Friday, December 05, 2008

Podcast #163 - Using Google Video Chat to Visit the National Constitution Center

Some days you do an activity in the classroom that just works incredibly well and you walk away thinking "AWESOME". I had that experience today. Today my 8th grade history students in Liberty, Missouri were able to take a visual field trip to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and participate in a tour given by National Constitutional Center Education Director Eli Lesser. We used Google's new Video Chat feature - it was very easy to use and we had a quality picture. Eli used his laptop and a web cam to move around Signers Hall at the National Constitution Center. He told stories about the statues in the hall while showing my students specific details. He answered questions as they raised their hand in my class. It was incredible. I know this is not a ground breaking event - many classes participate in video conferences every day, but I found it amazing that all we needed to make a connection was a G-mail account, a web cam and one click. Very impressive. If this is possible with minimal effort, what else can be accomplished with this application? Wow.

I talk about today's experience in the podcast and I recorded the experience with my Flip camera from the back of the room. I have uploaded a 7 minute segment from the video experience to You Tube and have embedded it below.

I would like to thank Eli Lesser for taking time out of his day to participate in this activity with my students. I would encourage all history teachers to sign up for the National Constitution Center educator newsletter to stay informed about all upcoming activities and events.

If you have any comments or questions about the video conference please leave a comment to this blog entry. I would also love to hear about any experiences you have with connecting classes via Google Video Chat. Are you an 8th grade American history class that would like to participate in a project with us in Liberty, Missouri? If so please let me know - send an e-mail to

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Deadline Approaching For 2009 Cable's Leaders in Learning Awards

Last Chance to Nominate and Apply for 2009 Cable's Leaders in Learning Awards Application Period Ends at Noon PT on December 17th Washington, DC – The application deadline for Cable’s Leaders in Learning Awards is only two weeks away.

Applications are being accepted through December 17th from individuals who implement creative learning programs in their communities, helping to push education progress to new heights. The annual program recognizes outstanding educators, administrators, policymakers, and other leaders at the forefront of innovation in education. The application period ends Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 12 noon PT. Applications can be submitted online only via

A podcast discussion about the application process is also available on the awards website for those considering applying. Cable’s Leaders in Learning Awards recognize a broad array of innovators, including:* Highly inventive classroom educators, administrators, community leaders, and policymakers who are transforming education from pre-kindergarten through high school.* Those who have had a major impact on educating youth both in and out of the classroom.* Those who have adopted innovative learning practices that have transformed an aspect of education on a large or small scale. In addition to national and local recognition, winners receive:* A $3,000 cash prize* An all-expense-paid trip to Washington, DC in June, 2009 - While in Washington, award recipients will visit with members of Congress to talk about their award-winning programs. - Winners will attend an awards ceremony with policymakers, government officials, national education leaders, cable executives, and other VIPS. Cable’s Leaders in Learning Awards, administered by Cable in the Classroom, recognize innovative programs in several categories including: General Excellence, Cable Partnerships for Learning, and Media Literacy Education. For more information, please visit:

Cable in the Classroom (CIC), the cable industry's education foundation, works to expand and enhance learning opportunities for children and youth. Created in 1989 to help schools take advantage of educational cable programming and technology, CIC has become a leading national advocate for media literacy education and for the use of technology and media for learning, as well as a valuable resource for educational cable content and services for policymakers, educators and industry leaders. For more information about Cable in the Classroom, please visit:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Podcast #162 - Create A Word Cloud of the Constitution Using Wordle

Hello. Today's podcast is a quick one about using the application Wordle in your social studies class. Wordle is a web based application which allows you to create a word cloud from a sample of text. You can manipulate the colors, shape, font, etc. to make a really cool visual represenation of text.

Since we are studying the United States Constitution right now in class I create two "Wordles" composed of the text of the Constitution. I think they look pretty cool and my 8th graders thought they were awesome. Listen to the podcast to learn a little more about using Wordle in your social studies classroom.

Monday, November 24, 2008

California Teacher Selling Ads on Math Tests

An enterprising math teacher in California is selling ad space on his math tests. Wow. I wonder if this will catch on?


Podcast #161 - Teaching Gas Prices in Class

Hello. Have your students been talking about the steady decrease in the price of a gallon of gas? Here in Liberty, Missouri we currently have some of the cheapest gas in the country. I filled up in Independence yesterday for $1.39 a gallon (see image above).

Our next unit in class is our unit on how the Constitution works today and we always discuss taxes - both federal and state. Gas taxes are always a great way to introduce this concept to my 8th graders. This podcast will discuss a couple of great websites to help you discuss gas prices in class with your students and make it a truly teachable moment.
If you have a great gas related resource for teachers you would like to share (insert any jokes you feel appropriate here) please leave a comment to this post.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Podcast #160 - Read the Words - Text to Audio Tool for the Classroom

Hello. Today's podcast is a very quick review of a free online application called "Read The Words". Many of you are probably already familiar with this application but I wanted to do a quick podcast to let everyone know about it. Read the Words allows you to convert word documents, PDF files, blogs, web sites, etc. into MP3 audio files. I think this application has some powerful potential in the classroom.

Please let me know what you think of this application by leaving a comment to this blog entry. I would also be interested in any comments from teachers who have already used Read the Words in their classrooms.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pearson's 2008 Teachers of the Year Videos

Several weeks ago I was in New York with the other state teachers of the year and attended our last activity as a group. We were the guests of Pearson and had the opportunity to create a short video answering the question "Why Do I Teach?" It was a great experience as each of us created a short video in one afternoon of work. The videos of all the 2008 state teachers of the year are now posted online.

Link to see all the 2008 Teacher of the Year Videos from Pearson

I encourage you to visit the site and view some of the videos. Over the past 10 months this group of teachers became incredibly close and I have enjoyed viewing each of the videos and recalling conversations I have had with each of them. These teachers have so much to share and hearing their stories is truly inspiring.

I would like to thank Pearson for the opportunity to capture our stories and allow us as a group to experience digital storytelling. Pearson also provided each of us with a Flip videocam to use for future projects and I have truly enjoyed using this device which I think should be in the hands of each teacher in America.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What Would You Tell Mr. Obama in 100 Words or Less?

This blog post is a special assignment for my 8th grade American History class but anyone is free to join us.

If you could tell Mr. Obama anything in 100 words or less what would it be? Would it be advice? Would it be words of wisdom? Would you tell him what you would like to see him do as President? Would you tell him which issue is most important to you? Here is his official website as he transitions to the presidency.

Please leave a comment on this blog post. I am asking my students to leave their comment as "anonymous" but leave their first name at the end of the post. No last names please. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day 2008 Report

Hello. Hope everyone is enjoying Election Day 2008. I woke up around 5:00 AM and took my 5 year old daughter with me to vote. We were in line at 5:45 AM, polls opened at 6:00 AM and we were on our way home at 6:45 AM. Not too long of a wait and everyone was pleasant.

The students of South Valley Junior High School here in Liberty, Missouri participated in the Kid's Voting Project taking place across the Kansas City. Our results will be available on Tuesday night here.

I'm participating in the US Voting project with the students of Diana Laufenberg of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadlephia, Pennsylvania and Kyle Steven's students at the Bishop Dunne Catholic School in Dallas, Texas. Here is my video report on how the voting went this morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Teaching the Declaration of Independence as a Break Up Letter - Podcast and Video

NOTE : This post is an update of my podcast and post from about a year ago describing how I use a fictional break up letter to help teach the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. In the original podcast, from September 2007, I included audio of my class while doing this activity. Today - October 30, 2008 - I did this activity with my 8th graders and instead of capturing their reaction using audio, I used my Flip video camera and took video of the activity while it was happening. It was great and really shows how the activity works in a real classroom. I have embedded the video with this post.

Hello. Today's podcast describes one of the activities I use in class to teach about the Declaration of Independence. Students often don't really understand the purpose of the document and this activity usually helps. I act as if I have found a note on the floor of my class the day before after school and then I read it to the class. It is a break up letter and at the end the students are stunned to learn that it is from "the American Colonies". I have included the text of the letter that I use below and the podcast has a recording of what happens when I read the letter in class and the discussion that follows. The podcast also has some hints and suggestions if you would like to replicate this activity in your classroom. I'm sure someone out there does something similar but I have not been able to find it anywhere else. I really enjoy this activity and my students have fun with it as well.

If you have any comments or questions please leave a comment on the blog or send me an e-mail at

Text of the letter that I read to my class this year:
I'm not sure how to start this letter but I feel we need to talk. I've been thinking about us a lot lately. Things used to be so great - it was like we were M.F.E.O. I mean everyone said it was perfect. I really thought we would be together forever but then things changed.
I feel like you started to take me for granted. You just started to do whatever you wanted and never even asked me about anything or how I felt.
I've been thinking about this for a while and I don't want to hurt you but I think it is time we broke up. I mean it's just not going to work. I need some time by myself to see what it is like on my own. I'm sorry things didn't work out but I do think YOU are the one to blame. Sorry but "US" is over.
The American Colonies

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Podcast #159 - Online Resources for Teaching the 2008 Election

Hello. A week from tonight we will elect a new president and many teachers across the nation are implementing online resources to explain the process to their students. I recently wrote an article which was published in School Library Journal magazine (September 2008 issue) describing a variety of resources. The article is available in print or you can view the entire article online here.

In today's podcast I discuss the resources listed below. If you use an additional online resource to teach the election please share it by adding a comment to this blog post.

Budget Hero

CNN Student News

Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonist Index

eLECTIONS Online Game

The Living Room Candidate

Select A Candidate

270 To Win

2008 T+L Conference in Seattle - Visiting the Space Needle

Hello. After I presented my preconference session on Monday afternoon I decided to visit the Space Needle. Everyone in Seattle has to visit the Space Needle right? I took the Monorail over to the Space Needle and as I paid $16 for my ticket to ride the elevator to the top I had doubts that it would be worth it but I must say that I was not disappointed. I arrived at the top of the Space Needle at about 5:30 PM right as the sun was setting over Elliott Bay. The sky turned several shades of red as ships moved in the bay. The city came alive as it grew darker and the lights began to show a city alive. I spent about an hour at the top and even watched part of a football game below - as I watched one team even scored a touchdown.

I have included some pictures from my visit and also took along my trusty Flip cam to record some video. I made a video Monday night and have posted it so my students can share in my visit to the Space Needle.

If you have any comments or would like to share your experience in visiting the Space Needle please leave a comment to this post. Thanks.

Monday, October 27, 2008

2008 T+L Conference in Seattle - A Tour of the Pike Place Market

Hello from Seattle. I'm in Seattle to present at the 2008 T+L Conference. My presentation is Monday afternoon but I did get into town on Sunday afternoon. After checking in to my hotel, I walked down to my favorite Seattle location - The Pike Place Market.

I took some pictures and video with my Flip. I created this short video on Sunday night so that my students back in Liberty, Missouri could watch it in class. It has some video of the original Starbucks, buskers and the "wall of gum".

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Podcast #158 - Visiting Ellis Island

Above - Grandpa's name on the wall at Ellis Island
Above - Great Hall in 1924 - same year my grandfather came through Ellis Island

Above - Great Hall as it appears today in 2008

Above - Sitting on the original benches in the Great Hall

Above - Statue of Liberty framed by a door in the Great Hall

Above - My first view of the Statue of Liberty

Hello. A couple of weeks ago while attending a national teacher of the year workshop in New York City I was able to visit a location that I knew I needed to visit at some point in my life - Ellis Island. My grandfather, Henry C Langhorst, immigrated to America in 1924 as a 26 year old German who knew no English and came through Ellis Island. I spent about 5 hours soaking in the history at Ellis Island on September 30th and recall the experience in my podcast. It was an emotional experience for me and I was moved to tears on several occasions that day. I have also included some pictures and a video from my Flip video recorder.

Direct link to Podcast #158 - Visiting Ellis Island - MP3 Audio File

If you have any comments or questions about the podcast please leave a comment or e-mail me at

Friday, September 12, 2008

Visiting My Classroom To Check Out the Zunes

Hello. I recently received an e-mail from a teacher wanting to visit my classroom to see how my students are using the Zune MP3 player in class for instruction. I marked the e-mail for response but after two days of searching cannot find it.

If you sent me an e-mail about visiting my classroom please send me another e-mail. You are more than welcome to visit my classroom but I need your contact information again.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Always Remember....

Always remember. It struck me today when I was taking attendance in my 8th grade American history classroom and realized that the students in my room were only in the first grade when this day changed our country forever. It is our duty to remember, we owe them this at the very least.

Upcoming Opportunities at the Truman Library

Just passing along some great upcoming opportunities from the Truman Library:

1) Presidential Election Trivia Contest for Missouri and Kansas 9-12th graders
Monday, October 20, 2008, from 7:00 - 9:00 P.M. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri

This contest is designed for Missouri and Kansas 9th - 12th grade students. Registration will be $25 per team. The deadline for entering is October 3rd. Only one team from each school may participate. Private, parochial, public and home schools are all welcome to register for the contest.Format Groups of up to six students from each school will participate in teams. They will answer questions on a variety of questions relating to Presidential campaigns and elections in American history.

For further information contact To enter, you can download the entry form at:

2) National Issues Forums for Missouri and Kansas High School Students"
The New Challenges of American Immigration."October 11 & 18, 20089:30 - NoonTruman Library & Museum Independence, Missouri

The New Challenges of American Immigration On October 11 & 18 from 9:30 am to noon, the Truman Library will host two High School Student National Issues Forums on "The New Challenges of American Immigration." While the students are engaged in their forums, the teachers will be separately trained by National Issues Forums Institute moderators how to organize and conduct the type of dialogue that comprises NIFI forums. The deadline for RSVPs is October 6 for the October 11 forum and October 13 for the October 18 forum.

To rsvp, email ; include the teacher name, school name and the number of students participating. More information is at:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Teacher Workshop Opportunity at the Winston Churchill Memorial Library

I am always amazed at the number of high quality professional development opportunities we have as social studies teachers. This year I hope to spread the word about more of these opportunities. Some of these will be regional, such as the posting today, and others will be open to anyone regardless of your physical location.

Today's item is from the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library located in Fulton, Missouri on the campus of Westminster College. It is an excellent museum and I highly recommend it to any history teacher. Today I'm sharing some information on an upcoming teacher workshop at the museum.

A one-day Teacher Breakout Workshop will be held Saturday, Sept. 20, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at fhe Winston Churchill Memorial and Library in the United States, located on the Westminster College campus in Fulton, MO.

This event is open to any 4th or 5th grade teacher. The cost is $5.00, including lunch, and enrollment is limited to 20 teachers.

The first of three professional development workshops, the Elementary School session, will provide in-depth training about the museum’s education curriculum specific to the 4th and 5th grade classrooms, including both the onsite and outreach programs. Subjects touched upon on the elementary level include Geography, Social Studies and Communication Arts. We will offer professional development credit.

Upcoming workshops are Middle School Teachers – Saturday, December 13, and High School Teachers – Saturday, March 21. Our 3-day teacher workshop is June 25-27.

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Mandy Crump, Education/Public Programs Coordinator, at 573-592-6242 or

The Winston Churchill Memorial and Library in the United States is located on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, MO, the site of Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech. The Memorial was founded in 1969 to honor the life and legacy of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. It is housed within the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, a 12th century church from the middle of London, redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren in 1677 and relocated to Fulton in 1969. The Undercroft of this beautiful and historic Wren church is a museum filled with a priceless treasury of artifacts and information relating to the life and times of Sir Winston Churchill.
The Churchill Memorial is open from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Admission is Adults: $6.00; Senior Citizens, AAA and AARP members: $5.00; Youth (12-18): $4.00; College Students: $4.00; Children (6-11): $3.00; and Children (5 and under): free.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

45 years ago today........

Forty-five years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Today I would like to share one of my favorite pictures of my daughter on our last trip to DC when she stood on the spot. She had learned about the speech in her preschool class and it was a very cool "dad moment" to be able to tell her this was the exact location. In light of the political events occuring today, it does make me pause to think about how much, or if, we are making progress and how we will look back on this moment 45 years from now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Podcast #157 - Could the Google 20% Principle Work in the Classroom?

Hello. Today's podcast is a carcast in which I discuss the possible use of Google's 20% principle in the classroom. How would it work and would it be possible. Just some random thoughts to start off the new school year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Podcast #156 - Review of the Flip Video Camera as a Tool for Teachers

Hello. Today's podcast is a quick carcast recorded as I drove across Nebraska on a recent family vacation. It is a short review of the Flip video camera - which I think would be a great purchase for any teacher. If you have used a Flip in your classroom please leave a comment to this post and share your ideas. In the podcast I mention it would be a great tool for administrators as well.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Podcast #155 - Grace Corrigan, Mother of Christa McAuliffe, at 2008 International Teachers Space Camp

Hello. Today's podcast is a presentation from the 2008 International Teacher Space Camp by Grace Corrigan (mother of Astronaut Christa McAuliffe). It is great presentation about the life of Christa and what it meant for her to represent teachers in space. I was not aware until listening to Grace that Christa was a history teacher and had a very interesting approach to how she taught history to her students.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Podcast #154 - 2008 International Teacher Space Camp

Hello. Today's podcast is a recap of the 2008 International Teacher Space Camp. The camp was a collection of the state teachers of the year and about 30 international teachers from around the world. As we attended the week long camp in Huntsville, Alabama we studied rockets, science, space, ran simulated shuttle missions, listened to astronauts and had a blast (no pun intended). After you listen to the podcast, check out the pictures and video from this great week.

Video of Space Shot Ride from Space Camp

At the U.S. Rocket and Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama they have a Space Shot ride - similar to ones you may see at amusement parks - which simulates a launch. This ride gives the rider the experience of 4G's. I rode it twice - once I had someone film it from the ground, the second time I held my Flip video camera to record what it looks like from the seat of the ride.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2008 Summer MACE Keynote

The following presentation was the keynote at the 2008 MACE (Mid-America Association for Computers in Education) Summer Conference held in Bonner Springs, Kansas on July 24, 2008.

Yes, MP3 Players in the Classroom Session at 2008 Summer MACE Conference

The following presentation was a featured session at the 2008 Summer MACE Conference in Bonner Springs, Kansas on July 24, 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Podcasting Workshop Wiki

Hello. Today I'm including a link to the wiki that I'll be using today to teach a workshop at MACE (Mid-America Association for Computers in Education) Conference in Bonner Springs, Kansas. I will be teaching two workshops on the basics of creating a podcast - each three hours in length. I set up a wiki to help organize the links we will be using and make it easy for me to add more links and material later.

Link to Podcast Workshop Wiki

If you have any great resources on podcasting that you feel I should add - and I know they are tons of them out there not on my wiki - please feel free to post a comment to this entry or e-mail me directly at


Friday, July 18, 2008

"..but we have always taught that way..." Presentation at 2008 Technology Innovations Conference by SuccessLink

Hello. This presentation was given at the 2008 Technology Innovations Conference sponsored by SuccessLink in Osage Beach, Missouri. The date of the presentation is July 18, 2008 and it was presented at a lunch session.

Following the presentation I will post audio of the presentation to accompany the slideshow below.

Ten Steps to Becoming A 21st Century Educator

Hello. This presentation was given at the 2008 Technology Innovations Conference sponsored by SuccessLink in Osage Beach, Missouri. The date of the presentation is July 18, 2008 and it was presented at a lunch session.

Following the presentation I will post audio of the presentation to accompany the slideshow below.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Podcast #153 - Zune In My Classroom Presentation at 2008 NECC in San Antonio

Microsoft's Kathy Richardson and myself at the Zune section of the Microsoft booth at NECC.

Hello. Today's podcast is the audio from my presentation last week in San Antonio at NECC. I gave my presentation on the second day of the conference at the Microsoft booth and described the Zune pilot I completed with my 8th grade American history students. It was a busy exhibit floor at the time of the presentation and there is a lot of background noise but I think it is still audible.

The Zune pilot I completed at South Valley Junior High School - along with the pilot which took place at Fort Sumner High School in New Mexico - has been featured in an AP story which was picked up by various media outlets including CNN.

Direct link to Speaking of History Podcast #153 - Zune In My Classroom Presentation at 2008 NECC in San Antonio - MP3 Audio - 23:25 Minutes

The presentation is also available in video format thanks to Texas teacher Kyle Stevens of the Final Curve blog who recorded it and posted it to YouTube as two videos. Thanks Kyle for taping and posting the videos. I have embedded the videos below.