Friday, 31 January 2014

January 31st, 2014 - Snow Fun Anymore

Happy snowy Friday everyone!! In light of the crazy weather conditions we have had this week; I have taken this opportunity to explore technological options for snow days. 

Recently, a school in Illinois has decided to forgo their snow days in lieu of e-learning days.  When the snow begins to fly and it is unsafe for students to travel to school, they are expected to log onto a pre-determined online social learning network where they will find the day’s assignment and readings.  They are able to virtually chat with their classmates, view videos based on course content and complete lessons created by the instructor.  For the full article on the Waterloo IL school you can find it here (

Three online tools which can be utilized to facilitate this type of learning in your classroom are: Edmodo, My Big Campus and Questgarden.

This platform is much like Facebook for educators and students.  It is accessible from a desktop computer as well as through an app for smartphones.  Students do not need to create an account or have an email address to log-in.  The teacher simply gives them a group code which allows them access and connects them to their classmates. Instructors can post assignments, create polls for students to respond to, attach video clips, post a quiz for students and create a calendar of events and assignments.   Students can upload assignments as well as message one another or the teacher. There is also an option to invite parents into the group so that they can be aware of their child’s progress and upcoming assignments.

Very similar to Edmodo, My Big Campus has a clear and organized home-base and allows parents to be included in the entire online learning process.  It has a pre-embedded library of materials including documents, websites and videos which you can use with your students or add your own. Based out of the United States, MBC is a little more difficult to create an account because it doesn’t have our schools pre-loaded and they need to be added which can take more time.

Webquests with Questgarden (
A webquest is an online inquiry-based learning project which emphasizes the use of higher order thinking skills.  The teacher preselects web resources so that students are using reliable and safe research materials.  Webquests can be created using various programs including a website on UGCloud; however I have found that creating the first quest (or two) can be easier with an online template or step-by-step program such as Questgarden.   They have hundreds of searchable quests already prepared and available for you to use free on the Questgarden website.  You are also able to create one of your own with a trial version or subscription.  A 30-day trial version is available free or teachers, and although their costs for a subscription are minimal ($20US for two years); I find that I can prepare a quest and students can complete it within the allocated trial period.
Webquests have six basic parts: Introduction, Task, Process, Resources, Evaluation, and Conclusion.  Tasks are often authentic in design and offer real-world challenges for students to solve.  The process includes the steps you wish students to take to accomplish their task. On the resources page live links and information which you would like your students to use to complete their assignment are posted.  This places all of the required information is in one location so that they do not need to research the internet for reliable sources (or possibly get side tracked) allowing them to focus on processing the information. Evaluation allows you to explain to your students how they will be marked on their project, frequently in the form of a rubric.  Finally the conclusion page is a place to discuss what they have learned, and possibly extend it into areas of further learning.   Here is a link to an example which has students examine the impact that the mega quarry would have had on the surrounding businesses, farms and general public. Mega Quarry Webquest 

I hope that we will be able to get back to a regular routine in the schools and that these types of online learning opportunities will not be necessary, but until then, fingers crossed that the Groundhog will not be seeing any shadows this week so we can begin making plans for an early spring.  

Stay safe and warm everyone,

Friday, 24 January 2014

January 24, 2014 – Keeping Our Kids Cyber Safe

Happy Friday everyone!!

Although, in the past I have shared technology programs and iPad apps for classroom use, this week I happened to come across a rather shocking study regarding technology usage by Canadian teens and feel it is important to share. 

In 2013, Media Smarts surveyed over 5 000 Canadian students in grades 4 through 11 in every province and territory in Canada. Here is a brief outline of the results:

·         99 percent of students surveyed have access to the Internet outside of school using a variety of devices. 
·         the biggest change since our last survey is the proliferation of mobile and portable devices, such as tablets, smartphones and MP3 players, which give youth constant – and often unsupervised – online access.  
·         more than a third of students who own cell phones say they sleep with their phones in case they get calls or messages during the night
·         one in six students has gone offline in order to avoid someone who is harassing them.
·         the average number of household rules has actually declined since 2005: for example, in the earlier survey two-thirds of students had a rule at home about meeting people whom they first met online, while only one-half now do.
·         nearly one in four of the youngest children [Grade 4s] owned a mobile device
·         a substantial percentage of younger students ‘never’ sit with an adult or parents when online – almost one third of students in grades 4-6
(Media Smarts, 2004)

Many of the results shared in this document are very worrying for me.  Although I love to see children using technology as a component of their learning, it is imperative that they are using it safely and with the guidance of adults in charge.  As a result, I would like to remind everyone of a few online tools which can assist in teaching children about digital citizenship.  Please take the time with your students to emphasize how to behave safely and make good choices while online.  If you’d like to read the full study results, click here Young Canadians in a wired World

Canada’s Center for Digital and Media Literacy -

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

- contains wonderful fully created lesson plans for educators

Concerned Children’s Advertisers -

Thanks and have a great week,

Friday, 17 January 2014

January 17, 2014 – A Grand ‘Slam’ for Technology

Hello Everyone!

This week I have chosen to feature a fun website which offers brief videos and tutorials introducing educational apps, websites, tools and programs to use with your students. Hosted by Tanya Avrith and Holly Clark, Eduslam ( interviews educators from around the world and explains not only how to use the tools, but how to integrate them into your classroom.  With exciting topics such as ‘Digital Portfolios in the Primary Classroom’, ‘The Power of Blogging’ and ‘Explain Everything and Evernote as a Solution to Shared iPads’, EduSlam has something for everyone and more videos are being added every week. 

By clicking on the website you will find the ‘slams’ sorted into categories such as iPad, Elementary level and Social Media.  Simply choose an interesting tool which you would like to find out more about, and within the brief 5 minute video you will learn everything you need to know about the tool: where to find it, to how to use it in the classroom and ways to link to the curriculum.  In addition, all of the educators who are interviewed (including the hosts) share their twitter handles so you can begin to follow them on Twitter.  What a great way to build your online PLN! is a great way to find out about new and upcoming technology tools and apps without feeling self-conscious about your ‘tech-ability’.  You can watch the videos again and again until you feel comfortable using the tool with your students.

Past Tech Tidbits posts can be found on the blog at and if you have an idea for a future blog topic, please feel free to pass it along to me.


Saturday, 11 January 2014

January 10, 2014 – It's a Twitter Party and You're Invited!

Happy New Year and Welcome Back!!

This week I have chosen to challenge everyone to take Twitter and their PLN to the next level by participating in an educational Twitter chat, also known as a Twitter party. 

A Twitter tweet chat is a pre-arranged discussion that happens via Twitter through the use of Tweets that include a predefined hashtag (#) to link those tweets together in a virtual conversation. Tweet chats are a great forum for educators and administration to learn from other people in their field and to collaborate with their peers. There is no registration or invitations required, just a twitter account and willingness to share or learn from others.  You may wish to follow or simply observe a twitter chat before finding your courage and jumping in as a participant. 

There are various educational topics and discussions occurring throughout the week and on an impromptu basis.  If you would like to view a list of educational twitter chats occurring weekly, simply click on the following link to be directed to an interactive doc listing the weekly educational twitter chats.

Some of the more popular educator chats include:  Canadian educators chat #cdnedchat (Monday 8-9pm), Educational technology chat #edtechchat (Monday 8-9pm), Education chat #edchat (Tuesday 7-8pm), and Saturday chat for leaders (educational topics) #satchat (Saturday 7:30-8:30am and 10:30-11:30am). 

During the chat, moderators will post questions with a Q1, Q2, Q3 numbered format, so that responses can be linked and participants can follow along easily.   When responding to the questions, remember to begin your answers with A1, A2, or A3 depending on the question you are responding to and include the hashtag of the chat, so others can find it in the conversation.  
Although you are able to successfully follow a twitter chat directly on the twitter webpage by entering the hashtag in the search bar at the top of the page, (see image to the right) many find using additional tools makes chatting easier.  Tweetdeck (, Hootsuite ( (image below) and Tweetchat ( are online platforms which allow you to organize and stream discussions into columns by hashtag.

Remember, you only have 140 characters to get your idea across so be succinct and respond to the concepts being presented.  Feel free to Retweet (RT) others ideas which ring true to you, and reply to those with whom you wish to interact.  This is a great opportunity to find new educators to follow and gain followers of your own.  

I look forward to hearing how you faced the challenge and what you learned from the experience.

Past Tech Tidbits posts can be found on the blog at and if you have an idea for a future blog topic, please feel free to pass it along to me.