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)




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.

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.

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!)


ICT Tip: Stupeflix allows students to create a simple video montage

April 24, 2012

This post could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: studio.stupeflix.com/education

Quick overview: Stupeflix allows students to easily combine images, text, and music to create a short video montage. No previous video editing experience needed.

How does it work? Students gather images and place them in the order they would like them to appear. Next, students add text captions to tell a story in relation to the images. Stupeflix then automatically generates a professional looking video montage. Here’s a simple example I created for the Blog.

How can this be used in the classroom? As an exercise on persuasive language, students could use Stupeflix to present their viewpoints in a format similar in format to a TV commercial. Before even touching a computer, students can be asked to brainstorm 8 to 12 images they felt would best get their point across. Images can be obtained from a digital camera or from copyright free source like Flickr Creative Commons. Alternatively, Stupeflix videos can be used by students to create a “hook” or introduction leading up to an oral presentation or PowerPoint. While Stupeflix doesn’t allow your students to record their own voice it can be used to help students develop writing and communication skills.  (Special thanks to Nancy Sher and her English class at CDC Vimont for trying this one out with me! )

Benefits and limitations: In the time between writing this article and publishing it, Stupeflix has changed from a free to a paid pricing model. As I only share free resources on the blog, I considered withholding this blog post. One factor that changed my mind is that Stupeflix just introduced Stupeflix for Students which is reasonably priced and worth looking into.

Video: To see a 1 minute video example of a Stupeflix video, please click the play button below:

ICT Tip: Visuwords puts a new twist on looking up words in the dictionary or thesaurus

January 31, 2012

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


Link: www.visuwords.com

Quick overview: The Visuwords website is a unique twist on a dictionary or thesaurus. Students look up a word and immediately see color coded “pop-up” connections to adjectives,  antonyms, related words, definitions – all at once!  Surprisingly intuitive and easy to use. Works well with an Interactive Whiteboard.

How can this be used in the classroom: If you’re teaching in an individualized classroom, you could leave this website running on your Interactive Whiteboard while your students are working on reading or writing assignments.  If a student is unfamiliar with a word, they can walk over to the board themselves to look up certain words. Roll your mouse (or finger) over any of the “bubbles” to get a more detailed definition of the words. Double-click the “bubbles” to bring up more word connections. Last but not least, this tool could be used with the whole class when discussing new vocabulary. (Source: Candace Hackett Shively, ISTE 2011 Philadelphia)

ICT Tip: Exploring different approaches for oral presentations using Voki

November 29, 2011

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

Link: http://www.voki.com/Voki_for_education.php

Quick overview: Do you have students that are uncomfortable with public speaking? Using Voki, a student can create a virtual animated avatar that “speaks” a recording of your student’s own voice or written text. Works in French too.

What does it do? Voki allows students to customize a unique looking virtual person, called an avatar. The avatar could be a representation of the student or a fictional character from a book. To make the Voki speak, students either type in text, speak into a microphone, or call in their recording with a cell phone. The Voki avatar is limited to 1 minute of “speaking” time, which helps students keep things concise. A Voki can be embedded into blogs or sent by e-mail. Free. (Source: Dr. Kipp Rogers, ISTE Philadelphia 2011)

How can this be used in the clasroom? There’s a huge bank of lesson plans for using Voki in an educational context, but one approach I like is using Voki to help students that are uncomfortable speaking in front of the class.

A sample lesson idea: Let’s say your students are assigned a book to read and are asked to provide a viewpoint from the story’s protagonist. If your focus is helping your students develop writing skills, you could ask the students to write their viewpoints for their animated Voki to speak. Once complete, the students’ Vokis are presented to the class using a projector and speakers. Alternatively, if you’re focusing on helping your students develop oral skills, you could ask students to speak and record their viewpoints using a microphone with Voki. The Vokis are then presented to the whole class and “speak” on their behalf. The point of the exercise is to get students sharing their viewpoints (formulating thoughts, mobilizing writing and/or oral competencies) without actually having to be put on the spot in front of the other students.

Something to consider: I highly suggest that you set a short time limit when students create the look of their Voki Avatars. The goal of using Voki in a language classroom should be to get students better at writing or speaking, not creating pretty Avatars!

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use this Voki, click the (3 minute) video link below:

ICT Tip: Lingro provides instant “pop-up” dictionary definitions for any website

April 12, 2011

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

Link: http://www.lingro.com

Quick overview: Using Lingro, students can visit a website and click on any word to obtain a definition, along with a spoken pronunciation. Easy to use and no software to download. Free!

How can this be used in the classroom? Think of Lingro as a language “overlay” for websites. Using the Lingro website, students simply punch in the address of the site they would like to visit and now they can click on any of the words they encounter to obtain a definition. Lingro also keeps a history of all words clicked, so students can go back and review their word history. Lingro can be used in different languages too. So for example, a Chinese speaking student can obtain Chinese definitions when reading words from an English website. Definitely worth checking out! (Source: Mish Papazian, St Laurent Adult Education Centre, English Montreal School Board)

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use the Lingro website, please click the play button below:

ICT Tip: Google Translate will translate text as you type and can speak the translation out loud

March 15, 2011

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

Quick overview: Google Translate (translate.google.com) performs instant text translation between two different languages. If desired, the translated text can be spoken out loud with a realistic sounding synthesized voice.

How does it work? Google Translate works best on short phrases and single words. However, students should be aware that translating complicated bodies of text or common expressions may not work as well. Case in point, here’s an actual example of a Google translation (for our French speaking readers) that has gone very wrong. I can’t stress enough, if this tool is used in a classroom, it’s important to tell students to proofread the translations!

How can it be used in the classroom? If you have a student who doesn’t know the odd word, Google Translate will allow your student to type in a phrase (or a single word) in their native language and then have it translated into the language they are learning. As the translated sentences are often far from perfect, it forces students to analyze and improve their writing skills by constantly having to proofread the translations. In addition, as the text can be spoken out loud, this tool can help our ESL or FSL students with pronunciation. Lastly, for teachers that use the iPod, iPad, or iPhone in the classroom with their students, you may want to check this video out.

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use Google Translate, please click the large play button below:

ICT Tip: BibMe automatically generates perfectly formatted bibliography pages

March 8, 2011

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

Quick overview: A website that generates a perfectly formatted bibliography page. Students only need to provide the title of a book or other media sources they wish to cite.

How does it work? Bibme (www.bibme.com) enables your students to compile a perfectly formatted bibliography page in MLA, APA, Chicago, or Turabian styles. Students enter a book title, magazine or newspaper article, website, journal, or film a polished bibliography page is automatically created for them. The resulting bibliography page is provided as a Microsoft Word document that students can download and further modify. In regards to books, all the relevant bibliography information is retrieved from the Amazon.com database.

How can it be used in the classroom? This website definitely has the potential to be controversial (it does most of the formatting for your students) but like a calculator in a math class, perhaps it also has a purpose. You could always introduce it to your students after they have learned the process of creating bibliographies. At this point, it might help certain students go back and catch their mistakes and help them along for next time. The Bibme site also has a citation guide section which provides detailed rules and guidelines for each style.

Something to consider: At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, this tool is now out there for your students to find. As so, should we be teaching our students the concepts behind creating a bibliography page (and give them sites like this to do so) or is it still necessary for them to memorize all these ever changing, specific formatting rules? (Source: Tammy Worcester, ISTE 2010 Denver conference)

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of how to use BibMe, please click the large play button below:

ICT Tip: The NFB’s vast film collection is now on-line for English Quebec K-12 and Adult Ed schools

February 8, 2011

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

Quick overview: The National Film Board of Canada has digitized hundreds of NFB English and French documentaries, animations, experimental films, and fiction and placed them on-line so they can be viewed in the on-line screening room.

How does it work? LEARN Quebec has negotiated public performance rights in the classroom for more than 1,700 NFB French and English films until June 2014. The LEARN agreement applies to English Quebec K-12 and Adult Education schools. To check your eligibility outside of Quebec, see the NFB’s Education Page for more details.

How can it be used in the classroom? The NFB (www.nfb.ca) is Canadian content at it’s best. Pick from hundreds of thought provoking documentaries or animations to start discussions with your students. Many of these classic and contemporary films can be used to discuss Canadian history or identity or can be used within Learning Situations. Many films also have a tab marked “education” which gives suggestions or lessons plans to help tie in the films to your classroom. Highly recommended!

ICT Tip: Documentary Storm contains hundreds of catergorized on-line video documentaries

January 25, 2011

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

Quick overview: Documentary Storm (www.documentarystorm.com) is a website that has categorized hundreds of on-line video documentaries found across the web. Simply browse, click, and play!

How does this site work? You can search for videos by keyword or browse through the different categories. Categories include biography, science, crime, health, history, art, society, war, biology, politics, the universe, etc..

What works best? I find this site works best when you browse through the different categories instead of searching by keyword. For example, if you were teaching a world history course and searched for “ancient greeks” you may not find much. On the other hand, if you were to browse the history category you may stumble upon an interesting documentary on engineering ancient empires, which may be just as interesting and pertinent to your world history class!

How can this be used in the classroom: Documentaries can be used to start a class discussion or used as a source of inspiration for a written essay or class project. If you have a digital projector in your classroom, documentaries can be screened in class. If students all have regular access to computers at home, you can even assign a documentary to be viewed for homework. (Source: Lise Demers, Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, Lester B. Pearson School Board)

Important notes: The documentaries on this site come from YouTube, Google, Megavideo, Vimeo, or a variety of other video sharing sites. Since some of these sites may be blocked in your school, always test it in your actual classroom (or use an offline solution like keepvid) before showing to your class! For copyright concerns, please view the disclaimer on the Documentary Storm website.

ICT Tip: Tagxedo “Image Word” Clouds

December 2, 2010

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

Quick overview: The Tagxedo (www.tagxedo.com) website is very similar to Wordle, which I wrote about in an earlier blog posting. Like Wordle, Tagxedo allows your students to specify text from a website and generate a cloud of word poetry that places more importance on the most frequently used words. However, one of the main differences with Tagxedo is that it will form an image shaped word cloud (see below) instead of just assembling the words into a shapeless blob. How can it be used in the classroom? Like Wordle, for students that are visual learners, Tagxedo could be used to break down a short text and allow them to literally “see” the most predominant words (i.e – themes) used throughout the text.

How does it work? If you’d like to see a quick video overview of how to use Tagxedo, please visit this YouTube video link. If YouTube is blocked in your centre, please use this alternate video link instead. The Tagxedo site is currently free.

ICT Note: Tagxedo requires a local installation of Microsoft Silverlight technology to work. In a nutshell, Silverlight is safe to install on your computer and is Microsoft’s equivalent technology to Adobe Flash. If you try to create a Tagxedo without Silverlight installed, the website will simply prompt you to install the software. (Source: Tammy Worcester, ISTE 2010 Denver conference)

ICT Tip: The Canadian Virtual Museum/Musée virtuel du Canada website

November 23, 2010

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

Quick overview: A virtual museum of Canadian heritage and history. The site is available in both English and French.

How can it be used in the classroom? The Virtual Museum of Canada website (www.virtualmuseum.ca or www.museevirtuel.ca) contains a vast collection of stories and articles relating to Canadian History. Students may want to this site to help with research projects or to use within Learning Situations dealing with Canadian or Quebec cultural identity. Some interesting areas of the site to explore with your students would be the virtual exhibits and image gallery sections. In both sections, students can browse or search for topics by keywords.

Copyright concerns: For more information on copyrights related to using materials from this website in your classroom, please refer to the FAQ section. (Source: Nancy Sher, CDC Vimont Adult Centre, SWLSB)

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use the site, click the play button below:

ICT Tip: Vocaroo is lightning fast way for students to record an audio clip and share it with others

November 9, 2010

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

Quick overview: A website that allows you to record and playback your voice. If desired, it can be shared with others. Extremely simple interface.

How does it work? Vocaroo (www.vocaroo.com) is very straightforward to use. In fact, it’s so easy that there is only ONE button that you can press when you arrive the website.. the record button!

How can this be used in the classroom? The Vocaroo website allows language students record their own voice and then hear their own pronunciation. If desired, students can use Vocaroo to record a sound clip and then share it with their teacher or other students by choosing the “post on the Internet” or “send to a friend” buttons. If students choose the “post on the Internet” option, they will be provided with a unique “Vocaroo Link” which they can simply copy and paste into an e-mail. This site opens up the possibilities of working with ESL or FSL students in other classrooms or even others around the world! (Source: Tammy Worcester, ISTE 2010 Denver conference)

ICT Tip: Create word poetry with PIC-LITS

November 2, 2010

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

Quick overview: The PIC-LITS website allows your students to create virtual “fridge poetry” by dragging and dropping words onto an inspiring image. Quick to setup, easy to use.

How can it be used in the classroom? The PIC-LITS (www.piclits.com) website can be used with students to create simple on-the-spot word poems that are inspired by different images. It also serves as a visual way to help students improve their understanding of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs when composing a sentence. The PIC-LITS website can also be used in an interactive group setting with a SMARTBoard.

Other details: Instead of picking from a list of existing words using the default “drag-n-drop” mode, students can choose to create their own words using the “freestyle” mode found on the bottom of the screen. While it’s easy to jump right in and create a PIC-LIT, a free account is required if your students wish to save or e-mail their PIC-LITs. Thankfully an account sign-up is hassle free and only takes a few seconds to do. (Source: The Tech Chicks, ISTE 2010 Denver Conference)

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use the PIC-LITS site, please click the large play button below:

ICT Tip: Two Canadian websites that aim to educate adults about everyday financial concerns, available both in English and French

February 23, 2010

This ICT tip could be applied to the following subjects:

loon-2Quick overview: Two Canadian websites that aim to educate adults about everyday financial concerns. Both sites contain loads of reputable information that can be used within a learning situation or courses dealing with finances. Available in both English and French.

How the Money Belt website can be used in the classroom: The Money Belt website aims to teach financial life skills in easy “down-to-earth” language. The website is primarily intended for young Canadian adults but is also useful for adult learners of all ages. On this site your students can test what they know (and don’t know) about managing their money. Some topics include how to avoid high levels of debt, avoiding fraud, choices that exist when choosing credit cards, loans, bank accounts, and general financial knowledge. The Money Belt website is maintained by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) a federal government agency that aims to protect and educate Canadian consumers of financial services.

How the CBA website can be used in the classroom: The CBA (Canadian Bankers Association of Canada) is a Canadian website that contains a large amount of information regarding Canadian banking and financial services. In particular, the consumer information section contains information on banking basics, financial rights and responsibilities, saving, investing, and identity theft. There is also a very useful glossary (the link can be found on the top right hand corner of the CBA webpage) containing definitions in relation to finances. (Source of websites: Nancy Sher at the CDC Vimont Adult Centre, SWLSB)

Note: Sections of the Money Belt description have been quoted from the about section of the Money Belt website.

ICT Tip: Lit2Go containts hundreds of free audiobooks with printed text to follow along

February 10, 2010

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

Quick overview: A website containing hundreds of English short stories and poems, each available as an audio recording and as printed text. Designed for education. All of the printed texts and audio recordings are freely available for download in PDF and MP3 formats. Printable support materials for use in the classroom are also available for download.

How can it be used in the classroom: The Lit2Go website (http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go) could be a great tool to use in an individualized classroom. Students could be assigned different poems or short stories and then be asked to individually listen to them on a computer or a digital music player (i.e. – iPod) with a pair of headphones. Each story or poem also contains a link to printable support materials which could then be used to help you evaluate each student’s learning. The Lit2Go website could also be beneficial for students with reading difficulties. These students could be provided with an audio recording and then be asked to read the accompanying printed text. This approach may help them decipher the text more easily as they could proceed at their own pace and rewind or pause the accompanying audio file as much as they need to. Lastly, you can search for short stories or poems on the Lit2Go site by title, author, keywords, or reading level. (Source: Susan Van Gelder, LEARN)

Photo credit: Photo by Sarah M. Stewart used
under a Creative Commons license

ICT Tip: The Biography website features over 25,000 on-line biographies

November 4, 2009

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

bioQuick overview: The Biography Channel website (www.biography.com/search) contains thousands of on-line biographies for your students to consult.

How can it be used in the classroom: Even though The Biography Channel is a commercial entity, it maintains a free-to-use website. Students can search for biographies by person’s name, alphabetically, keyword, or browse by category (i.e – inventors, athletes, physicists) in the search bios section. Certain biographies contain more information than others, depending on the celebrity level or historical importance of the individual being searched. In the bio’s best section, students can find special features dedicated to topics such as black history and notable women in history.



ICT Tip: GoogleLitTrips allows your students to explore books in a whole new way!

October 14, 2009

This ICT tip could be applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: The Google Lit Trips (www.googlelittrips.org) website uses Google Earth mapping technology to explore and expand upon real-world places featured in books and classic literature.

How can it be used in the classroom: Using this website, you can download various “Google Lit Trips” that have been pre-prepared by other teachers.  The majority of Google Lit Trips contain a teacher’s guide and Google Earth “placemarks” that allow students to explore the far away places that are described in a book. For example, Jerome Burg, creator of the site and an English teacher from Livermore, California, has prepared a Google Lit Trip with various “placemarks” for locations that the character Amir visits in the book The Kite Runner. To describe how Jerome uses Google Lit Trips with The Kite Runner, I’ve quoted an article featured on the Edutopia website:

“.. By clicking on a placemark, students open a pop-up window embedded with supplementary information. One window shows a photo of a bazaar, accompanied by a passage from the novel describing a musty marketplace. Another explains the cultural history of the Pashtun people and has links to additional information about Shia and Sunni Muslims. Most pop-ups include photos, maps, drawings, or text but also have questions to encourage students to think about the story. Exploring the placemarks involves active engagement that Burg compares with using manipulatives for hands-on learning in math. It puts the kids right in the middle of the story,” Burg explains, “rather than at a desk as the teacher teaches the story at them. Students can also add their own placemarks, highlighting locations or links that add to their understanding.”

Video Tutorial: Here’s a video I prepared that demonstrates what’s possible with Google Lit Trips and an overview of how it works:


ICT Ttip: In order to use the Google Lit Trips site, you need to install Google Earth. For more information on using and installing Google Earth, refer to my blog posting at (www.tinyurl.com/ict-earth)  In addition, if you’re technically adventurous, the Google Lit Trips site provides a guide to create your own Google Lit Tips.


ICT Tip: Google Street view allows you to virtually walk around the streets of Canadian cities!

October 8, 2009

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

Quick overview: Google has finally brought their groundbreaking “Street View” technology to Canada! This amazing technology allows your students to virtually walk around the streets of Canadian cities and experience them as if they were really there.  It’s EASY to use, no special software required, and is free. Works even better on a Interactive Whiteboard, such as a SMARTBoard.

How can it be used in the classroom: Using a digital projector, this technology can be used to take your students on a virtual tour of famous Quebec landmarks that the class may not otherwise have been able to travel to in person. French second language students can use this site to verbally describe various landmarks or buildings found in their own neighborhoods. In addition, this technology can be used as a starting point to bring up a class debate regarding privacy in the Internet age.  Would your students be comfortable having others look up their home addresses?  What would the pictures show?  (i.e – Can you see what was in the garbage that day?  Who was parked in the driveway?)  Ultimately, do your students feel this technology is an invasion of our privacy or a beneficial technology?

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of Google Street view, please click the large play button below:


ICT Tip: Ask your students to create digital slideshows quickly and easily with Photo Story!

September 29, 2009

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

photosto-titleQuick overview: A free application that allows your students to create a digital sideshow with copyright free music and their own digital photos.

Update August 2011: This application only works on Windows XP and Microsoft has taken down the download link. We are working on finding a web based alternative to this resource. Do you know of any? Contact us!

What does it do? Photo Story allows you or your students to easily create a “digital slideshow” out of images taken with a digital camera or images from the Internet. Photo Story can even generate copyright free music for the slideshow, no musical talent necessary!

How can it be used in the classroom? Nancy Peterson from the Pontiac Adult Education and Vocational Training Centre (WQSB) showed me how she used Photo Story in conjunction with a class field trip.  Her class took digital pictures during a “sugaring off” field trip and once they got back to the classroom, they pooled together all their digital images and imported them into Photo Story. The students then took turns adding their own vocal narration for each slide. Once complete, they exported the digital slide show as a PC movie file. Nancy was really impressed with the results and so was I!

Video Tutorial: In order to explain step-by-step how a Photostory is created, I’ve created an on-line video tutorial which can be viewed below:


Technical note: Photo Story is a desktop application. This means in order to use Photo Story, it must be downloaded and installed locally on a Windows computer.  If you do not know how (or have the rights) to install software in your computer lab, you can ask for help from your IT department. The digital slideshow files that Photostory 3.0 produces (.WMV files) can be played on any Windows computer, even if Photo Story is not installed.ict_25

ICT Tip: Google News Timeline website – A new way to search the past!

September 8, 2009

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

Quick overview: A website that allows your students to search for specific keywords (i.e – people, places, events, quotes) in old newspapers and magazines. Think of searchable digital microfiche, updated for the web, and free!

How does it work? The Google News Timeline website (newstimeline.googlelabs.com) displays search results in a chronological, graphical timeline. The search history can be set to display days, weeks, months, years, or even decades. In fact, some archived newspapers go back as far as the early 1800’s!  For more recent decades, Google News Timeline will search through more contemporary news sources (web, wikipedia) but it can be disabled in your search preferences, if desired.  

How can it be used in the classroom: While many of our students tend to rely on Wikipedia for their historical research (not always a good thing) they could be instead encouraged to use Google Timeline to look through archived print media. Google News Timeline is like visiting the library all over again.. a truly fascinating site, definitely worth a look! (Source: Susan van Gelder, LEARN)

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video overview of how the Google News Timeline site works, click the large play button below:



Note: If you are interested in a website that will allow your students to read through current newspapers, please consult my other ICT Blog posting featuring the Newseum website.

google news timeline is a web application that organizes search results chronologically. It allows users to view news and other data sources on a browsable, graphical timeline. Available data sources include recent and historical news, scanned newspapers and magazines, blog posts, sports scores, and information about various types of media, like music albums and movies.

ICT Tip: Comprehensive, ready-to-use EFL/ESL lesson plans based on current world events

May 19, 2009

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

break_newsQuick overview: Ready to use EFL/ESL lesson plans based on current world events. Each lesson contains reading and listening exercises. There is a new lesson added every three days.

How can it be used in the classroom? The Breaking News English website (www.breakingnewsenglish.com) offers your students an opportunity to read and listen to current news items on-line. Each comprehensive lesson plan contains a news article, pair work, discussion, communication activities, reading and vocabulary exercises.

Technical info: The lesson handouts are available in Word and PDF document formats.  You are encouraged to print and use the lessons with your students.  Podcasts (an audio recording of the lesson) in MP3 format are available on the site too. If you’d like to know more about PDFs, MP3s, or Podcasts, please consult my ICT Blog Terminology section.


  • The lessons are free.
  • There is a new lesson every three days.
  • All lessons are based on stories currently in the news.
  • As the world’s news breaks, teach it!
  • All lessons are also downloadable in Word and PDF formats.
  • Listening files can be downloaded as MP3 audio files.
  • Listening files can also be subscribed to via a podcast.
  • Classroom handouts are readily reproducible.
  • There is a graded listening with each lesson.
  • Teachers can copy/paste parts of the lessons they want to use.

(Source: Lise Demers, Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, Lester B. Pearson School Board. Certain parts of the “Quick Overview” description have been paraphrased from a description provided to me from Lise Demers. As well, certain parts of the “Highlights” description have been paraphrased from the Breaking News English about section.)


ICT Tip: Snapshots of over 700 newspaper front pages from around the world, updated daily!

May 12, 2009

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

news-logo1Quick overview: The Newsuem site (www.tinyurl.com/newseum) allows your students to read the front page of different newspapers from all over the world. The newspapers are updated every morning.

How it can be used in the classroom: As a teacher, the Newseum website could be a great ICT resource to keep in your “back pocket” for a day when a worldwide news event happens. Using the Newsuem site, do your students find that newspaper headlines in one country minimize or emphasize this big news event? Is the news event positive in one country and negative in another? In addition, the content on this site is about as real life as it gets and could be a great way to incorporate ICT into a real life Learning Situation.

Other useful links on the site: There’s also an archive section on the Newsuem site (www.tinyurl.com/newseum-archive) that highlights recent events of historical significance. However, due to legal reasons, the Newseum site is not authorized to archive newspaper front pages from other prior dates. If ever you find the newspaper text hard to read, be sure to click on the “readable PDF” link found with each newspaper front page for a higher resolution image. Last but not least, teachers should keep in mind that only the front page of each newspaper is provided. However, a web site link is available for each newspaper so that students can visit their websites to read more.

Additional note for FSL teachers: While the Newseum website interface is in English, there are many French language newspapers available too. For FSL teachers who may want to compare different French language papers, you are best to use the following link (www.tinyurl.com/newseum-regionlist) and use the “sort papers by region” drop down box to locate French language newspapers from specific countries. (Source: Susan Van Gelder, LEARN)



ICT Tip: Information for students that clearly outlines their rights and responsibilities as Quebec citizens. Great for Learning Situations!

April 28, 2009

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

educaloi_logoQuick overview: The Éducaloi website provides “hundreds of questions and answers” about the rights and responsibilities of Quebec citizens. The information on the website is presented in clear, concise, and easy to understand everyday language. Available in both English in French.

How can this be used in the classroom: The Éducaloi site contains a vast amount of on-line resources that Quebec adult learners may encounter in their everyday lives. There is a wealth of information regarding employment, consumer rights, renting, civil matters, government, and health – all specifically in relation to the province of Quebec! If you’re developing Learning Situations for your students that touch any of these topics, this site could help them learn pertinent and accurate information about their rights and responsibilities as a citizen in our province. The content on the site has been compiled and organized by a non-profit organization named Éducaloi. Highly recommended! (Source: Nancy Sher, CDC Vimont Adult Centre, SWLSB)

Links: The link to the French version of site is at (www.educaloi.qc.ca) and the link to the English version site is at (www.educaloi.qc.ca/en)


ICT Tip: French and English Visual Dictionaries

March 31, 2009

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

visual_dictioary2Quick overview: An on-line “visual dictionary” that defines everyday objects with the aid of beautifully detailed pictures. Available both in English and French. Highly recommended!

How can it be used in the classroom: Students can look up words and see the actual objects. Visual Dictionary definitions can be also browsed by categories (i.e – house, animals, sports, etc.) An added bonus is that that images are often broken down into their related components. For example, if a student looks up a “tree” they will not only see an image of a tree but they will discover the images and vocabulary for bark, leaves, roots, etc. Great sites for visual learners! These sites be used by fluent mother tongue speakers or second language students alike. (Source: Tina La Rosa, Galileo Adult Centre, EMSB)

Links: Please note that this ICT Blog posting features two separate websites. The first visual dictionary website is in French (www.ledictionnairevisuel.com) and the other visual dictionary is in English (visual.merriam-webster.com).


ICT Tip: World Clock “odometers” of world statistics (births, deaths, consumption, etc..)

February 19, 2009

This ICT tip could be applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: The World Clock website (http://tinyurl.com/5bqgdx) provides “odometers” of world statistics. This site is similar to the Worldometers website that I highlighted in an earlier ICT Blog posting, however, the World Clock site allows students to change between daily, monthly, or yearly world statistics. It also offers a different set of statistics.

What does it do? The World Clock website allows your students to see “real time” world statistics updated every second. This includes statistics such as births, deaths, consumption, etc.

How can it be used in the classroom? This site can be used to stimulate a real life discussion in regards to statistics in a math class or a math Learning Situation. It can also be used as a source of inspiration in a language class to bring up a discussion on environmental awareness or carbon footprints.


ICT Tip: Public domain English short stories, novels, poetry, and historical texts.. read out loud with a REAL human voice!

February 5, 2009

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


Quick overview: The Loudlit.org site (http://www.loudlit.org) contains hundreds of easily accessible English short stories, novels, poetry, and historical texts .. read out loud with a real human voice!

What does it do? The LoudLit.org site is committed to delivering public domain literature paired with high quality audio performances. Putting the text and audio together, students can learn spelling, punctuation and paragraph structure by listening and reading masterpieces of the written word. Read and listen via your web browser or download onto your mp3 player. Regardless of how you enjoy the audiobooks, they are free!

How can it be used in the classroom: There are two ways of using the site. The first way your students can read along with the spoken text at the same time. In order to do this, you or your students would locate a short story and click on theweb_listenbuttons found on the LoudLit site. It’s important to note that if used in a classroom or lab with many computers, each student should be given (or use their own) headphones! The other way for the students to use this site would be for them to click on themp3_listenbuttons to download the audiobooks in chapters (audio only) to listen to on their iPods and MP3 players as a podcast. (Source: Lise Demers, Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, Lester B. Pearson School Board)


Note: Sections of the “What does it do” is parahphrased from the About section of the LoudLit site.

ICT Tip: An on-line English “pronouncing” dictionary with over 115,000 pre-recorded words, read by a human voice!

January 29, 2009

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

howsjay3Quick overview: An on-line English Dictionary that contains over 115,000 English words that have been pre-recorded by a real person with a clear sounding voice.

What does it do? Using the Howjsay (www.howsjay.com) website, students type in English words they would like to hear pronounced. If they click on a word and it has a recording associated with it, the word will be colored pink. This means the word can be clicked on and it will instantly be read out loud with the correct pronunciation. As with any other audio ICT application, headphones are recommended if used in a class with multiple students.

How can it be used in the classroom? To help English or Literacy students with their pronunciation. (Source: Tina La Rosa, Galileo Adult Centre, EMSB)


ICT Tip: On-line videos of world famous speakers to spark discussions in your classroom

November 3, 2008

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

Quick overview: A website containing over 200 on-line videos of inspirational talks by the “world’s greatest thinkers and doers”. A great site to get class discussions going!

What does it do? The TED website (http://www.ted.com) is an annual conference that features over 50 speakers who are “challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less”. TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. The TED site allows you to search by themes such as technology, tales of invention, storytelling, business, history, unconventional explanations, education, and so on.. The “sweet and short” 18 minute format works great in a classroom environment and is one of the reasons the site is popular with educators across the world.

How can this be used in the classroom: As a teacher, you could search the TED website a video of a “talk” related to your classroom curriculum. Afterwards, why not show this video to your class in order to spark a debate or discussion? This can be accomplished by bringing your class into a computer lab and exploring the site together with on a digital projector. Alternatively, you could ask the students to visit the site from home or at school, watch a particular video, and then write an essay on one of the speakers. (Source: Ninfa Spagnolo, Galileo Adult Centre, EMSB)

ICT Tip: On-line English Dictionary and Thesaurus

September 26, 2008

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

Quick overview: An on-line English Dictionary (www.dictionary.com) and Thesaurus (www.thesaurus.com). Both are easy to use and quick to search.

How can it be used in the classroom: If your students ever need to use a paper dictionary or a thesaurus in your classroom, try sharing this resource with them. By enabling them to access this information more quickly, it may encourage them to look things up more often. Even if you’re a new teacher to ICT, you’ll have no problem explaining how to use these two sites. One simply types in a word and then clicks “search” to look it up – that’s it! An added feature is that if your student’s spelling of a word is off, a few possible suggestions (of what they were possibly looking for) will pop up.

ICT Tip: Wordle Word Clouds

September 5, 2008

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

Quick overview: The Wordle website (wordle.net) allows you or your students to copy text from any document (Word document, web page, student essay, etc..) and paste it into the Wordle website. With a click of a button, Wordle will generate a cloud of word poetry (see below image) that places more importance on the most frequently used words form the source document.

How can it be used in the classroom? For students that are visual learners, Wordle could be used to break down a short text and allow your students to literally “see” the most predominant words (i.e – themes) used throughout the text. As an ICT suggestion for the upcoming Canadian and US elections, your students could paste speeches from different candidates into Wordle and see which words come out the most and then initiate a class discussion. Below is an intresting example of pasting Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech into Wordle:

(Source: Steve Quirion, RECIT Univers Social)

ICT Tip: Using Google Maps in a language class

August 5, 2008

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

Quick overview: A tip for using Google Maps in conjunction with a written novel to enhance the student’s experience of a book.

What does it do? Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) is a website that allows your students to view satellite maps and roads throughout the world.

How can it be used in a classroom? This particular teacher I found on the web (Tom Woodward) uses Google Maps/Earth in conjunction with a novel that the students read in the class. He basically uses Google Earth to point out various important plot points on an actual map. I think it’s a great idea to get your class more interested in a novel they are reading! Be sure to check it out the class map at: http://tinyurl.com/476j4w

An excerpt from the teacher’s website: The novel is Whirligig by Paul Fleischman- very powerful book that’s a quick read. It’s a great novel for this type of project (fiction but almost all real locations). The main character travels to the four corners of the U.S. (on a Greyhound Bus) as an act of atonement for killing a young girl in a DUI accident.

I’ve got the main locations mapped (some real specific information in Chicago) as well as most of the route. It will continue to expand as the students progress through the novel. Now, what makes this useful? I figure you’ve got two options.

  1. You use it as a ancillary material to help get the students more involved in the novel. Let them explore the map and get them involved in explaining things and interacting with the information- otherwise it’s just a fancy map.
  2. You have the students add the information for the placemarks in Google Earth. Let them decide what is important at each location.

(Original Source, Tom Woodward at http://bionicteaching.com/?p=235)

ICT Tip: Sparknotes study guides (aka Coles Notes)

July 3, 2008

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

Quick overview: On-line study guides for students. Similar in concept to Cole’s Notes but free and on-line.

How can it be used in the classroom? The Sparknotes website (www.sparknotes.com) contains comprehensive study guides for English Literature, History, Film, Math, Biology, Shakespeare, etc. Even if on-line study guides aren’t useful for your particular class, you may still want to be aware of this site. Why? Like any other on-line resource, some students may often choose to go here as an easy way to plagiarize information.

ICT Tip: Create a Photo Roman comic book in Word

June 27, 2008

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

Quick overview: A tutorial to create a comic book with photos using Microsoft Word.

What does it do? A “photo roman” consists of a series of photos presented in a way where it creates a comic-book style story.The term “photo roman” translates to a “photo novel” in English. Your students can create their “photo roman” using Microsoft Word.

How can it be used in the classroom? Using Microsoft Word (available in most school computer labs) your students can import photos from a digital camera and create a “comic book” of any given topic assigned by the teacher or picked by the student that is related to the class subject. As a picture is worth a thousand words, you can see the end result below:(Source:Marc-André Lalande, RECIT FGA)

Video Tutorial: Want to know more?  I’ve created a step-by-step video tutorial which will instruct you how to create a “Photo Roman” below:


ICT Tip: Venn Diagrams

June 25, 2008

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

Quick overview: A website that allows your students to create printable Venn Diagrams.

What does it do? The ReadWriteThink.Org site (http://tinyurl.com/3huews) features an on-line Venn Diagram creator page. Using this page, your students can quickly create Venn Diagrams and then print them.

How can it be used in the classroom? Here’s a great definition from the Schools of California, Online Resources for Education (SCORE) website: “The Venn Diagram is made up of two or more overlapping circles. It is often used in mathematics to show relationships between sets. In language arts instruction, Venn Diagrams are useful for examining similarities and differences in characters, stories, poems, etc. It is frequently used as a prewriting activity to enable students to organize thoughts or textual quotations prior to writing a compare/contrast essay. This activity enables students to organize similarities and differences visually.” (Source: Vince Jansen (LEARN) Cool Tools Duel workshop)

ICT Tip: Scrapblog, on-line multimedia scrapbooks

June 25, 2008

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

Quick overview: A website that allows your students to make an on-line “scrapbook” of their photos and share them with other users around the world.

What does it do? Scrapblog (http://www.scrapblog.com) allows your students to make snazzy on-line scrapbooks and is very easy to use. Unlike a traditional scrapbook, students can add music or videos if they wish. The best part is that no artistic ability is required to make great looking scrapbooks!

How can it be used in the classroom? For teachers familiar with Microsoft Photostory 3.0 (see my blog entry) this web application is very similar but has a little more flair. In addition, since Scrapblog is on-line, the final product can be seen by any other students with an internet connection. (Source: Sharon Peters (LEARN) Cool Tools Duel workshop)

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