Wolfram Alpha for History/Social Studies


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.

May 16th by admin Continue Reading



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.

Apr 24th by admin Continue Reading

Teaching Immigration with Flash


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!

Mar 12th by admin Continue Reading

WordPress in Education- Beginner


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.

Mar 11th by admin Continue Reading