Thursday, December 22, 2011

Case Law Cartoons

This week my 7th grade social studies students created short cartoons to illustrate real-life examples of how important Supreme Court rulings affect students. Students used our GoAnimate for Schools classroom account.  Summaries of major Supreme Court decisions were provided by Scholastic's New York Times Upfront magazine.

Below is an example illustrating the case Vernonia School District v. Acton (1995).  The issue was about student athletes and mandatory drug testing.  The Supreme Court sided with the school.

Below is an example illustrating the case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969). The issue was about dress codes. The Supreme Court stated that you have the right to express yourself - up to a point.

Below is an example illustrating the case Grutter v. Bollinger (2003). The issue was about affirmative action. The Supreme Court stated that colleges can use race as a factor in admissions.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

TeachUNICEF Podcasts

About TeachUNICEF: The mission of TeachUNICEF is to “support and create well-informed global citizens who understand interconnectedness, respect and value diversity, have the ability to challenge injustice and inequities and take action in personally meaningful ways.” Their homepage is

Our Class Project: The goal of this project was to fulfill the mission of TeachUNICEF.  My 6th grade students were each assigned a topic to research about children in Africa.  They utilized the media center to access books and to research online (via SIRS Discoverer).  They each wrote a 5-paragraph expository essay, followed by a team-created podcast.  They used Audacity to produce and mix their audio, along with sound effects and music exported from GarageBand.  The podcasts were uploaded to the class SoundCloud accountHere's the link:

Below are some embedded examples:
Poverty in Africa

Malaria in Africa
HIV and AIDS in Africa
Education Issues in Africa

Friday, November 25, 2011


I received an email forwarded from Dr. Laura Bardroff Zieger stating that our "paper has been accepted for publication in The Journal of Interactive Learning Research (JILR)"!  JILR publishes papers related to the underlying theory, design, implementation, effectiveness, and impact on education and training of interactive learning environments.  The paper we co-authored was based on my thesis.  I'll post more info when the new issue comes out!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Meso-American Digital Posters

Last week my 6th grade students each created an interactive digital poster to highlight the accomplishments and history of one of the cultures of the ancient America’s (e.g., Mayan, Aztec, Inca, Mound Builder, Pueblo, Anasazi).  Their display included a variety of components to give an accurate representation of the culture they researched.  Students researched information on a library cart prepared by our media specialist.  Research links were socially bookmarked on my account.

The culminating activity of the project was created using the class Glogster accounts.  A Glog is an interactive visual platform in which users create a “poster or web page” containing multimedia elements including: text, audio, video, images, graphics, drawings, and data.  The required project components included a embedding a text paragraph, creating a sound recording, uploading a Discovery Streaming video clip, and other pictures and graphics that explain/describe the culture, including a map of the region.

Click the picture below to see a student example (or, click here:  Don't forget to click the embedded pictures, click the play button on the picture of the sun, and press play on the video player!

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Playing with Media/Remixing History

    My 7th grade's 13 Colonies project-based learning (PBL) assignment culminated in students using Photo Story 3 to create digital story TV commercials about each of their team's assigned colony.   
    This project was later featured on the Playing with Media website:   

    The project was also featured this week at the “Remixing History” workshop, held in San Bernardino, CA: 

    All of the videos were uploaded to our class YouTube channel:  Feel free to view them and forward them along to help them "go viral!"

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    NJ Council for the Social Studies Conference

    Yesterday I attended the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies Annual Fall Conference, “From Local to Global: Social Studies and the iGeneration,” at Rutgers University.  The conference included "a wide variety of plenary and breakout workshops by teachers, supervisors, faculty as well as the opportunity to see the most up-to-date resources available and to talk with colleagues." 
      I had the opportunity to learn about the use of the National Archives DocsTeach, which has billions of primary sources and over 4,000 document-based lesson plans.  I also participated in a role-playing activity with the president of NJCSS to simulate immigration debates.  At the TeachUNICEF presentation, I learned about some Internet-based tools and techniques for promoting global citizenship, such as their map page (, Voices of Youth, and digital empowerment efforts by UNICEF in countries around the world.  I am planning on integrating TeachUNICEF resources into our Problems in Modern Africa podcast PBL this year.  I am also planning on sharing selected podcasts on their Facebook page.  A picture of the presenter, who is also the moderator of the TeachUNICEF Facebook page,, is below:

      Sunday, October 23, 2011

      Happy 10th Birthday iPod!

      On October 23, 2001 the original iPod was born.  It is also another example of Apple smartly marrying design and function.  Below left is the Pocket Radio (model T3) designed by Dieter Rams (German, born 1932) and Ulm Hochschule für Gestaltung (German, established 1953), which is on display at MoMA.  Below right is Jony Ive's design of the first generation iPod.  Dieter Rams was obviously one of Ive's design heroes.
      For more on the birth of iPod:  

        Friday, October 21, 2011

        "Come To Our Colony" - 13 Colonies PBL

        Every year my students participate in a project-based learning (PBL) unit on the 13 Colonies. (For more on what a PBL is, go to:, or read Suzie Boss's blog on Edutopia: This year's 13 Colonies PBL culminated in students using Photo Story 3 to create digital stories about each of their team's assigned colony. Pictures were courtesy of Flickr and music loops were exported from GarageBand.

        Students were tasked to do the following:

        "It is 1700. You become a recruiting agent hired by one of the colonies to attract new immigrants. Your task is to educate and persuade settlers to come to your colony. You will be able to do this by making a TV commercial. Your commercial must reflect the attributes of the assigned colony. You must address the issues of natural resources, economy, religion, relations with Indians, and reasons for settling."

        Each student worked in a team to divide up the research. They were each personally responsible to write "copy" (their lines) and narrate their slides. All of the videos were uploaded to the class YouTube channel: Feel free to view them all and help them "go viral!"

        Embedded below are some examples of student work:
        South Carolina:

        New York:


        Friday, October 14, 2011

        Spencer's 1st Birthday Weekend!

        New video from Spencer's 1st Birthday Weekend!!! I used Animoto to produce it... Did I ever mention that I've used Animoto so much in school, they sent me a T-shirt! LOL


        Thursday, October 13, 2011

        Teacher Leaders Network

        I am pleased to announce that, as of last week, I was accepted into the Teacher Leaders Network. The Teacher Leaders Network "is a national initiative of the Center for Teaching Quality." The Center for Teaching Quality "seeks to improve student learning and advance the teaching profession by: cultivating teacher leadership, conducting timely research, and crafting smart policy."

        Here is the link to my page:

        Saturday, October 8, 2011

        Think Different

        This week the world lost a visionary and I, like many others, lost a hero.  #ThankYouSteve

        The classic "Think Different" Mac commercial:

        The moving remix, "Tribute Video to Steve Jobs":

        Friday, October 7, 2011

        Week of Respect

        The 1st week of October in New Jersey is the "Week of Respect."  As such, my 6th grade students researched information from an article on the Voice of America website titled "How America Looks Through Muslim Eyes."  The article, based on the documentary "Journey into America," explores freedom, justice and tolerance in America.  My students reported their findings by each creating a Voki talking avatar.  Below is an example of a student answering a question about the life of a Muslim-American immigrant:

        Saturday, October 1, 2011

        Teachers Teaching Teachers, on Twitter

        A couple of years ago my 6th grade class used Skype on our SMART Board to videoconference a class of students in Stuttgart, Germany.  The instructor of that class was Shelly Terrell, a fellow teacher in my PLN (Professional Learning Network).  Over the years, we have shared many innovative classroom ideas with each other via Twitter.  This week's New York Times features an interview with her. Check it out:

        Saturday, September 17, 2011

        Learn With Portals

        Last May I blogged about the educational applications of Valve's Portal 2, for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360:

        This week, Valve, Portal's publisher, launched the site Learn With Portals.  Valve is also offering Portal for free for both PC and Mac!  The offer ends September 20th.  Here's the link:  I just downloaded it for my Mac. 

        Portal is a single-player game that applies authentic physics, mathematics, and technology concepts.  It's an excellent addition to any math or science classroom.  Check out the video below: 

        Tuesday, August 23, 2011

        The Class of 2015 Mindset List

        Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.  Today, Beloit College released it's annual "Mindset List."  This list makes me feel older every time I read it!

        According to the site, "the class of 2015, without any memory whatever of George Herbert Walker Bush as president, came into existence as Bill Clinton came into the presidency. Ferris Bueller could be their overly cautious dad, and Jimmy Carter is an elderly smiling public man who appears occasionally on television doing good works. “Dial-up,” Woolworths and the Sears “Big Book” are as antique to them as “talking machines” might have been to their grandparents. Meanwhile, as they’ve wondered why O.J. Simpson has always been suspected of something, they have all “been there, done that, gotten the Tshirt,” shortened boring conversations with “yadda, yadda, yadda,” and recognized LBJ as LeBron James."

        Here's the link to the complete list

        Tuesday, August 16, 2011

        Voki Classroom

        I am a Voki "Ambassador," one of about a dozen educators worldwide who advised the site on what features to include in the launch the classroom version of Voki. Voki is a Web 2.0 tool that easily enables users to create customized talking avatars.  I embedded a Voki of myself on the homepage of my class website.  Teachers can now sign-up students to virtual classrooms... no emails required!

        Check out their press release:\

        PDF of Voki for Classroom's "Getting Started" Guide 

        Monday, August 8, 2011

        Our "Maine Family Vacation" Movie Trailer

        Our "Maine Family Vacation" movie trailer... A trailer tour de force! Enjoy!

        Tuesday, July 19, 2011

        Apple's Summer Semester: Social Studies Webcast

        So far this summer I've used many educational apps on my personal MacBook Pro.  I set-up handouts on Apple's Pages, as well as migrated over some of my PowerPoints to Keynote, which I also exported as PDF handouts.  Also this week I downloaded Comic Life 2 from the Mac App store Comic Life's educational templates come with an array of how-to sheets for students:

        Today I had the opportunity to attend Apple's "Summer Semester: Social Studies" live webinar event.  This Apple webcast was "designed for any K-12 educator interested in exploring real world examples of how the latest technologies are transforming teaching and learning in social studies and that want to learn new ideas for integrating technology into classroom learning."  The webcast was presented by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) Anthony Armstrong Teacher, Del Mar Middle School, Tiburon, CA and Janet Copenhaveran, Director of Technology/Media, Henry County Public Schools, Collinsville, VA.  The focus was on Mac and iPad.

        The webcast will be archived on iTunesU available for download later this summer.  The presenters will also upload video tutorials detailing how they accomplished some of the projects illustrated.  Topics included Pearson's e-textbook initiative with iPad (Early Jamestown, Pass the Past, Westward Expansion, Whiteboard apps, Talking Tomcat for special needs students, improved test scores, etc.), as well Mac's iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand) and iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) suites.

        I never thought of having students use PhotoBooth to practice recording and making presentations.  The presenter also suggested having students use the Stickies app, with PhotoBooth, as a gallery walk to assess each other. The ease of the tools on a Mac is a real class timesaver! 

        The Apple Distinguished Educator site on iTunes U, where the archived versions of the webcast, as well as the video tutorials, will be found here:

        A terrific resource is the new page devoted to educational apps (for Mac, iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch): 

            Sunday, July 3, 2011

            Pixton for Schools

            Pixton is an award-winning "click and drag" comic creation site.  Teachers can even set-up virtual classrooms (no student emails required!).  Check out the video on Pixton's website:  Below is a Pixton comic I created to help introduce a "Web and Graphic Design" camp I'm co-coordinating in a couple of weeks:

            Saturday, June 4, 2011

            Instagram Abe

            I got back yesterday from chaperoning my school's 8th grade trip.  While there, I took a picture with the Instagram iPhone app of the Lincoln Memorial.  Instagram is a popular, free social photo sharing smartphone app.

            Here's the link to the picture:

            The picture I took is below:

            Thursday, May 19, 2011

            In a World Gone Mad...

            My 6th grade students just completed a PBL in which they created a "Press Kit" to sell a fictional movie about European explorers.  Students used a list of web resources to research their assigned explorer.  Each "Press Kit" contained 3 components:
            1. A 300 word description of their movie, which is similar to what is found on the back of a DVD, or Netflix red envelope.  Students were given a list of 9 questions to research.
            2. A "Coming Attractions” poster, created using a free online site,  
            3. A “Coming Soon” movie trailer created using the class' free Animoto account.  
            Also part of the student's grade was to have a consistent theme (e.g., movie title, release date, tagline, stars, movie reviews).  Grading was done by rubric.

            Below are some examples of student-created movie trailers:

            Here are some permalinks to some of their movie trailers:

            Thursday, May 12, 2011

            "We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution" E-Books

            E-book versions of the We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution are now available for all grade levels (elementary, middle school, high school).  Thanks to a PTA grant I won, I use a class set of 30 with my 7th graders.  The teacher's edition, which comes with the class set, can be purchased separately. 

            Here's the link for the middle school edition:

            Below is a preview:We the People Middle School Textbook

            Tuesday, May 10, 2011

            Portal 2, a Video Brain Game Review - NY Times

            Published: May 10, 2011
            "Somewhere out there an innovative, dynamic high school physics teacher will use Portal 2 as the linchpin of an entire series of lessons and will immediately become the most important science teacher those lucky students have ever had... You might even learn something." 
            Interesting review.  Here's the link:

            Saturday, May 7, 2011

            Friday, May 6, 2011

            National Security Webinar

            Yesterday my 7th grade social studies class, along with over 1,600 classrooms, plus tens of thousands of students across the globe, tuned in to a live webcast to hear Ben Rhodes, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, discuss Osama bin Laden.  Over 1,700 questions were submitted from students. Students watched the webcast on our SMART Board.   
            You can watch the three-part archive of this historic event here:  

            Wednesday, May 4, 2011

            White House Webinar

            I registered my 7th grade social studies class for a live webinar, sponsored by Discovery Education.  Below is the complete description:

            Teachers and students are invited to join Ben Rhodes, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, for a very special webinar on Thursday, May 5 at 1PM ET.
            • Presentation (15 minutes) Ben will provide context and perspective
            • Q&A from Students (15 minutes) Students will have the chance to submit questions to be answered live

            Tuesday, May 3, 2011

            Free QR Generator

            URL shortening websites are not only popular on sites like Twitter (due to the 140 character limit), but also in the classroom.  I frequently use URL shortening sites ( and to help guide students directly to websites.  When you use Google to shorten a URL (, click "Details" to get a QR code.  QR codes are growing in popularity.  QR (Quick Response) codes can be scanned with smartphones and take users directly to a linked website.  Here is the QR code for

            Monday, April 25, 2011

            Shakespeare and Social Media

            Check out the link to the first ever Facebook performance of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing from Weekly Reader magazine:

            Here is the link to download the PDF of the William Shakespeare issue of Weekly Reader's Read:

            Below is a hip-hop animation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing by Flocabulary:

            Sunday, April 24, 2011

            Google Docs - Tipsheet and Resource Guide

            Google Docs - Tipsheet and Resource Guide

            Sunday, April 10, 2011

            Following Authors On Twitter

            Recently, I've tweeted Enchantment author Guy Kawasaki and The Informationist author Taylor Stevens.  To my surprise, they tweeted back!  Pretty cool!  Anyway, I think children would be further engaged in reading for fun by being able to follow their favorite authors on Twitter.  Best of all, you don't need a Twitter account to read the feeds!

            List of Children's Picture Book Authors and Illustrators:

            List of Young Adult Authors (Books for Teens):

              Sunday, March 20, 2011

              "Mall Pride" At The Rockaway Townsquare Mall

              Mall Pride at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall, in Rockaway, NJ, starts today, March 20th, and runs until March 27th.  Mall Pride is sponsored by the Morris County Council of Education Associations.  Area schools display the works of students.  Some of my 6th grade student's Asia: Then and Now scrapbooks are on our school's display table.  Our school's table is located outside of Precision Time and Godiva Chocolate.  Mall Pride info:

              Friday, February 18, 2011

              Virtual Student Constitution - 2011 Edition

              This week my 7th grade students took part in a Virtual Constitutional Convention Simulation PBL. They met in class and online in a private, secure social network set-up on Edmodo. Their goal was to write a Virtual Student Constitution (Student Handbook).  Their culminating activity is on a wiki, which includes student-created Voki talking avatars.  All of my 7th grade students collaborated to create the wiki.  Here is the link:

              *Update: Results of the student vote are in! (66.7% vote of "yes" was needed to ratify the Virtual Student Constitution wiki.) Question: I think the Virtual Student Constitution Wiki should be ratified (approved). Yes 53.85%, 35 vote(s), No 46.15%, 30 vote(s)

              Saturday, February 12, 2011

              Our Class Constitution Simulation Project Tied To Revolution In Egypt

              Next week my seventh grade classes will be taking part in a Virtual Constitution Convention simulation project. They will collaborate to rewrite the school's student handbook.  

              Students will use Edmodo for the project. Edmodo is a social learning network for teachers, students, schools and districts. Edmodo provides free classroom communication for teachers, students and administrators on a secure social network. Edmodo is accessible online or using any mobile device, including Android, iPhone and iPod Touch.

              The culminating activity will be on a collaborative wiki:

              The project will be tied to social media and the revolution in in Egypt (freedom of assembly, speech):

              Friday, February 11, 2011

              Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century

              Set your DVRs! This Sunday night "Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century" premieres on PBS. The following is a description from the PBS Teachers website:

              Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century addresses this vital question, taking viewers to the frontlines of what is rapidly becoming an education revolution. The film, targeted at parents, teachers, and anyone concerned about education in America, explores how exceptional educators are increasingly using digital media and interactive practices to ignite their students' curiosity and ingenuity, help them become civically engaged, allow them to collaborate with peers worldwide, and empower them to direct their own learning.

              Check it out!

              Thursday, February 10, 2011

              Skype Chat With South Korea

              Today one of my 6th grade social studies class used Skype on our SMART Board to videoconference with an American TESOL professor at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul, Korea. The teacher, who is an American citizen and a friend of mine from college, has been living and working in Asia for over a decade. Korea is 14 hours ahead of NJ.  It was pretty amazing having a guest speaker from halfway around the world!

              Tuesday, February 8, 2011

              Safer Internet Day

              Today, February 8, 2011, is Safer Internet Day. The topic for 2011 is "our virtual lives" around the slogan " It's more than a game, it's your life". In 2010 Safer Internet Day was celebrated through over 500 events in 65 countries all over the world.

              Wednesday, January 26, 2011

              "Voki for Education" Launches!

              The moment has arrived, and the new Voki for Education is finally here!  As one of their "Voki Ambassadors," I helped give the site valuable input for their relaunch.  Last summer I created a Voki avatar give a tour of my class web page.
              Here are some of the new features detailed in an email sent to me today:
              • Sharing. We’ve added many sharing/publishing options, as well as a “Voki link” which will enable users to share a simple URL to a Voki page, where we will host the scene for them. This means that users no longer need access to a website or blog to share their Voki. We will also include custom links for educational partners, such as SymbalooEdu.
              • Voki for Education Welcome page. This is an introduction page to Voki for Education, which includes links to other relevant pages. This page will soon be updated to include a Voki scene and social media feeds.
              • Lesson Plan Database.
              • Teacher’s Corner. Here, teachers and experienced users will be able to discuss anything related to Voki. One area within the Teacher’s Corner will be the Newbie’s Corner.
              •  New FAQ. This is simply an updated FAQ section.
              • Voki is remaining Free for everyone. Currently, Voki is also remaining Ad-Free
              Here is the link:

              Friday, January 21, 2011

              Fun With Google Maps

              Here is a little something to make you laugh (especially for Google Map lovers):
              1. Go to Google Maps and click on "Get Directions": Google Maps
              2. Write USA as your start point.
              3. Write Japan as your destination. 
              4. Go to the 31st point on your route and laugh and laugh and laugh...

              Thursday, January 20, 2011

              I Won A Classroom Grant Today!

              I won a grant today to purchase a class set of 30 "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" books, plus a teacher's edition! The text comprises 6 units with 29 lessons that use critical thinking exercises, cooperative learning practices and a culminating authentic performance assessment to teach the history and principles of constitutional democracy.

              Here's a description from the Center for Civic Education's website:

              The We the People curriculum not only enhances students' understanding of the institutions of American constitutional democracy, it also helps them to identify the contemporary relevance of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Critical thinking exercises, problem-solving activities, and cooperative learning techniques help develop participatory skills necessary for students to become active, responsible citizens.

              Tuesday, January 18, 2011

              First Holiday Season With Spencer

              Another snow day! I spent the day home with Spencer. While he napped, I created a photo book about Spencer's first holiday season. Hope everyone had a safe day!