On Friday, March 26 I met with a group of pre-service intern teachers from the University of Lethbridge.  I’ve had an intern teacher in my classroom since Christmas, and it has been a fantastic experience for both myself and my students.

I met with the cohort of pre-service teachers to share some of the ways I use technology in the classroom, focusing on connecting with the world.


Polycomm/traditional VC – This system offers high quality connections and works great within Alberta, but I find it a bit cumbersome.  Sources of information and connections:

Collaborations Around the Planet – Will send daily emails with new opportunities

VC Alberta – A great source of experts, tips, and how to videos (one featuring me…!)

2Learn Regional Network – An Alberta provincial network of VC contacts

Skype – a fast free way of connecting around the world.  Fast becoming the main VC medium in education.

Skype in Schools Wiki – a directory of teacher Skyp contact info from all over the world.

Edublogger – another great list of contacts

Around the World in 80 Classrooms Ning and Blog – Silvia Tolisano’s blog and Ning all about her Around the World with 80 schools project.  she connects classrooms all over the world with Skype.

Skype an Author – Authors that will Skype with your class!

50 Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom

A Blog Post about Using Skype in the Classroom packed with ideas and resources (more than this one!)


RSS or Really simple Syndication is a great way to read blogs, news updates, and even sports.  You can bring all of your favourite sites into one place to read them on a daily basis.  It is like a newspaper, but a newspaper you can customize to deliver only the content you want to read.  I use google reader to collect all of my feeds.


Twitter is my best tool to connect with like minded educators.   I can share ideas, ask for help, and get new resources and ideas.  A great list of twitter in education resources. I could talk forever…watch for a new post soon about how I use twitter in the classroom.

Being a teacher who uses a lot of technology and integrates technology into the classroom I worry about the level of screen time I expose my students to.  I try to get the kids outside and active as  much as possible.  I do this a lot through geocaching, and in regular physical education classes, but I wanted to challenge the students with an extra project.

My students are going to run a marathon!  I love to run, and generally run about 30 km a week.  I ran my first half marathon in February, and was very proud of running the entire 21km in 2 hours 26 minutes, even in snowy, cold, very icy conditions! 

Over the month of April my students are going to run an accumulated distance of 40.2km, which we will be tracking on our class blog.  To track our distance I am going to have the kids wear my Nike+ Sensor and use a school ipod to connect to.  The last 2km will be part of a community fun run on May 15 where we can celebrate our achievement with everyone.

I love my Nike+!  It tracks my run distance, speed, and gives me a profile of my trek.  The Nike+ website keeps a running total of my overall distances and pace.  I can compete in challenges with other runners, and constantly monitor my progress.  I love it, I even manage to “tech up” running!

I think that using the Nike+ will be very motivating for my students as well. On the day when they get to wear the sensor I’m sure they will run extra hard. I can use the graphs as part of math class and tie in their own personal data into our lessons. I can post the run results and share our progress with the parents and school! I can’t wait!

For the second time I attended and presented at the Teacher 2 Teacher Conference in Bow Island, Alberta.  I had a fantastic time meeting and connecting with some of my favourite tweeters and bloggers.  I met @dougpete @jameshollis @langwitches @rmbyrne @techchick94 among others!

I found some great new resources and was reintroduced into some I had forgotten about.  Check out these useful sites:

ToonDoo: http://www.toondoo.com/ – a comic creator

Scribblemaps: http://scribblemaps.com/ – Draw all over google maps

Many Eyes: http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/ – Data Visualization, graphs, word clouds, very useful!

Magnetic Poetry: http://www.magneticpoetry.com/play.html – create poetry one word at a time

Flavors.me: http://flavors.me/ – Create visual CV from content all over the internet – Use it with older students to show them the impact and lasting affects on their choices.

Blabberize: http://blabberize.com/ – like Crazy Talk – bring your photos to life, add audio and they will talk!

Screentoaster: http://www.screentoaster.com/ – Screen recording – very easy!

Zimmer Twins: http://zimmertwins.ca/ – story starters (and endings) in the form of a movie.  Students plan, write and create the end of a story.  Very neat!

Boolify: http://www.boolify.org/ – teach kids Boolean logic and search techniques

Coverit Live – http://www.coveritlive.com/ – a live backchannel, sharing chat you can embed in another site and archive for future use

Bomomo: http://bomomo.com/ – a memorizing graphic creation site

The Big Picture: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/ – a great source for lesson starter photos to create discussion and interest

Anagram Generator: http://wordsmith.org/anagram/ – make anagrams to practice vocabulary or put into smart lessons

Awesome Highlighter: http://www.awesomehighlighter.com/ – add highlighting and sticky notes to a webpage, it create a new URL that directs to the website with your “additions”  This could be used with Jog the Web to highlight information you want students to focus on in a webquest

Vorbeo: http://vorbeo.com/ – add a poll to your website, your students will love it!

Lovely Charts: http://my.lovelycharts.com/ – an online diagramming application, mindmapping, very nice visuals, and very smooth

Lino It: http://en.linoit.com/ – a lot like wallwisher, but you can add photos to add comments around!

Sharetabs: http://sharetabs.com/ – create one page with thumbnails of other websites to click on and visit.  Great to compile a list of sites for students to use for research a particular topic

I’ve been working with my grade 6 class on using Prezi.  They love it!  The first class we played with features, inserting pictures, and just getting used to the controls.

Then I had them plan out stories making webs of characters, settings, and plot details (click on the photo to go to the actual Prezi):
We were writing about pirates! Once the plan was in place I had them create their stories, again using Prezi. The zooming presentation tools allowed for their to be more motion when the story was exciting, breaking the story into logical sections, and adding interest by having particular sections highlighted. This is Cassidy’s story, you can click on the image to get to the Prezi – I love her opening – she gets the action going right away!
This is Nick’s story. He has quite the sense of humour!
Prezi added a new level of interest and enthusiasm for story writing!

I signed up for the Read Around the Planet collaboration project on the CAP (Collaboration Around the Planet) Space Website.  I was paired up with an educator from Louisiana to share some learning and literature with.  The other educator was a science teacher learning about fossils and wanted to theme our video conference around dinosaurs.

This reminded me of a geocaching project I had seen in the Educaching resource.  The idea was to read the picture book, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins.  It is about Waterhouse Hawkins, an artist, who created the first life sized models of dinosaurs based on fossils.

The students then go out geocaching and collect “fossils” from the each cache to create their own 2D dinosaur skeletons.

This is where I started to expand the project from it’s original idea.  The student used a collection of dinosaur bones to build their diagrams, then I gave them modeling clay to create 3D models based on their 2D diagrams.  This was a difficult shift in perspective for them.  They had to add depth and dimension, and modify their designs so that they would actually stand up!  Scaling the dinosaur down from a 11 1/2 x 17 inch diagram to a 10 cm model (we’ve been working on metric to imperial conversion so I often use mixed measurement systems to have them relate back and forth)  was very difficult for the students, they often exaggerated one part of the dinosaur such as the head or legs.

I always like my students to have an audience for their work so our Read Around the Planet collaboration was the perfect opportunity to show off our creations, and explain the process of our creations.  The presentation by the class in Louisiana allowed us to enhance our learning by looking at some of the science behind fossils and how they are formed.  Their presentation complimented our learning nicely.

One of my outcomes in Math is learning decimal places to the thousandths and ordering and comparing decimal numbers to the thousandths.

The Olympics have been a perfect opportunity to teach this outcome as timing in many sports is to the thousandth of a second, a perfect real world context for decimal place value!  Luge, Skeleton, Short Track Speed Skating, and many skiing events all have very precise timing that could be pulled into a mathematics lesson.

I used the game Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics to collect data for a mini unit on comparing and ordering decimals to the thousandths.  It provided a fantastic context for learning.  The students were completely engaged, and amazed at how fast thousandths of a second flew by.  They understood very quickly that decimals are parts of a whole.

They each too a turn to collect a time and we recorded all of their times.  I have never seem a class so excited and engaged to learn about decimals!

Our top four times in the snowboard cross:

1:02.272 – Sam

1:06.730 – Mr. V

1:08.430 – Michael V.

1:15.081 – Mariana

We used the data we collected in lessons all week.  We learn how to say decimal numbers out loud, added and subtracted decimals, and ordered and compared decimals.  The students learned very quickly that the smaller decimal numbers, meant lower numbers, which meant finishing ahead of the other racers.  This is a difficult concept, but a game made it very clear and concrete for them. 

The more I look at games as a context for learning, the more I see the value and potential.  I do worry about the amount of screen time my students receive already, the next project will have to be something outside as the Canadian winter begins to thaw!

Below is a Prezi I put together about Games Based Learning, looking at the background research for and against using games in the classroom.

Graham Foster worked with the Calgary Catholic School Division as a Language Arts supervisor and now works as a writing consultant.  I was privileged to work with him no a project developing student exemplars for writing.  His book  Exemplars: Your Best Resource for Student Writing has several works in it written by my students or myself.  Every time I see his name as a presenter I make sure I attend.  I always learn something new.

His presentation today was all about using Writing in Social Studies.  His went through an interesting progression to develop a higher level of thought and writing in social studies.

  • Create deliberate inquiry assignments – get to higher level thinking – force students to take a position (personal judgment) and support it with reasons and facts
  • Guide use of pre-writing that works for deliberative inquiry (persuasive writing) assignments – RAFTS (ROLE, AUDIENCE, FORMAT, TOPIC, STRONG VERB), T charts, webs
  • Guide students with drafting, introductions, and conclusions – have students deconstruct an essay to show how to build one – use an exemplar!  Tear apart the exemplar and build it back up using the planning structure.

Drafting Advice:

  1. If you have nothing to write on the draft and the page is blank, the prewriting has failed you.
  2. Often it is better to writing the opening paragraph last
  3. Talk is a powerful strategy for writer’s block
  4. Maintain your flow – make any problems, but keep going
  5. Write on every second line to leave room to cross out
  6. Have a very strong interesting introduction(ask a question, state a startling fact, state a foolish or incorrect view, use an effective quotation)
  7. Bring writing together in the closing (answer questions posed in your intro, emphasize a point of view, warn or give a statement, offer an alternative viewpoint)
  • Guide students in revision with specific criteria related to deliberative inquiry writing – Pick out the really important things that must be included in the writing. WISPS – Words, Information, Support, Position, Spelling

Examples of revision criteria:

  1. I included important information related to the assignment
  2. I clearly state my position in response to the question
  3. I give reasons to support my position
  4. I use words that clear and accurate
  5. I have made corrections for punctuation and usage
  6. My paragraph begins with a topic sentence
  7. Every sentence in my paragraph clearly relates to my topic sentence
  8. My concluding sentences emphasizes the action I am recommending
  • Create exemplar lessons focused on elements of deliberative inquiry writing – collect student writing to use with students.  The power in providing examples of positive and negative is immense.  Students rise to high expectations and have a direction.  Think about lessons on introductions, conclusions, and adding showing not telling details to writing.

Be clear in your own position, but be respectful and acknowledge the perspective of others.    Make your personal decision clear, and support it!