Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Class-Created iPad Book Now Live in the iBookstore!

Our class-created book, The Corns Visit the 13 Colonies, is now live (and, global... in 50 countries!) in Apple's iBookstore! 
The Corns Visit the 13 Colonies - Matthew Farber
Our book, which is historical fictional, follows Damitria the Unicorn, Henrietta the Hippocorn, and Willamina the Shnoopacorn on an exciting trip back in time to visit the original 13 American colonies!  The book features multi-touch widgets, like 3D movable colonial buildings, photo galleries, an interactive student-created glossary, puzzles, a sketchpad, and original artwork! 
Each chapter and section is the result of collaboration from my 2nd period seventh grade social studies class.  Students researched and wrote in groups, chose copyright-friendly photos, and created the overall concept.  I edited and compiled using the free Mac app, iBooks Author, on my MacBook.  Each student receives writing credit on page 40 of the book (thanks to each parent for granting written permission).
The book is a FREE iPad download.  If you have an iPad, or know someone who does, please download it!  The students are really proud of their accomplishment!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Understanding Economics in U.S. History


Just got Focus: Middle School World History, a great book of economic lessons from the Council for Economic Education, for my 6th grade world history class!  The lessons "use a unique mystery-solving approach to teach U.S. economic history to your high school students."  It's an excellent, additional resource.

Here's the link:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Creating Interactive SMART Board Lessons - Workshop

Tomorrow morning I am giving a workshop on SMART Boards at Raritan Valley Community College titled, "SMART Boards: Creating Interactive Lessons."  I've given the workshop several times at different locations, but not in awhile.  Should be fun!

Course Description: Go beyond SMART Board basics - learn a new way to create eye-catching lesson activities, full of customizable tools and templates that you can use to create professional-looking lessons. The Toolkit helps you create engaging content like word games, quizzes, Crossword puzzles and sorting tables. It also offers Adobe Flash tools like hide-and-reveal, drag-and-drop, plus lots more.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NJCSS Workshop

This Wednesday, I am giving a workshop at the NJ Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS) Annual Fall Conference (I am one of the North Jersey Directors).  The conference theme is "Social Studies and the Common Core: Moving Forward" and it's being held at the Busch Campus Center, Rutgers, Piscatatway, NJ.  My workshop is titled, "Social Media in the Social Studies Classroom," and will focus on building a Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) and using Edmodo in the classroom.  I will also unveil the redesigned NJCSS website that I created, along with the Facebook fan page, the Twitter feed, and the Tumblr blog that I curate.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I'm Published!

I'm published in the latest issue of "Journal of Interactive Learning Research"

The article I co-authored is titled, Civic Participation Among Seventh-Grade Social Studies Students in Multi-User Virtual Environments.  Here's our abstract:

Technological advances on the Internet now enable students to develop participation skills in virtual worlds. Similar to controlling a character in a video game, multi-user virtual environments, or MUVEs, allow participants to interact with others in synchronous, online settings. The authors of this study created a link between MUVEs and participation in civic activities by seventh grade students. This purpose of this case study was to evaluate how face-to-face cooperative structures would translate to an online setting. The study also assessed whether working cooperatively in a MUVE would have an effect on student civic participation. The virtual environment did provide an authentic setting for students to practice the civic lessons they learned in class. Student involvement in a participatory culture generally translated to an increased tendency to be civic-minded.

Here's the to the article link:

Finally, here's the official citation:

Zieger, L. & Farber, M. (2012). Civic Participation Among Seventh-Grade Social Studies Students in Multi-User Virtual Environments. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 23(4), 393-410. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cape Cod Vacation

Hope everyone is enjoying summer!  Last week, my family and I went to Cape Cod, as well as Plimoth Plantation.  Below is a movie trailer (made with iMovie) about our trip:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Reading Like A Historian Curriculum

Education Week is spotlighting Stanford University's Reading Like A Historian Curriculum. I began to use the materials last spring and plan on using it all next year, starting September. It's a great introduction to DBQs (document-based questions).

Here's the link to EdWeek article:

Here's the link to the curriculum materials:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mister Rogers' Viral Video

As the school year winds down, Mr. Rogers reminds us, it's good to be curious about many things. Thanks PBS Digital Studios for this remix! Brilliant! Mister Rogers Remixed - Garden of Your Mind, remixed by Symphony of Science's John Boswell.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Age of Exploration Movie Trailers

My 6th Grade students each used Animoto to create movie trailers about an explorer during the Age of Exploration. They also made digital posters and a description of their "film." Here's a few examples of their work:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

NJ Higher Education Showcase of Exemplary Practices: Excellence in Teacher Preparation

I am proud to announce that I was nominated to be recognized in the New Jersey Higher Education’s Showcase of Exemplary Practices: Excellence in Teacher Preparation for my "distinguished work as a New Jersey Educator."  An awards ceremony and reception will be held at the Chauncey Hotel and Conference Center in Princeton on Friday, April 20, 2012.  The purpose of the event is "to recognize exemplary programs and practices in teacher preparation in New Jersey, share them within the teacher education community, and disseminate them across the state."  The event is sponsored by Acting Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks and the New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.  The audience includes teacher educators, New Jersey Departments of Higher Education and Education staff members, policymakers, funders, media, and other stakeholders.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Using "Assassin's Creed" to Teach the Renaissance

New Media Literacy
This project was inspired by Dr. Henry Jenkins' book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.  Jenkins writes about "participatory" fan communities, such and the unofficial Harry Potter fan site, MuggleNet, in his white paper, "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.  A new collection of fan-made wiki sites, devoted to movies, books, video games, etc. can be found on the site Wikia

According to Jenkins, the New Media Literacies (NML) project "argues that media literacy skills, broadly defined, need to be integrated into school-based and after-school programs, into adult education for parents and teachers and into popular culture itself if we are going to fully address the challenges of this moment of media in transition."  For more, check out NML on Twitter, @nml_usc, their website,, or Jenkins' blog:

"Inspired by Historical Events and Characters."  This is how each game in the popular open-world, third-party, role-playing game (RPG) Assassin's Creed series, available on Xbox 360 and PS3, begins.  The Assassin’s Creed series of video games is an example of historical fiction.  In historical fiction the "setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the main characters tend to be fictional" (  Examples of historical fiction range from the film "Titanic," to "Saving Private Ryan," to video games, such as "Assassin's Creed."

The storyline of the Assassin’s Creed is essentially "The Matrix" meets "The DaVinci Code."  Here is the link for the game series, published by Ubisoft:  Check out this clip in which Assassin's Creed Revelations' lead script writer Darby McDevitt talks about the historical setting and people that lead character Ezio meets in the game Assassin’s Creed: Revelations:

Below is a picture of Leonardo DaVinci with Ezio, the lead character of the games.  Also appearing in the game series are Machiavelli, Copernicus, popes, members of the Borgia's, and the Medici's.
Included in the game are "databases," in which players are given historical information about people and places from the time period.  Below is a screenshot from one of the game's many "databases" in Assassin's Creed II:

Using "Assassin's Creed" to Teach the Renaissance
This spring, I constructed a project-based lesson (PBL) titled The Assassin's Creed: Renaissance Character Web Project.  This PBL is framed around creating additional Renaissance-era characters to further integrate into the video game series via downloadable content.  The students were asked, "what if Ubisoft decided to integrate other real Renaissance figures as characters in the game?"  The unit is tied to historical fiction, which makes history more "real" and relatable to middle school students.  My 6th grade social studies student teams created character pages on a wiki.  (Not sure what a wiki is?  Watch this:

Links to my student's finished wiki pages:
Examples of My Sixth-Grader's Downloadable Character Wikis:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mall Pride

If you live near the Rockaway Mall, in Rockaway, NJ, check out the Morris County Council of Education Associations, Inc. (MCCEA) "Mall Pride" display of county-wide student work!  Some of my 6th Grade's Asia: Then and Now scrapbooks are on display. Our table placement is: upper floor right in front of Precision Time and Godiva Chocolate.  The display runs until April 22.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

For anyone who's kid loves Elmo... Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, airing April 5 and 9, 2012 at 9pm (check local listings), on PBS' Independent Lens. Set your DVR!

Watch Meet the Man Behind Elmo on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Jersey Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS)

I found out this week that I am now one of the North Jersey Directors of the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS)!

Follow my NJCSS tweets here:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

James Paul Gee on Learning with Video Games

“We need to bring activities and problem-solving to the worlds of chemistry and algebra -- make kids want to do things with them, to the see them as tools to surmise new possibilities -- that’s the game. If we brought those to school, they’d like it as much as Portal” - James Gee.

In the video below, James Paul Gee, a "shares insights into why video games are such effective learning tools."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Parent's Guide to 21st-Century Learning

What's inside the free PDF? "You’ll find a selection of outstanding online resources and projects, sorted by grade levels, to provide a glimpse of successful school programs."

To download a free copy (there's a short form to fill-out), click the following link:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

FlipSnack Interactive Magazine Project

Every year my 6th grade social studies students create medieval-themed magazines. For the first time I used FlipSnack to convert student work into online, interactive flipping books. Students used either PowerPoint, Word, or Publisher to layout their magazines. Next they converted the files to a PDF document. Finally, I uploaded them to my FlipSnack account. For more about FlipSnack, click here:

Below are a couple of student examples:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Guest Speaker: NJ Assemblyman Anthony Bucco

Today New Jersey State Assemblyman Anthony Bucco spoke to my class, as well as two other social studies classes.  Assemblyman Bucco gave us all a first hand account of the state legislative process.  Here is his official bio:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Glogster Edu Mini-Grant

Today I found out that I won a PTA mini-grant to get a Glogster EDU Teacher Premium plan for my students!  Glogs are basically online, interactive posters.

The Premium platform gives me full control over 200 student nicknames, classes, projects, portfolios, and presentations.  Glogster is "a collaborative online learning platform for teachers and students to express their creativity, knowledge, ideas and skills in the classroom."  Link:

Click the picture below to see a sixth grade student example from this past fall (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, February 24, 2012

iPads in K8 Education Workshop

I guess it's the sign of the times...  On Monday, February 27th, I will be giving a workshop at the the Morris County Educational Technology Training Center called "iPads in K8 Education" (link:   

Here's the official course description:
The iPad provides intriguing and interesting options for what can be done to enable student learning. Using a variety of apps, learn how to teach lessons and how to manage the use of iPads in the classroom.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Virtual Student Constitution

Last week my seventh grade students collaborated online to create a "Virtual Student Constitution" on a collaborative wiki (a wiki is basically an online document that more than one person can edit).  The project was framed around a current event, based on an article in the Guardian, Mob rule: Iceland crowdsources its next constitution: Country recovering from collapse of its banks and government is using social media to get citizens to share their ideas.

My students were each given a laptop and met online (rather than face-to-face) in cooperative groups to rewrite their student handbook.   The Edmodo social network was the virtual meeting place.  Edmodo has the look and feel of Facebook, but it is private and secure.  Students were given five other student handbooks from middle schools from around the state as a reference.  Each group edited a portion of the wiki, which included both text and embedded Voki talking avatars.  There was one wiki for each of my 4 seventh grade class sections.  Over a 5 day period, there were 415 revisions from 94 students.

Here is the link to the final revision of their wiki:

Following the project, students voted via SMART Response System interactive remote whether or not to ratify (approve) their Virtual Student Constitution wiki.  The result at the end of the day was that the Virtual Student Constitution did not pass.  Only 40.5% voted to ratify.  A 2/3 (66.7%) vote was required to pass it.  After the vote we compared the US Constitution with Iceland's new draft of their constitution which, interestingly, begins with the phrase, "We, the people who inhabit Iceland..."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Follow @NJCSSNetwork

In addition to my own Twitter account, @MatthewFarber, I am now also managing the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies's Twitter feed!  If you are on Twitter, please follow.  Here's the link:!/NJCSSNetwork

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our Skype "Visit" To Yokohama, Japan

This morning my 6th grade class had the opportunity to videoconference via Skype with Kim Cofino, a teacher in Japan.  According to Kim's Twitter bio, she is an "international school educator, currently technology and learning coach at Yokohama International School in Japan."  You can follow Kim's Twitter feed: @mscofino and read her blog:   

First, we located Kim's school on our SMART Board using Google Earth's "street view."  There is a 14 hour time difference between New Jersey and Yokohama, Japan.  Yokohama is a large city adjacent to Tokyo.  The Skype chat was also on our SMART Board.  My students had a list of prepared questions to ask Kim.  At the conclusion of the lesson, students wrote down what they learned (the lesson was basically framed as a KWL).

Thanks again for staying up late to Skype with us, Kim!

(On a technology side note, my stapler broke this morning, but our Skype chat across the globe to Japan went seamlessly!  Go figure!)

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Won a Classroom Grant!

Today I learned that my classroom grant request for the Conflict Resolution and United States History curriculum materials was approved! 

The volume includes "a CD with primary source documents, overheads, student handout, maps and illustration, as well as a DVD."  Each case study "provides a detailed historical background, short biographies of key historical figures, an examination of the issues and perspectives, and an analysis of the consequences, along with questions for discussion and a list of additional resources."

I first learned about this when I attended the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies annual fall conference.  While there I participated in a role-playing activity with the president of NJCSS to simulate immigration debates.

Here is a link describing the value of the program:

Below is a video that show students using "Conflict Resolution and U.S. History":

Video Link: