Wow. The new school year has really hit me hard this year. I have been scrambling to keep up with all of the new fun demands of the school board, two preps (both government, but both of them requiring significant effort and retooling), new students, and all the demands of life outside of teaching.
I find myself trolling the Internet routinely for new ways to teach and reach my students.
I look for games (online and old-school), primary source lessons, ideas, apps, interviews, videos, tech-based, and otherwise. I have found so much, and want to share maybe ten really cool things that I am having some luck with in my classroom.
Social Networking is my friend
I am finding that my own, personal social networking accounts are converting over to extensions of professional development.
Twitter has a set crew of government teachers who meet on Sundays from 6-7pm PST and share resources and ideas on pre-arranged topics. I perused their latest chat on elections, and was blown away by the variety of content shared. Check them out... do a search for #hsgovchat and share or pose a question! If you want more, including archived resources, check out their website... Best thing here, you do NOT need a twitter account to see what they say, but an account is necessary if you want to say something.
Facebook has a similar private group for AP Government Teachers. I like this format because it is more dialogue and sharing of actual ideas and units than just posting of resources around the Internet. It is closer knit, with a puprose, and has a lot of collaboration with subject-matter experts in the AP Government world. Look them up on FB and ask for permission to join.
Re-purposing technology in the classroom
Many of these services are not new, but they may be new to you. I have been using them with wreckless abandon... and I can offer you some pros and cons.
Notes I am trying to find a way to allow my students and I to share notes... with videos and quizzes and all that embedded. I have used many services. I tried Edmodo (and haven't found anything I like yet, though I do use it for reviewing for tests and to chat with other gov teachers who are members) and Gingko and Evernote and Simplenote... and many many more.
I want collaboration. I want controlled content. I want embedability. I want questions and feedback. I want study space ability. I want intuitive use and proper use of negative space. I want free.
While I have yet to find a universal app, I have found Versal.
I use versal to compile my notes. I throw together my notes... from the county-provided text (which was published in 2009), from my resources and research, from current events, and from other apps and tech based content that I would like in one place.
I outline them on the board for my classes, and then teach according to each classes needs with additional, follow up resources.
When I want to let them know what homework they have, we skip the limited ability of Blackboard and discuss via Remind. When we want to do vocab, I have them use Quizlet.
These give my students the ability to study on their phone, while at work, at a doctor's office, whatever. They don't have to have a certain type of computer or web-browser. They are limited by what their on-line texts.
My only complaint... It can be confusing. There is a lot of traffic-cop directing going on. I am hopeful my kids will figure it out. And appreciate how long it takes me to type up my class notes.
Primary Source Help
I have talked a lot about the amazing amount of educational material out there from various types of non-profits... And I can go on all day about how much I love each of them.
What I am particularly in love with right now is the new FREE on-line comprehensive resource offered by the Bill of Rights Institute called Documents of Freedom
They have worked hard to not only create meaningful video and activities surrounding really hard texts like the Federalist Papers or de Tocqueville, but they then connect it back to your state standards/common core with educational text.
I plan on using them more as the year progresses and we get into the philosophical foundations of the Constitution. And, hey! It's free! It's simple! It's a great one-stop shop to hit up when you are trying to reinforce or extend your curriculum!
So, there you are. A bit better armed in the fight to prove how relevant the study of government is to our lovely students.
Do you have other awesome resources to share? Please do! Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information out there.
I am always looking for fellow teachers who want to collaborate together, or even write their own essentials doc article to post on this website!
Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan