Monday, April 26, 2010


Times have changed.

When I was in high school, I did the work that was assigned to me. If I did not finish it in class, then I finished it at home. End of story. I would not think of not doing my work. My parents would be upset and they would punish me. I would not think of blaming the teacher for my poor mark. My parents would laugh at me, then they would get upset and punish me.

More than once this year, I have received unhappy emails from parents who demand to know why I am giving their child bad marks. The parents accuse me of being unfair, doing a poor job, not motivating their child, and generally failing their child. Evidently, these particular children go home and tell their parents that they are doing poorly in school because I am a bad teacher. What these kids don't tell their parents is that they fool around in class, socialize, and don't do their work. The parents are quick to believe and to defend their children.

It is a bit insulting to have to defend myself when a student makes up lies to cover their own poor behaviour and performance. But, it seems, for many, that is the modern culture in which we live. Make excuses, point fingers, and pass the buck.

I have a son in elementary school. When he is doing his homework, I must frequently remind him to stay on task. This is understandable. He is a child who cannot perceive the long-term benefits of being educated.

My senior group of students ranges in age from 14 to 18. I thought, optimistically, and erroneously, that I would be able to give them their assignments, and that they would complete their work autonomously. I thought that, as teenagers, they would understand the benefits of educating themselves. Or, at the very least, they would be motivated to achieve good grades on their report cards. I thought that they would understand the correlation between working hard and achieving good marks. I thought that if I let them stand on their own, then they would learn to work independently, and they would have to take responsibility for their own successes or failures. For some of them, I was wrong.

Some students do not care whether they pass or fail. If I leave them to do the work independently, then they simply do not do the work. So, then, they get a failing mark on their report card, and they have to face the music. Right? Wrong. For some students, if they get a failing mark on their report card, then the parents blame me, the teacher. The student is not held responsible.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Traveler IQ

Traveler IQ is a fun educational game. Players must locate specified cities and landmarks on a map. There are many categories from which to choose, such as, Europe, North America, World Capitals, and Photos of the World.

The questions become increasingly difficult. After you have missed a given number of miles, your game is over. Then, you are presented with a traveler IQ score and a badge which can be embedded on a blog or website. Unfortunately, the embed code does not function with Blogger.


Lifeyo is a website that allows users to create their own website. It features an easy to use interface. In Geography, the students used Lifeyo to create a web page advertising one of Canada's national parks. Here are a few examples:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3


The website 280Slides is an online, simplified version of Microsoft PowerPoint.

I asked my students to use this website to create a presentation. Many of the students complained that the website was unbearably slow. Eventually, I conceded that they could use Microsoft PowerPoint instead, and then use to host their presentation.

One student successfully managed to use 280Slides to create this presentation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

30 Second Slideshow

In Music, the students created music videos.

I found two websites that complement each other because they both allow for 30 second productions.

Students used the website MyBytes, which has an online Music Mixer, to create a 30 second MP3.

Then, they uploaded their song to Animoto. Animoto allows users to create a 30 second slideshow for free. Animoto has a library of video clips and photos available.

Here are a few of the results.

Create your own video slideshow at

Create your own video slideshow at

Create your own video slideshow at

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I use ClassMarker in all my classes. It is an excellent free resource.

ClassMarker allows educators to create online exams. Students are added to classroom accounts and their test scores are stored for the teacher.

ClassMarker allows teachers to embed photos and videos in their questions. So, one can create a question such as this:

ClassMarker has many customizable options. For example:

* Choose what learners will see after completion (score, score with answer, etc.)
* Give questions in random order
* Allow learners to go back
* Time limit
* Allow multiple attempts

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pen & Paper

At the beginning of this school year, one of my goals was to delimit the usage of paper as much as possible. Ideally, I envisioned a paper-free classroom.

However, experience has suggested to me that it is unwise to promote such a drastic revolution.

My students are accustomed to working with pen and paper. Many of them feel comfortable with this medium.

It is beneficial for the kids to read from a paper and not always from a screen; to write with a pencil and not always with a keyboard. Cursive is a dying art. It would be unfortunate to witness the art of printing follow the same demise.

There needs to remain a balance between traditional methods and emerging methods of communication.

With this in mind, I present Mr. Dowling's website. This site has a great collection of printable worksheets concerning various history topics. Each package consists of a study guide, which is a brief overview of the topic, accompanied by corresponding questions.

I printed Mr. Dowling's study guide for Ancient Rome. It includes a five page synopsis of the era, along with about 80 questions based on information found within the reading. The questions promote a nice blend of thinking skills: from basic fact finding to applied reasoning.

Photo by Ocell.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


There are many websites that advertise real-time collaboration facilities that will allow multiple editors to work on a project simultaneously.

I thought it would be a good idea to utilize a collaborative website to have the students practice cooperating.

My first foray into this field was a disaster.

The website I chose to use was Nota.

I instructed the students to form groups of two or three, create accounts at Nota, and then collaboratively produce a poster. In theory, one user creates a new page and then invites editors to join.

About half the invited students were not able to edit the page. They simply received a message that said, "You are not allowed to edit this page." For everyone else, the changes they made to the page did not appear on the other students' screens. For whatever reason, the collaboration mechanism did not function.

I was obliged to abandon the assignment.

Photo by Vurnman.


The students used a website called Moonfruit to author their own web pages.

Moonfruit has a nice interface, simple yet with many options. The downside is that Moonfruit only allows users to create a single website. For me, this is not problematic, because I prefer to have the students utilize as many different web authoring tools as possible, as opposed to specializing on a single platform.

Our topic was "Protected Territories." There are six categories of protected territories. On their websites, the students created a title page, and then a separate page for each of the six territory types.

Each page includes a description of the territory, plus a video representing the territory.

I did not want the students to embed the YouTube videos directly because anything longer than a dozen seconds is redundant. Therefore, they used a website called TubeChop to shorten the videos. TubeChop allows users to chop a smaller section from anywhere in a YouTube video and then embed the resultant clip. Rather handy, indeed.

Here a few student productions:

Website 1

Website 2

Website 3