Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Go ahead! Go Animate!

Posted: April 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

goanim1Did you know: “Trainers and educators have long known that the use of video increases levels of engagement and retention.”  This the second line of Gary Lipkowitz’s article about Goanimate in Learning Solutions Magazine.  He is writing for the business education market… but really, aren’t we all still kids?  For the under 17 classroom, engagement is the key, and if students are creating something using their language skills to make each other laugh…. they are still learning english!

I discovered this tool through a great blog recommended by Mark Miller called: is a digital storytelling tool, a spin-off from the Goanimate site. It is a cloud-based digital storytelling tool so there is no software download required.  You choose a basic scene and then add frames to the reel to create a story.  You can change the scene, add charaters that move.  You can get even more creative with movments, gestures and emotions.  Voices can either be added through a mic recording or a digital voice that will read your text.   The school-version of Goanimate solves the problem that this education website points out – that regular Goanimate characters can drink beer, fight and kiss.  I could not find beer drinking in the Goanimate4schools site.

I was able use a demo teacher account to try out the tool.  There are basic settings that are geared towards classroom use.  The teacher can create an account and add their students to their class. Then students can create videos to put into the class account.  In this way the teacher can monitor the content and progess of the videos.  It looks to me like the teacher can have quite a bit of control over content and they can even comment on them directly to the creator.  Classmates can also easily view each other’s videos.

Here is what I was able to make in less than 20 min of playing around:

Marne’s go animate video

Looks like it is about $350 for a school of 200 students… so not cheap! But the good news is that the free account includes 1 teacher with up to 100 students.  There seem to limitions to the free accounts such as character choices and video length (2min).  These limitations do not seem to be a problem most blogger/teachers I read.

There are several format options such as Anime, where you basically write dialogue in a fixed scene, or magna style where your characters resemble Wii charactors (magically floating on unattached appendages!).

What I really love about this tool is it requires students create dialogue that is in context.  They can add gestures and emotion to the characters which can help students make sentences to actual language meaning or the teacher can create a setting and students would have to  create dialogue to match the gestures.  For example, if your character is asking a question, you can have the character do a thinking gesture.

go anim 2What are they doing with it?
The blogger, Oldschoolteach, uses Goanimate4schools to create unit introductions and grab the attention of her elementry students.  She creates animated math problems and she finds that students pay closer attention to content presented in an animation.  I found another blogger, Mary Cooch, Moodlefairy, who thoroughly explains her experience with Goanimate4school.  She finds it quick and pratical for kids to learn to use.  She has them use Goanimate4schools to present content they have learned.  Because they are all students in the same class/account, they can share their animations easily with each other.  Teacher/Blogger Kelley Tenkely of ilearntechnology finds that Goanimate  offers students and teachers creative altnernatives to book reports, diaoramas, reports or oral presentations.  She offers  some great ideas for language projects and oral practice too.  It seems to me that Goanimate would work well for developing and evaluating the English Second Language Competences in the Quebec Education Program.


Ipads in every class?!  Ipad for each student!!! YES !?!?

impage source

image source

This is a topic that most people in our Computer Apps class at ULAVAL have likely written about for this project, but rightly so.  It is a major topic in education right now.  School are hollowing out music and gym budgets to create mobile iPad labs or provide one for each student.  Yikes, did you know that the price of one ipad is equivalent to some schools’ entire Physical Education budget for the year?

Why iPad?
I work at a school which recently sent 6 staff to Texas for a week to observe a school that is completely iPad equipped.  Apart from that being a pricey trip in itself, they are also planning on equipping 2 complete classes with iPads next year, in addition to their existing roaming kits of 16 iPads.  This is a major investment.  But after the Texas team came back, it was a no-brainer for them.  They saw the benefits at work and the school as well as the parents are in the process of fundraising for the project.  And they are not even considering tablet, it is only iPad.

Adam Webster, assistant director of learning at a secondary school in England  posted the 5 reasons ipad will stay king of the classroom on his post at  edudemic .com.  It it he refers the SMAR model to prove his 5 points:

  • It’s not a laptop
  • Creative Flow
  • Apple Eco System
  • Focus on Education
  • Aspirational

His article is really worth a read.  He talks about why iPad cannot be matched in the classroom.  He even boldly states that that of all the educational applications out there “I would say that 60-70% is specifically to do with iPads or other Apple technologies.”

But what are they doing with them?
The ideas for Ipads are endless.  The blog Ideas for Teachers features many, one of which is the iMovie Trailer app.   The author noted that  integrating the iPads “engage and inspire even the most reluctant of workers.”  And isn’t that the whole point?

I have seen this in action myself with a group of grade 6 students.  After one afternoon of playing with iMovie Tailer, they were given the assignment of creating a trailer for a book that they had read.  In 1 hour, 3 out of 5 groups had a full trailer to show the class (one group  “lost” theirs but they said it was done too).  The program guides you on the kind of shots  you need for each frame (close-up, group, action etc).  Apart from 2 boys who were astray, the rest of the class worked diligently on the project and were begging for more time.   The biggest bonus I saw was the pride in the completed project.  Several kids stayed at the end of the day to admire their own work.

I found a wiki\blog by a school in the United Sates that began a 1:1 pilot iPad project (one for each student).  They reported on how their teachers were using the iPad in the classroom.  I found it interesting that the principal commented that  “many of the critics claim that we are backing our students into a corner by giving them one brand and one skill set to learn exclusively on one device.”  He feels that the educational engagement benefits far outweigh this concern.

Here are some ideas of activities that I found interesting:

What do the kids think..
Well obviously if you ask a student, what ever their age, if they would like to learn on an iPad, I am fairly sure 99% of them are going to say YES!  This website has student comments regarding the new program that includes iPads in the classroom.  Most comments include the word FUN.  They find everything more fun if it is screen-based! They have the impression that they are playing, not learning.

What is missing still?
Again I site Adam Webster, but this time from his new blog (when does this guy have time to work?).  Although he pumps iPads in the classrooms, he thinks that educational support apps are still lacking.  One missing tools in particular he would like to see is a “heads up app” which would allow teachers to control the live screens to shut them down and pull students attention to something else other than the screen.

The logistics

This school has a website that tracks the introduction of  a 1:1 iPad program in their school.  Each teacher essentially blogs about the  project and how it looks in their classroom from teaching the kids the procedures and rules to elaborating on projects.  The big takeaway from this website as well as this guide to iPad 1:1 integration is that there is needs to be a well planned and thought out structure for putting iPads into classroom.  It is not a toy that you let the kids figure out, iPads foster an embedded curriculum that includes responsibility  digital citizenship and technical skills.   Unless the integration is not well thought-out, these aspects could be missed and the benefits of the program will be reduced.

And in the end… maybe if we give each child an iPad to learn and create with instead of a notebook, maybe we will get more presentations like this one – it is worth watching!



QR code to this post!

I am not a iphone user, and my iMAC melted so I am not very app-savy, BUT we do have an ipad at our house so I am aware of the world of apps.  I became of QR codes at a dinner party as my i-friends scanned a bottle of wine they like and had all the info they needed from SAQ.  I only thought of them as consumer product codes until today.

The basics – The QR code is a web link to a site, document, picture, map… whatever can be posted online.  With a QR code reader app (mac) or picture-interface app on an android pohone you read the codes and are directly linked to the site.  I was surprise at how effective the readers are.

I have a brilliant gym-teacher friend who is innovative and way outside of any sweaty gymbox you have ever seen.  She does an activity with Celtic sports stations.  Until this year, she modeled each station herself and hoped that kids would stay engage for the 5 – 7 min they were at the station.  This year she linked QR codes to videos or historical facts about each sport.  Now,  students arrive at a station and scann the QR code with the ipad already there and after seeing someone in action participating in the activity they want to try it.  Brilliant.  As she told me, kids that are into the activity still are, and the kids that might lose interest quickly, now have a digital carrot to keep them engaged.

Once I started looking there are lots teachers blogging and writing  about using QR codes in their classrooms.  THE Journal interviewed one teacher, London Jenks, who has students use their iphone or android device to participate in science scavenger hunts as well as checking answers.  He talks about the hurdles of ensuring all students have access, but solved this with online tools as well.   I even found a link to a QR Periodic table of elements – what a great tool to learn and self-test!

Kathy Schrock writes a blog about technology in the classroom and in one post lists a tonne of links to QR ideas and resources for teachers.  She gives several options for free QR code generators as well.  One of her links lead me to, a blog by Sean Sweeney about using technology in language learning.  He has posted about what QR codes are and how to use them in education.   He has a 9 part series of posts that take you through how to create QR codes, read them and then the many activity ideas he has discovered for K-12.  The big take-away for me was the engagement QR code activities ensures.  Highschool students love their cell phones, and elementary grades are keen on any activity with the ipads or ipods.

Speechtechie points his readers to Kaywa to gnerate QR codes.  I tried it out by creating a free member linked to my Google account.  They have a great little tutorial that shows the difference between dynamic and static codes. Kaywa allows options like tracking activity or editing QR codes but you have to pay for this.  I made my code and tried it out… you can too!  All the QR codes in the blog are ones I have created.


QR code for google form

I really liked the Speechtechie activity that had kids represent themselves by a picutre.  These pictures were then linked to a QR code and classmates would scan them and have to guess or remember who was connected to the image.  I can see this tool uses as an oral interaction activity where the student would scan a QR code  to connect to information they need to respond to their teammates questions (orally of course).

Catlin Tucker offers several more engaging ideas in her blog included putting QR codes on assignments to offer help or enriched learning.  I also liked her ideas to create a QR code wall of fame in the classroom and using QR codes to advertise school activities.

The use of QR codes in a school without ipad access introduces the question of mobile device rules, but as London Jenks points out allowing them “provides them with access to the same technologies outside of the classroom.”  It also offers the chance for these students to further expand their digital potential.

Check out this video with this little QR code genius!

Scanhere to see a great video of QR in action in a classroom

There are schools that are really pushing for this… all be it, 20years after we were promised the paperless society!  There is a school in the states that has gone so far as to Copyright a document that takes teachers step-by-step on how to do everything from a Google Drive.  North Canton City schools in Ohio shows teachers how to create templates, accept assignments and even grade them with comments in their document The Paperless Classrooms with Google Docs.  I really like how students have to share their assignment with their teacher and then go to the submission template and put in their name, date and link to the doc.  This really makes sure that they can’t say…. “but I sent it, I guess the email didn’t go through!”

But really is this feasible, can we move from the desk-top to the lap-top in class? As  teacher I love the option of avoiding the photocopy line-up, as well as the “lost paper” syndrome we are all prone to.

flubaroo marking graph

I can see the forms option used as a way to offer  quizzes or end of class check-ups.  All of my students can share a class folder with me and I can just direct them to a certain document to complete a survey of learning.  Then I receive a nice neat table in my inbox with their responses.  As long as you create an answer key, the Flubaroo add on does the marking for you, offering a graph of marks and the option to email results to students.  I explored Flubaroo and it really will help me with marking!

It seems to me that Forms are the most powerful tool for schools – eudemic has found 80 ways to use google forms in your classroom.  Most are based on surveys to simplify classroom administration for such things as parent replies, student info, class trip registration or fundraising.  These may seem trivial, but if I can have all of these housekeeping tidbits in one place (my gmail inbox)  I may just save 7 min per day of searching ( this turns out to be almost 24 hours per year!). offers 52 ways think about using Google Drive in the classroom.  some of my favourites are – kick slackers off a project (literally take their name off a list) and getting feedback before you hand in assignments – using Flubaroo.

But what about the kids? how would it work for them?

Thomas Barret writes a blog about educational technology and did a paper comment survey (on his former blog) with his students after they completed a project in teams with Google Docs.  Their frustrations were mostly around simultaneous document sharing but they really liked the chat feature.  OF COURSE they did, this is how our digital natives communicate now.  He outlines that just like any classroom activity, we need to model and lead our students when they are using a new tool.  To reduce frustration I would structure collaborative writing activities with a pre-made document with group members identified.  This would eliminate the time they would take to get started and would teach them an approach for future projects.  I think kids would enjoy not having papers  to keep track of.  I already have students that take notes on their Ipods, why not do group work or tests on them too?

Making the my teacher  life better? (what I really mean here is easier)

I found a really interesting and thoughtful account from one teacher-blogger, Mr Hardison.  In his post on, he presents a case study of using Google Docs to increase his teacher superpowers.  He harnessed the powers of Google Forms to reduce his marking and compress his planning.  He gave students ID numbers and projects IDs and used a series of peer sharing structures to help them perfect and critique each other’s writing.  The peers were each given an essay to mark, using a form and for the final mark, Mr Hardison only assessed the Google Form completed by the marker (as the marker’s mark).  I loved this idea of requiring peers to really read and understand their fellow students’ texts and make thoughtful comments.

Google drive – keep anything, share everything.  That is their slogan.  It is a step in the paperless direction.

Digital Citizenship

Posted: April 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

digCit_contractEDMODO_091712_8.5x11I was born in the 70s.  I remember the first car phone that my uncle bought.  It was a huge box with a long spiral cord to the hand piece.  It needed to be charged for 12 hours a day. My first email was in 1995 at the university of Victoria.  I received top grades in my fourth year when I completed a project that reviewed the various websites on the subject of health and wellness.  in 2013, this would  be a grade 6 ELA project.  I am not a digital native as described by Marc Prensky in 2001.  Maybe this is why I am continually fascinated and impressed by the digital options and possibilities today.

We hear so much negativity about technology and how it is ruining society.  These sentiments come from people lamenting the good old days.  When life was simple and teachers could just rip up the notes passed around the classroom.  But the reality is that technology is here and we are teaching Digital Natives. We must teach them about Digital Citizenship and teach them how to be contributors to the digital community not just consumers.  I am always surprised how little students know about creative applications and collaborative options on the web.

I was in class last week and students were preparing short skits to be filmed about bullying.  I asked them if they had an Xbox with Kinect.  3 out of the 4 members of the team had one.  I asked them if they knew how to use xbox avatars to create their scenes. They had no idea they could create and film their scene digitally using their Kinects while not even being together.  I am looking forward to the presentations to see if they tried something new.  as teachers, it is our job is not be experts in al

l but to be aware of the possibilities and point students towards tools that might spark something.

According to, digital citizenship is about teaching today’s youth about “online proficiency, engagement and creativity

, rather than focusing exclusively on the ways in which digital media can be used detrimentally.”  I know a teacher (call him Mr Y) who created a twitter account for his grade 2 classroom and when he informed the parents of his plans he was met with a lot of negativity.  The parents were concerned that their children were too young to be on social media and they felt that they would be exposed to content that was age-inappropriote.  Mr. Y asked these parents if they were

consciously teaching their children about social media.  Did they want them learning from other kids? siblings?  Mr.Y considers digital citizenship part of an imbedded curriculum. He is teaching them to be contributors and collaborators on the web.  When I subbed in his class, they kids were excited to list their twitter followers for me, including national Geographic kids!  They understood that they had a responsibility to their followers and were thoughtful in their class posts.  There are lots of examples of how to use twitter in the classroom here, including using it as a way for kids to blurt out in class without disturbing the class!

The province of Alberta has published several documents regarding their Digital Citizenship program that has been implemented in the education system.  On their website, one section is devoted to Your Digital Presence.  I found this interesting as it is directed to both parents and students as well as their teachers.  One lengthy Document outlines digital citizenship as including responsibilities as well as earned and educated rights much as a citizenship to a country.  I found this program forward thinking as it attempts to educated our young digital learners.

The Alberta program links to for curriculum links and lesson plans.  It is an amazing resource with real programs that can be used with students starting in Kindergarten. talks about introducing “concrete concepts and behaviors” to students.  Yes!  Use the internet is a behavior, and, like eating at the table, kids need to learn about online MANNERS!!!  And if their parents are not teaching this, then fine schools like ours need to.

Another School board with some great resources is Lester B Pearson.  I was impressed by the fact they created an entire website called Digital Citizen Program to meet the needs of out little Digi Learners included parent resources.  It seems that we Canadians are very keen to stay ahead and go beyond the 3 Rs.  Is this the mark of affluence?  Does every child really  have a computer at home?  More research is needed  than I will perform this week (and perhaps a PhD?) but we must think about it.

As Marc Prensky states in his essay Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, “Smart adult immigrants accept that they don‟t know about their new world and take advantage of their kids to help them learn and integrate. Not-so-smart (or not-so-flexible) immigrants spend most of their time grousing about how good things were in the “old country.”

Class Dojo for ninja teachers

Posted: March 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

class dojo main

Every teacher wants the answer to classroom managmen and the answer is different for each person.  I have met some teachers who use Class Dojo.  Class Dojo is a real time behavior management application for classrooms.  Teachers can set up their class or classes on Class Dojo with icons, or avatars, representing each student.  Then the teacher can set up behavior criteria and award points to each student for showing these behaviors.  For example:  Team work, on task, prepared for class,  persistence etc.  You could have the Class Dojo screen showing on the IWB for students to see throughout the day or, as one of my colleauges does, you can have it on your Ipod strapped to your arm.  Some teachers have the application on their ipad and they keep it close to them in the classroom.

dojo classClass Dojo supports a classroom or school wide Positive Behavior System (PBS) by allowing students to accumulate points individually.  The teacher can also have a tally for the entire class and give class rewards.  Dojo has a fun interface with little monsters that can be customized, so kids might engage more and respond to the criteria.

I made myself a class with my students:  Simple Pie Man, Humpty Dumpty and Carol Burnett.  I then took attendance and awarded them points for good behaviors.  I invites parents (in this case i emailed myself) to create accounts and see their child’s report.  When I entered as Simple’s mother, I could see that today, Simple received points for being on task and working well in a team. (I was relieved because Simple has a hard time focusing in class!).  Simple’s teacher can send a report with 2 clicks in Class Dojo.  This is huge improvement over personal emails everyday.

Some comments on Rachel Owen’s blog Go Forth with Mrs Owens question the points and resetting them.  Basically you can reset the points to zero at the end of each class (secondary) or day (primary).  There does not seem to be a way of keeping track of points longer than that – but I am sure teachers can keep track of this if they want.  But maybe it is OK if kids can start anew each day!


Students role?

Nothing is hidden from the students either.  They can each create an account on the student Class Dojo site.  They can see their points for each day or class and change their avatar.  For the kids that like a laugh, they can surprise their classmates each day with a funny new avatar.

WHY Dojo?

In an article in the Huffington Post (UK) the Class Dojofounders L iam Don and Sam Chaudray state that “Four out of 10 teachers say they spend more of their time in class managing behaviour than teaching, time which they want to dedicate to the classroom.” They were looking for a way to make this part of teaching easier to manage.  The comments on this article were interesting as well.  One reader stated “I have noticed that it has helped my students identify WHAT they were doing incorrectly (out of seat/talking/etc) without me having to do the old, “Stop it, Johnny” routine.”

How are teachers using it?

I found a tonne of blogs by teachers talking about Class Dojo.  The general feeling is that Class Dojo offers a fun, easy way to give feedback to students and parents about classroom behaviors.  Most people love the application and are using it in the most basic way.  One blogger, Bianca Hewes, was super intense and has modified the behavior criteria to fit with her philoposhies related to “16 habits of the mind”.

Audrey Nay, a librarian blogger, uses Class Dojo for each class that comes to visit the library.  She tracks borrowing and overdues for each child in addition to her loan system for the books.

Richard Byrne writes a blog called Free Technologies for Teachers. (Did I mention Class Dojo is free?).  He keeps a treasure box where students can redeem their points earned for positive behaviors.  The rewards often include privileges that students enjoy like free time, use of the Ipad etc.  He chooses not to use subtract points options because  “[he] prefer[s] the students to focus more on meeting my expectations rather than on how they can disappoint [him].”

All in all, Class Dojo offers a fun, easy and visually intriguing behavior managment system.

Class-dojo avatars

Prezi Perfect

Posted: March 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

While searching for inspiration, I came across a presentation about mythical creatures made by someone .prezi logo It caught my attention because it zoomed in and out as I clicked through the topic. I immediately wanted to know more. So as soon as I completed the assignement I was working on (9 hours later?) I googled Prezi..

It was super easy to make a free account. This gives you about 10 prezentations for free but they have to be public and prezi essentially owns them. I then chose a theme from about 40 different options. The working page is familiar with a navigation column on the left and overall mangement choices on the top right. All I needed to do was click on the text boxes and insert my text. The text styles, graphics and placements were already there.
prezi screen 2

For my first presentation I fiddled for about 15 min to complete a basic 6 step format with no extras. I then lost the entire thing by viewing the presentation and clicking “back”. Great! However, the re-creation of my 6 step presentation only took me about 5 min. The only downside was that when I went back to try and imbed it in this blog, Prezi said I have not Prezis!!! But it still exists online, just not on my account. Wierd… more to learn!
Click here to check out my Prezi!

Here is a demo Prezi I build to show my Secondary 4 Practicum class the application. I am hoping they will try and use Prezi for their upcomming project presentation.

If you already have content in Powerpoint format, you can import it into Prezi and it will place each slide in a topic box.  Kevin Claveria writes a blog about marketing and he recommends to his followers to use Prezi for more impact. He even has a Prezi online resume to market himself and his services.

For a teacher, there are Prezis that are already there… and are really well done. There is no need to create content that you can just click on and use as added inserts for your class. Check out this one about social media.
Social Media 101 –

The movement of the ideas keeps the audience engaged and wondering what is coming next. Prezi also has creative audio options for presentations. You can have audio connected to each slide that moves in, or for the entire Prezi. Prezi allow you to insert videos, images and symbols to enhance the topic.

prezi logo

A teacher could use prezi as a tool but even better… introduce it to the students and they can easily transform their own ideas into fun, zooming shows. We have finally moved beyond the text effects as the only what to make a presentation interesting! Students can tell stories, present ideas, share information and explore their creativity. Paul hill thinks that Prezi is the way to go for presentations to students, however he cautions about over-using the rotate functions beause your students will get wise to the gimick or just get seasick!

There are a few critics who think Prezi is  a gimick.. but hey, prezi makes it fun.  Itsn’t that the meaning of it all? You really have to see it to understand how excited I am about Prezis!

And I am not the only one who is prezi crazy in this class….  Marianne writes a more humorous account of prezi than I ever could.  Sebastien has a very clean and business like take on prezi.  I am always amazed that we are writing about the same topics, but have completely different links and references… but essentially the same opinions!