I should have worn a powdered wig to that Skype session…

The Founding Fathers and the age of computer technology really do go together. It took a bit of a journey for me to find that out…

My first week of Mr. Gwaltney’s AP Gov class was frightening to say the least. Now, I’m a senior at a school that has a laptop program and likes to uphold an image of tech savvy-ness, but alas, I wasn’t prepared for this. During the first week, we signed up for online accounts through numerous websites like Vimeo, Twitter, Voicethread, WordPress, Skype, Google, etc. My first tweet ever was a Bushism (“They misunderestimated me”) and my first Vimeo video was a nice “about me” that looked grainier than images produced by cell phone cameras circa early 2000’s. Now that I’ve conquered most of these technologies, I’ve noticed how much easier and how much more fun it is to convey my ideas.

Vimeo screenshot
Grainy video!

A little tangent: my actual school announced that our students will now document community service online through a nifty program. One of my friends thought that a paperless system would be a complete failure, but I praised the merits of Web 2.0 and convinced her that the future is everything.

Back to AP Gov – One of our assignments a few weeks ago was to write a discussion board post/respond to our classmate’s posts on Haiku about the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, as documented on Frontline. Back at school, we rarely watch documentaries because there isn’t enough classroom time to do so. I’m a fan of watching documentaries of most any nature, so was excited to learn about the Katrina response in depth. I was maybe only ten years old at the time and remember the footage I’d seen on CNN, but I never ever knew that the tragedy was made so extensive because of a lack of efficient decision making and much pointing of fingers at the city, state, and national levels. I enjoyed this assignment because I read reactions from girls all over the country with different opinions and backgrounds. One response in particular that struck me was Amber’s, whose dad went to Biloxi, MS shortly after the storm and described how new federally-funded houses for victims hadn’t been built to code. The things we get to talk about in this class are so real and make it a lot easier to make connections through history to the ideas of the Founding Fathers.

My Voicethread presentation on Engel v. Vitale

What I really love about this class is that the questions posed in our assignments are taken as jumping off points for all kinds of directions in our conversations. Also, I really enjoy creating Voicethread presentations on landmark Supreme Court cases (this week I get Brown v. Board of Education, yes!!) and mixing in other forms of project-based learning. Back at school, AP Government is already offered, but my friends who take it seem to only be getting the AP side of it. It’s pretty cool telling your friends at lunch about the realities of Katrina or how you Skyped people all over the country after the State of the Union. I used to be a stickler for the paper and pen system of learning, but this class has really changed my mind. (Whoa, I just had a thought: what if we could type the AP exam or take it online? That’d make things easier on the essay/free response graders!) I’m excited to see what kinds of discussions we’ll have in the next few weeks.

See you in my next post on Leap Day!



  1. Congratulations on diving head first into all of the social media and tech outlets! We look forward to reading your next post!


  2. I absolutely love the idea of a Government class that includes voices from all over the country. Too often we tend to fall into thinking that our local perspective is the national perspective. This seems like an outstanding way to tackle this subject. I look forward to reading your future posts.


    • That’s definitely one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to take this class! We’ve had many insightful discussions about things like gun control and the 2nd amendment and how Obama’s promises of a lower college tuition rate in his SOTU address really hit home for classmates in places with a high cost of living. This morning on the radio I heard the Keystone Pipeline project hasn’t disappeared and hope to discuss with my classmates how that affects some of us in its path. All of these discussions will definitely affect how most of us will vote for the first time this November.

      Thanks for reading,


  3. Our Integrating Technology and Literacy course would love to set up a Skype with you or anyone in your class to discuss the dynamic of how you are using technology in this course. I enjoyed your blog, and it would help to discuss with teachers and teachers-to-be some of the projects in your course. The course Integrating Technology and Literacy is taken by graduate students in our School of Education at Saint Joseph College, CT. The class meets Thursdays from 4:00-6:30 pm. Let us know if you or someone else from your class wants to Skype with us. If that time is not convenient, maybe someone in your class can Skype with just one of the students in the class at his or her convenience. Also, we have a Ning, and if any of you want to join, it would be great to have a discussion between high school students and college students. Right now, the Ning has college students in it from Connecticut, Nebraska, and Arkansas. All are taking an education course on integrating technology into teaching. The students from NE and AK are undergraduates majoring in education. The students from CT are either teachers or seeking to become teachers. Thank you for sharing your blog post. I plan to share it with students in my course this Thursday, and maybe one of them will leave a comment. Blogging is a wonderful way to connect with others and share ideas.


    • Hi Judy. I’m sure Elisa will respond to you shortly about her ideas about our course, and online connections/learning. I’d be happy to speak to your class via Skype, and I think I could probably wrangle a few students for that as well. I’d also be happy to talk with your pre-service teachers about social media, blogging, and online learning more generally. Let’s email for further discussion.

      Thank you for finding your way to our blog, and for your comments.

      Mike Gwaltney


    • Ms. Arzt, thank you so much for finding your way to our blog! I’d certainly love to Skype your graduate students about my thoughts and experience with this course. Let me know if Mr. Gwaltney has worked something out for us to all communicate — I’m sure my classmates would like to join as well. I also look forward to hearing from any of your students this week. To implement social media and other kinds of technology into education is fantastic! I hope to chat with everyone soon.

      Thanks so much,


  4. Great blog post! So glad to hear you’re diving into new technology and using it to support your learning. As much as I value the old paper and pen method for many things, I agree with your sentiment that technology is the future. It’s not just the future it’s here now! I was talking to one of my relatives about a month ago and she was telling me about how she has tried to keep her 6 year-old son from computers and television so that he can play outside and develop a curiousity about the world. But then she found out that he was having trouble using a mouse during classtime in a computer lab. Now she is trying to strike a balance between both, so that he doesn’t fall behind.I think it’s easy for adults to dismiss technology and social media as something for the young, but really everyone needs to learn to keep up with the changes in society. On another note I’m so happy to hear that your class is looking at recent historical events like Hurricane Katrina. One of the things that’s fascinating to me is how they’re rebuilding their government and civics institutions. Prior to Katrina, there were a lot of problems and corruption in local government. People in the city didn’t feel they had a voice and could make change. Post-Katrina citizens there are more civically engaged and many are actively trying to reform local government so that it will be more responsive to their needs. New Orleans is an interesting laboratory for civics and democracy in this sense. Another question in the disaster and rebuilding process (and in studying government) is this: Where does a government’s responsiblity begin and end, and where does the community’s response come into play? There are lots of non-profits in New Orleans that are totally independent of the government that are helping with home rebuilding efforts in the lower Ninth Ward. A great Website for current information on what’s happening in the rebuilding process and the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center: http://www.gnocdc.org/. Anyways, I could go on and on about this! I look forward to your future posts!


  5. Thanks so much for writing this post. Who would have thought that an online class would be so engaging and creative! I am an advocate of Web 2.0 in my profession, and it makes me happy to see that students are using these tools in order to learn and connect with the world. Keep up the great work!


    • Thanks for reading, Alex! These tools make learning more engaging and projects easier to collaborate on. I’m really glad that I chose to take this class!

      Have a great day,


  6. Hi Elisa!
    I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. I was assigned to read your blog as part of my EDM 310 class. I am really shocked by your post. I find it amazing that you are learning about blogging and videos in high school. We are actually learing the same things in this EDM class. Your blog is actually great and I’m glad that you are enjoying learning more about technology. Learning more about it will lead you to a better future. Keep up the good work! Here is my blog if you want to take a look- http://stevensjasmineedm310.blogspot.com/ and our class blog- http://www.edm310.blogspot.com/
    Jasmine Stevens
    EDM 310
    University of South Alabama


    • Hey Jasmine!

      Sorry for replying rather late. Thanks so much for reading my post! I think these tech tools make learning a lot more fun and certainly more engaging. I hope to hear from you on my next post!



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