Clearly, this is not the site where I usually post assignments! No, it is where I wax poetic on education and technology. But, because I am as slow as molasses getting d2l up and running, I needed to find somewhere to give you a link to a website. And having you copy the URL seems so…well, so 2005. Total old school.

So your assignment today is to pick five events that happened during the time after the end of WWI, but before the beginning of WWII. A lot of stuff was happening! Stock market crashes, the Great Depression, problems in Spain, the list is impressive. And this site gives you fantastic details about everything!

So your job is to pick 5 EVENTS from the timeline, and make your own PowerPoint or Prezi. Pick 3 pretty main and important ones, and then two pretty obscure ones. What is not acceptable is to copy and paste. I’m looking at the same timeline as you, and if I see someone being lazy and using copy and paste, heads will roll. Or people will fail. Definitely one of the two. And some things are missing from the timeline. The roaring 20’s? The Spanish Civil War? Pole sitting? (No really. It was a thing.) Those definitely fall into the “obscure” category.

Does it need to be snazzy? Not at first. You need to do some reading (most of the timeline has links to more information) and some searching – Google is your best friend right now! Try to find information that most other students will not, and make sure you are clear in your description. Perhaps it could be a contest: who found the most accurate and complete information?

Tomorrow we can spend time making them look stellar. Backgrounds, theme music, pictures. Then perhaps we can hold a contest – who did the best job? I’ve got a lot of Halloween candy! (No really. I went a little overboard)

Flapperdancing Flappers? Why not?


You’ve always been here. Reliable. Dependable. It’s me who vanishes for long periods of time. I know…it’s inexcusable, really.

But I have a reason! It’s my job, dear blog. It has this habit of taking over my life, especially in the spring. Even though classes ended last week, students are dropping by, hopeful that I will take in the assignment that is already two months late. I always do. I still remember the Social Studies teacher who took in the current events assignment that was late. Perhaps I am paying it forward

And this has been a tough semester. I am teaching three new classes that are completely foreign to me: Sociology, Psychology and Legal Studies. Fantastic courses, but I spent every night planning for the next day’s lesson. As a result, there was not a lot of long-term planning, and there was very little technology usage. Oh sure, the students used their phones. For SnapChat. Or something equally as ridiculous. I found myself cursing smart phones.

Which is a bit ridiculous. After all, I wrote a Master’s thesis on using cell phones in the classroom! So near the end of classes, I asked the students to take out their phones (most students already had them on their desk). There was a look of surprise, as most teachers would prefer not too see them. I asked them to text what was the one thing they will remember from our class. I used polleverywhere, and it didn’t take long before the responses were coming in. Once I shut down the poll, I copied the responses into Wordle, which creates a word cloud. The more popular words show up larger, so you can see in an instant what the most popular responses were.

So now I have the summer to try and plan! Wish me luck!

Thank you to EVERYONE who came to hear me mutter incessantly about how technology can help us in Social Studies. I believe in it so much, I took a Master’s degree in it. Not for the faint of heart, let me tell you…

So here’s my recap of today’s presentation.

How to use Mobile Learning in your classroom starting Monday…

  1. Set up some kind of QR activity. Keep in mind that NOT all students have smartphones, so it’s best to have them work in small groups. If you’re teaching grade 10, why not have them do an activity where they take pictures of various logos and brands through the school? Start by putting a QR code in your classroom, then maybe have a few more near vending machines, etc..
  2. Play with Animoto. Another free app. Get students to show their understanding of liberalism (or even illiberalism, which would be trickier) by shooting photographs around the school and turning them into a short video.
  3. One I did not mention was Remind101. It’s a way to send text messages to your students (“you need your textbook today” or “I hope you are studying”). It does not require your personal telephone number to work.
  4. Relatively simple to set up, it would be great in a class where you are reviewing material or even starting new material, and students have questions but are too embarassed to ask. This is an anonymous way to do it!
  5. (sorry, a lot of these relate to WWI. I can’t help it…it’s my favourite war) Use GPS to map out how close and far the trenches were from each other. Also works best in the rain or snow

How to use Augmented Reality in your classroom on Monday:

  1. If you want to show how cool you are, try String. Also a free app. You have to do a bit of legwork by first printing out the pictures, but after that it’s easy. Not all students will be able to download it, so I often just hand out my phone so that the can see it on mine. Haven’t lost it yet!
  2. Aurasma. The app is called “Aurasma Lite”, but I have yet to see “Aurasma Heavy”. Again it’s free. What I have done with this one is got students to created a WWI trench in Google Sketchup. This required some research on their part. No one died as a result. Then the students could head outside or even stay inside, and tag a location. When other people with Aurasma on their smartphone looked at that location, they saw the trench. Best used in inclement weather to simulate trench life. Trench Foot optional…
  3. Another way to use Aurasma is to compare then and now. There are some great digital archives at the Glenbow Museum, and my grade nine class selected some historic photos of Stephen Avenue, which we could overlay on the actual street as it stands now. I liked it for historical thinking skills…

Random Things:

  1. – fantastic mind map generator. Students can even work together on one; Popplet will keep track of who is making what changes and additions
  2. A great resource for historical thinking:

    Seixas, P. (2006). Teacher notes : benchmarks of historical thinking : a framework for assessment in Canada. Reading, 1–9.

As a beginning teacher, I was very cognizant of what other teachers were doing around me. Follow their lead, I thought, and you will be successful. Take their cue, and you will be set up for glory.

I drank the Kool-Aid.

I gave out scores of overhead notes, believing that if the students wrote down the information, they would somehow remember it. When they complained about having to take three or four pages of notes, asking why I had not just photocopied the notes, I told them the the kinaesthetic action of writing down the notes with their own hand would allow them to remember with greater clarity. Somehow the fact that students would write down the notes, shut their binder, and never look at the notes again didn’t seem to bother me. After all, I had done MY job.

But eventually, that Kool-Aid wore off. But it lasted the better part of a decade. I started to realize that Social Studies was the class that students loved…to hate. It shocked me – it had been my favourite class. How could you hate Social Studies? Students told me that it was a lot of pressure to memorize names, events and dates, especially because they were all in the past. Why should I care about some dead guy?

As I looked around the classroom at the students, I saw boredom. Heck, some of the students were sleeping. Clearly, my favourite class had become disengaging. Maybe it always was. There had to be another way.

Enter technology.

I didn’t just climb aboard the technology train. I took a flying leap. I fought for a SmartBoard, received approval to buy 15 iPods, and in 2010 signed up for a Master’s program in Technology and Learning. I would find a way to bring life back into Social Studies.

I drank the Kool-Aid. Again.

There are days when I look carefully at the day’s events, and have to ask the question – did I use technology to enhance learning, or did I use it because it was “cool”? Having the students use GPS to map out trenches in the back field was both. I gave students a sense of what it would have been like to fight in such a war, and the journals they handed in after showed that they could envision the lives that were led back then. My most recent foray into QR codes? It needs some tweaking. A little less cool, a little more pedagogy.

So this journey continues. I smile when I remember those heady days at the start of my career, when I thought teaching was an open and shut case. Follow a set number of steps, and success will fall from the heavens. Fifteen years later, I am still waiting for that success shower. But boy…I am enjoying the ride…

The day finally arrived for an opportunity for a lesson that involved QR codes.  The school I work in has a lot of history, as construction initially began around 1915.  I spent the night before generating QR codes that would lead the students on a tour of the school, stopping at the war memorials and pictures of soldiers from WWII.  In particular, I had the students take a look at the 1936 graduation photo of William McKnight, a famous Canadian flying ace.  The final QR code was linked to my school blog, where an assignment was provided for students to research McKnight, then generate their own QR code that could be used by other students in the school to learn more about a famous Canadian hero.

The excitement from the students was amazing.  Not everyone had a smartphone, but about 50% of them did, and the students worked well together.  Despite my warnings, they raced around the school, stopping at the key points, and taking pictures.  The entire lesson took just under an hour, and the next day they came rushing in, hoping I had made another QR hunt.

What made the exercise worthwhile for me was that the students not only learned something, but that they created their own content for others to see.  And because their QR codes would be on display in the school, they seemed to take more time to complete.


Here is a link to my Mobile Learning and Ubiquitous Computing presentation…

Click here!

I really hope this works…

Presentation – click here