Saturday, November 28, 2009


Previously, my students created music slide shows by composing a song on Myna, then coupling their song with pictures using Stupeflix.

I asked the students to repeat this activity, with two modifications.  For one thing, they had to add audio clips from movies to their composition.  Movie audio clips can be downloaded from Soundboard.

Instead of Stupeflix, this time we used PhotoPeach.  PhotoPeach is mostly the same as Stupeflix.  PhotoPeach’s interface is easier to use. 

Here are some productions:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Edublog Awards

My Nominations for The 2009 Edublog Awards are:

Best individual blog:
Best individual tweeter:
Best resource sharing blog:
Most influential blog post:
Best teacher blog:
Best librarian / library blog:
Best educational tech support blog:
Best educational use of audio:
Best educational wiki:
Lifetime achievement:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


In one of my university classes, a professor posed the question, “Is teaching an art or a science.”  My opinion on this question has since fluctuated over the years.  These days, I lean more towards art.

One the best and the worst things about teaching is that there is no single prescriptive method.  Our profession boasts a wonderful amount of freedom and potential for individual creativity.  The flipside is that the autonomy afforded by teaching can become sometimes daunting.

Two recent examples in my PLN reminded me that teaching is not a dogma.

Today, I read an article written by Lisa Nielsen, entitled, “21st Century Educators Don’t Say, “Hand It In.” They say, “Publish It!

Lisa writes:

When I tweeted, “Educators who ask students to, "Hand it in" rather than, "Publish it" are stuck in the past and not preparing 21st century students.” I received a lot of kudos and retweets, but I also received a bit of push back along the lines that it’s not realistic to expect all student work to be published. My response is this. The authentic publication of student work should be a part of EVERY SINGLE UNIT OF STUDY.

Lisa’s statement shook me up. I have been asking my students to publish most of their work online, mostly on their blogs.  However, I have also been assigning them traditional worksheets, which they submit to me.  I just took it for granted that I had to temper the fun computer-based activities with serious worksheets.  I just took it for granted that worksheets were real work, and there had to be at least some real work in my classes.  To reassure the parents and anyone else who might be watching me that I am still running a real classroom: with traditional desk work and serious academics.  Worksheets were the mandatory foundation; computer work was supplementary.  The possibility never even occurred to me to abandon worksheets altogether.  Even now, I instinctively shirk from this scenario.

Tracey Rosen penned a blog post called, “On de-rubricizing.”  She writes:

For a long time now I have been sceptical of the whole rubric frenzy. Must have a rubric, must have a rubric. Why? Why should we tell kids exactly what our expectations are and in such minute detail? I call that a creativity killer. Give them some parameters. If you are expecting the result to be some kind of multimedia presentation let them know that, give them the guiding question, maybe a few resources to get them going, to raise the velcro in their brains, but then let them experiment!

Tracey is a fellow Quebecer.  In this province, we are in the infancy of an education reform, one component of which is rubrics.  Until I read Tracey’s comment, I robotically believed that rubrics were good.  I just assumed that every knowledgeable educator, like myself, adhered to the opinion that rubrics are good.  It never even dawned on me to question their merit.  As it is, I still feel that rubrics are beneficial; but, Tracey encouraged me to question an opinion that I felt was incontestable and reminded me not to project my egocentric assumptions onto my peers.

So, there you go: two nice examples of how the rules of teaching are not written in stone.  As a teacher, I should not be married to my pedagogy.

Photo by p!o.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Selling Lessons

I read this New York Times article about teachers who make money selling lessons online.

The article mentions two websites, “Teachers Pay Teachers,” and, “We Are Teachers.”  Some of the numbers in the article are astounding.

Teachers Pay Teachers, one of the largest such sites, with more than 200,000 registered users, has recorded $600,000 in sales since it was started in 2006 — $450,000 of that in the past year, said its founder, Paul Edelman, a former New York City teacher. The top seller, a high school English teacher in California, has made $36,000 in sales.

Kelly Gionti, a teacher at the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice in Manhattan, has sold $2,544 worth of unit plans for “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Great Gatsby,” among others, helping finance trips to Rome and Ireland, as well as class supplies.

Margaret Whisnant, a retired teacher in North Carolina, earns an average of $750 a month from lessons based on her three decades of teaching middle school classics like “The Outsiders,” enough to pay for new kitchen counters and appliances.

Lisa Michalek, 40, who taught for six years in Rochester and now works for Aventa Learning, a for-profit online education company, said she spent about five hours a week tweaking old lesson plans and creating new ones, like an earth science curriculum that sells for $59.95.

Reading these statistics, one cannot help but feel inspired to sell one’s own lessons.  However, like lottery commercials, the few winners are mentioned while the thousands of losers are ignored.

What boggles my mind is that people are willing to pay for lessons on the internet when there is so much free material available.  Maybe some teachers are too busy or too lazy to search for free quality lessons.  Admittedly, it can be a time-consuming treasure hunt.  Maybe some teachers think that free lessons must not be quality lessons.  Paying money reassures them that they are receiving a quality product.

Photo by DisneyKrayzie.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Diigo Glitch

When it comes to online bookmarking, the big two are Diigo and Delicious.  Me, I use Diigo.  I have contemplated switching over to Delicious; however, until now, Diigo has satisfied my needs.  If it’s not broken then don’t fix it.  Until now.

I have recently discovered a glitch on Diigo.   

The glitch is this: sometimes, I cannot delete a tag.  I am not the only person who has experienced this problem.  It is not a major glitch, it is not unforgiveable, but it is irritating.  I could easily learn to live with it, but why should I?  If a consumer can easily switch to a competitor, then the consumer’s standards become very high.  If Diigo does not rectify the bug in their system, is this an indicator of their carelessness?  Will future glitches appear, and will they also be ignored?

It offends the OCD in me that I cannot tidy up my tag list.  I want my bookmarks to be well organized, so that I can easily access them.  Isn’t that the point of bookmarks?  I don’t want an unruly list of tags.

So, we will see.  I think I will give Diigo a few more days grace, then I will make the big switch.

Photo by DannyMcL.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

UMapper allows you to play user-created map games; wherein, you must identify the location of different cities and countries.

What’s more, you (or your students) can create your own games.  My students found the process for creating games to be a bit tricky, but there is a video on the website that explains the procedure.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


There is a fun online game called, “Monopoly City Streets.”

Utilizing Google Maps, the game allows players to buy streets in the real world and develop them.

I showed the game to my Geography students and they really liked it.  They quickly bought up all the streets in town.


Xtranormal allows users to produce short movies.  In order to make your characters speak, you type the text you want your characters to say, and then the program converts the text to speech.  There are different scenarios to choose from; the characters can be animated; and, you can choose the camera angle for each scene.  A movie created by one of my students is here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Citation Machine

I am told that one of the skills that students who go to college are lacking is the ability to cite sources.  With this in mind, I designed an activity to help my English students practise using citations.  Inspired by this Glog, I instructed my students to create their own Glog that presented an animal of their choice.  They were to find pictures, information and a map from at least five different sources.  Then, using, the website, “Son of Citation Machine,” they were to cite their sources of information.

Here is the Glog created by one of my students.  Although she lost marks for not creating proper MLA citations, overall, the poster is nicely done.  Most of the students had a lot of fun using Glogster.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Today, in our Geography class, we watched the movie, “Home.”

It is quite a beautiful, educational film about the impact of humans on planet Earth.  The subject matter is suitable also for History and Science.

The movie is available in High Definition on YouTube.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Accident Sketch

In Geography, one of the requisite skills is the ability to transfer reality onto a map. I had the students complete the following activity in order to practise this skill.

I asked them to view a video of a car accident, then use a website called Accident Sketch to draw a sketch of the accident in the video.

Here is one student’s interpretation of this video.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


Today, the students used Quikmaps to plot the routes of some famous explorers.

Quikmaps allows users to draw on Google Maps.  The embedding features are nice.  You can easily resize the embedded map and select its starting focus.

Furthermore, it is not necessary to create an account.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I wanted my students to practise using PowerPoint, so I asked them to create and describe a superhero.

They used Hero Factory to create a hero.  This is a fun site that all the students enjoyed using.

They used Authorstream to host their completed PowerPoint presentations.

Here is one hero’s story:

Monday, November 9, 2009


I recently lauded the features of Engrade.  I use this web service as a grade book, an attendance book, assignment calendar and message system.

Well, thanks to the Classroom 2.0 Ning, I found out about a site that looks to be even more encompassing than Engrade.  It is

You can check out all the features for yourself.  Most notably, it has an integrated quiz application.  In fact, it appears to have an integrated everything.
edu 2.0: the free, easy way to teach and learn online

At this point in the school year, I cannot compel myself to transfer to a new system.  So, I will stick with Engrade for now.  However, I will keep an eye on Edu20 for next year.  Unless, something better comes along.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stupeflix Videos

In Music, I asked the students to each produce a music video.  They used Myna to compose a song.  They downloaded their song as an MP3.  Then, they uploaded their MP3 onto Stupeflix.  They added some pictures.  Here are a few of the results.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Feel-Bad Education

Larryferlazzo shared the following article with me, via Twitter. I want to mention this essay because it is well written and it affirms many things that I believe to be true concerning education. Written by Alfie Kohn in 2005, it is entitled, “Feel-Bad Education.”

The main idea of the article is that the modern classroom is not a fun place, intentionally.

Several passages in the article resonated with me, in part, because I have been recently contemplating the ideas of fun and games in the classroom. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an entry on this blog questioning my usage of games.

Kohn states:

That so few children seem to take pleasure from what they’re doing on a given weekday morning, that the default emotional state in classrooms seems to alternate between anxiety and boredom, doesn’t even alarm us. Worse: Happiness in schools is something for which educators may feel obliged to apologize when it does make an appearance. After all, they wouldn’t want to be accused of offering a "feel-good" education.

As I wrote previously, I always feel a tinge of guilt whenever I notice my students having fun or laughing. What if my principal walks in and thinks that the kids are just goofing off?

Alfie’s article suggests a religious underpinning, which is something I also alluded to.

There’s work to be done! Life (or learning, or whatever) isn’t supposed to be fun and games! Self-denial—whose adherents generally presume to deny others as well—is closely connected to fear of pleasure and redemption through suffering, and the whole package has a pedigree that is not only philosophical but theological. Who says religion has been banished from the public schools?

Near the conclusion of his essay, in reference to the state prescriptions of sterile dogma, Alfie makes a statement that mirrors my personal sentiment.

The irony is, appropriately enough, painful: Academic excellence, the usual rationale for such decisions, is actually far more likely to flourish when students enjoy what they’re doing.

I could have quoted more from Alfie’s eloquent essay, but brevity restrains me. I recommend everyone to read the original.

Photo by seanjonesfoto.