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.

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

  1. Wow, awesome tools here! I noticed you said you had to be careful about when to use Gliffy cause it’s only free for 30 days. Check out LucidChart’s free educational accounts which offer the same type of functionality but always free!

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