National Council for the Social Studies

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Classroom Tech Blog

Elizabeth Ramos, a H-SS teacher at Alta Loma HS in Southern California and Inland Empire Council for the Social Studies Teacher of Excellence, has been exploring ways to integrate technology into her classroom as a tool for teaching and learning since she first entered the classroom. She has participated in international video conferences with students, involved them in creating digital documentaries,digital storytelling, blogging, digital collaboration, and much more. All the while she has learned from her experiences and improved with each iteration of her projects, willingly sharing with others.

After discovering the technology blog she had been operating for her colleagues and students, the CCSS Publications Committee asked her to join our effort to bring our cutting edge publications to our members.  You are welcome to participate in the ongoing discussion and idea sharing of the most effective uses technology to enhance learning in every social studies classroom.  You will enjoy Liz’s energy and ideas and are encouraged to add your own.   
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  • 02 May 2015 1:37 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Last weekend I attended Edsurge in Los Angeles, where teachers can explore emerging educational technologies. While waiting for the event to start, I had a chance to catch up and chat with Jen Roberts. Roberts is a rockstar middle school English teacher in San Diego. In our discussion, I brought up researching and getting students to properly attribute sources when she shared Photos for Class. This site is FABULOUS.

    Photos for Class is a free database of Creative Commons G rated images that you can download WITH proper attribution included at the bottom of the image. Let me say this is golden. I have stressed with my students the needs to give proper attribution in their work including images. Too often teachers have students just grab an image off of Google. This is wrong. We must teach our students to search for Creative Commons images to utilize and give proper attribution. See last month's Fair Use blog post for more information on the topic.

    Photos for class is easy to use. Just type in the topic in the search window. My students and I found that you may need to include the general topic and a specific aspect to narrow your search to be more productive. For example, when a student was looking for images related to the fall of China to communism we entered "Communism China." Once you find an image you like, select download. You will now have a Creative Commons photo with proper attribution to use in your task. This serves as a great way to teach digital citizenship and for students to see the proper way to attribute photos that are not there own.

  • 12 Apr 2015 4:38 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    Not everyone is 1:1 with Chromebooks or ipads. Or maybe you want your students to record in an "old school" way without visuals... think Fireside Chats. One item that most of our students have is a cell phone. If not, many classes have enough where students may work in groups. You can have your students record audio with their cell phones using ipadio. ipadio is a allows you to broadcast live to the web by having your students call a phone number.

    To begin, you will want to have the students who will be using their phones sign up for a FREE account. They will be given a phone number to call and a PIN number after registering. Have the students write this down, they can also retrieve this info online by logging in. It is best to have students script out their recording prior to calling- there is no pause. Once they call the number, they will be prompted to enter in their pin. Next, there will be a recorded message, at the beep students record into their phone and press # at the end to stop the recording. They will be prompted if they want to listen then. I have my students save all recordings and select the best one at the end. Having a class record in the classroom can get loud and the noise will overlap, consider taking your class outside to a common area such as the quad to record. Have the student with the account login and have them/group listen and select the recording they like. Lastly, have the students download the recording to share with you via a Google Form or they can share the selected recording embed code with you via email or a Google form as well. If you have a group that does not have access to a phone, you may consider having them use your phone. To do this, you can register an alternate phone number- I entered in my class extension to share with students. You can then share the alternate number and PIN and allow student(s) to use your phone.

    There are a variety of ways in which to use this. You may consider doing this for WWI or WWII battle reports. My students really embraced this and downloaded battle sound apps on another student's phone to play in the background as they were recording their "battle reports." The class was excited to listen to their reports to review for the exam and complete their battle notes graphic organizer. You may also consider this in meeting Special Education accommodations. This is a great tool to help meet the speaking and listening requirements of the Common Core. 

  • 24 Mar 2015 10:18 AM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)

    My first session at the annual Computer Using Educators (CUE) Conference this month was a session led by Gail Desler and Jane Lofton was phenomenal- Can I Use That? Not only was it packed full of resources samples, and videos to use with students, but they began with a Constitution reference quote.  Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution calls for the government “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries”  It is incumbent upon us as teachers to show students the proper way to utilize resources and give proper attribution. One cannot just go onto Google and utilize whatever image comes up. As Desler and Lofton state on their website, “In today's media-rich world, to be truly college and career ready, our students need a strong understanding of the concepts of copyright and fair use and how to apply these concepts within and beyond the school day. And teachers need a toolkit that clarifies both the limits of copyright and the possibilities of fair use.”

    The ladies have also created a Can I use that? A Guide to CreativeCommons PDF that is invaluable. You will also find image and music Fair Use resources, links to Fair Use curriculum videos to use with students and teachers, and more.

  • 14 Mar 2015 1:31 PM | Elizabeth Ramos (Administrator)
    This year's keynote at the CCSS Conference was the amazing Sam Wineburg. He is author of "Why Historical Thinking Matters" and is the director of the Stanford History Education Group(SHEG). One of the important historical thinking skills SHEG reinforces and Wineburg spoke about was sourcing. In today's digital age this is a necessary skill to teach our students as they sort through troves of information on the internet. WhoIs is a great site Wineburg mentioned in his keynote.
    This site allows you to plug in the URL to a website and it will tell you who it is registered to. It is important for all of us to learn who is behind the web pages we are visiting, site names can and often are misleading. So before you or your students reference a site, do you due diligence sourcing the information and check out who is really behind the site.

  • 18 Feb 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.
  • 24 Jan 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.


  • 13 Dec 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. 

  • 07 Dec 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
  • 10 Nov 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.
  • 20 Oct 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.
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