Tech Integration Post # 3 of 10: Using VoiceThread To Enhance Oral Language While Meeting Science Learning Outcomes

VoiceThread is a web2.0 tool that allows users to create and upload video, text, images, and audio (known as content) to a secure server from where anyone with access can interact with the content.  Think of it as an audio blog.

Grade 6 Science learning outcome: Earth and Space science – explain obstacles unique to exploration of a specific extreme environment.

Instructions On How To Create An Account:

How to create a VoiceThread:

How to create multiple identities:

In the PLO example at the top of the post, your students will find examples of extreme environments using images, video, or text.  They will use the audio feature to comment on the content by explaining why the chosen environment is extreme. Students will discuss why the environment is extreme, and what makes it difficult to life there.  Each student uploads a different example of an extreme environment and comments on their own thread as well as other class member’s threads.  This is great way to practice and assess oral language as well as introduce and practice science specific vocabulary.

Suggested Achievement Indicators (audio comments/responses) for this PLO are:

  • Identify the salient characteristics of an extreme environment (e.g., space, polar ice, oceans, volcanoes, and the atmosphere — a place that humans do not naturally inhabit but choose to explore)
  • Give several examples of resources and knowledge that can be obtained from distant explorations
  • Give several examples of how technology can be used by humans to travel to and explore an unknown environment

Interactive Whiteboards (IWB): Post 1 of 2

I’m attending my first IWB workshop on Friday June 18 so I thought I’d compose before and after posts.  Presently I haven’t actually used an IWB in a classroom so all the information is from research I’ve compiled.  Early next week I’ll be able to offer additional information once I’ve completed the workshop.

I’m convinced that every classroom in Canada will have an interactive whiteboard (Smartboard) installed within the next 5 years.  It is the next evolution of the chalkboard, so you might as well embrace it now.  Is resistance is futile?

What exactly is an Interactive Whiteboard (IWB)?

  • A large display that connects to a computer and projector
  • The projector projects the computer’s desktop image onto the display
  • Your learners control the display with electronic pens, fingers, or other devices
  • The display is typically wall mounted and is movable

As early as 2004, 26% of primary classrooms in the UK had IWB’s.  The BECTA, government agency promoting the use of technology integration in the classroom, completed a two-year study recent and as a result of that research, is working on an expansion plan for IWB in the classroom.


  • Increases student engagement
  • Engaging with material in a different way 1
  • Objects are able to be manipulated in a hands-on way with an IWB i.e. measuring angles in geometry 1
  • Encourage a different, more collaborative kind of teaching 1


  • Not enough training for teachers
  • First year of introduction leads to little/no significant impact on a learner’s academic performance
  • Teacher’s focus more on the technology than on learning outcomes
  • The interactive nature of the IWB can make some relative mundane task take longer than necessary particularly with low functioning students

It’s time to open up the dialogue surrounding the use of IWB in our classrooms.  What are your thoughts?

Professional Development Ideas for 21st Century Teaching

Does your school offer the professional development you’re need?

Recently I worked with my Twitter PLN on the topic of professional development.  Directly after the Tuesday Edchat session we worked on a document together, describing the kind of professional development opportunities we wished our schools districts offered.  We also discussed how we could developed our own in the interim.

Here’s a list of my favourite professional development opportunities I wished my district offered:

Personally, this type of collaborative effort excites me as an educator.  I would ultimately like to master my craft (education) and I feel like I move one step closer every time I connect with fellow educators from around the globe.

Many thanks to #Edchat, my PLN, the following educators – @actionhero, @missbartel, @21stcenturychem, @DrTimony, @cybraryman1, @davidwees, and everyone else who contributed to the document:

Tech Integration Post # 2 of 10: Using Google Documents As A Collaborative Classroom Tool

Use a Google Document spreadsheet to facilitate a collaborative class assignment.

Example: Social Studies

Learning Outcome example : B2 – compare Canadian society with the society of another country

  • Design a spreadsheet which compares Canadian society/culture against other societies/country throughout the world.  See template example Canadian SS template PLO B2
  • This example compares Canadian culture to other countries throughout the world
  • Once the spreadsheet is created, publish the document as a web page.  See image below

  • Google returns a very long link to the published document.  Use a URL shortener to shorten the link.  See instructions for below
  • Students then enter the (shortened) link into the URL window at the top of their browser.  They will be directed to the spreadsheet
  • Students are now able to access, create, and edit the document.
  • Your students are able to access and interact with the document at one time making it a truly collaborative effort.  Sit back and watch the document create itself.
  • Once the document is complete it can be used as a revision tool or may be used again in another subject such as math when covering data analysis and graphing.
Copy and paste the link Google gives, to publish the website, into the website.  Click shorten. will return a short, and more manageable, URL such as  I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s much easier to remember the shortened URL.

For those looking for an introductory lesson for the their new class next school year, a great way to get to know your class is to have them fill in this spreadsheet together: Class introduction spreadsheet.

10 Benefits Of Online Writing:

1. Learners are now writing for an audience rather than their teacher

2. Writing is easier to edit online which reduces some frustrations in the writing process

3. Work is located in one place and can be accessed to mark and assess from anywhere with an Internet connection

4. You’ll be preparing your learners for life in a digital world

5. It fosters a collaborative environment

6. Double whammy: Your learners will be reading and writing simultaneously

7. Opens the opportunity for learners to discuss topics outside of the classroom

8. Every person has an equal opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions

9. Learners have space to reflect and be reflective with one another

10. Provides opportunities for learners to interact, network, and conference with knowledgeable individuals or specialists from around the world

Blogging and Online Writing Meets Many LA PLO’s

How Does Blogging and Writing Online Meet British Columbia’s -Prescribed Learning Outcomes?

Grade 2:

  • B4 – view and demonstrate comprehension of visual texts (e.g., signs, illustrations, diagrams)
  • B7 – use strategies after reading and viewing to confirm and extend meaning
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • C2 – create informational writing and representations about non-complex topics and procedures
  • C7 – use writing and representing to express personal responses and opinions about experiences or texts

Grade 3:

  • B2 – read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate information texts
  • B4 – view and demonstrate comprehension of visual texts (e.g., cartoons, illustrations, diagrams, posters)
  • B7 – use a variety of strategies after reading and viewing to confirm and extend meaning
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • B9 – read and view to extend thinking
  • C2 – create a variety of clear, easy-to-follow informational writing and representations
  • C7 – use writing and representing to express personal responses and opinions about experiences and texts

Grade 4:

  • B2 – read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate information texts
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • C1 – write clear, focused personal writing for a range of purposes and audiences that demonstrates connections to personal experiences, ideas, and opinions

Grade 5:

  • B2 – read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate information texts
  • B4 – view and demonstrate comprehension of visual texts (e.g., signs, cartoons, illustrations, newspapers, diagrams, posters, videos, advertising)
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • B9 – read and view to improve and extend thinking
  • C1 – write a variety of clear, focused personal writing for a range of purposes and audiences that demonstrates connections to personal experiences, ideas, and opinions
  • C9 – use writing and representing to extend thinking

Grade 6:

  • B2 – read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate information texts with some specialized language
  • B4 – demonstrate comprehension of visual texts with specialized features
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • B9 – read and view to improve and extend thinking
  • C1 – write a variety of clear, focused personal writing for a range of purposes and audiences that demonstrates connections to personal experiences, ideas, and opinions
  • C8 – use writing and representing to express personal responses and relevant opinions about experiences and texts

Post # 1 of 10: Turning Journal Writing or Free-Writing ‘Online’

There are several ways to turn the process of journal writing or free-writing from an ‘offline’ activity to an ‘online‘ activity, all of which are simple to achieve and easy to manage.

Use one of the web2.0 tools below to start a classroom blog.  For more advanced users, use the tools below to create independent blogs for each of your students.

Here’s a list of commonly used blogging tools:

  • Kid Blog – designed for each student to have an individual blog within a classroom blog created by the teacher
  • Edu Blogs – designed for each student to have an individual blog within a classroom blog created by the teacher
  • Blogger – designed for individual blogging
  • WordPress – designed for individual blogging

How to set up and use the blog for student learning:

  • All the above blogs are set up in more or less the same way.  Some are designed to be use as individual blogs while others are designed for groups of blogs to be created and administered by a teacher
  • All blogs need an email address to register, and you’ll be prompted to select a title for your blog.
  • My advice is to keep the blog title simple and easy for your learners to remember.  A blog title such as “Technology Trooper’s Of 21st Century Learning” may not be the best title because in order for your learners to access the blog they’ll have to type something similar to the following into the URL box in the browser,
  • When choosing a blog title keep it short and sweet
  • You’ll also be asked during registration for a username and password.  Both pieces of information are required to access, manage, and control the blog once it’s live

Two Types Of Blogs And How To Use Them:

1. Teacher creates one blog for the entire class and creates content and learners to comment and respond to

  • There are numerous ways to use a blog as an ‘online’ writing tool
  • In its basic form one blog is created, a class blog, and the teacher acts as the administrator of the blog
  • As an introduction to blogging, perhaps the first half of the year, you set the content of the blogs and your learners respond to your posts
  • A post can be defined as content you create and insert (post) into your blog
  • Content can be text, images, video, audio, or a file

See example below:

2. Teacher creates a class blog and then creates individual blogs for each learner in his/her class.

  • This technique is regarded as blogging in its pure form.  Learners generate their own content for their blog.
  • Students comment and interact with each others blogs as well as the teachers blog
  • Students also comment and interact with blogs of other classmates

Administering The Blog:
I realize it’s super important to monitor the content that is posted on a class blog or an individual’s blog.  All of the above blogging tools offer a variety of security options to make sure inappropriate content never makes it to the live blog.  I prefer to select the option which enables all comments go through the teacher to be approved before they are posted to the blog.  This ensure the blog represents the school and all its students in the best possible way.

See example below:

Content Ideas For Your Blog:

  • Respond to a picture – How does the picture make you feel and why?  Create a story around the picture.  Create a personality for the person in the picture based on what the person looks like
  • Post a video from YouTube and ask learners to response.  What is Shane Koyczen saying about Canada? Use examples from the poem to support your thinking
  • Post a debate question from idebate.  Split the class into two groups, for and against, and have them post on their initial views followed by their responses to others comments on the blog
  • Use the blog as a math journal for personal reflections and word problem examples.

Intro To Integrating Technology Into The Classroom Series: 10 Ways To Turn ‘Offline’ Classroom Activities ‘Online’

My next ten posts, not necessarily in chronological order, will be dedicated to giving real examples of how ‘offline’ activities can be turned into ‘online’ activities to enhanced student engagement, and encourage tech-shy educators to take their first steps in integrating technology into the classroom.

Why is it important to integrate technology into the classroom?

  • Enhances student engagement
  • Your learners are growing up in a digital world
  • Relate to your students with your understanding of social media
  • Help to make the shift for teachers away from content deliverers to content facilitators
  • Help prepare your learners for a digital future
  • Create a truly collaborative environment
  • Make the world a smaller place i.e. flatten the classroom

Hope you enjoy the series.  I will try to link everything I do to British Columbia’s Prescribed Learning Outcomes as much as possible.

Do Your Learners Need A BOOST?

This post may point you in the right direction.  There is no acronym involved here and I did not develop the program.  BOOST is academic intervention for all learners.  The initial idea came from Rebecca and Richard DuFour’s book, “Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don’t Learn,” and a workshop they both delivered in Chilliwack, B.C.

Following this workshop one teacher, with the help of her peers, developed BOOST and together they’ve been using the program for the last two years.  As far as I know this type of intervention is only used in one elementary school in Chilliwack, but after a recent workshop presentation showcasing its merits I’m certain it will grow.

BOOST’s Goal:  To implement a system of effective intervention for students with their specific learning needs.

One of the main reasons BOOST was initiated in one elementary school in Chilliwack, B.C. was because of the gaps found in their grade 5/6’s fundamental understanding of math.  Because of this teachers found students were ill-prepared for middle school math at the time.  The second reason for introducing BOOST was because their LA schedule was proving to be very chaotic and almost counter-productive because of sheer number of students in the school.

Presently, Boost is focused on math intervention but may spread to languages arts in the future. It is designed specifically to tackle gaps in math fundamentals, such as understanding that numbers have differing value/worth depending on which place value column they are written in.    Here’s a brief introduction of how the program works.  You’ll see the successes and the challenges:

  • At beginning of year 1 students were given pre-assessment on place value.  Assessment was targeted to reveal specific gaps in place-value understanding.  First Steps In Math was used as the primary assessment tool.
  • In this particular school, with the help of school administration, 8 math groups were formed.  This helped in a variety of ways, firstly it enabled teachers to breakdown the skills required to successfully master understanding of place-value, and at the same time it allowed for groups of students who may not work well together to be separated.
  • In the 8 groups which were formed, there was an IEP group which stayed the same the whole year, an enrichment group which had already mastered the concept but worked on problem solving within a given concept (i.e. division) and the other 6 groups were divided based on the key understanding of each concept, they failed to understand.  Often, two different groups worked on the same key understandings (i.e. covered the same materials) because of the sheer number of learners.
  • After 6 weeks learners were given a post-assessment to determine they understood the new concepts taught.
  • After the results were obtained teachers decided whether to move on to a new topic o remain and explore the topic further.
  • If teacher’s decided to move on to a new topic and learners remained who had not successfully understand the previous topic, they formed the lowest group in the new topic.  For example, those learners (after 6 weeks) who continued to have difficultly with key understandings to successfully complete multiplication formed the lowest group when moving to division.

Format In A Nutshell:

  1. Pre-test skills set
  2. Assign groups
  3. Direct teach
  4. Re-assess

Here are a list of quote from people who have been involved with BOOST:
“Enhances student understanding of math concepts…”  “Targets the specific problems students are having…”  “Teachers discussing assessment and teaching strategies…”  “Students who are able to work at their own level…”  “Connects different classroom teachers with all intermediate teachers…”

At this particular school BOOST is still a work-in-progress.  Some of the challenges and areas that need to be addressed (according to the school) in order for BOOST to improve are as follows:

  • Creating the time for teachers to meet and plan outside of their lunch hours
  • Easier access to resource (resource binders, electronic resources etc..)
  • Varying teaching/learning styles
  • Generating more effective assessments to properly and easily identify where a learner is going wrong when tackling a new concept
  • Strategies to deal with students who are at the same level but for whatever reason shouldn’t be in the same class together
  • Looking to expand to language arts and beyond

Thanks to everyone at Promontory Elementary Community School for showcasing BOOST at the recent Pro-D event.  I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and look forward to implementing BOOST soon.  Great work guys!

Efficient Google Search Techniques

Are your students getting the most out of Google search?  Probably not!  Here are some simple and efficient search techniques you could teach your students when searching/researching information on Google:

  • Phrase Search – by surrounding your search string with quotation marks (”Terry Fox Birthday”) you inform Google to search for the exact phrase in the exact order it appears between the quotation marks.
  • Wildcard (*) Search – using the wildcard (*) symbol in a search string allows Google to fill-in-blanks where it sees the wildcard symbol.  For example, the search, (Google *) will return results about many of Google’s products.
  • Exclude Search (-) – when searching, students may become inundated with results that are similar to the desired search result but are actually not useful.  For example, when searching for information on the big cat, jaguar, it is not useful for students to see search result relating to Jaguar motor-vehicles.  Use (-) directly before unwanted search string, (jaguar -cars)  Note: Multiple omissions can be made in the same string by using multiple minus signs, (bears -football -baseball -sports)
  • Search Specific Websites (site:) – Allows your students to search a specific website or group of websites for a phrase or string. For example, to search British Columbia’s government webpages on the environment use the following search string, (environment
  • Definition (define:) – Uses Google to find the definition of unknown vocabulary words (define: unknown word)
  • The OR operator (OR) – Google’s default setting is to search for all words in a string. For example, the search string (Queen Elizabeth I II) will return results for both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II on the same page.  The search string, (Queen Elizabeth I OR II) will return results on one or the other.
  • Calculator – Google may be used as a calculator by typing in a number sentence such as, (2*8).  Google will return the result 16
  • Unit conversion – Google search is also able to compute unit conversion.  For example the search string, (10cl to l) returns the result 0.1 litres

Here’s a link to a selection of useful Google poster’s you could print out and display in your room/computer lab, all about solid search practices: Google Posters

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