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.

Posted on March 7, 2011, in GECDSB Newsletter. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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