Going Beyond the Tools!

September 5, 2014

Welcome back everyone! I hope you had a great summer. I’m excited to announce that Avi Spector’s ICT Blog is evolving into something a little different this school year. In the spring of 2008, Avi Spector’s ICT blog was started to collect and share web-based tools that could be used in our classrooms. It’s hard to believe that just six years ago smartphones were rare in the classroom, and apps and tablets didn’t even exist. Technology integration mainly involved using interactive websites to supplement teaching materials and there was lots of buzz around our new SMARTBoards. As such, a big part of my job was visiting FGA centres to provide one-size-fits-all technology demos to large groups of teachers.

Over time, I discovered that focusing solely a tool was not necessarily the best approach. Many workshop participants had trouble applying the tool in their own classroom environment, and therefore, they did not use it. As I got closer to the teachers I moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach and began working more collaboratively with teachers and smaller groups to come up with individualized solutions. We now start by first looking at the learning objective(s), rather than designing a lesson or learning situation around a particular tool.

This is the motivation behind my new website, Beyond the Tools. I want to help teachers move beyond the tools and work together to share our best practices in regards to technology integration. Rather than simply providing information about an app or tool, I will be focusing instead on sharing stories of successful projects and connecting teachers with similar goals.

I’ve also ported over my full history of app suggestions, interactive whiteboard content, and web tool suggestions from my old ICT blog. These may come in handy as you brainstorm about projects and look at what you would like to accomplish in the classroom. These all can be found at my new site at www.beyondthetools.com.

As many of our schools have opened their wifi networks to students, a lot of us now find ourselves teaching in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom. Students might be experts at using their own devices but often still need a teacher’s guidance in knowing how and when to use their technology for learning. How can we help our students with information literacy skills (critical thinking, search strategies, copyrights) and safe on-line behavior? How can concepts like the Flipped Classroom and Gamification help in a BYOD classroom?

These are just a few of the topics I’d like to address on the new site. As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback. I’m also interested in hearing about you and showcasing your projects on Beyond The Tools for others to see and learn from throughout the year. Be sure to check my “speaking and events” section for upcoming events and links to resources from past workshops. See you around!

Note: If you’re already subscribed to Avi Spector’s ICT Blog by e-mail, I will automatically move over your e-mail subscription to Beyond the Tools. Nothing needs to be done on your part.

Students tell their own stories with Adobe Voice!

May 27, 2014

Link: Adobe Voice website

Quick overview: Adobe Voice allows your students to narrate in conjunction with images, icons, and text. The app is incredibly easy to use, yet produces very polished results. Great for ANY language classroom and encourages a student-centered approach. Free!

How did we use it in the classroom? I first used Adobe Voice with Megan Maclean, an English teacher at the New Horizons Adult Education Centre (ETSB). Megan’s learning objective was to help her multilevel English students (Secondary Levels 4 and 5) articulate their ideas in an organized, concise manner. In preparation for the Adobe Voice activity, students were asked to research information to support their viewpoint(s). They then used the app to put together a complete presentation. Here is an example from one of Megan’s students:


How did it go? Adobe Voice took the pressure off the students as they no longer had to stand up in front of the class and present. The students could re-record each spoken segment until they were happy. This gave them more practice speaking compared to the “one-shot deal” of an oral presentation. The following week, I worked with Darlene Brown (SWLSB/TLE) to adapt this activity to her multilevel CCBE class at CDC Vimont. I should note that before either class touched any iPads, we spent time helping students develop their viewpoints on a paper sheet. We formatted the paper sheet so that it would help keep the students on track as they were recording in Adobe Voice:


Benefits: The app is free and easy to use. Both groups of students were up and running in less than ten minutes. The app includes access to a plethora of copyright free images, icons, music. Activities done in the app can scale from Literacy to Secondary level language students. Our test students liked the app so much that they kept asking how to download it on their own devices! While the interface is in English, it could also be used in a second language classroom too. For those of you teaching at the elementary level, I successfully tested it out with my 5 year old daughter and (with a little help) she created a simple story about loosing her first tooth.

Limitations: Students must create an Adobe account or log-in with a personal Facebook account to save and share their work on-line. Currently, you cannot save projects in the iPad’s Camera Roll. That being said, you can still view completed student projects in the app without saving them on-line. At the moment, the app is only available on Apple’s iOS platform.

Downloadable resources: Darlene and Megan have generously offered to share their lesson plan and prep sheet so you can reproduce or adapt the activity for your own class. Huge thanks to both Megan and Darlene!

  • Adobe Voice lesson plan by Megan Maclean
  • Adobe Voice paper prep sheet concept by Megan Maclean, updated and adapted by Darlene Brown (for the students)




Teacher Feature: Catherine Boisvert (CQSB) and Shanna Loach (ETSB) – What is Gamification?

May 19, 2014

Teacher(s): Catherine Boisvert, individualized FSL at the Eastern Quebec Learning Centre (CQSB) and Shanna Loach, individualized English at the New Horizons Adult Education Centre (ETSB)

What is Gamification: Gamification can be defined as taking a closer look at the engaging and motivating aspects of video games and then applying these elements to a learning environment. Gamification is NOT about playing games in the classroom.

What is Catherine’s project? Catherine and I began collaborating on a project to “gamify” elements of her FSL classroom. Catherine was looking for a new way to engage her individualized learners, as seen in the following video (in French):catherineWant to know more about Catherine’s project? You can read more about our experience by reading “All Fun and Games: Gamifying a Language Classroom” on the LEARN blog. The article provides an overview of gamification and what worked well (and didn’t!) so far in our project.

How does it work? In a nutshell, a Gamified classroom should present students with a clear outline of the course goals in addition to providing students with a system to recognize their efforts as they go along. A gamified classroom should encourage learning from mistakes, choice when to tackle different topics, more feedback, differentiation, and allowing students to progress at their own pace.

What does a gamified course outline look like? Shanna Loach is an English teacher at the New Horizons Adult Education Centre (ETSB) who is also gamifing elements of her multilevel CCBE classroom. Shanna has generously agreed to share a snapshot of her Gamified course outline that we are in the process of developing for the 2014-2015 school year. Our ultimate goal is to create a simple and straightforward way for her students to track their progress as they tackle the prescribed elements of their CCBE course:


Additional Gamification resources: I maintain a collaborative gamification board on Pinterest with my colleague Marc-André Lalande. There’s lots of great videos, web links, and also a link to our recent presentation at AQIFGA 2014.

Comments: What have you heard about gamification? Do you think it would work well in your classroom? Questions? Concerns? Please feel free to leave a question or comment below! Special thanks to Sylwia Bielec for interviewing us and featuring us on the LEARN blog.

ICT Tip: How to dial a rotary telephone

April 1, 2014

dialingGotcha! April Fools Day!

It’s funny how something so simple can seem quite complex when the technology is relatively new. Take for example this AT&T 1950’s instructional video that steps people how to dial a telephone, something that seems second nature to us today. Will future generations be equally at ease with our current “complex” technology? For a other retro videos that provide a speculative view of the future (which is arguably now our present) please take a look at the following:

  • AT&T’s “You Will” ad campaign from the early 1990s: (Predicts: GPS, faxing from the beach, buying tickets on-line, videoconferencing, Netflix, flat screen TVs, on-line courses, and more. Eerily accurate, most predictions have come true!)
  • Apple Computer’s “View of the future” from the early 1990s (Predicts: videoconferencing, connected classrooms, mobile devices for learning,  bulky “iPad” like devices.)
  • AT&T’s “Seeing the Digital Future” 1961: (Predicts: dial up punch card modems, brick cell phones, grocery delivery by rocket, and on-line shopping)

In closing, what do you think the classroom of the future should look like? Eventually, will new technologies change how and what we teach? Leave your comments below!

Google Ngram Viewer: How has the English language evolved over time?

March 11, 2014

Link: books.google.com/ngrams

Quick overview: How has the English language evolved over the last few years, decades, or centuries? Google Ngram is a free tool that searches through millions of digitized books and “graphs” out how English words and phrases have changed in popularity (i.e. – frequency of appearance in print) within the last 500 years.


How can it be used in the classroom? Ngram is a neat way to start a class discussion around the use of similar words or phrases over any given period of time. Simply enter the date range you’d like to search (i.e. – 1800 to 1950) and enter a list of words or phrases, separated by commas. Hit the search button and see what comes up! What historical or societal shifts do your students think caused certain words to rise or fall out of fashion? Does adding or removing words build a better picture? Are you open to allowing your students to find and present their own unique Ngram findings?

What are some examples? How has terminology for the on-line world changed in the last twenty years? Since when did we become a society with serial killers? What kind of road do you take to get to work? How are countries ruled? Are you really surprised? What decade did we think things were the most groovy? What have been the most popular forms of communication and media over the last two centuries?

What about more advanced use? For those that are a little more adventurous, here are some tips to play with advanced search syntax.

Benefits and Limitations: As with any tool, if you dig a little deeper, you may discover some inconsistencies. This article does a good job at explaining them.

Use Weebly to create a class website

February 10, 2014

Link: education.weebly.com

Quick overview: Are you interested in creating a class website but don’t have technical experience, time, or budget? Weebly is an on-line tool that allows one to EASILY create a website without any knowledge of programming. In a nutshell, it’s a website building tool for non-techies. It’s also completely free, unless you want to upgrade to a Pro account for some additional advanced features.

How can Weebly be used in the classroom? I thought the most authentic way to present Weebly would be to provide you with two testimonials from actual FGA teachers who are using the tool:

Isabelle Bertolotti at Place Cartier, LBPSB shares: “My class website is my most important teaching tool. It is my virtual office where I communicate with students about my calendar, daily agenda, links and course notes. I can add or change information at a moments notice, and/or make special announcements. This has enhanced my students learning in that they can review class notes, videos, handouts at all times to suit their learning styles and levels. I am never worried about attendance because when they see the demands of the day through the daily agenda they can actually see the amount of work that is planned and how their absence will have a negative impact on their learning.”

Isabelle’s class Weebly: www.isabelleplacecartier.weebly.com

Matthew Kennedy at Place Cartier, LBPSB shares: “I use Weebly for my English class in order to provide students with access to content inside of the classroom on the SMART Board, at home on their computers, or on-the-go on their mobile devices. For my purposes, Weebly is primarily an organizational tool — one that provides a digital representation of everything I cover with my students. I include all of my daily lesson plans on the website, so students can review what we completed in class at the end of the day, or catch-up on what they missed if they were absent. I upload all assignments to the website for access outside of the classroom. The website is particularly useful when providing extra help for students in the computer lab or after class, because we can review elements of a lesson at the student’s own pace. The same goes for when students seek additional support at my school’s academic resource centre — support staff can access the website to help my students with a specific assignment, and even view daily lesson plans to learn the context of the assignment. The website also has a great blog function, which is useful for communicating with students between classes and also for generating friendly discussion and debate.”

Matthew’s class Weebly: www.english5062.weebly.com


Benefits and Limitations: Weebly utilizes a straightforward WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) interface, which makes it much easier to create your class website. In regards to content, a Weebly site (like most other traditional websites) is often designed to share information in a “top down” approach, i.e. – information delivered from the teacher to the students. In comparison, a tool like Edmodo is often used to create a forum for ongoing class discussions between multiple students and the teacher.

(Huge thanks to Isabelle Bertolotti and Matthew Kennedy at Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, LBPSB for telling me all about Weebly and providing me with their testimonials. Thanks a lot guys!)

Coggle, the no-frills mind mapping tool

February 4, 2014

Link for Coggle: www.coggle.it

Quick overview: Coggle is a basic, no-frills, minimalist, “mind mapping” web tool that allows students to explore and expand upon their ideas in a visual way.

What is a Mind Mapping tool? Mind mapping is a different way to organize your thoughts. A mind map is setup like a tree, whereas you begin with one main concept and then branch out to related topics. With Coggle, each concept in the mind map is represented by a single word or a short sentence. The lines drawn between the words indicate the link between the concepts.

How can Coggle be used in the classroom? Coggle can be used by students to brainstorm, consolidate information, plan tasks, or present a topic. As a teacher, you can use it to organize and present information on your interactive whiteboard during class. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to dislike mind maps but I now use them to collect everyone’s ideas when I’m leading a meeting on a digital projector.

Benefits and limitations: Coggle was designed to be as simple as possible so there are no bells and whistles.. and that’s OK! However, if you’d like the ability to insert images or want multiple students to edit a mind map at the same time, check out my previous blog post on Popplet. To create an account on Coggle, you’ll need to sign in with a Google Account, which is safe to do.

Want to know how to use Coggle? Please watch this short video tutorial:coggleict_25

Source: ISTE 2013, San Antonio, “Collaboration in the Cloud: Tools that Talk!” Jennifer Parker-Moore, Macomb Intermediate School District with Janice Harding, Carolyn McCarthy and Melissa White and Phillip Vinogradov: Technology Integration – 21st century classroom Prezi.

3 backchannel tools to encourage active learning

January 28, 2014

What is a backchannel? A backchannel is a live, text-based, conversation that takes place while you teach. Students can pose questions to the group or make public comments without having to wait their turn or ask for permission. The goal of using a backchannel is to encourage passive students to become active learners.


What are the benefits and limitations? OK, so let’s address the elephant in the room. A lot of you may be concerned (and rightly so!) about introducing an interactive chat tool while you are teaching. Students could post inappropriate comments, go off topic, or simply not participate! I definitely agree that there needs to be some firm ground rules established before any backchannel tools are used. However, when used responsibly, I can personally attest that backchannels have the potential to get more students talking and participating in a lecture. A backchannel can be good for shy students or those Read the rest of this entry »

Cloud based tools: What are they and why should I use them?

January 21, 2014

Quick overview: This article addresses the benefits and limitations of popular “cloud based” tools.

What is the cloud? The easiest way to understand “the cloud” is to think about how you access your webmail, such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo. What all of these services have in common is that they store all your e-mail and attachments on-line, instead of on your home computer. The benefit is that you can access your data from any computer or mobile device – in a nutshell, that’s the cloud! There are also other cloud based services to store files, pictures, passwords, and notes. The one thing to remember is that not one company owns the cloud. The “cloud” is actually a generic term for any service where your information is stored on-line instead of a local device, such as a home computer.

What are the benefits? A cloud based service allows you to pull up a file, photo, document, or note on any device. Since all your data is stored on-line, there’s the added bonus of having all your important data backed up too. Many of the popular cloud based tools are free but you’ll pay more if you want more space or extra features. If you start using cloud based tools, you’ll often find there’s no need to carry USB drives or e-mail files back and forth to school.

What are the limitations? With some cloud based tools, you may not be able to access your files unless you have Internet access. There’s also an ever growing concern about security and privacy issues since your information is stored on-line and often in other countries. Lastly, it’s possible that you could lose all your information if the service is suddenly shut down or something unexpected happens. From my experience, that’s quite rare (especially with big reputable companies) and I haven’t lost a single file yet. If you’re at all Read the rest of this entry »

4 on-line tools for your students to create interactive timelines

January 14, 2014

Quick overview: A timeline tool allows students to create interactive timelines comprised of significant events. Each “event” on the timeline can be expanded on by the student to include text, images, and video. Timelines can be set private, public, or collaborative.

How can it be used in the classroom? Timeline tools can help students organize various pieces of information in chronological order but are not limited to history courses. Could you ask your students to assemble a timeline of incidents that has lead to a major current event? What about exploring their family history, creating a journal, or documenting the life of an important person? Keep in mind that some students may prefer to simply use paper and pencil to assemble a timeline.. and that’s OK! I think it’s all about giving students the choice to whatever approach works best for them.

Any suggestions for a history course? If you’re teaching a history course, you could ask your students to research and assemble an interactive timeline of a historical event. By encouraging them to analyze all the historical bits and pieces and create their own timeline, they may have a better chance of retaining the information rather than just memorizing a few out-of-context dates.

What are the four timeline tools? Since posting about Dipity a while back, I’ve also learned about TimeToast, TikiToki, and TimeGlider. All four timeline tools offer free accounts but with varying degrees of reduced functionality. Here’s a summary of the tools as of August 2013:

  • TimeToast’s free account allows you to create multiple timelines, but some banner ads will appear.
  • Tiki-Toki’s free account limits you to only 1 timeline at a time and is ad supported. The free account allows students to embed YouTube and Vimeo videos.
  • Dipity’s free account limits you to 3 timelines, limited to 50MB, and is ad supported.
  • TimeGlider free account is limited to 3 timelines, 20 images, and is only available to active students below the graduate level.

Benefits and limitations: Your best bet is to start by creating a free account and explore the tools yourself. Even if one tool is more limited than another, which is ultimately the easiest to use? Do you absolutely love one of the tools but don’t like the limitations of the free account? It might be worth signing up! (Thanks to Marie-Christine Kovacs, ETSB, New Horizons for telling me about Tiki-Toki.)

Top 5 tools to connect with other educators and curate classroom resources

January 7, 2014

Quick overview: Welcome back everyone! Are you looking for new ideas, resources, and fresh ways to deliver your content this semester? There’s often too much stuff out there to sift through… Where do you start?

Edudemic: Edudemic has teacher guides on educational technologies and current trends, the best in educational technologies (i.e. – apps, hardware) and resources for students. Very well organized, lots of useful and frequently updated content.

Appitic: Got a new tablet over the holidays? If you’re looking for apps to recommend to your students, Appitic may be a good place to start. Apps are sorted by subject area, academic level, bloom’s taxonomy, and more. In addition, you may also want to check out this EdTechTeacher site which organizes apps by learning objective.

Twitter: I’ve said this many times before, but Twitter is still my very first choice for keeping up to date with my PD throughout the year. You can use Twitter to help find classroom resources and teaching strategies and start building your PLN. Once you give a shot, you’ll see why thousands of other educators are using Twitter too! If you’re interested, I’d be happy to come to your centre and provide a hands-on workshop.

Pinterest: Use Pinterest to explore and curate PD resources for yourself or to create organized “pins” around different topics for your students to explore on their own. If you’re teaching in an individualized setting, I genuinely think Pinterest has the potential to be a game changing tool. I’m head over heels for Pinterest but I’ve already professed my undying love for Pinterest in a previous blog post.

Educlipper: Educlipper is a visual bookmarking tool, developed by leading educator, Adam Bellow. If you like the idea of Pinterest, you’ll like using Educlipper too. Designed specifically for education, it’s school safe. Click here to try Educlipper yourself.

Link for Edudemic web
Link for Appitic web
Link for Twitter web, Apple iOS, Android
Link for Pinterest web, Apple iOS, Android
Link for Educlipper web, Apple iOS

(Source: Thanks for Jason Bronsther, lead automobile mechanics teacher at WQCC, WQSB for getting me hooked on Edudemic and Adam Bellow for showing us EduClipper at ISTE 2013, San Antonio.)

Top 5 Posts + Survey: ICT suggestions will start again in January 2014.. Have a great winter break!

December 16, 2013

Yet another term is coming to an end. I’m pleased to share that we now have over 425 teachers and administrators subscribed via weekly e-mail updates to the ICT blog. I’d like to take a moment to thank you ALL for your continued support! As per usual, the blog is going on a short hiatus for the winter holidays, but it will be back in early January 2014. I hope you all have a very relaxing winter break!

winter1Creative Commons Attribution License: Flickr user AlicePopKorn2

In wrapping up this term, I’d like to get YOUR feedback on the ICT Blog. What did you like? Is there anything you’d like to see more of? Less?

Please click here for the link to my anonymous ICT Blog 2013-2014 survey. If you have five minutes, it will help ensure that the blog is most relevant to your needs. Thank you!

Last but not least, I’d like to present my personal top 5 favorite ICT suggestions of the 2013-2014 school year:

  1. Pinterest allows you to curate web resources in a single place. Instead of providing paper handouts to your students, give them the link to your Pintrest account with your board(s). The neat part is that you can also add, remove, update links after the class is over. Pinterest is both easy to navigate and visually appealing. I love it!
  2. Creative Commons Search: With the ever increasing amount of digital resources our there, I think it’s important to educate ourselves and our students about fair use and copyrights. That’s why this resource takes the #2 spot. Think of this site as a master hub for searching for copyright free images, sounds, and videos. This site makes it easy to find stuff!
  3. Twitter is where I go to receive resources and on-going professional development in “bite sized” doses throughout the school year. I use Twitter to follow like minded educators who are interested in the same topics as me. This group of people is called my Personal Learning Network, or PLN for short. I actually don’t use Twitter for personal use, only work.
  4. Edmodo is actively being used by many FGA teachers and students in the Quebec English school boards. Edmodo can either be used to network with other teachers or as a platform for a class website. Edmodo works on Mac, PC, and mobile devices.
  5. Explain Everything I’m still a huge fan of this iPad/Android app which enables teachers to create their own teaching capsules. It takes a minimal amount of time to get effective results, no need to film yourself either. I think it’s an essential tool for “Flipping the Classroom” or to answer student questions remotely. I’ve also created a video tutorial that explains how to use it in more detail.

3 simple web tools to create on-line posters

November 26, 2013

Quick overview: Three web 2.0 tools to create on-line posters that can help language students develop writing and communication competencies:


ThingLink: ThingLink allows students to create an interactive poster with links, text, or videos. For example, here’s a Martin Luther King poster created with ThingLink. If you’re looking at the poster on a computer, you’ll notice that you can hover your mouse over the different icons on the MLK poster to bring up different multimedia elements. Here’s 27 ways of how ThingLink can be used in the classroom. ThingLink works on Apple mobile devices too.

Automotivator: Automotivator allows one to create motivational-stytle posters. One way this tool can be used in a language classroom would be to explore proverbs in a more visual way by asking students to create posters around proverbs. Often the meanings of the proverbs cannot be interpreted literally, so there’s lots of concepts to play with! Here’s one poster I threw together for a quick example of the tool. Visit the “50 most important English proverbs” website to get your students started.

Smore: Last year, Tina La Rosa’s Accessing Services (B124-4) Literacy students at Galileo Adult Centre used Smore to create detailed posters to help develop writing and speaking competencies. One reason Tina chose Smore was because it allowed her students to work with more text in comparison to other poster creation tools at the time. Please click here if you’d like to know more about Tina’s activity.

Benefits and Limitations of the three tools: Automotivator works well when you’re working with a small amount of text and would like to provide your students a novel way to play with a simple language concept, such as proverbs. ThingLink is an easy way to make a poster that links to other content on the web. Smore is your best bet if you’d like your students to make a more complex poster with pictures, lots of text, and YouTube videos. As a reminder, always remind your students to use copyright free images when working with any of these poster tools.

Automotivator: www.wigflip.com/automotivator
Thinglink: www.thinglink.com
Smore: www.smore.com

Source: Simple K12’s “101 Free Tech Tools for Teachers“, ISTE 2013 San Antonio

Special note: There’s still space in my webinars next week! Please click the following links if you’d like to register for the Flipping the Classroom (12PM-1PM, December 3rd) or the Bring Your Own Device (12PM-1PM, December 4th) webinars.

Two webinars, virtual office hours, and a new special needs teacher network!

November 12, 2013

Webinars: I’m happy to announce that I will be offering two special topics webinars this semester. A webinar is a live online presentation conducted over the Internet. All you need to attend is a computer or tablet. The webinars are offered free of charge but FGA teachers have priority as limited spacing are available for each session. You may request to enroll in either one or both webinars:

Flipping the Classroom webinar: What if a learner could rewind a teacher’s explanation as often as needed for a concept or notion to sink in? What if teaching-time was used to interact more with learners? I plan to provide an overview of the Flipped Classroom and offer sustainable suggestions for implementing the model in an adult education classroom. Please consult the Flipped Classroom enrollment form if you are interested in attending this webinar. The webinar will be offered on Tuesday, December 3rd from 12PM to 1PM (60 minutes)

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) webinar: Many of our students have access to mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops. How can we use student owned devices to enrich learning? What about network limitations and classroom management? The aim of this session is to cover the benefits and limitations of BYOD and provide you with some concrete suggestions to get you started. If you are interested in attending, please consult the BYOD enrollment form. The webinar will be offered on Wednesday, December 4th from 12PM to 1PM. (60 minutes)

Office Hours: I’d like to start offering virtual office hours during the school year. Want to discuss a project? Need some pedagogical support in regards to technology integration? Let me know! My next office hours day will Thursday, November 28th. Please fill out this office hours enrollment form if you’d like to book an appointment. For FGA teachers only.

Are you an SFIS/SIS teacher? Do you work with adults with intellectual disabilities, mental health challenges, or have other pervasive special needs? Since we’re all pretty spread out, I’m looking to network teachers together with an Edmodo SFIS/SIS group. If you have any successes, challenges, apps, or anything else you’d like to share – please join us! If you’re already signed up on Edmodo, enter the group code “shhzzf” once you’re logged in. If you receive a message that the group is locked, please click this link or give me a shout for more help. Hope to see you there!

Mobile Monday: Chirp allows you to quickly share text, links, and photos between mobile devices

November 4, 2013

Quick overivew: Chirp is a free app that allows you to quickly to share text, links, and photos between Apple iOS and Android devices.

How does it work? This simple little app emits a short little song (called a chirp) to send data to other mobile devices. Any other mobile device that is “listening” with the Chirp app installed will immediately get a note, link, or photo. You can even “chirp” things to multiple devices at the same time. This 30 second video sums up the app perfectly:chirpHow it can be used in the classroom? Chirp is useful in a BYOD classroom where students are allowed to use their own mobile devices. Do you want to quickly send a link to all the students at the same time? Use Chirp. Want students to send notes or pictures to another device or without exposing their personal e-mail addresses? Here’s your solution!

Benefits and limitations: One limitation is that you cannot send files or videos over Chirp. You are only allowed to send text, links, and photos. Photos are shared in a “square” format, which means they might show up slightly cropped. In regards to classroom management, I would suggest that only the teacher is allowed to “chirp”, unless permission is given otherwise. If all the students “chirp” at the same time, not only will you have a very noisy classroom, no one will know who is sending what! Last but not least, you need to have an Internet/wifi connection for Chirp to function.

On a closing note: “Chirping” and “Tweeting” are two completely different things. Tweeting is for sending messages on Twitter and Chirping is for sending data with the Chirp app. The two are not at all related. Got it?

Website: www.chirp.io
iTunes for Apple iOS: Link (free)
Google Play for Android: Link (free)


Rewordify helps language learners simplify difficult vocabulary in a written text

October 29, 2013

Link: www.rewordify.com

Quick overview: Rewordify is a free on-line tool that simplifies difficult vocabulary in a written text. In a nutshell, Rewordify will analyze an English text (or an entire website) and then automatically highlight all the words it considers are too difficult. Rewordify can either transform the vocabulary to something more appropriate for lower level learners or highlight the difficult passages and suggest alternate definitions:reworidifyHow can this be used in the classroom: This tool could be used to help students on an individualized basis or to deconstruct a complex text with the whole class. Rewordify works on both tablets and computers. If you teach in a BYOD classroom, this is a great tool for students to have in situations where they need a little extra help to decipher a text on their own. Follow this link from the iLearn Technology blog for more ideas of how to use Rewordify in your classroom or try the live demo if you’d like to see how it works yourself. (Thanks to Tina La Rosa, Galileo Adult Centre, EMSB and also Kelly Tenkely from the iLearn blog.)

Benefits and Limitations: As with any on-line language tool, results are not always 100%. It’s a good idea for you and the students to get in the habit of analyzing each suggestion and see if it makes sense in context. That being said, one could argue that this “limitation” is actually a benefit as it will force learners re-analyze the text and vocabulary a lot more closely. Currently, Rewordify only works with English text.


Curate web resources for yourself or for your students with Pinterest!

October 21, 2013

Quick overview: Pinterest allows you to curate a variety of web resources in a single place. The great thing about Pinterest is that it’s both easy to navigate and visually appealing. It’s a great tool for both students and teachers. I don’t say things like this often, but I firmly believe Pinterest can be a game changing tool for your classroom.

Isn’t Pinterest for cakes and bottlecap collections? Urgh. No, it’s not. Sure, there’s nothing stopping you if you’d like to use Pinterest for your own hobbies but Pinterest is now being used in many classrooms, including my own workshops. Please watch the following short video to see what’s possible with Pinterest but don’t be put off by the “pins” around wedding dresses and shelves. Remember, you can pin whatever content you’d like to your Pinterest boards:pinterestHow we use it: The RECIT FGA team started using Pinterest late last school year to curate different on-line resources for our workshops. Instead of giving out paper handouts, we now give the link to our Pintrest boards. We can also add, remove, update links after the workshop. Here’s a great example of a Flipped Classroom Pinterest board created by my colleague, Marc-André Lalande.

How can it be used in the classroom? Why not create a Pinterest board of useful topics for an FSL/English class, history, or different math concepts? It’s also a good tool if you’d like to provide resources to students when “flipping” your classroom. For more ideas, follow this link for 37 different ways to use Pinterest in your classroom.

What about for my own use as a teacher? Use Pinterest to curate teaching resources (for your own PD) on private boards that contain links for only you to see. Likewise, you can co-create a collaborative board with a fellow teacher. Last but not least, you can use Pinterest to search for lesson plans and other resources too.

How does it work? Once you create an account, you can organize links to websites by “pinning” them to different virtual boards. You are free to reference these boards at a later date or share them with your students. Students do not need to create an account to access your Pinterest boards. All for free!

Want to know more? We’d be more than happy to do a Pinterest session in your FGA centre to get you started. The goal would be to show you how you can use Pinterest for your students and your professional development. If you’re an FGA centre director or teacher, please contact me for more info.

Link to Pinterest Web: www.pinterest.com
Link to Pinterest apps for Mobile: Apple iOS and Google Android
Avi’s Pinterest: pinterest.com/avimspector
Marc-André’s Pinterest: pinterest.com/lalandema


The “new and improved” Animoto allows students to create short video trailers

October 15, 2013

Quick overview: The completely redesigned Animoto allows students to combine images and video clips to create a short video montage. The resulting video montage looks somewhat like a movie trailer, with slick transitions and professional looking effects:

snowballHow does it work? Animoto allows you to choose a theme and copyright free music. Students upload their own digital images and videos and place them in the order they would like them to appear. The resulting Animoto video clips are stored on-line and can be shared with other students by means of a unique web link. A free account is limited to 30 second video clips. However, if you’d like to apply for a free “Animoto Plus” educator account (with less limitations) please follow this link on the Animoto website. Works on PC, Mac, and mobile Apple and Google devices.

How can Animoto be used in the classroom? Even with a 30 second limit, there’s lots of different ways that Animoto can be used in the classroom to create a:

•    Public service announcement (PSA)
•    Student video introduction (Literacy, FSL)
•    Teacher created video to introduce a new concept
•    Point of view on a product, service, or political party
•    Introduction for a book or movie character
•    Short clip to demonstrate historical or geographical information

Benefits and limitations: Students cannot narrate over the video. If you want to create more complex videos with narration, then you may want to look at iMovie on the iPhone, iPad, or Mac. That being said, there’s a pretty low learning curve for Animoto and there’s no need for fancy hardware or expensive software. To cut down on the amount of time that students fiddle with the music and look of the video, Animoto provides pre-made templates. However, not all templates are available with the free account. Last but not least, the 30 second “limitation” on the free accounts can actually be beneficial as it forces students to choose the most relevant images and text to get their point across. As always, make sure students use copyright free images or student photos when using this tool!

Last but not least: When choosing a template for a new Animoto video on the web, the link to continue (using the free account) may not be that prominent. Be sure to look for the “make a 30-second video for free” as seen in this screenshot. Have fun!

Web link: www.animoto.com
iPad/iPhone: Link
Android: Link

Source: Adam Bellow’s “Make Your Classroom Rock” ISTE 2013, San Antonio

Create a written skit between one or more people with Doc Story Builder

October 8, 2013

Quick overview: Doc Story Builder tool simulates a written (i.e. – typed) conversation between one or more people writing in a simulated Google Document. While incredibly easy to use, it produces a result that looks like a polished TV commercial. This tool works on any Mac or PC computer. The tool helps students focus on writing competencies and communicating/storytelling.

Link: http://docsstorybuilder.appspot.com

How can it be used in the classroom? App Story Builder can be used to create a simulated conversation between two or more people to:

– Simulate a conversation between two or more historical figures
– Demonstrate spelling/grammatical mistakes in an FSL or Literacy class
– Introduce a new concept to your class in the form of a funny skit
– Ask student to create their own skits around a certain topic

How does it work? First, you choose the names of the characters in your skit. Next, write in the text and preview what it looks like with your choice of the included (copyright free) music. That’s it! App Story Builder will then put together a little animated story that can be shared with others via a unique link. See example:
docstoryBenefits and Limitations: There’s no need to create an account, it’s easy to use, and produces great results. That being said, ask students to keep things short and I highly suggest you limit the amount of times you use this with your students. If used too often, the tool will likely become tiresome and the novelty will quickly wear off. The background music does not (currently) work on Apple iOS devices. (Thanks to Elizabeth Walhof, Educational Technology Specialist at Douglass County School District for telling me about this tool at one of our sessions at ISTE 2013!)


Desmos is an on-line graphing calculator that allows students to dynamically interact with equations

October 1, 2013

Quick overview: Desmos is a powerful graphing calculator that works in a web browser or on Apple iOS devices. Desmos can graph color coded functions, plot tables of data, transformations, and more. Free!

What does the tool do? To start, here’s a simple example of an intercept slope from the Desmos website. For other possible uses, I’ll provide you with a description from the Desmos website, “The calculator can instantly plot any equation, from lines and parabolas up through derivatives and Fourier series. Data tables open up a world of curve-fitting and modeling. Sliders make it a breeze to demonstrate function transformations. As browser-based HTML5 technology, the graphing calculator works on any computer or tablet without requiring any downloads. It’s intuitive, beautiful math. And best of all: it’s completely free!”

How can I use it in the classroom? Use the tool as another way to explain trickier concepts to students. For a more student centered approach, you could allow your students to experiment with the tool on your Interactive White Board (SMARTBoard) during the hands-on portion of class. Students can also use the Demos app on an iPad/iPhone to pick apart and play with equations at their own desk. (Source: Adam Bellow’s “Make Your Classroom Rock” ISTE 2013, San Antonio)

Web Link: www.desmos.com
iPad/iPod App Link: Link to App storedesmosict_50

Two bulletin boards tools that allow you or your students to share “bite sized” ideas

September 24, 2013

Quick overview: Padlet and Lino allow teachers and students to assemble a variety of text, images, or videos on a virtual bulletin board. Either one of these tools allows one to share a collection of related “bite sized” ideas. Multiple students can work on the same board simultaneously. Boards can be public or private.

What are Padlet and Lino? Padlet and Lino are actually two different tools but are quite similar in regards to functionality. Both tools allow you to add text, images, and videos to a virtual board. You can even attach Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents too. Both tools work on smartphones, iPad, and Android devices.

How can use these two tools be used in the classroom? I’ve linked to detailed tips how padlet and how lino can be used in a classroom. For a more broad overview, these two tools can be used for:

– Class research board(s) around one topic
– Class brainstorming/suggestions/questions
– Gathering needs or goals from multiple students in one place
– Debates/Viewpoints (on a private board)
– Vocabulary/Verb boards

I’m confused! Both tools sound exactly the same: It really comes down to looking at both and seeing which one you think would be a better fit for yours students. I’ve included a link of how the tools work and a detailed comparison between the two.pad-v-sinoOn Brainstorming with these tools: In an earlier blog post, I highlighted how you can use Wordle used to break down text and allow your students to literally “see” the most predominant words (i.e. – themes) used throughout the text. A neat idea is to manually copy all the text from a finalized Padlet/Lino into Wordle to create a Wordle word cloud based on the class brainstorm.

Link: www.padlet.com and en.linoit.com

Doesn’t Lino look a little familiar? Yes, Lino is similar to Corkboard.me, a tool I blogged about in March 2012. However, Corkboard.me is no longer available in its old format. (Source: Jim Hirsch’s “Learning Jams: Improvising BYOD Learning Opportunities in Your Classroom” ISTE 2013, San Antonio. Also thanks to Tony Vincent’s Learning in hand and The Teachersfirst website.)

Two different “infographic” tools to simplify complex information

September 17, 2013

Quick overview: An Inforgraphic allows you or your students to create a professional looking visual representation of real world data. Piktochart.com and Easelly are two on-line tools that allow one to create an infographic in a simple interface. No graphic design experience needed!

What is an infographic? Here’s a perfect definition from Wikipedia, “Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. Infographics can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.”


How can I use infographics in the classroom? Are looking for ways to bring some visual impact to statistics in a math or economics class? Why not ask your students to research statistics (on a topic related to your course material) and demonstrate their findings in an infographic?

Where do I get raw data? A good place to start would be to ask your students to look through some of the data sources below:

– Statistics Canada: www.statcan.gc.ca/start-debut-eng.html
– Number of things: www.numbeof.net
– Wolfram Alpha: www.wolframalpha.com
– US census: www.census.gov
– Datamarket.com: www.datamarket.com
– Google Public Data Explorer www.google.com/publicdata/directory

Benefits and limitations: I’d go out on a limb and recommended that you first start out with Piktochart and see if it fits your classroom needs. It’s user friendly and allows you to easily insert charts and graphs into your Infographics. Easelly is also very user friendly, but there is (currently) no way automatically create charts and graphs based on collected data.

Word to the wise: I recommended that you set a predetermined time limit on how long they can spend on adjusting the “look” and theme of their infographics. The focus should be on interpreting the data. As I’ve mentioned with other multimedia tools, students might spend more time focusing on the bells and whistles (i.e. – making things pretty) rather than focusing on the learning objectives of the project.


Source: ISTE 2013 San Antonio: Carmella Doty, Prince George’s County BOE with Renee Henderson, Infographics: Learn How to Create and Present Information Visually and Adam Bellow’s “Make Your Classroom Rock” ISTE 2013, San Antonio

Duolingo is a revolutionary new way to help learn a second language!

September 10, 2013

Quick overview: Duolingo is a free tool that helps students learn a second language at their own pace. Duolingo is available on the web or as an iPad/Android app for mobile devices. In reviews, Duolingo is often compared positively to Rosetta Stone. This tool is definitely worth checking out, highly recommended!

How can this be used in the classroom? First and foremost, I see this tool as an excellent fit for a student in an individualized FSL class. Using concepts borrowed from a gamified classroom model students progress at learning a language at their own pace and progress through skill trees which requires them to master concepts before moving onto learning more complicated material. Students will be asked to speak, listen, and read in French. For my international readers, it works in other languages too! (Source: Adam Bellow’s “Make Your Classroom Rock” ISTE 2013, San Antonio)

Duolingo web: www.duolingo.com
Duolingo iPad: link
Duolingo Android: link

Benefits and Limitations: If you plan on using this tool in your school’s computer lab but don’t have enough microphones to go around, you may want to consider using the Duolingo App on an iPad or Android device instead. These devices already have a microphone built-in. If you’d like to read more about the effectiveness of Duolingo, please take a look at this detailed report.

Socrative: A quick and easy way to obtain immediate student feedback during class

September 3, 2013

Link: http://www.socrative.com

Quick overview: Socrative is a “student response system” that allows teachers to poll students and obtain immediate feedback throughout a class lecture. Socrative works on any computer, smartphone, or tablet. What I like best about Socrative is that there’s a VERY low learning curve for both teachers and students. It’s also easy to get up and running on a moment’s notice. This tool comes very highly recommended. Free!

How can I use this in my classroom? This tool is best used for formative assessment purposes during a lecutre. Using Socrative, you can ask your students to respond to a short answer question, multiple choice, or true/false question on their computer or mobile device while you are teaching.

How does it work? Let’s say something tricky comes up and you’d like to measure your students understanding during class. Simply ask your question out loud or write it down on the blackboard. There’s no need to touch a computer. Next, use Socrates to send a poll to your students from your teacher computer. Your students will either be prompted to write in a short answer or select either A,B, C, or D from their mobile device or lab computer screen.  As the different responses come in (which can be anonymous) they’ll be displayed to the rest of the class. Even if you’re someone who’s not too comfortable with technology, it literally takes seconds to setup and initiate a poll:socrtiveOther neat features: After class, you can choose to export results to a spreadsheet. If you’d prefer to prepare a detailed quiz in advance, you can import saved quizzes too. If any inappropriate short answers are submitted during class, they can be immediately deleted by the teacher by clicking on the “red x” next to student’s answer.

Benefits and limitations: Any old computer will do, there’s no need for fancy hardware for you or the students. There’s minimal to no preparation needed (i.e. – you don’t need to prepare any quizzes in advance) which is great for impromptu teaching moments. Accounts are not needed for students to use the tool either. Please keep in mind that you need to be in a room with computers (i.e. – school lab) or have a set of Internet enabled tablets or smartphones available. In my opinion, Socrative is great tool to use in a BYOD classroom, but always remember that if students use their own devices, they should be on the school’s wifi or they can incur data charges to participate.

One last thing: I firmly believe that this tool should NOT be used for summative assessment purposes but rather to get authentic feedback from your students as you go along. Have fun! (Source: Rob Zdrojewski’s “Using Socrative.com to Engage Your Students” ISTE 2013, San Antonio)



Mobile Monday: Explain Everything for creating “flipped” video explanations for your students

May 20, 2013

Info: Explain Everything for the iPad.

Cost: 2.99$

Quick overview: Explain Everything is a an iPad app that enables you to EASILY create short video explanations on your iPad in just a matter of minutes. Your voice is recorded with the iPad’s built-in microphone while you write on the screen with a stylus. It’s a great tool for teachers looking to “flip” elements of their classroom!

Wait.. doesn’t this suggestion sound a little familiar? In May 2012, I posted a blog article article about Explain Everything. Since then, there’s been a lot of changes to the program (the app has been updated to version 2) and it has been improved dramatically. As so, I’ve created a new video tutorial to explain how the new app works.

What has been done with Explain Everything since I last posted an article? I’ve done a lot of workshops with Explain Everything since last May. It’s currently my ABSOLUTE favorite way to create short “screen recording” video capsules for the classroom. If you’re sitting on the fence about getting your own iPad to use at school, this app is a great excuse to go buy one!

How can Explain Everything be used in the classroom? Math teachers could use a stylus to write out a math problem and explain step-by-step how to solve it. Language teachers can create small capsules to help students with pronunciation or commons grammar concepts. Biology or science teachers can import an image or video (anatomy, cell structure) and use the app to highlight or move different parts of the image while narrating. Students can be provided with these videos capsules during class to help them better understand a tricky concept. Once they’re done watching the video, you can sit down with them if they need any additional help.

Where do I put the videos? Video capsules can be exported to YouTube, Dropbox, Evernote, or left on the iPad’s Camera Roll. If the videos are placed up on YouTube, students can bring them up by scanning a QR code or typing in the YouTube address manually. If you’re curious about making your own QR codes (which is surprisingly easy to do) please watch this video here.

Benefits and limitations: While I’ve covered other iPad apps that allow you to create a screen recording, you’re forced to do the entire lesson in one take. The great thing about Explain Everything is that it allows you record ONE slide at a time. This means if you cough or make a mistake, you’ll only have to re-record the slide you were working on and not the entire presentation! The iPad microphone is also extremely sensitive so it will pick up sounds of your clothes shuffling or other sounds around the room. Be sure to record in a very quiet environment.


ICT Tip: Two on-line multimedia production tools that can be used on “locked down” school computers

May 7, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


Quick overview: These two tools are great for teachers and students that work in lab where the computers are “locked down” with administrator privileges and do not allow you to install additional software. Need to quickly record a sound file and export to MP3? No problem! Want to add effects or crop a digital photo without any fancy software? Easy! These two web 2.0 tools allow you or your students to do all this from any computer with a web browser.

Link: www.recordmp3.org

How can “RecordMP3.org” be used in the classroom? RecordMP3 is a free, on-line sound manipulation tool. With this little simple website, you’re only presented with just one single button – the record button! Click the button to record your voice and when you’re done the site will give you an MP3 audio file to download back to your computer. This is great tool if you’d like to create a sound byte of your voice (pronunciation, sound clip, etc) to insert in a program like PowerPoint or the SMART Notebook. While offline tools like Audacity have much more flexibility, you need administrator rights on the computer you wish to install the software. RecordMP3 works in any standard web browser. Here’s a one minute video tutorial that shows you how to use it.

Link: pixlr.com (basic) (intermediate) (advanced)

How can “Pixlr.com” be used in my classroom? Pixlr is a free, on-line image manipulation tool. One can use this tool to crop and rotate images, add special effects, text, borders, and so on. What I like about Pixlr is that there are three ways to use it. If you’re not a techie person, you can use the basic playful mode to apply a few simple effects on an existing photo, even if you’ve never retouched a photo before. Need more options? Pixlr also has an intermediate mode called efficient which offers you a bit more flexibility. Lastly, if you or your students are familiar with Photoshop, you can use the advanced mode which is basically an on-line “clone” of Photoshop. The main limitation of this tool is that your students might spend more time focusing on the bells and whistles (i.e. – making a photo pretty) rather than focusing on the learning objectives of the project. My advice? If you make your students aware of this tool, a good suggestion is to ask them to limit the amount of time they spend doctoring up images.

Teacher Feature: Tina La Rosa’s Smore project (EMSB, Galileo)

April 30, 2013

Featured teacher: Tina La Rosa (CCBE, English Literacy)

Centre and School Board: Galileo Adult Centre (EMSB) in conjunction with the RECIT FGA Regional Service.

What was the project? Tina’s literacy students (Accessing Services B124-4) used an on-line tool named Smore to create on-line posters to help develop writing and speaking competencies.

What did the students do? The goal of the Accessing Services course is to help adult literacy learners use oral and written discourse to deal competently with real-life situations related to obtaining access to public services. As so, the focus of the Smore project was to create an on-line poster to promote the benefits of the Access Montreal Card and what services can be accessed with it. Please watch the following two minute video that will give you a better idea of what Tina did with her students. Awesome work Tina!


What is Smore? Smore is web 2.0 tool that can be used on any Mac or PC. If you’d like to know more about Smore, it was featured on my blog in January 2013.

ICT Tip: Popcorn Maker allows students to remix and create new web videos

April 23, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


Link: popcorn.webmaker.org

Quick overview: Popcorn Maker is a web 2.0 tool that allows you or your students to edit, annotate, and remix various YouTube videos. Students can take any video and overlay animated “pop-up” bubble comments, Google maps, text, images, Wikipedia articles, and so on. There’s lots of possibilities to make a very interesting video-type presentation. The tool was created by Mozilla, the same people that brought us the Firefox web browser. Free!

How can this be used in the classroom? Are your students bored of PowerPoint? Popcorn Maker can be used a new way for students to present an opinion, demonstrate a viewpoint, or deliver a mock newscast. Using this tool, a student can remix a new video from all sorts of different sources to create something unique. As Popcorn Maker is web based, all their work is stored on the web and one does NOT necessarily need a powerful computer to do video editing. If you’d like to know more about how Popcorn Maker works, please watch the following video:popcornIs it easy to use? If you’ve ever dabbled with editing videos, then you’ll find the tool surprisingly efficient and easy to use. However, if you’ve never touched any type of video editing software before, there might be a learning curve involved. If that’s the case, I’d suggest that you keep this tool under your belt next time you encounter a tech savvy student who may enjoy a challenge and is looking for a different way to do a presentation. Normally shooting and editing video is difficult and time consuming. However, as this tool only focuses on remixing (rather than creating material from scratch) it might help speed up the process.

What about copyrights? Before students start remixing and editing together all sorts of videos from YouTube, they need to make absolutely sure that they are respecting copyrights! An excellent place to start would be to visit the Creative Commons search engine (http://search.creativecommons.org) where one can specify that you’d like to find a YouTube video that you can “modify, adapt or built upon” for a remixing project.ict_75

Mobile Monday: Remember everything with Evernote!

April 15, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: www.evernote.com

App: Mac and PC, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android, and Blackberry

Quick overview: Evernote is a cloud based app which effortlessly syncs notes between your Mac, PC, tablet or smartphone. It also does photos and audio too. Free!

Why this article? The other weekend, I came across an web article that asked readers what’s their absolute “can’t live without” app on their tablet or smartphone. I immediately thought of Evernote! For the last two years, it’s an app that I use EVERY SINGLE day, both in my personal life and for work. It’s definitely one of my top five favorite apps. It was just then that I realized that I’ve never mentioned anything about Evernote on the blog! (Better late than never.. eh?)

Who should use it? If you own a smartphone or tablet and often take notes with it.

How can I use it as a teacher? Whenever I come across printed documents or other important information, I’ll often use my phone to take a “picture” of the text so that I can read it later. However, if I decide to take the picture in the Evernote app (or type a note) it gets saved to the Evernote “cloud” instead of my phone. This means that I then can then pull up the image or note on my laptop or desktop computer for further reference. I also use Evernote to take written notes during meetings on my iPad or when I’m writing my lesson plan on my laptop. Using Evernote, I know that I can always pull up any of this information on any of my other other devices.

How can students use it in the classroom? Do you allow your students to take a picture of your notes on the blackboard? Using Evernote, they can snap a photo of the blackboard on their smartphone and it will appear on their computer or tablet at home to study from later on. If they prefer to use Evernote to take written notes in class (or a laptop or phone) they can use tags and keywords to search through any of their notes at a later date. Language students can even use Evernote to record small audio snippets, like asking the teacher to pronounce a difficult word and then play back the recording at home. This all being said, students need to respect your guidelines and rules when it comes to using their own mobile devices in your classroom. Perhaps having a designated time to take note snapshots (i.e. – at the end of each slide or before you erase the board) is a good model to follow.

How is this different than Apple’s iCloud? This is not a service from Apple. Evernote works on any device and uses it’s own “cloud” system. It’s designed primarily to sync your notes.

If it safe? Personally, I consider Evernote to be very safe, but like any other service they have had security breaches in the past. Like your e-mail, be cautious about what you put in there.

Why not just use Word or the notes app on my phone? When you use Evernote, you don’t have to worry about where you save your information. No more forgetting about leaving your laptop at work or your phone in your bag with all your notes or photos on it. Using Evernote, ALL your notes travel with you wherever you go, sort of like how we all use webmail nowadays (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc..) to get our e-mail wherever we happen to be.

How much does it cost? A basic account is free and is MORE than adequate for most uses. However, if you get really serious about Evernote (and want a few more bells and whistles) you can buy a premium subscription.

ICT Tip: Gooru is a search engine designed to help teachers and students to find educational resources

April 9, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


Link: www.goorulearning.org

Quick overview: Gooru is a search engine. Unlike Google or Bing, Gooru organizes results into categories in the way you’d use the materials in your classroom. For example, if one were to do a search for “fractions” you’ll get results for fractions related videos, websites, exams, textbooks, handouts, lessons, slides, and quizzes. It can be used both by teachers and students. It’s free too!

How can this be used by teachers? Gooru is a neat place to start if you need to look for additional materials to use in a science, world history, biology, chemistry, physics, or math class. However, please keep in mind that as with anything else you’ll find on the Internet, it’s not a magic solution. You’ll likely find that you’ll be spending more time evaluating the materials, rather than finding them! (Source: Tracy Rosen, resource teacher at Nova Career Centre, NFSB)

Copyrights: All the materials linked on Gooru are Open Educational Resources, which are are “freely accessible, openly formatted and openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, education, assessment and research purposes“.

How can this be used by students? Students can browse “collections” based around specific topics on Gooru if they’d like to study on their own. Want to know more about how this all works? Watch the following video:

Announcement: FGA iPad “Language” webinar has been re-scheduled for April 9th (12PM-1PM)

March 28, 2013

Announcement: Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to postpone the FGA iPad Language webinar that was offered earlier this week. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that may have caused.

When is the new date and time? The RECIT Regional Service is offering the FGA Language webinar on Tuesday, April 9th from 12PM to 1PM using the GoToMeeting platform.

What will be covered? In a nutshell, this one hour language webinar is designed to show you how the iPad is being used in actual FGA language classrooms and (hopefully!) spark some ideas on how you can adapt things for your students. This webinar applies to English, French, FSL, and Literacy level courses. If you like what you see, we can set up an appointment or videoconference to plan something specefic for your own classroom.

What do you need? Are you a FGA teacher or administrator? If so, all you need to attend is a computer (or iPad app) and an hour of time. If connecting by computer, a microphone is optional and a webcam is not necessary. To help me keep track of attendance and invitations, you must confirm your attendance by filling out the updated registration form. Please let me know if you have any questions before then. Hope to see you there!

Recommended viewing: Do you anticipate you’ll be in a situation where you’ll be involved in the process of managing and/or installing apps on a set of iPads in your classroom? If so, I suggest you read my blog post on managing classroom iPads and watch this 8 minute video about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) by my collegue Marc-André Lalande before attending the webinar.

ICT Tip: Symbaloo allows you to create custom “webmixes” of web links for your students

March 26, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


Web app Symbaloo: edu.symbaloo.com

Symbaloo app: Google Play (Android) and iTunes (iPhone/iPod only)

Quick overview: Symbaloo is a cloud based tool that allows you to organize a collection of website links into a neatly organized page of color coded tiles. Each tile represents a link to a different website. The best part is that you can create Symbaloo “webmixes” and share them with your students! This tool is a must see tool for any teacher who likes to share lists of categorized websites for their students. Symbaloo also works on Mac, PC, and mobile devices:

How can this be used in the classroom? Once you get the hang of it, it only takes a few minutes for you to prepare a webmix for a section of a course you are teaching. Teaching a math course and have a whole bunch of sites related to fractions? Make a webmix! Here are some examples of a Symbaloo webmixe for reading resources, algebra, physics, and more.

Flipping the Classroom? You can also use Symbaloo to assemble a webmix of on-line videos. If you’re flipping any part of your classroom, this could be a great tool to assemble related videos you’ve curated from one topic. More than one topic you’d like to flip? No problem! With a free account, you are still able to make multiple webmixes from one account.

Symbaloo bookmarks: Last but not least, if you’re not exactly into sharing websites with your students, you can also use Symbaloo to sync your own bookmarks between computers, iPad, or smartphone. This is actually intended to be the primary use of Symbaloo, but as an educator I’m much more excited about the webmixes!

Want to know how to use Symbaloo? I found a a great Symbaloo webmix that contains a bunch of tutorials on how to get started. The orange and green tiles on this particular webmix will help you get started. Note: There is no iPad/iPhone app available in Canada, but you can view and use Symbaloo webmixes in Safari. Correction 3/27/13: There is no iPad app available, but an iPhone version is available. As so, you can install the Symbaloo app on an iPad as long as you install the iPhone/iPod app. In order to do so, switch your apps tab over to iPhone apps (instead of iPad apps) when searching for Symbaloo in the app store from an iPad! (Thanks to Natalie McCarthy, Assistant Centre Director at ACCESS Riverside for telling me about this great resource!)

Mobile Monday: Two apps that can help students in an individualized math classroom

March 18, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

App info: Khan Academy for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad / Cost: Free (No official Android version, but many 3rd party equivalents exist)

App info: Wolfram Alpha for the iPhone, iPod and iPad / Cost: 4.99$ (Android version available too)

Kkhanhan Academy: If you haven’t heard about Khan Academy, please read my earlier blog post. Khan Academy now has an iPad app that students can use to view hundreds of math related videos recorded by Salman Khan. The benefit of the iPad app (compared to simply watching his videos on YouTube) is that the majority of the videos are broken down into small “one sentence chapters” which allows students to skip back and forth to any part in the explanations. This app could work well in an individualized classroom when you may not have enough time to re-explain a concept to one particular student, he may benefit from another explanation, and/or learns better at his own pace. While they are lots of sites that have math tutorial videos, these videos are all recorded by the same person (i.e. – consistent) and Salman Khan’s explanations are considered by many teachers and students to be top notch. Definitely worth checking out.. Free!

wolfWolfram Alpha: While I covered Wolfram Alpha in an earlier blog post, this amazing iPad app can bring a whole new dimension to problem solving in a math classroom. In a nutshell, Wolfram Alpha is a very advanced calculator, which you can see in these examples. Not only does the app allow you play with a plethora of real world statistics but it also allows you to solve algebraic math problems too. If you notice that a student made a mistake on a traditional paper worksheet, you can ask him to plug the math problem into the app and then use the “step-by-step” problem solver. With the assistance of the tool, the student may be able to figure out on his own (or with your help) at what step he made the mistake on paper. You can then sit down and work on the problem area together. (Thanks to Cathy Hortop for exploring these two apps with me at New Horizons, ETSB)


ICT Tip: A surprisingly accurate Google Chrome “voice-to-text” extension for the Mac or PC

March 12, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


Link: Voicenote Extension for Google Chrome

Quick overview: Voicenote is an English voice-to-text software that works in your computer’s web browser that works WELL and is free!

What is it? In a nutshell, using any microphone equipped Mac or PC you can install a Google Chrome extension called “Voicenote” to transcribe anything you say into written text. You would then copy and paste the resulting text into an e-mail, Word, or wherever you want!

How can this be used in the classroom? First as foremost, I think this tool has the potential to be a great fit for any students who are able to verbalize well but have trouble with spelling, handwriting, or writing down their thoughts (i.e. – Dysgraphia). Even without a learning disability, I think the “voice-to-text” approach is a great time saver. For example, students could use this tool to “write” a 1st draft of an essay or get their initial thoughts down on paper. Personally, I use voice-to-text to help me get MY thoughts out whenever I’m writing professional correspondence. I find my words flow much easier when I speak them aloud first. I then do a second pass (using my keyboard) to touch things up.

Technical stuff: This is a Google Chrome extension for the PC or Mac. Requires Google Chrome and a microphone. If you’d like to know more about Chrome Extensions before installing them in your web browser, please follow this link. As with all voice-to-text software (at the moment) it works best with native English speakers that don’t have an accent. It also doesn’t work in French, sorry! Watch the video below and don’t forget to make it full screen… (Special thanks to Sonia Pietravalle, EMSB for helping me locate and explore this Google Chrome extension.)


Announcement: Using the iPad in language and math FGA classrooms (Webinars for teachers: March 25th and 26th)

March 4, 2013

Quick overview: This school year, we’re seeing lots of iPads being deployed in our FGA centres. Are you curious what you can do with the iPad in YOUR classroom?

Why this approach? I know some of you live in remote areas, while some of you may not have much release time or have a travel budget to attend large workshops. As so, I’ve decided to experiment with a different formula called a “webinar”. The word “webinar” is a combination of the words “web” and “seminar”.  It’s pretty much a short lecture that is delivered over the web.

What are we covering? These webinars will only be 1 hour in length – short and to the point! The first webinar will be “FGA Language apps for the iPad” and the second webinar will be “FGA Math Apps for the iPad”. If you’d like to know more about what will be covered in each session, please click this webinar information PDF for more details. In a nutshell, these general webinars are intended to show you how the iPad is being used in actual FGA language and math classrooms and (hopefully!) spark some ideas on how you can adapt things for your students. If you like what you see, we can set up an appointment to plan something specefic for your own classroom.

What are we not covering? Even if you’ve never touched an iPad before, you should definitely still attend. That being said, these webinars are NOT intended to be a technical workshop of how to use an iPad. If that’s what you’re looking for, please let me know and I’ll set you up accordingly.

When are they? The RECIT Regional Service is planning on offering the language webinar on March 25th (12PM to 1PM) and the math webinar on March 26th (12PM to 1PM). The webinars are being offered over the lunch hour since there’s a greater chance that more teachers will be available.

What do you need? Are you a Quebec General Adult Education (FGA) teacher or administrator? If so, all you need to attend is a microphone, a computer, and an hour of time. It’s free too! As there are a limited number of spaces, you must confirm your attendance by filling out this on-line registration form. Please let me know if you have any questions. Happy spring break week!

Registration form: The mandatory registration form is available at this link.

Mobile Monday: iPad apps organized by learning objective (not just a huge list of apps!)

February 25, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: http://tinyurl.com/learnobjapps (EdTechTeacher.com)

Quick overview: A list of iPad apps organized by learning objective, rather than by subject.

OK, so what’s different about this list? If you’ve ever tried searching for iPad apps to use in your classroom, you may have found websites with long lists of categorized “educational” apps. Upon closer inspection, these compilations often contain way too many apps to sift through and it can be difficult to find a meaningful link of how they can be used with YOUR students.

My advice: When I’m using technology in the classroom, I always like to start with the learning objective (start with the why) and then see which technology would fit best to help the students reach their goal. In regards to mobile devices, this means you may want to avoid finding an app first and then seeing where “it fits” afterwards.

How do you use this list? Using this resource, try starting off with the learning objective (click on the image below) and then see what apps are recommended for the task. Next, test the apps yourself before giving them to your students. If you find a good fit, then try it out with them! (Sources: “Learning Objective Apps” list shared by Paul Rombough, LEARN and “Technology Poster” shared by Paul Laplante, FGID/QLWG)


ICT Tip: 4 ways to find digital images without breaking any copyright laws

February 19, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


Quick overview: While it’s often tempting to just use questionably copyrighted images for “oh-well-this-will-never-leave-the-classroom” student projects, I think it’s a good idea to start educating ourselves and our students about fair use and copyrights.. no matter how big or small the project! If you want to start teaching your students about digital citizenship, this may be a good place to start. Click on the name of the tools (see below) to find out more.

What is Creative Commons? If you haven’t heard about Creative Commons yet, I suggest you watch this 3 minute video before reading any further.

1) FlickrStackr Explore: If your students are using iPads, this free app allows them to enter in a keyword and swipe through a “wall” of Creative Commons images, similar to Qflick. To do this in the app, they would need to click on the “search” box and then choose “Creative Commons” in the search properties. Once they find an image that they like, they would click on this icon to obtain the name of the author so they can credit them in their work.

2) Creative Commons: This resource isn’t as fancy looking as FlickrStackr but it works both on desktops and mobile devices. Personally, I find I often go here first since it’s a “one stop shop” to search several sites where I’m most likely to find Creative Commons material. Think of this site as a master hub for searching for copyright free materials. Bonus: The Creative Commons search engine allows you to search for other types of media (sound, video, etc..) too.

3) Advanced Google Image Search: Yes, using Google Images is often the easiest way to get images from the Internet. However, did you know that when you do an image search, most of the images you’ll find are not copyright free? While it’s true that you can use the advanced Google Image search function to specify the “usage rights”, you’re still not guaranteed that the images being returned are copyright free. In fact, like ANY of the tools we’re looking at today, Google’s advanced search merely uses automated algorithms to find copyright free images. It’s always up to the user to verify that the images they are in fact, Creative Commons.

How do I check if an image has an actual Creative Commons license? In general, the license will usually be written near the image or clearly indicated in the app. If you can’t find a license, you’re safer to just find another image. Keep in mind that this rule applies to ALL of the tools listed above.. Always verify!

4) Pic4LearningUpdate 2/25/2013: Right after posting this article, I stumbled upon a great site named Pic4Learning. The great thing about Pic4Learning is that you are free to use the images on the site without needing to check for licenses, copyrights, or even attribute the original author, as long as you use the image in education. Here is the description from their site: “Pics4Learning is a safe, free image library for education. Teachers and students can use the copyright-friendly photos and images for classrooms, multimedia projects, web sites, videos, portfolios, or any other project in an educational setting.” Definitely work checking out!

Mobile Monday: Phoster allows students to create simple printable posters on an Apple mobile device

February 11, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

App info: Phoster for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod / Cost: 1.99$

Quick overview: An app that allows students to easily create posters on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. This app can be used for any course that requires students to produce a very simple presentation or idea. Phoster is similar to the Smore website I posted a few weeks back. The main difference is that Smore is a Web 2.0 tool that is meant to be used on a Mac or PC (and allows for more complex posters) while Phoster is an app that allows you to create quick and simple posters on Apple mobile devices.

How does it work? Students start by picking the look of their “Phoster” poster by choosing from a list of included templates. Once they choose a template, they can add their own image from the built-in camera or the Internet, a little text, and then export the whole poster by e-mail (JPG) to a computer so it can be printed on a color printer. It’s easy to use too!

How can this be used in the classroom? Literacy students could create a “Phoster” about accessing a service in their community or a PSA about a civic responsibility. As each Phoster can only contain one image and a very small amount of text, students could be asked to create a whole series of simple posters around a central theme. This activity could be used as an opportunity to help Literacy level students with very basic writing skills, such as grammar and spelling. Otherwise, individual posters could be created by the students as a “my name is” sign and include a picture of themselves (taken with the iPad’s camera) to be used at the start of the term. Higher level students could use this app as a way to create a class announcement to post up around the school, classroom, or community.

How does it work? To see an overview of how it works, please watch this 4 minute “quick look” video by AdoramaTV:

Teacher Feature: Ali Ghassemi’s Top 11 iPad Math Apps (NFSB, Nova)

February 5, 2013

Ali Ghassemi teaches Sec. 1-5 Math at Nova Career Education Centre, which is part of the New Frontiers School Board in Châteauguay, Quebec. This school year, Ali’s centre acquired a set iPads. As soon as Ali got his hands on an iPad, he began to pour over hundreds of different math apps in an attempt to find new approaches to help his students succeed in greater numbers.

Ali recently presented alongside Tracy Rosen (Resource Teacher at NFSB) at the QPAT 2012 teacher’s conference and demonstrated 11 of his favorite Math apps. If you’d like to learn more about their session about increasing student engagement with iPads, I’d highly encourage you take a look at Tracy’s detailed blog post from her education focused blog, Leading from the Heart. Without any further ado, here are Ali’s top 11 apps sorted by category:

Educreation: Record math lessons on screen. View hundreds of various lessons from other teachers.

Converter: Easily convert units from one to another.

Algebra Touch: Rearrange, slide, and tap variables to solve equations.
Tritutor: Shows how to solve quadratic equations, step-by-step.
Ace High School Math: Step-by-step math videos (needs internet connection)
Polynomials by HUP: Helps students work with polynomials through video.
Math Quadsolve: Solves quadratic equations.

Mathgraph: A graphing application for the iPad.
Winipossible Geometry Tutor: Videos to help students with geometry.
Unit Circle Helps students understand triangles and how they relate to trigonometry.

General Math:
Math Aptitude: 1500 Math questions with step-by-step solutions.

(Source: Tracy Rosen, resource teacher at Nova Career Centre. Be sure to check out Tracy’s blog at http://leadingfromtheheart.org. Also thanks to Ali Ghassemi, math teacher at Nova Career Centre.)

ICT Tip: Smore allows students to create on-line posters

January 29, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: www.smore.com

Quick overview: English, Literacy, or FSL language students can use Smore to create on-line posters to announce a community event, advertise an mock product, create a class newsletter, and more! What I like best about Smore is that students can quickly choose the poster’s look from a choice of templates, which helps keep the main focus on writing (i.e. – learning a language) rather than fiddling with the design.

How can it be used in the classroom? As an example, if you have students who are in the process of learning what’s involved in renting an apartment or organizing a community event, this tool could help them put new vocabulary they’ve learned into practice by creating a digital poster. Furthermore, if students present their finalized posters to the class, you could use the opportunity to address common mistakes (grammar, vocabulary, content, etc..) that may be present across the various groups. Since the poster is all digital, students can correct errors as they go along. YouTube videos can be embedded too. Last but not least, as the posters often don’t contain too much text, you may want to ask your students to create a series of small posters around a single theme. A free account sign-up required. (Source: 60in60 with Brandon Lutz, San Diego ISTE 2012, tutorial video from Theresa Quilici‘s YouTube channel.)

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