Classroom Tech Blog

We welcome teachers to participate in the ongoing discussion and sharing of strategies to enhance learning in every social studies classroom. The following blog posts are from teacher practitioners from each region across the state. 

  • 02/18/2015 5:08 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Civic discourse is an important activity which history teachers must provide models for our students to do so responsibly. This is even more paramount in today’s environment and given the growing concerns regarding digital literacy, social media, and digital citizenship. Daily Read offers a free and engaging way for teachers to engage students in current events and civic discourse. Daily Read articles are available in a variety of topics ranging from US news, world news, arts and culture, science, and business. Students have access to leveled readings, linked articles for further reading, a poll question to take a position on, and a thought provoking question where students take a position, defend their position and type their response.

    All one needs to do is sign up for your free Daily Read teacher account. You can have all of your students in a class to interact or separate students by class period and discuss by class period. You can instruct your students which articles to read or let their curiosity guide their reading. From your dash board, you can see the most popular section of articles your students have commented on, the most popular articles, who read what article and when, top commentators, and more. Engage your students.
  • 01/24/2015 12:40 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    My students were working on our WWI webquest this month. One of the requirement is to integrate their research into a timeline. We were having trouble with both of the websites I have used the past four years. I sent out an SOS Tweet to one of the companies. Within minutes I had received a Tweet from HSTRY to try them out. We did and I am and grateful for HSTRY’s outreach and easy to use product.

    HSTRY is a free and easy to use timeline maker. The teacher signs up for a free account. As the teacher, you have a dashboard to create classes, issue a class code for students to sign up (no student email needed), control the roster with the ability to reset student passwords (I LOVE this feature), and can view and monitor student progress. One of the other great features is that if a group is presenting and the timeline creator is absent, you can still provide access to the group/class for presentation.

    HSTRY is not your traditional timeline- it progresses vertically. It allows for a brief or more elaborate entry. Their template includes positions for images with image citation, incorporation of You Tube video for multimedia, topic trivia with Did you know?, and allows you to integrate questions along the way.

    Again, HSTRY is easy to use for both the teacher to utilize for their presentation of info and for students to demonstrate their research and mastery of knowledge. Check out these sample timelines.


  • 12/13/2014 11:10 AM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    In this digital age, quick access to information and visual literacy is shaping how data is communicated. Did you know that the White House has a page dedicated to infographics and they include emoticons? Infographics are not to be discounted. They are becoming more a part of communication and require synthesizing and summary of information. Another consideration of infographics is that they can provide access to students with limited reading and language abilities.

    Piktochart is an easy to use infographic maker. Teachers and students can sign up for a free account and begin creation. It is important to first conduct research and identify the key points and data to convey. Having students collaborate using a Google Doc for their research first is beneficial. Once this is known, it is easier to select a template that will work best. See Mei Chow has created a helpful layout sheet for planning and selecting the best template. You and your students can adjust color and fonts, import images from their site, or even import your own pictures or student created images from Google Drawing. Once you have created your infographic, you can share it via email, use the link to collect student work using a Google Form, or embed it on a web site. 

  • 12/07/2014 2:24 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    The Ashbrook Center is an independent center at the University of Ashland. They have a variety of constitutional and other educational resources for teachers and students. Their Teaching American History website has a variety of resources that teachers can use to create inquiry lessons and digital DBQs. Students will also find their resources helpful in inquiry assignments and AP exams. Three projects of note are Ashbrook’s 50 Core Documentsonline exhibits, andlesson plans.

    There are a variety of ways to utilize Ashbrook’s resources, both in a traditional and technological manner. When using the 50 CoreDocuments, teachers can print them off to conduct close reading or document based activities. In classes where the students have access to technology, they can copy the text into a Google Doc to annotate and collaborate in virtual discussions with their peers, the teacher may chunk the document and import it into Voice Thread to create a collaborative/interactive DBQ, the documents may be referenced as part of an inquiry lesson utilizing a web quest, and more. 

    The online exhibits are in and of themselves a webquest into specific topics. Teachers may want to create a Google Doc with questions for the students to respond to as they engage with the exhibits. The online exhibits could also be utilized as a jumping point for students to create their own inquiry question to drive further investigation. Another possibility would be to have students synthesize their inquiry with the exhibits by identifying key points and citing evidence with the creation of a multimedia presentation such as Prezi, a movie presentation utilizing Animoto or GoAnimate, or create an infographic using Piktochart. In a traditional classroom, the teacher can project the online exhibit with a project and guide the students through exploration. The  lesson plans  provide a variety of options and resources for teacher to use as they are, modify, or be the point of inspiration
  • 11/10/2014 10:48 AM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Getting students to make connections with content and current events can be a struggle. Sometimes one wishes to categorize news articles by themes. You may want your students to curate news articles or Tweets with news articles or political cartoons by topic or unit of study.Flipboard allows you to do all of this and more.

    I first came to experiment with Flipboard for classroom use after struggling with my students to watch or read the news and connect it to units of study. After thinking of how I was going to support my students, I remembered the magazine feature of Flipboard. I have had positive feedback from this and even have some of my Academy students, think homeroom, reading up on current events on their smart phones.

    Flipboard is a fantastic app for viewing and creating news magazines. You will need to sign up and create your account on a smartphone of tablet after you download the app. Once you do this you can create your own magazines and add articles from Flipboard or search for items on Twitter.
    Additionally, you can embed an individual magazine onto your class website using their HTML Magazine Widget. To do this, you will first need to go to the Flipboard Editor web page. Select the Magazine Widget. You will need to paste in the public URL for the magazine that you wish to embed. 

    Next select the button to the right of the text box and the HTML embed code will appear in a box below. 

    Copy this code and enter into your embed code box if you are using Weebly or follow the embed/HTML protocol of the website maker you are using. Now, your magazine will be integrated into your website page.

    Another feature that Flipboard offers if you are 1:1 with ipads is that you can share the magazine and students can comment on the articles while they are in the app…like a discussion board.

    Additionally, you could have your students create their own Flipboard magazines. When they curate and add an article, you could require them to comment their reaction or connection to a topic of study as well. You would need to have them share their Flipboard magazine with you- this can be done easily with a Google Form.

    There are so many wonderful possibilities of ways to integrate Flipboard into your history classroom…get thinking.
  • 10/20/2014 7:21 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Students are more visual these days and all about the videos. Why not challenge them to use this interest for educational purposes. Two easy and multi-platform options are Animoto andGoAnimate. As mentioned in the previous blog post, videos are a great way to set the hook and for students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept. While the free trials/versions are limited in length, concepts can be broken down into their parts for a class to examine a topic more in depth at the teacher’s discretion.

    Animoto allows you to take images to create a video. This is great to do with primary source images or student drawings. They have a selection of music options to serve as the background music. To tell the story you can add text over the images. Another option is to have students add text to the images beforehand or create a PPT and save it as a JPEG to use in Animoto. You can create your production on a computer, tablet, or even using your smart phone. Animoto is free for a 30 second shareable video. To make longer downloadable productions, a Teacher Plus account costs $30 a year.

    Here is a brief video I made for a Google Docs training shred session.

    Google Tools Slam 2013

    Another option for video making is GoAnimate. As the name suggests, it is an animated short. It took me a bit to get going on this, however my students were quick learners and ran with it. There are a variety of settings, characters, animations, and voices that one can choose from. You can also use your own voice. Again, storyboarding prior to recording facilitates the selection and production process. Animoto offers a free 14 day trial and is a paid product after that. They also have teacher and district licenses with more options available. Again, I have found the investment worth it.

    Here is one my students made for their Civil Rights case presentation.
  • 10/11/2014 3:05 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Hook your students with your next topic using iMovies and trailers. They are easy to create and you can set a mood of intrigue to bring your students along into historical inquiry. Not only can one introduce a topic of study, but why not yourself?

     If you have an iOS device you can easily create an iMovie or trailer. Trailers are great for a minute intro and come with preset themes and templates. Even better, Learning in Hand has storyboard planning sheets that make the production easier…especially when having students create a short video demonstrating their mastery of a topic.

    If you or your students have access to iOS devices, select a topic, storyboard the transcript, THEN find images to correlate/support the text, have the script typed out and images in a folder labeled, and then assemble your production. You and your students can share your videos by emailing them if the file is not to large. An easier option is to upload your movie or trailer from your device to YouTube (if you have a Gmail account, you have a YouTube channel) and share via link or embed it on your teacher site. Students can also share their YouTube video link with you by collecting them in a Google Form for easier class management.

  • 09/21/2014 2:20 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Not everyone had money for class responders. Plickers has come up with a alternative for teachers using their smartphone or iPads. Download the app, print out student cards, create questions on the app question screen and you are ready to go. This is another alternative way to formative assess your students.

  • 09/08/2014 6:31 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Google Forms is a great tool for teachers to use. Most people rave about the utility of Docs and Presentations…. These are great too. There are so many possible uses for Forms in the classroom. One can survey a class, utilize it for “March Madness” takes on history, and create a DBQ with answer sheet for students. One of my favorite ways to use it is to collect student work. This is an especially great tool when students be presenting their work. If collecting digital products ahead of time, it makes for seamless class management. You will have all the assignments, no need for students to log in to sites to pull up their project, student groups unable to go because person x is absent, or group y can’t go because person z left their flash drive at home…You will have all products ahead of time.

    Forms are quite simple to use. Select Form from the Google Drive Create button. Select the theme you would like to use, you can always go back and change this later on. I would suggest labeling the form with template at the end. I have found that creating a folder with your templates allows you to easily make copies for additional class periods and the years to follow. Select the type of question you want to ask and type away. If you want a question to be required, check the required box and students MUST answer this before submitting the form. You can even embed an image or video into your form. If you decide that you want to move questions around or copy a question to make minor modifications you can easily do this as well.

    Once you are finished creating the Form, select how you want to issue it. As mentioned earlier, it is easy to select Make a Copy under file to copy a form and add the class period at the end if you wish. Make sure you select Accepting Responses to make the form live. Select the blue Send button to share the form. You can email the form, get a link to hyperlink to on your own class website, or get an embed code to embed on your class website. Once you have responses, you can go to your responses spreadsheet of select view responses. Responses will be time stamped. You can also select view Summary of Responses to view responses in a graph format for easy visualization.

    Here are some sample Google Forms as a semester survey, to collect student work, and as a DBQ.

  • 08/04/2014 4:11 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    If your students are like mine, they often forget to write down the homework and are glued to their devices. Why not use their cell phone in a positive manner...text them homework reminders! Remind (formerly Remind 101) is a great communication tool that protects the teacher and student privacy while being connected. Once you, the teacher sign up, Remind issues you a "phone number". You can create a class group/code or you can do it by periods... It is also great for clubs and activities as well (I use it for Academic 
    Decathlon too). Remind allows you to personalize your sign up code.  They have a very student friendly PDF to display on your projector or to email to parents and students. Students and parents can then sign up to receive text message or email reminders. You can now also upload files (great to include the homework PDF or other important documents). Another great feature of Remind is that you can schedule texts in advance. It is a great way to communicate with students and for student clubs to remain in contact with their members. They even have an app for teachers and students. Learn more here:

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