Tag Archives: Techology in the Classroom

Playing Around In The Virtual World

Ever since our class last week about Second Life and Teen Second life, I haven’t been very busy trying to understand it. I was very excited to create an account on Second Life and enter the virtual world. I figured why not try something new! I love the Sims game and from what I could tell during class and from listening others speak about it, SL was just like an interactive, realistic version of it. So I downloaded second life (during class time, I apologize hehe) and believe it or not, waited until after class to try it out. I created my avatar and chose the tutorial room. This was where I became frustrated. The first thing I did was walk around the room to practice walking and flying. This was not difficult at all, but there was not exactly any step by step instructions to tell me about how things work. People were trying to talk to me in the chat after walking up to me and since I wasn’t there to meet people, I was a little irritated by this. I just wanted to figure out what the exactly I was doing.

So after wandering around a little I decided that I wanted to change my appearance and outfit. I found the change appearance option under the ‘Edit’ tool bar and was completely overwhelmed by how many options I had to choose from. I could change anything about my face, my hair, my body, my skin color, my height, and my outfit. After about half an hour I still couldn’t decide what I liked so I just decided to leave it as I had it right at that moment and do some more exploring. I found the map of different places I could go and decided that I wanted to leave the tutorial and find a few places that were mentioned in class. But I had no idea how to find them and I had no idea how to switch locations. It looked a lot easier to navigate in class.

Since my first experience was leaving me feeling frustrated I decided to leave it and come back to it another day. I decided to try it out again a couple of days later, but still experienced the feelings of confusion and frustration that I had had on my first attempted. It was then that I decided that SL just wasn’t for me and that I would stick with the Sims. Maybe I made this judgement too soon, but without someone walking me through it I just do not have the time and the patience to explore it and understand it on my own. I think it would be very time consuming until learning how it works.

However, I think that what Erik, Garnet, and Marcel are doing with it with their grade 8s is really neat. They are using Teen Second Life (TSL) to become familiar with and explore the many different cultures that are found around the world.

In this unit students will explore the cultures of people around the world through seven common cultural patterns: economic, political, kinship, artistic, religious, educational, and recreation and play. The activities are designed to help students develop an understanding of how cultures are defined and acquire respect for cultural diversity. They will learn that all cultures have similarities, and they will come to value the differences among cultures for the richness and variety they bring to our world and way of life.

TSL is very similar to SL; however, only people between the ages of 13 and 17 can take part. Adults are allowed to join but they have to have some ties to educational institution, have completed a CRC and are limited to staying on the island that was created for Regina Public Schools. If you are interested in more information about this, please see their website to learn more about their engaging project.

Even though I decided that SL isn’t for me, maybe using TSL would be a different way for me to connect with more of my students if I was to teach an older grade (a new way of differentiated instruction?). I couldn’t see myself using this tool with young students. And maybe with a little more practice and someone to walk me through SL to show me how exactly it works, I would be able to decide that SL really is for me. But for now, I will just stick with The Sims.

Here are some websites that I found interesting and helpful:

E-merging Learning Day One

I have to admit that I was pretty tired after learning all that I did today at the IT-Summit Conference, but my brain was quite content after feeding on the knowledge about literacies, SMART technologies, open networking, and how schools are in a serious need for a change. Here are some of the key points and my learning from a few of the sessions that I attended today.

Reading Across a Dozen Literacies – Jamie Mckenzie

– When talking about literacy in class, find common words and categories to allow interconnection to take place             – Education focuses only enhancing reading and mathematical numeracy; this is not the best thing because students should be good at all literacies
– Students need to embrace complexity; our job as a teacher is to take simple minds and have them question complex issues
– Good ideas form over weeks and thoughts need to be shaken off balance in order for a good idea to be thought of  -Researching should be more than just scooping and smooshing
– Research should involve one’s own ideas – comprehending > considering > wandering > wondering > pondering (all interchangeable)
-Visual Thesaurus (www.visualthesaurus.com) is a great visual diagram of one’s wandering thoughts
-People have lost their ability of natural and environmental literacy/the ability to ‘read’ signs in nature and the environment
– Because of this, people today grab onto complex scientific situations and make simple decisions
Explore possibilities – be open-minded

Integrating SMARTboards Into What You Are Already Doing – Melissa Gavel

– When working with technology, expect the unexpected and plan accordingly
– A board is just a tool – use other tools also i.e.) SMART Senteo, digital cameras, laptops, projectors, etc.
– You need your own board in your own classroom to fully embrace the interactive experiences available; does not work best if students have to go to another room to use it or if it is transportable
– Senteo Clicker: gives students who don’t volunteer answers a voice; all can answer anonymously and not have to raise their hands; give the same clicker to a student every time and the clicker will save the information/data
– Senteo Clickers involve many forms of answers: multiple choice, true/false, yes/no
– Smarttech.com has slides/lessons/etc available for you to use
– Include as many students up at the board as possible and have the rest of the students working on the same sheet at their desks
– Discussion at the board = power of collaborative learning; can see lots of light bulbs going off
– Students never get bored of the board; it seems like a fun game in their eyes even after years of using it

Be Kind Rewind – Clarence Fischer

– Society is changing so how can classrooms/education change to keep up with it?
– Are kids different today?
– It is your role as an educator to find out what is interesting to your students and incorporate that into your lessons/classroom
– Students know all about having access to the world because of society; therefore, why take that away from then when in the classroom
– 20% of Canadians are on Facebook
– 85% of people born after 1980 are on a social networking site of some sort
– Classrooms can be a snooze to some kids because they are used to getting a lot of stuff from lots of places at different times of the day – realize this and make adaptations!
– We have kids ‘power down’ in class when they are not really used to this
– Allow electronic devices (laptops, ipods, etc) in your classroom to promote open mindedness and save your school division a pile of money
– Digital Native vs Digital Immigrant does not always mean young people vs old people – can be vice versa
– Tools don’t really costs anything anymore; software is free online
– Facebook and blogging will probably be dead and done in less than 5 years due to the constant change in societies

So now what? How do we support the chance of society in our classrooms?
1. Classrooms should be considered studios – kids work when its best for them, expanded time and space, lots going on at the same time
2. Teacher = Network Administrator – connect students with knowledge and help them navigate through to the information you know they need

– School = preparation for life, but what if school = life?
– Networks = Power = Schools=Community=GLOBAL
– Audiences drive but communities drop in – Collaboration with others provides motivation for students to find their voice
– We want kids learning together and thinking together long term
– Students need choices to show what they know; use a variety of tools and students will learn what they are good at – Students need to see rules out front in order to successfully meet the goals and objectives
– We are responsible to teach kids in a way that is meaningful to them
– Be aware and make choices for the benefits of your classroom – change needs to happen slowly but fast enough to make it happen
– Technology will not transform your classroom but will make it more authentic and engaging – more opportunities to reach more students and for them to make connections

I was not exaggerating when I said my brain was full – I learned SO MUCH today! I cannot help but look forward to all of my learning in tomorrow’s sessions!

The evolution of the web on the mobile medium is completely inevitable… I’m looking to Generation Y. They’re the mobile generation and they’re going to be the guardians of the web in the coming decades.  -James Pearce

Vocaroo – the premier voice recording service


While browsing some blog posts this morning I came across a very interesting idea that Kathy Cassidy has for students to practice reading smoothly (reading fluency) and record and learn from listening to themselves read using Vocaroo. Students can hear if they are reading fluently or not and compare it to what fluent reading should sound like. I think this allows students to take a bit of responsibility of their own learning and be able to identify their own growth.

The program that she used to help her grade one’s improve their communication skills is Vocaroo (she found out about it via Twitter…surprise surprise)

“Vocaroo’s website says, “Vocaroo is a shiny new service for sending voice messages across the interwebs.” It allows you to record your voice, play it back to listen, and then provides you with a url or the html to embed an icon into a webpage or blog.”

After experimenting with it myself, I found out that this tool is extremely quick and easy to use. I decided to read a nursery rhyme while recording my reading on Vocaroo to see if I read smoothly or not.

I could see myself using this tool in a variety of ways as well; I think that since it is so easy to use, you could use it as a center for students to practice their reading independently and for you to listen to it later on to assess their communication skills. Since there were not any complicated steps to it, Vocaroo is easily linked to your class blog for parents to listen to as well. Students can be proud of their progress and it can be heard by using this tool throughout the school year.

The only con I found with it, besides the fact that it won’t upload directly onto my blog, was that if a student makes a mistake with his/her reading, he/she cannot edit the recording and has to begin recording again from the very beginning.  Despite the one very small con, this tool will definitely be on my list of things to try with my class next year.

Creation of Our Final Project

For our final project, Kristina and I have decided to make a ‘Twitter in the Classroom’ wikipage since Twitter is becoming more and more popular everyday.  When this wikipage is complete, you will find:

– an explanation of what Twitter is
– the steps of how to set up a Twitter account
– an introduction to using Tweet Deck
– the benefits of using Twitter in your classroom
– some ideas on how to use Twitter in the classroom
– commonly asked questions about Twitter
– a list of resources that we used to complete our project
– and much more!

Some of the pages will have a video that matched the text instructions/steps as a visual for you to follow along.  We will be making these videos using Jing to record our computer screens while using Twitter.  Since we had never used Jing before, we decided to make a trial video to test it out.  So far, we have found it rather easy to use; however, we have struggled uploading the video to our blog since we are using the ‘free’ version and are not able to upload our screen casts to You Tube.  We have been able to post it as a link though, so click here to see our very first Jing creation!

Special thanks to Alec and Dean for helping us out after class tonight to teach us how to upload a Jing video to our wikipage. 🙂

Skype – the latest classroom tool

Over the course of the past year I have been thoroughly enjoying Skype.  Not only was I able to talk to my friends and family from back home, but was able to save myself a ton of money on my phone bill (long distance calling adds up when you are student with zero income).  Because of the function allowing you to use a webcam, the distance barrier decreases and it makes the conversation a lot more comfortable.  You are not talking to your computer screen anymore, but to someone’s face.  How handy!

I have also become aware of classrooms using Skype as well.  Classrooms use Skype to communicate with other people/schools/classrooms around the world!  Students are able to talk to others and ask questions about themselves, what the weather is like in their city, about the communities they live in, etc.  I think this is a great tool allowing students to get to know the world around us and how diverse it truly is.

I had my first Skype experience with one of the classes I am mentoring this past week.  This meeting consisted of the students asking me a few questions about myself and where I live, and Canada in general.  Their teacher had their webcam working so I was able to see everyone on the computer screen.  Unfortunately, my cam decided to take a coffee break and would not work for me.  The students really wanted to see the snow since many of them had not seen it before and I was disappointed when I was unable to do this.  Of course, I had tested my earlier that morning and had it all set up for my Skype call, but surprise surprise, it wouldn’t work when I wanted it to.  Even though technology is such a helpful tool, it can be a frustrating tool as well.  Maybe this is why a lot of today’s teachers do not feel comfortable enough using technology in their classrooms?

Since my cam would not work, I set my picture settings to an Avator through my webcam program.  So instead of being a white, blonde female, I was a green alien with big eyes.  Oh, and my mouth moved when I talked.  It was kind of cool and the students thought it was pretty funny to be talking to this alien from a far off land (Canada!).

Through Skype, these grade four students will be given the chance to see a little bit of Canada and its weather we all love.  It will also allow them to make a connection to the location of Saskatchewan on the world map and remember where my province is in relation to Canada.  Without this tool, the students would not be able to make such a personnel connection to Canada and maybe not remember too much about it.  It could possibly continue being a ‘far off land’ …

All I can think of is that I sure wish I was still a kid going to elementary school and being provided with the opportunities to become more aware of the people and communities all around me. I think I would have remembered a lot more of the things I had learned about the diverse world we live in. This makes me even more glad to be experiencing these tools as an adult – better late then never! 🙂

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling = telling a story using tools on your computer.

What is a “story” here consists of more than one type of media (images + text, audio + images, etc) that are assembled on the web, and can be presented on the web or embedded into other web sites.

A story does not always to be read from a book or told orally from an Elder. It can be told digitally as well.  Web 2.0 has over 50 tools you can use to do this, such as Bubble Share or Voice Thread.   CogDogRoo has a great site explaining all the different tools you can use with your students.

There are 3 basic steps to creating a digital story.  First, students need to create an outline for their story.  The most difficult part of digital storytelling is choosing a story to make an outline for.  Students sometimes struggle with finding an idea on their own and make the concept a lot harder than it actually is.  Personally, I like to give students some ‘suggestions’ in which they can choose from or allow them to choose their own.  Of course, I like to approve their idea before they can start with their outline in order to make sure that the concept is appropriate for the given assignment.

Next, students are to find some media to match their story.  This can also be tricky considering the media used in the digital story have to be copyright free; you need permission to re-use someone else’s media in your story.  This media can be in audio, video, or image form.  Click here for a list of websites where you can find copyright free media for your classroom.

Thirdly, choose a tool to build your story.  This tool is what will help you make your story come alive for its viewers.  This tool will not be as effective for you if you have not completed step one and two first! Using these storytelling tools is a neat new way to for the audience to connect with the author and the characters in the story.  Students may feel more comfortable when telling their story as well because: a) the story is their own and b) they are telling it to a computer which may be a lot less intimidating than their classmates.

“Web 2.0 storytelling picks up these new types of stories and runs with them, accelerating the pace of creation and participation while revealing new directions for narratives to flow.”

As an educator, there are many purposes of using digital story telling in the classroom.  Not only are the students learning about how to write a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, but are learning how to express themselves and find their voice in a secure setting.  If they make a mistake when reading and recording their audio it is as simple as going back and re-recording the sentence.  Mistakes are easily fixed the finished product is done in the best they can be done.  These story telling tools can be used for students of all ages as well, but if using them in the younger grades the teacher will need to help out to receive the product he/she is looking for.

What are some other strengths to digital story telling?  Any weaknesses?


I have always wanted to give Glogster a try and after seeing a collegues go at it I finally had the motivation to check it out.  I decided to make a page about my recent trip to the Mayan Riviera, Mexico (which by the way was absolutely fabulous!) and include some of the photos I took showing my adventures.

Click here to see my finished result!  It took me about an hour to make, but maybe it would take less time if/when I try it again.

I think Glogster has many advantages and disadvantages to it.


I am curious to hear everyone else’s thoughts about Glogster – if you like it, how you se it, what age you use it with, etc?

A New Way Of Learning

In my education classes, we learn all about different learning theories (constructivism, behaviorism, and cognitivism) and explore many brain-based activities and experiential learning to help us expand our horizons about the different ways students learn. But what about connectivism? I had never heard of this learning theory until reading a post on the Changing of Education, and after finding out a little bit more about this learning theory, I am completely shocked that this is not a learning theory that we are taught about. Are we not the generation that is expected to do great things in regards to using technology in the classroom? So why not learn about a connectist approach, a learning theory for the digital age. It explains the ‘effect that technology has on how we live, how we communicate, how we learn.’ Technology is making an impact on more and more people’s lives every day.

This relates nicely to a post made by a colleague of mine about a university adapting to its students, not the students adapting to it. Students do not learn the same way as they did 15 years ago. Uncle Phil (he will always be Uncle Phil in my eyes) expresses this quite nicely when he says:

The system has failed you. I have failed you. I have failed to help you share your talent with the world and the world needs talent more than ever and yet it is being wasted every day by an education system steeped with tradition and old ideas. So it’s time for a new tradition. It’s time to realize that talent isn’t just in schools like this one, its everywhere! It’s time to use technology to re-write the rules of education. To learn how you learn so we can teach you better. It’s time university adapted to you instead of you adapting to it. It’s time for a different kind of university. It’s your time.

This is the digital age, so why not teach with the connectivist learning theory in mind and create powerful learning in our classrooms. Let students become familiar with many of the programs/sites I am becoming familiar with in me ecmp 455 class, such as Twitter, WordPress, Google Docs, Google Reader, Delicious, and Elluminate. We as educators need to step away from the old way of doing things and assuming that all students will learn by reading a text and answering the assigned questions. We need to open our minds, open the doors to the classroom, and open the doors to the virtual/technological world. It is time for a different kind of education. It’s my time.