Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Post for My Course

I am currently taking an online course and am required to post in a blog some of my thoughts. Rather than create a new one, I am adding it to here.

My philosophy for using technology continues to develop and evolve. One thing I can categorically state is that technology is a tool and how, where and why it is used are the key. Poor teaching practice that incorporates technology doesn’t suddenly become good teaching practice. Technology is a tool, and it will only ever support good teaching, not create it. Technology should be used with a specific purpose and to meet a specific goal.

Three Things I Have Learned in This Course So Far:

1. To be more cognizant of the needs of IEP/Special Education students in the planning and execution of my lessons, particularly being more aware of the assistive technologies available in the classroom.

2. The idea that the way we can assess student understanding has changed has been reinforced. One well-considered inquiry question, often incorporating technology, can give a far more accurate indication as to the depth of student understanding than traditional forms of assessment.

3. I am becoming more aware of just how many educators want to be effective users of technology but don’t have the time, support or access to resources.

Three Ideas to Become a Better Leader

1. Continue to canvas need and opinion of teachers prior to making decisions.

2. Continue to ‘lead by example’ by demonstrating and sharing skills and resources.

3. Be available to provide ongoing, job-embedded learning opportunities for teachers that reflect their current level of skill, not the desired level of the system (ie. meeting people where they are at).


March Newsletter

March 2011

Please note that the February newsletter has been deleted.

This newsletter first appeared at

Welcome to the monthly ‘Technology in the Classroom’ newsletter. This month will build on some of the ideas presented in February for using video effectively in the classroom and will introduce you to some new resources and activities for use in the classroom.

Using Video in the Classroom

Last month the newsletter was dedicated to the use of video in the classroom and included many ideas and activities to try in your own schools. This month I am going to focus on providing samples of resources that could be used to cover the expectation of ‘Point of View’.

The ability to recognize, eloquate and relate to a point of view in a given text or resource is a key skill for students to grasp on their journey to comprehension. It is also an expectation that transcends subject areas and lends itself to cross-curricular lessons.

Here is an excerpt from the movie “Elmo in Grouchland”. Elmo is on a journey to recover his blanket from the evil Huxley when he comes across a junkyard. This scene, and the song, show how Elmo’s perception of his environment is different to the other characters. This is a great introduction to discussions on point of view.

Media Literacy is an area where we are required to focus on the point of view presented in a variety of media texts. This Smart Notebook file contains some initial prompts to activate student prior knowledge and to introduce the concept of ‘Point of View’. It then contains print and video materials from an advertising campaign by HSBC Bank. Here is one of the videos and a sample of the print material contained in the Notebook file. If you do not have Smart Notebook installed on your own computer, use the online version found here.

Use the HSBC campaign to challenge your students to create adverts on behalf of HSBC.


Last month I featured some of the uses of the Audacity software installed on all of our curriculum computers. Audacity can be downloaded for free here.

This blog lists ten other great ways to use Audacity in the classroom. Visit the blog for more details. In short the ideas are:

1. Make an audio/radio announcement

2. Promote language learning

3. Create podcasts

4. Record speeches

5. Promote reading development

6. Create sound stories

7. Record sound for PowerPoint slides

8. Record comment/opinions for VoiceThread

9. Record compositions

10. Record soundtracks for animations

ClassTools is a Flash-based site providing free templates for many classroom activities. Many of the templates and activities here fit the theme of “Making Thinking Visible” currently being discussed in the Elementary panel. Some of the more useful activities are outlined in this blog post and include:

  • Arcade Game Generator – Allows teachers to create concept builders, practice exercises, and reviews. Best of all, one set up feeds into five different game possibilities at the same time The teacher can choose which game, or allow students a choice. Make sure you check out all the examples and pre-made games in (overview and samples). Also watch the How to Create Games .
  • Random Name Picker – Can be used as an activity management tool or skip the names. How about a vocabulary builder for content, foreign language, or ESL. Choose between a teleprompter of fruit machine! Be sure to check out all the ideas under (overview and samples)
  • Countdown Timer – Set any time, includes sound files of music to include in timer, or upload your own music.
  • Twister – So cool… kids can create a mock twitter account for a historical figure and get a really neat graphic homepage. They must know dates and be able to summarize a thought in 144 words! Check out the samples at the bottom of this specific tools page. I am still looking for the comment feature. Let me know if you find it.
  • Keyword Checker – This tool checks student essays to see if they have used the most important key terms for a topic. Just PASTE a list of keywords/phrases into the box on the left; PASTE the essay in the box to the right; then click “check”. Students are given feedback that can be used to provide focus for further redrafting if necessary.
  • Plagiarizr – Pretty cool… just paste a writing sample (appears to need at least 500 words). It does the work and will show multiple pages where text may have come from.
  • Dustbin Game – Students drag and drop correct content to the correct bin! The faster and more accurately they can do it… the higher the score!
  • Telescopic Topic – Students or teachers first create an indented, bullet-point list of essential information, or paste it from a word processor. They then click the “preview” button and get a spring-loaded summary! (See video)
  • Post It – Allows an image to be loaded and then students can ad labels to the image and save or print. Could be used in a multitude of subjects from science labels, to maps, and even the diagramming of a sentence. (overview and samples)
  • Diamond 9 – Allows students to put nine key factors in five different rows and place them with some type of significance. Area also allows for student explanation. A wonderful and colorful graphic organizer. (overview and samples)
  • Fishbone (Ishikawa) – Another graphic organizer that allows for a key question, four factors, and numerous details. Takes the idea of a well known graphic organizer and brings it into the digital age. (overview and samples)
  • Venn Diagram – Brings the Venn Diagram into the digital age. Complete with color, up to three content areas, and areas to describe reasoning!
  • Animated Book – This tool allows you or your students to turn any piece of prose into a virtual book!  It is so easy. Just use the ‘Add Text’ function to paste in your text. Next, turn the pages by clicking on them. The author suggest that, “It’s a simple and effective way of breaking up a long piece of prose to make it easier to analyze and discuss as a class.” This seems to be the weakest of the tools and I could not embed. Possibly really for display and group instruction only.
  • Timeline – Set the date for beginning and ending. Give it a title and start entering the dates. A picture can even be added to complete the background. (overview and samples)
  • Lights Out – An awesome template allowing teachers to load an image, then “turn the lights off” so that students can view just small sections of the image at a time. This provides a great way of getting students to look more closely while understanding how to look for details in an image. (overview and samples)
  • Target – Get your  students to break down a key question. Three factors are placed in the center of the diagram. In the next layer, each factor can then be broken into two examples. In the last layer, each of these examples can  be substantiated with detail. Great way of getting students to  plan an essay (overview and samples)
  • Hamburger – If you are hungry to get students to do some simple essay planning this may be the right recipe. Students make basic notes covering  introduction, three main sections, and a conclusion. (overview and samples)
  • Living Graph – In a “Living Graph” students  select the most important events within a topic and then rate against criteria such as success and failure, strength and weakness, etc. (overview and samples)
  • Learning Cycle – This organizer supports ideas developed in the practice of accelerated learning, an approach to learning which builds on a range of learning styles. A valuable template to help teachers plan lessons which address the issue of multiple intelligences. (overview and samples)
  • Jigsaw Diagram – A Jigsaw template is designed to allow students to make connections between dependent factors. Each piece of the jigsaw can have text written into them. When students drag pieces next to each to each other, they will  ”snap” into place. (overview and samples)
  • Priority Chart – This allows students to brainstorm factors which help to answer a key question. Items can be dragged and dropped into an order of priority, color coded, and even have text entered by students to support reasoning. (overview and samples)
  • Source Analyzer – This tool helps students assess “How Useful” a source is by encouraging them to consider various factors. This includes how much content information is in a source and the reliability of information provided. (overview and samples)

GECDSB Enterprise Portal

You may be hearing more and more about the Enterprise Portal (that will not be the final name, just the current, generic project name). Over the last two weeks we were delighted for Concept Interactive to visit our board and present the progress they have made on the creation of this service to our Administration Building and to the System Principals. The images below are by no means final, but give a good idea of how some of the features of the new system will, or could, look.

Here is the current draft for the homepage of our board website.

While the public and corporate face of our board is important, the majority of the functionality of the system will be found within the intranet.

Every staff member and student will have a unique log-in to the system. This will take them to their ‘MySite’. Each MySite is populated with the information you need based on your role in the board. For example, a teacher will see news from the board or their school, a school events calendar, and any conferences for which they are a member or subscriber. This is also where they can access their classes, including their own blogs and wikis, any student work assignments they have posted or received, and access to any of the applications they need to do their job. A student MySite will include school news items, class news items, a personal calendar, the ability to blog or journal, create or contribute to wikis, access, view and submit assignments set by the teacher and many other tools.

Teacher MySite

Student MySite

These screenshots merely touch the surface of the things the portal will allow us to do. As the Portal progresses towards completion there will be more announcements of the features and uses contained in it. There will be a formal call for applicants looking to be in the beta testing group once the system is ready for use.

January Newsletter

January 2011

Originally published at

Welcome to the January ‘Technology in the Classroom’ newsletter. I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and return to work refreshed and rejuvenated. This is a monthly newsletter aimed at providing some ideas and inspiration to support teaching and learning in the classroom and some practical tips on using technology in our everyday lives. The newsletter is also a great place to showcase the work you are doing in your school or classroom to integrate the use of technology. If you have anything you would like to share, please send it on for inclusion in future months.

Exploring Google

The newsletter this month is dedicated to highlighting some of the tools available from Google and looking at how they can be used in the classroom.

Google currently holds an 85.35% share of the search engine market and processes 3 billion searches per day. It is easy to think of it as just a search tool. What fewer people realise is that these searches can be manipulated and displayed in a variety of formats.

Advanced Search

Google uses over 200 different factors in their algorithm to determine the order of links it provides to a search query. This does not always assure you of the most relevant information for your search appearing at the top. Many people do not look past the first two or three responses to a search query, which in turn solidifies the algorithm and causes that information to continue appearing at the top of a list. When you think logically about this, a search term can return in excess of a million links. What are the chances that the few at the top are the best or most relevant? The answer to this is the advanced search. It can be accessed by clicking the ‘advanced search’ link next to the Google box.

You can then fill out the search form to further define what it is that you are looking for.

Wonder Wheel

Wonder Wheel is a Google tool that gives a graphic representation of the results of a search term. Type in your search term as usual, and then select ‘more search tools’ from the left-hand column of the page.

A list of options will now appear. Click on ‘Wonder Wheel’ to select this tool.

You will now see your search presented with a list of common terms and links associated with your query. This is a great tool for students when performing research or generating ideas for written works.


Accessed in much the same way as the ‘Wonder Wheel’, the Timeline will represent your search term on a timeline showing the progression of that subject over time and presenting links in chronological order.

Clicking on any decade within the timeline will bring up a secondary line, showing more specifically the time covered. Subsequently clicking a year will further streamline the results, as will clicking on a specific month.


Google also acts very simply as a calculator. Just type in your equation and Google will give you an answer. One note of caution with this – as with Excel and other computer-based calculators, the divide function is signified by a ‘/’ and multiplication by ‘*’.

Unit Conversions

Google will perform unit conversions. Type in the unit you have and what you would like to see the conversion.


Google offers a really powerful translation tool. There are multiple uses for this, exacerbated by living in a bi-lingual country. It may also offer the chance to communicate with non-English speakers in the classroom.

Simply type or copy and paste the word, phrase, paragraph or article you would like to translate into the search box. Select ‘more’ and ‘translate’ from the top of the screen. You can now decide which language you would like to translate from and to from the pull-down menu and hit translate.

Google Scholar

Accessed by clicking ‘more’ and ‘even more’ on the main Google homepage, Google Scholar is a valuable tool for both teachers and students.“Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research.”

Not only does this tool help students research and cite relevant sources, it also acts as a tool for teachers to run anti-plagiarism checks.


Picasa is a free download from Google that allows users to organize, edit and share digital images.

RSS Feeds and Google Reader

These features were previously covered in the October newsletter.

Google Books

The Google books feature is one that has changed and evolved considerably over the life of Google, and is set to transform even further in the future.

In August 2010, Google announced its intention to scan and digitize all of the 129 million books it estimates are in existence. On December 6th, Google Editions was launched in the US only. Google Editions is the Google answer to ebooks and ereaders. Not yet launched in Canada, Google Editions will allow users to download and read any of the books in its digitized library. An estimated 20% of these books are public domain, meaning we are close to an enormous amount of free, digitized text being available to anyone with an internet connection.

As it currently works, Google Books allows the user to preview sections of books in Google’s digital library. Although not every page is available, it is certainly a good way to decide if a book is worthy of purchase. Many popular books for educators can be previewed here including:

Web 2.0 – New Tools, New Schools

Literature Circles

What Great Teacher do Differently

Still Learning to Read

The Socially Networked Classroom

Differentiating Instruction and Universal Design for Learning

Digital Citizenship

Education Nation

The Daily FiveThe Daily Cafe

Boy Writers

December Newsletter

December 2010

Originally published at

Welcome to the November ‘Technology in the Classroom’ newsletter. This is a monthly newsletter aimed at providing some ideas and inspiration to support teaching and learning in the classroom and some practical tips on using technology in our everyday lives. The newsletter is also a great place to showcase the work you are doing in your school or classroom to integrate the use of technology. If you have anything you would like to share, please send it on for inclusion in future months.


We continue to make progress with the student portal makeover. Although none of these pages are on public view as of yet, they are being developed and will hopefully launch some time this school year. Should you have any suggestions for pages or content in the portal, please feel free to share your ideas.

Seasonal Activities

There are many activities we can do in our classrooms to incorporate the winter season and holiday festivities. My favourite has always been a math activity called “The Real Cost of the 12 Days”.

Let you students use the internet to research the cost of each of the items from “The 12 Days of Christmas”. When they have done this, they calculate the amount spent on each day and the overall cost of the gifts. The numbers are always a surprise! To give you a guideline, below are the costs I found for each gift:

Partridge in a Pear Tree – $159.99 ($149.99 for tree, $10 for partridge)

Turtledove – $27.99 each

French Hen – $15 each

Calling Bird – $149.99 each

Gold Ring – $99.99 each (Gold prices have increased 17% over the last year and 176% over the last 5 years. This is a great opportunity for a lesson on global economies and whether a bunch of flowers might have been a better idea!!)

Goose – $25 each

Swan – $750 each

Milking Maid – $7.25 per hour (this price is from the US. Another opportunity to talk about the global economy and labour prices – the minimum wage in Ontario is $10.25 per hour)

Ladies Dancing – $608.11 each (This price is based on classically trained, professional dancers)

Lords Leaping – $441.36 each (This price is based also based on classically trained, professional dancers. It represents an opportunity to discuss the merits of equal pay for equal work)

Piper – $207.70 each

Drummer – $206.26 each

For those of you wishing to figure this out for yourself, I will move the answers to the bottom of the screen. Good luck!

For those of you looking for SMART Notebook resources to support seasonal activities in your classroom, the following files were taken from theSmart Exchange. If you have yet to use this community resource, it is a great source of Notebook activities that can be downloaded and adapted to suit your needs. These activities are generally for Early Years and Primary, but can be adapted for older grades. The content and themes may also re

All About Winter

Build a Snowman

Christmas Around the World

Christmas Graphs

Christmas Activities and Games

Christmas Fun

Christmas Song Guess

December Hidden Pictures Eraser Game

Christmas Tree Syllable Sort

Roll a Snowman Multiplication

Snow Wonder Pattern

Snowman Addition

Winter Wonderland

Winter Math

As mentioned, each of these files is a SMART Notebook file. Every curriculum computer in our board has SMART Notebook installed, and teachers are also licensed to install this software at home (see your CIESC for details). In addition, SMART now offers a watered-down version of Notebook online. All of these files will work in this version and can be used by your students at home.

Storybird is a collaborative storytelling tool. It allows you to create, share, read and print stories inspired by pictures and artwork housed in the site. As the site states, Storybird “reverses the process of visual storytelling by starting with the image and “unlocking” the story inside”. Here is how my first attempt at using this resource went.

First of all, you need to create an account. It is a painless process, and most importantly, a free one. If you already have student accounts through First Class, or if your students already use email addresses regularly for things such as a class wiki, you can have the students create their own accounts. The benefit of this is that it ultimately gives the student an identity in the system, meaning they can be invited to collaborate during the composition of a story.

Once you are registered you have access to the full features of the site. You can choose to read stories created by others or to begin creating your own. I jumped right in to the creation process.

When you choose to create a story, there are three approaches offered. Firstly, you can choose to browse the artwork in the site and select a piece that catches your eye. Alternately, you can search the art work by given themes such as ‘animal’ or ‘moon’, for example. The third option is to create a story for the monthly competition theme offered by the site. This month has a theme of ‘curiosity’. Wanting to leave my options open, I chose to browse the artwork.

I finally settled on this picture.

It is at this point that the full features of this resource are revealed. You can now start writing a page of your book, or your whole story, with this page. You can add other pages and pictures, or you can invite friends to collaborate with you on your composition.

I started to create my story. The cover page and page one were easy. “Granny the Astronaut” was underway. It was then I realised my first mistake. The pictures from the illustrator I selected were the only ones available to me in the creation of this story. I could not find a method to browse and insert pictures for my subsequent pages. This left me two choices – create a story with the pictures provided, or if I wanted to stay with my idea and theme, begin again and select the ‘themes’ option. The implications of this in the classroom are that if the student already knows what they want the story to be about, the theme approach is best. If they are looking to weave a story from the picture selection provided, selecting an artist or piece of artwork is best. These are very different approaches and tasks, so the teacher needs to consider what their intent is prior to the lesson.

Now that I was firmly set on Granny being an astronaut, I tried a themed approach. I selected the theme of ‘astronauts’, and was given the following options.

I chose to “Start a Storybird with art tagged “astronaut”. This would allow me to use the idea I had previously started with a storyline tailored to the images available. Only one change was necessary – Granny had to go.

From this point on, the process was easy and my story was created quickly. Storybird is a great tool to use, but you need to learn from my mistakes and approach it with a set purpose. If a student already knows roughly what they want to write about, this is likely not the tool for them. If a student is struggling for any ideas, this is the place to go. They do need to make the choice before starting, however, as to whether they will link the given pictures into a story or write a story based on one selected picture. These sound similar skills, but as I learned at the cost of an hour of work, they are very different activities.

Go ahead and try this out. Feel free to share your student success publically. It would be great to feature their work here, so please send along anything you would like to share.


PhET is a collection of interactive simulations developed by the University of Colorado. The simulations can be used online, or within an offline application and cover content in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science and Math. These simulations offer a chance to explore concepts and tools in a ‘hands-on’ way, allowing students an opportunity to gain an experiential understanding of the concepts being covered. Many of the topics and simulations lend themselves more to secondary than elementary, but there is something here for everyone.

For the purpose of demonstration I selected a math tool from the site (estimation). In common with many of these simulations, there is a ‘game’ mode and a ‘practice’ mode. The game mode has three levels. Here is my attempt at level 1:

For comparison, here is a look at a level 3 task:


Thinkfinity is a resource site sponsored by the Verizon Foundation. It is based on US curriculum standards but comes with many tools and interactive activities suitable for our classrooms.

Clicking the ‘In the Classroom’ option on the front page and then selecting ‘student interactives’ will take you to a list of subject areas, sorted by grade level. Navigating through these will take you to the interactives.

As an example, I selected the 3-5 Math icon. 49 different web-based math tools are given. They vary somewhat in quality but many are very useful. For example, here is a simple game on the concept of factors. There are two players. Player one selects a number and player two scores points for each factor he can identify. The catch is that after a number has been selected once, it is gone for the rest of the game.

The site also hosts a huge array of lesson plans, professional development resources, including free webinars, and ideas to bring to the classroom.

Using Technology to Help Others

The following message is from Essex Public School. Please help if you can.

Essex Public School has an opportunity to win $100,000 in the Aviva Community Fund Project. Our school is in the semi-finalists. We have hopes to build a fully accessible playground for the community of Essex. Presently we are competing against some major cities and projects throughout Canada. We are asking for your support to show Canada that we may be a small community but we have the heart of a large country. Let’s put GECDSB at the top.

Please help us. Vote Online daily from Dec. 2- 15th

Go to:
Register an email address
Then vote. You have ten votes. Vote daily. Every votes helps

Answer to 12 Days Problem

The total cost to buy each of the items once would be $21,465.56. To buy the items multiple times as outlined in the song would cost a total of $87,403.

November Newsletter

November 2010

This newsletter was first published at

Welcome to the November ‘Technology in the Classroom’ newsletter. This is a monthly newsletter aimed at providing some ideas and inspiration to support teaching and learning in the classroom and some practical tips on using technology in our everyday lives. The newsletter is also a great place to showcase the work you are doing in your school or classroom to integrate the use of technology. If you have anything you would like to share, please send it on for inclusion in future months.


We continue to make progress with the student portal makeover. Although none of these pages are on public view as of yet, they are being developed and will hopefully launch some time this school year. Should you have any suggestions for pages or content in the portal, please feel free to share your ideas.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

As educators we are all aware of the structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy. It was developed by Benjamin Bloom in 1956 as a hierarchical classification of educational objectives. It represents a continuum from lower-order thinking skills to higher-order thinking skills.

Bloom’s Taxonomy was revised in 2001 by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl. Their revisions included changing the descriptors in the taxonomy from nouns to verbs and re-ordering evaluating and creating to make creating the top end of the cognitive continuum.

Based on the belief that neither incarnations of Bloom’s Taxonomy address “…the objectives, processes, and actions produced from information and communication technologies”, Andrew Churches set about developing a digital taxonomy based on Bloom’s.

Churches based his work in a series of assumptions:

1. Students have changed significantly since the original Bloom’s Taxonomy was published in 1956.

2. Today’s students are “digital natives”, meaning they have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones and other digital age tools, and are now “native speakers of the digital language”.

3. Today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.

4. The majority of teachers are “digital immigrants”.

5. Digital natives tend to prefer collaborative learning experiences.

With that, Churches created the following taxonomy, along with sample activities.


It is impossible to remember everything. The key to remembering things in the digital context is in the retrieval of information.

Activities include:

  • On-line quizzes and tests (Google Docs, Hot Potatoes)
  • Definitions
  • Bookmarking


This was defined as “constructing meaning from different types of functions, be they written or graphic”.

Activities include:

  • Searching (Google)
  • Simple Blogging
  • Categorizing and tagging (Delicious)
  • Commenting and annotating (Open Office/Word Documents)
  • Mind Mapping (Mindmeister, SMART ideas)


“Carrying out or using a procedure through executing or implementing. Learned materials are presented in a variety of forms”.

Activities include:

  • Uploading material (Websites, blogs, wikis, youtube)
  • Editing (Word/Buzzword/
  • Playing (Games)
  • Interviews (Audacity, Adobe Connect)
  • Presentations (Powerpoint, Prezi, VoiceThread)


“…differentiating, organizing, and attributing as well as being able to distinguish between components…”

Activities include:

  • Relationship Mind Maps (Mindmeister, SMART ideas)
  • Graphing and Charts (Excel, Gliffy)
  • Surveys and Checklists (Google Docs, SurveyMonkey)


“Making judgements based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing”.

Activities include:

  • Blogging/Vlogging (Class Blogmeister, VoiceThread, Windows Movie Maker)
  • Collaboration and Networking (Wikis, Twitter, PiratePad,
  • Commenting, Moderating, Reviewing, Posting (Wikis, Twitter, PiratePad,
  • Persuasive Speech (Audacity, VoiceThread)


“Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning or producing”.

Activities include:

  • Filming, Animating, Videocasting, Podcasting, Mixing and Remixing (Audacity, Windows Movie Maker, VoiceThread)
  • Programming (Scratch, Yenka)
  • Animating (Bitstrips, Comic Life, Animoto)

So, where does that leave us in terms of our technology use in the classroom? The potential is there for us to be engaging our digital natives in higher-order thinking activities that suit their learning styles. There are still factors preventing us from reaching that goal, but as a theory and guiding principal there are merits to this framework.

Next time you are using technology in the classroom, think about the “Digital Taxonomy”. Try to place your activity on the continuum. Are there ways you could “bump up” the task to a higher level? Do you need to reinforce any foundation skills before addressing the task?

Much of the information here is taken from a Prezi created by Joshua Coupal. It is indicative of the way information is shared online that I have no idea who Joshua is, other than this Prezi appeared on my Twitter feed. Yet another example of how Twitter can guide our own professional learning.

A couple of the web-based applications named above that you may not have used yet are presented in a little more detail below.

Mindmeister is an online mind-mapping tool. It allows you to create and store your own maps and to work collaboratively with others to create a map. The free version only allows for three maps to be stored per account, so use judiciously. Browsing some of the maps here will give a good idea of how this resource can be used. is an open source (free!) online resource. It is used to collaborate on written documents in an online, live environment. Use of this site couldn’t be easier. Simply click on ‘create new document’ and share the URL with as many people as you want to collaborate. When each participant enters their name, they are allocated a colour so that their work can be easily recognized. You can import existing documents in Word, HTML and RTF and can export in all of these file formats, as well as PDF.

Gliffy is an online diagram-creation resource that allows users to create a variety of charts and diagrams from flowcharts to floor plans. You can use and view existing templates, or use the simple tools to create your own diagrams and layouts. Gliffy is free for a 30 day trial, so again choose carefully when you want to use it. An alternative program offering similar functions is SMART Ideas, which is licensed through OSAPAC and is on the image at every school.

Several of the examples given above reference “VoiceThread”. The website for VoiceThread can be found here. It is free to register. The site does a good job of explaining what it can do:

“With VoiceThread, group conversations are collected and shared in one place from anywhere in the world. All with no software to install. A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways – using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too. Users can doodle while commenting, use multiple identities, and pick which comments are shown through moderation. VoiceThreads can even be embedded to show and receive comments on other websites and exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies. Users can doodle while commenting, use multiple identities.”

Here is an example of a VoiceThread created by Mrs. Betteridge’s Grade 3 students at Talbot Trail.

Premier Software

Over the next few months there will be significant changes made to the assistive technology offered to support learning in our system. In the past we have used programs such as Kurzweil and Co-Writer to support student learning in the classroom. Premier is a bank of tools that will replicate the function of these programs and so much more.

Here is an overview of some of the things Premier will allow us to do. For more details on Premier Software, contact Rob Kapetanov.

Talking Calculator.

Premier contains a talking calculator. The calculator will read numbers, operations and totals and will allow the copy and paste of the calculation into any other document.

E-Text Reader

The E-Text Reader will allow you to open files or copy and paste extracts to read, highlight and edit. It also contains a ‘translate’ function and the ability to automatically summarize a piece of text.

Text to Audio

The text-to-audio tool will allow any typed text to be extracted as an mp3 or wav file.

Talking Word Processor

The Talking Word Processor contains text-to-speech capabilities, and includes a word prediction tool to help generate ideas and aid spelling.

PDF Magic

PDF Magic is a tool that allows the creation of new PDF documents and the ability to edit and extract from existing PDF’s.

Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking is a method for internet users to share, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web resources. Unlike file sharing, the resources themselves aren’t shared, merely bookmarks that reference them.

There are many benefits to online bookmarking. These include the ability to be able to access your bookmarks from any computer, the ability to collaborate on bookmarks with others and the ability to ‘tag’ and search your bookmarks. On an even more simplistic level, how many bookmarks can you currently store and easily navigate within your own internet browser? I know for me that as soon as I get to 20 or so, I lose all track of where they are and why I added them in the first place.

This site outlines five of the top social bookmarking sites. I am going to focus only on the two most popular, Delicious and Diigo.

Delicious is an easy to use tool for online bookmarking. It is owned by Yahoo and so can be accessed with a Yahoo account, otherwise it is free to sign up. Delicious is the most widely used social bookmarking tool on the internet, although that doesn’t mean it has the most features.

Delicious allows you to add bookmarks either privately (accessible only to you) or publically. You can create networks of friends to collaborate on bookmarks, obviously a huge classroom benefit when producing group research projects. You can add tags, or categories, to your own bookmarks or search through tags in publically shared groups. The strength of this is that you benefit from the searching of others. You are likely not the first person to create a list of sites for ‘Grade 1 Math’ (that particular search, for example, will provide you with 37 bookmarks already vetted and added by others).

With this type of search in mind, Delicious allows you to subscribe to tags. As an example of how this may be useful, let’s say you have subscribed to the tag “grade 8”. Anytime a user with a public account adds a bookmark with this tag, you will be notified.

Delicious couldn’t make it easier to add bookmarks. All you need to do is add tool to your browser toolbar (by clicking to add it within the Delicious settings) and you are one click away from any URL being added to your list.

This site does a great job of describing Diigo, so I will simply add their words here:

“It is my absolute favorite. This service has an enormous amount of tools and features — it is more than a bookmarking service, it is a complete tool for online research.

To start with the basics, Diigo is easy to use. Tabs and pull-down menus in addition to the tag cloud makes it easy to navigate, sort and edit bookmarks and tags. I have 1000+ bookmarks, so this is important to me. If you do research online, you’ll soon value these tools.

In addition to being a bookmark tool, Diigo lets you add sticky notes and highlight text on any web page just like you would on paper. This way, information can be highlighted on web pages for easy scanning later and snippets of information can be saved for sharing, editing and reference. The highlights and sticky notes are private by default, but can be shared with your Diigo friends in a number of ways.

The possibilities for social networking on Diigo are unequaled in the world of social bookmarking. Diigo has a group tool for collaborative research that allows groups of people to pool their findings through shared bookmarks, highlights, sticky notes, and forum discussions. There are also communities formed around web sites (like Wikipedia) and tags (like Web 2.0).

To learn more, have a look at this 4 minute introductory video.

The classroom or student uses for social bookmarking are clear. Research projects and collaborative study can be supported by these tools. As teachers we can also use these tools to enhance our own community groups and PLC’s. It can be yet another tool to add to your expanding PLN!

Using Twitter for Professional Development/Professional Development 2.0

In each of the newsletters this year I have featured Twitter as a tool for professional development. As educators we are learning in more and different ways than we ever have in the past. The old model of every staff member being released for face-to-face training in things deemed important by people outside of the building has been replaced. We are fortunate to work in a board where we have Instructional Coaches to provide on-site guidance. We are developing learning communities through our work in PLC’s. We have opportunities ranging from ‘Classrooms on the Move’ to ‘PLC Academy’ and ‘Collaborative Action Research’ projects to reflect on and develop our abilities in the classroom. One of the other things many of us are doing is taking control of our professional learning by developing our own ‘Personal Learning Networks’, or PLN’s.

Jason Bedall, yet another person I have only ever met via Twitter, published this document in September. “Professional Development 2.0. Take Control of Your Professional Learning” is a guide to the world of PLN’s, including places you can go to get started, such as Twitter, and hints and tips for developing a PLN to suit your needs.

Reflecting on the “Standards of Practice” from the Ontario College of Teachers, the standards which govern our conduct as professionals, it is clear that the development of a PLN can be an integral part in our own professional practice. It is important for each of us to take ownership of our professional learning, and I have yet to experience a more effective way to do this than by creating a PLN.


Ever wondered what a reality show about the teaching profession might look like? “Good to Outstanding” is an English show where teachers who received a ‘Good’ grading during school inspections (the system for teacher evaluation is very different to the one we have in Ontario), are challenged to teach an “Outstanding” lesson. During the process teachers are supported by one of the Government’s lead school inspectors and are given guidance and advice on how their lessons can be improved. Just watching these teachers at work, listening to the advice and watching the improvements they make is a great learning experience for every educator.

“Good to Outstanding” is accessible online through the website Teachers.TV. This reality show is only one part of this resource. There are countless videos, lesson ideas and teacher resources available. It is certainly a site worth adding to your PLN!

Apps for Education

Handheld portable devices are being used more often in the classroom to support student learning. There are many ‘apps’ available for this purpose, ranging from the ‘letter tracer’ apps featured last month for early years, to the agenda and organizer we presented in September.

Continuing the theme of assistive technology, there is now a free app version of Dragon Naturally Speaking called “Dragon Dictation”. This app enables the users to record spoken words which are then automatically transferred to text. This text can then be copy and pasted into any other format, or automatically transferred to email, Twitter or Facebook.

Advanced SMARTboard PLC

Over the past five years we have added more and more SMARTboards to our system. Teachers have made great progress using the boards and effectively integrating technology into their classroom environment. We will continue to offer workshops for those new to this technology throughout the year. I am in the process of setting up a schedule of on-site support for Secondary school use of the board. See your Instructional Coach for details.

We are now in a position where we have a core group of extremely competent SMARTboard users. These teachers have asked for chances to further extend their knowledge, understanding and use of SMART technology. With this in mind, we are looking at creating two “SMART PLC”, one based in the county and one based in the city.

The SMART PLC will be simply a group of teachers who have identified themselves as being competent SMARTboard users meeting up on three occasions through the school year to share their knowledge and resources, discuss their practice, and work together to develop skills and resources for shared use.

If you are interested in being part of this group, sign up through bookit. Class size will be capped at 20 for each site (Please do not sign up for both) on a first-come, first-served basis. The first county date will be Monday 29th November at Gosfield North Public School. The first city session will be hosted at David Suzuki Public School on Decmeber 6th. My thanks to Lise Fellbaum (Gosfield) and Charlotte Cornel (Suzuki) for their willingness to host these events.

Elementary Progress Reports/CIESC

I just wanted to take this opportunity to publically thank the CIESC group for the support and leadership they displayed in their buildings during the progress report process. They are a valuable resource to us in our system and they did a fantastic job supporting change in our schools, be it running lunch and learns, providing mentoring, troubleshooting or providing information for me to work with Media-x.

By the next reporting period it is hoped that the kinks are out of the system and that the experience we gained over the last month will make future use of the reporting system easier. The majority of feedback I have received is that, once the kinks are ironed out, teachers believe MX-Web to be a far superior product than any we have had for reporting in the past.