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)




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!)


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.

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.)

ICT Tip: Google Chrome Language Immersion extension for FSL students

October 23, 2012

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

Link: Google Language Immersion Extension for Google Chrome.

Quick overview: An amazing tool for FSL students (or students learning any other language) that are already somewhat fluent in English. The Google Chrome extension only translates certain key phrases on a webpage so that the translated passages are interspersed next to words the student is already familiar with in English. Want to see an example? Please see the official Google Chrome Language Immersion promo video.

How can this be used in the classroom: Instead of simply translating an entire webpage from one language to another, this Google Chrome extension allows the student to choose how comfortable they are in the language they are learning, and in-turn, the extension will only translate certain passages of the original webpage. Even if the student is not familiar with a new word or a phrase, it’s possible for them to deduce the correct meaning as the passage will be surrounded by English words the student is already familiar with. As your student becomes more confident, they can control the difficulty (i.e. – amount translated) by adjusting a slider. Simple, yet brilliant! (Source: Understanding & Using Web 2.0 Tools to Create Personal Learning Networks @ ISTE 2012, San Diego)

Technical stuff: Requires Google Chrome. If you’d like to know more about Chrome Extensions before installing them in your web browser, please follow this link.

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: 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: Create crosswords or word puzzles with Readwritethink or Puzzlemaker websites

February 22, 2011

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

Quick overview: Free web based tools to create crosswords and other types of word puzzles. Quick and easy to build. Puzzles can be played on-line or printed on paper.

How do these sites work? Puzzle generator sites such as Readwritethink (link) or Puzzlemaker (link) allow you or your students to create customized word puzzles by typing in any choice of words and the associated clues. Once the words and clues are entered, a working word puzzle is automatically generated.

Something to consider: The act of filling out pre-made crossword puzzles does not necessarily promote creative thinking but rather aims to help students with lower order Bloom’s thinking skills such as remembering and understanding. As so, it’s my opinion that pre-made crossword puzzles should not be relied upon as one of the main sources of teaching material with your students.

How can be used in the classroom? Instead of creating a word puzzle for your FSL or ESL students yourself, why not ask them to build one themselves? Give your students a list of vocabulary words and and then ask them to create a definition (i.e. – clues) for each vocabulary word they have been asked to include in their crossword puzzle. This approach can help students build their vocabulary on their own.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: A search engine that helps you find FSL activities to use in your classroom

February 11, 2009

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

Quick overview: An FSL “search engine” that is specifically designed to help you find on-line FSL activities to use in your classroom. A search engine is a website that maintains an index of many other websites, like Yahoo or Google.

How can it be used in the classroom? The FSL ALL! search engine (www.tinyurl.com/fslall) helps you search for various FSL websites and activities. FSL activities are sorted into different categories such as “prononciation, jeux, tests, parler francais, lecture, etc..”. You can also manually search by keywords (mot-clés) if you prefer.

Important note: If you planning to use this ICT resource to find and share FSL websites with your students, always test and familiarize yourself with each website BEFORE you give it to your students! On the surface, some websites may appear to be what you’re looking for but may not be what you expected when you actually try it out yourself!



ICT Tip: A well organized and comprehensive FSL website for on-line interactive exercises

December 3, 2008

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

repsitQuick overview: The REPSIT site (http://www.ucalgary.ca/repsit) is a well organized FSL website containing a significant amount of on-line interactive FSL activities that have been carefully indexed and sorted by activity type and difficulty level. The on-line activities are intended to be explored by your students on individual computers with an Internet connection.

What does it do? The REPSIT site is a University of Calgary project. In their own words they describe the REPSIT project as “on-line grammar exercises, music, virtual tours: everything to make your class awesomely high tech in record time!

How can it be used in the classroom? The on-line grammar exercises on the REPSIT site are divided into four main categories: “Grammaire”, “Vocabulaire”, “Compréhension, culture, phonétique”, and “Rhétorique”.

In each category you will find activities labeled either “QCM” (choix multiple) “V/F” (vrai ou faux) “EPR” (exercices précédés de la règle grammaticale) “COR” (correspondance/matching), “ET” (exercices à trous) “CE” (cartes-éclair/flash-cards), “MM” (mots mêlés) or “JM” (jeu de mémoire).

So for example, in the section “grammaire”, we’ll find :

Place des adjectifs qualificatifs: 10 QCM (facile)

This means the “place des adjectifs qualificatifs” activity has 10 questions that are multiple choice (QCM = choix multiple) and the difficulty level is easy.

Like any other on-line resource, I would suggest that you first explore the REPSIT grammar exercises in advance of your class (by yourself!) so that during your actual class you will be prepared to highlight the most relevant exercises with your students.

When you’re done exploring the on-line grammar exercises, be sure to explore the rest of the REPSIT site at (http://www.ucalgary.ca/repsit) which contains a plethora of other FSL links and resources! (Source: Lise Chartrand, Wakeham Adult Ed. Eastern Shores School Board)


ICT Tip: The CCDMD site provides FSL resources you can use without an Internet connection

November 16, 2008

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

ccdmdQuick overview: Professionally developed FSL materials that you can download, print, and use without an internet connection in a traditional classroom. Materials on the site have been created for the Quebec classroom with funding from the Ministry of Education, Leisure, and Sports (MELS).

How can it be used in the classroom? The CCDMD site (www.ccdmd.qc.ca/fr) features dozens of extensive FSL exercises that focus on pronunciation, verb conjugation, culture, songs, literature, etc. This site is particularly useful for FSL teachers who do not have reliable access to the Internet in their centre or classroom, but wish to explore FSL ICT resources. In other words, as the CCDMD exercises are intended to be downloaded and distributed printed on paper, they do not require an Internet connection to be used in your classroom. The CCDMD exercises can be utilized in addition to your regular FSL textbooks or even entirely by themselves. (Source: Lise Chartrand, Wakeham Adult Ed. Eastern Shores School Board)

Where do I click? The resources recommended by Lise Chartrand are found in the “allophone” section, see below screenshot:


More information: If you explore the site further, the CCDMD site also contains lots of great materials in “MATÉRIEL INTERACTIF” which will require an Internet connection to use in your classroom. The CCDMD is an acronym for Centre Collégial de Développement de Matériel Didactique. The printable exercises on the allophone section of the CCDMD site are provided in PDF format. If you’d like to know more about working with PDF files, please click here to visit my section on ICT Terminology.


ICT Tip: BonPatron identifies French spelling errors and common grammatical problems

October 31, 2008

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

Quick overview: The BonPatron website (http://www.bonpatron.com/en) is designed to assist FSL students write in French by identifying spelling errors and grammatical problems in their written French texts.

What does it do? Using BonPatron, students type (or copy and paste) written French text into the website. However, as the BonPatron site is designed to be used in an educational context, it does NOT simply find French spelling and grammatical mistakes and spit out the correct answer. Instead, it will detect mistakes and offer suggestions how to fix them. This allows the student to know there is a problem but provides them with the “know-how” to fix the mistake themselves. For example if I write the following French sentence (see below) the BonPatron website will analyze the text, highlight the error, and offer a suggestion:

How can this be used in the classroom: The BonPatron site could be used to help your students become more autonomous in correcting their own mistakes when writing in French. (Source: Bob Thomas NFSB and Tom Stenzel RSB, ALDI Workshop)

Note: The site is free to use, however without paying for a yearly subscription for the “pro” version of the site, the students will encounter some small limitations and ads will be seen. Regardless, teachers have reported that they often use the free version of the site without any problems in their class.

ICT Tip: Francais Interactif – Ready to use FSL materials in your classroom

October 7, 2008

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

Quick overview: A must visit for FSL teachers! The Francais Interactif (http://laits.utexas.edu/fi) site contains 13 highly polished modules (the city, my studies, my health, my house, etc) that relate to using French in your students’ every day life. The site contains a variety of “ready to use” FSL materials for English speaking secondary level students…Think of this site as a course in a box!

How can it be used in the classroom: While Francais Interactif is a University of Texas project, this site offers lots of “new curriculum” minded materials that you can use in your Quebec FGA classroom. If you have access to a computer lab in your centre, your students can either work individually or you could cover a specific module with the entire class at once. Each module focuses on a different topic and contains spoken French examples of vocabulary, phonics, grammar, and videos. To guide your students (and help cut down your course prep!) each module contains a printable workbook that you can download, print, and use in conjunction with the site.

(Source: Daniel Bonzil, FSL Teacher, Western Quebec School Board)

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: Discover France – Spoken examples of typical French phrases for FSL students

August 6, 2008

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

Quick overview: A website that contains examples of actual spoken French phrases.

What does it do? The Discover France site is great FSL site for students with an English mother tongue. On this site, there are TONS of French phrases for your students to click on and hear a pre-recorded example of the pronunciation. Each phrase is accompanied by a written English translation. Don’t worry about the France part, this site works great for Quebec students too!

How can it be used in the classroom? The Discover France site can be used for oral and written comprehension. There’s also a written English translation for every spoken French phrase. Here are some links for you to try out with your students:

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: Babbel – Vocabulary exercises for FSL classes

July 29, 2008

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

Quick overview: Babbel is a website (http://www.babbel.com) which contains spoken vocabulary exercises for a variety of everyday topics.

What does it do? The Babbel site is designed for people learning a second language, such as French. The Babbel site is free to use but your MUST register and sign up for an account before using the site. This can be accomplished be clicking on the large “Register for Free!” button on the homepage. When you create your account, you can specify your mother tongue and what language you are learning. For example if English is your mother tongue and you want to learn French, the website interface would appear in English with French language exercises.

How can I use it in my classroom? There are many activities that contain images and spoken phrases for your students to try out. Great for FSL classes.

ICT Tip: ReadPlease text-to-speech voice synthesis

June 28, 2008

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

Quick overview: A desktop application that will read back any written text in a synthesized voice.

How can it be used in the classroom? In a nutshell, ReadPlease is a free software application allows your students to type in single words or full sentences and then hear it spoken back through the use of computer generated voice synthesis. The computer will read aloud phrases or words that are typed in. This can help FSL or Literacy students with their pronunciation and oral comprehension.

Video Tutorial: Want to know how it works? I’ve created a detailed video tutorial at: http://tinyurl.com/55vag3


Why should I use it? If you look through the rest of my Blog, you’ll notice that I’ve already highlighted the AT&T Text to Speech Website that does pretty much the same thing as “ReadPlease” without requiring you to install special software on your school’s computer. Heck, the voices on the AT&T Text to Speech Website even sound more realistic! At this point, you may ask why would I even mention the “ReadPlease” software in the first place? Well, ReadPlease has a few advantages over other voice synthesis applications. In fact, some FGA teachers I’ve spoken to prefer to use “ReadPlease” in their classroom for a couple of good reasons:

  1. ReadPlease allows you to control the speed of the computer’s voice as it reads back the text. You can slow things down for students who really need it.
  2. ReadPlease highlights EVERY word as it reads it aloud. This makes things MUCH easier for students to follow along.
  3. ReadPlease does NOT rely on a stable or fast Internet connection. In fact, once it’s installed on a computer or notebook, you don’t even need to be connected to the Internet!
  4. ReadPlease allows you to download other language “vocabulary packs” so that ReadPlease works in French too.

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: AT&T voice synthesis provides help with French and English pronunciation

June 27, 2008

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

Quick overview: A website that will read back ANY written text in a variety of realistic sounding synthesized voices.

What does it do? The AT&T Text to Speech website (http://www.tinyurl.com/k49s9) allows you or your students to type in single words or full sentences and then hear it spoken back through the use of computer generated voice synthesis.

How can it be used in the classroom? This website can be a valuable tool for FSL or literacy students learning pronunciation. The AT&T website allows you to change “speaker” with a drop down menu (see image below) so that you can hear your phrases with different voices and accents. There’s even a French voice (named Arnaud) who is programmed with a French Canadian accent. I should note that unlike some other voice synthesis websites, certain AT&T synthesized voices can be quite realistic sounding. Best of all, the AT&T Text to Speech site is very easy and fun to use.. try it out!

Advanced ICT Tip: Additionally, you are given the option to download the spoken sound file (.WAV file) that can be inserted into other PC applications such as PowerPoint or Photostory 3.0.

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: The “Ma France” website features a multitude of media rich FSL activities

June 25, 2008

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

Quick overview: The BBC site Ma France is a website that contains many media rich FSL activities and exercises related to every day life.

What does it do? Don’t be deceived by the “France” in the website name. Most of the exercises and activities on the Ma France (http://tinyurl.com/2tr9dk) website can be used by our Quebec FGA students too. There are sections on Shopping, Dating, News, etc.. One of the features that I really like is that in certain topics, your students can play a video (see screenshot below) with a “live” simultaneous written translation in English and French.

How can I use it in the classroom? As I mentioned, there are many activities that can help with French oral and reading comprehension. In terms of practicing oral conversations, the Ma France website also provides a “simulated conversation” with character named Stéphane who will speak typical phrases for particular topic. While the website cannot hear your student’s answer, it may help you gauge your student’s oral comprehension. The “simulated conversation” can be a little hard to explain with words, so here’s a link to an actual example: (http://tinyurl.com/6yhbhk)

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)

ICT Tip: Wikimapia – Collaborative comment mapping

June 19, 2008

This ICT tip could be applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: Allows your students to explore and make comments on satellite maps.

What does it do? Wikimapia (http://www.wikimapia.com) is a website that allows your students to explore maps in great detail (using Google Maps technology) but will also allow them to collaboratively create comments on the map.

How can it be used in the classroom? Your students may be interested in a class group activity about exploring places in their own community. First, they could research certain buildings or historical places in their community using resources such as Wikipedia. Second, using Wikimapia they could provide comments on the map that relate to these historic places or buildings in their neighborhood. At the end of the activity, the entire class could collaboratively look over the comments (perhaps on the teacher’s computer connected to a digital projector) that were made by the students and other Internet visitors on Wikimapia.  (Source: Sharon Peters (LEARN) Cool Tools Duel workshop.)

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