Friday, December 26, 2008

What Am I Doing Up Here?

We, like most leaders, lead from the front.  But are we facing the right direction?

If we are to properly mentor our students shouldn't we turn and face challenges with them.  How else can we model constructive responses to successes and challenges?  I think I need a new seating arrangement.

Festivus, The Holiday for the rest of us!

This is easily the best news story of the holiday!

And if you are unfamiliar with the this particular cultural events here is a quick primer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Citizenship is not Digital

The tool you use to communicate does not affect the social norms of a society.  Start the flaming!  ;)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Mystery Box

I just noticed that I have not posted to this blog since May. Opps!

Lately, I have taken to watching a lot of (best website ever for teachers, parents...people). I have been particularly inspired by J.J. Abram's talk. Mystery, participation, and creativity are the things that build school and community.

You should watch.

Or follow the link back to and watch a bunch more.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Wacky Web Tales

Kids today have it easy. Ohhh, when I was a wee lad we had to learn parts of speech with endless worksheets.

"Underline the noun with blue, circle the verb with red, draw a green box around the adjective...or was it the adverb?"

"Mrs. Cunningham, I can't find my yellow crayon!"

Well, I think I have found a more interesting way to practice this skill, more specifically, Education Place has found it (I just put a link to it on my website).  The students enter in singular nouns, verbs, present tense verbs, etc. into the fields to make a goofy story; copy it into a blog post; and use Tux Paint to make a picture to go with it.  Check out a sample here.

Bah! Maybe I'll give the little whipper snippers some worksheets on these skills next week!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Creating Graphs

My grade 3 students are using this tool to make great looking graphs. I love this tool and if you need a program to make graphs check it out.

Check out our graphs here:

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Perceptions of Technology

How do we change this:

To this:

When most of the staff at my school view technology the image that comes to mind is the first. My goal (and responsibility) is to transform their perception of technology to the latter.

I am in the enviable position of having a school based administrator who shares a similar vision of how technology to can be used as a tool to enhance learning.  While planning for the next school year she is trying to budget release time for team teaching involving technology and inquiry based learning.

In my mind the only significant barrier remaining is that our system is based on the "lock it down" mentality. Every step in a process presents the students with another barrier. The current deployment of technology does not allow the students to remember passwords for frequently visited websites, they can not choose their own start page, and it makes the desktop apps we want to use unusable (Picasa, Windows Movie Maker).

How can I persuade my school division's administrators that our network should look more like a Swiss Army knife than a series of hurdles?

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Donna Desroches posted a link to Blabberize on Delicious the other day and the eight year old inside me fell in love with it right away. The problem is how to use it in the class.

I am spending some time during the break planning how to spruce up my Charlotte's Web unit for my Grade 3 class. Much of the stuff I have been able to think of is pretty mediocre.

Then I remembered Donna's link to Blabberize. It may seem pretty immature but I think it would be a great way to post a character sketch online at any age level.

Thanks to Donna for the link, coders who share my juvenile sense of humor, and social bookmarking!

PS - The embed doesn't seem to show up in Google Reader. :(

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Oh...Now I Get It

At our last in school tech support meeting I finally got to put my hands on an XO...but I didn't get it. It felt cumbersome and the apps seemed weak. The eee pc seemed like it had more usable software and was more...conventional. Just this evening I ended up at he XO website and was going through the demos and descriptions and it hit me like lightning. Its not meant to be conventional. Duh! (I'm amazingly slow sometimes.)

It isn't meant to operate in isolation, its all about collaboration, its about simplicity, and its about removing barriers. All the things our current technology is lacking.

Now I get it.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, March 17, 2008

Learning to Read with SMARTBoards

I have two daughters: Emma is five and Julia is six.  Julia took to reading like a fish to water. Instantly, she seemed to catch on to the idea that each letter represented sounds and you could use them to built words and those words to build sentences.

Emma is a different story.  When we would look at Dolch words or word families you can see her glaze over.  Quickly, she'll ask, "Can I play now?" She gets her attention span from her moth...Ohhh! Look something shiny!

Where was I?  Oh ya, reading.  I decided to give the SMARTBoard a try.  I wrote some words on the board and we read them together (I, a, the, see, cat, dog).  Next we moved them around to built sentences (I see the dog,  I see a dog, etc).  She was able to tell me some words that rhyme with cat (rat, mat, sat hat, fat).  Then she was able to use the words to make a sentence (I see the fat rat).  Of course she thought that was immensely funny.

She wanted to make a longer sentence and ended up with "I see a fat rat on a flat mat."  The part she liked best was when I suggested she make a picture for her sentence using Tux Paint. Yay, Tux Paint!

This experience reminded me of two important things:
1) My daughter is a kinesthetic learner.
2) It is much easier to learn when its purpose is clear.

I think this is the first time Emma has thought of herself as a reader and I could not be prouder of her.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Digital Photogrphy In Art

We were learning about lines in our art class and I had a chance to use a class set of cameras. We decided to go out into the neighborhood and find examples of differnt types of lines. We took about 400 pictures and posted them to Picasa Web Albums and then the students chose three to download, edit, and post on their blog. Not all students are done and many who think they are have some editing to do but I think it worked well. Here is a link to our class blog.

The students seemed to really enjoy the process and they were able to frame their photos much better than I would have expected.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Evaluation of Input vs. Output

First of all, I can count the total hours of sleep I have had over the last three nights on one hand.  Pardon me if I ramble.

I have been struggling with report cards for term 2 because I feel like I have a lack of "concrete" marks in a couple of subject areas.  I could not think why my marks seemed so thin.  Then it occurred to me that I was planning my evaluation wrong.

It seems to me that assigning a numeric value to the analyzing, mapping, and evaluating that students to during the beginning phases of a project is harder to assess than the final product.  We know good output; what does a summative evaluation of input look like?  I think graphic organizers are part of the answer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Just More Cowbell?

The school division has invested a lot of money in me and my class over the last year. We changed platforms over the summer and when I asked for extra computers in my classroom that request was approved, I was assigned a laptop to assist me in some committee work, I applied for a SmartBOARD as one the teachers chosen in a pilot program, and finally our school received a capital budget grant to assemble a mobile media cart.

Now the onus is on me to produce.

I need to make sure that all this technology (aka money) is going to help promote critical and creative thinkers, consumers and producers; it's not just more cowbell (Sorry, Bruce Dickinson).

Friday, March 7, 2008

"It Just Worked"

It is the best thing that you'll ever hear when helping a colleague.
Last year our school applied for a capital budget request to put together a mobile media cart.  Recently, we were approved and we started to oder and assemble the pieces.  All the core components have come in and I was able to built it this week.

UPS (You don't have to restart the computer when you move it)
External HD (Backups)
Card Reader (We have a mash of different cameras with different connectors/cards)
Keyboard (GarageBand)

Our music teacher had found a great video on YouTube about people making music with vegetables that she wanted to show my Grade 3 class and asked about the cart.

Here is how our conversation went (or at least kinda sorta how I remember it):
Jackie: Is it easy?
Me: Plug it in, press power on the projector.
Jackie: What about when I am done?
Me: Press power on the projector twice, put it back, and plug it in.
Jackie: Oh, ok.

When she brought it back I asked, "So?"
Her reply was simply, "It was so easy.  It just worked."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Finding the Right Tool Set

I find myself sometimes thinking, "I wish my students had this tool or that (i.e. GarageBand)" or "Cool!  That was just the right tool for the job!"  When I read about people using XO or eee pc it strikes me as being an effective compromise.  While doing some reading I found this post and I couldn't have agreed more.

The question it gets me thinking about is how do we as educators insure that we present our students with the right tool set for the task at hand?

Can we create an experience for our students that is collaborative, stable, promotes creativity, and easy to use?

VoiceThread Success!

Well, we tried VoiceThread earlier in the year and experienced some major difficulties.  We tried it again to retell First Nations stories from a unit we are doing about stories from around the world.

The Process:
1) Read the Story
2) Make jot notes
3) Write script from jot notes
4) plan and make pictures
5) upload
6) Narrate

1) The mics cut out frequently (still don't know why).
2) We had trouble loading the pictures onto a thumbdrive to upload to the server (we have gmail now).
3) I forgo to develop a rubric with the class first (oops).

The Product:

Monday, March 3, 2008

School Based PD on Digital Storytelling

Well, I gave my first tech PD of the year and I think that overall it was a success. I thought of several things along the way that would have made it better (i.e. brainstorming how we can integrate several tools through the curriculum).

The reason I think it was a success was:
1) Everyone completed their task.
2) They realized that it wasn't as scary as they thought.
3) Some staff made spontaneous connections between curriculum and the tools we used.

Areas that could be improved:
1) Limit the numbers of tools that we were using.
2) Have everyone in the computer lab (It was an In Motion day for me).
3) Thumb drives or an easier way to share for each group.

Final Products
Check out our work here:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Build Your Wild Self

I can't remember who posted this link (Donna, maybe?) but I love this website. Not only can you use it to have the students create an avatar without all the adds and sign ups, yadda yadda. What a great starter for a creative writing project. You could also use it to discuss animal adaptations.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

SmartBoard: Day 1

Well, today was the first day with my new SmartBoard and it was pretty cool. All the students got to try it out and they loved it...until it stopped working. :(

The two highlights of the day were:
1) Exploring the Great Pyramids with Google Earth (were learning about Ancient Egypt in Social)
2) Playing "Swat" in French. I said a number in French and the first person to point to the number on the hundred chart got a point for their team.

Not really deep stuff but fun none the less. Hopefully we can get the glitches out of the way and get into higher order activities soon!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

School Based PD on Digital Story Telling

I have to give a school based pd for teachers on digital story telling and I am having some trouble planning. Help.

I was planning to use the story of Three Little Pigs to have the teachers work in groups and I would assign them a set of tools to retell the story using those tools:

Group 1: Comiqs/Digital Camera
Group 2: VoiceThread/TuxPaint/GarageBand
Group 3: circaVie/FlashPaint
Group 4: Kerpoof

But then I was reading a blog from injenuity that Rob Wall shared. The person suggested throwing the tools into one hat and the objectives into another and mashing them up. The idea made part of me cringe and part of me grin.

I was also thinking that I should show them the tools, tell them the assignment, and let them choose the tools.

I feel that I could use some feedback on this idea. Keep in mind the goal is to expose my staff to the tools available and let them develop a comfort level that would allow them to use the tools with their students.

CircaVie Timeline of the Battlefords

There are pamphlets you can get that have a walking tour of the Battlefords. It would be cool to take your class on the tour and take pictures of the sites and then use them to make a timeline of the community. Fits in well with the Grade 3 social studies curriculum. Think I might try this in the spring.

Is it ok to type your thinking without a filter? Is that how you blog? ;)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Flickr Virtual Tour

I was playing with Comiqs after reading Donna DesRoches post about it and it got me thinking about switching from Google Web Albums to Flickr (or using both). While exploring Flickr I got the idea to do a virtual field trip with my students. We started a unit about Egypt in social studies and I was thinking that we could use the geotagging feature to take a "field trip" and then make a comic book of the tour. There a lot of excellent pictures people have posted.

My questions are:
1) has anyone done this?
2) if so are there any potential pitfalls I should be aware of?

Thanks for any advice you could give me.

P.S. My wife just suggested that I teach the students to photoshop themselves into a picture in front of the Great Pyramid. I used Photo Booth to take a picture of my daughter "in front of the great pyramid".

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mythology VoiceThreads

After making puppet shows for the Greco-Roman myths we decided to do retellings for our First Nations stories using VoiceThread and TuxPaint (Yay! TuxPaint!) The students read the story, made jot notes, and then retold the story in their own words. We are not done yet. One group thought they were done but something went wrong with a section of their audio. Oh well, we will finish after the break. Here's a sample:

Mythology Videos

The students are making videos from puppet shows they wrote after reading Greco-Roman myths. It worked fairly well. I think I may try a similar project using JumpCut later. Here's a sample:

Our Solar System

The students read about each of the planets in the solar system and made jot notes. The students drew and coloured pictures of each planet but we used Google to find pictures of the solar system because 21 kids + 1 scanner = 1 huge pain in the but. We used Windows Movie Maker to make the videos and raise my stress level (constant crashing and loss of student work). The were far less shy about narrating their videos than I thought they might be. Here is a sample video:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Social Studies Video

The students made models and took pictures of items related to First Nations of the Great Lakes region. We generated class notes based on what we learned while making the models. The students choral read the notes for the video. The students really seemed to enjoy this process.

The Toilet Paper Solar System

We made a video to show the students the relative distances of the planets in our solar system. It seemed to work well and the students enjoyed it.