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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  • 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.
  • 11 Oct 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.

  • 21 Sep 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.

  • 08 Sep 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.

  • 04 Aug 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:

  • 20 Jul 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!

  • 12 Jul 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!

  • 28 Jun 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.
  • 21 Jun 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.
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