Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lori's Latest Links

I have recently attended an amazing conference session called "Technology Interventions that Work" by Dr. Lori Elliott.  That one hour session had my head spinning with ideas.....and I thought I was already doing well for incorporating technology into my classroom.

I would strongly recommend for you to follow her blog.  She is constantly updating new ideas and posts.

One of the links on her blog is entitled "Tech Interventions".  Here she has links to all of the different ideas presented in the seminar that left me spinning.


QuizStar is a very useful site that you can use for creating online quizzes and tests.  I have currently been using this site for the comprehension questions at the end of each chapter for the different books I use for Novel studies in reading.

I like how the quizzes are organized for the students when they log in.  

You can create an account for free, but they do offer a paid version that gives you a few more bells and whistles.  I only use the "free" version, as I do with most everything else.

The only thing that I wish were possible with my "free" version would be for students to be able to save their progress through a given quiz.  For this to be used, the students need to complete their quiz and submit it, for their answers to be saved.

Sometimes, for students needing more time, I have just copied and pasted the quiz (with their results so far) into Word.  On a later date, they can open up and copy and past some answers back into their quiz when they have more time to finish it.

I like this application, because it is web based, and allows anyone with Internet access to work on their quizzes.  Students can then complete them at home if they need to or they can even use the HP mini's in my classroom (which are not connected to our school network).  

This has been one of the greatest online treasures that I have come across since I have been teaching in Alberta.

The mission of the 2Learn Education Society, "is to initiate, advocate and share with educators technology-enriched teaching, learning, and leadership options of tomorrow, empowered by unique alliances with educational and community partners.

I'm just going to point you towards the direction of the "Student Sites".  They are organized into 5 different levels.

Grade 1 - 2
Grade 3 - 6
Grade 7 - 9
Grade 10 - 12

If ever you are wanting to find some good online resources for what you are teaching (in the Alberta Curriculum), this is the place.  You don't have to search the Internet aimlessly.  They have found jewels of things and it is all nicely organized by grade level and subject area.


Blogging has become such a useful and interactive way of having discussions in class.

The coolest thing that I find with blogging is that you will get responses from the entire class.  If I post a question for discussion, you'll get responses from even the shy kids in class where as if I had just asked that question opening for a class discussion, I would get the 5 or 6 students who always like share in front of the class.

Students can create their own blogs and they can read and respond to their classmates.  This becomes a very engaging and interactive way for students to discuss ideas, topics and what they are learning.  

Also, anytime the students are allowed to use the HP mini's in class they are excited.  They just love technology.  

There are many different blog sites available, but the best one by far, for the grade 5 & 6 setting would be KidBlog.  

With KidBlog, you don't need an email account or gmail, and all of the comments need to be approved through moderation.  This allows you to keep the blogging safe for your students.

Google Docs

Google Docs can be an amazing teaching tool.  I use these for many different writing assignment in grade 5 & 6.  Before taking a look at how I use Google Docs in my writing class, let's first take a look at what the writing process used to be.  (Please note that the writing process, in the real world, does NOT follow these steps)

  1. Monday - pre-writing phase, graphic organizers, etc.
  2. Tuesday - Write your first draft on paper and hand in.
  3. Wednesday - Receive back your first draft with all of the "red" ink from your teacher and proceed to revise your first draft.  Hand back in to your teacher.
  4. Thursday - Receive back your revised first draft with more "red" ink from your teacher.  Now proceed to fix those mistakes and edit your revised draft.  Hand back into your teacher.
  5. Friday - Receive back your edited copy with maybe some minor (or major) recommendations from your teacher.  Make the changes and suggestions and publish your work.  (By this point the paper is more your teacher's than it is your own.)
Real writers will begin writing (using word processors) and even though their are stages of pre-writing, writing, revising, editing and publishing, it doesn't follow such a strict process.  The work can always be visited, changed and manipulated until a deadline of a publication, and even then, many authors may look at their work after it has been published and think about a change that could have been made.  

The biggest challenge teachers will face when allowing students to work through this process in a digital format, would be booking computer lab time.  Students just don't have enough time on the computer to work through this process in a word processor.  Another challenge I have faced in the past was the transferring of files when the students were required to work on it at home.  Students needed to save their work and bring it back and forth.  Some students didn't have Microsoft Word, and there were challenges with software.  Many students would forget their work at home or just not bring it saying that they had it finished already therefore wasting good class time.  

The answer to all of these problems were solved when I turned to Google Docs.

Google Docs is a web based form of a word processor, spreadsheet, and even PowerPoint, that does not require any installation of software.  All that was needed was a web browser and connection to the Internet.

Here are some of the things I love about Google Docs:

  1. Using Google docs in the classroom has allowed me to interact more with the students while they are working on their writing, in a digital process.
  2. They can work on it from any computer, in the computer lab, on an HP mini in the classroom, at home, even at grandma's house.
  3. I can keep good tabs on my students progress when they are working on big projects.  (Like the "My Book About Me" project, where the students write a book about themselves that includes many chapters.)
  4. I still download the Google Doc into "Word" once they have finished their writing and the bulk of their revising.  Once in Word, I teach them to use the spelling/grammar check, how to insert page numbers, create headers, etc.
  5. Google Docs can be used as a great collaboration tool.  Many students can have access to the same document and they can even edit it simultaneously.  Students can go home and still work collaboratively without the parents having to arrange time for the group of students to get together.   

There are some challenges....but I've learned to work with them.
  1. Google docs can be a bit slow, especially if the file is getting quite large.  I've had students in the past begin to insert many pictures into their document which made it very difficult to easily jump on and do some writing.  I make sure my students don't add any pictures during their "writing" phase on Google docs.  I teach them this part once it has been downloaded into a "Word" document.
  2. Some students have selected a large chunk of text and by mistake have pressed the space bar, thus deleting a large portion of their project.  There is an undo button, but sometimes they do too many things to try and get it back that the undo doesn't help them.  There is a revision history that I can access.  I'll find the most recent revision that contained that text and reinstate it.  
  3. It is a bit of work to create documents accessible for students who don't have a gmail account.  Many of my students don't even have an email account and their parents are not ready for them to have one either.  The way around this one is to create a google doc that allows a person with the URL to edit it.  I then create a password protected section of my class website for each of my students' URL links to their writing projects on Google Docs.  This allows only them to get into their document, and a friend of theirs can't do some unwanted editing.


Social Networking is a new way of life now.  It is something that we need to accept as part of our lives.  The students that we will be teaching will have grown up living in this environment and will come to expect it.  We need classrooms and educational experiences that will engage our students in the world that they are familiar with, and the world that they will also be living in, in the future.

Many teachers have been using Facebook in creative ways to notify, inform, and engage their students, yet it is wide open to your entire personal life.  Yes there are privacy settings that can be applied to keep a section of your life private to your students if you choose, but this becomes quite a task to keep track of all of the "friends" that are not supposed to see your entire profile or picture albums.  

Have you ever considered edmodo?  It is an entire social networking site that looks a lot like Facebook, but it is something completely different.

Edmodo provides a safe and easy way for your class to connect and collaborate, share content, and access homework, grades and school notices. The goal of edmodo is to help educators harness the power of social media to customize the classroom for each and every learner.

Edmodo even has a free mobile app that provides a very powerful way to interact with the social network site.  One of the features that edmodo provides is a "poll".  Here you can have instant results when students lock in their opinion on a class vote.  Students can use their mobile devices, even iPod Touches (which many grade 5 & 6 students seem to have nowadays).  

There is even a full gradebook feature of edmodo for your assignments and quizzes.  It is nicely organized, allowing you to check on the results of the latest quiz or assignment you have graded for each of your students.

Key Features that I like about edmodo so far....

  1. I love the safe environment for comments shared between students.  Student comments are await moderation from you, as the teacher, before they get posted.  This allows you to keep the social environment safe from negative comments or any type of cyber bullying.
  2. I really like the "Poll" feature.  I can envision allowing my students to use their iPods in class to take a vote on things.  I can instantly display the results and interact with this site on my Smart board in class.
  3. The "quiz" feature is great.  All true/false and multiple choice questions are graded automatically and it even allows you to grade and provide a comment for the short answers the students write.  

Voki's Can Teach!

If you ever start to feel that your students are tuning out your voice and you really want them to pay attention to something very important, maybe you should consider using a Voki to explain something important. You can even use a Voki to give specific directions at the beginning of class or even before an activity of some kind.

My students were very excited and engaged when I first introduced Voki's to them.

I differentiated the instruction for my math classes by having them pair up to create their own Voki's. I wanted the students to summarize the main concepts in the math unit we have been studying to allow them to revisit some materials and also provide a bit of review for them. This was the part of the lesson that was differentiated, I assigned different concepts to different students. I assigned the math concept that I knew each grouping would be successful at summarizing. These Voki's were then presented to the class and posted to the class website. Students at home could then click on them as many times as they wanted and they would hear the specific math concepts explained over and over again.

You can make a Voki here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Creativity with QR Codes

QR Code Generator - Kaywa codes can be used in creative ways in the classroom with your students. If you have students with smart phones or even iPods, they can download a free QR code reader app to decode these special codes.

In the QR Code Generator by kaywa, you can create your own message as "text" or even "sms". With kaywa you can also create a QR code that links to a specific URL.

Once generating these QR codes, you can copy and paste them into a document or even put them on your blog or website.

You can create a special lesson or activity that could get your students
using their qr code readers to get information that you want to give them. You could create questions and have the answers or hints to these questions hidden in the qr code. If you have them fill out their worksheet answers first, you could then let them go back through their worksheet with their iPod to check their answers by scanning the various QR codes on the worksheet itself.

Google, also has a QR code ge
nerator. It only
allows you to generate text codes. But also a very useful and easy tool in generating QR codes.

QR Treasure Hunt Generator

Another very useful QR code generator site is powered by It is designed to help you generate a QR code scavenger hunt to a series of questions and answers you enter in online.