Head over to the new site http://www.trailsoptional.com/ to find posts on:

Using the Nintendo DS for Vocabulary – My Word Coach

Using SimCity to teach Local Government and Civics

Using Images and Video to Teach Math – Quadrilaterals

Feed for the new blog  – here!

VC We had a very interesting video conference this week!  We used our new Polycomm mobile VC unit to connect with Big Valley, Alberta.  We were sharing two science experiments each as part of our grade 5 classroom chemistry unit.  The class from Big Valley showed us two chemical reactions.  The first was combining Potassium and varying concentrations of Hydrogen Peroxide.  The point of the experiment was to show evidence of a chemical reaction, and the evidence was very exciting,  The stopper flew out of the flask, across the room, the liquid turned yellow (produced iodine), a gas was given off (causing the stopper to go flying!), and heat was produced.  In the second experiment 15mL of Ethanol was placed in a 5 Gallon plastic water cooler jug and then the other teacher very carefully dropped in a match.  The students watched in amazement as a blue flame and loud pop burst out of the top of the jug.  We watched the teacher in Big Valley try the experiment again, adding new Ethanol to the jug.  We predicted that it would explode again when a match was added, but this time it didn’t react at all!  After discussion and observation we concluded that there was carbon dioxide in the jug instead of oxygen!

pepsiFor our experiments we looked at separating a gas and a liquid and surface tension.  We added mentos to pepsi,  The gas leaves the liquid very quickly!  The mentos causes a chemical reaction which quickly breaks the surface tension and allows the gas to escape very quickly!!  We did the experiment twice, once with room temperature pepsi (went about 1 meter in the air), then with cold pepsi (went about 6 inches in the air) so we could share the effect of temperature on the molecules in the pepsi.  I even managed to keep all of the pepsi in the catch basin!  We did the same experiment outside with a big bottle of pepsi and it went  about 14 ft in the air!

We also examined eggs that had been in various acids for over a week to examine the strength of acids.  The eggs had been in lemon juice, lime juice, pepsi, coke, vinegar, apple juice, and orange juice.  The shells were at different states of dissolving and the eggs were swelling and absorbing the liquids.  The egg in the vinegar was completely without a shell, making it the strongest acid.

Being able to share our learning and excitement with another class made our learning very exciting and engaging.  We were able to show what we knew and learn from other experts that are studying the same topic.  The added dynamic of science experiments added a strong visual component to the video conferencing experience.

I’ve finally taken the leap and moved my blog to a new domain: http://www.trailsoptional.com/ Please update your feed and subscribe to the new blog.  I look forward to moving the conversation to the new blog!

The first post is all about using the game My Word Coach on the Nintendo DS.

As a fun Easter activity I hid plastic Easter eggs all over the school yard and marked their co-ordinates on the GPS.  Each group had six eggs they had to find.  The catch was, inside the eggs, instead of sugary, unhealthy treats the students discovered exercises or “eggersizes!”  After they found the egg they had a task to perform outside.  They had a lot of fun with it.  Instead of sitting around eating snacks, candy, and being very unhealthy, we were outside, active, and having a great time!
It’s spring and while some people are cleaning out their yards or garage, geocachers are out checking on caches to see how they survived the winter.  When you hide a cache to go on the geocaching.com network there is a level of commitment involved in checking on it and making sure it is dry, hidden properly, and not causing any damage to the surrounding area.
I have 8 caches hidden.  Yesterday the snow finally melted and I headed out to check on my geocaches.  I’d had some reports in the logs that things were missing or damaged.
Flip for Baker logs:
I went prepared with new cache containers, new log sheets, new pencils, and my GPS to check co-ordinates.
I had reports that one of my micro caches (about the size of your little finger just had a log sheet, but no container, sure enough, I found the log, very wet from the recent snow. I replaced the log and container and tucked it back where it belonged.
I had to replace a few more full logs, and several caches were just fine (they must have been good hides in the first place!)
When I got to the cache Saskatchewan it was completely gone, but I had my new tennis ball cache ready to go. I hid it in the lower branches of the tree so a “muggle” would think it was just a ball caught in the tree if they spotted it, but a geocacher would have a second look at it.
My last cache of the day was Flip for Baker which had several logs posted that no one could find it. I had a new cache, a plastic lock and lock container covered in camouflage duct tape (you can find it in the hunting and fishing section of hardware stores!), ready to go. When I got there, to my surprise, it was right where it should be. I had set the co-ordinates on a cloudy day, and I think this was sending people off in the wrong direction. I marked the cache, uploaded new co-ordinates, and it was found almost immediately!
Geocaching is a great hobby, but remember if you hide a cache take care of it or it just turns into litter.  Happy caching!

I’m starting a unit about chemistry and it is very vocabulary heavy, so I wanted to find ways to teach vocabulary that are interesting, but effective in reinforcing the terminology. 

What I love about this lesson is that the technology is there, but it disappears to just become another engaging part of the lesson, not the focus of the lesson. The ideas here are nothing earth shattering or new, but when combined together they make for a very engaging, fun lesson, that really wakes up otherwise very boring topics.

Station 1: Vocabulary  Jenga Each jenga block was wrapped in paper and had a definition or vocabulary word, as they freed the blocks they had to match them, and if the tower tumbled they had to match them all!  I got the idea via twitter off of a blog which I didn’t bookmark, so it’s not original, but I loved it!

Station 2: Smartboard I had three vocabulary activities up on the board they were to work through as a group to match, drag, and review vocabulary.  They loved gathering around the board and trying things together, working through the activites.  A great use of technology embedded into a lesson instead of the lesson being about the technology.  The use of an IWB as a small group station is wonderful.  The level of student engagement is very high and a conversation about their learning always seems to develop.
Station 3: Paper Chains  The students had strips with a definition and a word (that didn’t match!) They had to find the matching definition that would connect to continue the chain. 
Station 4: Two Truths and a Lie  Students were given a word and had to come up with two facts and a lie about it.  Their group then had to decide what was untrue. 
Station 5: Head bandz  Students had words attached to headbands.  They had to ask questions of other people in their group until they figured out what word they were.
Station 6: Name that Mixture  Students had to identify what type of mixture was in the beaker, but it’s more fun that that.  There were six mixtures with 8 labels.  They would have to run and match up six labels to six mixtures.  A helper would see if they were correct and if not they would have to race back and try to fix them up.  They were timed and would race to make matches.  A helper would check and then they would race back to fix when they knew how many they had correct.  You could hear cheers of,  “No it’s  a suspension!” or “It’s saturated!”  Very fun!  This one would have been labelled a heterogeneous mixture!
Station 7: Looping  I did this activity as a large group.  Each student is given a card with a word and a definition that doesn’t match.  One student starts by reading their definition, then the student with the corresponding word reads their word, then the random definition on the next car, leading to the next student, and so on.  Eventually it loops back to the original student.  We then race to beat our own times to see how fast we can loop through the definitions
I’m headed back to Dominica this summer to teach a two week course about integrating technology into the classroom.  I can’t wait!  It is my third trip down to the tiny island nation (not the Dominican Republic – look it up!) Everyone cross your fingers for no hurricanes. The Caribbean in July can be a bit touch and go! I’m also looking forward to hiking in the rain forest some more. It’s me way down in the pink in the photo!
The IT for Dominica project aims to provide professional development to teachers in the area of technology in education.  Our plan for this summer roughly looks like this so far:
Day 1

  • Getting to know each other
  • “Begin at the end” – Course aims and goals
  • Getting to know the lab
  • Setting up e-mail accounts
  • Introduction to Blogs

–      Existing blogs

–      How might teachers use blogs

–      How blogs fit in the classroom

–      Create your own blog: edublogs.org

–      Copy/paste into a blog from Word

–      View each other’s blog

Day 2

  • Tool of the Day: wallwisher.com
    • Web Use, Searching, and Safety

–      Typing programs (Bruce’s Typing Tutor and Dance Mat Typing)

–      Web Searching (Kid safe searching, image searching, ethical use)

–      Image Searching – Creative Commons and Ethical Use

  • Social Networking (Twitter, Facebook)

–      Internet Safety and Social Networks

  • Review Blogs

–      Add Photos

–      Add Links

Day 3

  • Tool of the Day: wordle.net
  • Social Bookmarking – Delicious
  • Exploring to find web sites for participants specific curricula: add five to personal blog
  • RSS Google Reader and building a network to find resources
  • Creation of a Dominica Ning to connect teachers
  • Blog Entry – Favourite web site that meets their classroom needs and discussion of student safety

Day 4

  • Tool of the Day: puzzle websites
  • Introduction to Wikis: wikispaces.com

–      existing wikis

–      describe how teachers may use a wiki

–      how wikis fit in the classroom

  • Curricular ties
  • Classroom wiki use examples

–          start Dominica Wiki

–          create your own wiki using Wikispaces

–          copy/paste into a wiki from Word

–          Pages, History, Discussion Settings on a Wiki

–          Inserting video into wikis from youtube and teachertube

–          view each other’s wikis

  • Blog Entry: Describe the difference between a wiki and a blog.

Day 5

  • Tool of the Day: Google Earth
  • Introduction to Podcasting
  • Audacity, Myna
  • Soungle.com – sound searching
  • Blog Entry: How can I use sound in my classroom

Day 6

  • Tool of the Day: wordle.net
  • Introduction to Glogs: glogster.com/edu

–      existing glogs

–      registering a class

–      create a glog

  • Blog Entry: Educational uses for Glogster

Day 7

  • Tool of the Day: Animoto.com
  • Video in the classroom
  • Jaycut, Masher, Goanimate, Xtranormal, MeMoov
  • Blog Entry: How can video enhance teaching?

Day 8

  • Tool of the Day: Woopid.com, Google Docs, Open Office
  • Productivity Tools
  • Marking and Storing Grades Excel, Engrade
  • Blog Entry: Web 2.0 vs. Productivity Tools – where should our efforts focus?

Day 9

  • Tool of the Day: picnik.com, taggalaxy, flickr
  • How to make the best use of limited resources
  • What can I do with one computer
  • What other tools do I have to use in my classroom
  • Cell phones in the classroom

Day 10

  • Tool of the Day: Prezi, Ahead – Presentation Tools
  • Discussion: How to bring about change, sharing, and collaborating
  • Show and share day
  • Course Evaluation