June 2009

As I integrate technology more and more into my classroom, I feel it is my responsibility to not only teach students to use technology, but to teach them to use it wisely.  I’ve used the usual presentations with guidelines, rules, statistics, and facts, but I wanted to create a project where they learned how to be safe in a more hands on way.

Facebook is a very common site used by everyone from my grade 5 students, to my Mom.  I use the site to connect with family and friends who live far away, but I find it a bit static.  After an initial look at the profiles of people I haven’t seen in a while, not much changes.  It is good to create a closed circle to share photos and updates, but most people don’t use the security settings properly to create a safe, closed environment.  Many students don’t see the problem or consequences of posting all sorts of personal details on the internet.  I try to be a good role model in this regard by keeping my online presence very professional, and ed tech oriented.  My Facebook settings are very tight, with only friends seeing photos, updates, and my Facebook profile is available on search engines.  Photos are a big weak spot on the website, if you likeness is tagged in a photo ( if you tagged it or someone else did) your friends, and friends of friends can see it if you do not change the default settings.

To dig into the safety and security settings to show my students a safe way to use Facebook, I created a context for the students.  After reading the novel Holes each of my students was assigned a character.  This novel is good because there are 13 or 14 characters, so with two students to a character there is a lot of variation.  Each student built a profile on Facebook as their character.  This was great to dig into characterization and really understand the novel.  The students had to fill in favorite TV shows, books, music, and activities, as they would apply to the characters.  My kids really got into this, they liked to take on another role and put themselves in another’s shoes.  They had to choose a quot from the novel to use as the favorite quote section of the profile.  I created a closed group that everyone joined and could make posts and  they added each other as friends (unless they were enemies in the book – then they really enjoyed denying their friend requests).

Both before and after working on the website I was able to give a context for discussions on safety, show them why and how to change settings, and talk about pictures posted on websites like Facebook.  For photos for this project, I had the students create clay figures and take digital photos of them to upload to the website.  This really helped the student identify who was in our class when adding friends, especially since they were a few names that returned a few results in a search.  They could just then pick the character with the clay figure as the profile picture.

The best part was using the instant messaging chat.  I was very firm that they had to chat in character, or I wouldn’t let them continue.  They were really able to get the tone and dig into the events of the book as they rehashed them talking to each other.  Some really started to get into the motivation behind the characters as the other students asked them why they did certain things that occurred in the novel.  Often they didn’t even know who they were chatting with in the class, they were just speaking with another character from the book.  The more we reflected on out time online and talked as a class, the more I realized how much they really got out of the three short hours they spent on the website.


Instructional Technology (IT) is a constantly evolving field.  The ability to adapt is an absolute necessity to manage the needs imposed by emerging technologies, range of skill in personnel and students, troubleshooting hardware and software, curriculum, and budget concerns.  Technology increases the flexibility of educators (Alberta Education, 2004).  IT leaders guide and support this new found flexibility.  IT Leaders must respond and adapt to these rapid changes in order to best meet the needs of educators and students.

The primary outcome of an educational technology integration specialist, as opposed to a director or manager of technology, is to facilitate the integration of the Information and Communication Technology Program of Studies to educate students in the use and application of technology.  In education, an effective leader, IT or otherwise, must always bring the focus back to the students, and what is best for their learning and skill development.  An educational technology specialist provides leadership, support, and professional development to educators, helping develop skills and provide tools in the area of education technology.  Gibson (2001) characterises a leadership role in technology including the following tasks: addressing concerns, supporting teachers, participating in training, developing an inventory, developing a financial plan, maintenance, and developing expertise.  If an IT leader is expected to fulfill these needs in a school or in a division level, flexibility is essential to meet such ranging responsibilities.  Teachers need help to integrate and manage technology to create meaningful and curriculum based learning opportunities where the students are not just learning a new technology, but using technology as a tool to learn curricular outcomes from another subject.

If the key outcome is to enhance student learning, IT Leaders need to focus on providing assistance, expertise, troubleshooting, training, and help to teachers integrating technology in the classroom.  These tasks indicate that an IT leader has a diverse, continually shifting role.  The ability to adapt is essential to balancing and meeting the needs of the teachers and learners they strive to assist.  Whether it is finding a desktop sharing tool for video conferencing, changing course settings in a learning management system, choosing a blogging platform for an elementary classroom, or facilitating a cross classroom collaborative project, an IT leader is always juggling many requests, tasks, and assignments.  An inflexible leader that insists on a “Do as I do, now” (Fullen, 2001 p. 35) pacesetting attitude will not adapt to the change that is inevitable in an IT environment; they will just push forward, ignorant of resistance and problems.  Embracing change and leading through it can make all the difference.  An effective IT leader will adapt to change to ensure the essential outcome of enhancing student learning.

International Society for Technology in Education (2009) lists technology leadership standards that include “continual growth in technology knowledge and skills to stay abreast of current and emerging technologies.”  Change and growth are such a common theme in IT that keeping pace with development requires a personality that is open to change and moves with the changing needs, requirements, and advancements that will help to facilitate student learning.


Alberta Education. (2004). Learning and Technology Policy Framework. Retrieved April 2,2009 from http://education.alberta.ca/admin/technology/standards.aspx

Gibson, I. W. (2001). The Role of School Administrators in the Process of Effectively Integrating School Technology into School Learning Environments: New Research from the Mid-West.  In Tollett, J. R., Educational Leadership. [SITE 2001 Section] (pp. 43-47).  Retrieved June 25, 2009 from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/19/50/cb.pdf

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a Culture of Change. San Francisco: Wiley & Sons.

International Society For Technology in Education (2009). Technology Leadership Standards. Retrieved April 17, 2009 from http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForTechnologyFacilitatorsandLeaders/Technology_Leadership_Standards.htm

The first time I tried quiz questions on moodle I didn’t like the seemingly knowledge, comprehension only level, right wrong, rigidly structured, fact recall nature of them.

Then I realized it was how I was using the questions, not the questions. Blame the operator, not the moodle! I started to play with adding images and asking a series of questions about the images. I would mix different types, some short answer, true false, numerical, and multiple choice.

Then I discovered the embedded cloze question type. I caution you now, there is no WYSIWYG editor, but that’s the best part! With a few simple curly brackets you can create a series of questions, instead of just one question, off all different types, intertwined with text and pictures. The lovely help question mark circles how you how to format the questions, it’s really not that hard, you don’t even have to know HTML. I won’t go into a long winded explanation of how to format the information in the curly brackets, as the moodle question circle does a fantastic job, just look there!

Here is an example of what you would put in the question text box:

Petronia is person number {1:NUMERICAL:1~2~=3~4~5} She is carrying {1:MULTICHOICE: A sword~A jug~=Julius~Tiro} Everyone in this picture is rushing towards {1:MULTICHOICE: The Beach~Pompeii~Rome~The Bathhouse~=A Boat Chamber}

It comes out looking like this (I also inserted a picture):
This is a very simple example. Below is a more complex interpretation with a table and twenty drop down menus. It is important to note that this is only ONE quiz question.
Each picture has a drop down menu with the twenty possible options underneath. The students have to choose the correct caption for each photo. It is an excellent exercise that can be applied to all sorts of subject areas. This is just an example of the Multichoice option with a drop down menu. There are also traditional multiple choice select the dot options in both a vertical and horizontal row, numerical response, and short answer response.

gps zoomedAs part of my implementation of GPS technology in the classroom I decided to take my students on a day long caching trip to find geocaches on the www.geocaching.com network.  When I hind caches around the school they fit my curriculum goals, but they aren’t “real” geocaches.  Today was a day to explore and find caches hidden by other cachers.

As a class we’ve added a real cache to the network: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Planning started by finding a location with a reasonable cache densityCaches in a small area.  I found a perfect area in the river valley in Lethbridge, Alberta.  There are caches close together, of different sizes, and in varied terrain.  Some are up in the coulees (small valleys leading into a larger valley), some down in the trees, there were large caches, micros, and even a multicache.

I had six groups (only because I have 6 GPS units)  With 42 students I had 7 students in each group and at least one adult.  The students took turns with the GPS receivers.  I started each group at a different cache and gave them a detailed route to follow.  The students are very familiar with the GPS units, but I wanted to make sure the parents were comfortable.  I also gave the students hints that were covered up and they could uncover if they needed help.  The goal was for the students to be successful and find as many caches as possible, so with some planning they were successful.  I waypointed bathrooms and water spigots so the students could easily find them.  I added three Bonus caches that they could try if they got done the other nine planned caches along their route.

cacheplanIn the afternoon we went to our second location to have lunch, play some capture the flag to break up the day, and found three more caches.  I invited another class to come with us, a class I had cached with eariler in the year and who were very enthusiastic about the entire process.  We hid a new cache in their honour.  Check in out here:  Flip for Baker

The secret to a good caching trip is to plan and plan some more.  Have an information page for parents with tips, have a route planned out, different fore ach group, with cache names and the Geocaching label that shows up on the units (such as GC1811W).  Have the caches preloaded on the GPS units.  Go out ahead of time and check to make sure the caches are in place and in a safe location before you send the students.

Have fun and happy caching!

My pet project of the year has been using GPS receivers with my students.  I  love to share ideas and resources to get more teachers and students involved because I see so much power, learning potential, and I love that it is technology that incorporates physical activity.  Don’t hesitate to ask if you would like me to send you more information or resources.  I’ve presented on the project and have resources ready to go.  One of the resources I really like is Educaching, and I often reinterpret the ideas for my students.  It is well worth the small expense. (No, I don’t work for them or get any money – it’s just a good resource and there aren’t many out there for using the GPS in an education setting)

Next Monday I’m taking the kids on a uber-caching field trip!  We are going to have two classes of fifth grade students, looking for twelve caches on the Geocaching network.  Up until now I’ve been hiding my own caches in the school yard, customized to the units I’ve been working on with the students. We have a warm up trip on Wednesday.  We are headed to Beauvais Lake Provincial Park near Pincher Creek, Alberta for a wetlands pond study.  In the morning we are going for a hike and finding the four caches in the area.

When I’m caching with students I find it very important that each student has a job.  Each person in a group is assigned a role – my usual roles are: cache opener, cache replacer, photographer, clipboard holder/recorder, GPS navigator, and compass holder (I will often send an “old school” compass with a group so they can compare the two technologies.  I have six GPS units, so the roles depend on the size of your group and the number of receivers you have.   My GPS units are all on a lanyard so they go around the students’ necks and don’t get dropped (as often!)

Another great tip is always have extra batteries around.  I always tell the kids if they can’t find me take the batteries out of the digital camera I send with them as a backup – but when we are out caching I always make sure I have extra batteries in my pockets.

Some of the caching activities I’ve done lately, or that I am planning to do over the remaining three weeks of school are:

1) Hide Your Own Cache – I got the students to hide a cache – choose Mark on the menu to waypoint the location – then rename the cache to something fun (one of the boys choose pinkalicious – very fun!)  They would then trade the GPS units with another group and head off to find what the other group just hid.  They thought this was great fun and they got even better with the GPS controls and menus.

2) Multi-Caches – I hid six caches, and in each it had co-ordinates to a second cache (this meant hiding twelve caches on a treeless, flat playground – a skill in itself).  The students had to enter the new co-ordinates by hand.  I generally have the students download co-orindates directly on to the GPS units using  the  MapSource software that comes with Garmin GPS models – it is super fast and slick – but there is merit in learning how to enter co-ordinates by hand.


3) Sudoku Puzzle Caches – I had the students solve Sudoku puzzles in their cache groups.  Each row and column was labeled battleship style with numbers across the top and letters down the side.  After it is solved you give them the battleship coordinates to gain the GPS coordinates eg. D5 G2 Degrees N …..and so on.  They love the challenge! Email me (jen.deyenberg@pallisersd.ab.ca) or leave me a comment for a template for the Sudoku puzzles.

4) Matching Caches – For this one each cache has 6 of the same clue, and I had twelve caches.  Six caches had wetland animals and six caches had wetland adaptations.  After the six groups each collected the twelve clues they had to match the animal with the adaptation.  Very adaptable (hehe) to any subject or content area.

5) Fitness Circuit Caches – I hid 8 caches and in each was an exercise.  The idea is simple – find the cache – do the exercise.  It was a fun PE class and it kept them moving!

nticed_logoCheck out the winning proposal:  Innovative Project Proposal We just found out today that we are one of 13 finalists across Canada for the Microsoft Innovative Teaching Grant.  We get access to the Marvin software, training, and the opportunity to do a really neat project with our kids.   I’m really excited to use the Marvin software with my students to enhance their story telling.

The project is very new and is in the planning stages, but I will update our progress and how the program works as we go through the process!

This school year has been one of tremendous growth in my teaching and in my use of technology in the classroom.  In previous years I used technology consistently and came up with some great projects, but this year I tried everything.  I integrate technology into every unit, and I tried to engage and enhance learning with technology.  Below are the tools I’ve used this year, what worked well, and what I want to do next year:

1) Smartboard – This was my first complete year with an IWB.  I used it every day, almost every lesson.  Everything from the morning handwriting to the end of the day select a job list was posted.  I started to develop entire hyperlinked units on Smart Notebook.   My big project is developing Smart notebook lessons for each of the outcomes for the new Alberta Gr. 5 math curriculum, and I’m almost done!  What I’ve done has been posted to the district moodle site for all of the grade 5 teachers to use, and to hopefully make better and repost.

2) Moodle – I’m working on a paperless unit in Language Arts using Moodle.  It has an icon based, graphic user interface – I’ve blogged more detailed information here.  I’ve used moodle to guide the students through resources, websites, flash activities, and quizzes about extreme weather.  I used moodle to post photostories that the students created.  Each photostory has its own forum for the students to leave comments about each story.

3) Wikis – I’ve used wikis in several ways this year.  I worked on a collaborative writing wiki, with two other schools in the district.  The kids had fun with this, and it was a great way for kids to see writing of other kids and have to fit their style to match with someone else.  We have a wetlands wiki, where the students are going to use Glogs to create posters for a wetland creature or plant to post to the wiki.  The content on the wiki right now is from last year and will be updated over the last month of school, you have to leave something for June!

4) Blogs – I’ve had the students contributing to a class blog all about Canadian Identity.  We’ve had external contributions from a class in Florida, a class in Coalhurst, and a few of my twitter friends!  The students are making posts on all different topics about Canada using edublogs.  I’m using 21 classes to have the students develop individual poetry blogs.

5) Videoconferencing/Skype – Using a webcam and microphone, I’ve been trying to “flatten the walls” of my classroom by connecting with experts and other classes regularly.  My grade 5 students connected with a meteorologist from the Biosphere in Montreal during the weather unit, we met with a class from St. Louis to compare and contrast Canadian and American culture, and we’ve met on a weekly basis with a class from Hamilton to discuss Canadian culture, differences across Canada, technology and change, and we are going to learn more about ancient civilizations next week!

6) Podcasting – the students recorded summary podcasts of the videoconferences we’ve taken part in.  It was a great way to summarize and review what we’ve learned.  They are currently in the process of learning audacity and planning to record their own podcasts.

7) Video – The students used Flip video cameras throughout the year to record fun events.  We took video of fun science experiments and each time we went geocaching.  It is a great way to collect and review events and concepts.  The flip cameras are simple and easy to use.  We use windows movie maker to put clips together and make a longer video.

8 ) Jog the Web/Google Docs – These are two great stand alone tools, but they are even better together.  I can send the students on a guided webquest with jog the web, then at the end there is a google form the need to fill in to reflect on the sites they visited.  These tools are a great way to guide students through a website to maximize the learning, instead of a quick glance.

9) GPS – This has been my pet project of the year.  The students are using handheld GPS receivers to find hidden caches with clues to solve a problem, math puzzles, or other fun projects.  Expect many more blog posts on the project, this was the first.

10) Facebook – We create profiles of the characters from the novel Holes.  The students had to fill in profile information as the character, then they joined a Camp Green Lake Group and IM’d in character.  The level of understanding of the characters in the novel went way up, and the students had a great time digging deeper into the book.

11) Other Web 2.0 – Wordle, Voki, Doppleme, Elf Yourself, Interactive Game Sites – I love Wordle to illustrate a concept in words.  We created vokis out of novel study characters.  Doppleme is my favourite site to create avatars so the students aren’t tempted to upload their own photos for a blog or wiki avatar.  Elf Yourself was a fun Christmas activity doing some simple photo editing.

12) Google Earth – I had to put this one last because it is probably my favourite.  I’m a geography nut – Dad was an SS teacher for 32 years and the history geography stuff really rubbed off on me.  Grade 5 in Alberta is all about Canada and Google Earth is open almost every single SS class to make a connection, comparison, or just show the kids what Canada really looks like.  I found a great KML file for Underground to Canada to show the route taken in the book, and I use if for Math to show real world examples.  We found 90 angles all over the world last week!