition of taking lots of pictures and video clips of each other while skiing, and then compiling them online to share with the rest of our family. This meant choosing some of the best shots and posting them in an album on Facebook for our distant relatives to view. We posted some of our video clips on YouTube so friends and family who subscribe to our accounts can see them. I also like to put together photobooks (using online tools like Kodak Gallery or Snapfish) and give them as gifts.

          Here is a sample of one of our videos. This is my sister and I skiing the last part of a bowl at Vail called Lovers' Leap. My brother is the videographer. It is so named because you literally have to leap off a VERY steep edge to enter the bowl. I'm the one in the black.

          Tuesday, February 2, 2010

          Making 17th Century Absolute Monarchs Fun... with Google!

          My Personal Challenge
          I have been working hard to teach my students research and technology skills this year. My freshmen have learned:
          - to read and summarize information from several sources;
          - to create an annotated bibliography using Turabian format;
          - to look up and use images from Creative Commons without violating copyright;
          - to use Google Scholar to find reliable scholarly sources for research;
          - to create a Google account and share editing privileges with multiple classmates;
          - to link Google Presentations with Google Documents.

          My goals for the rest of the year are for my students to be able:
          - to properly quote and credit primary sources with endnotes;
          - to write a research paper with a strong supported thesis;
          - and to create a documentary with PhotoStory.

          I think they can do it!

          My Latest Challenge to My Students
          Here is their latest research project using Google Applications:
          They had to create a lesson, complete with visuals, a handout, and optional multimedia on an absolute ruler from Austria, Russia, or Prussia in the 17th century.
          Click here for the requirements and grading rubric.

          They Rose to the Challenge
          The results were pretty impressive. I provided links to a couple of examples below. Note the last slide of their presentations where they linked their annotated bibliography, pictography, handout, and answer key. I'm looking forward to seeing the live presentations in class tomorrow!

          Frederick II of Prussia


          Peter the Great of Russia


          The Hapsburgs: Charles VI & Maria Theresa