Posted on February 8, 2011 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

For my Unit 1 project my students are creating social networking Voki’s that they could send to their grandparents. These Voki’s explain what a social network is, some tips for how to use them appropriately and how to stay safe. Feel free to browse the comments section for their entries!


What I’ve been up to

Posted on January 19, 2011 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

It’s been a busy, busy first semester.

I switched jobs within my school, and unfortunately I am no longer teaching social studies in the ITEC Classroom. However, this does not mean I am sans-tech.

I was given the opportunity to teach a co-curricular (elective, to some of you) class of my choice, so long as I presented a curriculum for it late last year. I chose “digital citizenship” and I’ve had a great time teaching it.

Below are some comics that my 6th graders have made. I’ll hopefully update this more often, as I am settling into the digital citizenship groove.

Cyberbullying is not the way to go! by JGramNess

the mom cyberbulling and son by hanbecla

To be continued…

Posted on September 1, 2010 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

New year, new job, fewer computers.

I’ve got a new teaching position this year that includes far fewer computers than the one I had last year. Updates will most likely come few and far between… stay tuned!

The last few days…

Posted on May 28, 2010 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Everyone talks about how pointless the last few days of school are. Teachers know it, students know it, and the administration tells you to teach to the end of the bell. So what do you do?

Motivating kids is hard enough. Motivating kids that can taste summer break with no grading leverage is almost impossible. So what do you do?

You give the kids a chance to leave their legacy, to impart their knowledge and to have a positive impact on the classes that will follow them.

To accomplish this, I’m making an end of the year video, a “6th grade survival guide” that my kids will help me make. They’ll demonstrate how to do basic things and dispense their own anecdotal advice. They will write the script, dictate the screenplay, and film it all using a Flip Camera (oh how wonderful those are!).

My goal here is to keep kids interested, and let them do something MEANINGFUL during the last few days. Does it have anything to do with my content? Not really. Does it follow any specific standards? Only ISTE-S, I guess. Will it make the last few days worth attending? You bet. Will learning occur? Absolutely.

Here’s to hoping things worked out as planned!


Posted on May 17, 2010 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

I just finished the book Drive by Daniel Pink and it was everything I expected. Some random thoughts I scribbled are below. Pink’s paraphrased ideas are in bold, my responding thoughts are in italics. Some of Pink’s ideas didn’t get a corresponding thought – they were just TOO good not to write down.

* If people who are motivated to be nice and behave are given a lower set of standards, they will behave a certain way so they can say they behaved according to the rule.

Do school rules work like this as well? Will ambiguous statements like “Do the right thing” work better by letting you deal with each child uniquely? I’m coining the phrase “Differentiated Rules,” if it hasn’t already been taken.

* Effective and successful businesses are using concepts like FedEx Days, 20% time and wide ranges of compensation.

If we’re going to run schools like businesses, run them like the ones that work! Every teacher would LOVE to have 20% time, one day a week you wouldn’t have to follow any standards.

* People without external fairness will have their motivation plummet.

Teachers, when compared to the private sector.

* We bribe into compliance instead of challenging into engagement.

* 3 questions to ask yourself when giving homework:
– Am I offering autonomy over how or when they can do the assignment?
– Does this assignment promote mastery by offering a novel, engaging task?
– Do my students understand the purpose of this task? (Can they see how doing this additional activity at home contributes to the larger enterprise in which the class is engaged?

Famous Explorer Project

Posted on April 15, 2010 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

We’re back from Spring Break this week and we’ve started our final unit: Exploration. Additionally, I’ve deployed Google Apps to ALL of my students for the remainder of the year. If it works favorably, I’ll start this at the beginning of next year.

For our first big activity with Google Apps, we’re doing a twist on the typical “research-style” project. Instead of researching a famous explorer and writing a paper or making a poster, my students will be making a website (using Google Sites) packed with info. regarding their explorer.

Part I.

Students will use books (yes, books!) to research some basic facts on their explorer. They will input these facts into a “script” I’ve laid out for them using Google Docs.

Part II.

Once they’ve written their script, students will record their voice using a simple voice recorder we have at our school. They will then upload that recording to www.blabberize.com. This is a nifty website that allows you to create a talking picture. My students choose pictures of their explorers.

Part III.

Students are then required to create a map of their explorers travels using Google Docs’ new tool “drawing.” They simply insert an image into their drawing (usually a blank map) and trace the lines of their voyage! They can even color-code the lines for different voyages.

Part IV.

Once all of this has been completed, students insert the script, the drawing and embed the blabber on separate pages. Voila!

Facebooking “Renaissance Men”

Posted on March 18, 2010 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Today my kids begin a two-day project of making a Facebook page for a famous “Renaissance Man.”

I got this idea from GlennW over at his History Tech blog.

Basically, I created a template (using Glenn’s Guide) for a Facebook page and added various features that Facebook has that line up with things I want my kids to learn.

There is a mix of objective personal information as well as subjective areas for things like friend posts, status updates and the like.

My goal for this assignment is for the kids to learn a little about their “Renaissance Man” as well as think like one. It requires them to take facts from books/websites/etc and insert them into an informal setting, one they can be creative with.

Here’s a link to the template I created. I gave it a password so my students would not be able to edit anything other than the areas I asked them to. If you want to change it in any way, the password to unprotect it is “facebook.”

Google Apps thus far

Posted on March 12, 2010 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

A few weeks ago I received permission to deploy Google Apps for Education with my 6th grade students. Two weeks into training, it’s going GREAT!

I bring students up into my class for optional training sessions during the second half of their lunch. They choose to give up part of their beloved social time to come learn Google!

Thus far they’ve learned:

* Appropriate e-mail ettiquette
* How to add a signature to an e-mail
* How to use hypertext
* How to use Google Calendar
* How to upload any type of document to Google Docs
* How to create any type of document in Google Docs
* How to create a website with Google Sites
* How to embed presentations or documents within their websites
* How to create a Blog
* How to embed Google Docs into their Blogs
* How to add hypertext into their signature to link their blogs to anyone they email!

It’s been wonderful so far, and the kids are LOVING it. I’m very excited to plug my lessons and content into this, as it will open up for them many, MANY new opportunities.

Educational Success, or educational fail?

Posted on March 9, 2010 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

This kid brings up some great points in his video. The quick irony of this: he seems to make the claim that the current education system failed him yet he’s obviously intelligent enough to make a great video, all at the inspirational cost of school. So.. in failing did institutional education really help him? So deep…

Even NBC understands education.

Posted on March 8, 2010 by mrlaymansocialstudies.
Categories: Uncategorized.

Here’s a hilarious clip from the NBC show “Community.” For those of you that don’t watch the sitcom about students going to community college, I highly recommend it.

When I first saw the clip, I thought it was funny. After I watched it a few times on Youtube, I realized that this is a shining example of how students can positively use what they learn in class to create something fun and informational using technology. I think I’ll show my students this clip later this year when we do some podcasting/rapping. I think it will help them to understand.