Friday, July 22, 2016

Password Security

Creative Commons image via Pixaby 
Digital Literacy is an important life skill that all of our students need to know. Back in 2012 I had the opportunity to create and teach a course titled "Digital Media & Literacy" as an elective 8th grade class.  Although I am no longer able teach this course, I think that some of these lessons are still very worthwhile and wanted to share them on my blog post.

One of the lessons I had students go through was titled Password Protection.

Lesson Begins:

I had students start the lesson by viewing:

  • Secure Passwords video via CommonCraft This a great video that gives some great examples of how to create secure and safe passwords. Provides for a great introduction to passwords and a good starting point for this lesson. 
 Next students and I discussed the following article to talk about what makes for a strong password and why this might be the case.  

Since I taught this course back in 2012 here are some more recent website articles that might be helpful.

Guided Practice: 

I than had students complete an activity from Common Sense Media. They have lots of great lessons on a wide range of Digital Literacy Topics and I hope to share some other examples in the future that I've used with students. To download their material you will have to create a free account. Check out their educators Scope and Sequence Page for other lessons.

  • Strong Passwords: This lesson has student handouts for students to work through on creating stronger passwords. This is now part of their elementary scope and sequence, but if students haven't had any lessons on the topic I think it would still work for middle school age students. 

Finally in the lesson I had students use the following two websites to check out some of their created passwords from the Common Sense lesson.

  • How Secure Is My Password is a fun little website that looks at how long it would take a computer to crack your password. I wouldn't use your actual password on this site, but it might be fun for students to try different combinations to see how secure different types of passwords can be. (The site is supported by Dashlane.)
  • Passwordmeter is another website that looks at strengths of passwords. Again, I would recommend not actually using your passwords on this site but would be another helpful site for students to try different combinations to see how secure different types of password combinations can be.

For Further Learning: 

Creative Commons image from Pixaby
Here are some other resources worth checking out for you or your students.

Use WolframAlpha to Create a Strong Password via Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne

Have I been pwned? allows you to search if your e-mail or username has been compromised. Learn more at there FAQ page.

Do you have any great lesson ideas or resources to help students learn about online security and passwords? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fly Me To The Moon: Space Race During The Cold War

Buzz Aldrin Apollo 11 Moon Landing 
On July 20th, 1969 Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made history as being the first people to land on the moon. I wanted to post some websites I've found to help students learn more about this historic event and the Space Race during The Cold War.


Apollo 11: Commemorating the first humans steps on the Moon via Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has a lot of information, images, videos about the moon landing.

Mission To Space with NASA & Legos is a fun interactive look at space exploration. This is great for younger students.  

Fly Me To The Moon JFK Tapes via The Miller Center is audio of President Kennedy and NASA Director James Webb discuss the future of the US Space Program including the possibility of a Moon landing. 

Explore the Apollo 11 Moon Landing via has a lot of great images and information about the moon landing where you can track the explorer's journey.

Nixon and the U.S. Space Program via National Archives has artifacts and documents about the historical moon landing, including a speech President Nixon never had to give In Event of Moon Disaster.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins Go Through Customs and Sign Immigration Form After First Moon Landing (1969) via Open Culture is a great story (and image of the paperwork) about the astronauts return to Earth.

We Choose The Moon via JFK Museum and Library is a great interactive to look at the Apollo Mission.

Project Apollo Archive on flickr is a database of thousand of pictures from the Apollo missions. Search through Albums to help you find specific images for the different Apollo missions.

On Twitter relive the Apollo 11 Moon landing with @ReliveApollo11 from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum as they live tweet the Apollo 11 Mission.

Apollo 11 via History.Com has a lot of facts, videos, and resources to learn more about the Moon landing.

NASA -The Spacesuit is a fun interactive that looks at the evolution of the suits of the Astronauts.

YouTube Videos:

The Moon: Crash Course Astronomy #12 (YouTube)
Learn more about the Moon.

Who won the space race? with Jeff Steers a TED-ED (YouTube)
This video looks at the history of the Space Race during the Cold War.

Apollo 8's Christmas Eve 1968 Message (YouTube)
Famous Christmas Eve message that quotes the book of Genesis.

In the 1950's Walt Disney hired German Rocket scientist Wernher von Braun to help make Tomorrowland as accurate as possible.  The Disney-Von Braun Collaboration and Its Influence on Space Exploration by Mike Wright is a great article that describes this relationship and how it influenced space exploration. Out of this collaboration came several Television shows such as the ones below.

Disney Animated Educational Video Man In Space 1955  (YouTube)

Disney Education Animation Man and The Moon 1955 (YouTube)

Disneyland Mars and Beyond 1954 (YouTube)

Do you have any great resources or activities to teach about the Moon landing or the Space Race? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Journey to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Election 2016 Resources

The White House
photo by Lance Mosier
Every four years presents an opportunity to help students in my 8th grade US History class learn about how the United States elects the President Of The United States. I hope to continue to add to this blog post with additional resources as I find them as we approach the election in November.

It's My Party.....I wrote an earlier blog about teaching students about the two major political parties in the United States. I will use this lesson again this fall to help students see where they stand on issues and to help them learn about the two political parties.

Election Central via PBS Learning Media: Is a very detailed website with lots of resources for teachers that have pre-made lesson plans ranging from elementary to high school.

Letters for the Next President 2.0 is a nation wide initiative to help students engage in the political process. As they state on their website "Letters to the Next President 2.0 (L2P 2.0) is an initiative that empowers young people (13-18) to voice their opinions and ideas on the issues that matter to them in the coming election."

Getting the Nomination via PBS Learning Media is a short video that describes the nomination process.

Meet The Candidates in 100 Words and 60 Seconds via NPR lest all of the Republican and Democratic candidates for presidents. This was designed for the primaries but does provide good quick information for both candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

How Every State Voted via Business Insider: Is a quick overview video of all Presidential Elections in US History.

Hanging out at the White House
Photo by Lance Mosier
Appraising the Electoral College via The Bill of Rights Institute is an online lesson that looks at understanding how the Electoral College Works, as well of having students examine pros and cons to this election process.  Even if you do not plan on using this entire lesson there are some links to some great videos and resources worth checking out.

270 to Win is one of my favorite websites for students to use to explore the process of the Electoral College. Here students can look back at all past Presidential Elections as well as see how various state electoral vote combinations can get candidates to that magic 270 number.

Win the White House via iCivics is a great game for students to play to learn about how the process of running for President works and what it takes to Win The White House.

Scholastic News Election 2016 Resources has lots of information to help students learn about the issues and candidates running for President.

Newsela Election 2016 is a collection of articles on the 2016 Election from Newsela. If you haven't used this resource before I would definitely check it out. It is a great way to differentiate news article to different reading levels for students. There is a free account to give you some basic access or you can pay for a pro account that provides more interactive resources.

Interactive Constitution Article II - The Executive Branch:  The National Constitution Center has a great new feature Called The Interactive Constitution where scholars discuss elements of the Constitution. Might be a good resource not only for understanding the Electoral College but also the role of the presidency.

American Democracy - Google Cultural Institute: A lot of great primary source documents about historical elections and voting throughout US History.

News Outlet Election Coverage:

YouTube Play List (Presidential Election): These are videos that help explain how the process for electing a president such as understanding primaries, caucuses, and the Electoral College. I will continue to add videos as I discover them and if you have great videos please share them in the comments section below and I'll be sure to add them.

***New Resources To Be Added***

#MyParty16 Resources - Great additional election resources.

The Election and the Educator via Edutopia

Step Inside the Voting Booth via PBS Kids (The Democracy Project)

How Tomorrow Votes sponsored by CSX

Blue Feed, Red Feed via WSJ would be a good way for students to compare media and bias.

Get To Meet The Candidates (Lesson Plan 7-12) via PBS

Candidate Comparison via InsideGOV

Candidate Comparison via ISIDEWITH.COM

2016 Political Quiz (Which candidate matches you the most) via ISIDEWITHQUIZ

2016 Convention Speeches via C-SPAN

2016 Presidential (Vice-President) Debates

If you have some great resources to help students understand the 2016 Election please share them in the comments section below. I would love to hear about them to add them.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To: Learning about Republicans and Democrats

Political Parties Student Handout
In preparation for the 2016 Election in November I thought I would devote a few blog posts to the upcoming fall election.

This is an assignment I have had students complete in the past. In non-election years I typically have students complete this during our 1930's Unit as a way to introduce the concepts of Conservative, Liberal, and New Deal Democrats. With this year being an election year I will probably have students complete this prior to the fall election.

The primary goal of this lesson is to introduce students to the two major political parties and to help students draw connections to where they see themselves fitting in the political process. The 2016 Election is definitely "unique."  I will be curious how this lesson goes this year.

Video Introduction:

I typically have my students watch this BrainPop Video Political Parties as an introduction to get a general understanding of the two major US Political Parties. Students take notes on some of the general basics for each party focusing on programs they typically support, how the parties view taxation, and some famous Presidents for each party.  After a brief class discussion students than move onto taking a Political Party Quiz.

Political Party Quiz: 

The Pew Research Center has a wonderful Political Typology Quiz that uses users responses to gauge where you fit on the Political Spectrum based on how you respond to a series of questions. I emphasize to students to answer as honestly as they possibly can. There are typically a few questions on the survey I have to explain to the students due to student limited understanding on certain issues.

The results of the survey will not spit out "You Are A Republican" or "You Are A Democrat" but instead will place students on a continuum  somewhere between Very Liberal and Very Conservative. I also emphasize that this does not define students into a particular political pary, but gives them a general understanding (based on how they answered questions on the quiz) of which of the two main political parties they seem to agree with more.

I also think it is important to emphasize to students that they don't have to belong to either Republican or Democratic Parties but have a lot of other choices as well.

For a closure on this assignment I have students write a reflective paragraph on what they have learned from this assignment as well if they agree or disagree with the Typology Quiz findings. 

Other Resources and Enrichment Ideas:

To learn more about the Political Party landscape here are some other web resources worth looking at.

Information Is Beautiful: Left v. Right  is an interesting infographic that explores the differences between Left v. Right. It might be fun for students to create their own Infographic of Liberal v. Conservative based on what they have learned in this lesson with some additional research they would have to conduct. 

9 Lesser Known Political Parties via looks at the names of various other political parties that have existed in the US. This might be fun for students to explore and think of if they were creating their own political party what would their major platform on the issues be.

Hip Hugh's Political Ideology Play List: Looks at the following topics: Socialist, Conservative,  Liberal,  Libertarian, Anarchist, and is the US Oligarchy. This would be a great resource for student's wanting to learn more on these topics.

Crash Course Government also has some great videos on Government (definitely worthy to check out). Here are some of their videos that focus primarily on Political Parties and Party Ideology.

Political Ideology: Crash Course Government and Politics #35

Political Campaigns: Crash Course Government and Politics #39

Political Parties: Crash Course Government and Politics #40

Party Systems: Crash Course Government and Politics #41

***New As Of 7/15/16***
Party Crashers: A Political  History with LEGOs is a fun video from that traces the history of the Political Parties (As told by animated LEGOs).

Do you have any great lessons or resources you use to help students learn more about politics and political parties?  I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gotta Catch 'EM All: Pokémon Go and History

Hunting for Pokémons
photo by Lance Mosier
Pokémon Go has definitely swept the country this summer like nothing I've seen in awhile. Everywhere you turn you hear people talking about it. I have two children who love Pokémon. They have collected the cards and played the Nintendo DS Pokémon Games. Although I was reluctant at first to download this on my phone, I was curious to see what my children would think about the game and I thought it might be fun bonding opportunity for us. I definitely see the fun in the game and know next fall I will have students in my classroom who have played or are playing this game.

The best analogy to Pokémon Go is that of a massive interactive treasure hunt. What is very cool about this game is the augmented reality component that allows you to both interact with the real world and the virtual world.

Like many cutting edge and new technology, Pokémon Go definitely has some "concerns" that have come up the last few days.  Some of these concerns I have linked in the articles I have posted at the bottom of this blog post. I really like the idea of this fun interactive app and it has gotten me thinking on how I could leverage this  into helping student's learn about history and geography. These are at least my early thoughts and still are a work in progress.

Interactive Google Maps:

I wrote about Historical Timelines using Google Maps in an earlier post as a way for students to create an interactive Google Map. I wonder if I could have students create a Google Map of Pokéstops of historical places around the country and improve the descriptions of these places to help others learn the history of these places.

Some Tools That Might Help With This:  

Clio is a Historical Interactive Map that uses guides users to thousands of historical and cultural sites throughout the United States. They do have a website you can use to navigate or they also have an app available for both Apple and Google Play.

History HERE is another similar app that helps you find historic locations near you.

***NEW 7/18/16***
The Historical Marker Database to find historical markers from around the country.

Dr. Eric Langhorst also has some great resources on his blog Getting Geeky With Google Maps that have lots of helpful videos and resources to learn more on how to create interactive maps.

Ethical Norms,  Behaviors, and Legal Stuff:

What has also been fascinating is different places that have become Pokéstops and gyms have very actively courting Pokémon players. For public historians, museums, and libraries this is helping pull people into these locations.

Because these places were created with an algorithm other places have asked not to have players play due to the respect needed at such places.  I think this is rightly so and makes for a great teachable moment with students and my own children as we play about expectations of decorum. 

United States Holocaust Museum:

Arlington National Cemetery:

US National Archives Twitter Account 7/23/16

US National Archives Tumblr Account 7/23/16

Hunting for Pokémons
Photo by Lance Mosier
Although Pokémon Go is a hit, there are also a lot of privacy concerns as well which might make for some good discussions with students.

  • How much information are you willing to share to a private company? 
  • Are there good and/or bad consequences of this? 
  • Could the government force the company of Pokémon Go to give up data on users? Would they need a warrant? 

All of these questions would make for some good debates. USA Today's article  While You Track Pokémon, Pokemon Go Tracks You might be a good place to have students read before we debate these questions. 

Also I saw this article on twitter Tuesday night Is Pokémon Illegal? via Associate's Mind that raises interesting questions about trespassing and legal concerns involving virtual reality and "attractive nuisances." This also might make for some interesting debate and research topics for students. 

I am wondering if I could have students generate ground rules for playing Pokémon Go, respecting public property, safety needs and concerns when playing, and why certain places should not be places to play Pokémon GO. Might make for an interesting discussion to have with students about why some places like Battlefield National Parks or certain museums should or should not have active Pokémon Go players playing there.

Pokémon GO Articles:

Hunting for Pokémons
Photo by Lance Mosier
Here are some articles I've collected the past few days as the Pokémon Go craze has really taken off. I will try and keep updating these articles as I come across them. 

PokémonGO is indirectly An Excellent Mobile App for History Lovers via The Bowery Boys New York City History

Ten Thinks I Wish I Knew When I Started PokémonGO via Forbes

If US Presidents Were Pokémon via Dorkly (What If Students design their own Pokemon based on a Historical Figure or creating a Super Hero. I have a Blog Post Up In The Sky where I talk about having student's create SuperHeroes)

Memorial Stadium To Open for Pokemon Go Gamers via

***New 7/14/16***

Pokémon Go Game Guide via Android Central has a nice explanation on how to play the game.

PokéMapper: Crowdsource Map of Pokemon Sightings From Around The World

***New 7/15/16***

Ways to Use Pokémon Go in the Classroom via Teaching Ideas

7-Year-Old's Glowing Idea To Keep Pokémon Safe via

GooseChase APP(IOS, GooglePlay):  allows you to organize and create scavenger hunts. Curious to see if you could make a Pokémon type Game for students.

Girl hit by car while playing 'Pokémon Go,' blames the game via

***New 7/16/16***
Sick of Pokémon Go? Here are 12 other Augmented Reality Apps To Try via Pocket Lint

Educators see gold in Pokémeon Go via USA Today

14 Reasons Why Pokémeon Go Is The Future Of Education via IDEAFM

***New 7/18/16***
Pokémeon Go...where the markers, monuments, and battlefields are! via Craig Swain is an interesting take on The National Parks embrace on Pokémon Go and possible uses to help expose players to history.

PokéVision - This interactive map lets you see in real time where the Pokémon are located.

In Closing:

As I said these are my early thoughts about using Pokémon Go in my classroom. I have some things to "flesh out" before I implement any of these ideas  with my students.  I will be curios to talk with my students in the fall to see if there is any student interest and what they think about all of this.

What are your thoughts about Pokémon Go? Do you have any ideas on how you could use Pokémon Go in your classroom? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.