Showing posts from 2013

High School Students as Professional Education Consultants

Last week my students helped me explain how we use smartphones, tablets, and laptops in our class daily to learn in new ways.  I had to opportunity to present to a group of teachers and administrators at the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence conference in Disney World (where is was 75 degrees) while still at Reading Memorial High School in Massachusetts (where it was 12 degrees). Thanks to some fine work by many members of our technology staff, we were able to video conference with the professionals in Florida along with  Jennalee Anderson 's 7th grade classroom nearby in town using  Cisco's Jabber software . Nine of my sophomore history students helped me explain how we use devices in class every day.  I'm the one wearing green standing in the back.  Our library media specialist, Sharon Burke , is standing next to me in the middle. My students used iPads, iPad Minis, iPhones, Surface tablets, or any other device they bring to school and use on our BYOD (Bring Your

Yes, my classroom is paperless. No, you don't have to buy your kid an iPad.

My classroom feels different than ever before.  It's more vibrant. My relationships with my students are different than ever before.  They're better. I'm in the midst of my 12th year of teaching, and I have the idealism and workload of a first year teacher all over again. Why? Because BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) along with a few supplemental devices has empowered me as a teacher and my students as learners.  I'm planning everything I've taught before in brand new ways.  While we are in class for 55 minutes together, I'm doing less teaching and my teenage students are doing more learning.  And I don't use paper. At all.  Sound suspicious? Unorthodox?  Do you have concerns? *** Concern #1 : I know it seemingly goes against everything we've been taught as parents to take the plunge and purchase a breakable piece of technology worth hundreds of dollars and hand it over to a 14 year old.  They're irresponsible, distracted, and materialistic.

The Power of One

I let my students decide again.  I asked them if they believed that one person can make widespread change. Their answers were mixed. I showed them this commercial from YouTube. Then I decided to trust them to choose a 19th century social reformer and how they would present that reformer to the class.  The only parameters: It had to be inspiring, touting the power one individual can have to make real change. It had to use and cite primary sources. This is what they looked like while working. Every group seemed to choose a different combination of applications.  They were even testing new ones that I haven't introduced yet like Doceri and Haiku Deck .  This is what my classroom looked like ten full minutes after the last bell of the day had sounded on a Friday!  For real, people, these are 15-16 year olds who have been through a full 5 day week of classes, and the first week of winter sports tryouts in many cases, and they stayed after on a Friday for a history proje

Confessions of a Public School Teacher

Here goes... 1. I spend way more time communicating with students, parents, and community members outside of the school allotted conference time than within it.  Those communications happen when the students really need them, too, instead of when the school has deemed communication appropriate.  They are more constructive, build more relationships, and are a better way for me to get to know my students and their families than the artificial 10 minute presentation I give on Back to School Night or the rushed 10 minute one-on-one meetings on Parent Conference Day each December.  The natural communication that happens through nearly weekly grade updates, emails, and phone calls are more relevant, more timely, and more personal.  They show that I'm in touch because I want to be, not because I have to be.  Nearly every teacher I know communicates with families in this way as well.  Forced Parent Conference Days seem unnatural, impersonal, and kind of pointless when it comes to really


I have the best students on the planet.  They come to my classroom every day and make me laugh.  They energize me and show real fascination when I tell them stories from history.  Plus, every day they do fantastic things for one another.  They deserve to be recognized. I've started a new tag on Twitter: #thankateenager Here a few of my earliest posts. Amazing performances by Color Guard and Cheerleaders! #RMHS #thankateenager — Kerry Gallagher (@KerryHawk02) November 27, 2013 Nick and Ian, seniors and former students, stopped by this morning just to say hi and get me psyched up for pep rally! #thankateenager — Kerry Gallagher (@KerryHawk02) November 27, 2013 S/O to Doug in History 9 who helped a classmate download @evernote onto his @surface in class today! #thankateenager #gallagherhistory — Kerry Gallagher (@KerryHawk02) November 26, 2013 My awesome students made the #RMHS homepage! Good looking crew, right? #thankateenager

How Should I Grade You?

We arrived at the end of our second unit of the school year.  My freshmen had worked heard and learned a lot.  Their blog posts proved it, too.  I didn't really want to give them a traditional test.  Rather than rewarding their hard work, it felt like the test would just be a way for me to stress them out.  Instead, I asked them, "How should I grade you?" The lesson activator encouraged a class discussion of the purpose and value of traditional tests. It seemed that we all understood that teachers give tests because they need grades, evidence of learning.  However, while tests are efficient for teachers, students felt like they rewarded those who were good test-takers rather than those who had worked hard and really learned something.  They were surprised when I posed the next question to them. To help them decide I provided a few parameters: It had to be worth the equivalent of a traditional unit test grade. The assessment had to be something that could

Exploration: Then & Now

My freshmen are learning about the brave, and sometimes greedy and devious, explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries. It seemed like a perfect metaphor for teaching them to be brave, yet wise, explorers of the Internet as well. I used three resources: 1. Google A Day Lesson Plans 2. Wandering Booknut 3. All About Explorers The lesson activator was meant to get my 9th graders in the competitive spirit. Of course, the first question I got as students buried their noses in the iPads and smartphones was, "Who is the expedition leader?"  Ha ha ha.... I looked at them knowingly, smirked, and turned away.  They were frustrated, but they were getting the idea.  About 1/3 of each class figured out the right answer in the 3 minute window. Next I gave them some search hints. By the end of the second timed session, the students who got it the first time were able to get it again almost instantly.  Of the students who hadn't been successful in the first round, about

App-Smashing: A Revolutionary Way to Learn About Revolutions

App-smashing, according to Greg Kulowiec , is: I'm just starting to venture into app smashing as my high school students become more familiar with a variety of iPad apps.  I don't think app-smashing is something that I could have feasibly done much before this point in the year because I needed to familiarize my students with a foundational list of the apps that we will use all year long. Once they have that knowledge base and experience, they can create all kinds of products! The Topic This past week my sophomores created videos about the European Revolutions of 1830 and 1848 .  I wanted to do more than teach them the history; I wanted them to investigate a complex question. We talked about what makes a revolution a success or a failure.  As a class, we agreed on how to design a scale of success and failure for political revolution.  You'll see these scales later in their final products. Getting Started First, they accessed the event summaries and

Prove Your-Selfie

Question : How can you get your students to prove they have analyzed and understand a primary source? Answer :  Selfies. It's time to teach the Monroe Doctrine, the 1823 document that is still the basis of United States international relations to this day, to a classroom of 25 sixteen year olds. Part 1 : Monroe's Woes There were three issues facing President James Monroe. First Woe : Russia had staked it's claim on the northwestern coast, an area critical to America's Asian trade. Second Woe : European superpowers were meeting to discuss a possible invasion of newly independent Central and South American nations. Third Woe : Britain wanted an American alliance.  Americans still fundamentally distrusted the European mindset. Part 2 : The Solutions I gave students three excerpts from the document.  In small groups, they read the excerpts and determined which of Monroe's Woes each applied to.  They also determined what the solution was. Part

Teaching 19th Century Ideologies with 21st Century Technologies

Some concepts are just hard.  They're hard to teach and hard to learn.  Every year that I've taught the History 10 curriculum to sophomores, one of those concepts has been 19th century European political ideologies.  Conservatism, liberalism, and nationalism have never really been pulled together into a lesson that excited me or my students.  We would work through it and we'd both be OK, but never enthralled.  This year I wanted to change that. Part 1: What Do They Already Know? I asked students to define and give examples of each term: conservatism, liberalism, and nationalism.  They used their understandings from a modern American perspective.  We talked it out and they wrote their examples on the Smart Board. Part 2: How Was 19th Century Europe Different? It was REALLY different.  Before going there, though, I wanted them to know what an ideology is. The next step was to help them understand what these ideologies mean to 19th century Europeans.  I found a great

Why I LOVE History Lesson Planning (& HATE Christopher Columbus)

It starts with an idea. This was the idea I had last week: I don't want to be another in a long line of teachers who lets Columbus Day come and go silently.  I don't want to horrify my students, but they deserve to know the truth. So I start researching. First, I looked for something that Columbus said in his own words. An obvious choice was his report to the the King and Queen of Spain upon his triumphant return from his first voyage in 1493. For this and all images throughout the post, click the screenshot to go directly to the resource. Columbus speaks of the natives of Hispaniola in favorable terms.  They were welcoming, friendly, and unarmed.  Columbus seemed pleased.  Well, as I confirmed through further research, he should have been pleased.  He stood to receive a substantial reward if he discovered something that could be profitable for the Spanish Empire during his voyage.  The Library of Congress showed through primary sources that he gained the right to &q