Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hello from the ROK

They say learning keeps you young. I've been on a steep learning curve these past two days as I left family at home to travel to Korea and visit my daughter. There's a lot to take in when you don't read or speak the language. Fortunately I have discovered two things, many Koreans speak English and they are all overwhelmingly considerate and helpful. The biggest challenge so far has been trying to figure out how to turn on the lights in the hotel room. Tip to travelers, the keycard has to be in the little slot.

Korean Air was a delight to travel with. The flight crew were first rate. This morning I'm off to explore a little on my own before joining my daughter. Here's to learning and happy trails. Oh yes, this post was by way of letting you know I won't be posting any of my usual tips on tech tools or educational ideas until the new year.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blogging First Steps

Photo credit: xenia from

Thinking about starting your own blog? I'll be doing an Elluminate session on Monday Nov. 22 at 8:15 PST to have an informal discussion around the benefits of blogging for teachers and their students. Along with others from the LAN44 Innovative Learning Team I'll share resources, give some getting started tips and sources of inspiration. Join us in

Resources used in this session will be posted on the LAN44 blog following the session along with a link to the archived session.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Embracing Cell Phones Elluminate Session

Still feeling uncomfortable with mobile technology in the classroom? This might be a great place to learn more about using it successfully. Catch it live or at your leisure in the archive at Classroom 2.0 LIVE.

The Innovative Educator: The Innovative Educator Discusses How to Go from Banning to Embracing Cell Phones Live! on Classroom 2.0 - Saturday, November 13th

And while you're there have a look at the other fabulous archived sessions. You'll find a wide range of topics in a variety of subject areas.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Alerts = Connections to Great People and Resources

Some time ago I set up alerts through Google that feed into my RSS reader. This service searches for mentions of The Web-Footed Booklady and bookminder online. Most of the alerts that filter through are for mentions I already know about such as Twitter comments but occasionally an alert will lead me to a new contact or some great resources.

Today an alert led me to @auntytech 's delicious page because she had bookmarked my post from yesterday. Browsing through her other bookmarks I came across some useful QR code resources I didn't know about. Like the 1 Tool at a Time: Build Your Own Toolbelt wiki which just happened to have an archived Elluminate webinar on using QR Codes along with the Slideshare used in the presentation and a list of links to other resources. Thanks, Donna!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


A URL shortening service I've been using for some time just got better.  When using a projector/screen to show sites to groups of students or teachers you inevitably come across some with long URLs.  Some people will want to copy them down and the presentation stalls while you wait for them to do this.

This is where SplashURL comes in handy.  Simply install the bookmarklet on your toolbar.  When you want to shorten a URL for easy copying click on the bookmarklet.  You'll get a short URL in large font like this, a good trick for quick URL shortening in the middle of a presentation.

Today when I used it I discovered that SplashURL also creates QR codes.  Here's the one for a page of resources I created:

So how might QR codes be used in the library?  My friend @bryanhughes is going to have students write book reviews, attach a QR code and then insert them into the corresponding books in the library.   Any student with a smart phone can scan the code and read reviews created by peers.

Or you could use QR codes on posters around the school to advertise new books or special library events.  Miguel Guhlin (@mguhlin) has published a great list with further suggestions on his blog.  Has anyone out there used QR codes in your library or to promote reading?  Do you have some other creative ideas?  Please leave a comment.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Comparing 20th and 21st Century Educational Paradigms | Educational Origami

Comparing 20th and 21st Century Educational Paradigms | Educational Origami

Thanks to Dave Truss @datruss for sharing this excellent chart in Google Reader. Think about how it could spark discussions around moving classrooms towards more collaborative, process focused, learner-centric environments.

YouTube - Academic Excellence in 140 Characters

This YouTube video talks about an interesting study done recently to examine how using Twitter in class might benefit students. The results are encouraging.

YouTube - Academic Excellence in 140 Characters
Social Media in Higher Education Blog

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Sharing Community

You never know when your small idea will ignite a fire
in the mind of another.
I get an interesting reaction from people who know that I've retired but am still involved in education and the online education community.  "Why are you doing this?" they say, "You're supposed to be retired!"
So why am I doing this?

I think because interacting in an online education community has become such a passion for me.  It's a way to keep on learning, interact with an intelligent and interesting community and share or help out where I can.  People choose to give back to their communities in a variety of ways through volunteering their time and sharing their resources.  For me, that community resides online.

Which brings me to the K12 Online Conference keynote presented by Dean Shareski.  Dean makes the point that all teachers have a moral imperative to share and I agree.  Why not share his presentation with your colleagues?  The  K12 Online schedule is posted here.  I'm always amazed at the depth and breadth of these offerings, there really is something for everyone.

Image used under a creative commons licence by furiousgeorge81 - Thanks for sharing, George!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Meeting with people you've only interacted with on Twitter takes conversations to a whole new level.  Last night I took part in a Vancouver area educators Tweet-Up along with a couple of colleagues and four others.  We had an established comfort level to build on, we knew each other's interests in education and technology and some of the barriers we deal with on a daily basis.

As we enjoyed some refreshments and good pub food we shared ideas, resources, philosophies and discussed the possibilities for future meetings and joint projects.  It was a great evening of laughter and some undirected Friday night Pro D.  Thanks @davidwees for organizing this event.

Resources I bookmarked this week:

Guest blogger Melissa Smith on Differentiated Professional Development on Wes Fryer's blog offer's some great online suggestions for Pro D. opportunities.

Google Docs tip sheet and resource guide.  More Google Docs resources can be found in Delicious.

Free easy and useful creation tools from New York Times The Learning Network.

Where Good Ideas Come From a 4 minute video that would be useful for starting conversations around teaching methods and classroom structure.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Return of the Blogger

The view from my new office.
This morning a lovely tweet came my way from someone who reads this blog and had noticed that I hadn't posted in over a month.  Thanks @bookchica!

I am indeed alive and well but have been enjoying the first few months of retirement.   It seems this is the time in your life when you wonder how you ever found time to work.  I'm exploring the balance between time for personal projects, family and doing some contract work in various education related ways.

It's interesting to see how stepping out of the system has allowed me to clarify my own thoughts around education.  I am more convinced than ever that the old sage on the stage model of teaching has to go!  Having said that, I know it would have made me very uncomfortable as a beginning teacher.  I needed those texts, worksheets and the structure to shore me up.

This morning I watched "Where Good Ideas Come From and thought that classrooms could be re-defined as spaces for ideas to mingle, share and create new forms.   This would require teachers who were confident, not afraid of taking risks, and learners in their own right.  It's hard for some to let go the reins or even hold them more loosely and turn the learning over to their students.

So the blogger is back.  For how long or in what capacity, time will tell.  There are just so many other interesting things vying for my attention.  Take for instance a simple walk through the park last week which turned into a prolonged stop to watch a film crew shooting a scene for an upcoming TV show featuring a live cougar.  Or my current planning for a mother/daughter trip to Thailand for two weeks.

And if you enjoyed reading this post please thank Tara!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Unlearning Cont.

Following on the Unlearning post I came across this list of 10 Things Teachers Should Unlearn on the What Ed Said blog.  I wholeheartedly agree with most of the items on this list but am perplexed by the third one.

3.  Teachers are responsible for learning.

I think I understand what this question is getting at, that students should be responsible for their own learning. Yes, students are more apt to engage and learn when they take ownership but I think teachers need to be there as coaches, mentors and learners in their own right.

Changes like these will not come easily for most.  We are hard wired to impart knowledge, to be the expert.  That's why most of us became teachers.  Letting students take over the learning requires that we take a big step back while still keeping our hands on the helm.  Thinking back about colleagues whose students have thrived and been universally successful, two individuals stand out above the rest.  Both taught in an atmosphere of controlled chaos.  The walls of their classrooms were covered with student made work and displays.  Walking into their classrooms was like entering a workshop where creativity and individualism reigned.  Yes, they covered the curriculum but they did so by taking many little side roads that interested them and their students along the way.

The blog post is worthwhile reading as the author feels the ideas are outdated and asks readers to comment, update or revise the list.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


This post, Unlearning Teaching, from Will Richardson (@willrich45) got me thinking this morning.  It talks about teachers as co-learners and co-creators with their students.   It talks about the fact that teachers are no longer central to networked student learning, a fact that should make us all more than a little nervous.  Unless of course we learn to change with the times.

I think this would be a valuable way to re-purpose staff meetings.  I can remember few staff meetings, or professional development sessions, where the focus was on ways to change our basic practice.  Most were focused on news updates, or perhaps an examination of the current bug bear: students late to class, homework not being done, chronic absentees or the new report card software.  I always felt as if we were on a merry-go-round, same issues, same suggestions for improvement.

But what if principals took an approach that explored the rich opportunities that networked learning affords?  If this exploration was done together, as a staff, co-learning, there could be many benefits.  Hesitant teachers would feel supported, successes and failures could be celebrated as part of the learning curve.  Those early adopters on staff could act as mentors.

In a world where information is easily found and cheap what do we as educators really have to offer our students?  Maybe that might be a good focus for a start-of-the-year staff meeting.

What do we have to offer that's of value to students that they can't find elsewhere?
How do we foster skills in our students that their future employers will find useful?  What are those skills?
As a staff how will we examine what teaching as a guide and mentor might look like?

Friday, August 20, 2010

From Twitter this Week

Facebook is at it again assuming everyone will want to have Places running on their accounts.  Phil Bradley posts on how to change your settings to protect your privacy.

Social Media Competencies for Librarians  Two specific lists of the basic knowledge and skills teachers and librarians should have and be able to engage their students in around using social media in the classroom.

VoiceThread Digital Library a database of articles about successful VoiceThread projects.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Networked Learner

A tweet from @courosa got me thinking about the power of networked learning and this is the result.  A person with a well-tuned PLN has a far greater chance of coming up with thoughtful solutions because their questions can reach a wider audience.  For a more readable image go to the website.


The diagram was created using Gliffy, a simple-to-use diagramming app.  Unfortunately this is not a free app. however they do allow you to create 5 diagrams using a trial account.

Monday, August 16, 2010

iPost about iPad Pilots

Image used under a creative commons license from Kominyetska

Here are a few interesting blogs about school iPad projects happening around the world.  I've included one that outlines a proposal as it was well thought out and may serve as a guide for others and another that serves as a question and answer forum.  The list is saved in delicious and I'll be adding to it as I come across other interesting projects.

Fran Speirs Blog

iPad Pilot Project a wiki from Palm Beach School District with lots of resources and information.

iPad Trial @ Epson Primary School

My iPad Journey - This is the one that has the good proposal.  I hope he's successful!

The one-to-one Newbie at the Digital Party

Expanding Teaching, Exploring Technology

iPad 4 Education - question and answer forum

iPad's Promise and How to Use it Now on the I Education Apps Review blog

Brandt Schneider is blogging about using iPads in music class.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A few Twitter Gems

Iconscrabble: This tool is similar to Spell with Flickr but instead uses icons to spell the words you type in.

NewsCred:  Create your own newspaper with topics you choose from papers around the world.   Choose from world news, sports, entertainment, business, technology, politics. I can't see any way to embed your newspaper in a blog without going to the pay option but you can share it out using twitter or email.  I think if you wanted to use this with a class you could tweet out the link to a class twitter account.   You can add your own editorial comments.   This would be a good place to write questions for discussion, prompts or observations.  There are a range of options for adding in links, images, lists and other style options.  Very easy to use.  Once posted, editorials can be edited, deleted or unpublished.  Comments may be added.

Search the Internet for guides on any topic of your choosing.  
The GuideDB searches for pdf and other eguides, ebooks, manuals etc.  The search also returns a list of related guides.  Finds guides to everything, seriously, I even did a search for 'zwieback' and got results. 

Thanks for tweeting these goes to @shannonmiller and @Larryferlazzo!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A New Way to School - Discussion

Thanks for challenging my thinking, Carl!  In writing this reply I run the risk of plagiarizing as I have been reading so many ideas around how education might change in other's blogs or through online presentations.  If I do so please forgive me/let me know if an idea was yours originally.

First I need to clarify.  By 'senior administration' I mean those administrators we now have as trustees and school board or ministry officials, in other words the hierarchy that is already in place.  Every teacher knows that students will live up to our expectations of them.  Show them trust and respect and they will respond.  When officials block and hamper permissive and informal networked learning they are showing their mistrust of teachers.  In effect, telling teachers it's a scary world out there and we don't trust you to safely guide our young people through it.  Unfortunately these decisions are often made by those who aren't teachers and are not taking the time to explore the merits of online networked learning for themselves.  For them, it's simply easier to block than to put protocols in place and deal with the rare parental complaints.

So how do we 'train' teachers?

One way might be to model good practice.  Among others, both Alec Couros (@courosa) and Dean Shareski (@shareski)  make good use of social media tools in their pre-service teaching classes.  They demonstrate the merits of social media as well as requiring students to participate by using blogs, twitter and other tools.

Another might be to guide teachers through a series of questions or problems based on scenarios using social media tools in the classroom.  For example:  With the world of knowledge at their fingertips through mobile devices how might you challenge your students to discover their passions while learning to be good communicators, collaborators and contributors?  I know that's a mouthful but I hope you get the idea.  As a teacher librarian I always pushed teachers who wanted to bring their classes to the library for research by asking them:  What skills will your students need to be successful on this assignment?  How will we accommodate individual interests or learning styles?  How can we encourage students to collaborate?  Is there a way to relate this to a more meaningful real world scenario.  How can we allow students to demonstrate competency in a variety of ways?  Who is working harder on this assignment, you or your students?  How can we provide ongoing mentoring and assessment as opposed to waiting until the assignment is in to grade it?

We need to start honouring teachers who say, "I don't know."  These are the ones who are willing to learn.  If they can say that in teacher training or in the staffroom perhaps it will be easier to say it to their students, "I don't know.  How can we find out?  What ideas do you have to solve this problem?  Let's try..."

Another random thought:  I have heard that schools in Japan do not have government mandated universal tests because teachers simply refused to administer them.  They still write exams on leaving high school but not at lower grade levels.  If this is true it would free teachers up to teach to students' passions and engage them in activities that were meaningful and provided authentic, real world experiences.  Oh course getting educators in North America to take such a stand is a whole other issue.

Who else has some ideas?

A New Way to School

I'm excited about posting today for two reasons.  One,  I found that through my local library's web site I can access a wide variety of current and archived newspapers using PressDisplay.  This service also allows me to post articles I wish to share directly into blogger.  You'll see the result below.  (This would be a useful feature for classroom blogs where teachers wish to engage students in current news.)

School to try streaming students in Grade 2
The Vancouver Sun
11 Aug 2010

Choosing an area of specialization is one of the biggest decisions of a student’s academic life. Not least when they’re entering Grade 2. A new program at a Calgary area elementary school will soon see children as young as seven placed in more...

The second reason is that this article follows on the heels of a question Carl Anderson posed in a previous post:

"So, my question is, how do we provide learning environments that are both permissive and instructive, environments that harness the power of informal learning the network provides but also the guidance our traditional system is supposed to give our students? "

This new school is an exciting concept that allows students to take more ownership of their own learning.  I see it as a move away from the current lock-step system whose aim is to produce students with a rigidly focused skill set that stifles individuality in the name of producing a uniform workforce.

I think teachers who will thrive in this new kind of environment will have a passion for the subjects they teach and be able to pass that on to their students.  They will be experts as well as learners and they will model effective learning for and with their students.  They will understand that they don't need to know everything in order to help their students learn.

They will be fearless risk takers who also possess a good dose of common sense.  They will understand that evaluation is not grading regurgitation but should assess each student's ability to take knowledge and skills and apply them in new situations, with new problems.  

They will be good at collaboration and communication.  They will be able to recognize innovation and uniqueness and support those students who are innovators and creators.

So part of the challenge lies in encouraging current teachers to change the way they do business and part in training and attracting new teachers with passion who love the idea of mentoring learners.  A little trust and support at the senior administrative level would go a long way as well.   I know there are many teachers and schools out there experimenting successfully with new models,  let's hope the trend spreads.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The How and the Why of Teamwork

Photo credit: matthew_hull from

A post on Twitter led me to a great little PDF titled 7 Things You Should Know About Assessing Online Team-Based Learning on the Educause site.  While this article is aimed at post-secondary educators there are ideas worth considering at elementary and high school levels.  Assigning group work seems to elicit two responses from students:

1.  We never have time to meet face-to-face.
2.  The marking is never fair because one or two people do all the work.

Perhaps teachers need to consider why it may be important to assign group tasks in the first place and then figure out the logistics of how such assignments could be made to work well.  The article provides a number of suggestions.  Involving the class in these two first steps might also make a difference in how students buy in to a project.  I like the 'best case' scenario described at the beginning of the document because team members took the time to find out what skills each individual had that could be utilized in constructing their product.  Do younger students know how to assess their existing skills and apply them to current assignments?  How do we teach that?  Some ideas might be to:

  • Brainstorm vocabulary that describes skills:  good at writing/spelling, artist, speaker, loves interviewing people, likes keeping things in order.
  • Identify the tasks needed to complete the 
  • assignment and match them to the skills list.
  • Have students choose from a list of skills or attributes or write their own.  "On this project I would be good at .... recording, drawing, leading a team meeting, finding information".

The article goes on to say that the value of team work may not reside solely in the final product but in the steps leading to its creation.  Are there useful tools for using formative assessment techniques on group projects?  I like Google Docs for its "revision history" feature that allows students and teachers to see who has contributed, when and how often, and assess the merits of each contribution.  The document itself gives a snapshot of the students' organizational abilities.  Brainstorming ideas and reflections can take place within the document as well.  VoiceThread is another option that allows students to make individual contributions to a group project.

What have you learned from doing group projects with students?  I'd love to hear so please leave a comment.

Other useful resources:
Collaborating Rubric - Bloom's Digital Taxonomy
WSD's eToolBox - Formative Assessment
Tom Barrett's Marking Work in Google Docs

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The iPad so far, so good.

It's interesting to hear the response to the iPad from people outside the field of education, as in the CEO of a large financial institution who hasn't touch his computer since he got his hands on an iPad, for work, over a month ago.

Personally I found the switch from laptop to iPad an easy adjustment to make.  Yes, it helps to know a few of the tricks and tips but that's true of any computer.  You'll see some of those tips listed in previous posts.  What I like best about it is the portability, combined with long battery life.  I envision students finding it to be a perfect tool as they use it for:

- reference
- multiple elegantly displayed news sources
- a wide range of science and math applications
- many options for reading books and viewing videos
- productivity tools like Dropbox, SoundPaper, Audiotorium, Dragon Dictation, Instapaper
- blogging
- interacting on educational and social networks
- taking notes in classes and meetings using voice recording apps and typing
- sharing resources and collaborating

Perhaps the next generation of students will avoid chronic back problems brought on by lugging pounds/kilos of textbooks around in their backpacks.  Teachers may engage students more easily by having them create their own online 'textbooks' of resources including videos and databases.  And think of the possibilities for differentiated learning when every student is able to quickly find resources at their own reading levels.

I think the iPad can play a key role in the classroom, a classroom where the teacher works to ignite a passion for learning in students and acts as a guide and mentor in moving them along a learning continuum.  One example of a teacher who embraces this kind of classroom environment is Shelly Blake-Plock.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Flipboard: Your personalized, social magazine - iPad44

Playing with Flipboard, a personalized magazine for the iPad, this morning and it is one impressive app. Be sure to watch the introductory video and you can read more about it here:
Flipboard: Your personalized, social magazine - iPad44

It seems to be an overnight success as I started trying to log in to my Twitter account using Flipboard about 5 a.m. this morning and it took over an hour. Does it need it's own version of Fail Whale?

It was well worth the wait. Tweets with links automatically display the link content, no more clicking on links. You can favorite, retweet or share by email as well as replying to the tweet from within Flipboard. Flipboard displays a good chunk of the tweeted site and there's a button to click should you wish to see the complete page. The 'close' button takes you right back into Flipboard. Very slick!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Doctor Loopy's House of Fun

A tweet today led me to this Glogster done by Doug Valentine for his school library. He also writes a blog at Doctor Loopy's House of Fun.

And can be found on Twitter @Doctorloopy
I love inspiring librarians who have so much to offer and share!

Monday, July 19, 2010

BlogPress PS

Interestingly you cannot go back and edit once you have posted from BlogPress.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad.

Another iPad app

This is a trial using BlogPress on the iPad. It's configured to work with Blogger, MSN Live Spaces, WordPress, Movable Type, TypePad, Live Journal, Drupal and Joomla. When using BlogPress it will be helpful to have some HTML coding knowledge.

Part of the team.
Posting images is as simple as downloading them from the web to your iPad and then selecting using the camera icon. You can save the post as a draft or post directly to a blog.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Summer Project

One of my summer projects is mentoring a pilot group of teachers exploring the potential of the iPad. It's fun to watch the excitement generated by using a mobile device but the bonus will be if they begin to see new ways of accessing information and modelling learning with their students.
In preparation I've been combing my PLN for mobile learning resources and ideas. Here are a few good ones:

Apptivities - learning activities using apps on mobile devices compiled by an ADE Summer Institute group.
Hottest Apps - another ADE Institute list

@bryanhughes has set up a great introductory page with basic information, links to tutorials and guides and a list of 'starter' apps. for the group to use.

A couple of my own favourite free apps are SoundHound (for identifying music) and Open Culture (mobile access to educational audio and video collections) and this list of free reference apps.

For Socials teachers:
Seadragon - high resolution imagery
Louvre - art works, museum tour
France 24 - International news
HistoryMaps - historical maps

And for the 'Wow' factor, these two videos that demonstrate master artists using the iPad:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain (For more quotations on risk-taking check out the Awesome Sardine)

Photo credit: Lesley Edwards

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Saying good-bye. Saying hello.

The end of the school year always brings changes and new adventures.  This year is a particularly significant one for me.  Yesterday I handed back the keys to the library I had managed for the past 12 1/2 years.  But while I will enjoy the pension checks rolling in I'm not quite ready to call myself retired.

I haven't finished learning and exploring, sharing and collaborating.  While I'm not about to take up hang gliding or learn a foreign language I find the world of social media in education intriguing.  My intention is to continue writing here as I learn new things or have worthwhile information to pass on.  The summer may see a bit of a hiatus.  I'm not sure if the focus of the blog will change a little, or expand to include new adventures.  Hands up if you really want to hear about my upcoming trip to South Korea.

I have been blessed and overwhelmed by the number of greetings, good wishes and celebrations that helped me see out my final month of working for the school district.  Everyone should have that experience!  Thank you all.

I wish you a restorative, adventurous summer.  I'll be back.
Let me know if you need a consultant.  :)

Photo used under a creative commons license from bryanh

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A figment of your imagination?

I love conversations that make me want to shout, "Hey, hold on just a minute!" My colleague Bryan Hughes (@bryanhughes) and I were discussing three blog posts we had read recently that pushed the way we think about district Pro-D delivery and the future of education in general:

David Warlick - Zero Tolerance

Bryan agreed with Carl's thoughts and commented, "I provided little that the network couldn't - that speaks to my deficiencies, but also to the institutional barriers that our schools reinforce".

Wait a minute!  I think these perceived institutional barriers are largely a figment of our imaginations, or perhaps a security blanket that keeps us from getting out there on the edge and changing our teaching practices.  Do principals or school board administrators actually tell their teachers how to present lessons?  Not in my experience.  Teachers usually have a good deal more autonomy than they ever exercise.  I do know of an instance where one innovative teacher was told by  department colleagues that she could not use social media tools in her classroom because THEY weren't comfortable with that.  Come on, seriously?  I think they felt threatened and had no right to tell her how to teach.

What could you really do if you cast off your imaginary fetters and took the advice of those three sage educators whose posts I have linked to above.  What obstacles lie in your way?  Are they real or imagined?

Photo credit: kevinrosseel from

Saturday, May 29, 2010

iPonder #2

I've had the use of an iPad for several weeks now and wrote a post earlier on my initial impressions.  I took it along to a conference I attended. It was certainly all I needed and my back will be eternally grateful that I wasn't toting my full computer bag.

A couple of tricks I've learned:

  • To copy a URL tap and hold in the address bar.  This will bring up the keyboard.  Ignore it and simply tap and hold again until the magnifying circle comes up.  When you release your finger a pop-up will allow you to "select all".  Choosing "select all" gives you the option to copy and then paste elsewhere.
  • When typing in most apps, to end a sentence just tap the space bar twice.  A period will be inserted and the next word you type will automatically start with a capital letter.
The magazine reading experience is delightful with all the imbedded media and colours that pop off the page.  Even the ads engaged me.  Wired Reader is impressive.  The current issue has a video trailer for the new Toy Story 3 movie imbedded on the cover.  There are several ways to navigate the articles.  Some pages have Touch buttons to move through a series of items.   For longer articles you simply swipe up to reveal successive pages.  I learned how Cheetos are made, fascinating, and I love the photo of quality control testers wearing hairnets, beard nets and earphone protection.
Navigating is as simple as tapping anywhere on the page to return to the cover or pull up an index menu.  A slider along the bottom of the screen lets you advance or page back and shows you your progress.

One of the  'pay for' apps I'm trying out:

Audiotorium Take notes and record voice.  There are 7 font choices and a range of font sizes which would be useful for younger students or vision impaired users.  Notes can be arranged into three basic categories: my notes, work notes or school notes and you can add your own additional categories.  Using the plus sign icon in the category menu lets you add subjects within categories, for instance adding 'English" under the School Notes category.  To start taking notes, select a category and subject first, then hit the + sign located in the top right.   Notes are saved automatically and stored chronologically.  

If you are recording an interview or lecture you can drop bookmarks into the recording so that you 
quickly return to those spots when replaying.  You can also send your notes to yourself and others        via email.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Question

How would you define your role as a teacher?  Go ahead, jot down 5 things.  Does the list include things like:

  • supporting students in learning to become good collaborators?  
  • guiding students in the multiple ways to express themselves creatively and share their creations? 
  • providing students with the tools to become good problem solvers, and I mean real-life challenges not the problems that start with, "If a train traveling x mph reaches it's destination..." ?
  • teaching students how to find and evaluate resources to advance their learning?
  • providing opportunities for students to analyze data to solve problems or create new entities? 
  • developing a passion for learning in your students?

If you made a list of the activities you have your students engage in daily would those activities reflect your goals as a teacher?  Would they reflect the any of the items in the list above?  Look around your classroom.  How many of the displays represent student work that was unique, creative, demonstrated collaboration or showed a student's passion for their work?  And were those displays created by you or your students?

Now take a look at the work in your students' notebooks.  Are they filled with plans, questions, ideas, resources or how-to ideas created by the student?  Would that notebook be the hold-in-your-hand kind or is it virtual?

Now ask yourself this.  When you pick up that next pile of marking do you want to be confronted with 25 pieces of regurgitated information or 25 creative and unique pieces of student work?

Looking for ideas:  View Gary Stager's presentation "Ten Things to do with a Laptop".
Read Tom Whitby's post "Hunter, Gatherer, Teacher?"
Problem Based Learning Bookmarks

Image used under a creative commons license from HydrogenPops

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ask a Student

Photo credit: jdurham from

Recently I was asked to give a presentation to a group of faculty and staff at one of our local universities.  They were interested in seeing a snapshot of teens and their use of technology.  So I talked to students in my school and asked them some questions along the lines of:

  • How do you learn best?
  • What resources do you find most useful?
  • What is the teacher's role in education?
  • How do you think students should demonstrate their learning?
  • What role does technology play in your learning?
This is what they told me:  

They like to find out things for themselves and they know that's how they really learn something.
They have discovered that YouTube is a gold mine of how-to video on almost any topic.
They love getting comments on their work from people other than their teacher.  It expands their thinking.
They want their teachers to ignite a passion for learning, to guide them along the path of learning.  It's the teachers role to get students excited about their subject matter, to make them want to learn about it.
They want their teachers to point them in the direction of good resources.
They want their teachers to be there as a fall back when they don't understand a concept.
They see the value in collaborating to produce more creative solutions to problems.
They love problem solving.
They need time to think.
They see technology as a way to better organize their learning and to express themselves more creatively.

I also talked to teachers who had let their students use technology to complete a project.  They overwhelming reported that when technology was part of the picture the students were more engaged.  But, more importantly it was "not the usual suspects" who turned in the most creative work.  The students were excited about what they had created and had brought their friends to the classroom to see what they had done.

These comments came from projects where students were asked to  respond to a problem by collecting or creating images, music or brief quotations and to include their own written or oral responses.  The tools they used were ones like Animoto, movie making, Posterous, and Wordle.

What did I take away from this?  

If I'm going to ask students questions in class, it needs to be more than just a way to find out who regurgitates information the best or used as a means of moving MY presentation forward.  One student commented that the good questions required thought and that they often came up with a good answer long after the class was finished.  If these questions were happening online students would be able to join the conversation when they were ready.

If I want students to be good problem solvers I need to think like an employer.  Wouldn't I want my employees to know where to find reliable information and then collaborate in building useful resources for the work place?  My job is to engage students in activities that teach them how to problem solve; think critically; find, assess and use resources; collaborate; create and express themselves effectively.  (See Tony Wagner's book"The Global Achievement Gap" where he discusses the New World of Work and the Seven Survival Skills.)

If I want to really engage my students I need to listen to what they say works for them.
I need to show them my passion for my subject area.

Two of my student interviews were recorded and may be found here:
This student is commenting on her experience as a Students Live Olympic Games 2010 Reporter:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Facebook Follies #2

It seems by following the steps laid out in a link from my previous post that my Facebook account privacy is relatively secure.  I hope.  Reclaim Privacy has a bookmarklet that will test your settings once you have logged into your Facebook account.  Here's the reading it took on my account:

The ratings on the left will change depending on how secure your settings are.  The Reclaim Privacy site also links to current articles around the Facebook controversy.

If you are a school teacher you might want to read Will Richardson's post on some common sense ideas around teaching kids about Facebook:  Teach. Facebook. Now  It's a good post to pass on to other administrators, teachers and parents.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Facebook Follies

The concerns over Facebook and Zuckerberg's take on handling other people's privacy is growing.  Here is a list of resources that might be helpful as you try to figure out where you stand.

Facebook Privacy Settings:  How to fix your profile in 2 minutes.  (video)

A graphic illustration of what the new changes in Facebook mean to your privacy.

How to delete your Facebook account.

Facebook Removes User Profile Rights and Choices.

Danah Boyd's Rant: "Facebook and "radical transparency".

How to Quit Facebook Without Actually Quitting Facebook.

And if you decide that you're totally fed up you can join the 2072 (and growing) Committed Facebook Quitters on May 31st.

Image used under a creative commons license by: ndrwfgg

May Musings

I like a thin book because it will steady a table, a leather volume because it will strop a razor, and a heavy book because it can be thrown at a cat.
-Mark Twain

I can particularly identify with the last one on his list.  Our cat wants to be up with the dawn chorus and then happily sleeps away the rest of the day.  At least it gives me an extra hour or so that I might otherwise have slept away to check my traplines (twitter, reader, mail) and blog.

Some of the gems I came across this week:

If your looking for ideas Tom Barrett's Interesting Ways collection can accessed here.

Shelly Terrell has blogged What Does Your Hashtag Use Say About You? 16 Resources with some ideas for branding yourself on Twitter using hashtags.

The Science Fiction Writers of America group has announced winners of the 2010 Nebula Awards.  Paolo Bacigalupi has taken the prize for best novel (The Windup Girl) and his latest Ship Breaker (YA) is getting great reviews.  And Booklist Online has the Top 10 SF/Fantasy for Youth: 2010.

If you're looking for stunning images for current events, discussion starters or writing prompts The Telegraph's Earth Picture Galleries has some great photos.

I've started a list of tools to replace Etherpad, all good for real-time collaborative editing.  Please leave a comment if you know of a good one I've missed.

Self Education: Five Essential Sites lists sites "with a serious focus on helping people along the journey of self-education" and well as linking to resources for lifelong learners.

The CC licensed photo by me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Artists & Mentors

Photo credit: earl53 from

Two things fired up my thinking this week.  Steve Hargadon interviewed Seth Godin and and talked about his book Linchpin.  Listen to the recording here or if you've read Linchpin, join in the book discussion here.   Elizabeth Stark's post The Gender Gap in Tech: Why Mentors Matter  from the Huffington Post was cross-posted on The Committed Sardine.

These readings have made me think about the importance of librarians (and teachers) in being innovators, risk takers, leaders, role models and mentors.  I give about a dozen workshops each year to rooms full of strangers.  As someone who has been an educator for many (many) years I love to see the reaction I get from people who were perhaps expecting a young, possibly male, speaker to lead them in an exploration of technology.  I think it's important to be seen by these teachers as a learner and a risk taker.  I have never, NEVER, given a workshop where I did not learn something myself.  Maybe it came from a participant or maybe because someone asked a question I couldn't answer and felt compelled to find the answer.

What I hope to impart, along with whatever tech is on the agenda for the day, is that everyone can, and should be a learner; everyone can and should share what they've learned and engage in conversations with anyone else who will listen.  What better way to teach our students than to model our learning for and with them?  One of Seth Godin's messages is that anyone can be a genius some of the time, everyone has a gift to offer if we approach our craft as if it were an art.

One of the things that is keeping us from becoming learners, leaders and mentors is fear.  Fear of the technology, fear of the 'ya, buts' we sometimes work with, fear of not delivering the content we deem to be important.  Fear goes away when we have company so it's important to learn with others, other librarians, teachers, our PLNs AND our students.  When we learn with our students we are often in problem solving mode.  We are often at the edges or our comfort zone, taking risks and that's a great place for modelling how to learn, how to problem solve.  If we only teach what we know we may very soon find that no one needs the information we know.  It's showing how to learn the things we don't know that is the real commodity.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mystery Winners

               Photo credit: ninoandonis from

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the Edgar Award Winners.  (Winners in red.)

Best Young Adult

  • Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (HarperCollins Children's Books - HarperTeen)
  • If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney (Random House Children's Books - Delacorte Press)
  • The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (Penguin Young Readers Group - Viking Children's Books)
  • Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Books)
  • Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Random House Children's Books - Delacorte Press)

Best Juvenile

  • The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
  • The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (Random House Children's Books - Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Books)
  • Creepy Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
  • The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer (Penguin Young Readers Group - Philomel Books)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Finds This Week - April 29/10

For History teachers, the award winning French Revolution site with essays, 250 images, text documents, songs, maps, a timeline and a glossary.

If you're an English teacher, you'll really want to subscribe to Sharon Elin's Delicious bookmarks.  She consistently tags quality sites.

Tech Training Wheels offers a one-stop shop for tutorials about many applications using step-by-step videos and screencasts to guide users at all levels.

Booklist features the Year's Best Crime Novels: 2010

Interactive Science activities and lesson plans from JST Virtual Science Center.

Library display ideas from the ECYA Blog.

The Royal Shakespeare Company presents Such Tweet Sorrow - Romeo and Juliet 140 characters at a time through the eyes of six of the cast.

And finally one of the best parts of my day.  A six minute walk at lunch from my library desk, this view is bound to refresh me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day 2010

This coming Thursday is Earth Day. A few suggestions for making this day worthwhile:

Go paperless. Hand out no paper. Accept no paper from your students. TeachPaperless is making a great offer to help teachers craft paperless lessons. Click on over to his blog to take advantage of this offer or sign the pledge. If you are serious about going paperless, Shelly's blog is a gold mine.

There is lots of information to be found online offering tips about recycling and reducing that may not be practical at your local level. Have students find out how to recycle in their own community. Interview someone from local government to see what's being done. I was surprised to see that there are a number of items now being recycled locally that weren't on the list a year ago. Have your students make updated lists of what can be recycled locally and how to do it. Ask students to make an online recycling guide for their own family. Have them do a garbage survey to ascertain what might be recycled or reused.

Edutopia features a challenge and some resources.

Elementary teachers will find ideas and resources at Ecokids and PlanetPals.

Do an image search for any projects using Creative Commons Search. Make sure to uncheck the For Commercial Purposes box.

Image used under a Creative Commons licence from marc kjerland

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tip of the Week

A library can be likened to a living organism, it grows and changes.  I have been looking for an easy and economical way to label the library's shelves and recently sent out a request for suggestions to my local librarian's group.  Someone suggested I use magnetic sheets.

They are easy to use.  Simply create a document with the labels you need using a good clean font in at least size 24.  For mine I used Arial size 24 and was able to get 24 label headings on one sheet using two columns which works out to about 50 cents a strip.  The next step was to print out the sheet on an inkjet printer.  If you have a colour printer so much the better.  Use manual feed as the sheet is just a little too thick to go through the regular feed.  Then slice into strips using a paper cutter and apply to your shelves.  Note:  these have to be metal shelves!

The ones I purchased were white and came in a package of five however I see from doing a quick Internet search that there are coloured sheets available.  The beauty in using them is that they can be moved easily when you use shelves for displays or special collections that change.  Small pictures or clip art could be added.  Craft stores supply magnetic tape that can simply be written on with a felt pen.

So, thanks to Lillian at West Van Secondary for the wonderful solution!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I have been asked to assess the iPad and reflect on its usefulness as a tool for students and teachers.  I liked @cogdog 's rational assessment on the CogDogBlog and I agree that it's way too early to see what the iPad can really do.  I took it on a book buying trip today and loved that I was able to quickly check the school library's online catalogue.  Sure beats lugging in the big binder of library holdings and flipping through the pages.  The only downside, spending 15 minutes of my limited shopping time showing the book store clerks how it worked.  :)

Any student taking Chemistry will love The Elements, an ebook of the original book by Theodore Gray.
It offers rotating graphics, a link to the pertinent page on WolframAlpha and a fact page.  They even included the song by Tom Lehrer.  Note: this is one of the 'pay for' apps that I thought was worth a look.  I generally go with the free stuff.

There are news apps in a variety of flavors for current events classes.  I've been sampling The New York Times, USA Today, NPR and The Globe & Mail.  The iPad is especially good for viewing any videos attached to news articles.  The Thomson Reuters Galleries offer stunning photographs and videos.  Fluent News gathers stories from a range of sources, letting you browse by Top News or section, search and save.

The iPad app for is useful for hearing how a word is pronounced.  In addition to the definition it offers word origins, a thesaurus and Word of the Day.

What appeals to me the most is that students can have just in time learning at their fingertips, a quick place to learn or access basic information on a topic.  I'm happy with what I've seen so far and look forward to the many more apps that will be released.  Yes, I'm unhappy that I can't edit Google Docs only Google Spreadsheets and I'm frustrated that iWorks is not yet available in Canada but I can wait.  There are lots of other ways to be productive like Evernote, Dragon Dictation and iTalk Lite.  So far, on balance I am liking what I see.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm Busy

Posting here has slowed to a crawl.
I've been busy...

... playing with the new iPad.  Educators have begun posting a variety of opinions on using the iPad.  One blog I will be watching closely is Ed Tech Solutions.  The iPad appears to be a device with no age restrictions: Virginia's New iPad features a 100 year-old and A 2.5 year-old has a first encounter with an iPad.  I've been bookmarking other resources/opinions here.  There is a Diigo Group for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch Users.  Subscribe to the feed for that group to get the latest.

... prepping for a presentation I'm giving in May to one of the local universities.  They have asked me to talk about today's student and what faculty can expect.  It's a golden opportunity for me to present on what I love best: social media and its applications in education.  I'll be uploading the presentation to slideshare when it's ready.

I feel that momentum is gathering.  A colleague told me last week that she feels she can no longer teach the way she done for the past 12 years.  Although she is the kind of teacher I'd want my own child to have she says she is noticing that students are becoming more and more disengaged.  It will be interesting to watch her transformation.  Thanks to the generosity of the network there is an abundance of inspiration and exemplars, support and advice available online.

(Image: Bee, a Creative Commons Attribution, ShareAlike image from _PaulS_'s photostream)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Time for Play

Saw this fun app on the Techno Constructivist blog where Carl Anderson is using it to promote Social Networking in Schools.  It's a cute idea for capturing the reader's attention and focusing in on short specific points.  One draw back in setting up a string of these players on a blog is that they all load and play at the same time.  To hear them clearly, click on each of the six posts separately.  When you're creating  your own, just refresh the page each time you want to create a new one.  There's no back button.

 ˙spɹɐʍʞɔɐq puɐ uʍopǝpısdn pןɹoʍ ɹnoʎ uɹnʇ.  Flip.text lets you send messages to Facebook or Twitter and also seems to work in other places like blogs and chat windows.  Just type in your text and copy/paste.

Yesterday was a stellar day for some really original April Fool's Day jokes.  I was almost late for work as I watched the Twitter stream take-over by Will Richardson's fans.  Google had everything from a name change to a vowel outage and a new translator tool.  For more foolish fun see my delicious bookmarks.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Odds and Ends

(Image: Odds n' Ends, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from 27596487@N07's photostream)

In the Best Find of the Day category: Flickr Attributor Bookmarklet.  This will be a huge timesaver.  I've used it here.

From Lee Kolbert: an ingenious way to display your PLN using Google Maps.

For the Shakespeare fans: The Shakespeare Standard - "a news, feature, and blog hub for Shakespeare-related news on the web."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Commenting: Beyond Blogs

Image under a creative commons licence from timlewisnm

The New York Times article "10 Ways to Promote Writing for an Authentic Audience" discusses their Student Opinion feature and offers general tips and notes before suggesting ways to promote writing with students.  Based on the Times suggestions here are a few ways to extend that authentic experience beyond the classroom in your own communities.

  • Debating.  Local newspapers often have articles that are controversial in nature and students  are seldom asked for their opinions in 'adult' matters.  This doesn't mean that students are incapable of generating unique solutions to community problems.  Have students debate issues in class and then write letters to the editor.  Every teacher has a wealth of untapped creative energy sitting in their classrooms every day.  Put it to work!
  • Responding.  Use letters to the editor to have students determine sound arguments and bias.  Have them write their own response letters.
  • Survey.  Have students conduct surveys using an online polling tool like Google Forms, to ascertain how their community feels about local issues.  Write comments or letters using the statistics and suggestions gathered. ( Google Forms is one of the options in Google Docs.)
  • Creative Writing.  Have students write poems, stories or create art work in response to local issues.  Submit these to the local paper.
  • Reviews.  Ever see student reviews of current children's movies, musical events or books?   Why not get your students to submit their own.
  • In this time of dropping enrolment and threatened school closures why not have your students write ads, essays or letters promoting their school?  What do students see as the pressing issues in education?  What are their solutions?  Why do they think their school is the best?
Commenting on each other's blogs is an effective way for students to begin writing for an authentic audience.  I've written previously on commenting here and here.  I think commenting is a great first step towards more fully involving oneself in a wider community.