Readability: Declutter Webpages For Easy Reading

Roaming Educator screencast episode 1: Readability

[vodpod id=Video.3687991&w=425&h=350&]

more about “Roaming Educator Screencast 1: Readab…“, posted with vodpod

Thanks to Jane’s Pick Of The Day, Jane Hart, I recently stumbled across browser add-on tool, Readability and I think it could have a profound impact on my learner’s ability to read cluttered webpages without being distracted.

All too often I’ve observed my learner’s distracted by a myriad of visual stimulants when trying to read online text, particularly when reading news online.  Readability is a simple tool which can be installed on the most popular browsers: Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.

Once installed, see tutorial above, one click of Readability button located in the toolbar area of your browser quickly removes all the distractions and presents the cleaned-up text in a format of your choice.  Your learner’s will be able to read online without being distracted and without the possibility of viewing inappropriate and unregulated content.

Give and try and let me know what you think.

Guest Post: Netbooks In The Classroom

Thank you to @MissBartel for being the first guest blogger to appear on Roaming Educator. You can reach Miss Bartel at suzannebartel (at) gmail (dot) com.

You can read the full article here: My Experience With Netbooks In The Classroom

Here’s the blog friendly version of My Experience With Netbooks In The Classroom:

Having a 30 netbooks in my classroom has increased not only my students engagement in learning but my own as well.  Seeing the students so excited about learning is inspiring. The netbooks have changed the way I teach and put ongoing professional development consistently at my fingertips.

Here is a summary of some of my challenges, successes and suggestions from the past year:


  • District Policy: My biggest challenge with the netbooks has been having to go through our District Tech team for any changes and updates.  As tech is not a priority in my district, many of these roles have been cut and the tech budget has been discarded.  I wait up to 3/4 months just to have a ‘flash’ application added or updated on the netbooks.  I meet a lot of resistance in this area – when I have a problem (like the sluggishly slow wireless speed when all 30 computers are being used) that If know is easily fixed, I am told that there is no solution and no attempt is made to help out.  It would be great if the District was willing to give the ‘Tech Teacher’ on each staff the ability to make some of these simple changes.
  • Windows Updates: Window’s updates now need to be initiated by us on each computer and this takes a lot of time.  (this ties into the District Policy challenge)
  • Screen Size: Small screens make ‘artistic endeavours’ such as movie making or picture editing difficult.
  • Internet Expectations: Setting clear expectations of allowable websites for students and maintaining this expectation for all students.
  • Staff Buy-in: Although It’s wonderful having the netbooks in my classroom all the time, I would love to see other teachers embrace them as well.  It has been a challenge to gain staff acceptance of this new technology available to them.

Greatest Successes

  • – I stumbled upon this website in my search for tips on teaching online safety.  Small groups of students interact through ’email like messages’ with ‘experts’ in the UK in regards to Internet Safety, Bullying and other topics like this.  I’ve never seen my class so engaged in reading, writing, collaborating and oral discussion with their peers.  An amazing experience!
  • Blogging with KidBlog – – A great place to host student blogs.  You can change the settings so that all comments/blogs must be approved by the teacher.  Very engaging for students.
  • Student Collaboration with Primary Pad – – I used Primary Pad as a collaboration tool with in my class as well as with a class in the UK.  The two classes were able to communicate and complete projects together using this website.
  • Professional Development
    • – This blog has a newsletter that you can sign up for that I have found extremely usefully.  Once a week they email you a newsletter about one web tool to use in your classroom.  It gives you step by step instructions that are easy to follow.  They’ve given me some great ideas for the classroom.
    • Twitter – I mentioned earlier, this is a great way to gain endless resources to use with your class.
  • Google Wow!  This has opened up my world of collaboration with students and colleagues!  I’ve used it to plan team teaching for engaging lesson with a colleague.  Students create their projects on here and then share them with me.  I edit student writing on Google docs, create online quizzes, teach data management using the forms, create online worksheets for students to complete – the possibilities are endless!
  • Other – other tools I’ve enjoyed using – Wordle, Voicethread, Rhyming Poetry, and Scratch (free animation creation software)

Suggestions for schools interested in using Netbooks

  • Bandwidth – Consider that you will have 30 students using wireless internet at the same time and make sure you have enough bandwidth to make this feasible    .
  • Permission to Change Netbooks – Have a staff member who has admin permissions and is capable of installing simple programs onto the netbooks all at once (ie. Windows updates, flash, screen readers, and open-source software etc…
  • Student Passwords – Use simple passwords for students!  This is important for primary students
  • Transportation of Computers – House the netbooks on a portable cart so that they are easily transported around the school and can be easily charged at the same time.
  • Teacher Training – Give a school-wide workshop about basics in teaching students how to use the netbooks or have a staff member go around to each class and team teach to help encourage others to use netbooks.  Not all teachers are comfortable with new technology and need to be shown how to use the technology and why it will be useful in their classes.

Fractions Lesson… Argh!

After recently delivering a disastrous split-grade (4/5) lesson on ordering and comparing fractions, I decided I needed a little extra help.  It wasn’t so much the lack of time to prepare, or that I was filling in for another teacher.  Nor was it the range of abilities in the class.  It was mainly the materials and manipulative’s available combined with some questionable directions and vocabulary in the supporting text, Math Makes Sense.  Don’t get me wrong I like Math Makes Sense and I use it regularly.  I’ve come to terms with it limitations and I typically adapt and supplement when needed.  If I had the following documents below at the time of teaching the lesson I’m sure it would have run a little smoother.  Hope they help should you choose to use them:

Useful blackline masters when teaching fractions:

Absolutely Love The Idea Of E-ngage Live!

I’m about to experiment with E-ngage Live and it may well blow my Health and Career Education Planning lessons into the ionosphere!

E-ngage Live caught my eye with its slogan, “Bringing the community into the classroom…”  It has always been important for me to connect my learner’s with their community at every opportunity.  It is the community, after all, who will employing them later in life.  Over the years I’m found that my learner’s become complacent or isolated in school and on occasion have difficulty seeing the bigger picture.  Inviting community members into schools helps combat this.

E-ngage Live provides a secure environment for students of all ages to practice strategies that they will need in the community.  What sets it apart from other educational platforms is it’s ability to connect small groups of students to highly skilled professional community members and subject-area specialists across the globe.

It is hoped that by participating in an event, learner’s make sense of the community they live in and the problems they face on a daily basis. It is marketed as cross-curricular giving education relevance and authenticity.

In the past E-ngage Live has facilitated student collaboration on a variety of topics including, citizenship, Internet safety, and road safety.  In the future, events are planned to cover topics such as, bullying, drug and alcohol issues, and environmental issues.

It was relatively easy to sign up for an account and now I’m patiently waiting to hear back.  I’ll be sure to let you know how things go.

Technology Hurdles In Canadian Education

The Canadian education system is struggling to deal with the speed and complexity of our digital age.  In some instances it looks like decision makers view technology as a passing fad that will eventually be replaced.  They’re sadly mistaken!  Canadian educator’s and the institutions which support them need to change.  The biggest change needs to be a shift in teaching pedagogy.  Educators need to move away from acting as content deliverer’s to acting as content facilitator’s in order to engage the digital learners we see in our classroom’s today.  These are some of the challenges technology savvy educators experience in Canada:

  1. Canada’s Privacy Act combined with the U.S. Patriot Act makes it difficult for Canadian educator’s to take advantage of the latest web2.0 tools with their learners.  The Canadian government doesn’t allow educators to store any type of student information on servers outside of the Canada.  You can see the disadvantage our learners face over those south of the border.  Our learners are unable to take advantage of many collaborate tools such as Google Apps, Skype, social-bookmarking, RSS feeds, blogging software, and any other web2.0 tool which requires email registration.
  2. From a more local perspective I’m not convinced School District’s put a high enough priority on finding the right people to run and maintain their IT departments.  I realize it’s a difficult task keeping current with the latest software and hardware, but the days of spending thousands of dollars on licences for Microsoft Word are gone.  Cloud computing is the future and our IT department’s need to support teacher’s with their needs.
  3. The fear of student’s owning email addresses exhibited by superintendent’s and administration’s is difficult to understand, and even more difficult to explain away when student’s ask, “Why can’t we just create Gmail accounts?”  Creating or migrating to a new email server is time-consuming I agree, but the desire to move with any type of forward momentum seems to be drastically lacking.
  4. Funding for technology and technology integration in Canadian public schools is within the control of each school.  Clearly it’s not working!  I feel there needs to be a standard established, and maintained, for technology hardware in our elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.  The days of taking classes down to the computer lab, filled with outdated and poorly maintained machines, to work on typing skills should be a thing of the past, but it’s not.  It’s the reality in many schools.  The shift needs to be made from using technology as an add on to the tools we use to get things done.  Netbooks, interactive whiteboards, electronic projectors, and freedom to use web2.0 tools should be the norm in classroom’s throughout Canada, not the exception.

Solutions to these issues need to be sort before we lose a generation of learner’s to boredom.  Is it possible that in the future, if we don’t address the technology divide, that some students will opt to educate themselves and severely impact public education as we know it?

8 Ways To Keep Current With Technology and Technology Integration In The Classroom

8 Ways To Keep Current With Technology and Technology Integration In the Classroom

  1. Create a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and use technology as a method of communicating, collaborating and sharing ideas.  Your PLN may be local: educators in your school, nearby schools, or district wide. Alternatively, you may also decide to develop a virtual or global PLN using social networks such as Twitter , Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0, or for Canadian content CEET.
  2. Use a social networking tool such as Twitter to communicate with other education professionals.  Twitter is a micro-blogging web2.0 tool where education professionals share ideas, resources, ask for help, and provide opportunities to collaborate.  Updates, or Tweets as they are known, are restricted to 140 characters.  Therefore communication is to-the-point.  To find education professionals already using Twitter follow the link:
  3. Participated in Twitter chat such as #edchat – a weekly discussion about education issues at 4pm PST on Tuesday’s, or #teachertuesday
  4. Use an RSS reader such as Google Reader.  An RSS reader brings all your favourite blogs to you instead of having to go out to the Internet to view them.  Once you’ve subscribed to some educational technology blogs, you can share your feeds with other educators.  My Shared Google Reader Feeds
  5. Take advantage of social bookmarking.  Social bookmarking tools such as Diigo and Delicious allow users to store their bookmarks on the web, which makes them accessible from any computer with an Internet connection.  Additionally, these tools allow users to share bookmarks with others.  In other words, if you find a great resource site and you’d like to share with your PLN you can do so with one click of the mouse.  A very powerful tool in the PLN arsenal.
  6. Participate in Virtual Professional Development (VPD).  Sometimes as educators we need to take control of our own learning because our Districts are unable to provide differentiated professional development for all teachers.  With this in mind, I’ve found workshops, webinar’s, and webcast’s covering a wide range of technology related topics everyday of the week.  Here is a link to view upcoming events.
  7. Join and participate in technology Ning’s, Wiki’s, and blogs.  These spaces are kept current by educators who believe technology integration should be the norm and not an add on.  Here are links to my technology Ning’s, Wiki’s, and some excellent technology blogs.
  8. Take some time to share your ideas with other teachers in your school.  Soon you’ll be learning from them.  Sharing and learning with and from others educators makes it easier to keep current with technology and technology integration in the classroom.

Engrade Canada: Turn Your Gradebook Online

I’ve struggled to find a suitable gradebook over the years.  What I look for in a gradebook is one which I can keep my marks up-to-date from more than one location, to calculate percentages based on my criteria, that is easily editable, and easy to use.  I’ve experimented with excelGradekeeper, and even old-fashioned paper without success.

Engrade meets all my needs and hopefully yours too.  Engrade Canada is hosted on servers in Canada and meets Canadian privacy laws.  More importantly Engrade Canada avoids U.S. Patriot laws.  This free online web service is marketed as a complete online classroom complete with gradebook, attendance, assignment calendar, progress reports, and safe online-messaging.

Primarily I use Engrade as an online gradebook because our secretary takes care of the attendance piece.  Next year I plan to utilize the assignment calendar and progress reports.  It’s so much more than a online gradebook though.  It’s possible for students and parents to login and view upcoming and outstanding assignments.  It also allows parents and students to see grades throughout the year.

As with all web2.0 tools it’s a really simple process to sign-up for an account.  Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.  I’d love to hear from you.  For those outside of Canada click here Engrade U.S.

Attending Moodle Conference: Cell Phones and Mobile Devices in the Classroom

Welcome back!  This week I’m participating in a week long Moodle conference on the topic of ‘Cell Phones and Mobile Devices in the Classroom.’  The conference runs from April 19 – April 24.  My personal goal at the end of this conference is decide whether or not using cell phones or other digital/Wi-Fi devices in the classroom can be successful and, engage my learners more, and really contribute to a more collaborative classroom.

I really like this video as an introduction to the cell phone culture that already exists in our schools:

Here are a couple of cell phone in the classroom article to wet your appetite:

BCTF: To Ban or Not To Ban

  • In this article the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation attempts to open the discuss around cell phone use in school.  At this point it doesn’t seem to have formed an opinion.

CBC: Toronto students banned from using cellphones in schools.

  • Appears as though all Toronto public schools have a cellphone ban in effect, voted on by the Toronto District School Board Trustees.  I’m not sure of a lot of things with this topic but I am sure of one thing.  An outright ban on cell phones in schools will not work!

CBC: Cellphone Jamming Principal Forced to Retreat at B.C. High School.

  • Nice Try Mr. Steven Gray but that’s illegal in Canada.  How did the school district communicate with the school’s administration and how did the staff deal with the block?

It appears as those some school districts in B.C. have developed specific cell phone policies for their schools to follow.  My district,SD33, doesn’t seem to have any such policy…yet.

SD5, SD35, and SD73

As the dialogue continues and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Using YouTube To Enhance Your PLN

Yesterday I set up a YouTube account with my Gmail address and created my own YouTube channel:

One of my goals for the channel is to create content to share with my PLN.  I intend to create short video’s of successful lessons, webcast’s to introduce and highlight new web 2.0 tools, video of students demonstrating effective use of technology in the classroom to, and examples of how to turn ‘offline’ activities ‘online’ to name a few.  I also plan to use the channel as place to store video’s that enhance my own professional development.  In other words, store and view video’s from educational experts I respect and follow.

Once you’ve created your YouTube channel you’re able to subscribe to other people’s channels.  In keeping with my theme of professionalism I only follow other educators or those closely connected to education.  When you’ve found the people you like to follow you can also invite people to follow you, through email.  Give permission, YouTube can access your email address book and contact some or all on the list, inviting them to follow you.

Here’s a couple of video’s that I found recently and remind me why it’s important to use technology in my classroom and move from deliverer of content to facilitator of content:

Virtual Professional Development (VPD)

Since immersing myself in the Twitterverse I’ve developed an educational voice and have been exposed to a wide array of Virtual Professional Development (VPD) opportunities.  If the right professional development opportunities are not offered at the right time in your school district, then the following post will be of significant importance to your development as an educator.  What I like most about Virtual Professional Development (VPD) is the freedom to choose exactly what I’d like to learn about.

VPD’s come in a variety of forms including email distribution,  webinar’s (web conference usually one way conversation, from speaker to audience), and webcast’s (webcast’s allow for collaborative participation through interactive video, audio, and chat.  Communication is often two-way)

Literally there are VPD’s happening every night of the week somewhere in North America, covering a variety of topics from “Setting Up A Classroom Blog”, “A Fresh Look at Teaching The Diary of Anne Frank,” to “Learning How To Use The Latest Web2.0 Tools.”  I’d like to share a couple of recurring VPD’s I attend regularly with you today in the hope you’ll take the time to check them out and finally work professional development around your schedule instead of scheduling your life around professional development:

1. #edchat on Twitter – occurs every Tuesday at 9am and 4pm (PST)  Topics include; improving student engagement, creating a culture of learning in the classroom, and best practices around assessment.  More information about #edchat can be found at the #edchat wiki

2. Classroom 2.0 Ning offers VPD on Saturday morning sessions as well as the occasional work-week session.  Topics include,  author webinar’s, preparing effective online learners, and Earthcast 2010.

3. The Future of Education Ning offers VPD mainly on Wednesday’s starting at 5pm (PST).  View calendar here  Topics include, Think Global School, Networks, Communities, and Role of Facilitator, and Neuroscience of Learning.

4. EdTechTalk is a collaborative open webcasting community.  Webcasts primarily take place on Tuesday through Friday and Sunday’s at 4pm (PST) Topics include, 21st Century Learning, Teachers Teaching Teachers, and Instructional Design.  View calendar here.

5. Learn Central is also a popular provider of VPD for educators.  Register for a free account and start to connect with other educators.

An extensive calendar of VPD events can be viewed here:  Events

For those who use Google calendar, all these events are easier imported into your existing calendar with once click.  It makes the job of keeping track of upcoming events easier and also you to share the information with others in your personal learning network (PLN).

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