Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Twitter for Educators

I have really started to use Twitter this year to aggregate information related to topics I am teaching this year. Through Twitter I have been learning about lots of web 2.0 sites that would be useful tools to forward my student's understanding in various subjects. I have put together a short Google Doc with information about Twitter. It has helpful links, and some basic information about how one "tweets".

You can access it here:

Monday, 30 April 2012

Two Great Conferences

So over the last month or so I have spent two Saturdays at conferences. It is always an iffy proposition, taking the chance that the PD will be good enough to miss out on family time. These conferences were both put on by people in our School Board. Both conferences were great, although very different.

The first conference was an "Unconference" Link: or use the QR code below.

The concept is that instead of going and having a keynote speaker and then attending a rigid schedule, you simply slip into different "conversations" facilitated by someone who is leading the session. Rather than being preached to by an expert, the voices rose among us, and we learned from each other. Upon arriving at the conference, the schedule was fleshed out as people attending the conference added their names to the list of facilitators. It puts me in mind of Teacher's College when the person up at the front of the class said "You should never teach the way I am teaching you now. Lecturing is proven to be ineffective for many learners..." In our sessions the facilitator began the conversation, but then encouraged others to lead, and even to take the conversation in new directions. It put me in mind of the new ideas around teaching math, where we have the students teaching, and sharing information whenever possible. The facilitator took a back seat and allowed us to earn from each other. This is exactly like how we should be teaching. And it worked.

Another big concept was that if you were in a session that wasn't working for you, you just slipped out and joined another session. In this way, everyone was virtually guaranteed to experience worthwhile discussions that were geared towards their own areas of interest. It was an excellent opportunity to learn from others, and how others are tackling the idea that technology is a central part of education moving forward. Everyone had a voice in these sessions, and we genuinely learned a lot from each other.

The second conference was "Waterloo goes Wireless". Link: or use the QR code.

It was a more traditional in that it had a keynote speaker, but there were interactive, voluntary additional activities one could engage in during breaks. This allowed for impromtu learning as I played a game, and ended up learning several new ideas during my lunch break. The PD sessions had tons of ideas and information shared in them, and again I leaned a lot. My biggest "uh-huh" moment was when I realized that the web 2.0 moniker "Social Network" has always put me off. I suddenly realized something as I experienced many different web 2.0 sites this weekend. The web has moved from 1.0 (the static information internet) to 2.0 ( the interactive, fluid communication internet). This doesn't mean that the internet has become a stagnant repository of everyone's gossip, but rather it means that everyone one is learning, sharing and collaborating to create new ideas and information on the world wide web. It is exciting stuff, and I hope to make better use of it in my teaching practice.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Google Drive - Anywhere you need it.

Google Docs (now Google Drive) is a fairly comprehensive suite of productivity apps including, a word processor, spreadsheets, a presentation creator, and a drawing option as well. These are all available and can be private (available and seen only by you), shared with others (parents and students), or open to others who are invited to collaborate,  add to, and change things in the document itself.  This allows students to work together co-authoring a project together at school on seperate computers, or even from home.  Student work completed on an iPad, or on a computer can be copied and quickly pasted into Google Docs, so that you can view it later and edit it, or mark it all in the digital cloud without needing to print it.  The Drawing option is new to me, and I tried to use it much like a Mindmapping activity.
Here is a screenshot:

It is easy to set up an account, and this would be very a very beneficial way to have students work, and collaborate whether they are on an iPad, or a computer. The program is more limited on the iPads, but anything they have worked on can be copied into Google Docs. You can begin something at home, edit it on your smartphone, and access it and print it off at school. As long as you have internet access, you can work on Google Docs. Of course, that is the one Achille's heel of Docs, you do need to have access to the internet in order to work on Google Docs, there is no offline feature.

 I have really made use of Google Docs this year, and I find it to be an excellent way to do work, and instead of getting to work and realizing I forgot to copy the work onto a USB drive, or email it to myself. It is just there, waiting, no matter which computer I am on.  If anyone is interested, I would be happy to offer a workshop on this before school, after school, or even during a nutrition break.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Storybird - Web 2.0 Story Creation

This is a great website that I heard about when I was at my "Critical Thinking and Technology" workshop at the board.  Storybird is a flash-based web page that has fantastic art from artists around the world. You are invited to choose the artwork of an artist that interests you, and then you use it to author a story. A teacher can set up a class account and add their students to their account (somewhat similar to Bitstrips). There is a decent variety of art to choose from, and it is free. There is an option to purchase a hard copy of the book you create.

Here is the cover of the first Storybird Book I created:

Here is the link to go to if you would like to read the book:

Here is another story:

Here is the website:

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Evernote - Word Processing, and so much more!

I am writing this blog post in Evernote.  As they describe it on their website: "Evernote is a great tool for teachers and students to capture notes, save research, collaborate on projects, snap photos of whiteboards, record audio and more. Everything you add to your account is automatically synced and made available on all the computers, phones and tablets you use."

I had heard about this App being used with iPads, but it can be used with any smartphone platform, and both Mac and Windows computers.  It saves student work (or yours) to the "cloud" and is available on any device you have installed Evenote on. It is a free program, and there is a variety of different ways it can be used by students:
  • record verbal data (voice record feature)
  • write reports, make tables, write fiction
  • make lists
  • attach files, clip and save web pages, save files, or pictures, along with a written account of them, and why they are important
  • Tablesareeasy
    tocreateas well

     I have tested to see if it will save locally, which would allow it to be used in areas without wifi access (portables, and Rm. 3 and 4). I closed and reopened Evernote outside of a wifi zone, and the data is intact. Students could do there work on the iPads in the portable and then the work could be synched to the cloud when the device is returned inside to the wifi area of the school.  The only negative I noticed was there is no spell checker on this App.  

    Evernote is available here:      

    Skitch is available at as well, and it is a simple drawing tool. It works with any touch-enabled device (android tablet, phone, or iOS devices: iPod, iPad, and iPhone).  Students could draw a diagram, a graphic organizer, or a picture, and it would be saved and synched.

    As these are highly capable and  free, we will definitely want these Apps on the iPads along with Dropbox.  This might be another quick 10 minute how-to in a staff meeting.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Wordle - A web 2.0 Tool

Wordle is an awesome website that allows you to create a "word cloud" of different vocabulary that could be from any task, lesson, or subject.  There are many applications, and the best way to do it is to just try it.  Here is the Link:

Here is an example:

Critical Thinking Questions

Tips for Designing Critical Thinking Questions (Again this is from the workshop I attended):
Designing Critical Thinking Questions

More Resources:
Print and Electronic Resources

Bloom's Taxonomy - Revised

This was very interesting. Bloom's Taxonomy has been updated and put into a new schematic.

You can check it out here:

Critical Thinking Redeux

Last year we worked on some Critical Thinking strategies and ideas as a part of our school success plan.
I have some new things I picked up this year at a great inservice at the Board Office.
I will post links to some of the Google Docs pages here.

Dropbox - Easy, and Essential

How are we going to move, save, copy and access files on iPads? There is a great, free solution! Dropbox is a free program that works on all platforms. So you can use it on your computer at home, an unlocked computer at school, and on any iPad, iPod Touch, Playbook, or Android device.  I think a quick 5 minute staff meeting inservice on this would benefit everyone.
Let me know if you are interested in this one.  Here is a guide to Dropbox:

It's like a magic! Everything you drop in there is instantly available on all your devices (as long as you have installed Dropbox on it.  Up to 2 gb of data is free!

Link to Workshop Handout:

Edmodo - Social Environment for Class

I took a really interesting workshop at the board office on Edmodo.  You can access it here:  It is a social networking environment for a group of students and a teacher.  The interface is very similar to Facebook, but it is an environment controlled by the teacher.  It can be a starting point for a class in the computer lab, where the teacher has given an assignment that all the students instantly access, work on and send back to the teacher within the Edmodo environment.  It could work as a mobile environment if enough students were linked with iPads, iPod Touches, and/or computers.  Everyone could be accessing, and working collaboratively on their own device.  Here is a screen shot and brief overview from Edmodo's Website:

Engage your students

Collaborate, exchange ideas and share content in a secure, closed environment

Engage your students
  • Provide a safe environment for differentiating instruction with one-to-one or whole group communication.
  • Create an anytime, anywhere mobile learning environment with smartphone apps and mobile site.
  • Provide easy access to projects, classwork and school events through assignments, quiz builder, calendar and gradebook features.

Here we go!

Okay, here we go! I am going to try to blog, and share the Techie stuff I am learning through Professional Development Workshops, and just from playing, exploring and learning on my own.  I started out on a computer in Grade 10, and sat facing a blinking white cursor on a black screen.  I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Of course, I was comparing that to my Grade 9 typing class that used type writers from the cold war era, a room full of the click clacking of metal keys striking the ribbon. I hated typing, and never attended the class.  I never missed a single computer class though.