3 backchannel tools to encourage active learning

January 28, 2014

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


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

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

January 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

January 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 16, 2013

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

winter1Creative Commons Attribution License: Flickr user AlicePopKorn2

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

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

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

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

3 simple web tools to create on-line posters

November 26, 2013

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 12, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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