Friday, January 23, 2009

Where's The Tech? The Missing Link in The Education Agenda of America’s Most Tech-Savvy President

As the excitement of the election of an historic president fades and the work of change begins, innovative educators everywhere will want to know exactly what is on President Obama’s education agenda. As power quietly switched over from the Bush administration to Obama at the stroke of noon on Inauguration day, one of the first places the shift was apparent was on the Web. As reported, “The Bush White House's Web site disappeared into the ether, replaced by an online portal jazzed up with blog posts, slideshows and front-page video.” There you can take a look at “The Agenda” of the new president where visitors can learn more about the Obama-Biden Administration's positions on everything from health care and the economy to alternative energy and foreign policy.

Of course innovative educators are interested in taking a peek into the education agenda. For early childhood, there is a focus on voluntary universal pre-school as well as expanding Head Start and providing affordable quality child care. For K-12 many educators will be pleased that there is a plan to reform and fund NCLB. There is also support for High-Quality Schools and a plan to Close Low-Performing Charter Schools. They plan to make Math and Science Education a National Priority. They will address the dropout crises which is as high as 50% in some cities. There is a plan to expand high-quality afterschool opportunities. There is also a plan to support college outreach programs and college credit initiatives. There will be support for transitional bilingual education and help for Limited English Proficient students. Finally on the agenda is recruitment, preparation, retention, and a reward structure developed collaboratively with teachers.

But where is instructional technology and the development of 21st Century skills? How about equity and access for our students to computers and internet access? Something that people like Nicholas Negroponte insist is the key to student success? I don’t see this here yet. I guess we'll have to find a way to ensure this is infused into this work going forward. Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The New York Times Interactive Word Map - A Terrific Way to Review The President's Inaugural Address

Principal Jason Levy from CIS 339 brought to my attention New York Times Inaugural Words: 1789 – Present a great resource for innovative educators who want to review President Obama’s Inaugural address. Here students can select any president, review his speech, access the archived New York Times article about the speech and the site allows students to analyze a fantastic interactive word map that provides a look at the language of presidential inaugural addresses. The most-used words in each address appear in an interactive chart in a word cloud that is sized by number of uses. Words highlighted in yellow were used significantly more in this inaugural address than average. Students can hover over any word to determine how many times it was used and click on the word to see its use in context.

The New York Times Daily Lesson Plan suggests using the map as follows,

“After students have written their response to the Inaugural Address, have them discuss their reactions as a class. What themes did they notice that were reminiscent of historical Inaugural Addresses? Did Obama mention any historical figures or make allusions to earlier eras in American history? Why do you think he chose the ones he did? Did he use the words of any of his predecessors? If students notice familiar themes, which historical figures do they think influenced Obama the most when he was composing this address? Why? (Students might visit the Times interactive feature "Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present" to examine what words were most used in each speech. It can be found at Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present.)”

In the Classroom 2.0 forum Ideas for What to Do with Students "While" Viewing the Inauguration one teacher suggests having students tally, chart, graph and compare the words used in various inaugural addresses and discuss the relevance — A nice twist on this lesson.

Obamicon.Me – A Bit of Post-Election Fun for Innovative Educators and Students

Just when I thought I was done posting ideas about the Inauguration I come across Obamicon.Me thanks to my wonderful Facebook network which continues to turn me onto great educational resources, ideas, and information.

From the website:

“The longest election season in memory is now over, and we wanted to help you unwind and express yourself as we head into the new era.

Make your own "Obamicon" — your image in a style inspired by Shepard Fairey's iconic poster. Regardless of your candidate of choice in the 2008 election, here's your chance to sound-off.

Take your picture with a webcam or upload a photo, choose your own message, and submit to the gallery.”

Innovative educators will need little help in coming up with ideas about how to use this site.

Here are a few of mine.

  • Have students make an Obamicon of themselves.
  • Have students make an Obamicon of their mentor.
  • Have students make an Obamicon of who they would like to see as president in the future.

Use the comment function to provide an explanation. Invite students to view, rate, and comment on one another’s Obamicons. Post these on classroom walls or school bulletin boards.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Presidential Inauguration Committee Releases Lesson Plans with Activities Before, During, and After the 2009 Inauguration

The Presidential Inauguration Committee has released lesson plans jointly produced by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) created to give teachers lesson ideas to help their students understand the historic significance of this presidential inauguration.

The instructional activities are designed to be used to teach students in three areas:


Discover the history of the inauguration and the connections between Obama and previous U.S. presidents.


Prepare students to witness the Obama inauguration


Follow the events during President Obama’s term

There is also a Reading List (click to download) which unfortunately and surprisingly provides no links to online materials that teachers could access for their students on demand.

I recommend reviewing these activities for use with your students. The Living History lessons provide good suggestions for activities students can do following the inauguration and includes ideas for technology-rich classrooms.

You can visit the site at here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Podcast from Your Phone

The Tech Integration in Schools blog shares how to Use Gcast to Podcast from a telephone. In it the author shares a summary of Alan November's blog post on using Gcast which is a great resource for schools like hers where classrooms are not all equipped with mics. Gcast provides a great way teachers can create quick, easy podcasts with their students.

As explained in the blog, once you sign up for an account you edit your podcast's name and description and upload a picture Then you enter the ten-digit phone number that you would like to register with as well as a four-digit PIN number. You then receive a confirmation email. Before you start podcasting, open this email and click on the confirmation link. Now, your class is ready to start podcasting using any phone. Once finished recording, press 3, and the recording will immediately be published.

Ideas from Tech Integration in Schools:
  1. Podcast during field trips from your cellphone.
  2. Record a book review or report
  3. Use podcating for a classroom newscast
  4. Have student record poetry or short stories they've written

Suggestions from Alan November:

  1. Provide parents and others with your Gcast account's address. They can visit this account and to listen to the podcasts. The address will be
  2. If you'd like to edit your podcasts. Login to your account, or go to Each of your podcast recordings has an mp3 icon next to it. Click on the icon, and you can download the podcast onto your computer. You can edit the podcast using Audacity or Garageband.

Check out the first podcast from the Tech Integration in Schools author at I invite you to share your ideas for podcasting with students.


Join the discussion at Classroom 2.0's Looking for Introduction to Podcast Lesson Plan.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ideas for Active Viewing by Students While Watching the Inauguration

I’ve posted a variety of Inauguration lessons and ideas for innovative educators to use with their students, but what about on the actual day of the Inauguration? Innovative educators know that when Inauguration day comes you don’t want to have your students passively watching this historic event. Active, engaged, focused viewing is the key. To that end, I’ve come up with a few ideas to ensure we are engaging students and stimulating their minds with active viewing activities. Here they are.

Student Reporters

Put together a post-inaugural newspaper, or blog at your school with reports from students. Work with students, groups, or classes, to determine various angles to cover i.e. the weather, the children, the balls, the fashion. Have them do research in advance and while they are watching the inauguration have them take notes for their stories. Following the inauguration have students discuss their pieces and publish their work.

Resource: Writing: Newspaper Articles

Call to Service

Barack Obama has launched a national organizing effort on the eve of their Inauguration to engage Americans in service. This national day of service will fall on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 19, 2009 and, unlike past calls to service, President-elect Obama is calling on all Americans to do more than just offer a single day of service to their cities, towns and neighborhoods. He is asking all of us to make an ongoing commitment to our communities. When watching the inauguration, have your students think, “What is one thing that the president speaks about on which you think you can have an impact? How might you accomplish this?”

Resource: - This website is designed to help Americans make their commitments to service, build communities, find opportunities to serve and share their results. These can be events that engage people in direct service, or bring people together to determine how they can commit to becoming more engaged citizens.

Four-Column Chart

Use this four column chart for a more open viewing experience. Prior to watching the event share this chart with your students. At the top of each column have students brainstorm unique headings for what they’ll be looking for when they view the event i.e. favorite quotes, people I recognize, what surprised me, what am I excited about, what people are wearing, etc. Once students are viewing the inauguration have them fill in their charts. Following the event have students discuss what they found and write an overview of their findings from the one column they found most interesting. For educators in technology-rich schools, consider posting this on a blog or wiki.

Resource: You can download a Four-Column Chart here.

Timeline of Events

As students are watching the event have them record the timeline of events. What occurred and when? What is the significance of each? On the top of the chart they can write the event. Underneath they can summarize their reflection on the event. Prior to the Inauguration you can have students practice this activity by doing this watching another Inaugural speech. After the event you can have students compare and contrast the timelines and note the significance of differences and similiarities.

Resources: You can download a Time Line Chart here or a Time-Order Chart here.

HotChalk is providing 25 FREE high-quality video clips on U.S. inaugural addresses. Check them out here.

Text Reporter

You can Text HISTORY to 56333 for the Latest Inauguration Info. As part the Presidential Inauguration Committee’s commitment to hosting the most open and accessible inauguration in history, they are offering a variety of resources via SMS text message to keep people in the know about inaugural activities. Assign a student or student groups to follow the inauguration and keep their school up-to-date using text messaging.

Resources: Text HISTORY to 56333 today or sign up for text message updates on our website. Also, be sure to take a look at the following options, for more about event updates, scheduling changes, preparation tips, weather reports, DC transportation, and President-elect Obama’s Renew America Together initiative.

• Text SCHDL to 56333 for latest updates and breaking announcements and any schedule changes.

• Text TIPS to 56333 for information on how to prepare for Inauguration

Estimate the Cost

How much do you think the Inauguration costs? There are salaries to secure the president, sanitation, food, general security, inaugural ball. Think of ongoing costs verses costs for this event.

Resource: Do a Google search for “Presidential Inauguration Cost.”

KWL Chart

Have students identify what they know, what they want to know and what they have learned about the Inauguration and President Obama.

Resource: You can download a KWL Chart here.

Thought Provoking Questions

The presidential inaugural committee produced the following questions to have students reflect on when watching the inauguration.

· "What vision does President Obama have for public education?"

· "What does he say divides us as a country and how does he want to unify and strengthen America?"

· "How will President Obama make our country more secure?"

· "What does President Obama ask Americans to do to help strengthen the country?"

You may want to have chart paper or sentence strips posted around the room with this questions. Students can have post its where they record the answers and place them on the walls with their reflections.

An Inauguration Lesson from Tequipment for SMART Boards

The InaugurationA TeqSmart file for use with SMART Notebook

Interactive whiteboards are in use in many classroom. Tequipment who works with to place SMART Boards in classrooms has put together a great file for use in exploring the day's events. It is available free for download in the Educator Resource Center (you must register for the site - also free). It is in the DOWNLOADS section under Social Studies - Middle School or, if you are already a member, just click here to be taken directly to the file.

View Your Inaugural Events and More Online Using lyvegyde

Mary Stevens recently brought a great resource to my attention called lyvegyde which is a website she and her brother created to provide links to live, online events - primarily video webcasts, but also the occasional text chats or audio programs. They only provide links to free webcasts and rarely provide links to events that require registration. They also love interactive events, such as text chats or webcasts where viewers can submit questions. We do not include adult or otherwise explicit content.

After reviewing the site, I asked Mary if she could put together a guide for educators and she agreed and published a post that shares how educators can use this free resource in general, and specifically ways to use it in the upcoming election which she did in her post lyvegyde for educators.

I encourage you to visit the post. Highlights include:


  • CNN Live will be integrated with facebook on inauguration day for any schools or teachers who want to update their facebook pages during the day. More details are here.
  • The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies website states that they will have streaming coverage of the swearing-in ceremony with CLOSED CAPTIONING, which could be helpful in a classroom environment. The website does not say what time their coverage will begin. The actual swearing-in ceremony takes place at noon ET on January 20th. See lyvegyde link here.
  • News organizations such as C-SPAN, MSNBC, CBS News, Fox News, and more have also announced that they will have inauguration day coverage. Find more links on lyvegyde.


Here are examples of some upcoming video webcasts during the school day that may be of interest to teachers and their students:

  • Monday, January 26th at 9:45 am ET - The American Library Association's Youth Media Awards which includes the prestigious John Newbery Medal, given to an author for the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" - see lyvegyde link here.
  • Other upcoming events may be of interest to educational leaders. For example, on Wednesday, February 11 at 5:00 pm ET, Rice University is holding a panel discussion on the politics of teaching evolution in Texas. See lyvegyde link here.


In addition to providing links upcoming live events, lyvegyde also provides links to archived events whenever possible. Some categories where educators may find interesting events include education, children & family, political, government, science, and more. Sample events include the following:

  • December 17th interactive video webcast with astronaut Richard Garriott from the Challenger Center for Space Science Education See lyvegyde link here.
  • November 12th video webcast about Trouble Online: Campus Computing and the Law from the University of Illinois at Springfield See lyvegyde link here.

So, there’s a taste. I encourage you to check out the lyvegyde for educators blog post and the lyvegyde website for additional information.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Inauguration Day Activities Across the Grades and Content Areas from the NYC DOE

The New York City Department of Education has put together a fantastic 18-page compilation of activities and resources you can use on Inauguration Day (January 20) by clicking on the brochure cover.

The guide is divided by grade level (elementary, middle, high school) and into the areas of social studies, ELA, art, and technology. The guide was created to support teachers in challenging students to think creatively about what this historic day means for their future and the future of our country. The resource bank includes a full schedule of Inauguration Weekend and Inauguration Day activities.

Activity highlights include:


If I were Malia or Sasha Obama…

Subject/Skill: ELA, Social Studies—journal activity

Activity Summary: Malia Obama told her dad that she plans on sitting at the desk of President Abraham Lincoln when she does her homework! Imagine how your life would be different if you lived at the White House. What might you like about living in the White House, and what might you dislike? If you were Malia, 10, or Sasha Obama, 7, and could give a speech about how to improve children's lives, what are three ideas you would include?

Dear President Obama…

Subject/Skill: ELA, Social Studies

Activity Summary: Write a letter to the new president either as a class or individually. In your letter, include the goals you would like to see President Obama achieve and your best wishes to the president and his family. You can mail your letters to the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20500.

Resources: For a more detailed lesson plan from Education World, follow this link. Also, visit the White House official contact information page.


Inaugural Pennants

Subject/Skill: Social Studies, Arts

Activity Summary: Design a souvenir pennant for the 2009 inauguration. Study pennants designed for previous inaugurations. What symbols will you use that reflect what President Obama’s presidency will bring?

Resources: Examples of souvenir pennants from past inauguration events are available at the Education World site here.

Inaugural Discussions on Voki

Subject/Skill: Social Studies, ELA, Technology

Activity Summary: Encourage students to write and deliver an inaugural address or comment on President-elect Obama’s address using Voki. Students create avatars representing themselves and interact with other students in their school communities.

Resources: Voki enables students to express themselves on the web using a talking character. Students can customize their Voki to look like and/or take on the identity of many other types of human and nonhuman characters. Vokis can speak with the student’s own voice which is added via microphone, upload, or phone. Students can also choose to insert text and have the Voki use a variety of existing voices with more than a dozen different male and female accents to choose from. Once the student Voki’s are created, they can be inserted into a class blog, wiki, website, and more. From there the school community can comment on and discuss one another’s work and keep the conversation going.


Exploring President Obama’s Cabinet

Subject/Skill: Social Studies

Activity Summary: President-elect Obama is convening one of the most diverse cabinets in United States history. Find more information about the cabinet members who have been selected. Why do you think they have been selected? What kinds of experience do they bring to their roles? Why do you think the new president has convened such a diverse cabinet? What might this say about his vision or leadership style? Why do you think that this is an important change? What other cabinet positions have been filled? How many members make up a president’s cabinet and what are their key responsibilities? Are there some cabinet positions that have more prominence or importance than others? Why? Find out about the importance of the president’s cabinet regarding the line of succession. If you could be Cabinet Secretary, which post would you choose and why? What would you set as your top priorities?

Resources: For the most up-to-date information regarding President-elect Obama’s cabinet appointments, please see the CBS News website here.

Inauguration Interview

Subject/Skill: ELA, Social Studies

Activity Summary: If you were able to interview President Obama for your school newspaper, what are the five most important questions you would ask? What do students at your school most want to know about President Obama?

Resources: A detailed lesson plan for this activity can be found at Education World.

For the full bank of activities visit