Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Jamstudio is a website that lets easily compose songs.

Teachers can request a free educator account.  Within a couple days of my request, I received an email with an access code good for 200 accounts.

Last week, I had the students in my Music class write a song.  Unfortunately, the “Share” button did not function properly; therefore, the students could not email me their songs.

I found a work-around solution.

There is a button on the Jamstudio website, “Mp3 Mix.”  This allows users to email themselves an MP3 file of their creation.  I will instruct my students to send their MP3 to their own email accounts.  I could just ask them to then forward the email to me.  However, I want their music to be publicly available, on their blogs.  Unfortunately, Blogger does not allow for uploading MP3s.

Thanks to this great website, Zippa.com, which is a repository for Web 2.0 websites, I found this interesting and useful website, File2.ws.  File2.ws allows users to upload a large variety of files, which are then converted into a simple web page.  There is no sign up procedure.  So, each student will upload their MP3, which will be made into a web page.  This web page can then be linked to on their blog.

Photo by Hryck.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


One of the websites to which I subscribe in my Google Reader account is Lifehacker.

They recently had an article describing the five best Twitter clients.  I have been using TwitterFox, which is an add-on for Firefox.  TwitterFox is good, but I wanted something less compact, and maybe, with more features.  Due to its small size, I find TwitterFox to be slightly uncomfortable to read.  Since I have noticed a recent increase in the great sites I am finding via Twitter, I wanted an interface I enjoy perusing more.

So, I am going to give Brizzly a try.

The Brizzly layout is very similar to Twitter’s.

The interesting features of Brizzly are that shortened URLs are expanded; and, photos and video are previewed.

The one drawback, compared to TwitterFox, is that TwitterFox allows me to recommend a website with one click; whereas, Brizzly requires me to cut and paste the URL.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Every time my secondary English students have a class, I require them to read one chapter from a novel, then write on their blogs a summary of that chapter.

It is a derivative of my student-centred philosophy that the students are allowed to choose their reading material, as opposed to having me assign a single novel for everybody.  I think it important for students to enjoy the experience of reading and writing, and not feel like it is an onerous task.

One of my students asked if he could write a reaction to a magazine article.  I hesitantly agreed.  I would like to share his summary of the article, or rather, as he states, the articles.  It concerns the topic of UFC wrestling.

UFC 103 took place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. It was headlined by the main event bout between Rich ''Ace'' Franklin, and Vitor ''The Phenom'' Belfort. I didn't get the chance to watch UFC 103, so I read many articles describing it. I was impressed by some of the fight outcomes. First of all, I thought that Rich Franklin would of made short work of Vitor Belfort due to his high level, and continuous training compared to Vitor. But one variable which I didn't consider was that Vitor has changed training camps, and has restarted training seriously, with some of the top martial artists in the world. You see, when Vitor was only 19 years old, he concurred the light heavyweight division with ease, but due to many misshapennings in his personal life and career, he fell into depression and stopped training like he should of been thinking he had it all under his belt. For many years, his career just went downhill, and the young strong and lightning handed Vitor we used to know faded away. Unfortunately for “Ace”, the Vitor that showed up in the octagon that night appeared to be the young and feisty 19year old whom literally destroyed some of the most deadliest fighters in MMA history.

It brought a little smile to my face to read this student’s blog entry.  Personally, I do not know anything about UFC wrestling, and truthfully, it does not interest me; but you can tell from the tone of his essay that this student is passionate about UFC.  If I didn’t know any better, I would almost believe that he enjoyed writing and sharing his opinions.  I would wager, he enjoyed writing about UFC more than he would have enjoyed writing about they symbolism of the conch in “Lord of the Flies.”

Photo by deskounlmtd.net.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Map Activity

This year, I am teaching Geography, History and English; plus, some other subjects.

I was not having much difficulty creating English activities for the students that incorporate the internet; however, I was having difficulty developing online activities for my two social sciences classes.

Today in Geography, I asked the students to do an activity using internet resources, which I will describe presently.  The class was enjoyable for me, and I think the students enjoyed their one hour with me more than they would have if they had been forced to do worksheets.  As a corollary, there were no classroom management issues.  It dawned on me that I need to continue to develop online activities.  By now, I should have a sufficiently adequate pool of resources from which to choose.  What is required of me is a bit of creative thinking to imagine ways that the prescribed curriculum can be adapted to the internet.

At this point, there is no compelling reason for me to use worksheets.  It was be foolish of me to do so.

For the map activity, I had students download a blank jpeg of Montreal.  Then, using the website, Fotoflexer, the students added text to their map, labelling the rivers and major areas of the city.  Tomorrow, the students will use Wikispaces to create a webpage that describes Montreal (the population, the major developments, and so on).  They will include their map on the their webpage.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Last week, I spent three days at a reading and production workshop presented by Michele Luchs and Louise Bourque.  All of the Cycle 2 English teachers from our school board, ESSB, were present.

It was a good experience.

Michele and Louise emphasized the benefits of incorporating a variety of media in the classroom.  Their primary message, as interpreted by me, was that the modern English classroom must consist of multimedia productions.  Contemporary literacy means more than traditional reading and writing.  In the spirit of the Quebec Reform, we were encouraged to explore, with our students, the analysis and production of such media as movies, magazine advertisements, slideshows, and so on.  In a nutshell, the workshop advocated the types of pedagogical activities about which I have been learning, collecting and blogging for the past few months.

It was nice to meet other educators who share visions similar to mine regarding the multi-faceted definition of literacy.

Photo by ahhyeah.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Virtual Grammar Lab

One of my goals as a teacher this year is to reduce the amount of paperwork in my classes as much as possible.

With this in mind, I have been searching the web for a site that will allow students to read information and complete assignments online.  For sure, there are many great sites, such as this one, with educational activities.  My problem is, how do I check that the students have actually visited the sites and completed the activities?

I thought I had found the answer with the Virtual Grammar Lab

This site links to many websites that contain English lessons and activities.  Teachers can create class accounts and assign activities to the students.  The students create their own accounts and connect to the class account.  When a student visits the assigned website, this is recorded for the teacher’s benefit.  It sounds like a great idea, and it sounds like just what I was looking for.  Unfortunately, the site seems buggy.  Already, I have discovered two things that I do not like about it.  First of all, when I add a single assignment, this assignment is repeated in the assignment list many times.  Thus, a single assignment appears as forty-plus assignments; although, they are all the same. 

Second of all, the Virtual Grammar Lab only records if a student visits a website.  It does not record if the student actually completed the tasks, and it does not record a mark of the student’s performance.

So, I am not sold on utilizing this website quite yet.  I will keep looking.

Edmodo Again

This is another post on the topic of Edmodo.com.  After some initial hesitancy, I am really liking this website now.

Edmodo provides me with a central repository to collect all of my assignments.  It allows me to communicate work and homework with students and parents.

One of the side benefits of Edmodo is that it provides me with a concrete record of what I have assigned.  For example, I posted an assignment on Edmodo in which I instructed students to write a story using the website, 5 Card Flickr.  Furthermore, I instructed students to describe the process of using the website.  Many students simply wrote a story and neglected to include the requisite description on their blog.  With my Edmodo post, I had written proof of my instructions.  The students could not claim that I had not told them to write on their blogs; they all had the opportunity to read the directions for the assignment on Edmodo.  Edmodo eliminates the misunderstandings of oral communication.  All my assignments are described in writing.

This process also provides me with an opportunity to refine in detail what I want out of each assignment.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Student Centered Curriculum

As I was preparing activities for my English course, I came across a collection of textbooks in one of the filing cabinets.  They were Writing & Literature textbooks.  The first chapter had a poem in Shakespearean English.  The textbook included lessons of writing different genres and grammar.

For a minute, I was overwhelmed by a wave of self-doubt.  I wondered, what if my syllabus is all wrong?  What if it is wrong for me to incorporate such a heavy load of internet-based activities.  What if I am doing too much fun stuff in the classroom?  What is the parents complain that I am just fooling around, and not really teaching their kids the two R’s?

For a moment, I considered dropping everything and just following the textbook that I held in my hands.  The prescribed readings, with their accompanying activities and comprehension questions were right there, enticing me.  It could be so easy.  I asked myself: but some of this material looks quite difficult; what if it is too advanced for my students?  I answered myself: well, I will just work with them to complete the assignments; if need be, I will provide them with the answers.


I got my groove back.

I reminded myself that a boring, prescriptive, one-size-fits-all textbook approach to educating the students was exactly what the Quebec Reform was trying to get away from.  The pedagogy advised by the textbook I held was the old paradigm.

I am lucky to be teaching in a province that is in the infancy of a reform whose tenets mirror my own.  I have been charged with the task of teaching a student-centered curriculum; it is a philosophy that in which I believe; I should try to set my doubts aside and embrace it.

Let students select their own research topics.  Let students choose their own novels.  Write their own stories.  Wherever possible, let them choose how to communicate in their own way.

Certainly, I will have doubts about my program, my activities, and my methods.  The textbook method is safe.  Student-centered classrooms are open-ended.  What can happen?  I don’t know.  I don’t need to know.  Student-centered teachers need to be confident enough to release control.  Student-centered teachers need to be secure enough to accept, nay expect, mistakes.

Photo by Dalboz17.


My plan this year was to utilize an online gradebook and attendance book.

However, I have discovered that our school uses off-line software for these tasks.  So, so much for that plan.

I have been having an on-again off-again relationship with Edmodo.  I have decided again that I will try to use it in my classes.  It will provide a site for my students and their parents to see all their assignments.  As well, it will allow me to keep track of the assignments.

I will not be using Edmodo to receive assignments.  The students work will be either be papers, delivered to me in person; or else, items posted on their personal blogs, which I will be able to peruse.

Indeed, since all of the assignments will be listed in the gradebook our school uses, Edmodo is actually redundant for me.  We will see.  If it gets to be too tedious to maintain, then I will be off-again.

Friday, September 4, 2009


In my previous correspondence, I recommended the website Animoto as a tool to create slideshows.

It has since come to my attention, from this website, that Animoto is in fact not entirely free.  Free slideshows must be less than 30 seconds in length.

Therefore, I would like to withdraw my recommendation of Animoto.  I have removed Animoto from my Diigo bookmarks

I’m sure Animoto is a great service for those who want to pay.  I am not one of those people.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I have stumbled upon a number of educational blog posts in which teachers describe their activities for the beginning of the year.

I would like to share some of the ideas I have planned.

I will be teaching four secondary subjects: English, History, Geography, and Music.

The first order of business is to make sure that every student has an email account.  Next, the students will need to create a “portfolio” blog for each of the subjects.  These student blogs will be linked to a central class blog.

Now, to populate the blogs with content.

In each class, we will begin with an “Introduce Yourself” unit.  (Or, as they are now yclept in Quebec, “Learning Evaluation Situation.”)  My LES is based loosely on an LES available on the QuebecLearn website, entitled, “What Makes You Who You Are?”

I will have the students take photographs of themselves.  Then, the students will add a caption to their photos, one sentence describing something unique about themselves, using the website Speechable.  Then, we will make a slideshow of the results.  There are many slideshow websites.  I think we will try Animoto, to begin with.

I think the devil will be in the details.  For example, for every site that we use, usually a sign-up is required.  I will ask students to keep a master list of usernames and passwords.

Another idea.  I like the concept of having students discuss and create their own classroom and school rules.  (Of course, their democracy is delimited by my executive prerogative.)  With this in mind, I will have the students contribute at least one classroom or school rule to a bulletin board at Wallwisher.  Again, with the sign-up and the linking to the individual blogs.

Photo by MinaFresh/Amanda.