Thursday, 24 October 2013

Writing Hooks

I've started a short story unit with my grade 9 English classes and am starting with the first line of a story: the hook.
As a class we've gone to the library and browsed through many books finding first lines we like and dislike. We've discussed our lines with each other and come up personal definitions of what makes a good hook. We've looked at different types of hooks and have now tried our hand at writing our own.
Our hooks are based on this idea for a story: You've inherited a mysterious object from a relative you didn't even know you had. Each of us wrote 5 hooks and chose 1 that we thought was our best. I've compiled each class' best hooks into the following forms.
We would appreciate if you could take a few minutes and give us feedback on our writing.

Class 1

Class 2

Class 3

Friday, 27 September 2013

Tournament of Words: September

Today I held my first Tournament of Words in my three grade nine English classes. I wasn't sure exactly how it would go, since it is the first of my "out there" ideas that I'm using in my class.
In reading we always come across new words. The project is to take at least one of those words, whether encountered in English class, other classes or outside school, with its context and definition, and submit it for the tournament. Students get to vote on which words they like best and each month a winner is crowned. This way when one person learns a word the whole class gets an opportunity to learn it.

I introduced this at the start of the month as a year-long activity. Since it wasn't of immediate concern a fair bunch of students promptly forgot about it. I had two words submitted by the end of last week. This Monday, I reminded them of the upcoming tournament  (AND the expectations) and have had many more submissions as the week progressed. I made a few concessions this month, since students are still learning about how this project works: scouring the dictionary was accepted and I gave some time at the start of class today.

I used to  fill the brackets and better bracket maker to conduct each tournament.

First Period
Winner: Stadstimmertuinen - found in Anne Frank's Diary.
I'm pretty sure they voted for it just because they wanted to keep hearing me struggle to pronounce it.
I was happy to see pulchritudinous get so far.
For the final vote I had everyone close their eyes and vote for the winner and then did a mystery reveal.

Fourth Period
Winner: lapping - found in Killing Mr. Griffin.
This class is pretty small, so students find two words each during the month. I added the word of the day from both Merriam Webster and to round out the tournament to 24 teams. It feels like a nicer number somehow.
One vote ended in a tie, so the contributors of Alzheimer's and xenophobia played rock-paper-scissors to determine which word advanced.

Fifth Period
Winner: wryly - found in Killing Mr. Griffin.
I thought it interested that both vehement and ardent were submitted, as the definition for each word contained the other!
There were definite favourite words in this class. All the quarter-final votes were landslides or shut outs.

Main Difficulty: None of my classes are powers of 2. For the first class I limited entries to the first 16 words submitted. In the following classes the list randomizer determined which words got byes.
I'm thinking of giving prizes to the people who contributed the winning words in hopes of getting students to submit extra entries. The more words they discover the more chances to win. After all the required entries are in, the remaining spots are first come first served until 32 words have been submitted.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Literature Playing Cards

I made these this week:
Literary Card Aces
Literary Card Faces
Literary Card Numbers
I've used papers before to sort students into groups at the start of class. Everyone either takes one as they come in or there is one at each desk. I did irreversible binomial chip flavours, ex. one person has "Salt and" the other has "Vinegar" and students had to find their partner. However; these were always hastily made before class (sometimes finished during!) and recycled shortly after. I wanted to make a permanent, more flexible solution.

Literature cards were born! This set is designed to have 36 cards, which divides easily into 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 12! I will shuffle them before class and give each student one to start and flexible grouping is a breeze.

  • I want groups of four? Everyone pair up with people with the same number.
  • Four large groups? Everyone make a group of the same suit.
  • Groups of three? Ace to 3 of Hearts here, ace to 3 of Yodas here, etc.
The backs of every card are going to evenly, and randomly be made six different colours. These colours allow me to:

  • Make groups of six.
  • Have each colour represent a certain point of view to take when responding to a text

Since I will be teaching grade 9 and 10 English this year, I want to really get my students excited for all that the world of literature has to offer. With these cards I hope to introduce students to some iconic genres and characters from literature, and hopefully make them curious too!
The traditional four suits are replaced by four genres:

  • Hearts - Romance. I chose to use Jane Austen characters and quotes.
  • Yodas - SciFi/Fantasy. I love this genre. It excites the imagination and is filled with allegory and social commentary.
  • Magnifying Glasses - Mystery/Detective. It's easy to be drawn into a Who-Done-It. Foreshadowing abounds and reading can easily be connected to the glut of crime procedurals on TV.
  • Masks - Drama. I chose Shakespeare quotes and characters since he is The icon of drama. This is language as art in an ideally non-written form.

Each genre has three face cards:

  • King - An influential male character.
  • Queen - An influential female character.
  • Joker - A fool/jokester.
I wanted to give equal weight to male and female so chose to use the joker instead of the jack, as the joker represents a different mode of being within the genre.

I will most likely have less than 36 students in my class and I'll tailor which cards I use to that number. If I have 28 students I'll remove the 5s and 6s for example.

I'm excited to give them a try. If you like the idea and want your own, click here and download them from my flickr set. They are creative commons, so please reference me and don't use them to make a profit.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Tournament of Words

I love words and learning new ones (The last new word I came across was spall.) and have been thinking of how I can bring this enthusiasm into my classroom. One of my ideas is the "Tournament of Words"
  • Each time a student encounters a new word in their reading they can submit it, with a definition and the sentence they encountered it in, to the monthly word pool.
  • At the end of every month I'd share all the entries with the class and set up a bracket.
  • Students then vote on every match up and decide which word ends up as the new word of the month.
  • At the end of the year all monthly winners compete for the title of new word of the year.
I'm hoping this gets students excited about encountering new words.

I thought of using polls, like a Google Form, for doing this, but at the school I'm at that would mean booking the laptop cart and a lot of work setting up each draw and then making new polls (in class) for every subsequent round. So, I've decided on using the old school method of hands-up voting, with a web-based bracket that can keep track of each round easily.

I did a bit of searching around and found It makes filling in brackets very easy. You type in all the entries in the first round and the rest is just clicking. Like this:
The one down side of Better Bracket Maker is that it only does powers of two: from 8 to 128. If I had 23 new words one month I'd be out of luck. So, either my timing would change from being strictly monthly to as soon as 32 words are submitted or I would have to use another site. has fillable PDF brackets from 3 to 64 entries and every number in between. I could do a 23 word draw with this site, but have to manually type each entry in each round. I don' think I mind that too much though.

Do you think students would be interested in this? How do you build enthusiasm for expanding vocabulary?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Fakebook Update

Hot on the heels of making a twitter template for character studies, I've updated my fakebook template too!
Click on the picture to download!

Twitter Novel/Character Study

You may remember my enthusiasm for Literary Tweeters. I've started working on my courses for the upcoming year and here is the twitter activity I'm going to use with a novel study. The best tweets from each year will be used in a sporcle-style twitter review quiz for the following year. The twitter feed will be used to summarize the story and the extras: bio page, following, photos and videos, ads, recommended people and trending hashtags, will be used to shed light on the character they've picked to study. As an extension I would as students to make a "# Connect" page that follows one of the trending hashtags. This page would have people their character isn't following and would provide a different perspective on what is happening in the story. 
This project is similar to a facebook character study I made to use with Macbeth, however, this project is Word-based instead of using Publisher and is easier to use and modify. 

If you'd like a copy of the template click here.

My next project is going to be to use Word to update the facebook template to the Timeline layout.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Reflecting on Reflection

Last month I tweeted a little pun:
However, it got me thinking of how these three wave phenomena actually describe reflective practice pretty well.
In physics the white areas represent a medium, be it air, water, diamond, vacuum, &c., the grey areas represent a new medium that has a different density compared to the original one. The red lines are wave rays, which represent the direction of travel of a wave, be it sound, water, light, electron, &c.
In terms of reflective practice white areas on top represent ourselves as individual teachers. The grey areas are other individuals, like colleagues, family and friends. The red wave rays represent our practice, what we think about our practice, teaching philosophy, ideas and more.

Reflection: When we reflect on something the metaphor is pretty straight forward. With waves the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection so we should be seeing what is reflected exactly as it is. This allows us to critique our practice and always work to improve. The one draw back of reflection is that it is solitary. However much and however well I reflect my practices, ideas, and philosophies stay with me.

Refraction: Waves bend at the boundary between two media and similarly our ideas and practices change when we share them with others. People can see things in ways we'd never imagine. This can help us catch flaws or turn ho-hum activities into show-stoppers. In reflection the angles don't change, but the incident and reflected angles in refraction are different, though related by Snell's Law. Relating this to reflective practice shows that when we share ideas or practices they no longer are ours. The sharing of them fundamentally alters them. They become someone else's understanding/interpretation of our idea. They experience it in a way we cannot.
The plus side is that partial reflection also occurs during refraction. Some of the wave bounces off the boundary between media. Seeing how other people react to, understand, or build upon our ideas allows us to learn things a teachers that we could never learn alone.

Diffraction: Waves bend around openings. (Try bouncing a laser off the shiny side of a CD!) Diffraction allows educators to bring their ideas to the world. Traditionally the openings allowing our ideas to bend and spread have been journals and conferences, but with the advent of the internet the opportunities for diffracting have exploded: blogging, twitter, facebook, youtube, slideshare and so many others. Making our ideas, practices and philosophies public allows for greater growth. Through feedback and interaction we get a much broader view. Tens, hundreds, or thousands of others can engage in refraction with us and show us what our ideas can become. They in turn get a new idea to reflect upon and integrate into their practice. Many people talk about bringing the world into their classroom, but we can also bring the world into our reflective practice and reap the many benefits.

I'm committed to being a reflective, refractive and diffractive educator.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Literary Tweeters

I've always liked the idea of connecting the study of literature to social media to get students to try and relate to the characters they are reading about. I've had students make facebook profiles for characters are we read through Macbeth.

I came across these two sporcle quizzes the other day and really liked them.
Macbeth does Twitter
Wuthering Heights On Twitter
These two quizzes get you to try and figure out which character would have written the tweet. I enjoyed the use of hashtags in the quizzes and the fact that the tweets are original, not just a short quote directly from the book.
They could be used as a summary or review if you studied either work, or as an activation if you were going to get students to create twitter feeds & profiles for characters in a work you are going to study.
I may make my own, but am hesitant because sporcle now has an 11 game limit. Hmm, what I think I'll do is show my students these games and introduce the twitter assignment, plus tell them that the tweets most fitting for each character will be featured in the game I make for next year's class. (Maybe I'll find a quiz/game-making site that doesn't have a restrictions by then.)

What would a tweet from your favourite literary character be?

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

8 bit drawing

I grew up playing the NES with great games like Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Blades of Steel and 8 bit art holds a special place in my heart.
Here are some great examples:

Seeing the amazing things people can do with pixels never fails to get my creative juices flowing. I wanted to make a Mario Bros. themed video featuring my brother and I, in honour of some of our travels, so I scoured the web for a way to create 8 bit avatars. I found, a promo-site for Linkin Park's 8 bit rebellion. It was pretty good. I made versions of my brother and myself and then tweaked them in paint since there were only preset skins to mix and match on the website. I found some screen shots of old NES games and added us in. Check it out.
I have now officially caught the 8 bit bug. I modified my avatar further and made an 8 bit blog header and blog button for ICTyler. I was playing around last night and thought that maybe a dedicated 8 bit drawing program existed somewhere on the internet. I searched a bit today. There was a program called PXLPNT, but its domain is for sale now, so I think it's gone belly up. However, I did find, a site made by @jennschiffer.
Fittingly, it provides 8 preset colours and lets you save your work, already in a fancy frame. You can also add custom colours if you know their hexadecimal codes. After making a few calculations, I estimate the pixel size in the final product is 25 by 25 actual pixels. It's a good size, especially if you consider how small the picture would be if you were actually drawing with a 1 by 1 pixel brush. This is a great site to play with 8 bit drawing; however, I wanted a larger canvas for some of the projects I was working on.
So, I figured out another way: Microsoft Paint! The best part of that is everyone, well everyone with windows, already has it. The new version of Paint does not include a square brush, but it does have a square eraser. The eraser is technically not an eraser at all. It just paints your secondary colour whenever you click. It just so happens, that we often leave our secondary colour the same as our base canvas colour. By modifying the secondary colour I have an easy 8 bit painting tool. Unfortunately, the eraser does not snap to predetermined squares, like make8bitart does with its brush, so you have to be careful when drawing. I use the largest eraser setting to make a large square, but it's up to your preferences. Paint lets you chose canvas size so you can make your 8 bit drawing as large or as small as your heart desires.
Here's how it looks speeded up 12 times as I make my 50th picture for my Picture a Day project:

If you're inspired to make 8 bit art by this, using one of these tools or something else, send me the link in a comment or tweet me @Tyler_JL. I'd love to see what you come up with :)

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

I4Ed Summative Project

It's not exactly a pecha kucha, but I've got 20 points and used 5 minutes.

It's been a great journey and, while it seems like the end with everyone going their separate ways student teaching and starting our careers, this is only the 1st chapter of our experience as connected educators.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Tracing: Evolved

Scarborough - 9
A new generation of tracing has arrived. No longer do we need bright lights, thick lines and translucent paper. Now all you have to do is:
  • Find the picture you want to trace.
  • Open it in an image editor or drawing program that uses layers (like GIMP or what I use to draw, MyPaint).
  • Create a new layer and make sure it is on top of the picture.
  • Pull out your digital pen and trace away!
  • When done, delete the layer that contains the original photo.
  • Click 'Save As' (so you don't over-write the original photo if it's saved on your computer) and save your tracing under a new name.
  • You've now created your own line drawing!
Super Tyler
I added a flowing cape and removed the background from the original in an attempt to make myself more heroic. I placed a line wherever there was a major colour or shade change.
I could now print this out, photocopy it and have the best colouring page of all time. Why spend hours scouring the google-net for suitable clip art? We can make our own!

DISCLAIMER: Make sure to use creative commons or public domain images to stay within the law. 
I used my own picture for this tracing example, so I don't need to credit myself.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Smarter or Dumberer

To the ancients these would represent the four elements: Earth, Water, Wind and Fire.
To me they also represent the four states of matter: Solid, Liquid, Gas and Plasma.
The ancients classified all things by their elements and we can do likewise with the states of matter. Often there is the thought that we are more advanced and more intelligent than those in antiquity. We scoff at the things they believed, their theories of the world, because we know so much better.
I don't think that's the case. Our brains aren't much different than they've ever been, so our potential for creativity and intelligence aren't any greater than the ancients'. I think the difference is our access to shared knowledge. We've never relied on just our own brains to retain all the information necessary to our lives.
We started sharing knowledge with other people: elders, physicians, butchers, etc. We didn't have to know how to set bones or dismember a cow to survive any more. We didn't get dumber. We just turned our minds to new pursuits. Then came text: scrolls, books, the printing press. Our new knowledge could be collected, stored and referenced when needed. And we didn't get dumber. Now technology and the internet has increased the amount of, and our access to, shared knowledge exponentially. We won't get dumber. Our brains are adaptable and creative. Intelligence may look different after the internet revolution, but it will not decrease.
Our ancestors were smart - We are smart - Our descendants will be smart

Movie Book Cover

045 - Inception Cover

Here is a book cover I drew for Inception. I incorporated the top, maze and layer themes. I drew it by hand and think that the hand-drawn mazes fit well, since Cobb evaluated Ariadne's skill with her ability to quickly draw mazes by hand.
I wish movie posters were like this. I'd much rather have the themes be advertised over the actors who are in the film.

The Future

Some people think the future will look like this:

or like this:

I'm a little bit more conservative on my outlook. Our imagined future always out paces what actually comes. We should have had flying cars ten years ago, but we're still struggling to break away from fossil fuels.
I browsed through last year's NMC Horizon K12 Report, a project that looks at emerging technologies and predicts when they will be used in education. It predicted cloud computing, collaborative environments, mobiles and apps, and tablet computing would be in use within the year. From what I've seen in schools, and in this class, they were right.
Click here to see what topics are being discussed for this year's report.

It's a neat exercise, so I'm going to try my hand at it.
  • 3D printing is going to become wildly popular. First in design classes like shops and drafting, then in science courses where design is part of the curriculum. I feel it just may even the playing field for sciences fairs too. Students just have to book time on the school's 3D printer and can make anything they dream up to test their question, instead of relying on materials they have access to at home.
  • I want apps to evolve. They're good and all, but I feel like they are compartmentalizing our digital experience. There's an app for this thing and an app for that thing, but you have to download each individually and they run in isolation. As we use the internet to collaborate with each other more and more, I'd like apps to multi-task and collaborate.
  • I want virtual science labs to stop. Virtual disections, CGI chemical reactions and gravity simulators are great ways to supplement labs and demonstrations, but should not replace hands on science. The scientific attitude is about questioning and testing for yourself. I realize that some schools just don't have the budget for labs, but I want to see skype, or programs like adobe connect or blackboard collaborate, step in here. Universities could partner with high schools and conduct labs over skype. Audio, video, and even data could be streamed. This way students get to see science in action instead of programming in action.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

101questions: crowd sourcing perplexity

I've followed Dan Meyer { @ddmeyer | dy/dan } for a while now. Here's his bio blurb from his blog:


I'm Dan Meyer. I taught high school math between 2004 and 2010 and I am currently studying at Stanford University on a doctoral fellowship. My hobbies include graphic design, filmmaking, motion graphics, and infographics, most of which have found their way into my practice in some way or another. My specific interests include curriculum design (answering the question, "how we design the ideal learning experience for students?") and teacher education (answering the questions, "how do teachers learn?" and "how do we retain more teachers?" and "how do we teach teachers to teach?"). I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dan has an excellent blog, but is also involved in many web projects as well. One such project caught my eye because of his tweets. Every once in a while he'd tweet a link and ask something along the lines of, "What's the first question that pops into your head when you see this?". This intrigued me. I would click on the link and be taken to 101questions. It looks something like this:

I would type in the first question that came to mind and click submit. I then get to ask a question about the next photo or video. Also, if I no question comes to mind, or item just isn't that interesting, I have the option to skip it.
This is pretty fun on its own, well at least for me, but Dan is using this to collect/create engaging and perplexing activators.
Here's how the project is described on its webstie:
We don’t care how well you lecture. We don’t care how well you engage us. We aren’t impressed by your fancy slide transitions or your interactive whiteboard. We care how well you perplex us.
Can you perplex us? Can you show us something that’ll make us wonder a question so intensely we’ll do anything to figure out the answer, including listen to your lecture or watch your slides? Here’s one way to find out. Upload a photo or a video. Find out how many of us get bored and skip it. Find out how many of us get perplexed and ask a question.
Then figure out what you’re going to do to help us answer it.
Your Students 
 I thought this was a great idea and can relate to the feeling of seeing something and just needing to know how it works, so I joined the site. I haven't put much on yet, but I've already learned some things.

  • It's called 101 questions because each post is capped at 101 questions. You ask a question about your post when you upload it and the post is capped at 100 further questions, well more like interactions. Both asking a question and skipping a question count as an interaction. The number of questions out of 100 interactions is what determines the posts perplexity. If no question comes to mind for 100 people and you get 100 skips, chances are students aren't going to be intrigued if you use that photo or video in class.
  • The question you have in mind for a particular post may not come to anyone else when they see it. This allows you to get a broader perspective and gauge what types of questions your students would be asking themselves.
This site is fun and a great way we can work together to improve our classrooms. Thanks, Dan!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Movie Travel Poster

This ds106 assignment was to create a minimalist travel poster for a location in a movie or television show. I chose a location from the funniest movie ever made. I had a lot of fun with this and will probably try to make more. I like a lot of movies and enjoy trying to figure out a simple way to capture the location.

Show&Tell: Befunky

I found trying to find a place to cartoon-ify my photos. I played around with it and like it. So here's a brief tutorial on what it can do and how to do it.

It's also available as an iOS and Android app.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Group Presentations

Presented by: Chantalle, Erin, Alaura, Carissa, Tiffany, Jocelyn
Read the backchannel discussion we had during this presentation.

Biggest Surprise: Our biggest task is going to be convincing administration that BYOD is a good idea.

- - -

The Internet: the good, the bad & the ugly
Jen, Micki, Lindsey, Tom and Nic

Biggest Surprise: Wikipedia is on the bad list?!?

- - -

Tyler, Jennifer, Lisa, Kelsey, Kirsten

Our website on How NOT to Steal from the Internet

Biggest Surprise: The internet loading and then not showing pictures.

- - -

Anna, Jen, Brooke

Biggest Surprise: That filters got so many votes in the poll.

- - -

Steve, Scott, Adrienne, Stephanie, Sarah

Biggest Surprise: That snow falls upwards in Punta Cana.

Web-Based Courses

Last week Donald Girouard & Sophia Palahicky gave my Internet for Educators course an overview of Web Based Courses.
Check out Manitoba Education's webpage for information, since this post will be primarily be reflection.

In high school I took Grade 11 Pre-Calculus online. I must have been on the cutting edge of change, considering I graduated 10 years ago. There were modules to read through, weekly assignments to complete, online, timed tests and a final exam. Thinking back I think the assignments and tests were based on web forms: I could click the appropriate bubble in a multiple choice or fill in text box. I don't think it was the best option for me. Not having a living person to be accountable to, and remind me of when things were do, I did a large percentage of the reading and work last minute. Compounding this was the fact that homework assignments were out of five, so a small error on one of the questions could cost you 20% on the assignment. I don't remember communicating with the instructor or fellow students very much, if I did at all. The final exam was in person, in my school division office no less! I got a final grade of 72% in this course and am still sketchy on some aspects of the geometry of circles. I feel I would have achieved better if I had been in  the face-to-face option of this class, though I think it conflicted with another course I was taking, considering I got 99% next year in Grade 12 Pre-Calculus.

However, web based courses are much different now! Here's a run down on the types of courses offered in Manitoba on an interactivity scale.

There is much more technology available to bring teacher and peer interaction into online courses. IITV utilizes audio/video conferencing. Skype and Google Hangouts enable students to connect with each other outside of school. I could go on and on.

Some key points from the presentation that highlight the changes in WBCs since my day:

  • New WBCs are designed for interaction.
    • Journalling, discussions, blogs, wikis, chat,...
  • Written for students.
  • Predominately asynchronous, but can be synchronous, say using a tutoring session.
  • Teachers have designer access to the courses.

I'm excited about the ability to modify and/or add to the courses. Knowing that all students, and therefore all classrooms, are unique, having the ability to tweak a course to fit your students' needs is very beneficial.

Web based and distance learning courses are used for many reasons. We brainstormed some as a class during the presentation:

  • Small schools can combine to offer courses they would not 
  • Help for students with extended absences.
  • When f2f courses are in the same slot.
  • University entrance course that may not be offered f2f.
  • Credit Recovery.

Take Aways

  • An asynchronous course must have an accompanying f2f time slot. You cannot be given a full teaching schedule, plus a WBC.
  • WBC will NOT replace teachers. (I was unable to take German in high school, because of low enrollment. Therefore no teacher was payed to teach it. If interested students could take it via the web, it would be a job created for a teacher!)
  • Have to update the courses as internet standards are updated: HTML5, Mobile,...
  • We can have access to WBCs as a resource to use in our f2f classes!
  • Communication is key. Call students. Visit their school. Use available web 2.0 tools.

Doodle Notes: Internet

A week ago we had a discussion about the nature of the internet. Is it democratic or oppressive? Freeing or confining? There are arguments for and against both sides. 

Here are some of the things we talked about as pictures:
doodle, internet, free internet, open internet,
The democratic, open and free aspect of the internet.
doodle, big brother, internet,
The regulated, monitored, and monetized aspect of the internet.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

My Favourite Line

I was inspired to try this assignment by a post by @kaits_.
This is probably my favourite line from any song. It's in The Only Living Boy in New York by Simon & Garfunkel. It reminds me of all the things I have to smile about.
I like how the black background provides high contrast and I chose red and white for the text because those are the colours of a smile. I wanted to play up the alliteration in "to do today" so I used short lines. I also tried to make smile look as much like a smile as I could.
Try it yourself here!

Random Album

Presenting the latest album by List of Bridges in Burma! The Support of Paul was two years in the making and is sure to be treasured by both fans and music lovers everywhere.
This assignment was fun. I loved the randomness of it. However, I did modify it slightly. The random photo I found on flickr was all rights reserved, so I searched one of its tags on the creative commons modifiable search. This way I was able to modify and tweak in good conscience.
Go to to make your own!

Doodle Notes: Byte 2013 Keynote

I am very visual learner and frequently take lectures notes entirely in doodles. I also convert any written notes into pictures when studying for tests and exams. If I can represent something as a picture I am better able to remember it. A while back I shared some of my doodle-notes in a post and a member of the Byte Committee, Andy McKiel, saw it AND liked it.
He asked me if I'd like to doodle the keynote address by Clarence Fisher. I said yes, I even have my markers! I spent the night in nervous anticipation. I had never been up in front of so many people before, but I told myself that I was just taking notes and that I wouldn't be the focus. That helped.
I was nervous, but when Clarence started talking it came naturally. I was focused on what he was saying and what that looked like. When I'm doodling live I tend to go from left to right and then top to bottom, as if I'm writing. This helps me maximize the space and keep the flow of ideas intact. If I'm converting from notes or slides I'm a little more fluid in my doodle structure.  It was a lot of fun.
I was lucky to have a friend photo-documenting my doodle process, so I'll let the pictures take over from my words from here on out.


Click here to see and hear Clarence's talk.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

And the winner is...

All the votes have been tallied and the keyboard is victorious! The spider web was the clear loser, with no votes, but perhaps it'll make a comeback as a Hallowe'en themed badge...

Here's the code to add it to your blog:
<a href=""><img src="" alt="#I4Ed" width="205" height="79" border="0"></a><br />
<a rel="license" href=""><img alt="Creative Commons Licence" style="border-width:0" src="" /></a>
<font size="-2">thanks to <a href="">o_o</a></font>
And here's how to add it to your blog. (If you use blogger, sorry Wordpress-ers.)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


Before starting my Internet for Educators course I had some experience with podcasts, well with one in particular: LibriVox. LibriVox is a project to make digital audio recordings of books in the public domain. I find books on tape/cd/mp3 are great for keeping me alert (a.k.a. engaged) while driving so I have a fair collection of LibriVox audiobooks in my collection, including Pride and Prejudice and The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. If you are doing a novel study of a literary classic, check to see if it is in the public domain and then check to see if there is a LibriVox version of it. It's a great way to support students who struggle with reading.
All recordings are done by volunteers and in sections. Sometimes this leads to some discontinuity when the readers change throughout the course of a novel.

I also started exploring some other podcasts as part of I4Ed. Here's a science themed one to satisfy both sides of my nature.

Everyday Einstein's Quick and Dirty Tips for Making Sense of Science

  • Audio only
  • The majority fall between 4 and 6 minutes in length.
  • Range of scientific topics
    • What is density?
    • Why do we yawn?
    • The basics of pH
  • Uses ordinary analogies to illuminate complex concepts.
    • The Higgs field as a mall food court, with people handing out free samples. Particles are the mall patrons, the Higgs boson the free samples. Some particles take more free samples than others and thus are more massive than peckish particles.
  • One downside is that there is an advertisement in every podcast and since they are already relatively short the ads quickly become frustrating.

I am going to keep investigating podcasts and will share any good ones I find.

Classroom Video

I'm going to start by letting everyone know that I'm incredibly biased when it comes to video. I've lead two video making/editing projects with grade 7s and a professional development session at BU on making video in class. Making videos also makes up a significant portion of my spare time. If you click here you can see my previous thoughts on video use in the classroom.

I AM going to use videos in my classroom:

- "Educational" videos, like the Perimeter Institute's Challenge of Quantum Reality.

- YouTube videos, like
To provide students with another way of looking at the course material. 
Video can often be a great activator, too. I used this playlist
when going through Macbeth in my second placement. When we finished an Act students got time to work on their ongoing Macbeth project, a facebook profile for a main character. So, before we started reading the next act I played a brief summary of the previous act from this playlist. This got them back into the story and also showed them how other students around the world have interpreted the play.

- My videos, like

- And most importantly, I'm going to get students to make their own videos together. Video making incorporates teamwork, storytelling, critical thinking, ICT and fun.
My dream ELA project is this:
Thanks to Lisa for hashing this out with me last year.
We would study a novel and create a collector's/special edition box set of a video adaptation. It's all the language arts in one project! It would be filled with varied writing tasks: A summary and blurbs promoting the film on the back jacket, critical responses to the novel, film-maker's diary, the script. There would be representation tasks to: cover art, concept art, storyboards, back jacket thumbnails. And then the videos! There would be the feature, a making-of featurette, cast and crew interviews, bloopers (you HAVE to have bloopers, but including them on a separate DVD means half the feature doesn't get taken up with bloopers), deleted scenes, perhaps even a few versions of theatrical trailers and promos.
I feel like using video this way would get students excited to create and maybe even excited to write an essay if it would be part of their very own special edition DVD! Also, to make a video adaptation of a novel requires a thorough understanding of the novel itself: themes, imagery, character, plot.

So I say yes to using videos in class, especially if you can use video to complement other modes of representing.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Blog Badges

I've made a few badges that we can all put on our blogs to let others know that we're a part of #I4Ed!





Let's vote on which one we want to be the official badge for our class. I will write out html code for the winning badge and distribute it to everyone. Check out my side bar to see what a finished badge will look like.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


According to infographic is not a word, but I have a feeling that it will be soon. If you google it you get 50.4 million hits.
Simply put infographics combine information with graphics. They are an aesthetically pleasing way to present often complex ideas and information.
I think infographics are a great fit for the classroom. They help differentiate and reach multiple learning styles by being linguistic, visual, and logical/mathematical.

Making them can be a challenge. Either you meticulously collect data and spend hours upon hours drawing it out yourself or you turn to the internet.
I started trying to make my own, but ain't nobody got time for that, so I began scouring the internet for infographic creation sites. I chose to experiment with two of them: & offers a visual resume, editable venn-a-gram, and eight themed infographics. The venn-a-gram allows you to put your own data into a bunch of different venn diagrams. The remaining options require you to link a social networking account with, including Twitter, facebook and linkedin. collects and displays your social data for you, which eliminates the most painful part of infographic creation: the data collection. However, you give access to your data by doing this and I'm not entirely sure if I like that. For instance you give them permission to follow people as you, while I'm sure this is just limited to them getting you to follow their twitter account, it freaks me out. The "You are what you Tweet" and "Life of a Hashtag" infographics on the left I made with They are pretty spiffy. Sometimes they worked well, but it took me over 40 tries to make the "Life of a Hashtag" for #I4Ed. It was very frustrating. This, combined with the sketchy permissions I have to grant to make infographics, has lead me to revoke all access visually has to my Twitter accounts. I wouldn't use it again, even though they make snazzy infographics.
I didn't want to make a new account at yet another new website, so I signed into with my Twitter account. The permissions request aren't as scary as's and if I don't want to sync accounts I don't have to. I can create my own account. offers six templates that are customizable with various text styles, chart types, timers, maps, pictures, and videos. You can input the data yourself or upload it from a spreadsheet file on your computer. Admittedly, infographics don't have the pizazz that the ones do. However, you can make infographics about anything with, instead of limiting yourself to social data. Below I have given the highlights of my life in writing. I like and will continue visualizing data with it.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Revisiting Twitter

Some time ago I talked about Twitter. I wrote about how I love it for breaking news, lists and links. I've tweeted just over 500 times since my first post and I feel differently about Twitter now.
I still like the instantaneous newsroom. I was able to get first hand accounts of the earthquake and tsunami scare on the West Coast a few months back for at least an hour before any news networks had any coverage. During the NHL lockout hashtags, like #podiumwatch, kept me up to date, and laughing about, the progress of any upcoming press conferences.
I barely use lists anymore. I still have them, but I find that I barely go to them. I just scroll through my feed. Having reread my feelings about lists from a year ago, perhaps I'll work to get back in the habit.
I feel that I appreciate link sharing even more now. When I started I was mainly following education companies, sports organizations and personalities and friends. Through professional development, courses and twitter itself I have made connections with many individual educators. So many people have an open learning philosophy and share links to things they find useful. I have found them very useful and have been working to share my fair share in return.
Even better than the links are the relationships. Many people feel that the internet isn't real and doesn't count some how, but it's just a new way to get to know people. The glimpses I see of the attitudes, philosophy and professionalism of experienced educators, 140 characters at a time, are a great example and have helped me grow as an educator. I can thank someone for sharing a link or skyping with my class and start a new relationship. I've been able to encourage colleagues to start Tweeting and see them find new ways to improve their teaching. Twitter started as a place I found things - news, scores, resources, but is now a place where I am able to share and learn with people.
I look forward to staying in touch with everyone in the Internet for Educators class throughout our careers with our class hashtag and plan to continue to meet more people and share my learning, successes, struggles and stuff!
Hashtags I use often: #I4Ed #PictureADay #etmooc #6wordstories
Some good hashtags to follow: #edchat #comments4kids #mbedu

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Sunday, 3 February 2013


I have the AVS suite of multimedia software and made this animated gif with the image converter. Click here to see how.
It was cold outside when we took these, but now she'll be forever swinging!

Character Study Idea

How well do our students know the characters in the novels they are reading, or the historical figures they are studying? We could ask them to write a report or an essay, but what about getting our students to choose the character's theme song?
For example:
copyright Archie Comics

It would get students to engage with characters in new ways and forge connections between literature, or history, and their interests.

What would your favourite character's theme song be?

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Personality, Learning and Digital Identity

George Couros { @gcouros | } skyped in to share with our class this week. George is now, as I understand it, a principal of principals and advocates for connected and collaborating educators at all levels.
Some of us were Tweeting George in advance and George used this to talk about how people are more willing to connect with all levels of educators now. New teachers used to be wary, perhaps afraid, of reaching out to the big, scary principal, but the internet and our connected culture has flattened the hierarchy.
George shared two things with us: the qualities he looks for in a teacher and what we can do to make ourselves more employable.

Teacher Qualities
  • Make use of our unprecedented opportunity to tap into the experience of others. Connect, connect, connect and never be afraid to ask for help if we're struggling.
  • Do what we love and share it with our students. We connected with our favourite teachers on a level outside of academia. 
  • Be yourself! We used to be advised to separate our professional and personal selves, but students know when we are being disingenuous. George advises merging our professional and personal selves and we should. I've already met students at the mall and at the movies. When they see me, they see their teacher. If I'm a different person in these circumstances it affects my credibility in the classroom. We need to bring ourselves into our classrooms (I like to wear my geeky ties, shirts and belt buckles) and we need to keep our professionalism outside the classroom. Perhaps we should start calling teaching a perfession and refer to ourselves as prosons?
  • Curriculum follows Connection. Building connections with our students is most important. We don't teach the curriculum. The curriculum is a book. It can't learn anything. We teach kids and kids thrive on relationship.
  • Develop a love of learning.
    • Embody it! Be a life-long learner, even if it is difficult, because if we give up on learning something, we model that for our students. 
    • We need to take feedback and try to improve.
    • Show our learning in our portfolio, not just our work.
    • Don't just teach kids school, help them learn to love to learn.
  • Use learning goals over performance goals. No grades, no awards. George recommended Drive by Daniel H. Pink to our class to learn about motivation.
  • Digital Leadership - use social media, technology to better the lives of others.
  • Be passionate about what we teach. Passion is a virus and is highly contagious.
  • Be school teachers instead of classroom teachers. Many people just work with their group of students and don't interact with any other students in the school. Be part of the community. Treat all the students in the school as if they were in your classroom. Look at duty as a way connect with more students.
  • Strong communication skills. Don't email angry! George shared how he would handle students who came to him for discipline. He'd get them to tell him why they were there and get them to suggest appropriate consequences. He also phoned parents with the student present, which prevented students from giving another story to parents once they went home. 
Helping Ourselves
  • What is out there? Be aware of our digital footprint. Our tweets are public and we will be googled, yahooed, and binged every which way be prospective employers. Who we are online can make or break us. In George's schools students were starting digital portfolios in kindergarten.
  • What am I saying about myself? Proofread my resume and never exagerate or hyperbolize.
  • Put my website, blog, twitter account, etc. inside my resume. Providing my online presence right away shows that we are confident in our digital selves and prevents any misunderstandings over namesakes who may be doing unprofessional, or even illegal, things online.
Awesome thought - Move from problem solvers to problem finders. Don't give "real world" problems but get students to find problems in the world and then work to solve them.