Friday, 25 October 2013

October 25, 2013 - Getting started with Read&Write and Google Docs…

Many of you have seen this icon appearing when you open the documents on the UGCloud.  Today, I’d like to offer a brief outline of how to use it…

First, when you open a document you may recognize
 this toolbar at the top of the page. This is called the ‘Study Skills’ toolbar and is where you will find the icons for the app.  If you are having trouble seeing the tools for the document you can click on the double arrow on the icon it will hide it for you.  Similarly, if you would like to use the study skills toolbar just click on the double down arrows.

With the Read & Write app, you are able to have documents (including scanned and uploaded PDFs) read to you.  There will be no need for Kurzweil any longer, and anyone, not just students with SEA equipment, will be able to have text read to them.

First, open the document from your Google drive (simply click if it is a Google Doc, if it is a PDF right click on the title and select ‘open with’ and then select “Read&Write for Google”).
When the document opens, highlight the text by clicking and dragging the mouse along the text you would like read.  Then in the toolbar, click on the black triangle and the text will be read to you. To stop the reading, click on the square box or tap the double bars in the ‘study skills toolbar’ to pause the reading. As the text is being read aloud it will be highlighted so that it will help the reader with comprehension and word recognition.

The voice of the reader can be altered from male to female and from a faster reading pace to one which is slower.  To change the voice, speed, or translation language, click on the gear in the upper right hand corner and select from one of the voices in the drop down menu.  Of the available voices, I prefer the US – Ava, as I find she is the least robotic and recognizable.  By choosing French – Virginie, you are able to have Read&Write read French texts aloud for you.

One of the key features of Read&Write is the Highlighting aspect.  By selecting text, you can then click on one of the coloured highlighters in the ‘study skills’ toolbar to change the text to that colour.  Although this appears to be nothing new, the highlighted information can be collected and placed into a new document.   By clicking on the ‘collect highlights’ icon, only the information you have highlighted will be organized into another Google document.  You can choose to have it collected by colour (so say you highlighted everything about dogs in yellow, and everything about cats in blue, all the dog and cat information would be grouped together) or order it chronologically by selecting “position” from the drop down menu when you click on collect highlights.  This is a great tool for students who are learning (or need practice with) how to summarize key points in an article they have just read (CASI).  

Additional Fun Tools
Dictionary - by double clicking on a word (or selecting it with click and drag) and then clicking on the dictionary icon (dictionary), the app will give you what part of speech it is and a definition for it.

Picture Dictionary- by double clicking on a word (or selecting it with click and drag) and then clicking on the picture dictionary icon , you will be given a clip art of what the word means.

Translator - by double clicking on a word (or selecting it with click and drag) and then clicking on the translator icon it will give you a few translations of the word in French or Spanish.  If you find the translator is translating to Spanish, simply click on the gear icon on the right hand side and select French from the drop down menu next to ‘translation’.

Vocabulary builder - when you highlight words and then click on the vocabulary icon a new document is created which lists all of the selected words in a table, including their dictionary definitions, a symbol for it, and a place for students to write in notes.

Fact Finder - helps find information quickly by searching the web for relevant information about a topic.  To use Fact Finder, click on the fact finder icon. Type your search term in the Manual Text Search Box and click OK. Fact Finder will open another browser window and display search results for your keyword using the default search engine. Great for students working on research projects.

I hope these are helpful for you and for your struggling readers.


Friday, 18 October 2013

October 18, 2013 – Short and Sweet

Happy Friday Everyone!

Have you ever wanted to share a website or link to a YouTube video with a friend or colleague, only to find that the web address is so long and full of numbers and letters that it is almost impossible to get it correct?  This is where URL (uniform resource locator) shorteners come in handy.  Websites such as,, and take website addresses and shorten them for easy sharing.  Simply find the webpage you would like to share and highlight the web address in the address bar.  Next right click and select copy.  Then type in the address of a web shortener such as the ones above.  When the web page opens up, there will be a bar in which to enter your web address.  Simply click on the bar and right click, then select paste.  When you click on the ‘shorten’ button, you will be given a new, much simpler, web address to share with your colleague.

If you are feeling a bit more ‘techie’ you can use the following shortcuts to select, copy and paste the web address.  Here are the same instructions using the shortcuts…
Click on the address bar, and type ‘Control and A’ to select all of the web address. Next, type in ‘Control and C’ to copy the highlighted text.  Finally, open the new website and in the address bar click and then press ‘Control and V’ to paste the address.  When you click the shorten button you will be given the new web address.

I hope that this is helpful for you.  If you have an idea for a future blog topic please feel free to pass it along to me, also Past Tech Tidbits posts can be found on the blog at


Friday, 11 October 2013

October 11, 2013 – Teaching Above the Line

Hello everyone,

This week while I was attending the last session of the UGDSB’s Bring IT In session, the SAMR model of technology integration was discussed and I thought I would spend a little time sharing what it is and how it can build your technology repertoire.

The SAMR model was first introduced by Dr. Ruben Puentedura and identifies different levels which technology integration can progress through as we become more adept at teaching and learning with different forms of technology.  It is especially helpful for teachers to use when reflecting on their own tech use as they begin to make small changes in how technology is utilized in their class and illustrates next steps for future implementation.

The first step in the process is substitution.  Here computers are used to perform the same tasks which would have been done in classrooms previously.  For example, students use a word processing program to type up a research project.  In this level there is not much of a significant impact on teaching and student learning; however it is a step in the right direction when beginning integration of technology.

Next comes augmentation and this involves slightly more planning and effort on behalf of the instructor.  In this phase technology can offer a more effective tool to perform common classroom tasks, such as using a Google form for taking a quiz or a virtual ‘sticky note wall’ as a parking lot for questions.  The technology is a direct substitution and as a result there can be immediate feedback on students’ level of understanding and student engagement increases.

This is the first step ‘over the line’ as they call it – where we move from enhancement to transformation.  In this level, the technology allows for significant redesign of parts of the task.   Some examples include students using Google docs to collaborate on an assignment using comments and share features and creating an audiovisual presentation for an authentic audience.  Here students are becoming increasingly more active in questioning and the lessons become student driven.  One drawback at this level, however is that without technology your lesson is not possible.

The final level is redefinition where technology allows for new tasks to be created which were once impossible to perform in the classroom.  Collaborating and connecting with other classrooms around the world via Skype or Google Docs is one example.  Here the student and teacher’s worlds are expanded far beyond the traditional classroom.

There are many great resources available to further your familiarity with the SAMR model.  I encourage you to examine your technology use and question how you can ‘bump it up’ to the next level to encourage student engagement and build on the student centered learning in your class.

Cheers and have a Happy Thanksgiving,

Friday, 4 October 2013

October 4th, 2013 - Technology that VROCs!

Hello everyone and congratulations on completing another week in the most important profession in the world!

Students often do not connect their in class learning with the day-to-day occurrences in the world.  They feel that the study topics and assignments are of no use in the ‘real world’.  Well, that is all about to change with the addition of VROC in your classroom!

VROC stands for ‘Virtual Researcher On Call’ ( and connects Canadian classrooms with present-day researchers and professionals in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).  There are several ways which you can incorporate VROC into your classroom program such as Experts on Demand, Career Video Podcasts, and video podcasts on This Week in Science and Education. 

Career Video Podcasts include such great topics as Science Scoop’, ‘Tech Talk’, ‘Engineer This’ and ‘Why Math?’ These energetic and entertaining videos show experts in the various STEM fields discussing what they do and highlighting new careers in their area. 

This Week in Science and Education contains enjoyable videos featuring emerging technologies such as ultrasound in the treatment of cancer, Bucky Balls and environmentalism. 

The best feature of all (in my opinion) however is Experts on Demand.  This feature inspires young students’ interests by connecting current researchers with classrooms via video conference and mentorship, and allows them to interact in real time and participate in rich collaborative discussions.   

The best part is that all of these services are completely free to public and Catholic elementary and secondary schools in Canada! By simply visiting the website and signing up for an account, a VROC coordinator will be in touch with you to discuss how they can best support your classroom curriculum.

This is just another way that technology can enhance your teaching and bring down the walls of your classroom to introduce your students to the world around them.