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Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Plot Device

I was linked to this video through EDTE.CH. ‘Plot Device’ is about a young man who buys a mysterious device that when activated ‘unleashes the full force of cinema on his front lawn.’
This film is about storytelling and narrative structure. This video is a great frontloading activating for teaching writing, film or narrative structure. On the plus side it’s really enjoyable to watch as well.

Plot Device from Red Giant on Vimeo.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

21 Things 4 Students


21 Things 4 Students is an educational website that focuses on educating students for the 21 century classroom. Each topic contains examples, resources and activities to help further develop those 21st century tech skills that some of them are in desperate need of.  The topics are wide ranging and the lessons are well designed with opportunities for assessment.

Topics: Staying Organized, Web Presence, Digital Citizenship, Be Legal and Fair, Productivity Suite, Project Collaboration, Digital Video, Information Literacy, Personal Networks, Self-Directed Learning, Online Learning, Interactive Tools, e-Commerce, Career Prep, Troubleshooting, Visual Organizers, Powerful Presentations, VAI-Casting, Virtual Programming, Data Quest, and Mobile Computing.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Free resources to help you tackle spelling and grammar in the classroom.

gramamr police


Vocabulary/Spelling City  is a free, interactive educational website that enables students of all ages and learning differences to practice their spelling and vocabulary words.

Knoword is a word game that focuses on teaching and advocating proper spelling habits.  This is an activity that students could spend 5-10 minutes doing in a lesson or you could set it for homework. A downside is that currently there is no way to check if students have completed the activity.

Visuwords is an online graphic dictionary. It lets you look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. It produces diagrams reminiscent of a neural net to help students learn how words associate.


Grammar Girl is a website that has podcasts on grammar. They are styled as short helpful tips. Hint: why not get students to create their own podcasts? is a website contains free grammar tools such as rules, commonly confused words and grammar and punctuation videos.


My Vocabulary - is a free resource that helps students master vocabulary. There are free interactive puzzles focusing on using latin/greek roots, thematic puzzles on a variety of subject areas and word lists.

18 Years in Rap

Flocabulary is all about hip-hop in the classroom. They are well known for their weekly news in rap.  As a tribute the graduating classes of 2011 they have released a video summarizing the last 18 years.
If you are interested in their work they do have resources/units available on their website including some free resources.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Free Online Professional Development

There are great online professional development courses out there on the web for teachers with initiative who want to further develop or learn new skills.

I’ve listed a few of my favourite sites/courses below.

TeacherChallengeTeacher Challenge - this is a free blog that is all about 'connecting teachers through professional learning.'  The great thing about it is that it is free.   The PD sessions are focused on supporting students and teachers in the use of web  2.0 technologies.   These PD sessions are called Teacher Challenges.  These are free 30 day professional development challenges where participants are stepped through weekly tasks that increase their skills while working together as part of a global community.  They are currently doing one on Free Web Tools for the classroom. Their upcoming professional courses will cover:

  • 30 days to a whole new PLN
  • 30 days to use the best of the web’s free resources
  • 30 days to ensuring privacy and student safety on the web
  • 30 days to increased parent involvement

Think-tutorial-27j3pl4Think Tutorial is a  site providing over a 1000  free, easy to follow tutorials on a variety of web services, software, and mobile applications.


 Think Tutorial could be an excellent resource to send to friends and colleagues who aren't as proficient with technology as you are. The next time you're about to create a software tutorial for the faculty at your school, check Think Tutorial first and you could possibly save yourself from trying to reinvent the wheel. Along the same lines, you may want to check out Learn It In 5 for some good web services tutorials designed for use by teachers.

AnnenbergMediaLearnerLogoAnnerberg Learner contains educational video programs with printed materials and focuses on professional development for American Teachers.  The majority of the resources can be accessed for free. Click here to view resources on teaching Literature and Language Arts

174841_195275390492669_3828018_nPanhandle Area Educational Consortium has made a variety of U.S Teacher workshops. Click here to view resources on teaching Literature and Language Arts.



Thursday, 19 May 2011

5 Free Resources that you can use when making films!



JellyCam – Free Stop Motion Movie Generator is a website that contains free software that students students can make stop motion films using photo’s or a webcam.  This program is free and easy to use, however it does require Adobe Air which is free to install. Click here to watch a demo.


Animoto is a site that allows you to turn photos and music into video slideshows.


Go!Animate is a site that provides free and easy to use tools that students can use to create their own animations.


Flipbook is a free site that lets you create flipbook style animations.


Cool Tools For Schools – Videos – want to find even more free tools? Check out the Cool Tools for Schools page on videos.

The Ruby Skye Project–Interactive narrative storytelling

So just what are interactive narratives? Simply put, interactive narratives are stories that involve the participation of the reader. I really enjoy teaching this genre as the stories are engaging, and I love how they create an environment that fosters interaction, discussion, and learning.

It’s exciting to see that interactive narratives are becoming more accessible for teachers.  A great example is the Ruby Sky Project.  This web based comedy series is about Ruby, a 15 year old girl who is determined to solve all the mysteries she sees going in her city. With her sharp senses, determination and a healthy dose of curiosity she sharpens her detective skills with the help of her side kick and friend.

The videos are of a high quality, the storyline is engaging and it fosters constant interaction with the viewer.  There are lots of teaching resources from storyboards, blog posts by the director and behind the scene footage.
Check out the first episode below!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Free Instructional Videos for students, parents and you

What do you do when a student is away and they miss your key lessons on essay writing? Or when you revise a particular grammar rule? Sure a worksheet is easy, but how do you insure understanding? Or that they do it?

Instructional or tutorial video’s are the key.


WatchKnow is a free site that was created by the same creator of Wikipedia. It’s a vast collection of all the best free educational videos from a variety of sites like TeacherTube, Google Videos, National Geographic etc.  Not only are they indexed in an easy to find manner, there are over 20,000 videos on a variety of subjects.

So next time students have a test or need to revise a certain skill, you can link them to tutorial videos to help them brush up on their skills.

Some other handy sites are:

Grammar Girl: is a great website that has short and simple podcasts on grammar. They are styled as short helpful tips.

Grammarbook: contains helpful rules, real-world examples and fun quizzes. grammar-book2

Sense-Lang: is an online touch typing program. It includes free typing games, key board tutorials and the ability to add a class and set homework tasks. 500x_2010-07-14_100238

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Social Websites centred around reading


As an English teacher I often feel that half of my problems could be solved if children read more. It’s not because I want them to cultivate the same love of literature that I have developed but because it helps them further develop a variety of important skills. Reading, inference, understanding grammar and syntax, character analysis, critical thinking, creative writing etc.

The key to getting children hooked on reading is to get them hooked on the right book. Easier said than done. Which book? Which genre? Where to start?

Luckily enough there are already social networking sites on the web that have the solution to these problems.

You Are What You Read is part of Scholastics global literacy campaign Read Every Day. Lead a Better life.  This site is a book recommendation service for young readers and a social networking site. 

You are what you read

Students can share information on their favourite books and discover people who share similar interests and through this further discover other books that might interest them. There are also excellent resources that you can access without signing up for an account.

One of the most notable is the list of celebrities and famous people who have listed their favourite age appropriate books. So even if you don’t know where to start when recommending a book to a student ask them who their favourite celebrity or star is and there you go.

If you join you are invited to submit five book titles that have helped shape who you are which is called a “bookprint.” This is helps get students on the path to discovering fellow book lovers, new titles and you can also encourage them to write reviews.

Also included on the site is a Sample Letter for Parents that you can use to let parents know about this program and how they can support your classroom activities at home.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Digital tools to stimulate writing in the classroom

Teaching creative writing can be incredibly difficult. First, you have to get past the 'I can't write attitude.' Most of the time this isn't an excuse students use to get out of an activity. A lot of students honestly believe they can't write. There is a subtext to this though, because every student can write, even if it is only a sentence. What they really mean is they can't write well, so what's the point? A lot of student's are exposed to great writing through films, books, music and it can be intimidating.  Then there is the second hurdle: getting students to come up with something original to write about.

Below are some activities that you can use to get the creative juices flowing!

1. Phrays is a simple site that publishes a  snazzy word definition everyday . The definition is published and phrased in a sentence. Visitors are encouraged to write and submit a sentence using the word.

Phrays can be a great tool for starting your creative writing lesson or for journal writing. Plus it encourages students to expand their vocabulary. For advanced classes why not start your own Phrays in your classroom? For homework each student would have to look up a word to share with the class. Each day a new student could present a word and definition to the class. Add incentive, get students to vote on the best sentence! You could run this on your blog/site or even just in your classroom on your white board.

Toasted Cheese is a writing prompt calender. I find this works best as a journal writing activity. I tell students not to worry about spelling or grammar. Or about how good there story is. Instead I ask them to focus on writing about the prompt.

The Imagination Prompt Generator - is another great website with writing prompts. Even though it states that it is aimed at providing ideas for blogging I find that the topics a very interesting.  

Creative Writing Prompts is another great site that provides students with ideas to get their stories going.

2. 911 Writers Block is an online website that helps students who are struggling with character details, opening lines, verbs, settings and dialogue.  It helps students add depth and detail to their stories.

Blogging is a great way to get students comfortable with writing. You can set a variety of writing tasks for them to complete. In the past I have set journal topics for them to write about, photo essays where they have to use images to tell a story and then embed in their blog and creative writing challenges.  If you have a class blog you can get students to collaborate and comment on each others work.

Virtual Cork boards - There are a few ways you can use virtual cork boards when teaching creative writing.   One great way to use this tool is to get students to come up with story ideas and share them.. To further extend it, once each students has posted a story idea you can then ask the class to pick one (not their own) and write a story.  If you have reluctant writers, why not create a cork board with images and clips to help students come up with their ideas.  What's great about this is that if you set a creative writing assignment students could refer to the cork board if they are stuck for ideas.  Some virtual corkkboards that I recommend are: Wallwishers or Spaaze

Digital Storytelling involves creating stories using technology whether its podcasts, video or creating ebooks. One great tool is StorybirdThis site is great for students  who aren't confident writers because Storybird reverses the process of visual storytelling by starting with the images and allowing students to ‘unlock’ the story inside.  Their motto is pretty simple “choose an artist or a theme, get inspired, and start writing.”   

For more digital story telling resources please read this blog post by Richard Bryne 11 Good Digital Story Telling Resources.

This is a site just for teachers if you are new to teaching creative writing: 10 Great Tips for Writing Short Stories

Do you have any resources to share? Post below!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

VLE’S, Corkboards, Blogs – What is the difference?

I’m still new to this technology business and I know that I still have a lot to learn.  I have adopted a ‘hands on approach’ when it comes to learning new technologies and applying them to my teaching.  I sign up for blogs, create websites, make my own podcasts, create my own class sites etc. I also find it educational because as I experience pitfalls and setbacks I can envision exactly how a student might struggle in the future.

Yet proficient as I am becoming, I have often found myself googling phrases I find on websites that I don’t understand feeling like an idiot because it’s implied I should know what these phrases mean.  VLE, HTML5, embedding, cloud-sharing, encoding, networking, corkboards, virtual learning.  The internet can be an unfriendly place at times.

The purpose of this post is to define all the different ways you can host your classroom on the internet.


Blogs: You can host your classroom on a blog.  However, at the moment blogging platforms are limited in terms of the technology available for you to use.  You can post assignments, create lesson plans, and promote discussion through blog posts.

Pros: You can control who views your webpage and who has access to the editing tools. It can be made easily available to parents and students. Blogs are easy to setup and are simple to use.

Cons: There is no way for students to collaborate in real time and sharing ideas is fairly limited to discussion posts. A classroom blog is only a small element of what could be an encompassing learning environment.

Corkboards – Are similar to a corkboard you might have in your classroom where you pin up student work, notices and important reminders. The only exception is that it is virtual and therefore more interactive.  You can host a corkboard as a teacher. Students can then pin up/share their own videos or notes.

Pros: It is a simple tool and easy to use. It is a great way to share student work with parents.

Cons: You can’t have multiple pages like a blog so your corkboard can become crowded. You would have to create multiple corkboards for classes/projects.


Websites: These are more customizable than corkboards and blogs.  You can host multiple pages the software can facilitate a wide range of tools. You can set up your own blog, incorporate wiki’s, video’s and content. You can deliver assignments and set up forums. You can also link to corkboards and other websites if you wish.

Pros: You can customize your website and tailor it to suite the learning needs of your class.

Cons: Requires some experience in website design.

VLE:  Known as virtual learning environments VLE is software designed to help teachers manage their education courses. It’s a program designed to help create a websites with minimum technical skills. It facilitates communication, assessments and document sharing. You can share and build resources through wiki, blogs, RSS.

Cons: Less customizable then websites.

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Future Classroom – What’s Next?


One of my favourite education blogs is ‘Teach Paperless’. Last night I read a really interesting post by them titled ‘21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020.’ It was written in response to the post ‘21 Things That Became Obsolete in the Last Decade.’ 

What I like about the post is that I agree with everything said, more so, I want it to be true because this is how I envision the future of education.

The frustrating thing is that my perfect learning environment, the one of the future, is achievable using today's technology but achingly out of my reach. 

One thing that Shelly mentioned that resonated with me is that Education Classes that fail to integrate social technology will become irrelevant. I often felt that my University professors weren’t preparing me for the 21st Century classroom or on how to teach the 21st century learner. I think the same is of schools. Why they aren’t as far behind as Universities/Colleges I think schools need to be making a more concentrated effort towards creating learning environments that cater to the diverse needs of future learners. 

My perfect learning environment is paperless:

1.  Desks aren’t separated and used as a mean to control learning but are collaborative learning spaces.

2. Every student would have their own personal computer (whatever that may be) with the opportunities to share in ‘real time’ online.

3. Learning won’t be confined to the teacher and the classroom, instead it will become collaborative and diverse. Limited only by the scope of the internet and an individuals imagination.

4. Technology won’t be a tool to get students interested in learning but will become a part of the everyday classroom.

5. Language/Communication won’t be a barrier to student learning. Whether they speak another language or have a learning disability technology will help break down those barriers/frustrations for them.

Monday, 7 March 2011

5 Reasons why you should use Storybird to create digital stories!

1. It’s free!
2. It’s geared towards teachers. You can create an account for yourself or as a teacher. Your teacher account allows you to add students and create assignments.
3. It’s very easy to use. You simply choose the art work that inspires you, click and away you go!
4. It’s collaborative.  Multiple students can work on creating a book together.
5. It’s inspiring. This site is great for students  who aren’t confident writers because Storybird reverses the process of visual storytelling by starting with the images and allowing students to ‘unlock’ the story inside.  Their motto is pretty simple “choose an artist or a theme, get inspired, and start writing.”

Is education killing creativity?

Whenever Sir Ken Robinson speaks I listen. I mean really listen. What he has to say about education wakes me up. It makes me sit up and take notice.  His talk on how schools are killing creativity is very interesting. 

He raises an excellent point in his video. Why is maths more important than dance? Or art? Or textiles? I agree that we place too much importance on educating for college. 

I have to confess that at times I have focussed too much on mistakes, too much on making sure students get the ‘right answer’ and not enough on encouraging them to make mistakes and learn from them.  However, in an ever increasing world of testing, where too much emphasis is placed on results how can we shift away from this? How can we teach students that it is okay to make mistakes because “if you are not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original.”

Thursday, 3 March 2011

My Favourite Web Tool

class_tools_logo One of my favourite web tools of all time is  Now don’t let the visuals of the website fool you, sure it looks basic but it has some really simple and easy to use tools that can enhance the quality of your classroom teaching. 

This website is free and contains tools to help manage your classroom.  You can create free educational games, quizzes, activities and diagrams and host them on your own blog, website or intranet.

My Favourite Tools
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Post It - upload an image/text and add notes
  • Animated Book 
  • Source Analyser
  • Random Name Generator
  • Flash Quiz
My personal favourite is the countdown timer.  It’s simple and easy to use.  You click on the timer, and adjust the time.  You then click ‘countdown’ and away you go.   You can even upload a song for the timer to countdown to or choose one from the list.   I use this to help structure my lessons and provide clear pacing to my activities. 

I also use it as a behaviour management tool.  For example, in an hour lesson I will put 45 minutes on the timer.  The expectation is that they work for 45 minutes of the lesson. If they are not working I stop the timer and I wait for them to be quiet or focus back on their work.  If there is any time left on the timer at the end of the lesson I keep them in.  If the timer ends before the end of the lesson it is free time! 

Challenge: Using the Arcade Generator template create a quiz for one of your classes.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

My Favourite Technology Tool– Dropbox

Okay, I’m new to blogging. Well professional blogging that is. I used to blog about my travels as I gallivanted around the globe. The thing is, is that I never put much thought into my blog, as only my family and friends read it.

Now that I’m writing a blog about digital technologies I find myself getting anxious every time I go to write a blog post. Am I being unoriginal? Has someone already blogged about this? These are some of the thoughts that would go through my head. Then my husband gave me some great advice. Blog about what you are passionate about and don’t worry about whether or not you are being 'original', as that isn’t what blogging is about.  He was right and I have tried to stop doubting myself, however, I’m still not 100% confident when it comes to blogging.

I follow a lot of blogs and through one of them I discovered a blog called Teacher Challenge.  This is a blog that focuses on providing teachers with free online professional learning. It’s relatively new and their first course was about kick starting your blogging with a series of challenges over thirty days.

One of the challenges was to blog and share/review a technology tool that you love.

One tool that I absolutely love and without a doubt has saved my life is Dropbox! I don’t like to think about my life before Dropbox. I used to work off USB and thought it was great. Great until I lost my USB with all my teacher resources. Sure I backed my resources up on my computer but not as often as I should have.

I was then introduced to Dropbox and the idea of cloud sharing. Now, thanks to my husband Dropbox runs off my USB and syncs to my online account and I never have to worry about losing any information ever again.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

iPad Air Sketch

Air-Sketch-screenshot I make a point to blog about free and hopefully easy to use web apps.  However, I recently discovered this app for the iPad which I had to share.  Unfortunately, it’s not free but if you have an iPad and a room with an interactive whiteboard I would encourage you to consider buying it.
What the Air Sketch app allows you to do is to turn your iPad device into a virtual whiteboard.  The app is extremely easy to use and apparently intuitive which cuts back on you having to spend time on trying to figure out how it works.

The best feature about this is that it is wireless. Basically, it means that you can connect your iPad device wirelessly to a variety of devices including a projector.  It means that you can use the device to demonstrate things to a classroom while moving about the room. Now I have taught in rooms with a computer hooked up to the interactive whiteboard. I used to sit at the computer and we would put notes up on the screen or I would stand in front of the board and use a stylus.  However, the idea is that with the Air Sketch I can wander about the room and use it while teaching. Or the students could use it show their ideas to the class.  Now I do know that some interactive whiteboards come with wireless tablets that do the same thing.  This is for those teachers who only have an iPad and an interactive whiteboard.

Before you buy it, check that it will work on your school network.  One of the requirements is that it requires a browser running HTML5, which is basically what we would call a modern browser like, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.  If your school uses Internet Explorer there is a chance it is an old version and might not work. If you aren’t familiar with this type of technology check with the local IT staff. I’m sure they will be more than happy to help you out.

Springpad – save anything anywhere

  springpadit I often have these great ideas, but l have never gotten into the habit of writing them down.  Couple this with a healthy dose of forgetfulness I often find myself slapping my forehead metaphorically and literally saying ‘why didn’t I write that down?’
I recently discovered Springpad which is a free web based application that lets you save your ideas, things you like, things you hear and the things you see. It is similar to Evernote but compared to Evernote I find it easier to navigate and more visually appealing.  Plus currently all the features are free on Springpad unlike Evernote.
You can access it on multiple devices and at the moment it is available for the iPhone, iPad and Android phones.
Check out the official blog for ideas on how you can use Springpad.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Aviary is all about providing 'artists of all genre's' with free online creation tools. As English teachers we explore texts. All types of texts.  Written, visual, spoken etc. Part of this exploration involves us asking students to respond to texts in a variety of ways. Through writing, music, art, and any other venue we can think of.  

What I really like about Aviary is that it is accessible for everyone.  You can you use the image editor and create  artwork. Or use the the Image Markup tool and upload an image and edit it - see example below. The music creator lets you make music or you can use the audio editor to make a radio station.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

My Fake Wall - Creating the Fake Facebook Wall

Social Networking. These are two very simple words that contain a lot of meaning. When I grew up social networking involved mobile messaging and the occasional email.  Now social networking has evolved.  Not only does it allow us to communicate but also gives us a tool to form our own social and cultural identities and put it out there for the whole world to see.  As adults we understand the complexities of doing such a thing, but do teenagers?

I think it is important to embrace Social Networking and incorporate it into our teaching.  In my subject area a great way to do this is to get students to create Facebook pages for key characters from a text.  This is harder than it sounds.  Creating a facebook page for fictional character requires a deep understanding of the text and of the character.

My FakeWall is in the beta stage but the cool thing about it, is that it lets you create fake Facebook pages without having to create real accounts.    Try it out and I challenge you to try and use this in your teaching.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Google Apps Market Place

The Google apps market is THE place to visit when you are looking for free web applications.  The purpose of this website is to help business-like schools run more effectively and in the case of education provide us with tools to challenge the way students learn.

If schools run their business through Google Apps the idea is that by simple clicking a few buttons you enable web based applications across schools if you wanted to.

While Google Apps is focused on helping business run their business on the web more efficiently they have recently released an Education category for schools. Schools can now more easily access apps that help their students and classes learn more effectively.

Google Place Market Place - Become an App Ninja

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Changing Teaching Paradigms

I follow a lot of teaching blogs. Every day I log on to my reader account and see hundreds of items waiting to be read. I probably subscribe to webpages I barely glance at, or at least skim without taking in much information.  Why do I do it though? Well, because every now and then you find something amazing! Something that you want to share with everyone.  One of my favourite blogs is Teach Paperless.  The name of the blog pretty much says it all.  If you truly want awesome ideas on teaching make sure you subsribe to this blog.  Anyway, it was here that I was linked to this video by Sir Ken Robinson about changing Eduaction Paradigms.  I found it very thought provoking.