Sunday, January 31, 2016

Quizlet for Assessment Review

So I knew I was onto something for students with Quizlet when my son ran through his flashcards twenty times in one night.  When I asked him why he had done it so many times, he said because his teacher had set it up as a game and he wanted to be the best in the class.  Using competition to get kids to study is a great idea.

Quizlet was started eleven years ago by a high schooler who was trying to figure out how to study for a test.  Boasting one hundred million users there are many different uses for it that you can have your students do:
  • Teacher or student can create their own set of flashcards
  • Teachers can then create their own classes which require no login for the students so they can play games (many different ones)
  • You can also just search for ones for your class.  You can also be specific such as typing in the name of your unit and state exam and it will pop up.  Generally the best ones are the top returns.  Then you can just take the link and give it to your students
The video above will help you do all of the above things. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rubric and FRQ Grade Converter

Converting Advanced Placement Free Response Questions (FRQ) scores to a percent out of a 100 is a pain.  So my colleagues, Rich Hoppock and Dan Maxwell, came up with this converter.  To use it download it and then re-upload in Google Drive (or perish the thought, Microsoft).  Once you have done that put the FRQ score in the yellow box in the upper right side and it will give you a percent score based on both 100 and 50.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

All Things Google w Alice Keeler

Alice Keeler has an amazing array of ideas that she is constantly sharing with educators about using Google Drive and Google Classroom which you can find on her webpage.

But she also shares lots of her ideas with short videos such as the one above which argues (and I agree) that we need to leave our comfort zone and try looking at different approaches to teaching.   Keeler also has a playlist for using Google Classroom.

For me the best thing that Keeler does is Tweet idea after idea on how to do all things Google.  Along with that she offers scripts (prewritten computer language which you can use with little or no training) and at the bottom of the page you will find apps that you can add to Chrome to more easily do some of the things she discusses such as mail merging using Google Drive.  This goes along with her book 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How Does the Internet Work

The video above gives you a great tutorial of how the Internet works and does it in the first two minutes.  Then it looks at the role of others such as government.

The video below gives you a one minute history and then tells you how the Internet works.  Both are great to help you answer what is meant by the Internet. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How to Create a YouTube Playlist

Whether you are a flipper or just want to hang onto a group of YouTube videos, creating a play list of your and other people's videos is a necessary part of your daily tasks.  The video above tells you how to do it.  It is also possible to have multiple categories as you can see on my playlist here.  As you can see in the video above, you can also use the YouTube search function to find a video you want to add to your library or you can just paste in a url which is better if you are making your own videos.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Talk Radio Podcasts in the Digital Age

I just found out about Talk Radio from a post on a Facebook page I follow called Teachers Throwing Out Grades.   First off know that there are many Facebook pages that can help educators, be they teachers or administrators.  Talk Radio "shares leadership stories, feature guest interviews and inspire you to lead for the change we need in schools for the digital age" and can be listened to at any time.

Just the fact that you are reading this blog post means you agree that we should continuously be learning and expanding our horizon.  So this site might help you.  For example some recent podcasts include: 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Accidentally Closed Your Tab or Webpages?

When my kids were little they used to get on my wife's laptop and accidentally close her webpages. While we solved this by giving them Chromebooks there are free ways to fix this problem as well.

First off if you close a tab and want it back just type "Ctrl + Shift + T" and the deleted tab will instantly reappear in Chrome and Firefox.  Here is how you do it in other browsers.

To be able to get back a closed browser just go into "Settings" and tap on the radio dial that says "continue where you left off."

If you have too many tabs open and your browser is slowing down, you might want to create a folder for some of your tabs.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

How to Make Your Own Flip & Tutorial Videos

Over the years I have made lots of video tutorial for my blog followers and flip videos for my students.  Every single one of them have been made using Screencastomatic.   You can purchase your own yearly subscription, but I have not only never paid, but also never even set up a free account. You don't need to since you can make the video and then just upload it onto YouTube.

Watch the video above and you will be able to see how to record, add you talking (or not) to the recording and to upload it - all in less than two minutes.  Go forth and make your own tutorials and teach lots of others.  In a later post I'll show you how to organize your YouTube video library.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Homework Reminders

When I want to quickly contact my online students, I use  It allows you to send a text without knowing their phone numbers.  Additionally you can set a time for it to be sent.  You can add a link and/or upload a document.  If you choose, you can also text individual students.  All of the texts are recorded and kept as long as you keep the class.

Above is a video giving you a great overview and here are several videos explaining how to use different parts of it.

If you use Blackboard, the video below shows you how to embed Remind texts into a Blackboard page.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Snow Days Online

So we have a potentially major snow storm coming to DC this week.  I am thankful that we have the technology to make up for not having school, esp. in classes like AP or IB ones where time can't really be missed and your students are more likely to do the work at home.  Of course my online students get to work no matter the weather.  So how can you get your brick and mortar students to work on a snow day.
  1. For my online kids I use Blackboard Collaborate so I would create a shell for the brick and mortar students as well and set an agreed upon time to meet which I reminded them about a few days before a snow storm. 
  2. If you don't have something like Blackboard Collaborate you could you a Google Plus Hangout live stream where you could send a link to your students and they could watch a live lecture (here's how).    You could then use Today's Meet to send a link to students and you could see their live questions.   You would be able to do this by splitting your screen
  3. You can also decide not to meet online and just send an assignment.  In either case I give them a flipped video to watch (such as above)and often a "problem set" for which I go over a few of them in the online session with them.  Sometimes I also make a video the night before when I know for sure we aren't having school so it is perfectly timed for the work we are doing. 
  4. I communicated with the kids by using Remind, (more on that coming in a post in a few days) Blackboard and even using my gradebook which has all of the kids' emails.  For the Remind message I used a shortened tinyurl ( which linked a Google Drive e-sheet so I didn't have to text the kids multiple times with the assignments. 
All of this means that you can keep to the somewhat demanding schedule you might have for AP/IB kids.  Unfortunately it doesn't work as well for kids who are not in those classes.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Using Twitter as a Teaching Method

So I have posted on using Twitter a number of times on my US Government Teachers Blog, but it is more than appropriate to discuss it with eLearning.  Sometimes the learning can't stay in the classroom and in those cases Twitter is a good substitute for a class discussion at home. Above is an example of when my students (and other teachers' students) have joined together to Tweet a debate (one tonight) and/or State of the Union.   It was the brainchild of Frank Franz and has worked many many times as find that the kids have a dynamic discussion during the exercise and have far more Tweets than the required number.
  • We pick a hashtag which our students include in every post.  It can be as simple as #schoolnamegovclass.  Here is what it looked like on last week's State of the Union.
  • What about the kids who don't have Twitter!  I generally use an editable Google Drive document, but one option I am using TodaysMeet which lets you set up a Twitter like screen that does not require a login/password.  
  • We require the students to make five comments during the debate and tell them that school rules apply (ie language, etc.).   
  • The teachers teach!  This means you might say that some candidates are already running very low on funds or that the polls are great, but the goal is to win delegates. Having more than one teacher in on the debate makes for a richer discussion.  
  • I use TweetChat (which can be synced to your Twitter account) so I can see the comments from the other students and easily enter in my own. Assume the kids can see all of the comments and know how to follow the discussion.  I also usually watch the debate/State of the Union on my laptop as well and split my screen as you can see from the video above. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Digital Resources from the DOE Ed Tech Dept.

A couple of years ago Richard Culatta, who is the Director of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education spent the day in my classroom and then brought me to a great event with Arne Duncan that night.  He has remained an approachable resource for me since then and now has a great page on the DOE site with videos for "Personalized Professional Learning for Future Ready Leaders."  One of those videos above discusses how districts can move to a one to one environment. It is a subject that is close to my heart as I wrote a practical guide for it call "Deeper Learning Through Technology: Using the Cloud to Individualize Instruction" which teachers can use to literally slowly or quickly move to one to one.  I even include a chapter on how an entire district made the move.  Both my book and the video above discuss how to move towards making the book a resource, not the only source of learning.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Blackboard Test Generators

If you use Blackboard as does my county, you can find a series of Blackboard test generators here and/or watch the video above.  These examples make it much easier to change a word document into Blackboard file. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Scripts for Shortcuts in Your Grading

Scripts are simple code that you can use to write a program.  For example if you go go to Alice Keeler's page on the topic you can see how to easily

  • take your student names and have it be able to email students; 
  • look at your student work and compare it to a rubric without spending lots of time going back and forth; randomly assign students to groups; 
  • create Google Drive folders for all of your students (assuming you don't use Google Classroom) 
  • and much more is on the link.  Keeler does a great job of showing, with simple images, how to implement the scripts. 
Keeler also has a great webpage and if you are serial Google Drive user like myself is an absolute must to be following on Twitter @alicekeeler

If you prefer video tutorials on scripts I was given a bunch by Claudia Pirouzan-Jones which you can find here.  One example from the link is the video above about Doctopus which tells you how to auto generate pre-made comments for student papers.

Flubaroo allows you to automatically grade multiple choice tests and fill in the blank questions which you can figure out using the video below. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Link Shorteners

I just got out of a chat with my online students and while we were in it I wanted them to be able to quickly copy and write on a document.  So since I do everything in Google Drive I shared a link with them.  But Google Drive document links are very long.  So I went to and gave it an easy name ( since it had an ad of Ellen D crying on it) and we got to work.

Another shortener is which gives you a window into which you put the link and then it comes out with a short link for you.

Now while tinyurl links will be around forever, you might want to have a shortener that you can save so you can use  It does require a login/password, but you can then go back later, find the link and use it for whatever purpose you need.

Now for fun if you have the shortened url and want the originating link you can go to Url Unshortener and it will give it to you. 

Diigo for Bookmarking and Sharing on the Cloud

If you were to see my new office, other than the walls, you would see that it is largely bare since all I have is on the cloud.  Part of the reason is because I use Diigo to save and categorize all of my sites which you can see here.  What I really like is that you can see what I have saved and then see others that have saved similar sites.  But you can also lock down a link so no one else can see it so you can save your passwords or save clues as I do.

The video above first gives an overview of what you can use Diigo for and then at 4:43 it begins to show you how to save sites and put them in categories. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An AP Lit Site to Follow

Twenty-five years ago when I became a teacher I was handed a book and shown my classroom. While I was given a mentor I am still friends with she and the others did little in terms of giving me content.  Now there is so much online (hence this site).  Just Google the type of teacher you are (hs social studies, ms art, etc. and you will be amazed what you find - and I will post in the near future.

I found this the other day at work - a site devoted to Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature.  It is called AP Lit Help.  Some recent posts that I liked include

Monday, January 11, 2016

Text Readers

Today at work we were discussing how our courses could be read to students who might have some issues with reading.  For those with Microsoft Word, there is a built in "Natural Reader" which you can find by going to your start button.  But for those (like me at home) who only have Google Drive, you have multiple options:

  • Add Speak It to your Chrome browser, outline the part of the page that you want read to you and then tap the icon on your browser and it will start.
  • Go to Natural Reader and paste in text and it will read to you. 
  • You can use WebAnywhere to type in a url, highlight text and have a webpage read to you.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

James Madison Fellowship

So I suppose this could be a brick and mortar post, but it could could be easily for eLearning.  One of the teachers, Doug Zywiol, from my former department won the James Madison Fellowship for Virginia last year.  It is a $24,000 scholarship towards a master's degree that will help in teaching the US Constitution.  So Doug, being a hybrid teacher is using it to learn as much as possible how to teach his content using online methodology and will end up with a M.A. in History.

In addition to taking courses they also have a summer program the first year and a great network of teachers to which you would join.

If you are interested in applying, here is the application.  Good luck. 

eLearning w Books & Beyond

So first off I think textbooks are incredibly boring and do not meet the needs of today's students. Think about it.  When you want to learn you first go to YouTube and search for a video.  Want to hang a picture, fix your car engine, make furniture, you name it.  But we continue to produce boring textbooks that challenge the student not to fall asleep.  Yes those in the humanities say we need our students to learn to read, but really name an adult - even a teacher - who reads textbooks for fun. Textbooks often turn off, especially in the humanities our learners rather than excite them which is what we want.  In other words if you want students to love reading, give them a fun diary entry, a novel, etc.

Now textbooks aren't all bad.  They are a good source of information from time to time and are a good resource.  But as we move our students online and to a a hybrid 1:1 environment, we want to offer our students a way to learn in the way that is best for them - not for the teacher.

So that is why I like CK-12 as a resource.  It is best for math and the sciences as those subjects offer the complete suite of learning.  For example, if you go here you can see that the student learning about angles can read a short description about angles, then, if necessary, watch a video; practice problems and then there is an interactive way to challenge the student.  So for me this is great.  If the student gets it after reading the text, then s/he is done.  If a video is all that is needed or is better than the text then the kid can stop there.  If the student wants practice then there are two ways to go about it.  Find a textbook that offers all of that AND IS FREE!

Finally all the learning can be done on one's smartphone as well.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Apply to be an AP Reader

Okay, so this isn't high tech eLearning, but you do want your teachers to be incredibly knowledgeable.  Back when I was a department chair, I was most proud of the fact that most of our AP teachers being selected as AP Readers.  When I would ask teachers to go to a reading, the first response was, "But the worst part of my week is when I have to grade AP FRQs."  But a reading does several things:

  • Trains the teacher in how to grade a free response question (FRQ) so they can train their students in how to write one effectively.
  • Trains the teacher to be able to grade more efficiently and quickly.  This is important as it will mean you can give more FRQs to your students during the school year and grade them to give back the next class period.
  • It is an incredible in-service for teachers.  Yes you get to see how to grade several FRQs, but you also learn the process of how they are created and best of all you gain a network of highly motivated teachers that you will collaborate with during the school year.
  • The College Board pays your flight, food, hotel and gives you an honorarium of about $1600.
Who gets accepted depends on the subject.  I have seen teachers be accepted in their first year of teaching the AP subject and others have to wait four to six years. The bottom line is that if you are interested, you should go here and apply.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

Using Social Media to Conduct Classes After Hours

Several brick and mortar teachers are joining with my online US government students to conduct a class with Twitter during the State of the Union.  For English teachers who find that reading is best done in class, Twitter could be used conduct a classroom discussion as the "homework" part of the class.  Below are the steps explaining how to do it.
  • We pick a hashtag which our students include in every post.  It can be as simple as #schoolnamegovclass.  Here is what we used last year. 
  • We require the students to make three comments during the debate and tell them that school rules apply (ie language, etc.).   Our kids like to see that we are trending so they do far more comments (20-30) and stick around the entire debate.  
  • The teachers teach!  This means you might say that some candidates are already running very low on funds or that the polls are great, but the goal is to win delegates. Having more than one teacher in on the debate makes for a richer discussion.  
  • I use TweetChat (which can be synced to your Twitter account) so I can see the comments from the other students and easily enter in my own. Assume the kids can see all of the comments and know how to follow the discussion.  I also usually watch the debate/State of the Union on my laptop as well and split my screen as you can see from the video above.  
  • What about the kids who don't have Twitter!  I use TodaysMeet which lets you set up a Twitter like screen that does not require a login/password.  It really feels like Twitter and is a great alternative for younger students.   

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Exporting a Blackboard Test To Word

For those of you who want out of Blackboard (the Microsoft of platforms), one of the hardest things to move are tests.   A quick way that may work in most cases is on the video above, but here and here are guaranteed ways to fully convert a Blackboard file to a Word document.

Of course if you want to go the other way, here is a post on how to convert a Word document into a Blackboard test. 

A Simple Webpage to Tell People Who You Are

Recently I set up an webpage to tell you and anyone else going to my webpage or Twitter account a quick bio about myself.  It includes an image, links to social media; some hashtags to describe yourself, where you were educated. a link to something important like my book on individualizing education using technology.  It is also easy to adapt a new color and background. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Welcome to the eLearning Blog

After twenty-five years in the classroom today I am taking over my county's eLearning platform which includes 4000 students taking online courses year round.  It is an exciting prospect as department heads and our teachers are amazing and my predecessor started our online campus from scratch and built it into a force.

This blog follows my other ones (US History Teachers BlogUS Government Teachers Blog, Economics Teachers Blog and World History Teachers Blog) which are now being maintained by an amazing group of educators and I am sure will grow from their normal 60,000 monthly hits.  I will also continue to add when I have something of value.

This blog will aim to help those teaching and administrating online whether it is how to corral many teachers, find a vision, improve the learning platform, expand to new students, build a new course and so many other topics that I will be facing and embracing over the course of this new journey.   The goal is to help all those in all subjects and levels.

If you have posts you want me to add, please email me at or otherwise come back three four four times a week for each new post.  Alternatively you can also add "@kenhalla" to your Twitter feed. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Teaching is About Relationships Even in the Digital Age

I have long told teachers in the department where I used to head up that they need to call parents and even meet with them rather than just email them.  I used to say that it really isn't what you say in the those meetings, but rather that you show that you care.  From there a foundation can be built.

As you can see from the video above that is a short interview with Bill Gates of Lyon Terry, the 2015 Washington state teacher of the year, I am not the only one who feels this way.  Even though my students will now only be online, relationships still count.  Conversations on the phone still work. Working with the individual needs of the students still works whether it is a brick and mortar classroom or online.

The other telling thing that Terry mentions in the video above is showing students how to sift through the amazing amount of research online to come up with answers and I might add to ask new questions (which brings up this interesting video on teaching in the 21st century).

By the way I found this video and the accompanying post on Bill Gates' blog which started as a way to showcase the books he has read to add in many other things such as people he meets, ideas he is learning, etc. 

Friday, January 1, 2016


So in my soon to be new job as the eLearning Coordinator for one of the largest school districts in the US, I thought it might be prudent to update my rarely used LinkedIn profile.  But to do that, as always, I went to YouTube for a video to highlight how to use it.

Above is the video which begins with how to set up a LinkedIn account.  If you already have done that, skip to 12:26 in the video and watch the power of the site from looking for jobs, connecting with like minded individuals, finding out industry news, etc.