Friday, May 29, 2009

The 29th Anniversary of 24/7 Cable News

CNN. Those initials have become the by-word representing an innovative concept – now imitated by other agencies around the world – of making the news available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

CNN (Cable Network News) was launched on June 1, 1980. The brainchild of Ted Turner, CNN has revolutionized the world of news, affected American policy, and influenced the way Americans – and the world - think. Can students today even conceive of the 15-minute (later expanded to half-an-hour) news brought to us by ABC, CBS, and NBC back in the 1950s and 1960s? The news with Walter Cronkite was ‘family television time’ in our household when I was growing up. Now that half hour has expanded into twenty-four hours – and no longer ‘family discussion’ time.

CNN – and other 24/7 news stations – have backed a number of causes and politicians – although very subtly – and has had an influence on what we think and believe, hence continuing the traditional role of the press in America. It is also causing the decline – along with the spread of the Internet – of the printed newspaper, which has always provided a chance for the reader to study and reflect on the news.

Talk about the power of the press – or electrons!

What a discussion point for our students as the school year nears an end: perhaps a question such as ‘what is the effect of CNN on our perception of the President’?

And some people thought the idea of news being available 24/7 was silly and would never work It is admittedly fascinating the see images from around the world beamed into our living room whenever we want to turn to the news channel.

Essential Question: What long-range effects does the 24/7 news concept have on our perceptions of the world and our lifestyles?



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Government on YouTube

This past week was a busy week at work and home, and I didn’t have the opportunity to do my usual ‘perusal of the blogs’ routine until Saturday night. There are some advantages to a once-a-week review of my favorite blog sites, as well as some disadvantages.

As I was reviewing the new entries on the Library of Congress blog site I found a blog entry titled “Uncle Sam 2.0: U.S. Government Goes YouTube”. After spending a little time there reviewing the content, I felt it was a site worth sharing with our Social Studies folks.

The home page for the site is the U.S. Government Channel. To access it, you will have to use a home or public library computer, as our District filters block YouTube. More on that later.

Some of the entries were a little disappointing – such as the FDIC Channel’s collection of short PSA’s (Public Service Announcements) – while other entries have quite a bit of potential for judicious use in the classroom. However, some gems were found in the History, Arts, and Culture channel as well as The White House channel – which has weekly broadcasts from the President concerning policies, directions we are heading, as well as current issues the United States is facing.

These could be very valuable as instructional tools when appropriately used. They could be wonderful class discussion starters; for analysis of politics, propaganda, and viewpoints; as well further resources for each of the fields of Social Studies.

While our District filters out live YouTube viewing, the selections can be downloaded and played from a classroom computer. Thumb drives are great for moving the file from home to work.

I would encourage you to take a peek at the site, explore, and determine if there is any entries at the site that you feel would be appropriate in the classroom. I know that I did not take the time to look at all of the channels, but the site is on my 'go back and visit often' list.

I wonder if our Florida government will be doing the same thing?

Essential Question: Do you view the YouTube U.S. Government Channel as a valuable resource for education or a powerful tool of salesmanship and influence?

Picture Resource:
U.S. Capitol Building,


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Letters of the Delegates

The Library of Congress has wonderful online resources for the Social Studies teacher. I came across one the other day while ‘surfing’ through the American Memory portal of the LOC webpage: Letters of the Delegates.

This site contains links to letters and diary entries of many of the delegates to the Continental Congress, and covers the years 1774 – 1788. It is easy to navigate through the letters, as the initial division is by date – usually covering a three to five month block. Once you link to that three-to-five month block, the names of the authors of these letters are show. If the document is a letter, it also shows whom the letter is to.

An example of some of the insight provided by perusing this collection: A letter from John Hancock to George Washington on May 16, 1776, inviting the General to Philadelphia to discuss matters with Congress – and offering to share his residence with General Washington and his wife.

Sir, Philadelphia May 16th. 1776. I do myself the Honour to enclose you several Resolutions passed by the Congress, to which I beg Leave to refer you. The Congress being of Opinion, that it is necessary, as well for your Health, as the public Service, that you should embrace the earliest opportunity of coming to Philadelphia, have directed me to write to you, and request, that you will repair to Philada. as soon as you can conveniently, in order to consult with Congress, upon such Measures as may be necessary for the carrying on the ensuing Campaign. I hope the Situation of the great Affairs with which you are entrusted, will admit your making this Excursion, which I apprehend may be serviceable to your Health. In which Case, I request the Favour that you will please to honour me with your and your Lady's Company at my House, where I have a Bed at your Service during your Continuance here, and where every Endeavour of mine and Mrs. Hancock, shall be exerted to make your Abode agreeable. I reside in an airy, open Part of the City in Arch Street and Fourth Street. If this should be agreeable to you, it will afford me much Pleasure.”
This site is one to be explored! If you decide to explore it, feel free to share any discoveries or interesting tidbits.

Essential Question: How can the personal views found in the Letters of the Delegates be effectively used in our history, government, and civics classes?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

60th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

Occasionally anniversaries of events occur that can - and probably should be - utilized in a classroom experience for the students even if it is not the 'topic of the day'.

May 12th marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Airlift, a monumental effort by the American, British, French, and other allied forces to resupply Berlin, Germany, after the Soviets made a power-play to gain the divided city by cutting off all access to supplies. Stalin miscalculated, as President Truman and America's allies came up with an alternative, heroic method of resuppling the city with food, coal, clothing, and the necessities of life.

For a 10 minute BBC documentary on the Berlin Airlift, click here.

For an excellent lesson plan, with primary resources (both print and visual), click here.

Our county library system has several books concerning the Berlin Airlift, including The Candy Bombers : The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour by Andrei Cherny.

Essential Question: How effective are the tools above in teaching students about the Berlin Airlift.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Social Studies DOE Telephone Conference Results

Tuesday, 5/12/09, the new Program Specialist for Social Studies at the Florida DOE (Patty Ceci) hosted a telephone conference call with the Social Studies coordinators from our Florida school districts. I’m not sure how many ‘attended’, but it was a respectable number. Jennifer Hetland (Program Specialist for Elementary Curriculum) and I represented our District.

Here are a few highlights from the conference call:

1. The Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Social Studies:
As you know, the NGSSSS was passed by the State Board of Education in December 2008. You can download the NGSSSSS (or NGS5 was we decided in a blog entry last December) at After you reach the home page, click Standards, then click Social Studies. Whether you download them or not, you do need to look at them, so be sure to bookmark the web page. Humm – I’ll have to come up with a nifty image for NG5 that can be used on the blog when it is the topic!

2. End of Course Exams:
The Florida DOE is pursuing an initiative in establishing and end of course exam for high school American History, based on the NG5. It will be field tested in 2012, and fully implemented in 2014.
The ultimate goal is to have end of course exams for all core courses. The timeline for this is dependent on the budget.

3. Required Instruction:
As you know, the State legislature has for a number of years mandated ‘required instruction – such as teaching about the Holocaust - (1003.42). The DOE recommends something our district is already doing: embedding required instruction in the standards, and to document that the required instruction took place.

4. Civics Legislation:
There was no new Civics legislation enacted this year. Our district will continue to embed Civics instruction in 8th Grade American History.

5. Professional Development on the New Standards:
The DOE is hopeful that it will be able to provide professional development on the new standards, depending on budget. Patty Ceci (our new contact at the DOE) will be providing as many resources in this area as possible. The DOE, however, will NOT at this time be providing a ‘crosswalk’ (a bridging between the old standards and new standards, providing insight into the standards that are being carried over and the ones that are mostly or entirely new) for the standards.

6. Standards Implementation Timeline:
Our Textbook Adoption (2011 – 2012) will provide the new materials – keyed to NG5 - we need in the classroom by the Fall, 2012. Adopt textbooks – 2011/2012; New texts – 2012-2013; full NG5 implementation – 2012-2013.

That was the highlights. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.


Friday, May 8, 2009

FFQF: End of the Republic

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

FFQF: Founding Fathers Quote Friday

I really can't make a comment on today's quote. It explains itself truthfully and simply.

Benjamin Franklin – capitalist, entrepreneur, scientist, philosopher, genius – stated:
“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
Essential Question: How can a quotation from one of the founding fathers be used to engender a conversation in the classroom on current events and the long-term effect of those events?

FFQF is inspired by Meet the Founding Fathers blog.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Teacher Tube in the Classroom

Imagine you are teaching about Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address. What an advantage to show a short video clip which has a historical reenactment of this momentous event. Try here to see an example. Or you are teaching geography and reviewing for a test on the United States. What about a cartoon video naming all of the states and their capitals as part of that review? Or you are teaching world history, and want an overview of themes found in world history to lead off the unit.

Knowing that our kids are very visually and/or auditory oriented, the use of short, pertinent video clips that are readily available both in the classroom and for the child at home could provide a very positive learning experience for that child.

Teacher Tube provides that material. There is a huge amount of videos available - of varying quality - for the teacher to use in the classroom, to get ideas from by seeing what slant someone else has on how material is presented. When a teacher finds one that is appropriate, the video site can either be bookmarked, or copied onto a lesson plan for reference, or the video can be downloaded. Membership in Teacher Tube is free... just be sure to write down someplace your username, password, and Teacher Tube website address.

Teachers and students can even get motivated and challenged to produce their own material, either for in-class consumption or Web display - as a hands on project. Research does show that teaching something is the best way to learn it.

Teacher Tube in an innovative, creative, and applicable way to teach in the classroom in a manner that students can relate to, learn from, and retain.

I would encourage each of our Social Studies teacher to look at Teacher Tube, evaluate and reflect on the material there and its potential use in your classroom, and determine if this approach is one that would provide an appropriate learning activity for the students in your classroom.

There is just something about having Thomas Jefferson pop in to talk to your class over the Web and discuss the responsibility of vigilance. It can blow you - and your students - away.

Essential question: How effective is the use of a tool like Teacher Tube in our classrooms?

Friday, May 1, 2009

FFQF: "... in every house... "

Founding Fathers Quote Friday

A lot of things can be said - and have been said - about Benjamin Franklin. Being a man of keen insight is one of those things.

He stated in a letter dated March 1778 to the Minister of France:

"A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district - all studied and appreciated as they merit - are the principle support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty."
I wonder if - as we see the statistics of declining Christianity, the failing of print newspapers, the attacks on the educational system, the decline in virtue and morality in public and private circles, and the erosion of (and understanding of) the concept of civil liberty - there is a connection...

Essential question: How could students be engaged in a conversation enhancing their understanding of the concept of civil liberties as understood by the Founding Fathers and practiced and advocated today?

Photo Resource:

National Portrait Gallery, London. Painted by Joseph Siffred Duplessis.

Founding Fathers Quote Friday is hosted at Meet the Founders blog