Friday, February 27, 2009

The Paperless Classroom
Uploaded on October 21, 2008
by Jonathan D. Blundell

We're always trying to think of new ways to nudge teachers in our district a little farther down the road towards making the use of digital tools common practice in their classrooms. It's a task I often find myself comparing to the building of the Alaska highway. The road takes numerous twists and turns, as the builders faced many challenges along the way. I've driven the stretch of road between Dawson Creek and Whitehorse in mid-December. We suffered a broken axel just north of 150 Mile but were rescued by the kindness of strangers. The temperature fell as we travelled and by the time we reached Whitehorse in the wee hours of the morning it was -58F. It was an arduous journey but the rewards at the end made it more than worthwhile.

The journey towards changing how we deliver education seems sometimes to be a no less daunting task. Our first efforts centered around Learning At Night or LAN parties. We selected presentations from the k12 Online Conference to show to teachers and then asked the presenters to Skype in and chat with us. It's been an amazing success with up to 80 teachers attending at a time and I will be writing a longer post after our last party in May.

Yet, I wonder. How many of these teachers have gone back to their classrooms and tried something new? I see a need to challenge them further so this morning I asked a fellow teacher to brainstorm with me using Google Docs to see if we can create a Paperless Classroom Challenge. We talked about having prizes for the school with the most innovative idea for using less paper. We'd also like to reward the school that does the least amount of photocopying over the period of the one week challenge.

I googled 'paperless classroom' and found blogs that talk about other classrooms where this experiment is going on. I found articles to support the idea:
The Paperless Classroom
The Paperless School of the Future is Here Now

We'll provide some guidelines to get them started and try to get administrators on board to promote our challenge. Has anyone out there tried a similar challenge? Do you have any suggestions to help us carry this off?
Your feedback would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gr8tweets for the month of March

For the month of March, a group of educators and lifelong learners will be picking a "Tweet of the day" and ReTweeting it with a tag: #gr8t
Hopefully, you will join us in doing this too.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to participate:
• To share what you value about twitter.
• To [[|see what others value about twitter]].
• To celebrate the power and wisdom of your Personal Learning Network.
• To find interesting people to follow on Twitter.

My choice for what to retweet with #gr8t will be a Tweet that I find interesting, or insightful, or humorous. It might link to something I enjoyed reading, or it might have something profound or even fortune-cookie-like that appeals to me:

There aren't any specific rules for participating. Just find a tweet you value, give it the #gr8t hashtag and share it!
Here's an example of a Tweet I'd like to share:

So I Retweet it with #gr8t

Then it shows up on the Gr8Tweets wiki and on twitter searches for others to see and share.

I'm looking forward to sharing the Gr8tweets that I find, at least one daily for the month of March, and I'm hoping you will join me and share what you find.
Feel free to follow Gr8tweets on Twitter and Gr8tweets will follow you back, (this part is totally optional).

Even if you aren't on twitter or you don't want to participate, be sure to check out the Gr8Tweets wiki and see some of the reasons why so many educators are finding Twitter a valuable tool!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reflections on Northern Voice 09

Notes from the Northern Voice: Personal blogging and Social Media Conference

I considered writing several blog posts to express my Northern Voice 09 experience and then thought that perhaps I should just jot down a few point form notes while things remain fresh in my mind.

It is possible to own too many moose. Meese?

The audience gave as good as it got. People from all walks of life attended which was a very stimulating experience for one used to attending only education conferences.

Moose Wrangling is organized chaos, and very entertaining.
Photo by

Remixing other people’s work, mashups, will become more mainstream
– James Chutter

Most people access the Internet through their phones.

Rob Cottingham is hilarious. Live blogger Rebecca Bollwit captured some of his keynote in a blog post. While Nancy White sketched his presentation.
Photo credit:

Consumer to consumer influence is the most valuable.
Learning to sift through the mountains of information online and finding what is relevant to you is an emerging online survival skill. – Nate Elliott

If you’re thinking of joining Twitter choose a really short I.D. so people won’t curse you went they want to respond or retweet. Fewer chararcters = better.

Use Hootsuite to schedule posts to Twitter. This can be effective when you want to heckle yourself during a presentation by projecting Twitter comments on the big screen behind you a la Rob Cottingham.

If you want engage your organization in using social media develop guidelines based on company policies and engage all stakeholders in drawing up those guidelines.

It is irresponsible to have the shift and return keys situated beside each other on the keyboard. Consequence: several unfinished tweets which made no sense escaped my keyboard before I was ready.

If you are blogging about your community be a Greek chorus. Have your students blog about their community: school, home, team, province, country.
“Build a community identity – reveal the character of a place, represent diverse perspectives, keep the focus narrow, aggregate local information, build relationships, draw in other stakeholders. Find what’s new and interesting, extend traditional news coverage (example elections).
Reveal opinions and perspectives that are missed in mainstream coverage.”
- Briana Tomkinson. Read Briana's blog Tenth to the Fraser about her home town of New Westminster.

For our students, blogging is work experience.

Rather than isolating yourself in online communities, bring back the rich resources you find to enhance your experiences with friends, family, colleagues in your day-to-day lives.

Change only happens at the edge of chaos - Barbara Ganley

Alan Levine, aka Cogdog, introduced us to 5 card stories and here is my own attempt.

A few guidelines for bloggers from David Eaves:
- Always thank commenters
- Remember that when you write you are modeling.
- Consider writing a few guidelines for your commenters to follow: what you expect from them.

I know there was so much more but my mind is still whirling and I must move on to other things. I hope this has given a small sense of the wonderfulness that is Northern Voice.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Northern Voice 2009

My head is swimming with ideas after attending my first Northern Voice Conference today. A friendlier, more talented bunch of people you couldn't hope to meet. These folks know their stuff. After a most interesting keynote from Stewart Butterfield, one of flickr's founders, there was a fast-paced round of moose wrangling. This involved people pitching their previously unscheduled, unconference sessions to the audience while the moose wranglers filled in times and room locations on the master timetable - the only paper in evidence other than a single sheet of the day's offerings.

I love conferences that are well organized and yet have a homey, organic down-to-earth feel.

Perhaps the most useful session for me was a discussion about how to bring social media to large organizations. Presenter Dan advised knowing policy and drafting guidelines for use with input from all sectors of the organization. So instead of saying, "Why can't we have access to blogging tools?" we might say, "Here is what we would like to do and here are the guidelines for doing this based on company policy." If those in charge of decision making can a clear plan reflecting company policy they are far more likely to try new things such as social media tools.

Other highlights:
Meeting my first Twitter friend in person. Hi @HHG
Conversing with other bloggers outside the field of education.
The beautiful Forestry Sciences Centre at UBC.

My words tonight can't do it justice. Tiredness is blurring my vision, but I am looking forward to the 2nd day of this fabulous event.

Photo credit: John Biehler

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good News from Lizzer

This morning I contacted Lizzer via Twitter and voiced my concerns about the images coming in from flickr not having a creative commons license. In under an hour and a half they tweeted back:

@bookminder We've changed flickr to be creative commons license. We'll add a public search for designers/others who need to see it all.

That's great customer service! It makes lizzer all that more useful for bloggers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lizzer in Action

Just trying out Lizzer to see how it performs. Lizzer has a bookmarklet that works with Blogger, gmail, yahoo and several other platforms. It allows you to insert links, images and video without having to leave your application. It worked well when I tried it on the Lizzer site. Let's see how it performs in Blogger. I've just made my first reference to Lizzer a hot link. So far so good.

from flickr
Next I asked for an image of pebbles (to pursue the idea that Lizzer 'rocks') and Lizzer gave me a selection of 20 photos to choose from. I have changed the image from the one I first chose as Lizzer now searches for images in the creative commons.
The link to the image on flickr came up automatically.

Let's try a video search.
The video worked but I have removed it because of an error code with the video I selected.

10 choices came up when I searched for 'rock' and I was able to embed a video with a link back to youtube. Results display as a list or in a grid. There is the option to preview videos before selecting one.

Search returns are somewhat limited
  • 20 Flickr images
  • 10 YouTube videos
Results are also shown from Google News Search, Google Web Search and Yahoo Web Search .
First impressions are good. The limited number of search returns may be a problem but this little bookmarklet seems to be working hard to return good results.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Having some fun playing with xtranormal and creating this very short movie. And I don't even own a movie camera! Other creative educators are producing some as well. See Dianne McKenzie's movie for some great ideas on how to use xtranormal with students.

Camera image used with Creative Commons License by Capt Kodak found at

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Using Twtpoll

Playing some more with and finding it easy to use. It’s a quick way to survey a class and the results are displayed in a pie chart. A poll takes seconds to set up and is something a teacher or students can do during a class. You don't need to create an account to use it.

Twtpoll gererates a unique URL to give your students so they can vote. That URL can then be tweeted out to the class. Remember it will go to all your followers as well. If you are using edmodo only the class will see it.

Look for a checkbox that will allow multiple votes from one IP address. This is important if the students are responding in class instead of from home.

Follow the link provided to see your results page. You’ll need to keep refreshing that page to see results as they come in. On the results page users can leave a comment which will be sent out to Twitter. This could be in response to a question the teacher has posed about the poll results. For instance, “Why do you think more people chose the first response?”

twtpoll provides the embed code should you wish to embed the poll on your blog or website. You can also embed the results page. See the side bar. For more information about twtpool visit their blog.

So, the next time your class is in the computer lab, give it a try!