Sunday, May 31, 2009

Collaborative Photo Sites

MrsSmoke, of Making Teachers Nerdy, writes a blog post about collaborative photo sharing. This is a great idea. Parents can upload their photos to a single site, then the teacher can use these photos for publications, such as a yearbook. Or, attendees at an event, such as a graduation, can upload their photos to a single site, and a journal or any other publication can be made from these contributions.

One site mentioned by MrsSmoke is Shwup. This site looks good because there is no quantity limit on the uploads, and because it allows users to create Muvee slideshows. Muvee slideshows are dynamic slideshows that automatically pan the photos (or video clips) in different ways and insert different transitions between photos. When music is added to the slideshow, then Muvee will adjust the duration of each photo to correspond with the rhythm of the music.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Classroom Blogs

Having this blog to reflect upon my professional development is good.

Having a classroom blog to comment upon the students' lives in and out of the classroom is good.

There are other ways that blogs can be implemented. There are two posts about using blogs in the classroom on the website, emergingedtech, here and here, that discuss various implementations of classroom blogs.

Classes can participate in cultural exchanges. Each student can have their own blog, or all the students can contribute to a single blog.

I think it would be a good idea to have a classroom Facebook account as well as a classroom Twitter account. These real-life publishing media would, ideally, motivate the students and be for everyone a source of pride. Also, these sites would provide immediate communication with the parents. One of the great things about modern technology in the classroom is that it provides teachers with the ability to communicate with parents with a frequency and ease never before available.

Many bloggers—teachers or otherwise—start with a flurry of posts and then stop blogging; plan for regular blog activities, even if it’s just every two weeks.” - Tom Dillard

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


This blog received its first comment. In response to a previous post about Twitter, Chris responded that he was looking forward to more Twitter comments.

I can say that I like twitter now. Indeed, it is one of the first things I check each time I go on the net.

What is Twitter? Why is it good?

In a way, it is similar to email, or Facebook, or blogs. They are mediums that allow users to exchange information; especially, news and links. What sets Twitter apart is that it is more immediate. Plus, there is something about the obligatory short messages that is appealing.

When email first started to gain popularity, people commented that it was less formal than regular snail mail. It was a quicker and easier way to communicate. I think that Twitter can be compared to email in a similar way. This anecdote illustrates the nature of twitter.

For Twitter skeptic's, I would encourage you to read this article, then try Twitter yourself.

On a separate topic, Mashable has categorized lists with links to many useful websites.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Dianne Kraus has a good blog.

Here are two sites that I found on her blog.

Domino 50 Ways
. On this site, the author tells the same story using 50+ digital storytelling websites.

Indispensible Tools is a wikipage, meaning that anyone (who has permission) can edit it. It has a list of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) websites and tools used by educators.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Today I followed a chain of links. Each link offered something new and useful.

I began by following my own advice, which I submitted in my previous post, which was to explore Diigo Lists for resources.

On Diigo Lists, I found the bookmarks of Diane Krause. I followed her profile, which led in turn to her blog. Diane appears to be well networked, with profiles on many sites. I think she would be a good role model in that regard.

On her blog, I found a link to this article:

6 Ways To Publish Your Own Book. There are several websites that allow users to write and sell their own books. There must be many ways to utilize these services in the classroom. Off the top of my head, I can think of anthologies of student work, photo albums, recipe books, and fund-raising.

The aforementioned article is published on Mashable. Mashable looks to be a great website, replete with articles concerning social networking.

One of the posts on Mashable mentioned a collection of depression-era photographs on Flickr. I followed this link and learned about Commons photos on Flickr. Commons photos are public photos. For example, the Library of Congress has thousands of historical photos available on Flickr.

Flickr allows users to add tags to commons photographs. Tags are similar to sticky notes. Many of the tags are attempts at humor. Some of the tags contain interesting information. I think a great way to learn and teach about history is to study photographs, and to analyze the minute clues hidden therein.

Incidentally, Flickr and their partners allow users to do different things with their photos, such as make posters, bookmarks, sticker books, and so on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Diigo Webslides

Diigo is a website that allows users to save their bookmarks online, among other things.

One interesting thing that users can do is create webslides. A webslide is a slideshow of a group of websites.

Diigo webslides also provides a good resource for finding websites bookmarked by people with similar interests.

Here is a webslides show that I created that highlights art sites.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Obviously, there are some analogies between teaching and parenting. Often, good teaching advice and good parenting advice go hand in hand.

Sometimes, my students and my children annoy me. Sometimes they make me angry.

There are times, I suppose, when my annoyance or anger is justified and necessary.

There are times, however, when my negative reactions are unfair.

I wrote previously about a great poem that I read, that suggested that the greatness of a classroom is that it is an environment that allows people to make mistakes.

It is very liberating to make the deliberate decision to allow yourself to be imperfect; moreover, to accept the worthiness of your mistakes.

But I cannot stop at myself. I have to extend the same privledge to my students and my children (and everyone in my life). If I allow myself the luxury and safety of making mistakes, then I must extend this luxury and safety to everyone else.

My ideal classroom encourages risk-taking, autonomy and self-regulation. Since this is my goal, then it is unfair and illogical for me to get mad at my students for making mistakes or for doing "stupid" things. Sometimes, they are just experimenting with the boundaries of behaviour, as they learn to become members of our society. Even the process of socialization requires mistakes.

Document Everything

In my previous post, I referenced a meme written by the author of a blog entitled, Magical Mystical Teacher.

I read the same meme in another edublog, A Teacher's Education. The author, Mrs. Chilli, writes:

The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching…is to COVER. MY. ASS. I document everything. I’ve learned that it’s a “he said/she said” world out there, and the only way that I can prove MY part in any exchange with a student is to document it.

Good advice.

I keep a classroom journal. It is a single Word document on which I record anything and everything significant.

Photo by Henry McLin.


Tonight, I have nothing to say about curriculum or technology.

I want to write a bit about my attitude in the classroom.

I read a post on the blog, Magical Mystical Teacher. The author has participated in a meme. A meme means that the author is answering a set of questions that are to be answered by other bloggers.

He writes:

The thing I love most about teaching is the kids, the kids, and the kids. Oh, did I mention the kids? Yes, they try my patience. Yes, I get tired of their whining. And, yes, with some of them I sometimes wonder if "anyone's home in there." But at the end of the day, when I head for the parking lot and hear a student yell out, "Hey, Mr.!" and wave at me, I know that the time I spend in the classroom with them is worth more than gold.

Teachers almost universally respond that the thing they love about teaching is the kids. But, on the other hand, teachers almost universally complain about their students.

I have always had difficulty reconciling this contradiction. How can someone enjoy the company of kids if they don't like the company of kids? In a similar vein, I have always felt guilty because my students sometimes annoy me, and sometimes I hate my job. Sometimes, I feel like I am in the wrong profession because I don't feel like I love the kids as much as other teachers I read about.

Today, in my 5-6 class, I resolved to observe in myself if I was enjoying teaching.

The answer I discovered, upon self-reflection, is that indeed, I was enjoying myself. I do enjoy the energy and general social dynamic of my classroom. It is not gleeful, but it is relaxing. It is nice.

At one point, something funny happened. I asked a student to fetch my son from downstairs. A few seconds after my student left the room, my son appeared. The students laughed. I chuckled. There are moments like this in my classroom; there is humor. Not everyone has the luxury of a job where there is humor. Not everyone has the luxury of a work environment where they get along with their "co-workers." Sure, the students annoy me sometimes, but we always come back to square one, a clean slate. Generally, kids don't hold grudges for very long (which is one of the reasons I like kids) and I would absolutely never hold a grudge against one of my students.

There is no activity that a person could enjoy all day every day; not even Wii. There are good times and bad times in every experience. This is an inevitable fact, especially when the experience involves sharing a room with a group of kids for ten months. It is unreasonable for me to expect that I should love teaching every minute that I am in the classroom. No teacher does.

That being said, I do enjoy teaching and I am blessed to be doing a job that I enjoy at least most of the time.

Photo by splorp.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Classroom Technology

While browsing Twitter, I found this article, entitled, "Classroom Technology Needs to Catch Up: Teacher."

The article is written as a reaction to a report published by the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, a report that discusses the use of technology in classrooms.

A grade 9 student is quoted:

"When people just stand at the front of the class, I don't really learn anything because it's boring."

Allowing students, such as herself, to use technology with which they are familiar to complete assignments would not only boost student interest, but it could allow a student to excel at a class they normally wouldn't if confined to learning from a text book, she added. She and her peers feel limited when it comes to exploring or experimenting with technology in class.

"I think another problem is the teachers don't really know how to use what we can," she added. "Most of the time, we are teaching the teachers how to use it.

The integration of technology into the classroom is not an option. It is mandatory. Traditional methods of teaching using textbooks and lectures will not keep the interest of modern children, and as students become disinterested in school, they will fail and drop-out.

Teachers have an obligation to make themselves computer-literate and knowledgeable of the internet and other forms of

Photo by kellypuffs

Friday, May 15, 2009


A few weeks ago, I signed up with Twitter, not really knowing what it is, how to use it, or what it could do for me.

Since then, I have never used Twitter.

Today, I read two separate posts by educators discussing Twitter.

The king of educational blogs, Larry Ferlazzo, has good and bad things to say about Twitter.

His negative comments eloquently crystalize my own sentiments.

Even with all the positive feelings I’ve shared, it’s difficult for me to see Twitter becoming a major tool in education circles outside of those who have a special interest in educational technology. I know that no one I work with regularly uses it, and it’s difficult for me to imagine that — at least, in the foreseeable future — they would decide that it’s worth their time.

I think — technologically and professional development-wise — most of these teachers would get a “bigger bang for their buck” by reading lengthier pieces in blogs that would be more thoughtful and reflective, and that kind of activity is more within their experience of reading articles.

Larry makes an interesting comment about utilizing popular socialization sites because that's where the people are.

In addition, reflecting on my Twitter experience has also gotten me thinking about another organizing adage — the importance of “going to where the people are.” In terms of using technology to connect with more teachers, this thought has led me to start thinking more about the potential use of Facebook as another organizing tool. Though, as far as I can tell, no other teachers at my school use Twitter or even an RSS Reader for blogs, many — and not just the ones right out of college — have Facebook pages. I’d lay odds that this mirrors the situation at a lot of other schools, too.

I know of only one other teacher at our school who has a Twitter account; however, most of the teachers have a Facebook account.

Next, I read blog article by Chris on Betchablog that explains for newcomers how to approach Twitter. Here are some of Chris' tips:

Don’t even think about evaluating the worth of Twitter until you are “following” at least 40-50 people.
Don’t stop until you are following at least 40-50 people. Yes, this will generate traffic. Yes you will not be able to take it all in (well, maybe at 40 you still can, but not much beyond that) That’s ok… you don’t need to read every tweet. As you add people to your follow list, you gradually get to a point where the messages flow by you much faster than you can deal with. That’s ok too… it’s a smorgasbord, you don’t need to eat everything! But seriously, if you try to “manage” Twitter by only following a few people you will never see the worth of it. Trust me on this.

I currently only follow 8 people. I thought I was supposed to read every tweet. So, I'll trust Chris and try to follow 50 people and not try to read every tweet.

Get a Twitter client! If you need to go back to the Twitter homepage all the time to check what’s happening, you will quickly lose interest.

Okay, I added a Twitter client to my iGoogle homepage.

Finally, remember that Twitter is about “small pieces loosely joined”, which is really how the world works in real life. In real life, it is the tiny, seemingly insignificant social connections that so often direct our lives in some surprisingly major ways.

Still a sceptic? Trust me and just try it. Not by following three people and never looking at it again, but by REALLY trying it, addinglots of people to your network, and for at least 6 months. Then meet me back here in 6 months and tell me some of the amazing stories that happened to you because of Twitter.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Here is a good post on EFL Classroom 2.0.

The author, ddeubel, points out that it is fine to talk about the virtues of the many expectations of teaching, but that without a central motivator, your life and work can become unguided.

Teachers should be conscientious, student centered, prepared yata yata….. (not to demean these things but they do begin to blend into each other. My students suffered as a result - I didn’t know what the priority actually was…..

The author's answer is happiness.

What I was missing and eventually gained was an understanding of what life is about. HAPPINESS. I began to ask my students every lesson - “Are you happy?” and I suggest every teacher end their day with that question. It should also inform all teaching practice.

I agree. I believe that happiness should be the primary goal of life. I try to remind myself that it is my primary goal for myself. As ddeubel suggests, teachers should make it their primary objective to have happy students. I agree. As a teacher, my main objective should be to make my students happy, show them the value of happiness, and show them how to be happy.

The term hedonism has always had negative connotations for me, raised as I was as a Christian. Even as I write this, I feel guilty and tentative about proclaiming my own selfish desire for happiness.

However, if I choose to value my own happiness, then hedonism is a good thing.

I need to make a conscious, intentional decision to value my own worth as a person, and to assert that my own personal happiness is important, valuable and a worthwhile aspiration.

Photo by icampbell.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Never-ending Journey

Sometimes I succumb to the illusion that I will be able to train my students so that they will be self-disciplined, and I won't have to worry about discipline anymore.

This will never happen.

Classroom management is a never-ending journey. The teacher must always be vigilant. If the teacher relaxes his discipline, then the students will misbehave. That's human nature. Classroom management requires a constant expenditure of energy.

Similarly, teaching is a never-ending journey. There is never a destination, where I can state, "Now I am done."

Be Prepared

It feels satisfying and reassuring when I come across an article that agrees with a previous assertion of mine.

Joel, of "So You Want To Teach," posted an article on his blog that agrees with most everything that I stated about how preparation is vital to classroom management.

One of the primary reasons we lose our temper and los control of a classroom setting is because something surprises us or catches us off guard.
Just as it is the Boy Scout’s motto, “Be prepared” applies well in most every setting.
We’ve all been there. Some unexpected thing happens, we don’t know how to respond, and we just lash out with some sort of reaction. The difference between a response and a reaction is that the response is premeditated, and the reaction is instinctual.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Student E-Folios

Jeff Utecht, of The Thinking Stick blog discusses a great idea for any classroom.


Essentially, each student will create a blog. On their personal blogs, they will create categories for each of the subjects. There, they will keep samples of their work, be it scans, video, whatever.

Then, one category is labelled SLC (Student Led Conferences).

In the SLC, the student puts some of their favorite examples of their work from all the subjects. Then, during the parent-teacher interview, the students can lead the meeting and show their work to their parents.

Student blogs also provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their own learning.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I was reading an edublog yclept "Cliotech," authored by Jennifer Dorman.

This led me to her Diigo page, on which Jennifer has bookmarked lots of good educational websites.

This, in turn, led me to Grademate.

This year, I utilized an online grade-keeping program called Snapgrades. It is good. But Grademate looks better. Grademate's interface looks nicer. Grademate allows students to view their marks for free; whereas, with Snapgrade, the teacher must pay a fee for this service.

Diigo and Delicious are great places to find resources once you find people (in my case, teachers) who bookmark things that are interesting to you.

Photo by Whimsical Chris

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recommended Edublogs

Here is a link to a PDF page that recommends about two dozen edublogs.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Larry Ferlazzo is an amazing edublogger who always finds great resources.

He wrote a recent post about Chatbots, which are websites that have robots you can chat with.

This chatbot speaks decent English, and could be fun in a classroom.

However, Virsona is a website that really piqued my interest.

Users can create Chatbots, and then input information for the Chatbots to use in conversations. Historical figures, such as Albert Einstein, can be programmed by anybody. It is an interesting way to have a conversation with a historical person, make them come alive, and learn about them.

Another thing users can do is create individual Chatbots. For example, I could create a Chatbot fashioned after myself, and program it to provide answers that I would provide. That way, friends and family members could have a conversation with me, even after I am no longer living. :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Perhaps one of the most unpleasnt tasks related to computing is backing up data.

I have fixed many computers. To my knowledge, almost nobody backs up their important information.

For most people, I assume, the most important data is photographs. I have dozens of CD filled with thousands of family photographs. Organizing and backing-up photos is not a glamorous chore.

I have two better backup solutions, one for my desktop computer and one for my laptop.

For my desktop, I bought a 500GB external hard drive. There are many free programs that can be used to help you back up your important data. I use a freeware program called SynchBack. I like it. It is simple, easy to use, and it lets me backup my data to an external hard drive.

For my laptop, I use Dropbox. Dropbox lets me keep a copy of my important documents online. Dropbox is great because, unlike most other online storage website, I do not need to visit the webite to upload files. Dropbox creates a folder on my computer. When I want something to be backed up, I drag it into the folder and it is automatically uploaded. If I disconnect from the internet, then my upload is automatically resumed when I reconnect. The only drawback to Dropbox is that there is a limit of 5GB of space for the free account.

I may have stumbled upon a solution.

Microsoft's Skydrive gives users 25GB of free storage. Thanks to the RSS feed on my Google Reader, I discover a new utility from LifeHacker. It is called Gladinet. It claims to offer a similar service to Dropbox, in that users can simply drag-and-drop files onto a local folder in order to upload them to various online storage sites. Gladinet can be connected to a Skydrive account.

The only drawback so far is that you have to download and install Microsoft's NET Framwork, which is annoying.

I'll give it a spin and let you know how I like it.

Edit: Gladinet is much more than a simple backup utility. It has many features such as sharing resources between computers over the internet and intranets. In the future, it promises to make it possible to do things such as work on a Word document online using an online word processing program. That is to say, use the internet like a computer without installing anything on your local computer.

One drawback of Skydrive is that it has a maximum file size of 50MB.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Daily Routine

Sometimes the prospect of teaching makes me feel anxious.

Sometimes I feel like I am expected to entertain these kids for 4+ hours, and I don't know what to do.

Sometimes I run out of activities; sometimes the kids get bored. Sometimes, I keep looking at the clock.

The solution to this problem, like the solution to many problems, is to be well prepared.

If I, as a teacher, had to invent 4 hours of activities every day, then of course, I would become overwhelmed. It's an impossible task.

The solution to this problem is to have a daily routine. A template. Do not try to re-invent the wheel every day.

Here is a daily routine I prepared for my 5-6 English class:

Period 0

Write schedule on board

Prepare worksheets and materials

Period 1

Writing: Journal / Blog entry

Reading comprehension

Period 2

Silent readingReading Record

Math Test

Math Lesson

Period 3

Grammar Test

Grammar Lesson

The Writing Process



Period 4

Spelling / Vocabulary




Math Basics Drills

Period 5