23rd

Civil War Alternate Reality Game in May!

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For teachers and students throughout the world: There will be an educational Civil War “alternate reality” game beginning May 15th, 2011, hosted by the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA.

The game, titled “The Jewel of the Valleys,” is being run in support of the fundraiser “In Their Footsteps: On the March in Pennsylvania,” which benefits the education department of the Museum. Jewel_of_the_Valleys copy

The game will run the length of the fundraiser, in which the brave museum curator, Brett Kelley, will again choose to live the life of a Civil War soldier for two weeks. Last year, Brett chose to live outdoors as a Union soldier (and it coincided with two of the nastiest northeastern blizzards) last February. This year, Brett will be traveling as a Confederate soldier by foot from Fredericksburg, VA to Harrisburg.

The game will kick off with a “QR code” and web address being sent to educators and students around the country. The website will detail a dark and mysterious puzzle to be solved through the use of Civil War era communication technologies and authentic Civil War documents in the Museum’s archives.

Students may work collaboratively are on their own to follow the mystery. TheIMG_0658 ultimate objective of the game is to solve the mystery of “The Jewel of the Valleys.” The winner(s) of the game will be announced as Brett reaches the end of his journey- the Civil War Museum in Harrisburg.

How can teachers get their students involved? Make contact by following the National Civil War Museum on Facebook or on Twitter (@NCWM), follow Brett Kelley on Twitter (@cwsoldier24_7), or subscribe to the student-created and run blog featuring news of Brett’s journey at On The March.

This blog will also hail the beginning of the game, and it has been rumored that the mysterious force behind the “Jewel of the Valleys” game may even have social media accounts for students to follow!

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Mar 23rd by admin Continue Reading
19th

Civil War “Survivorman” Benefits Museum

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Brett Kelley, Curator at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA will be deducting two weeks from his vacation time, and be off from February 6th to the 20th. He’s not, however, really vacationing.

In the interest of raising funds for the education department of the museum, specifically for helping school districts pay for field trips to the museum and to pay for “virtual” electronic field trips for K12 students, Brett will be living the life of a Civil War picket soldier for the duration of his vacation time. He’ll be living in the large (heavily exposed) backyard of the impressive museum, living on rations, wearing the clothes, eating the hardtack, living the life.

In order to duplicate the very challenging schedule and responsibilities of a picket soldier, he’ll be spending several days a week on picket duty (similar to “watch” in the Navy). He’ll also be carrying out several ten mile marches to raise awareness of the Museum, and building a small winter quarters and wooden defenses.

My students and I quickly saw the tremendous social media potential of this event (Survivorman + Man vs. Wild + Prairie House) and organized ourselves, with the help of the Museum, into a social media platoon.

Brett will be keeping a handwritten journal (with sketches) of his experiences, interns at the Museum will be snapping photos, and making videos. All of this will presented to the world through daily updates on a WordPress blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on YouTube. All of these accounts will be linked.

So, through subscribing to our blog:  Civil War Soldier 24/7, teachers and students will be able to follow his experiences from day to day. On Twitter, you can show your support by following @cwsoldier24_7 (we’ll follow you back!). On Facebook, you can friend Brett Kelley, and become a fan of the National Civil War Museum. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel, but all of the media will be aggregated on our blog page. Each account is in the design phase for my students, so each account page should get prettier as we approach Brett’s vacation. Please spread the word!

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Jan 19th by admin Continue Reading
16th

Wolfram|Alpha and Naming Babies

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My wife and I are patiently awaiting the birth of our daughter, which has been affecting my number of recent posts. It could happen now at any time.

Like all parents, we spent quite a bit of time (and argument) coming up with names for our children. Our two year old son was easy, he was named after my father-in-law, which happened to also be a name common in my Pennsylvania Dutch family- Jacob. No sweat. When we found out my wife was pregnant nine months ago, we went through the process again. We found out that the baby was a girl, and my side of the family had nothing. Nothing that a 21st century parent would consider, that is. So we went ethnic. My wife is Danish, and we picked an old Danish name- Maren.

A lot of parents don’t, and didn’t, do it this way as evident from a recent blog post by the Wolfram|Alpha team. It was an inspiring post for me, and led me to do a few historical experiments that might be useful in an American History classroom. The post pointed out one of Wolfram’s neat features, the ability to graph and get statistics for the frequency of given names since 1890 in the United States. Their example highlights the male given name “Roosevelt.” As you can imagine, the number of lucky young fellows granted the name spiked during and following the presidencies of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt (I was surprised to see that the Teddy spike was almost twice the size as the FDR spike). The cousin’s first names also show positive correlations.

So, what other interesting things could students do with this? It would be great for introducing new units, by trying out a few given names for key unit figures. We’re of course restricted to the period 1890 to about 2008, and it should be noted that the “spikes” I referring to are often really a very small percentage of all given names chosen by parents.

I’ve noticed both positive and negative correlations. If you stick to 20th century presidents without common given names, Dwight and Lyndon show positive correlations. Eisenhower’s name has a World War II spike, followed by a spike during and after his presidency. Ike, however, did not seem to catch on. Johnson has a short spike correlating with his VP candidacy in 1960, which was  greatly overshadowed by a spike during his re-election campaign (and the Civil Rights Acts) but then drastically falling during the mire of Vietnam.

What about first ladies? Jacqueline Kennedy and Hillary Clinton clearly win, with only slight bumps for Mamie Eisenhower, Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover. Pat Nixon (her real name was Thelma) and Eleanor Roosevelt fare better. Wolfram|Alpha is understandably confused by Lady Bird (Claudia) Johnson and Rosalynn Carter (Eleanor). Edith Roosevelt seems to have a positive correlation. More importantly her middle name, Kermit, also the name of her son who inherited Teddy’s sense of adventure, has an impressive spike and possibly a negative correlation during the heyday of a certain green frog puppet.

How about a few international leaders? No surprise- negative correlation for Adolph. I was very surprised by the effect of Winston Churchill on American parents.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X show positive results, with Malcolm showing a spike (no pun intended) around the release of Malcolm X in theatres.

More interesting results: old celebrities Errol Flynn and Rudolph Valentino and newer celebrities Angelina Jolie and Britney Spears.

When I drift from my original educational purpose, it’s probably time to stop writing. Let me know any interesting historical finds on your end (I’ll update this post- especially if you tweet me some of your finds!)

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Jun 16th by admin Continue Reading
03rd

TED Talks Demystified for Teachers

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The title of this post is not meant as an insult! It’s just that so many of us (educators) are clearly impressed with the brilliance exhibited in the TED Talks, but have trouble sorting through all of the material to discover something appropriate for our disciplines.

So, in the interest of preparing for teaching a new course next year, and wanting to sort TED out a bit, I’ve created the following list based on disciplines (organizing knowledge or research by discipline is, it should be pointed out, in stark contrast to the real objective of TED Talks in general). I really like this TED fella, and I hope he doesn’t mind:)

At any rate, PLEASE PREVIEW THESE before showing them to students. These clips are intended for adults. I have seen most on my list, but couldn’t tell you in every case that I didn’t see or hear something that may be inappropriate for your classroom.

The data for this collection was taken from this Google Spreadsheet, which I received notice of in a tweet a few days ago. I have no idea who created the sheet, I’m certainly not taking the credit. I only searched through it and put together the following info. You should also know that this is not a complete list, there are many more TED Talks available on the web. Bionic Teaching has used the same sheet to create a great MIT Exhibit on, as far as I can tell, all of the TED Talks.

The interdisciplinary nature of TED (a direction I’d like to see education go in general) would allow many of these clips to cross several of my categories, so it may be useful for you to scan the lists of other disciplines. Enjoy!

American History Title and Link Run Time
Anna Deavere Smith Four American characters 0:23:05
David Hoffman Catch Sputnik mania! 0:03:50
Irwin Redlener How to survive a nuclear attack 0:25:18
Doris Kearns Goodwin Learning from past presidents in moments of crisis 0:18:48
Jennifer 8. Lee Who was General Tso? and other mysteries of American Chinese food 0:16:38
Laurie Garrett Laurie Garrett on lessons from the 1918 flu 0:21:05
World History
Jared Diamond Why societies collapse 0:18:21
Siegfried Woldhek The true face of Leonardo Da Vinci? 0:04:24
Samantha Power Shaking hands with the devil 0:23:09
Geography
Hans Rosling Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen 0:19:50
Dr. Dean Ornish The world now eats (and dies) like Americans 0:03:18
Wade Davis Cultures at the far edge of the world 0:22:01
Louise Fresco Louise Fresco on feeding the whole world 0:18:00
Nathan Wolfe Hunting the next killer virus 0:12:20
Language Arts
Erin McKean Redefining the dictionary 0:15:50
Lakshmi Pratury The lost art of letter-writing 0:04:09
Brewster Kahle A digital library, free to the world 0:20:06
C.K. Williams Poetry for all seasons of life 0:23:17
Education
Sir Ken Robinson Do schools kill creativity? 0:19:24
Richard Baraniuk Goodbye, textbooks; hello, open-source learning 0:18:34
Alan Kay A powerful idea about teaching ideas 0:20:37
Stuart Brown Why play is vital — no matter your age 0:26:42
Mae Jemison Mae Jemison on teaching arts and sciences together 0:14:48
Sugata Mitra Can kids teach themselves? 0:20:59
Art
Paola Antonelli Treating design as art 0:18:17
David Macaulay All roads lead to Rome Antics 0:21:35
Margaret Wertheim Margaret Wertheim on the beautiful math of coral 0:15:33
Ursus Wehrli Tidying up art 0:15:57
Music
Sirena Huang Dazzling set by 11-year-old violinist 0:24:41
Jennifer Lin Magical improv from 14-year-old pianist 0:24:05
Caroline Lavelle A cello performance that casts a spell 0:07:39
Pamelia Kurstin Theremin, the untouchable music 0:19:11
Benjamin Zander Classical music with shining eyes 0:20:43
James Burchfield Sound stylings by a human beatbox 0:04:44
Jose Antonio Abreu Help me bring music to kids worldwide (TED Prize winner!) 0:16:58
Eric Lewis Striking chords to rock the jazz world 0:10:36
Natalie MacMaster Playing the Cape Breton fiddle 0:18:47
Mathematics
Arthur Benjamin Lightning calculation and other “Mathemagic” 0:15:14
Greg Lynn How calculus is changing architecture 0:18:54
Steven Strogatz How things in nature tend to sync up 0:21:58
Biology
Aubrey de Grey Why we age and how we can avoid it 0:22:45
E.O. Wilson TED Prize wish: Help build the Encyclopedia of Life 0:22:35
Craig Venter A voyage of DNA, genes and the sea 0:16:51
James Watson The double helix and today’s DNA mysteries 0:20:11
Robert Full Secrets of movement, from geckos and roaches 0:19:24
Gregory Stock How biotech will drive our evolution 0:17:51
Bonnie Bassler Discovering bacteria’s amazing communication system 0:18:14
Peter Ward Earth’s mass extinctions 0:19:41
Barry Schuler An introduction to genomics 0:21:26
Kary Mullis Celebrating the scientific experiment 0:29:32
Physics
Murray Gell-Mann Beauty and truth in physics 0:16:02
Brian Cox An inside tour of the world’s biggest supercollider 0:14:59
Patricia Burchat The search for dark energy and dark matter 0:16:09
Brian Cox Brian Cox: What went wrong at the LHC 0:03:29
Health/Physical Education
Ben Saunders Three things to know before you ski to the North Pole 0:18:03
Mark Bittman What’s wrong with what we eat 0:20:08
Ann Cooper Reinventing the school lunch 0:19:42
John Wooden Coaching for people, not points 0:17:36
Matthew Childs Matthew Childs’ 9 life lessons from rock climbing 0:04:48
Dr. Dean Ornish Healing and other natural wonders 0:16:49
Civics/Government
Ashraf Ghani How to fix broken states 0:18:45
Sasa Vucinic Why a free press is the best investment 0:18:00
Jonathan Haidt The real difference between liberals and conservatives 0:18:42
Nate Silver Nate Silver: Does race affect votes? 0:09:16
Lee Smolin How science is like democracy 0:12:25
Psychology
Michael Shermer Why people believe strange things 0:13:25
Vilayanur Ramachandran A journey to the center of your mind 0:23:34
Keith Barry Brain magic 0:19:49
Michael Merzenich Michael Merzenich on re-wiring the brain 0:23:07
Elizabeth Gilbert A different way to think about creative genius 0:19:28
Steven Pinker Chalking it up to the blank slate 0:22:42
Anthropology
Zeresenay Alemseged Finding the origins of humanity 0:15:51
Louise Leakey Digging for humanity’s origins 0:15:36
Spencer Wells Building a family tree for all humanity 0:20:53
Murray Gell-Mann Do all languages have a common ancestor? 0:02:15
Earth Science/Environment
Al Gore 15 ways to avert a climate crisis 0:16:17
Juan Enriquez Why can’t we grow new energy? 0:18:10
Andy Hobsbawm Do the green thing 0:03:22
Willie Smits A 20-year tale of hope: How we re-grew a rainforest 0:20:42
Sylvia Earle Here’s how to protect the blue heart of the planet (TED Prize winner!) 0:18:16
Bill Gross Great ideas for finding new energy 0:19:55
Statistics
Peter Donnelly How juries are fooled by statistics 0:21:20
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita Three predictions on the future of Iran, and the math to back it up 0:19:05
Sean Gourley Sean Gourley on the mathematics of war 0:07:19
Economics
Benjamin Wallace Does happiness have a price tag? 0:14:40
Dan Ariely Why we think it’s OK to cheat and steal (sometimes) 0:16:23
Mike Rowe Celebrating work — all kinds of work 0:20:02
Barry Schwartz The real crisis? We stopped being wise 0:20:45
David S. Rose 10 things to know before you pitch a VC for money 0:14:39
Family/Consumer Science
Peter Reinhart The art of baking bread 0:15:34
Joseph Pine What do consumers really want? 0:14:19
Technology/Computers in Education
Evan Williams How Twitter’s spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses 0:08:00
Erik Hersman Erik Hersman on reporting crisis via texting 0:03:56
Tim Berners-Lee The next Web of open, linked data 0:16:23
Brenda Laurel Why didn’t girls play videogames? 0:13:08
Juan Enriquez Beyond the crisis, mindboggling science and the arrival of Homo evolutis 0:18:50
David Merrill Siftables, the toy blocks that think 0:07:09
James Surowiecki The moment when social media became the news 0:16:59
Astronomy
Penelope Boston Life on Mars? Let’s look in the caves 0:18:29
Jill Tarter Why the search for alien intelligence matters (TED Prize winner!) 0:21:23
George Smoot The design of the universe 0:19:00
Charles Elachi The story of the Mars Rovers 0:28:17
Peter Diamandis Taking the next giant leap in space 0:15:31
Freeman Dyson Let’s look for life in the outer solar system 0:19:11
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Jun 03rd by admin Continue Reading
27th

23 Intriguing Open Courseware Offerings

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There is a growing movement among colleges and universities that is emphasizing the free availability of course materials. I find that many of my history and social studies colleagues are unaware of the expanding possibilities for a more in-depth investigation of their content.

Teaching a new course (I’m starting AP Human Geography next year)? Confused about a particularly intense section of your curriculum? Looking to excite students by introducing current research and controversy?

The following is certainly only a partial list, and I admit I’ve chosen a few due to personal fascination (I’m guessing the soap opera course and the pro wrestling course are remarkably similar). If you’re not impressed with my list, but you want to check more exhaustive lists of history offerings, look here and here.

In a future post, I plan to collect another list of resources from the recently established and exciting offerings of iTunes U.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Anthropology of Computing Technology and Culture

The Conquest of America

Technology in American History

Medieval Literature: Medieval Women Writers

American Soap Operas

Topics in Comparative Media: American Pro Wrestling

Videogame Theory and Analysis

How and Why Machines Work

Tufts University

Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Urban and Environmental Analysis

Perseus

UC Berkeley

Geography 20, 001

University of Massachusetts Boston

HIST 201 – Monarchs, People, and History , Summer 2008

HIST 304 – The Dark Ages , Summer 2008

HIST 313 – Nineteenth Century Europe

University of Notre Dame

AMST 30125 – Faith and the African American Experience

MI 40410 – Jews and Christians throughout History, Fall 2006

Utah State University

Guide to Writing in History, 2002

INST4010 – Principles and Practices of Technology, Spring 2008

INST5245 – Interactive Multimedia Production, Summer, 2008

INST7150 – Introduction to Open Education, Fall 2007

OER IID – Intro to Instructional Design, Spring 2005

Utah Valley State College

Teaching with Moodle

Using Moodle – A Brief Guide for Students

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May 27th by admin Continue Reading
16th

Wolfram Alpha for History/Social Studies

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Long story made short, Wolfram Alpha is now live. It’s a bit more complex than your average search engine, so I’ll give you some examples of how it can be used in the History/Social Studies classroom. I’ll use a French Revolution bit of flavoring, since I’m up to my neck in it in class right now. You or your students can try out other content with the same search examples.

I got a little carried away with this, and it took a bit of time, probably due to the massive attempts at reaching Wolfram’s server.

If you discover some other neat and/or useful examples, please comment below!

If a 10 lb guillotine blade falls 12 ft, what’s the force?

When Louis XIV said “l’etat, c’est moi,” what was he?

On what day was the Bastille attacked, what day of the week was it, and exactly how long ago did it happen?

What did the calendar look like for that year?

On October 5, 1789, how far did the royal family have to march in humiliation from the palace at Versailles to the palace of the Tuileries in Paris?

Who was Robespierre?

How did he compare to Marat?

The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen was 802 words in French. How many characters is that, how many pages, and how long would it take me to type it?

One of the products of the Revolutionaries was a new system of measurement based on the distance between the northernmost and southernmost points of France. How long was one of these units?

How many dollars of debt did each French person owe as a result of France’s support of the American Revolution?

The Revolution was greatly influenced by the price and availability of bread. How much nutritional value is in 2 slices of french bread?

If the people of France had followed Marie Antoinette’s advice (which she never actually said) “let them eat cake,” how much nutritional value would be in 2 pieces of cake?

I’m making a word puzzle for my students, what is an anagram for “cahiers?”

What is the difference between French and Napoleon Bonaparte’s native language?

What’s the geographic difference between Napoleon Bonaparte’s first place of exile (Elba) and the second (St. Helena)?

What’s the distance between Waterloo and St. Helena?

How much would that be in the revolutionary “meters?”

What does 7.451×10^6 meters mean?

How do I say that number?

What are two movies about the French Revolution, and how do they compare?

Was the Battle of Waterloo part of the Seven Years War? Can you prove it with a timeline?

Warning- drifting away from original focus…

Did the Holy Roman Empire exist at the same time as the Kingdom of Sicily?

Babe Ruth was paid $100,000 to play for the Yankees in 1920. How much would that be today?

How much was the same amount worth when Ruth died in 1948?

How much did Ruth make per hour?

Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt were fifth cousins. What does that mean?

How many Roosevelts are there in the US?

Enjoy, and be patient. I’m hoping the system speeds up soon, and more options become available.

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May 16th by admin Continue Reading
24th

Screencasts

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I’ve spent a great deal of time in my career trying to explain to students and colleagues how exactly to use a specific computer application. I eventually bought a copy of Adobe’s Captivate, and it made it quite simple to create movies of my onscreen actions that could be opened and played by anyone with the Flash player.

I’ve even had students use Captivate to create movies that explained new education technologies to teachers.

Fortunately, in recent years free online services are taking over the “screencast” biz. Captivate is still a fantastic application, and is now perfectly suited for high class “e-Learning” by institutions and businesses.

However, the simplicity and price of online screencasting services are a winner for teachers. After trying quite a few, Screencast-O-Matic.com is my favorite. It is incredibly simple to operate, and the screencasts can be exported to flash, quicktime,  and windows media.

Just to offer a wide range of options for teachers, JingProject.com and Copernicus also look interesting for free screen capture.

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Apr 24th by admin Continue Reading
12th

Teaching Immigration with Flash

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Here’s a freebie.. This zip file offers three useful things for American History teachers at the middle or high school level.

After unzipping the folder, you’ll see:

A .fla file for those of you with Flash. You may use or change this file in any way.

A .swf file. Opening this file will open the “Waves of Immigration” interactive file in Flash Player.

An .html file. Opening this file will open the “Waves of Immigration” interactivity in a browser window.

The interactive file is designed to allow students to investigate the four major waves of immigration to the US since 1492. Here’s the correctly finished activity (with room for discussion and/or argument):

These files can be used “as-is, “ or embedded in your own web page. Or, if you’ve read this far and you’re a bit confused, try the interactive activity online here.

Have fun!

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Mar 12th by admin Continue Reading
11th

WordPress in Education- Beginner

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What’s a blog? Why is it useful in education? I primarily use blogs and easy way to disseminate information to both colleagues and students, in a way which is easily archived and searched through the use of categories and tags. Secondarily, blogs in the classroom serve a valuable purpose, to allow students to carry out critical and productive dialogues about the course content and skills.

Blogs, unlike textbooks, are communication devices used by persons of almost any interest, place of origin, and occupation on earth. To get a better idea of the wide world of blogs (also known as the “blogosphere”), I recommend using Google Reader. This service, offered for free by Google, requires only a registration, and an

interest in reading blogs. Google Reader is an aggregator, meaning that it gathers up all of the blog posts I’m interested in. It also tracks which posts I’ve read. My Google Reader watches about 200 blogs for me, without me ever having to visit each blog individually.

What is WordPress? WordPress is an open source application that provides all of a blog’s functions- writing, posting, linking, commenting, responding, and even extending a blog’s capabilities and appearance through plugins and themes. Because it’s open source, the code that runs WordPress is constantly improved by interested techies. For educators, the most important facet of open source applications is that they are free.

This blog is a WordPress installation. The blog I created and administered at

Dickinson College’s House Divided Project is a WordPress installation. The blogs I use with students and colleagues in my district are a part of a WordPressMU (multi-user) installation.

For more information on blogs, blogging, and WordPress, see 6 Reasons To Get Your Students Blogging, 5 teaching blogs you should be reading, Why use WPMU in K12?, and Step-by-step instructions to start a class blog.

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Mar 11th by admin Continue Reading