All posts by bw


Above is a link to a webquest that I made in Weebly.  The webquest examines many different aspects of culture in Ancient Rome.  However, it is not fact-finding about Roman Emperors, like most lessons on this subject.  Instead, it is a deeper look into the socioeconomic, familial, and emotional traits of the individuals in that culture.  The cognitive and affective domains of learning will be tested and expanded during this lesson.  While students are still exploring and trying to understand the basics of Roman culture, they are also relating to the subject in a whole new way.   This exercise will have them analyzing Roman culture and constructing an identity within that culture.  At the end of the lesson, students will evaluate Rome as an observer and an imaginary insider.  And that is exactly where I’d place this lesson on Bloom’s Taxonomy- evaluate.

Technologically Enhanced Lesson Plan

A good lesson on delivering Persuasive Speeches (as Presidential Candidates) that also teaches Presidential History

The link above will direct the audience to a fun history lesson.   In the original “Persuasive Speeches” lesson plan,  students choose a recent presidential candidate.  After students select their candidate, they will explore the internet and find the issues their candidate dealt with in their time.  Then everyone in the class will write a persuasive speech that details who they chose, why they chose them, facts on problems and solutions of their candidate’s time period, and the social groups affected by their policies.  Then students give their speech in front of the class and that is the end.

The original lesson plan allows students to use Powerpoint to make a visual and suggests using the internet to do research on candidates.  However, this is not enough.  Students will be about ten times more excited if they get to interact with technology.  The new and improved lesson plan will have students creating a three-part commercial series for a recent presidential candidate.  The candidate’s new digital campaign is comprised of three speeches of five minutes or less (no more than fifteen minutes total), three social media posts (each post needs to appeal to a certain group of voters), and then three memes that comment on the candidate’s, or opponent’s, policies. The lesson plan I’m proposing has many opportunities for technological integration, but here are the three that I think work well together.

  1. Social Media- The original lesson plan has a wonderful premise but it is completely out-of-date.  Running a campaign in the modern world requires the use of social media of some kind.  Students are required to set up a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever relevant application is popular that they wish to use.  Social media will offer the class a chance to have some fun with posts and meme making while they accumulate information on their candidate.  All comments and posts should be tasteful and thoughful.  After all, we are doing this to debate and learn.  Each speech, meme, and post must be targeted toward a specific group of voters (think demographically, economically, socially, etc).  All speeches, memes, and posts will be made into a compilation of some kind and put on their social media site with music and transitions.  The social media platform also gives students a chance to practice debate and logic in the comments section.  Once again, all comments and posts should be made to further democratic discourse in a positive and thoughtful way.
  2. Mind Mapping- Mind mapping sites allow students to create charts and organizers for just about anything.  In general, mind maps can be used to help visualize a subject, improve brainstorming sessions, increase critical thinking, outline a subject or multiple documents, and will improve reading and writing skills.  In this context, students will use mind maps to create a visual of their complex campaigning strategy.  Here are some things to consider: Where did your candidate spend most of their time on the campaign trail and what messages did you wish to convey there?  What mediums did they use to get their message out?  What were the main issues on America’s mind during that campaign?  Who was their opponent and what avenues did they use to convey their agenda?  The mind map should be wonderful
  3.   Presentation Video, Digital Storybook, or Slideshow- As previously mentioned, students will be required to record multiple speeches that appeal to like-minded voters.  These videos will be made in iMovie, Prezi, Storyjumper, or any acceptable application along those lines.  Students can make extra footage for this but the only requirement is the three memes, three posts, and three speeches.  The final presentation should have music and transitions (if applicable).

The flipchart in this case is meant to act as a guide for the project, rather than a means to inform.  It is filled with the standards, objectives, and guidelines for the project.  Most of the slides give students the step-by-step instructions and helps push them along on the project’s thought process.

The original lesson plan has a creative premise.  By getting into the presidential character, through research and observation, students are gaining a better understanding of our political culture and the various factions of voters.  But, an injection of technology into the original lesson plan increased entertainment and production.  Not to mention, it is very practical to integrate technology and increase our students’ confidence with such things.

My Philosophical Thoughts on Technology in the Classroom

Throughout my entire life, I have been a huge fan of science fiction media.  I’ve always thought that science fiction creators have one commonality with students-they are both trying to take today’s world and re-imagine it completely.  This is no easy task but it can be done with creativity.  My philosophical perspective on the role of technology in the classroom is centered around the imagination.

It is safe to say that I will always be a bit old school.  Paper and ink will always be what my academic heart cries for.  However, the world we live in isn’t having it, and who wants to look backwards?  The technology that we have at our disposal would make our ancestors cry out in amazement and it only gets more intense by the day.  Undoubtedly, there are some problems with technology, such as cost, reliability and how quickly tech becomes obsolete, but computers aren’t going anywhere.  Students need to be exposed to as much technology we can throw at them.  As computers become more and more wrapped around our lives, we must rethink cities and our very citizenship.

One of my main views on technology in the classroom is encompassed by the word fluidity.  In other words, we need to let technology work itself into our lives organically.  Our communities cannot afford to invest in every new gadget, nor can we afford to not expose our children to the machines of the future.  For instance, 3D printing has become a technology that humans are starting to use for a variety of reasons and its potential is now clear.  So, let us invest in that and give students across the nation access to that trailblazing tech.  Schools should have the latest and most broad-reaching technology that is within our financial grasp.  Teachers and parents need to do everything they can to prepare students for their future role in our society, a role that will be largely defined by how they use modern tools.

After the testing craze of the “No Child Left Behind” era, I hope that we start to emphasize critical thinking curriculum.  To me, critical thinking is greatly enhanced by creativity, which can all be enhanced through technological tools.  As a social studies teacher, I cannot wait to use message boards, or a live feed to connect my students with real professionals, or to assign projects that require students to use their math and map skills in tandem on a GPS application.

The doors to the future are waiting for our students and it is our job to show them the tools to get there.  We must set aside money and politics to give students the tools of today because they are making the tools for tomorrow.  The problems of the 21st century are going to require us to forget the box, not just think outside of it.  The job of every teacher should be to inspire the collective imagination it will take to solve the problems of the future.

Blogging Badge

This is a general update that I  together!  Enjoy my five points.

-This video is great for refreshing kids’ minds on the area of four sided shapes. It should work perfect with the video I made on the 19th.

-I’ve also added several pictures to previous posts.  1) There is now a picture of inside the Newseum  headquarters on the Feb 3rd post.  Those interfaces look crazy!  2) I put a chart on the Feb 26. post about tablets that compares prices between brands.  Keep in mind that will not be good in a few months with how prices change, but it is handy to get your mind prepared for the tech specs and prices.

-This post will be covering technology management in the classroom with info found on the web.  The site I’m drawing from wrote an article with six tips on technology management in the classroom.  The summary below is based off the information on this site-

Technological progression is not slowing any time soon.  More and more it is finding its way into the classroom.  Because students and parents have expectations about technology integration, we must set up policy on every level from classroom to district.  Personally, I am in favor of students having open access to laptops, tablets, etc.  However, we do have to be on guard.  Obviously, access to the internet means access to the entire world.    The proper security measures will have to be taken, both for the safety of students and the technology.  Proper security software is a given in a world full of hazards and obstacles.  But it isn’t just about keeping them out of improper material, it is about keeping them on task and using technology effectively.  Below is the website’s list of tips for technology management in the classroom.

  1. Tip #1- Formulate an Electronics Policy.  Putting a system in place is always useful.  Having standards created and explained to the students will inform them about subjects such as proper etiquette or how to use computer storage systems properly.
  2. Tip #2- Creating consequences without disrupting classwork. When it comes to technology, you’ll have to enforce the rules and tweak the assignment for certain individuals.
  3. Tip #3- Have attention grabbing catch phrase. It is silly, but true.  All teachers love their nerdy one-liners.  A specific one for laptops or whatever will be really useful.
  4. Tip #4- Be a proactive helper. While they work on their computers it doesn’t hurt to look over their shoulders and engage them.
  5. Tip #5- Start offline. Yeah, don’t give them the devices until they understand the assignment or it will be a slippery slope into chaos.
  6. Tip #6- Put students to work. Most young students know as much about a device or software that an adult does these days.  Might as well put them to use and give them hands on knowledge and responsibility.

Follow these rules and you’ll be just fine!

-Interactive games are a great way to get students to learn, maybe without them knowing too.  Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. is a wonderful place for age appropriate interactive games.  They range from K-8 and are quality games at each level.  I found myself caught up in the “Playground” tab for quite some time.
  2.   Don’t hate on the NatGeo, it has been making a big comeback.  Their new site for kids is awesome.  I’m a social studies teacher, of course I want to have a storm simulator lesson!
  3.   “ABCya!” is a K-5 specific site.  The site doesn’t really have unique games but they are attention grabbing, which is as useful.
  4.   One of my favorites is “Learning Games for Kids.”  LGfK is very practical and comes with a curriculum for each game and puzzle.
  5. I swear I don’t work for Khan Academy but I can’t help but to plug it in here as well.  Yeah, Khan Academy is glorious and really helps students with homework and tracks their progress.  It is the bee’s knees.

-The last point in my post is about some great lesson ideas on a blog I found.  This blog is made by a teacher and could be formatted to any age.  Here is a a link and scroll down to the bottom to see my comment and link about the recent Women’s March-

Federal Education in America

One of the greatest mysteries is why education was left out of the Constitution.  I think it is safe to say that the Founders might have blundered on that point.  What should be said about a country that does not guarantee education as a right?  And we still do not to this day, but there has been a push in that direction from the Common Core Standards Inititive.  Needless to say, everybody involved (students, teachers, parents, administrators, etc.) has an ax to grind with Common Core, but I still support any move toward a federal education system.

Common Core is a set of language art and math standards.  The purpose was to provide a template for classrooms everywhere  and to emphasize skills that students will need for college.  From personal experience, having a system to follow is very helpful.  But to the teachers with many years of experience, it could stifling or just frustrating that another system is being replaced.  But at the heart of the issue is the question, “Is education necessary; should it be a right?”

I truly believe that education is a right that should be guaranteed to all citizens.  Amendments to add education into the Constitution have failed, but if we want to increase the efficacy and standards of our educational infrastructure, we may have to do so.   However, how do you have a system that works perfectly for such a diverse population.  The United States is roughly 4 million square miles and there is a good chance that two randomly chosen US citizens may not have much in common, culturally speaking.  This is why education has always been politically filed under “states’ rights.”

Common Core’s inability to address regional issues is a fundamental weakness.  To receive the federal funds, a state was required to adopt at least 85% of the CC curriculum, but this number was too high.  A federally funded education system would need to offer more autonomy to account for this diversity.  Even though education has been supported federally -I’m just going to leave this here-–  I think we need to add an amendment to the Constitution that holds our education system to an incredibly high standard.

Using Surveys as an Educator

Surveys are an excellent way to gather information about education from the community.  Surveys give communities a sense of belonging and input and give teachers valuable information about that community’s needs.  Teachers can use surveys for so many different things: test-prep efficacy, curriculum feedback, parent involvement, etc.

Students will love surveys because they are interactive and give them a stake in their own education.  The questions on your survey could get the students to really reflect on a subject and make them conduct their own investigation.  Wouldn’t it be nice if every unit started out with organic enthusiasm?  In my first observational experience, my mentor teacher created weekly surveys for the students over their interests.  By the end of the week, the subject with the highest popularity would be taught.  Students looked forward to it all week and even the students whose subject was not chosen still had a blast.   If surveys are used effectively, we could gain the insight we need to increase participation.  While teachers can’t cater to everyone’s needs, it certainly will help out the classroom overall.

However, in my opinion, the best use of surveys is for parent feedback.  This is something that I would like to do at the beginning and end of each year.  Teachers can find out about new students, what disappointed parents about the previous year, or what areas the child struggles  in.  We need to be able to find out how students spend their time outside of class and what role parents are playing in their kid’s education, and surveys can make gathering that information much simpler.

Here is an example:

3D Printing

3D printing is a technology that opens up many possibilities in the education world.  A 3D printer operates on the same principles as a traditional computer printer, but instead of color being patterned on to paper, raw material is turned into 3D objects.  It helps to picture a regular computer printer repeating the same printing job over and over again, eventually the ink would build up and create a 3D version of the print job.  As with many new technologies, we have to ask ourselves what role it will play in the future.

First of all, 3D printing alone is worth exposing to our students.  The process is intimidating because it is new but it is actually pretty simple.  Because it is ran by a computer, and is done layer-by-layer, students can easily see how the software and hardware interact to create the product.  In other words, there are a million things 3D printing can create that will enhance lessons, but on top of that, the technology itself is worth examining.

3D printing can enhance almost every subject.  In art, students can create literally anything conceivable into a 3D object.  In science, real, perfectly-scaled models can be brought to life.  Complex geographical maps can be made.  3D printing would completely change how we view kinesthetic learning.  You name it and it can be made.

Just like with all new technologies, cost is what keeps it out of the education world.  But many people are convinced that this is going to drastically change the future.  The ability to perform super complex tasks is going to be able to be done by the push of a button.  Our students will benefit greatly from early exposure to technology that will dominate the future, and 3D printing is a prime example.

Here is a video on how 3D printing works:

Khan Academy-The Ultimate Web Tool for Teachers

Khan Academy is one of the most useful tools for students and teachers and it is only getting better.  Khan Academy started out as online tutor service that the creator, Salman Khan, made for a few friends.  After seeing the potential, he took on the work full time and turned it into what it is today.  Khan Academy is now a fully-functioning website and application.  It has short lectures, tutorials, supplementary exercises, and tools for every subject imaginable, from early education to high school.  Recently, a profile system was added which allows for an award system, progress-checker, a projects section, and discussion boards for teachers, parents, and students to communicate with each other and the academic community.

Khan Academy is always expanding!  One of the newest features, and maybe the most helpful for teachers, is that it is now synced with Common Core.  The entire math section is labeled with Common Core standards, which is pretty handy when you need to come up with new projects or worksheets.  I’ve also read that they (and other education apps) are developing software that would allow students to screenshot their homework and send it in for one-on-one tutor help, which is simply amazing.  Khan Academy also comes in three languages: Hindi, Spanish, and English.  On top of all of that, it is free, with no weird or inappropriate advertisements.

Ipads and How Useful They Are

Mobile technology is making the classroom a more interactive, realistic, and effective place.  Schools that have the funding to purchase iPads (or really any mobile tablet) are living that modern dream.  For those that do not know, a tablet is a device that is the middle ground between a smart phone and laptop, both functionally and physically. (I’m sure as computer hardware improves, the lines between these will fade even more.)  Tablets are portable computers that are almost weightless and have an endless amount of capabilities.  Just to name a few, they can allow users to create and edit videos and photos, download all kinds of educational apps, play music, and use email.

Tablets can better our classrooms and students in so many ways.  It is hard to know where to start.  The main feature is probably the apps.  There are apps that help special needs students stay on task, teach languages, provide instant homework help, and just on and on.  But, it isn’t just the apps.  Just the basic features of the tablet can be used to help students with all kinds of issues.  For instance, the voice recorder can let students hear themselves speak.  A student who is struggling with speech can actually use this to help correct the problem.  One of the best perks is that students get excited about them.  What more could we ask for?

Other than the normal caveats about becoming too reliant on technology, I’d say there is not a disadvantage.  Our world is becoming more and more driven by technology, and our classrooms need to be reflective of that environmental shift.  With tablets in the classroom, you can get more done in less time and ensure our students’ digital intelligence.

Here is a link that has some pretty cool info: