A Note to My Students at the End of the Year

A note for my students at the end of a very strange year

Hello, students!

It looks like this is it for the school year. We finally made it. The age-old wisdom from my grandfather that all situations are temporary has proven true again - a very bizarre semester has finally ended. On to the next thing, now.

I don’t know what next year is going to look like or what we should prepare for. What I can tell you is that I’m excited to come back. If we can’t safely come back in person, I’m excited to get back together online and give this another try. We can learn from what worked and what didn’t.

Look back at this year. Take a deep breath and think about how bizarre it has been. It's okay, it's not complaining, it really has been bizarre for everyone. Some of us have lost so much, and some of us have been nearly unaffected. Some of us face losses yet to come of every sort and don't yet know it. Tomorrow can be a scary place.

Remember that what you have learned this year will help you in that tomorrow. You are still made of the same intelligence, creativity, and problem solving skills that you started the year with. All of that will help you forward too. The future is a funny thing; we think that we will be somehow less capable, less organized, less intelligent in dealing with our future problems than we have proven to be in the past. The best version of you may be in the future, but it's built of what you already have inside you. You're ready for what will come.

Please have a safe, healthy summer. Don’t give in to the temptation to believe that none of this is real just because you can’t see it. I know a lot of people have still been getting together like nothing is happening, and if you’re doing that and not getting sick, it’s just luck. This thing is a real public health risk - take a look at the globe. This wouldn’t have happened for no reason. Be careful, be safe, keep separated from people outside of your home if at all possible. It sucks, I know, but the alternative could be a whole lot worse.The virus won’t go away because you’re tired of it or because you don’t feel like it’s real.

Take care of yourselves. Normally I’d get to talk with you one more time and encourage you to stay positive, to keep on top of taking care of yourselves and others to the degrees that you can, and to keep looking forward. It’s easy to let disenchantment and disillusionment take over. Be resilient, don’t let it.

Keep tabs on what’s going on in the world. We used to do current events from time to time, and that’s when my classes were the most engaged; you all really do want to know what is happening and why, and to figure out how you feel about it. Use those sourcing skills and the critical thinking skills that we worked on all year.

Please feel free to send me email over the summer and let me know how you’re doing and/or ask questions. Maybe you’ll be working on getting ready for the next stage of your life, or maybe you read something in the news you’d like more background for. Or maybe you just found a really good history meme. I’m still here, and as always I’d love to hear from you.

Okay, that’s it. You are loved and we are thinking about you. Take care, and one way or another, I’ll see you later!


A Note to Graduating Seniors in 2020

A note to graduating seniors in 2020

Hello, seniors at SoHi. I wrote you something, and I hope you get a chance to read it. You can click on the image above or you can just click here.

This is in lieu of the wistful and reflective stuff I say in front of the class at the end of the year, so perhaps you should be thankful that you can't hear it!

AP Test Updates

Everyone looks like this right now

We now have some important information about the exams administered during 2020. Here are the critical details and changes:

  • Testing Method
    • You can take the exam on phone OR computer (you cannot use both simultaneously except as described below)
    • Submissions will be either:
      • typed on a computer
      • or handwritten, then photographed and uploaded on a phone
      • Other option: open test on computer, write response on paper, photograph on mobile device, copy to computer, upload on computer
      • Note: test responses must be uploaded from the same device the question is accessed from
    • Your time will have to be tracked
  • Test Questions
    • APUSH will have a single DBQ question
    • APGOV will have the argumentative essay for 25 minutes, and the concept application essay for 15. There will be five minute answer upload periods between each
  • Rubric Adjustments (more details coming on 4/3)
    • APUSH: Documents reduced for DBQ from 7 to 5
      • Revised rubric that offers points for other things since you have fewer docs
    • APGOV: one of the more difficult points has been removed due to the timeframe, and an easier point has been added
  • Test Security
    • Students are not allowed to seek help from others
    • Technology and tools to detect impersonation and collaboration will be in place, consequences will be severe
      • Students who cheat (or conspire to cheat between now and the test) will have that noted on all of their test results when they're sent to colleges
    • Teachers will receive copies of your exams, which enable us to ensure that it matches your skill, ability, and handwriting
  • Other Details
    • Test results can be used for an in-class grade, as teachers will be given access
  • Test Dates
    • All exams will take place between 5/11 and 5/22, and makeup dates will be 6/1 - 6/5.
    • Take the test during the early window in case ANYTHING goes wrong (dead battery, wifi goes out, computer crashes, etc) the first attempt
Course Questions Test Date

One DBQ Question with 5 Sources

Exam Covers Units 1-7

5/15, 10 AM (Alaska Time)

25 Minutes: Argumentative Essay

5 Minute: Upload your response

15 Minutes: Concept Application FRQ

5 Minute: Upload your response

Exam Covers Units 1-3

5/11, 12 PM (Alaska Time)

AP Reading notes: The reading will be done digitally this year. Next year, unless CDC guidelines forbid, the in-person reading will happen as per usual.

Good luck to us all!!!!

For my students:

I will be doing live Zoom lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30am to 11:00am starting next week. A schedule will be published shortly. All lessons will be recorded.

Get studying:


Accessing Online School With Limited Internet Access

Distance Learning

Since we are all trying to work online during the COVID-19 school closures, I'm seeing a lot of questions about how students with limited internet access can get to what they need. Here are a few options to help with that before you give up. These will not cover every use case, but they will help some. This will help if your internet access is limited, or if it's intermittent (e.g., you can only get it if you drive to a school parking lot and download everything there).

This is not comprehensive, but it's a decent place to start.

Use a Different Browser or Browser Settings to Reduce Data Usage

Opera Turbo ScreenshotThis will help whether your connection is slow or you have a data cap. I used Opera as my primary browser for years, and both their desktop and Android versions have data usage optimizers. They have a tool called Opera Turbo that will reduce your data.

This works by using Opera's servers essentially as a VPN. There are security concerns with this of course (I talk about that in my tech guide for students on the VPN page), but the benefit is that they get the page you reqested, optimize it and shrink down the graphics and videos etc., and then pass it to you at a much smaller size.

Even if you don't have a smart phone, you can use Opera Mini for basic phones. It also has the data saving features.

If you don't want to use a different browser, Google Chrome has a "lite mode" that does essentially the same thing. Your iPhone/iPad also has a Low Data Mode that you can turn on that will stop apps from downloading things in the background.

Useful Links for reducing data usage:

Use an AdBlock Extension

Blokada ScreenshotIf you use Opera, it already has an ad blocking too. However, every other major browser has an adblock extension that you can use. It will reduce some web pages by over 80% - a huge amount of the data that your phone or computer downloads is linked to advertising, and not to what you are trying to access for school. The adblocker will make some pages harder to use and you might have to turn it off on a case by case basis (e.g., for news articles assigned by your teacher), but it will make the whole internet faster and slow down your data usage.

I've used AdBlockPlus and I use Blokada on my phone (an Android), which has the added benefit of blocking most ads in all of the apps that I use as well.

Useful links for adblocking:

Saving Pages for Offline Viewing

This will work for a limited number of cases if you have internet access intermittently. Most websites today are only useful because they're connected to a background database. For example, Canvas needs access to its database to do anything useful and allow you to turn in websites. However, if you're just looking to save copies of directions, or articles, or other static/non-video resources, you can use your browser's save function or an extension to handle it for you.


This is the most convenient option. Some browsers have something like Pocket built in now, but if yours doesn't you can install it easily. Essentially, anything you save using the plugin will be stored on your device for offline viewing later. I personally have used Pocket, but there are many choices (some are listed below).

An added benefit of several of these tools is that they strip the page of all the unnecessary stuff; adds, navigation, menus, etc., all gone. All you have left is the content you needed in the first place.

Print as a PDF

This is not the most reliable option but it works in many cases. On most computers, you can print a page as a PDF and then save it somewhere on your computer. Check the PDF that was generated before you rely on it, though, as many websites use architectures that break this feature (e.g., you may end up with just a box with part of the article on one page, not the whole article you needed).

Manual Saving

Chrome, Firefox, and most others act the same way; if you go to the menu and select Save Page As... (or right click on the page and click Save as... on Chrome), you will be asked where on your computer you want to save the page. Make sure you have "web page, complete" selected.

Option two is a good, old-fashioned screenshot. Current versions of Firefox allow you to just press Ctrl + Shift + S and then choose what you want saved as an image.

Useful links for saving pages for offline viewing:

Call Your Provider for Access Upgrades

During the COVID-19 related school closures, a large number of internet providers (both traditional and mobile) are offering free upgrades, eliminated data caps, or discounted access, especially for students. Take a look at your local options and see who has the best options for you. Our school district has put together this page with some options here on the Kenai Peninsula.

That's it for now.

If you have any questions about any of this or have other options you'd like included, feel free to drop me a line.

APGOV & APUSH Exam Question Types

As of yet, we still do not know what the AP Exam question types will be. As a result, in my classes we will focus on wrapping up the content that will be covered on the exam and will also start preparing review materials in case the early test date is something you want to participate in.

Currently, the video lessons put out by AP are not coming from periods that are tested, but they are good for context and for concept application (among other things) for each of the exams. I still highly recommend you watch them, as they are free and of high quality.

I am watching the following two rows for my courses on the AP Updates for Schools Impacted by Coronavirus page.

You will have updates as soon as I do. Sorry for all of the stress.

In the meantime, find something relaxing to do. I teach history, so my first suggestion is going to be to find a nice documentary, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea or orange juice (whatever makes you happy), and just watch for a while.