Friday, July 31, 2009

Google Analytics

On the right side of this blog, I have inserted a Feedjit widget which displays the country of origin of the visitors.

For more detailed information regarding visitor habits, I use Google Analytics.  Google Analytics provides beaucoup data concerning your site’s visitors, such as city of origin, average time on site, referring page, and pages visited.

Google Analytics is free.  You can sign in using your Google account.  You copy and paste an invisible piece of tracking code into the HTML code of your website/blog template (or into each individual page that you would like monitored if you do not utilize a template).  This here site provides a nice tutorial of the process of deploying Google Analytics.

Unfortunately, I changed the template of this blog some weeks ago, and I recently discovered that Google Analytics stopped monitoring the traffic since that time.  I reinstalled the tracking code; so hopefully, that problem is remedied.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


A week or so ago, I wrote about a video I had watched entitled, “An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube,” by Michael Wesch.

Something mentioned in that video has been stuck in my head and I wanted to share it.

Youtube users produce more content in six months than the three major TV networks produced (if they were on 24/7) since 1948.

I encourage you to view the video in its entirety.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I signed up for an online budgeting service, at MoneyStrands.  I wanted an online service that would allow me to input my purchases and give me summaries of my spending habits. is one of the most popular sites, providing many financial services; however, Mint requires direct access to your bank and credit card accounts.  At this juncture, I am not secure enough to provide this information to a third party site.  Besides, Mint does not cater to Canadians yet.

MoneyStrands allows users to input purchases without requiring a connection to their financial institutions.

There are graphical representations; users can modify the parameters.

I started this exercise for my own benefit.  I never intended to use MoneyStrands in the classroom.  However, I reckon students could use this site to track their own spending habits and learn about budgeting.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I reckon many teachers are now planning for next September.

Me, I have been working on planning for many weeks because I will be starting at a new school and teaching new courses.  In essence, it is my first year.

Since I will be teaching in a small town, with a small English population, I will be teaching many high school subjects.  For the most part, I think the subjects will be pretty straight-forward.  For example, Math and History follow a relatively rigidly predefined paths.

English, though, has got me hopping.  The quest to prepare a year plan for English has been a learning experience for me.  Along my journey, I have picked up ideas, tried some of them for a while, then abandoned them.  I have tried organizing the curriculum on websites and mindmaps.  I never finished.  It used to bother me when I started a project, then did not complete it.  It does not bother me much anymore.  At my age, I cannot concern myself with completing unfruitful tasks.  Time is too precious.  I wrote previously that the classroom is a laboratory where you have to allow yourself and your students to experiment and to make mistakes.  Well, life is the same.  We try things; if they don’t work, then we move on.  Everything has a beginning; not everything has an ending.  Maybe we never finish anything.

Photo by Jasmic

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I wrote previously about Evernote, a website the allows users to save snippets of webpages.

Simplybox provides a similar service.

When I first saw Simplybox in action, I thought that I would end up using it instead of Evernote. However, after trying Simplybox for a time, I think I’ll stay with Evernote.

Simplybox features a drag-and-drop interface. When the Simplybox button is pressed, an orange toolbar appears on the bottom of your screen. This toolbar displays your boxes, which are folders that you create. After selecting the area of a webpage that you would like to save, you drag it into the appropriate box.

The ability of Simplybox to organize your notes is the best quality of this service. However, there are two things about Simplybox that I did not like. First of all, it installs a toolbar. Real estate on my computer screen is at a premium, so I don’t like it when a single application installs its own toolbar. Second of all, unlike Evernote, Simplybox does not allow you to capture anything more that what appears on the immediate screen. With Evernote, you can scroll down and select as much content as you want for your note.


I created a page on Glogster.

Glogster is a site that allows users to create posters with pictures and videos that can contain hyperlinks.

For my purposes, Glogster is not much more than eyecandy, since my Glogster page only redirects visitors to webslides that are listed on my Diigo page.

Creating a Glogster page was time consuming.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fair Use

In my previous post, I referenced a video that was created by Michael Wesch.  I watched another one of his videos, entitled “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube.”  It is interesting, but long, at close to an hour.

Michael discusses copyright issues, and mentions the fact that YouTube contains many remixes, which are against the law.  Michael mentions a TED Talk speech presented by Larry Lessig.  Larry’s speech also concerns copyright issues and the emerging culture of remixing content.  I used TubeChop to clip the end of Larry’s speech, which I thought was the most interesting part:

Michael and Larry both make the point that copyright laws are turning everyone into criminals, and they wonder out loud what affect this has on the psyche of people.

From a teacher’s standpoint, I have been oft reminded that I have to make certain that my students only use creative commons material in their projects.

However, there is such a thing as fair use.  As Copyright Bay explains, teachers and students are allowed to use portions of media for educational purposes.  When I was a student and my teachers warned me about the dangers of plagiarism, I always wondered exactly how many sentences I was allowed to copy and quote from a book.  Well, it turns out that the powers-that-be have devised a completely not arbitrary formula:

The Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia provide for specific limits on the amount of copyrighted works that may be used.

  • For motion media -(e.g., video clips) up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less.
  • For text- up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever less.
  • For poems -
    • up to 250 words.
    • Three poem limit per poet
    • Five poem limit by different poets from an anthology.
  • For music - up to 10% or 30 seconds, whichever is less.
  • For photos and images
    • Up to 5 works from one author.
    • Up to 10% or 15 works, whichever is less, from a collection.
  • Database information-- up to 10% or 2,500 fields or cell entries, whichever is less.

(from Copyright Bay)

So, as a teacher, I think I can safely allow my students to use any media in their projects as long as they only use a fraction of it, and it is not necessary for every image, sound and video they use to have a creative commons license.

That being said, students should to be educated about copyright laws and fair use.  Copyright Bay and Teaching Copyright are good resources.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Machine is Us/ing Us

I found this video on Ask Auntie Web.

All I can say is, “Wow!”


First, I would like to mention a blog that I learned about from Anne, author of the Ask Auntie Web blogNik’s Daily English Activities has many fun and creative classroom projects.

On Twitter, I am following Edtech Talk.  A tweet from them pointed me to Youthvoices.

Like many sites, this one has educational articles.  The difference is that at Youthvoices, they encourage students to participate.

One way this is accomplished is by providing students with many Response Guides.  Response Guides consist of web literacy how-to’s, such as, how to insert a photo in a post; as well, the Response Guides contain many cloze-style response templates such as the one below that students can utilize to guide their writing.

General Discussion Response | Youth Voices via kwout

The site also hosts an assignment grid that prescribes 25 writing tasks that students must complete every week.


I received an email from Tracy informing me that the comments were not working on this blog.

So, I changed a few settings; I removed the captcha and permitted anonymous posting.  To test if it works, I wrote an anonymous comment and posted it, successfully.

Tracy had been attempting to add a comment to my June 11 post concerning Facebook.  Tracy included her comments in her email, so I added them to the June 11 post.

Thanks for reading my blog, Tracy, and thanks for letting me know that there were some technical difficulties.

I hope everything is functioning properly now.

Photo by tina_manthorpe.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


One of the most emphasized prescriptions of the Quebec Secondary English Language Arts (SELA) program is the student portfolio.  The student portfolio serves several purposes.  It facilitates reflective learning and meta-cognition.  It stimulates conversation and collaboration between the student and the teacher.  It fosters autonomy.  It is a tool for evaluation, and for demonstrating progress to parents.

The Ministry document makes the relevant point that the portfolio should contain more than just finished documents.

The integrated profile is an essential part of the student’s learning and evaluation process over the cycle.  This working collection of artefacts from all the competencies is owned by the student and is used by her/him as a learning resource. It represents a dynamic portrait of the student over time and not simply a collection of her/his finished or final products.

I would aver that student portfolios should consist of both paper and digital components.

I researched online portfolios – efolios.  I uncovered only limited resources, which led me to believe that dynamic, pivotal portfolios, as they are described by the Quebec Education Program, are relatively new educational manifestations.

I found sites such as Avenetefolio, which costs money, and Foliospaces, which is free.  However, these sites seem more geared towards business folks, not educators.  I think these sites are too complex for the needs of me and my students.  At this stage, I believe a simple blog, such as this one, will suffice as a medium for eportfolios.

Perhaps, as this new tool evolves, more accessible Web2.0 eportfolio tools will become available.

Windows Live Writer

When I first started using Blogger, I composed my posts within Blogger itself. Often times, this proved to be a frustrating experience because Blogger is a very limited word processor.

I tried using Microsoft Word, which has a blog template. However, when I published from Word to Blogger, I frequently received error messages, which required correction.

I started using Windows Live Writer, which is bundled with Vista. You can also download it here.

Live Writer is designed for composing and blog posts. Without a doubt, this is the best program for composing blog posts. Writing within Blogger was frequently painful; Live Writer makes it enjoyable.


Last year, I was an elementary teacher. This September, I will be teaching secondary.

In preparation for my new assignment, I wanted to draft an outline of academic expectations. I thought this would be good for the students to receive at the beginning of the year, so they could know what their goals were and what they would be graded against. Also, I thought such a document, or checklist, would be beneficial for parents. It would also be beneficial for my superiors, to demonstrate my planning, and beneficial for myself, to guide the development of my curriculum.

I thought that the provincial Ministry of Education would provide a document for teachers outlining what needed to be taught at each grade level. However, the prescribed curriculum is not so clearly defined.

Quebec is in the infancy of an educational reform. There are new curriculum guides for the teachers. The elementary English guide has a sort of checklist enumerating expected skills for each of the three cycles.

The secondary guide is less specific. I have read through it more than once. It does not provide the same level of specific benchmarks that the elementary guide provides. The information is presented with less structure. In an attempt to extract and organize the information, I have begun creating a mindmap of the guide utilizing the website Mindomo.

I had been seeking detailed instructions. But this, I suppose, is the old paradigm of education. We really are experiencing a revolution, one that is affecting not only curriculum within the classroom, but also the job description of teachers. It is no longer: tell the students this information; it is: help the students practise these skills.

Here is a nice video about today’s students, entitled, A Vision of Students Today, that I found on the website, Emerging Internet Technologies for Education.

Box of Tricks

On his website Box of Tricks, teacher Jose Picardo presents a video that shows how he used some internet resources in his classroom. The production quality of the presentation is good. Jose demonstrates how he used Glogster, Animoto, Diigo, and Edmodo.

He also provides links to examples of work produced by his students. For me, seeing examples of student work is probably the best way to be educated how and inspired to utilize an online tool.

At the end of his video, Jose discusses the reaction of his students to the projects. He admits that the students were not as interested in Glogster and Animoto as he thought they would be. He reflects that perhaps the association of these websites with an educational setting negatively affected the students’ attitudes. It is rare to hear an educator provide a candid evaluation of his students’ reactions to web tools and projects. It was great to hear a teacher reflecting on their own teaching, and it inspired me that I should do the same (and expect my students to do the same).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Mr. D. posted a good article on his blog, I Want To Teach Forever.  There are plenty of good resources for teachers.  I particularly like the website Sparknotes.

What I really like on this website are the Sparkcharts.  These are charts that summarize the main ideas and topics of various subjects.  For me, this provides a great curriculum resource for preparing year-plan outlines.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I needed a specific tool. When I am surfing the internet, and I find a good teaching idea, or I think of a good teaching idea, I want to be able to quickly jot it down or copy it and save it.

Diigo is great for bookmarking pages, and for engaging in online conversations, such as this one. However, when it saves a link, it saves the whole page. What if I want just one idea from a page? Or, what if I want to save multiple ideas from one page? Plus, I did not want to clutter my Diigo account with many small, individual lesson ideas.

I considered keeping a "Teaching Ideas" document on Google Docs, but it is too complicated to have to open Google Docs everytime I find something inspiring. Besides, I would rather not retype a lesson idea everytime; and of course, different text on the internet is in different fonts, sometimes there are pictures, and so on. This makes copy and pasting to Google Docs not always easy.

I found Evernote.

Evernote allows you to clip anything from a page and save it as a note. Below is a screenshot of three notes - lesson ideas - that I clipped from this page. Evernote seems to have many features, including the unbelievable ability to search text inside of pictures, including handwritten text.

Evernote Web: lesson ideas via kwout

Since I only started using Evernote today, I cannot comment on all its features. This video, from Evernote's homepage, provides a good introduction.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I like it when blog posts that are discussing a website include a screenshot of that website. Larry Ferlazzo pointed me to an easy-to-use solution to capturing screenshots. Simply, type preceding any URL. will create an image that you can modify, download, or save online on their hosted site (once you sign-up for an account).

Here is a screenshot of

doodle.png by kangirsuk on Aviary
doodle.png by kangirsuk on Aviary.