Nestor Gets Its First SmartBoard

Yes… you read that correctly… Nestor finally has its FIRST SMARTBOARD!  and as you might have guessed, it’s in MY CLASSROOM! WOW!


First of all, I must extend my most grateful appreciation to the COQUITLAM FOUNDATION for a most generous grant to make this happen.  What a wonderful organization… this year they awarded over $100,000 to worthy projects in the district! Throughout the year they tirelessly contact local businesses and philanthropic groups for donations.  Then they sift through dozens (hundreds?) of applications to find the projects they feel will benefit the community the most.  When I listened to large variety of worthy causes at the Awards Ceremony in Spring, I felt very lucky indeed to have been chosen.

I also have my husband to thank for pushing me forward at at a New Year’s party to talk about my “SmartBoard Wish” with a neighbour who is a Rotary member.  That’s what started the ball rolling, and resulted in my letter of application to the Coquitlam Foundation.  I almost can’t believe it… but virtually every day someone new stops by my classroom to say “Wow!  So that’s a SmartBoard!”

As a VERY new SmartBoard user, I am experiencing a wealth of “ups and downs”.  Despite the grant being awarded in Spring, my SmartBoard ended up being installed on the first day of school, Sept. 3.  No time to try it out in the holidays, and with the district cut-backs, no chance of a workshop in August.  I read a few self-help books like  “SmartBoards for Dummies” ahead of time, but they just don’t have much impact until you are actually face-to-face with the “real thing” in your classroom!  The first problem I ran into was on the day of installation… fortunately one of the experienced SmartBoard managers dropped by and informed the installers that they had to take it off the wall and re-install it at a lower level to accommodate Primary students. Whew! That was a close one!

I found the month of September very challenging… my family already knows they don’t see much of me then, but with the addition of having to rearrange part of my already “tightly tweaked” classroom and then trying to learn a new technology, I found myself scrabbling between “things I usually prepare” and “things I needed to do differently”.  One of the SmartBoard speakers didn’t work, so that was another “glitch”.  Additionally, one day a week I work in the Computer Lab giving preps, and unfortunately my new job share partner quit and there was a confusing time as a new partner was found. (Happily, she is a wonderful fit!)

Trying to coordinate the SmartBoard activities with a job-share partner is also a difficult area.  I have tried using DropBox to deliver updated files to her but I have to say that in the end we are choosing to use our Nestor generic account as the go-between.  (Naturally, we wish to keep our passwords and accounts private.)  I can prepare the new calendar, planner pages, theme activities etc. on my own account and then transfer them to the generic account for her. This is also helpful when there is a TOC using my laptop.

My latest “glitch” wasted most of the Thanksgiving weekend!  The SmartBoard stopped working at school… first the pens wouldn’t work, and then the interactive media wouldn’t work. I brought home the laptop to try to figure out the problem.  I also have the SmartBoard software installed on my home desktop and my home laptop, so I spent the weekend on THREE computers as well as searching for answers on the internet.  It was all to no avail.  The software wouldn’t work on ANY of the 3 computers. I put in a help request to SmartTech, and what did I find out 2 days later…???   It was all the fault of Adobe Flash!  It seems that the latest version 11.9 does NOT WORK WITH SMARTBOARD SOFTWARE!  AAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

So, here I am, in the middle of an October weekend, uninstalling Flash and re-installing a previous version on all 3 computers. (BTW, it turns out that I will have to do the same on all 30 of our Lab Computers because the new Flash doesn’t work with our Raz-Kids program either!)  I am also slowly figuring out how to organize my files.   *Unfortunately*  in the summer I read on the internet that OneNote is much better at organizing SmartBoard files than SmartBoard Notebook, so that’s the way I started.  (Usually, indexing, cross-referencing, making folders & files are a favorite activity of mine! I have no idea why!) Getting the two programs to work together, however, has been difficult for a “newbie” at both of them.  Then trying to get it to also work  for a job-share partner’s account has turned out to be stressful.  I’m guessing it will be good in the end, but…. ahhh….  sigh… if ONLY I could have been doing this all in August instead of Term 1 at school!

That’s a lot of “negatives”…. so I should really finish off with the “positives”.

WOW! SmartBoards are sooooo COOL!

The students are getting hands-on practice every morning with our SmartBoard attendance which has delightful themes (put your book in the schoolhouse, leaves on a tree, feathers on a turkey).  We are using a “Morning Math” calendar activity that has all the features of my old “wall calendar” and much more.  I can display the “Planner Page” that looks just like their “real” planners, and then actually write on it and save it.   I downloaded several activities from Smart Exchange for our Math unit on Patterns and Relations which have captivated us all!  We tried participating in our first Webinar… too bad they had glitches at their end, but we enjoyed seeing ourselves and recording our voices.  We used the internet for some spontaneous learning (what part of the turkey is a caruncle?) as well as viewing our homework (a web scavenger hunt on our own classroom website). Looking at our “little monsters Avatars” on the Class Dojo Behaviour Management website really inspires the students to “arrive on time” and earn a point and “get your homework in on time” or lose a point.  Students use the pens for our “Clues and Questions” activity and are delighted when THEY teach ME some new function of the board that I didn’t know!   Right now, our activities center on ALL of us learning “how” this SmartBoard works, but as time progresses, the learning will be so much deeper!

Again, a HUGE thank you to the Coquitlam Foundation for making this new technology happen at our school!  It is going to be the most amazing of years… and to think that I *almost* started wondering when I might retire!   Not now, that’s for sure! 🙂





In Celebration of “Wonder”… some musings

I was actually trying to clean out my school email inbox.  There were droves of incoming mail from websites that “seemed like a good idea at the time” or that somehow latched onto me by an inadvertent click. The latest email from our SD43 “Bright Ideas Gallery” caught my eye… what amazing projects might be going on?   I spotted a familiar name, Jennifer Whiffin, and was curious to see what this dynamic lady’s latest innovative project might be.  And that’s where this post begins…

Jennifer has left her intermediate level teaching to explore the magic of kindergarten!  What an incredible change of “clientele”! Kindergarten, that world of giggles, tears, grabbing,  hugging,  pushing to be at the front of the line, hand waving “pick me! pick me!”,  struggling with shoelaces, running like the wind or a galloping horse, and that amazing feeling of wonder that begs the question “why?” over and over until the teacher has to say “Enough!  Just eat your snack now!”

I too have taught kindergarten… and junior kindergarten, and preschool, and family daycare as well. I remember being quite  indignant when I was told that I would have to undertake special ECE training before I could teach preschool. After all, I had  my teaching degree and  practicums in Junior high science and math.  What did they expect to teach me about “little kids”?  What a revelation I was in for!  That year of evening classes and a “little kids”  practicum taught me more about dealing with children than most of my university courses. It was also a huge influence on my personal development as a teacher.

What brings a classroom to life? It is often the excitement of the teacher him/herself  as they delve into their favourite curriculum area. What pushes a student to learn more?  When the questions “why” or “how” are important or interesting enough to drive them to “want more”.

The purpose of this posting?
Jennifer has reminded me that a sense of “wonder” is at the core of learning.  I feel it is one of the most important parts of my own Grade 2 classroom and I cherish it.  It also brings me back to a memory of my practicum in Science 9.  I was given a Physics unit to teach, and then a Biology unit.  My practicum teacher was a bit disappointed in my performance at first, but he said that I somehow “came to life” once I started the fish dissection unit!  What was missing?  …I’ll bet that it was my own lack of enthusiasm  for the topic of physics.  At that time, I just didn’t have that sense of amazement of “how things work”, and so I delivered  flat, boring lessons.  Find the “wonder” and you have a key into energizing student learning!  After all, why did we become teachers… it may very well have been the “wonder” in watching as our students grow and learn under our care!

You can read more about Jennifer’s “wonder-ful” experiences on her blog: 

You can check out other ideas in the “Bright Ideas Gallery”


Computer Club Addendum
I was experiencing some unrest in our “computer club” lately.  Some of the boys have been stuck on the fact that the district has not sanctioned the program “Minecraft” and it became a constant banter at “Club time”.   They seemed a bit disenchanted or unwilling to become involved in other computer pursuits.  I won’t go into the pros and cons of Minecraft (although there do seem to be many educational testimonials on the internet).   My problem was that the “club time” was taking a downturn.  Enter two new programs, FlipBoom and Lego Designer.  The air is now filled with “How’d you do that?” and “Look at this!”  Whew!  A sense of “wonder” has come back to Tuesday lunch meetings!

The Flipped Classroom… what is it?

Lately I have seen increasing numbers of references to the “Flipped Classroom”.  My initial thought was maybe it had something to do with “flip cams”  (seeing as my class had won one last year through “The Classroom Energy Diet Challenge” by Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada).  Videos certainly have something to do with it, but that’s not the full story!

I found an excellent article on the “Flipped Classroom” via an email from “Media and Learning News – Nov. 2012”.  There are some excellent links as well.  Here is the short version of what I found most interesting.

The “Flipped Classroom” involves teachers preparing their lessons on videos and students watching these videos AT HOME and BEFORE the class at school.  When the students come to class, the work usually assigned as “Homework” is done in class.  This is the “flipped part”… teacher lessons are watched at home and student homework is done at school.   What is the advantage… the teacher spends the class time actually working with the students instead of being “the sage on the stage”.  Students who understand the concepts are free to advance at their own level.  Students who have difficulty with the concepts can work in small groups to review the lessons.  The teacher is free to work one-on-one or with  small groups at THEIR LEVEL of understanding for the entire “math block”.  The result is that virtually everyone ends up with a good understanding of the concept being introduced.

This article led me to the “Flipped Learning” website… who knew!  A whole website devoted to flipped classrooms!

I watched a very engaging video involved a young high school math teacher.  Her mom was also a math teacher, the father was an engineer, and she had “grown up with math”.  As a math teacher, she wanted to bring modern technology into her classroom and found that the “flipped classroom model” helped her students immensely.  She shared her findings with her mom, who then spoke of how delighted she was to find that her daughter could teach HER new, modern ways of helping students learn math.

That’s all very “well and good” for high school, you might say…
but here is a video of a flipped FIFTH GRADE Math class!


What are my thoughts at this point? 
There are certainly some changes coming!  However, I have to wonder (seeing all those Smartboards and iPads and other modern devices on the videos) how the schools go about ensuring that all students have the technology at home to access the videos.  I also have to think about the preparation needed for the teacher to record a video of the lesson.  Not everyone is comfortable “on screen”, let alone proficient with creating and posting videos.  Also, when do these teachers find the time to do this?  On the other hand, a video of a lesson could be used again the following year.  Perhaps some ProD time is given for the initial start-up?


How does this relate to a Grade 2 teacher? 
Perhaps I won’t be “flipping” my classroom anytime soon, but this year I am involved in an “Online Initiative” which uses two programs, “Mathletics” and “Raz-Kids Reading”, to supplement our in-class learning. Students use these programs at home (and at school too) and I am able to view their participation, set assignments, and keep track of their results.  It also reminds me of some other classroom Edublogs which have videos of students explaining their math learning.  I think this is the area I will want to explore.  Right now my classroom Edublog is focused more on “sharing special events”.   Maybe it’s time we started “sharing our learning” as well!

Food for thought… but… WHERE WILL I FIND THE TIME???  Hmmm… back to my previous article on “I vote for more hours in the day” !!!



Rainy Days = Computer Club startup!

As soon as the weather forecast predicted “rain coming”, I knew I had better get started on our Grade 5 Computer Club startup!  At the beginning of the school year, we want everyone OUTSIDE and PLAYING TOGETHER, but inside rainy days beg for alternate activities.  Traditionally, we have the Computer Lab open before school and at the lunch hour, but not after school.  Anyone may come into the lab in the morning, but the lunch hours are divided into designated turns.  We have odd numbered divisions on 2 days, even numbered divisions on 2 days, and one day is reserved for the Computer Club members.  These members have an important responsibility during the week… they have a scheduled time to be “on duty” in the computer lab and they need to “sign in”.  They check that the computers are turned on, they help out younger students and they watch to see that everyone is using the computers appropriately.  No internet use allowed!  Only one printed page allowed!  On our “CClub day” we take time to clean those dusty monitors and CPUs and take a toothbrush to clean out the keyboards!  Then we get onto special projects! The first one is always the same… learning to download photos from National Geographic and use them as desktop backgrounds!  It is a VERY popular activity.  In past years we learned how to use HyperStudio, but this year I am getting to teach that to ALL the Grade 4 and 5 students.  I think that this year we will start off by exploring SCRATCH!

I’m excited to get started…
17 students have already taken home permission slips to join!

November Update:

Our HyperStudio project was definitely a success… despite the fact that assemblies, field trips, and other “typical school disruptions” cut down on several of the sessions for the groups. The Grade 4′s were introduced to HS via creating a “Hallowe’en Shop” complete with various costumes “for sale”. The Grade 5′s created “Haunted Houses” with a floor plan and different “spooky rooms”. Everyone was introduced to creating HS cards, saving stacks in a new folder, using “fill-in color”, navigating via the “storyboard”, buttons “to” and “back”, T=text and also scrolling text. We didn’t get to animation as I had hoped. I was pleased, however, that everyone has a rudimentary knowledge for when their teachers assign a “real” topic!

Scratch…. hmmm… that’s a different story! The Computer Club has shown me that half of them have experience with Scratch creations far beyond mine! My plan has changed! I will work with the novice Scratch users to introduce them to the basics. I am thinking that I will ask the experienced users to work in pairs or groups to create lesson plans for the novice users (and myself). I know there are already lesson plans out there, but it will be far more valuable to have my own students “show they know” by teaching the rest of us. I am excited to see what they will teach me!


I vote for more hours in the day!

Can it really be almost a year since I blogged here?  I won’t feel too guilty, however, because I regularly blog on my Classroom2Kids edublog.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to accomplish what I wish I could.  This summer I had an absolutely marvelous time boating in August.  I usually start preparing my classroom in mid-August (only a few hours a day!), but this year I was swept away by new boating friends and spending time at the water side.  I didn’t accomplish all I usually do before the first day of school, but most of it wasn’t noticed by anyone but me!  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Perhaps (yes, absolutely!) I have my “fingers in too many pots”.  My excuse is always that my classroom is not only my job but my “hobby”.  I don’t feel that “I don’t have a life”, I feel that I have a wonderful “second home”.  But this year…  I gave my “first home” some extra priority at the end of August.  I guess the key is “balance”.  So, this year I am starting off with a good “inner satisfaction” that I DO have an out-of-school life, WHILE I scramble to catch up with the things I feel I really MUST have on-the-go at school!

Something new for me this year is the opportunity to work with Grade 4 and Grade 5 students in addition to our Computer Club.  Increased enrollment at our school allowed the creation of a “Computer Teacher” for teacher prep times one day a week.  I am in the Computer Lab all day on Thursdays, and a job-share teacher is with my class.  Oh my!  I’ve never done a job share and am more than a little worried that I will be able to keep my desk cleared off and tidy EVERY week!  At home my husband recently looked around the piles of projects and papers that suddenly appeared on the floor around my computer and said, “Ah, back to normal.  It must be September!”  I am incredibly lucky to have a delightful teacher filling my position, as well as LA and EAL, so we will be able to conference during the week instead of never seeing one another.  That’s a good thing! 

I am very excited to be working with a little bit older children.  We never had enough time in “Grade 5 Computer Club” to really get into any meaty projects, and there is so much more that they can do than my little Grade 2 class.  I decided to start off with some plain old keyboarding testing (oops… I nearly wrote “typing”, which shows my age!) to see what levels this age of student is at.  Many of the students had worked with All the Right Type before, but none of the teachers had ever put in a class list so that their work is tracked.  It is amazing what a range of expertise they have.  I am teaching a few students how to place their fingers on Home Row, while a few are able to type accurately at over 30WPM!  In the second class, I “locked down” the sequencing in ART, so that they can’t bob all over the place.  I think it will make a really good entry activity so that when they come into the computer lab there is no question of what they are supposed to be doing.  It is good to have a program that will allow the students to progress at their own level, while I circulate and check on proper techniques.  Only a few students asked if they would get free time afterwards.  I replied in a “shocked voice”:  “No, you can have free time at lunch and after school.  I’m here to TEACH you at computer time!” 

I wanted to make sure that the students had a second, more engaging activity in their first times with me.  I was surprised, however, that 99% of them were fully engaged with just the typing!  Having their own “record keeping” in ART is a big plus, and I could hear some of them comparing scores too.  My second activity was using MS Publisher to create an invitation for the parents to come to our Open House.  It had to be straightforward enough that we could print it out in one session.  It was a great choice, because NONE of them had ever used this program!  How exciting is that!  With the Grade 4s, we made a simple one page “poster”.  I showed how to make a text box with a border, a second text box inside the first to make the wording for the invitation, and how to insert a clip-art picture. Everyone printed out, although some had to add finishing details in pencil back in their classrooms.  For the Grade 5’s, we had taken a little time the week before to explore a premade Greeting Card template and just “switch” the text and pictures.  On the second lesson, I had them use a blank side-fold card template and add each component separately.  The cover had a border, text and a picture,  pages 2-3 had the invitation specifics, and page 4 had the “made by” text.  We built the card step by step together (well, almost together) and everyone had a card to print out at the end.  It was cute to see how many of them thought they had done it incorrectly when their work came out on one page with half of it upside down!  Obviously they had never folded a card before!  I could also see how invaluable it was that I chose a program that I am proficient in.  Many of the students did not follow the initial directions and ended up making the cover page on a full sized blank page instead of the quarter fold.  I was able to quickly copy their wording, quickly open a new proper template, and put in their chosen border, picture and text for them.  In 30 seconds I had them back on the right track. 

I think one of the greatest values of a “Computer Teacher” is the capability to do trouble shooting on-the-fly.  You can have a great project, but there will ALWAYS be “computer glitches”.  Either the class falls apart or some students (or you!) get disillusioned, if you can’t solve problems quickly.  FLEXIBILITY will also be on the top of the list.  Sometimes you simply can’t fix the glitch and have to take another route.  My husband, while working on his hot-rod, learned to use the phrase “That’s hot-rodding!” whenever the many set-backs occurred.  I will adopt the phrase for my own situation…

“That’s computers!”


CUEBC Conference – Oct. 2011

I quite enjoyed my CUEBC  ProD Conference, despite the fact that I was coughing, croaking with a frog voice, and burying my face in my elbow in an effort not to spread germs like crazy! David Warlick, our keynote speaker, is a high tech wonder who can still relate to even the most “newbiest” of us.  He is always both entertaining and stimulating. He does like to play on his North Carolina accent, but it definitely adds flavour to his humorous anecdotes.  I was delighted to hear that he recommends “Edublogs” as a first choice, knowing that I would be jotting down my notes here.

Looking around the audience, I noted that almost half the transcribers seemed to be using mobile phones and similar devices, at least a quarter had their laptops clicking away, and a scant few used pens and paper.  Warlick posted four images on the screen and asked us if we knew who they were.  When he suggested that we could check around with our neighbours , the fingers were really flying as people tried to put Google images to the test.     He made an interesting statement (paraphrased):  “We have become a question asking culture with 150 billion questions an hour recorded by Google.  What did we do ‘BG’…  Before Google???  We didn’t ask the questions!!!”

He also asked (paraphrased): “Can we in traditional education make learning more fun? Can we allow some ‘distraction’?  Can we be playful enough to give ourselves permission to get it wrong.  In a world where teachers don’t know what their students will need to know, knowing how to learn and adapt is of the utmost importance. The guiding questions you should ask yourself are: DOES YOUR LESSON… Inspire personal investment, provoke conversation, increase responsiveness, and let the students be guided by safely-made mistakes.”  As teachers we need to focus on “how to find answers to questions” rather than “knowing content”.  He emphasized that the world today has no ceiling to a student’s potential accomplishments.  They can publish to www world, which gives them a sense of hyper connectedness. When we close the doors on peripherals (like cell phones), it is like cutting off the tentacles of an octopus. The student of today is a different being altogether, and we need to embrace that rather than try to confine to the old ways of learning.   

Warlick suggests teachers take a “Gardener’s Approach to Learning.  Learn how to grow your own learning network and knowledge garden by connecting with other professionals, mining the greater global conversation, and mapping out libraries of ideas and content. Topics may include blogs and micro-blogging, social networks, social media networks, RSS, and publishing and data visualization techniques.” source:

In his “Tech Literacy” article (with Sara Armstrong), Warlick states that the three R’s are now being replaced with the 4 E’s:  EXPOSING KNOWLEDGE – Reading, EMPLOYING INFORMATION – Arithmetic, EXPRESSING IDEAS COMPELLINGLY – Writing, ETHICS – right and wrong on the information highway.  You can read all about the 4 E’s at:

Other ‘tidbits’ that I noted were:
Gravatara – gives an avatar you can use other places
Knitterchat is a backchanneling tool designed for engaged learning. The audience can post comments, questions, answers, and concerns and collaborate during a presentation.  (I wasn’t fast enough or clued in enough to figure this out during the conference… maybe another time!)
Doodlebuzz – Draw lines to find news stories that are related!
Youtube – It’s playful, interesting and is now the 2nd largest website!

I got my own example for “BG and AG”…  In my notes I typed: “Cognitive Surplus – Author – sherke? and then later on wondered what this was… so I “googled” what I had and immediately came up with a synopsis of the book Warlick mentioned!  Talk about “just in time” access!

My Session 1 – Paul Klintworth
Technology Integration Teacher at Collingwood Private School, West Van.
Paul has much experience at the Primary levels as well.  He gave us an overview and examples of some technology programs that he has used at his school. Be sure to check out his tech site and blog!

Gmail:  Paul suggests setting up free Gmail email accounts for students whenever a student email is required for use in a program.  Website and blog tool which he uses.  Can be free, but paid accounts are secure   These are educational programs that Paul highly recommends.

Art – 2Paint a Picture: (somewhat similar to KidPix) In his example, they scanned real leaves and then reduced the size to make a tree picture with copies of the real leaves falling off it. Another example had a background collage of leaves in one color which looked almost like tessellations

2Create – (somewhat similar to HyperStudio or Inspiration) A non-linear presentation, in his example, a dart frog report.

2Investigate  – Does a data base, Does Venn diagrams

Psykopaint:  This is quite different from the “KidPix approach”.  Use photos to make your own artwork in different styles (impressionism, cubism etc.)

Luapic: – photo editing

Plasq: – A “not free” comic maker

Toondoo:  Another “not free” comic maker, but you can have a free trial.

Kerpoof:   You can make a free picture or movie.  Teachers can sign up for a free account.

Microsoft photo story 3: Paul uses this one a lot! (It is like Imovie but for PCs.) He used it for a field trip.  Students picked the pictures and put them on a timeline. Then he had the students narrate the pictures.  A second audio track was used for music background.

Animoto: – A Free presentation vehicle for pictures or 30 sec. clips.  Animoto has replied to Paul and said kids under 13 should use an account under the teacher’s control. Each student has own email….   Eg. will be student #1 in the club.

Storybird: Short art-inspired stories

Photovisi:  Free Photo collage maker- place photos in a ‘poster’ and add labels, text etc. but you can’t save it.  Paul suggests taking one session to collect photos and a second to create poster.

Tagxedo:  Takes the words like wordle but puts them into a shape (eg. nice words in a heart shape  for valentine’s day).  It exports as a jpeg so you can save it. Good, but you can only print it out, not save it

Capzles: Puts photos into a timeline. You add text and Teacher/students can comment on the work. It saves it online… so don’t use personal photos

Glogster:  Exciting way to present reports with photos, text, video etc.  Free teacher accounts available.

Prezi:  Like a poster, but it zooms to different spots on the poster… a presentation tool
NOTE:  did you see the Prezi that Brian Kuhn emailed us?


 Session 2 – Phil Macoun
IT Teacher from Vancouver Island
Be sure to check out his blog at:

Phil is an Information Technology Teacher and Facilitator, a Math Teacher & course writer, ThinkQuest & Google Apps Coordinator  and more!  He has put together a great Wiki on Scratch too!

I had already attended a Scratch workshop in the past, but by the time I went to use it at school, had forgotten what to do! I only see my Gr. 5 Computer Club for one 35 minute “club meeting” a week, so it’s not surprising that I never got to do it with them. I know that many of the Gr. 5s are trying Scratch on their own. This was a great opportunity for me to try on MYown again.  To me, Scratch is like a modern version of the old Logo Writer turtle.  I remember putting together a book of activities for my Gr. 2 students starting with learning how to move the turtle to travel in a line, turn corners, make a box, make increasing stairs and so on.  The instructions for moving the turtle had to be precisely done and required focused attention.  Working out your mistakes took a lot of thinking too!  The students were SO excited when they were able to control their turtles!   Scratch is that and SO much more!  The characters are called “Sprites” and allow for many choices, including very personal adaptations like adding a photo of your own face.  Not only do they move, but you can add multiple characters that interact, you can change the backgrounds, add sound, music, and even recorded audio!

It was great to follow through Paul’s lessons and then to have free time to explore and actually work with the program.   With a serious sense of commitment, I managed to finish a little scene with a cat running from a flying bat.  The bat was supposed to swoop down and “echolocate” at the cat so that the cat meowed.  Sadly, when I proudly showed it to Paul, he said, “Wow! You got the bat to poop on the cat!”  Hmmm… back to the drawing board for me!

A few little tips from the session:

 *You don’t want the sprite to go off the side and disappear!
Start your sprite where you want it to be.
Click the sprite again and it will have a spot located.
Click it to the other side and have that as the go-to (Go to a specific coordinate).

 *Move 10 steps versus glide
Glide is handy but it is not the best choice as you can’t add other details later on.

 *To get them to look like they are walking 
Use “costume”.  Costume 1 is a pose, and Costume 2 is a second pose.
Costume 1 & 2: Do copy…. On your sprite…. Edit…. Change one of the legs
In the color box, the bottom right (looks like white) is virtually nothing so you can import a picture and get rid of the white square around your sprite by “erasing” the white around it.
Move 10 steps, move to costume 1
Add a pause NOTE: the transition can be as little as only .1 seconds!
Move 10 steps, move to costume 2

Show and hide buttons. 
When making a Digital Story, you may hide a character at the beginning and have it show later
When making one sprite do something then another sprite do something
Bad way:  e.g. Cat crosses screen for 5 sec, then dragon blows fires at 10 sec
Good way: e.g. Cat does set of motions and you choose broadcast…fire
                               Dragon now breathes fire when cat is finished


CONTROL BLOCKS: Check out your “Forever block” and  “Repeat block”

Repeat forever if….   Eg one character touches another

You can choose “Play note”… has a drop down piano!
Record sound….   Wow!  You could record in French!  e.g. on audacity…. Record as sound files

My sincerest apologies to Paul if I have misconstrued some of the directions!  He was an excellent teacher, but in the short time allotted, some of we “challenged students” need a little extra time to follow the instructions properly!  Kudos to Paul, however, for having encouraged me to “keep on trying”!


TLI- thoughts on our introductory workshop

What an informative and useful workshop! Two thumbs up to both the presenters! We were split into two groups, but I took a little time to pop into the other room and could see that they were just as actively involved as we were.

As I considered how to begin this blog post, it came to mind that although this was a “tech session”, the most important part was the chance to connect with other TEACHERS! That’s really what a Professional Development Day is all about… sharing TEACHER knowledge, experiences, and aspirations. The teachers from my school ranged from Grades 2 to 5, so we don’t always have the chance to actually work together. Our presenter, James, is well known for his boundless enthusiasm and fun sense of humour, so there was plenty of opportunity for us to share some laughs. Our little group has made a new bond now… we ARE the TLI group! Rather than working in isolation in our classrooms, we’ll be much more open to sharing each other’s struggles… and successes… as we explore new avenues of teaching.

What was my most important learning? Well, Jane and her “old school smarts” have done me in again! She went home with a notebook of ideas, laughing at how in her last workshop, she was the only one with a real pen and paper. I decided to type my notes in MSWord, however, I inadvertently saved the file to my school account instead of my actual laptop. Hmmm…. I can’t access the school account at home! Sigh! So I’m spending the morning investigating online storage facilities (eg. dropbox, Skydrive, the Cloud) so that I can access my notes anywhere. In the end, I know will be happy with my choice of keeping notes, but for now there is a lesson to be learned… don’t give up something that works for you just because it’s not the most “modern” choice.

What did we learn at the workshop?… everything from how to get the laptop turned on and working for the newbies, to MSOffice howto’s such as organizing your Outlook inbox and setting up group lists (distribution lists), and the location of some useful local computer shops. At the end, we enjoyed an inspiring demonstration of podcasting and heard some anecdotes from James’ Grade 8 class.

I was able to help out a bit during the day, but I also got some new tips myself, and the inspiration to revisit some ideas that I haven’t done in a long time! One of these is “OneNote”. I remember Brian Kuhn highly recommending this application quite a long time ago, but after Friday’s workshop, I’m quite excited about using it myself! I have used “Pageflakes” and “Delicious” as online ways to collect links I find in subject areas, but I love the way “OneNote” can collect links, text, images… pretty well everything… in an appealing visual way. (BTW, for some peculiar reason, I simply LOVE indexing and cross-referencing, so this is right up my alley!)

An additional plus to the workshop is that there was considerable use of online videos, created by the presenters, which are now accessible to review at our leisure. I’m sure that making these videos helped our presenters really clarify the procedures in their own minds… which puts a little light bulb over MY head…!!! What if I had MY class do a little video on some of OUR Grade 2 learning! Whew! That’s “heady stuff”, isn’t it. However, I know I have seen exactly those sorts of videos “somewhere” on Edublogs with very young children. Oh gosh, I’d better get OneNote set up so that I can get these ideas down!

So much to do and explore… and so little time!


September perk… a teacher laptop!

September is here and once again the adage “too much to do and too little time” applies! I’m sooo excited about sooo many things… hmmm… that tells me it’s going to be a GREAT year! (If I can just organize myself and focus on what is a “must do” instead of what is a “want to do”!)  I do “want”, however, to get back to updating this blog and I have the perfect reason… 6 of our teachers received a Dell laptop and we are attending our first workshop at the upcoming ProD day!

I have my own laptop at home, so I am familiar with using one, but the school has only recently added a wireless hub so I have stuck to using my (personal) desktop computer at school.  There are so many restrictions and “red tape” to using a district computer, that when I upgraded my home computer, I brought the old one to use at school.  (For example, we are not allowed to add or choose our own software at school.) I originally said that I would let someone else have the 6th laptop, but our principal said that most of our teachers wanted to wait until the next laptops come.  Additionally, he was hoping that I would be the “go to” person for the laptop initiative at our school.  There… doesn’t that sound like a good excuse to get a new laptop???

I have to say that I am absolutely THRILLED with the portability of a laptop in the classroom.  Last year I bought a horribly expensive long cable so that my desktop computer could be attached to a projector which needed to be in a certain spot to fit on the pull-down screen.  In order to use it, I had to squash behind my desktop CPU to undo the monitor and attach the cable, then bring my wireless keyboard and mouse over to the projector because I could only view the picture on the screen (the monitor was now blank).  Afterward, everything had to be put back again.  I was excited to be able to show my students webpages on a large screen, but the setup was a real nuisance .  WELL… on the first day of receiving the laptop, I was able to roll out my projector, attach the laptop and VOILA, we were looking at the classroom webpage!  Just like that!

Something I am looking forward to learning about at the workshop is Smartboard-like applications .  When the laptop is turned on, it immediately tells me that it can’t find a Smartboard… how rude to remind me that we don’t have any at our school!!  However, an interesting little menu bar/toolbox appears on the side of my laptop screen and that indicates  that there may still be some applications I can use.

After the workshop, I will blog about the successes we achieve and the impediments we run into. The six of us are at various levels of tech. comfort and range from Gr 3 to Gr. 5 teachers.  I had to laugh when a teacher from another school said how fast her new laptop is, after hearing from one of our “Mac users” say how slow the new laptop is!  It’s all a matter of perspective.  (I plan on finding out what “cool things” my friend’s Mac does and then trying to reproduce them on a Dell!)  Hopefully some of our 6 teachers in this first initiative will add their own comments to this blog!

 Let’s see whether other readers have laptops in their classroom.




I will be interested to see the results!

21st Century Teacher (Tech) Tools

This blog will actually showcase someone else’s work…
Michael Zimmer has done a great job of putting together a publication that explains some useful, current tech tools.  I am familiar with many of the tools, but others are  new to me.  I’m REALLY excited about one of them (Dropbox) because I think it may solve a file transfer issue I have.  Hopefully YOU will find a tech tool that will excite you too!

21st Century Teacher Tools

21st Century Teacher Tools

BTW, the purpose behind this post is to ENTICE YOU to go to Mr. Zimmer’s publication to find out more!  I have gone to the trouble of listing all the tools he discusses so that you might come across one that has intrigued or puzzled you, or perhaps one that you think might enrich your own technology!

Here is a brief synopsis of this information you can explore in depth
at “Tools for the 21st Century“.

Twitter is a social networking tool which has allows educators to quickly share very short comments, valuable links, questions, and helpful answers.  It’s how I found THIS useful resource!

Blogging is a great way to share your interests online (eg. Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress).  Classroom Blogs provide an interactive way of communicating between school and home, as well as providing a wider audience for student work.

Once you become interested in reading, or hopefully creating, blogs you need a way to organize your favourite blogs and a way to find out when new information becomes available.  RSS feeds bring the updates to you, instead of you having to go searching yourself.

As I mentioned in my last post, social bookmarking is an important tool to organize and share your favourite links.  “Delicious” was one of the leaders, but “Diigo” offers extra features.

is a “digital poster board”, so you can add images, audio, and video to your creations.  I was inspired when I saw it used  in a teacher website, and my computer club has been trying it out at school, via a “Glogster Education account“.

I’ve heard about Prezi from several different sources, but I really need to do more exploring here!  Mr. Zimmer says it is one of his favourite new tools, so it must be good!  He describes it this way: “The best way to describe Prezi is to think of it as 3D Infinite Canvas for creating a presentation.”

Dropbox offers free online storage for 2GB (think of your flashdrive size).  This is the one I’m going to sign up for right after I finish this blog!!!

Evernote is another way of organizing your information.  It can be information that you find on the internet, but it could also be notes you are taking at a conference or something you would jot down on a post-it, a napkin, or the palm of your hand.  There is a free app for using it with your phone too.   Hmmmm…..  this sounds interesting!!!

Quizlet allows you or your students to create online flash cards.  I just took a peek at it… it looks worth a longer look!!!

Wallwisher is like a virtual bulletin board where you can stick your post-it notes, photos, videos etc.  I had heard of this before, but thought “why would I want to do that?”  Mr. Zimmer provides some good reasons!

TitanPad allows you to collaborate with others in real-time.  Evidently there are several such programs out there, but this is one of the more popular ones.  Each person gets a different colour of type, so you can easily see who is adding information to a document or conversation.

Skype is a hugely popular and  free video conferencing web-based software.  Basically, it allows you to talk to others in real time, just like on the phone, but free!  Lots of people just use it for personal reasons, ie. talking with relatives.

Wordle is a very popular program that allows you to make “word clouds”.  The title page of Mr. Zimmer’s publication is a Wordle.  Basically, it ranks the number of times you use a word in your article (the, and, etc are removed) and then highlights these in larger font.  It’s fun and attractive too!

There are many ways to create your own (free!) website.  Mr. Zimmer lists his favourites:  Google Sites, Weebly, Wix.

Wikispaces is a place to store as well as share information, links, videos, photos, and files.  I have tried out Wikispaces with my grade 5 computer club and want to do more with it.  Mr. Zimmer has created a “Wiki Wednesdays” post to highlight useful wikis he finds.


I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your publication and plan to follow up on several suggested programs.

I hope that this blog will inspire others to do the same!

Now Where Did I Put That Link…???

I have often thought that with my (somewhat peculiar) love of indexing and cross-referencing, I should have been a librarian! This makes for an unfortunate combination with my inability to throw out anything that might have a 2% chance of being useful in the future! Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at my desk (with so MANY things to file!), every item does eventually make it to its proper place. (Sadly, this is rarely “file 13”)!

On the internet, tabs such as “Favourites” (Internet Explorer) and “Bookmarks” (Firefox) were created as a place to organize  links.  Creating separate folders to organize subject areas (“Science Links”, “Art Websites” etc.) is a good idea.  My lists grew very long, as you can imagine, and the annoying part was that what I saved at home was not accessible in my browser at school.

The social bookmarking site, Delicious, was an amazing solution to “tucking away” useful links for future reference.  A handy tab on the toolbar gives you instant access to your account, so that you can add the link, a comment to remind you why you are interested in it, and a tag so that you can find it again.  There is also a “tag bundle” option, which allows you to group different tags together.  Now your links are available to you, no matter where you are.  Likewise, you can add new links from school or home and retrieve them easily.  I held an inservice on Delicious at our school quite a few years ago, and hopefully this blog post will remind staff to make use of this helpful service.  The aspect of SOCIAL bookmarking is another advantage to using Delicious.  All links are publicly available, so you can search for items such as “Elementary Math Lessons” to see what other teachers are finding useful.  The tags come up in order of “how many people have tagged the link”, so you will also know which are the most popular items.  Another bonus is that you can add people, such as fellow staff members, to your Delicious Network.  This lets you can easily share interesting links that you have discovered.   James McConville, our district technology coordinator, has some great comments on the benefits of using Delicious.|

Delicious - Social Bookmarking

Delicious - Social Bookmarking

Another, increasingly popular, Social Bookmarking site is Diigo.  This website has similar features to Delicious, plus the capability to share information via groups.  By setting up a group network, members can contribute new links to a shared area.  I was inspired by Anita Strang’s blog post on Diigo. Anita is a member of the pilot project “BC UDL – Universal Design for Learning”.

Diigo - Social Bookmarking

Diigo - Social Bookmarking

So, the next time you find yourself  emailing yourself a link or scribbling it down on a scrap of paper, why not try downloading Delicious or Diigo instead!