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.

Posted on March 7, 2011, in GECDSB Newsletter. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very soon this website will be famous amid all blog viewers, due to it’s good articles

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