Thursday, 28 March 2013

March 28, 2013 - Safety and Security Online

Hello Everyone,

Recently there have been an increase in the number of cyber bullying issues and as a result I have chosen to focus on Digital Citizenship as our topic for this week.

As we have discussed earlier, Digital Citizenship means understanding and making the choice to use the internet and technology appropriately and safely.  This can include e-mail etiquette, proper citing and use of internet resources, as well as security and safety.  With children as young as 3 clicking on webpages and playing online games in school, we need to teach children how to use the online community safely and respectfully.  We can withdraw students’ access to technology to ensure that there is no inappropriate behaviour occurring, however we have a responsibility to educate students on how to interact with others online in a respectful and responsible manner. 

In my work with students of various ages and ability levels, the one rule that I have found to be the most effective and easiest for students of all ages to understand is the ‘Grandma Rule’. In effect, ‘If what you are about to post, isn’t something you would say aloud to your Grandma (or have her read online if she is rather tech savvy), then simply do not post it.’  The internet is not an erasable or forgiving entity.  Even when items appear to be ‘deleted’ they continue to live on in cyberspace and can return in the most inopportune times or can be located by authorities who choose to search for them.  Students who believe that they are posting anonymously via text or message boards, are often unaware that their individual device has a ‘digital fingerprint’ and can be traced back to the device.  Finally, reminding students that leaving their accounts (UGCloud, Facebook or other) open when they are not around could lead to others posting on their behalf.  Always remember to log out or lock devices when they are not in use and remain secure – teachers too!
The following are some of the online resources teachers can use to instruct students on how to effectively behave online.  They include lesson plans, public service announcements as well as videos and additional resources.  Please take the time to discuss proper behaviour and safety with your students when they log on and continue to discuss it as their technological abilities increase.


Canada’s Center for Digital and Media Literacy -

Mike Ribble’s Citizenship Webpage -
-          contains ‘Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship’ which is ideal for teaching

Common Sense Media -
-          Contains wonderful fully created lesson plans for educators

Concerned Children’s Advertisers -

Friday, 22 March 2013

March 22, 2013 - Getting Blogged Down Can Be Fun

Hello Everyone,

Recently I have been asked for past copies of my Tech Tidbits and so I thought I would share the location of my Tech Tidbits Blog for teachers to use as a tool to refresh their memories or as a ‘jumping off point’ when looking for some new tech inspiration. has all of my past posts, links to websites, and has a search feature which allows you to click on ‘labels’ or enter key words which will take you to the post about that particular topic.  Additionally, I thought some teachers may be interested in starting their own blog, or one for their classroom, so this has become our tech tidbits for this week…Blogging.

So, just what is a Blog?

Originally taken as a mash-up of the words ‘web log’, a blog is a website usually arranged in chronological order from most recent post or entry, where individuals record information on a regular basis.  They can be on any topic - football, fashion, gaming, food, global issues, etc. and the general public can view the blog and comment on the posts being displayed.  Many teachers have begun blogging as a class group activity to provide a historical record of the year’s events or to keep parents and others apprised of the classes’ accomplishments and events.   

Why blog with students?

Blogging for students provides an authentic audience and purpose for their writing and learning.  Often students feel that the work they are completing is simply for the teacher to mark and has no material importance in the context of day-to-day life.  Blogging however, offers students a ‘real’ audience to write for and when they begin to receive comments from their peers and others they feel a responsibility to maintain this calibre of writing and connection.  Teaching students about digital citizenship is another benefit.  Students learn how to appropriately comment on others’ postings and they begin to understand the global reach that their online presence has.  The student’s writing process is improved and frequently the students who are afraid to share their thoughts and ideas aloud in class are able to find their voice from the security of their keyboards.  Finally, blogging is fun! As the blog grows and more and more people are reading their posts and commenting on the articles, students begin to see how connected they are to the world around them and what an impact their lives can have on others.

So how do I get started?

There are many free blogging websites available including Edublogs, Kidblog and Blogger (our very own UGCloud has a Blogger link under ‘More’ on the UGCloud Home page).  Creating an account and setting up the account is very user friendly and quick to complete.  Initially, depending on the grade and level of the students, I would begin with a blog where the whole class contributes and the teacher is able to edit posts.  Instructors can begin by viewing videos about blogging (such as this one from BrainPop), discuss the blog with the class and begin by modelling proper post writing, commenting and even develop success criteria for writing.  Having students comment on teacher created posts offers them the opportunity to begin their blogging experience in a safe and limited manner.  Appointing pairs or groups of students to write posts about class events or assignments provides an opportunity to grow into authors themselves. Finally, as they begin to show their ability and interest students could graduate to writing their own personal blogs, imbedding videos and images of student work.  Invite parents to view and comment on the posts and watch the kids begin to glow with pride.

Where can this take us?

No one knew that when Neil Pasricha began the blog ‘1000 Awesome Things’, that it would lead to an award winning website, 6 books, a TED Talk, virtual app, an Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading Award and potential movie deal.  He was just trying to continually find the more positive things in life.  Countless other blogs have grown into books and created writers out of students who thought they weren’t capable.  Who knows if your blog or that of your students may become something so much more than you had ever thought possible.

Happy Blogging,


Friday, 8 March 2013

March 8, 2013 - Making Sense of the Technology Alphabet Soup

Happy Friday Everyone!

Earlier this week I saw an article defining ‘20 Essential Technology Terms for Teachers’ and I thought that this was a great idea.  Technology and teaching is changing so quickly and new concepts are being developed every day, so a note explaining some of the recent and more confusing technology terms may be beneficial.

Read as ‘one to one’ this means a school or class has one computer or device for every pupil.  Although this is a dream for many of us currently in the elementary setting, it is occurring in other educational areas (Laurier Bed. Program for example). 

Acceptable Use Policy – Policy #318 at the UGDSB. An acceptable use policy outlines safe and secure use of digital technology in the school and throughout the school board.  It clearly defines what students and staff may or may not do on the school’s network.  Students and parents are often required to sign one at the beginning of each school year.

‘Bring Your Own Device’ or ‘Bring Your Own Technology’ is a policy which some classrooms and schools are beginning to implement where students are encouraged to bring in their own tablet, netbook or laptops for use within the school.   While this allows for more students to have devices for hands on learning, it also illustrates more clearly the divide between students and families which can afford these items and those that cannot.  This can provide a greater challenge for instructors who need to be aware of how a variety of devices work in order to assist students and facilitate learning.  Additionally, some feel that this increases student’s responsibility with the technology and as a result lessens the amount of vandalism occurring on the school technological devices.

Cloud or ‘Cloud Computing’
The cloud is a metaphor for the internet, however when you combine it with ’computing’ it becomes an on-demand storage space for documents, photos, information, etc.  The cloud is not one single device or location, instead it is where files are copied to servers and are then accessible from a variety of locations and devices.  The UGCloud for example can be accessed from the school resource center to create a document then saved and retrieved on a tablet, or Chromebook, etc. for further editing and composition at home, or in a location with internet capabilities.

Digital Citizenship
Digital citizenship means understanding and making the choice to use the internet and technology appropriately and safely.  This can include e-mail etiquette, proper citing and use of internet resources, as well as security and safety.  With children as young as 3 clicking on webpages and playing online games, we need to teach children how to use the online community safely and respectfully. 

Digital Literacy
Similar to Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy is the ability to navigate, assess and generate information using technology and the internet.  It includes the ability to interpret data and information and to apply new knowledge from digital environments.

Flipped Classroom or Flip Teaching
This is a form of blended learning (combination of face-to-face and technology facilitated) which frequently involves students viewing teacher created videos (or read a section of the textbook) at home so that the teacher is free to interact with students during class time.  Students learn the concepts on their own at home and practice or apply the knowledge in class with the assistance of the teacher.  One example of this is the collaboration between the Khan Academy and the Los Altos School District, where they are piloting a district wide flipping of the classrooms.

Most parents will tell you that if you make chores into a game children are more likely to get on board and they become a fun activity - this is the premise for gamification.  By integrating game thinking and methods into learning and non-game applications students become more engaged and often remember concepts and knowledge and have a greater understanding.

MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course and these are becoming more popular throughout the world.  They offer online education to an immense number of participants at low cost (often free) in a variety of topics.  Udacity and Coursera are two of the more popular MOOC websites.

QR Code
These QR or Quick Response codes are popping up all over the grocery and retail stores and now they are making their way into education as well.  They are a type of bar code which allows a ‘reader’ to link to related information in the form of a website.    By installing an app with a QR scanner/generator (such as ‘QR Reader for iPhone’), students can create their own codes or teachers can place them up around the room and have them link to resources and videos for students use. Give this one a try…

A wiki is a website which allows one or more users to add delete and modify the content.  Many teachers use wikis for their classroom to keep students and families up to date on events and assignments.  Mary Kay Goindi has created her wiki to assist teachers in intermediate math and 3 part problem solving. 

Technical Pedagogical Content Knowledge is the framework to understand the kind of information needed by a teacher for effectively teaching with technology.  This extension of Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge illustrates the veritable ‘sweet spot’ where technology meets pedagogy, content and knowledge which is where students will learn best.

I hope this provides some clarity as to the current ‘alphabet soup’ of acronyms and new language surrounding technology in education.  If there are additional questions or suggestions for future ‘Tech Tidbits’ please feel free to message me.

Have a great break!

Friday, 1 March 2013

March 1, 2013 - Getting Caught Up In The World Wide Web

Welcome to the weekend everyone,

The creation of the internet has given us the ability to bring the entire world into the classroom, yet we have not begun to tap the full global possibilities that exist as a result of this innovation.  Reading about world news, researching various cultures and environmental issues are all formats that teachers are using to incorporate globalization into the class; however there are many other  ways to turn your students into citizens of the world. 

Why not involve your students in an authentic learning project that will connect them to classrooms around the world?  i-EARN ( and is the International Education and Resource Network, which is a non-profit organization made up of over 30 000 schools in more than 130 countries.  With over 150 projects to choose from on topics ranging from science and technology to language arts and humanities, you are sure to find a theme which fits your curriculum and will engage your students.  Through an online forum teachers and students connect and collaborate with others working on the same project.   Writing an online novel, an international teddy bear exchange and holiday card creation and exchange are some of the amazing possibilities that your class can participate in with iEARN.

You’ve tried pen pals but have you ever thought about ePals?  ePals ( provides a framework for teachers to connect their classrooms to others around the world based on student age, world region or discussion themes and content.  Students are able to practice their language skills via secure online written forums and web camera applications.  This is a great opportunity for students to practice their French and English language skills (both written and oral) with students whose first language may not be our own.  In addition, classrooms can be matched up based upon the topics they wish to discuss such as children’s rights, environmental issues and even school life and common activities.  There are thousands of students waiting to connect with others around the globe and share their knowledge and experiences.  
United Classrooms (, Skype in the Classroom ( and Flat Classroom ( are only some of the many other opportunities which exist online and break down the walls of your classroom, inviting students of the world to learn with your class.  I feel that in today’s society if we are going to ever hope for peace and coexistence, we need to begin by teaching students to think globally and have compassion for others around the world who are more like them than they tend to realize.