Sunday, June 28, 2009


I wanted to create a website. For two reasons.

For one thing, I wanted to find a good website-building site that my students could use as a portal and a portfolio for their projects. Also, I wanted to create a site to organize the lessons and activities I find online; specifically, I wanted to organize them according to the topics prescribed by the Quebec Ministry of Education new Quebec Education Plan. Diigo is great for bookmarking, but it is not good for organizing bookmarks.

At first, I contemplated utilizing a mindmapping site. Mind42 was the best one, in MHO, because of its nice layout, and because it permits hyperlinking. However, I decided I wanted something more formal and more structured: a webpage.

There are a number of website-building sites. Some of them are listed on cooltoolsforschools. I perused a few of these sites, then narrowed my selection down to two: Weebly and Webnode. They are both decent sites that make it easy to create a website. Weebly has an interesting drag-and-drop interface. However, both sites seemed slightly more complicated than I liked, with constant button-clicking, and I experienced problems with the Weebly hyperlinks.

Then, through Twitter, I came across Wikispaces. I had heard of this site before, but I was hesitant to use it because a wiki suggests to me that other people can edit your website. However, it is possible to set the permissions to prohibit edits from everyone. For now, Wikispaces has the combination of simplicity and functionality that I was looking for. My (skeletal) website is here. The only unfortunate quality of Wikispaces is that there are obligatory advertisements.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I have not posted an update on this blog in quite some time. The end of the school year is a busy time for all teachers, plus we are moving to a new town and a new job.

I will switch from being an elementary teacher to being a secondary generalist.

In preparation for my new assignment, I wanted to establish an online gradebook.

I have three sites bookmarked on Diigo. The most popular of the three is Edmodo. 361 people have Edmodo bookmarked, versus 43 for Engrade and 8 for Grademate.

Usually, when I am choosing software or an online resource, I opt for the most popular choice. So, I went to Edmodo first. However, Edmodo is not what I thought it was. It is not a site to keep track of grades; it is a private message board which can be utilized by teachers to communicate with their students. Edmodo is popular, I believe, because it allows students to send assignments to their teacher. Also, it is very Web2.0, with the ability to embed a variety of media.

Next, I tried Engrade and Grademate.

They both look about the same and offer pretty much the same services. I decided to go with Grademate for subjective reasons. I like the style and feel of it.

I still have some exploring to do, but for now, I think I might use Grademate for grading, in conjunction with Edmodo for sending and receiving assignments.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


What is patience?

1. A teacher who stays calm in a noisy classroom.

2. A person who waits for someone else without becoming upset.

In these two situations the individual can be described as being patient. However, the scenarios are actually quite different. I would aver that a better adjective for the person in the first scenario is tolerant.

For my money, the best example of patience is when you are able to wait for someone or something without getting upset or flustered.

This can be bisected into two scenarios. In the first case, when I am waiting for someone, but I do not feel like I need to be somewhere else at the time. In this case, it is easier to remain patient and calm. I don't mind giving my time to the other person.

In the second case, when I am waiting for someone, and I feel like I need to be somewhere else or be doing something else. In this case, it is more difficult to remain patient and easier to become upset. It bothers me that someone else is taking my time.

It is easy to remain patient in the first scenario; and in fact, I wonder if such a situation even qualifies as being patient. It is in the second scenario, when I want to be somewhere or do something, that real patience is required.

This reminds me of a quip I once heard about gifts. If you give someone something that you do not want, then it is not really a gift; it is more like garbage. A true gift is when you give away something that you yourself desire.

Similarly, when I am patient with someone when I feel like I want to be somewhere else or be doing something else, then this is truly patience. This is a true gift. It is the gift of my time, when I want the time for myself.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Here is a post that I like, on the blog, Weblogg-ed, authored by Will Richardson.

Will wonders why many teachers have difficulty producing online content, such as blogs. He suggests that it is not a technical deficiency; but rather, social hesitancy that inhibits teachers.

It’s not the technology, we both agreed, as much as it is the shifts in transparency and privacy, and the emphasis on writing and creating that go along with putting yourself out there online.

To be sure, I sometimes feel insecure when I post something on this blog. Did I say something stupid? Did I make spelling or grammatical errors? Did I reveal a personal weakness?

I think one of the best reasons for teachers to maintain blogs is that it allows us to experience firsthand the various inhibitions that accompany producing and publishing.

The Web and the social connections and learning it affords is moving us, I think, to a different type of consciousness, a different way of being in the world. While the way we interact with people in our personal spaces will always be crucial to our personal development and well being, we are in many ways being asked to recreate ourselves in virtual spaces, sometimes multiple spaces. And we’re being asked to do that work in public with others. I happened upon this old Doc Searles quote this morning, and it made even more sense than it did two years ago when I first read it:

We are all authors of each other. What we call authority is the right we give others to author us, to make us who we are… That right is one we no longer give only to our newspapers, our magazines, our TV and radio stations. We give it to anybody who helps us learn and understand What’s Going On in the world."

I like this Doc Searles quote. Authority is the power we give certain people to "write" who we are. This is tantamount to the psychoanalytical concept of introjection, which suggests that the ego is essentially a photocopied compilation of the many people with whom we have interacted in our lifetime.

Finally, a comment left by Salamah, I found interesting. He laments that he is a new teacher and that he feels he has nothing new to contribute to a blog or Twitter.

I felt the same way. I have taught for over 6 years, but I still consider myself a new teacher; especially, when it comes to ICT. Sometimes, I feel like I do not have any spectacular knowledge to contribute. However, I have come to realize that this is not the purpose of blogging or tweeting. Blogging is like a diary. It is a place for me to organize and crystalize some of my thoughts.

Having tried Twitter for a few weeks, I can say that I am sold. It is a great source of information, and dare I say, entertaining. People are constantly posting links to useful sites.

Whether I have Twitter followers, or whether people read this blog, I will continue to write, for my own benefit. That being said, it is gratifying to have followers and to notice that people have visited my blog.

Photo by shoothead.

Monday, June 15, 2009

GoogleDocs VoiceThread Presentation

Larry Ferlazzo has a great website on which he suggests many educational resources.

Recently, Larry directed me to Tom Barrett's blog, ICT In My Classroom.

Tom has a slideshow suggesting 17 ways to use VoiceThread in the classroom. This page also suggests uses for Wordle and Nintendo DS.

What interested me about Tom's presentation was that he utilizes Google Docs to present slideshows on his blog. The slideshow includes code so that other people can embed it on their websites. I have done so here:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Digital Story Time

The International Children's Digital Library has children's picture books online.

Surely, there are many ways the books on this website can be incorporated into the classroom. The ICDL has a page on their site suggesting classroom activities.

The idea that appealed most to me was Digital Story Time.

If you have a standard computer projector, then try using it the next time you read a book to children (whether in a library's story time hour, in school, or at home). Simply hook up the projector to your computer, find a book in the ICDL and read with the large projected display. This has the advantage of making illustrations (and words) large enough for everyone to see – and the technical nature of the display is often engaging.

Digital Book Reports

In a previous post, I highlighted an article written by Kelly Tenkely. In Kelly's article, she provided 10 technology tips for new teachers.

Here is another article by Kelly, entitled, "10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports."

Kelly suggests some great methods for students to express themselves.

I wrote previously about Digital Storytelling.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I recently became a member of the Ontario College of Teachers.

I recently received my first copy of their magazine, entitled, "Professionally Speaking."

The magazine has an online version on the College website.

One of the articles, entitled, "Can We Be Friends," discusses the use of Facebook and other social websites in the classroom.

I read a blog some weeks ago pondering the question: Should teachers add students as friends on Facebook?

One quote in the "Can We Be Friends" article suggests that teachers should not befriend students on Facebook.

The Ontario College of Teachers doesn't have a specific professional advisory on online social media and electronic communications with students. But the College's Professional Advisory on Sexual Abuse and Professional Misconduct can be instructive.

Sexual abuse and misconduct obviously can't be equated to a simple Facebook post. But when you look at the advisory, you'll find reminders of teachers' broader responsibility to avoid "an unprofessional and inappropriate relationship with a student" and "activities that may reasonably raise concerns as to their propriety."

The onus is always on the teacher to take care when communicating with students and to avoid breaching appropriate boundaries. It comes down to using good judgment, says Joe Jamieson, Director of Investigations and Hearings for the College. E-mailing students or inviting them to be your Facebook friends might seem harmless. But given the meaning that young people attach to these tools and media, Jamieson likens it to hanging out with your students.

"Why would teachers need to dwell within the social network of kids who are also their students?" poses Jamieson.

I mostly concur with Jamieson's assertion that teachers need to be careful. At the same time, I believe it is beneficial, even necessary, to socialize with students and to get to know them, and their interests, in and out of the classroom. For sure, I believe that social websites need to be utilized in the classroom for multitudinous purposes and reasons.

I think a good compromise would be for a teacher to have separate professional and personal Facebook profiles.

On a different topic, I discovered something remarkable when I was reading the online article. With the Diigo toolbar installed, I am able to read comments left on websites by other Diigo users. Many comments were left on the "Can We Be Friends" article by Melanie McBride. Melanie McBride is a consultant and teacher who is actually quoted within the article. In one of her comments, Melanie clarifies a sentence in which she felt she had been misquoted.

I think it is neat that people can comment upon articles in which they are quoted, in order to clarify their assertions, and to create and participate in an online dialogue.

Update: Here is an article on the blog Lucacept that discusses this issue.

Photo by Yukon White Light.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I wanted a way to post messages to Twitter and Facebook simultaneously. However, I did not want to install anything on my computer. Whenever possible, I avoid installing programs and try to utilize online tools.

I found Friendbar.

Friendbar is an add-on for Firefox. From their website:

Friendbar makes it easy to keep in touch with friends on Facebook and Twitter. It displays a running stream of text and photo updates from Facebook and Twitter right on the browser toolbar, and allows you to post updates and reply from the browser toolbar itself.

Friendbar is just what I was looking for, and more.

Photos posted to Facebook are displayed as thumbnails on the Friendbar taskbar. I can post to Facebook or Twitter or both. URLs are automatically shortened. There is a Quick Post button for sending a link to the website you are on. There is a Dice button that will take you to a random popular website, reminiscent of StumbleUpon.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Here is a page on Wikispaces called Power Up Your Professional Learning Network. It contains plenty of resources.

One of the categories on this page is called Digital Business Cards. I had been looking for a good way to host my resume online, so I was hopeful that one of the listed business card sites would accommodate me.

I discovered a service called Retaggr, which I signed up for. Retaggr lets you create a centralized profile, which can then be connected to many popular websites.

Retaggr will let you link to a resume, although the resume needs to be hosted elsewhere.

I added a Retaggr widget to this blog.

One of the interesting functions of Retaggr is that you can add a signature to comments you post on (participating) blogs and websites. Your signature will contain a popup revealing your personal information. It is dawning on me that one of the best ways to publicize yourself and build a social network is to leave comments. When you comment on an article, then people can follow your name back to your blog or twitter.

Top Ten Teacher Tips

Through Google Reader, I found this article, written by Kelly Tenkely, entitled, Top 10 Technology Tips for New Teachers. It is a very good article, full of useful information.

I was especially interested in tip #3, which recommends that teachers continue to educate themselves. Kelly suggests a number of websites offering free online courses.

I followed one of the links to edutopia.

First of all, this organization was founded by George Lucas! What?

Second, there are three courses available. All of them look very interesting. The courses are:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Many Ways

I seem to suffer under the illusion that there exists one single best way to teach, and I am in a constant quest to try to figure out what the characteristics of that best way are. Similarly, I am constantly rehearsing a job interview in my head and trying to figure out what the best answer is, pedagogically speaking.

Today, I read a post on the blog Successful Teaching that questions the advice on another blog, Learn Me Good.

It is not my intention to comment on the subject of the debate, which concerns obliging students to speak; only, to recognize that there are different ways to teach, and that one way is not necessarily better than the other. In fact, it is probably advisable for a teacher to be willing and able to use as many different methods to teach as possible, and to vary one's teaching method depending on the students, the situation, and so on.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Chasing The A

One of the blogs that I follow on my Google Reader is called "Pair-a-dimes For Your Thoughts," by David Truss.

David posted an article in reference to another essay. The essay David references is called, "Why Our Current Education System is Failing," and it appears on a website/blog called, "A Boundless World," written by Bud.

David makes a couple interesting comments:

I think that the ‘missing piece’ when it comes to education today, is that it tries to fill us with important things rather than make us feel important and valued… it feeds us content, but doesn’t leave us contented in any meaningful way.

Marks seem to take our attention away from what matters. I find it funny that we can assess young kids without grades and then around Grade 3 we suddenly start indoctrinating students into the paradigm of good marks = success…. and the really important things we learn in Kindergarden about sharing, respecting and loving one another, as well as communicating how we feel and getting along with each other, suddenly takes a back seat to achieving some sort of success beyond these things that really matter.

Bud's article contains some great nuggets of wisdom that give me, as a educator, food for thought. I encourage everyone to read it. The article is written by a high school student, which is a bit surprising, as it is very well written and strikes me as quite wise.

Bud's primary criticism is that too much emphasis is placed on grades and the pursuit of grades in modern schools.
We can be as happy and as successful as we choose to be. Our attitude, not our grades, determines our success.

I’m not suggesting that our current education system doesn’t do any good. It does teach us the basic necessities. However, much of what we learn in school is not practical in the real world.

Where are the courses on blogging? Where are the money management courses? Where are the classes dedicated to eradicate poverty? Where are the classes that help us find our purpose?

Our current education system places too much emphasis on the A and not enough emphasis on unleashing the promise that lies in each and every one of us.

Bud suggests that students should be allowed to choose the books they read. Education needs to be student-centered, to maintain student interest.

Education is about unleashing one’s confidence. Education is learning from failure. Education is growing from experience. Education is discovering your passions then pursuing them.
Education is not rote memorization. Education is not analyzing books that have no meaning to you. Education is not wasting your time on subjects you hate. Education is not being paralyzed because your afraid to fail.

Bud comments on life:

The traditional life time line:

High School: College: Grad-School: Job ( you most likely hate): Retire: Die

Why not:

High School: Find Your Purpose: Love Your Job: Live your life. Die Happy?

Bud's message is that passion should fuel our life:

Education is all about growth, it’s about experience, it’s about creating authentic relationships. It’s about being human. It’s about connecting with humanity.

Our current education system is inherently flawed. Times are changing. We must stop obsessing over becoming “book smart” and instead focus on unleashing our passions.

Without living out our passions we just add to the clutter of the world.

When we choose security, we sacrifice our passions, killing part of us in the process.

I have tremendous faith that the answers to today’s problems of the world: poverty, war, and disease, will be solved by the youth of today not because they are smart but because they follow their passions.

Bud concludes by telling teachers what to do:

We need to be inspired. We need to be encouraged. We need to spend time doing things we love. We want to change the world.

And finally:

In no way am I suggesting getting good grades is a bad thing; that would be foolish. Getting good grades is not the problem. Allowing grades to dictate one’s life is.

Grades don't guarantee success.

Passion + Determination + Positive Attitude = Success.

Photo by krikketgirl.


Screencasts are a good idea. Using screencasts, a teacher can prepare lessons and have them available online. That way, students can review lessons independently. One of the goals of my classroom is to foster independent, autonomous learning; using screencasts fits in with this philosophy.

There are several free online programs that can be used to create screencasts.

Here is a post on a blog, "The History Teacher's Attic." The author recommends the screencast website,

Incidentally, The History Teahcer's Attic looks like it is a good blog about teaching and technology. I have added it to my Google Reader account.

Here is another blog post concerning screencast websites, from another good blog, Free Technology For Teachers.