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. 

  • 07/20/2014 1:38 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    With the Common Core, we need to get our students thinking critically and writing for various lengths of time. Big Huge Labs has a variety of tools to help teachers achieve this. Of particular interest for the history classroom are Motivator posters, magazine covers, badge makers, trading cards, and billboard makers. The Motivator poster is great for warm ups/do-nows/bellringers and visual literacy. You can insert an image, political cartoon, chart, or graph and type in a question or thought for the students to respond to. The magazine tool is great for students briefly demonstrating their understanding of a concept with article tag lines. This can be further extended by having students type up the actual article. If your looking for a way to refresh historical biographies, why not try having your students create a historical badge or trading card? Another tool is the billboard for students to come up with a summative thought or sentence on a theme, content, or primary source. Let's get our students thinking and creating!

  • 07/12/2014 1:03 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    When most people hear Google, they think of a search engine. However, Google has some AMAZING sites and tools for the history classroom (Google Cultural Institute is an example). I recently learned about Google Maps Engine Lite from Moss Pike. My jaw dropped when I learned how I can not only pin news articles, websites, videos, and images, but I can also use Google Forms to pin information on to a map.

    There are so many ways to use Google Maps Engine in the classroom. Teachers and students can pin regional resources, link presentations to the location where events took place, annotate a map of a battle, or pin current event articles. You can create a map and pin current event articles to see a visual of what regions have been examined and show proximity. However, an even BETTER feature is that you can collect data in a Google Form and upload the spreadsheet of information and Google Maps Engine will pin the information in the city/county specified.

    My idea was to try using Google Forms to collect student Cold War projects and upload the data collected and pin their digital product in the location of their topic...It worked! I learned a few things along the way. When creating a Google Form to collect student data use first names only to protect student identity (I had originally asked students for first and last names), DO NOT include punctuation marks (,.?:), they will make the cell of information invalid, indicate that students need to identify a city and country or country, and make sure student projects are set to public view before sharing. I have included step by step instructions on creating a Google Map...ENJOY!

  • 06/28/2014 11:45 AM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    History is more than the details of the event. We want our students to also understand significance and legacy of history while engaging in historical inquiry. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has created an engaging and very user friendly interactive called 100 Years Legacies: The Lasting Impact of WWI. One can navigate the legacies by their Politics, Culture, Countries, Armaments, Economy, Medicine, and Tactics categories. 

    Each legacy has an image and an informative entry posting- some also have videos. You may notice that the legacy box has a box on the lower right with some red in it. This is the visual for how viewers have voted for that item and it’s legacy. If you or your students find something missing, you can let the WSJ know. Another feature they have is a quiz, where you can test your WWI knowledge,

    Once you find a legacy of interest, you may share it from the WSJ on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. The share options also include a link, which is useful if you or your students want to connect it to a blog post or other type of mastery project. This site also serves as a great reference point for teaching and demonstrating legacy with students. With this year’s National History Day theme being Leadership and Legacy in History, this may be particularly helpful.
  • 06/21/2014 3:33 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    If you have an iPad, this is a great FREE app to download. This Day in History is an interactive calendar. For each day, there are a variety of people, places, and events profiled and noted by categorical icons. Select the desired entry and view the details in text, photos, illustrations, music, or speeches. Whether you are looking to stump your students with a historical daily fact, completing This Day In History warm-ups, or looking to spark your students interest or brainstorming of historical events, This Day In History has a variety of uses, including a place to brainstorm for possible ideas for National History Day.
  • 05/31/2014 6:56 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Today was the Think.Create.Share Conference at California State University Fullerton. I was excited to attend the sessions with some of the AMAZING Huntington Beach teachers and the opening AND closing keynotes were delivered by Amy Burvall. One tool that caught my eye in particular was Kahoots! Ted Lai, Educational Development Executive at Apple, used it as a formative assessment tool at the end of his Effective Technology Integration session. As I sat in my seat, I was thinking I have to blog about this and am DEFINITELY going to use this next year (school is over already).

    Mr. Lai flashed up the url and game-pin on the screen, Next, we followed instructions and created a player name. He flashed a question before the screen, then the correct answer was displayed, the leader board appeared, and then the process repeated until our “quiz” was finished. As we played, teachers were getting excited and you could hear MULTIPLE conversations about what a great tool this was and how the teachers’ students would enjoy this!

    Kahoots! is an online blended learning and classroom tool that students can use with their smart phones or tablet devices. Teachers can create quizzes, surveys, or discussions with their platform. Additionally, you may embed an image or video in your question! You can choose to set a time limit on the questions, but may also advance the slides quicker in class if needed. Students will gain more points the quicker they answer the questions. Once you create a quiz, you may publish it privately for your own use or publicly to share with others. The ability to publish publicly is a nice feature if you and your grade level, subject, or department are implementing common formative assessments or data teams.

    This a great tool to use at the end of a class period as a formative assessment. You are in control and can reteach or clarify misunderstandings on the spot. Again, as many schools are developing and implementing CCSS lessons, Kahoots! facilitates the use of formative data to identify areas of student need to focus on for mastery. Another feature of Kahoots! is the ability to download results- another great feature for collaboration and data team analysis. But my school is not 1:1…. Not to worry. You can still use Kahoots! by pairing/grouping students up with those with smart phones and using a group name or table number.

  • 05/17/2014 5:38 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    If your school is like mine, you do not have funds for field trips to museums or historic sites. Thanks to the Google Cultural Institute, you can bring museums and historical sites into your classroom virtually. The ability to bring in art pieces and visit historical sites can lead to some GREAT discussions. This is an especially great opportunity for those shy and artistic students to be engaged, demonstrate their understanding of the content and feel empowered. You may want to plan additional time for using these pieces, at least I have always found this to be true… the students are SOOO engaged! Upon arriving at the site, there are three projects; Art Project, Historic Moments, and World Wonders. There are many possible uses of the Google Cultural Institute by teachers and students.

    Once you are in the Art Project, you may explore by collections, artists, and artworks. Once you find an art piece of interest you can zoom in to amazing clarity and view the colors, textures, and brush strokes- this is great for discussing art movements. In addition to the zoom factor, you may select on details located to the left of the image to learn more about the art piece.

    In the Historic Moments collection one will encounter monuments, collections, and videos. Select a moment and explore the slideshow. This is a great resource for inquiry and examination of primary sources. The format is very student friendly and similar to a museum exhibit. Select Discover on the bottom left to find other similar exhibits. Students and teachers can also save exhibits to return to later on.

    Then there is World Wonders where you will find locations, places, art, and street views in some instances. This is a great tool to explore historical places and examine the architecture and landscape. Simply select locations to bring up a map and select a blue dot of the location you wish to explore. Once you find a location, simply select it to access available street views, items, and videos.

    If this was not enough, you or your students can also curate your own gallery (think student creating a multimedia presentation for CCSS). The possibilities of what one can do are only limited by one’s imagination. Teachers can take students on virtual field trips or curate resources for class discussions on cultural or historic sites. Collections or your own curated gallery can also be shared with students in webquests, as part of a PBL unit, or via Google+, Twitter, or email with the share icon. This also has potential for students researching topics for class assignments, projects, or history day. Additionally, the curation tool lends Google Cultural Institute to be utilized by students to curate their own multimedia presentations for classroom presentations, digital portfolios, or blog entries.Students may carry out their curiosity outside the classroom in exploring the world, even creating their own bucket list of places to explore.

  • 04/27/2014 3:51 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)
    Literacy in history/social studies is expressed through critical thinking, communication of ideas,civic engagement, and global understanding.  To this end, the state of California is moving forward with its Civic Education Initiative. One of the 6 Proven Practices of Civic Education is discussion of current events and controversial issues. Reading the news helps our students to meet these goals and those of the Reading Informational Text strand of the Common Core. We are living in an age where media is at our fingertips...whether at the touch of a keystroke on a computer, tablet or cell phone these days. Four engaging opportunities for our students to access current events are Newsela, Newseum, Newsmap, and Vox. All of these news outlets provide news in an engaging manner to make the content focused and accessible to today's students on their website and through Twitter.

           Newsela opens up many opportunities for the news and our students with their FREE high interest news articles. Have you had to deal with students in your class at different reading levels? They take news articles from major publications and adapt them to five different reading lexiles. News articles are categorized into seven categories: war and peace, science, kids, money, law, health, and arts. Additionally, some of the articles come with quizzes to check the student's reading comprehension. These articles lend themselves to close reading activities to facilitate reading comprehension.


           Newseum is more than an amazing museum to visit in DC. They also have a host of educational resources in their Digital Classroomprogram archives, and their Front Pages is invaluable for current events. Having taught International Relations and World History, the Newseum's Front Pages is a site to keep bookmarked and get your students familiar with. Using their Sort Papers by Region link, you can customize what part of the world to have your students explore. What I loved is for them to see the front pages of different countries. If there was a major international news story played out here in the US, was it positioned so in other countries? This led to some great conversations. In every region they have, we were always able to find at least one newspaper in English. Have your students click on the newspaper and then the blue website hyperlink on the top right of the newspaper front page to see more in that publication--- this can be so eye opening for students. This is also a great resource for students whom English is not their first language and foreign exchange students. Another feature is to search the US headlines to show students how news can be regionalized and illustrate bias.


           Newsmap is a great aggregate tool to visualize trending stories. Newsmap categorizes the news into seven color coded categories: world, national, business, technology, sports, entertainment, and health. You can select which categories you wish to display on the bottom right to customize your screen. The larger the box, the more the topic is trending. Again, this is a great visual tool for students. Hover over of click on the box to read the article. You can also select region and language options on the top toolbar. This is a great website to use with students when you are wanting them to research or select news stories related to a particular category.


           Vox is a general news site with a mission to EXPLAIN the news. This is the project of journalist and blogger Ezra Kline launched this month. So far it looks great. The home page lists current news articles, Understand the News with related articles and fact cards to help one better understand the topic, videos, and conversations. The articles sometimes contain highlights of key items and include hyperlinks to provide contextual information for portions of the articles. What myself and some of the students have found useful are the fact cards. Theses are great for helping students understand the context and key points, especially in world events. The cards are also easy to share as a deck on Twitter or print out for a classroom jigsaw activity. Vox is looking like a resource to keep our eyes on and I'm looking forward to using this with my students. Again, another great source for close reading activities with students.
  • 04/05/2014 3:09 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    These days, our students are coming to us as overwhelmingly visual learners. With all the time they spend on their devices it is no wonder. Additionally, there is much research behind the benefit of mind mapping to assist student learning. InstaGrok is a great tool for both teachers and students. As a teacher, it is great to introduce students to a topic and show relationships. As you map out your unit topic, you can select from InstaGrok's key facts with source attribution or hyperlink to websites with additional information. The latter is great for teachers to share their InstaGrok and provide links for further inquiry with their students. One may also add videos, pictures, and additional concepts from InstaGrok or add in your own note. The addition of your own notes is great for teachers to add additional video and images (InstaGrok has a limited selection at this point in time) as well as additional facts and primary sources!

    My students were amazed and engaged when I first introduced them to InstaGrok. Beyond this, we found it to be a great tool for them to use to engage in historical inquiry. Students can enter a topic and use the web to further their inquiry and research into a topic. Some of the English teachers have also began to use it in their common Common Core lessons at my site. There are also other cross-curricular uses. When it came time for my students to begin their Cold War project, which includes a multimedia presentation, a few asked to use InstaGrok as their presentation tool.

    There are many ways to individualize your InstaGrok with the background and concept colors, Again, the notes option allows one to type in their information and/or hyperlink to an outside item of interest. Once complete, you may share your InstaGrok with students or have them share their InstaGrok with you via FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, embedding it onto a website/electronic portfilio, or share it via a link in an email. They also provide the ability to view the InstaGrok in a journal mode and ability to quiz the students based on the key facts included to check for understanding.
  • 03/16/2014 4:04 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)


    If you are reading current articles and journals on education, you've probably heard of the flipped classroom. Jon Bergmann, one of the pioneers of the flipped classroom, lead a session at International Society for Technology in Education, ISTE,  last summer. In his session he discussed flipping one's classroom is NOT about the use of videos but it IS about creating a STUDNET-CENTERED classroom. Without knowing it was called flipping, I was in one of the latter stages as his presentation continued. With the Common Core, it is even more important to create a student-centered classroom and give students the opportunity to engage with the content.
    Many people have a misconception of it being about students watching the videos and doing homework in the classroom. I was delighted to catch 

    At this year's CCSS Conference, I presented Flipping the History Classroom. In my presentation I provided the why and how, including ways to structure student activities with and without the use of technology. You can flip your classroom and not be a 1:1 school- I did. Here you will find the resources forFlipping the History Classroom. In the link you will find the Prezi, sample student activities, session handoutsactivity resources which include links to primary source and activity repositories, and some tech tools that I have used to engage my students in historical inquiry- particularly with visual literacy. The sample Lino board and Voicethread that we did not get to are also still live in case you would like to try the resource. You will need to sign up for a free Voicethread account before you post.

  • 03/12/2014 5:08 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Sometimes it can be an arduous task collating primary sources for the World History classroom. At my Flipped History Classroom presentation and the CCSS Publications Committee session I mentioned a few repositories for World History primary sources that I have stumbled upon and have been very helpful. Participants asked for a blog entry on World History primary resources for activities and here we are. The repositories below will help you to select World History artifacts to engage your students in inquiry and meet the Common Core. I have also included Merlot II which is a database of not only primary source materials but also topic specific sites with activities and primary sources in many cases. Enjoy!

    World HistoryDigital Library The World Digital Library makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. The principal objectives of the WDL are to promote international and intercultural understanding, expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet, provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences, and build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries. You can search the repository by regions and eras, as well as by a few languages including Spanish.

    Universityof San Diego Library Guides I was ecstatic to come across this one on my Twitter feed from Chris Long (@clonghb). The University of San Diego has compiled subject listings of primary sources available online: free web collections as well as UCSD subscription-based resources. It includes a custom Google search engine to key word search across many of the listed sites. As a teacher, if you take a public school letter head note from your administrator verifying that you are a teacher at a public institution you can recieve a UC library card and gain access to their resources- a tip I learned two summers ago at UC Berkeley. 

    Internet History SourceBooks Project Fordham University has created a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts for educational use. They have divided the collections into three eras: Ancient History, Medieval History, and Modern History. Each collection has been further broken down. Fordham has also enabled search of their collections by topic and region. 

    Merlot II Merlot is a free and open peer reviewed collection of online teaching and learning materials contributed and used by an international education community. Select an are from the left scroll bar and let the browsing begin.
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