Friday, January 29, 2010

I'm Yours

One of the challenges of teaching is trying to balance the difficulty level of the assignments. You want the work to be challenging but not too difficult for the students. I crossed the line with my most recent music assignment. Most of the students were unable to successfully complete the task.

I wanted the students to practice using Audacity. I wanted them to practice manipulating different tracks and to apply different effects to different tracks in a song. With these goals in mind, I thought it would be a good exercise for them to compose a song.

I knew that the students, at this point, would be unable to compose their own song from scratch. So, I decided to have them remix an existing song. The song I chose was, "I'm Yours," by Jason Mraz. This is a good tune because it repeats the same four chords throughout the song.

Unfortunately, Audacity does not have any built-in sounds or instruments. I figured the simplest way for the students go get the music into Audacity would be to use Jamstudio. So, the students entered the chords for "I'm Yours" (C, G, Am, F) into Jamstudio, and then selected some instruments. I instructed them to use different instruments for the verses and the chorus. So far, so good.

I knew that the students would not be inclined to sing, so we used AT&T's text to speech website to convert the lyrics to speech.

Most of the students were able to get as far as this. But the process of importing chunks of spoken lyrics into Audacity and then synchronizing them with the verse and chorus of the song was very challenging. It required the students to use Audacity effects to change the speed of the lyrics, repeatedly, until the length was correct. Many of the students got frustrated by this process and were unable to successfully complete the task.

These two students came pretty close:

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Previously, I wrote that the website Protagonize is blocked at our school. It turns out that students can access the site by bypassing the front page. So, my English students were able to contribute to a collaborative story I started.

I enjoyed the collaborative story activity; I think the students did too. I will do more of it in the future. It is interesting to see where each student leads the story and some of their randomly creative ideas were funny to read.

Our class story is here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Voxopop is a website that allows users you start and contribute to audio conversations. I think it is a good way to make students practice speaking.

I instructed my English students to participate in this conversation, which concerns the topic of stress.

Monday, January 25, 2010

American Revolution Timeline

It's funny. Ofttimes, I will require a lesson or activity idea for a particular topic or subject. Google will prove barren. Then, I will browse the blogs in my Google Reader and skim through the tweets in my Twitter, and within a few days, I will find something that fits my needs. This phenomenon is so recurrent that it does not surprise me anymore. I've come to expect it.

My Secondary 2 History class is beginning a unit on the revolutionary period. I wanted to provide them with an activity concerning the American Revolution. Considering the immense population of American and their consummation with their own history, I assumed that there would be a plethora of American Revolution activities online. However, my search through Google uncovered nothing worthwhile.

That was a couple days ago.

Today, in Google Reader, I found this entry, from Mr. Byrne, from Mr. Ferlazzo. Mr. Byrne introduces a great interactive time line of the American Revolution. It possesses two attributes that my students appreciate most: photographs and short segments of text.


Our school board uses a filter. I suppose it is a necessary evil, but as a teacher who tries to integrate IT into the curriculum, the filter is often annoying.

Today, I had planned a writing activity. There is a collaborative writing website called Protaganize. There, I started a story and directed my students to continue the story. Unfortunately, Protaganize is blocked at our school. Why?

Another thing. I like to use games and simulations in the classroom because they are a way for students to learn things while at the same time having fun. Unfortunately, most game sites are blocked. This strikes me as futile. It is not possible to block every game site. I know this, I see students playing games on the computer at school. So, therefore, why bother blocking any at all?

At this school board and at my previous school board, Facebook is blocked. I don't understand the justification for this. The reason given at my previous school board was that too many people were using Facebook and so it was consuming too much bandwidth. So, Facebook was blocked because it was too popular. By that reasoning, email should also be blocked.

On a positive note, Youtube is not blocked at our school. I know that many schools do block Youtube.

That is all.

One True Media

Previously, I wrote about a project done by the students in my junior Music class. They created a slideshow using the website PhotoPeach. PhotoPeach is a site for creating slideshows. At that time, it was possible to upload your own music and pictures using the free account.

Since then, PhotoPeach has changed the features of their free account. Users are no longer permitted to upload their own music. As well, there is a 30 photo upload limit.

I found an alternative, which is One True Media. One True Media allows users to upload their own music and video to create slideshows.

Here is a video created by one of the senior Music students. Unfortunately, the version embedded on his blog is cropped.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Voicethread Life

Today, I used Voicethread for the first time. Judging from the comments and reviews that I have read on various blogs, this seems to be quite a popular application. Its popularity is understandable. Voicethread allows you to upload media, such as videos, documents, photos or slideshows. Then, other users can comment on your media. Comments can be written or spoken. The users who have commented are displayed as icons in the margins of your media. Also, when someone makes a comment, they can supplement their comment with sketches on the media.

You can see for yourself what I did with my class. I posted a picture and asked the students to leave a spoken comment about the picture. I expected the students to only utter a brief word or two, but the results were pleasantly relevant and insightful.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Quebec’s Agriculture

Unit 2 of our Geography class focuses on agriculture in Quebec. I asked the students to create a website summarizing the main ideas.

The students used Weebly to create their sites. Weebly utilizes a drag-and-drop interface that makes web-authoring relatively easy.

We used Google Maps to embed a customized map showing the agricultural areas of Quebec. We used Chartle to create embedded charts.

Here is one student’s website: