Monday, December 20, 2010

A year of blogging

imageAs the year comes to an end it is great to look back over the past 12 months.  I’ve enjoyed blogging even more over the past year and have a few reflections.

More ideas than posts

There are innumerable great professional learning events that I attend each year.  I’m constantly inspired by learning teams, teachers and educational leaders.  The downside is that I never get enough time to blog.

Over the past year I’ve shared 25 blog posts which works out to my goal of two/month.

Making sense of statistics


An essential tool for anyone with a website is Google Analytics.  There are endless metrics for looking at the visitors to your site.  For example I know that there were 2000 Canadian visitors to my site followed by 1000 from the US.  Way down the list I welcome visitors from Iran, Malta, Morocco and Turkey!

Most viewed posts

Free software for teachers

SMARTNotebook software and SMARTBoard vs. Mimeo

Teacher gradebooks

I seem to have created a niche around product reviews and and free tools for teachers.


It is always great to get comments from readers.  Most comments on posts come from:

Delicious social bookmarking

Free software for teachers

SMARTBoard vs. Mimeo


Thoughts?  Would be great to hear from other bloggers.  What did you notice about visitors this year?

Monday, December 13, 2010

iPad in Education: first impressions

iPadApple has certainly knocked one out-of-the-park with the creation of the iPad.  It is truly a new category of device that augments and begins to replace my traditional computers.  With instant on and a great battery life it is a go to device.

Using with students

The Computer Using Educators of BC have launched an ambitious program to put 11 iPads in the hands of teachers and students.  We look forward to sharing stories from this initiative as we start in January 2011.  My favourite iPad education blog is from Fraser Speirs.

Apps I can’t live without

Unfortunately I have to return my loaner iPad in January.  Here are the apps that I’ll miss the most.


  • Mail – slick interface for managing multiple email accounts
  • Safari – the multi-touch interface on the iPad makes surfing the web a dream
  • Google
  • TweetDeck – great twitter client
  • Flipboard – amazing interface for surfing twitter links
  • Facebook


  • Evernote – the free version lets you take notes with audio recordings that sync between multiple computers
  • SimpleMind X mindmapping
  • WordWeb – dictionary and thesaurus
  • Periodic Table of Elements
  • All Countries – stats on countries around the world
  • HistoryMaps – view historical events on a map
  • Wikipanion – wikipedia search engine


  • Google Earth
  • Molecules
  • 3D Brain
  • Planets
  • Science VL – Glossary of terms
  • Periodic Table of elements


  • Calculator
  • Fractions
  • Tables – multiplication

Early learning

  • Flashcards
  • Alphabet Car


  • Geocaching app
  • The Weather Channel
  • AppShopper – a way to find apps that are popular and free
  • Netflix – app that lets me watch movies and TV shows


  • Smurfs – my kids (age 10 and 8) love this game.  Seems similar to farmville
  • Angry Birds – very addictive

photophoto (2)

photo (3)


Wishes for the next version

Some point next year, Apple will release an iPad2.  Here is my wish list:

  • A camera with flash.  There are endless possibilities for students to capture their learning and create digital presentations.
  • Audio application built in for capturing and basic editing of podcasts.
  • Performance.  There have been a few times that the iPad felt sluggish.  Faster processor, more RAM and storage will improve in the future.  Also, note to apple, please let me have an expandable memory card slot!


I’d be interested in hearing from other educators and their initial experiences with the iPad.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Download YouTube Videos

imageTeachers in our district are finding that the internet is too slow to watch live streamed YouTube videos in class.  Here are some ways to download the videos to store them offline for use.  The advantages are they they play almost instantly, don’t take bandwidth away from other educational uses and can stored offline for use from term to term.

Using KeepVid

Keepvid is a website that you can enter the address of a YouTube video that you want to download.  There is nothing to install on your computer and compared to other sites that let you download video, I’ve found the advertisements to be less offensive than similar sites. Here are the steps.

  1. Find the video you want on YouTube.
  2. Copy the URL from the address bar image
  3. Paste the URL into the box on KeepVid and click Download.  There may be a warning message to install a website plugin which you can approve.image
  4. I typically select the FLV High Quality Video.  FLV videos will play back in a video player like VLC Video and can be imported into SMART Notebook software.
  5. When you click on the file type you want you can save in a folder that you choose.

Use Firefox with the DownloadHelper Addon

Firefox is a very versatile browser.  There are 1000’s of free addons that let you extend what the browser can do.  One of my favourite addons is DownloadHelper.

  1. Install Firefox and DownloadHelper
  2. When you are on YouTube with the video you want the three balls will spin.  Clicking on the arrow will let you select the quality to download. image
  3. The higher numbers (eg 1080p will get the highest resolution video) image

Download with RealPlayer

RealPlayer is a free install that add functionality to the browswer.

  1. Install RealPlayer 
  2. When viewing a YouTube video, on the top-right corner there will be a box to ‘Download This Video’.  Click to start the download.  image
  3. The default save location can also be set by clicking on the arrow and updating the preferences. image

One of the advantages of RealPlayer is that the clips can be cropped and trimmed to just include the content that you want.image


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Photo Editing with Picnik

imageOne of my favourite new tools for editing photos is  It is fully online so there no software to download and install.  It is also great for students to use as the picture is not stored on the site.  They can simply upload, edit and download back to their computer.

Themes, stickers and effects are seasonal which means every time you return to the site, there are effect for that season.  Right now it is Christmas but Halloween and Thanksgiving were on the site.

Check out all the features

Includes features such as filters that change the picture to black and white, blur, neon and more.

Select a font, type in the text and click add.

This includes graphics such as hats, beards, sport icons that you can add to the picture.

Mostly premium features that you have to buy…

Add effects that make a picture frame around the picture.

Effects to match the season, your students will always find something new here.

Output sample:

Took my boys, added: Christmas hats, beard, snowman sticker, frame with lights and some text.


Assessment of Student Presentations

Some ideas for evaluation criteria for student presentations (can apply to any digital creation).

Design – uses complex design. Pays attention to layout, colour of media elements.
Conventions – accurate use of vocabulary and conventions.
Impact – Clear and memorable impact on audience.
References – A comprehensive list of websites used for the information and pictures.

Instructional Ideas

Elementary – visual documentation of learning. Have student take photos of things the observe in the classroom or school grounds and add text to explain their learning.
Middle – create an autobiography
Secondary – Socials – create a historical event
Biology – label the parts in a dissection project with stickers and text.

Here is a pdf ‘How to Picnik‘ that you can share with teachers and students.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SMARTBoard vs Mimeo interactive whiteboard

IWB (Interactive White Boards) is the generic name for SMARTBoards as they are commonly called in schools.  I’ve had a number of queries from teachers recently about the pros and cons of each platform so I thought I’d be efficient by posting on my blog and sending along the link. 

Disclaimer – these are my personal views and don’t represent the official view of our district.  Also, most importantly, I have no financial motivation for supporting either platform.


Several lesson examples emerging from SMART Board 600i A fast growing Canadian company based in Calgary.  They have been around for years as have many of their original boards as longevity of the hardware doesn’t seem to be an issue.  A whole ecosystem has developed around their tools.  There is certification as a SMARTBoard trainer and resources on their SMART Exchange website are outstanding.  In addition, most major Canadian publishers including Nelson, McGraw-Hill and recently Scholastic, make their digital resources available as SMARTNotebook files.  These publisher resources already have the interactive elements that would take hours for teachers to create on their own.  Their licensing allows for both teachers and student to install the software at home.  We have many teachers who assign homework to students to create a lesson in notebook that they then demonstrate to the class later.  See previous blog post about SMARTNotebook.

In addition, google search will let you search for SMARTNotebook files.  Just put the extension ‘filetype:notebook’ into your search.  Here is an example of a search for notebook files with the word ‘science’ on the page.

Pro Con
  • SMARTNotebook software is outstanding
  • Notebook 10 is the educational standard
  • hardware is durable
  • expensive to mount on a classroom wall ($400-$600 depending on building construction)



MimioTeachAccording to the website, they have been around since 1997 and were invented at MIT.  My experience with them is much more limited as I’ve only heard about them for about a year now.

We now have a few schools with Mimeo devices and more considering them all the time.  The are ‘instantly’ mounted on any pre-existing whiteboard.  A word of caution, if you use with an older 4:3 ratio LCD projector, the image size is quite small.  Be sure to consider a newer wide screen projector like the NP510W from NEC that we use in our district.  This will give a large working space.

Mimio also has a sharing site called MimioConnect with lesson plans, forums and support.

Pro Con
  • hardware is cheaper than SMARTBoards
  • instantly mount on any whiteboard
  • works great with a wide-screen projector to get a big workable area
  • Can’t run SMARTNotebook software as it is excluded in the terms-of-use


In reflecting on this posting, I realize that it looks like there is a clear preference towards the SMART product but here are some factors that will change the balance over time:

  1. If more educators select the Mimeo due to the cheaper price, there will be a growing critical mass of educators posting and sharing mimeo files
  2. A file converter that converts a SMARTNotebook file to a Mimeo file.

Please comment and share your pros/cons and experiences with your IWB.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Creative Commons–a teacher’s guide

Where do you get photos for students to use in their presentations?  This is a common question from educators as we want students to create high-quality reports and presentation and want to advise them how to follow copyright.

Here are some resources to get the busy educator started.

Canadian Creative Commons was established to give creators and copyright owners different levels of control to who can use and share their work.  In the past there used to be only a black and white copyright where you had to pay to use.  Many artists and content creator wanted to be more generous and this is why they allow the use of their pictures for non-commercial uses such as education.

Practical Uses of Creative Commons


Flikr is by far my favourite site to get amazing photos.  There are photographers with amazing cameras that get way better photos that I could ever get and then share them on Flikr.  Here is how to use a Flikr photo that has been licensed.

  1. go to
  2. click on ‘explore
  3. scroll to the bottom of the page and select ‘creative commons
  4. Selecting Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License has almost 50 million photos at this time. See more lets you do a search. 
  5. Save this URL in your favourites
  6. When you find a picture you like – right-click on select a size.  I use medium for posting on the web.  You can now right-click and copy.
  7. When you upload and post on a website, be sure to include the URL of the photo.

Below is an amazing photo of a Mount Saint Helens.  I visited it this summer and didn’t manage to get a photo as good as this one.

Microsoft Clipart

Microsoft clipart and pictures are an amazing extensive resource of graphics.  The terms-of-use allows for use as long as you own Microsoft Office products which almost everyone does.

To put a clipart onto a website is easy if you have MS word and use Windows Live Writer to post. 

  1. Open Word
  2. Insert Clip Art
  3. Search for a graphic and place into the document
  4. Right-click to copy
  5. Paste into Windows Live Writer

Below is a picture from Microsoft’s clip art gallery.



What other sites and sources to people have for copyright free images that teachers and students can use?  Post a comment here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Digital Responsibility Resources

Digital Responsibility GraphicHere are some resources that may be valuable when working with student in teaching about Digital Responsibility.






Learning Connections

Here are the Provincial Learning Outcomes in British Columbia that I’ve found that related to digital responsibility, social responsibility and cyber-safety.There is a great progression of learning outcomes that progress in grade 1 from, “demonstrate an understanding of appropriate and inappropriate ways to express feelings” to grade 7 with “demonstrate behaviours that contribute to the prevention of stereotyping, discrimination, and bullying”.  It helps us know as educators, what student knowledge we are building on from previous grade levels.


There are a number of great videos on YouTube that teachers can show to their students which would create a valuable discussion about CyberBullying.  Here is one from England.  I’d recommend watching this video in two parts as the ending may not be plausible to students.


CyberSafety Videos

These videos are targeted to parents wanting to learn more about how the various technologies like facebook photosharing work.  There is also great value in sharing these with students as many of them don’t have correctly configured privacy settings. 

CyberSafe with Steve Dotto

Internet Literacy

In BC, the Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium (ERAC) has licensed a program from the Media Awareness Network called Passport to the Internet.  Be sure to check out the teacher’s guide that accompanies the resource.

“ An interactive Internet literacy tutorial that helps students develop the critical thinking skills they need to apply to their online experiences.
Using simulations of the most popular Internet environments, this interactive resource teaches students about online safety, authenticating online information, recognizing online marketing ploys, protecting their privacy, managing online relationships and dealing with cyberbullying. “

Students will need an account with LearnNowBC.  Here is the direct link to the page with the access to the Passport to the Internet.

Passport to the Internet (Student - English)

Policy and School Legal support

Schools should also know that our BC ministry has also put in place some great documents to support educators in ensuring that our schools are good learning environments.  Be sure to check out the Safe Caring and Orderly School policy.


I’d be interested in learning more about how students are reacting to these resources.  Are we meeting the needs?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

FREE software for teachers

Here is an updated list of software that I recommend for teachers on their personal computers.

List is sorted in order of frequency of use.


Web Browser

If you have a Mac, the default browser is Apple’s Safari, on Windows it is Internet Explorer.  However, there are a number of reasons you should consider installing a second (or even third browser).

  • Firefox remains the most customizable feature rich browser.  It is opensource so it is made by people who share their expertise to make one of the best browsers available.  Check out all the free addons that expand what firefox can do.  My most used, must have addon is Video Downloader which can be used to download offline copies of YouTube videos for use in the classroom that isn’t dependent on an internet connection.
  • Google Chrome is amazing and fast with all the google sites such as gmail, google docs, reader… etc
  • Not to be left behind, Internet Explorer is moving to version 9.

Office software such as word-processing.

  • Microsoft Office is the solid ‘education industry’ standard.  If you work in a BC district that has subscribed to the licensing agreements it is a mere $11 to take the software home.  Get the license code from your district educational technology team and see more information here: Microsoft Home Use Program
  • OpenOffice is a ‘free and open productivity suite’ which looks and has many of the same features of Microsoft Office.  See:
  • Google Docs – although this isn’t something you have to install as it is FREE and online, it is amazing for educators wanting to collaborate as it has live online editing.
  • Windows Live Writer – is the blogging program that works with most types of blogs.  It makes it really easy to embed photos to posts!  See previous post.


  • AVG Free is all I’ve ever needed.  Install, allow the automatic updates and let it work. I recently got to see it in action as it picked up a Trojan Horse on my computer and cleaned it off.  Most people start looking for an antivirus once their free trial of McAfee or Norton runs out on the computer they purchased. 

Video Player

  • VLC video player is the one program that will play almost any type of video file.  This includes the ‘.flv’ video files that are created when downloading YouTube videos using Video Downloader for FireFox (see above).

PDF Creator

Have you ever wondered what file format to save your class newsletter in so that all your parents can open?  Well PDF if the most universal file type that can be opened on all computers and retains the formatting.

  • Cute PDF writer once installed is like having another printer.  Once your document is ready, click print, select CutePDF and save the file.

Video/Sound recording and Curricular

  • JING will capture whatever you have on your screen and the audio from a microphone.  It is a great way to explain how to use a website to students.  The link to the recording can then be shared.
  • Audacity will allow you to record sound and create a podcast.  Check out the version 1.3 beta.
  • Google Earth is an amazing way to view, measure and manipulate our physical world.
  • Microsoft Photostory is a long-time favourite to put voice-overs on pictures.  It works in Windows 7 so it is here to stay.

Software to skip…

On my last posting on free software I had MSN and Skype.  I no longer use these now that that you can make free phone calls to North America right from within GMAIL.  Rumour has it that even Facebook is getting into the free phone.  See more on the article by the Globe and Mail.


I would love to know what others would suggest for titles to have in the educators' toolkit.  Post a comment here..

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Student Research – Evaluate Sources

Evaluate Your Sources image

When doing research with students it is good to provide them with a set of topics to evaluate a source such as a website.  There are many different lists of criteria that are available on the internet.  Here is one I’ve created from a few difference sources.

  1. Relevance – Is this the information that you need?  Is the information on the site what you needed to know.
  2. Currency – How updated is the information?  Can you find a date?
  3. Authority – Do you trust the author(s)?  Who owns that domain name?  For example, look for websites that end in “.edu”, “.gov” or “.org” as these are  typically publically funded rather than .com extensions which are commercial sites.
  4. Bias – For topics that have a wide-variety of opinions such as sport, politics, what is the viewpoint of the source?
  5. Accessibility – Is the reading level appropriate?
  6. Special features – Are there pictures, animation, videos?  Is the site free of distractions?

More resources:

Lesley University – Evaluating Websites

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educator – Critical Evaluation Information

Criteria for Web Site Evaluation – I like how this presentation has students use the Who, What, When, Where and Why?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Using Technology in My Classroom

Every year more teachers get access to amazing technology that can support and enhance what they do in the classroom.  Teachers talk about how it can be daunting to first introduce something new into their practice.  So much of this hold true for technology which is constantly changing.

Advice to myself…

Here is some personal advice for getting started this year with educational technology.  I plan on trying to do as many of these as possible this year!

  1. Use what I’ve got.  There will always be a better device, SMARTBoard, faster laptop, projector, whatever.  Rather than waiting, use whatever I can get my hands on.  A laptop and projector is a great place to start.
  2. Good enough is good enough.  If I spend an hour preparing a Powerpoint for a lesson or find a few good YouTube clips to show there is always another few hours I could spend planning and preparing but the amount of energy that I spend relative to the value to students decreased once it is good enough.  Make some plans and go with it!  I might add that this holds true for this blog.  I’d like to share more and worry less about perfection :)
  3. Focus on what I want.  The internet is the most amazing and distracting environment that I explore each day.  I need to be more efficient, find what I want and get onto something else.
  4. Build on what I know.  I’m always learning new things about technology and want to figure out ways have them make sense in my teaching.  I realize that there are multiple points of entry with technology and I don’t need to know all the details to get started.
  5. Flip It.  Look for the positives.  When the technology didn’t work the way I wanted to, find the positives and build on that.
  6. image

I’m really looking forward to using technology with all the learners that I’m working with this year.  What else should I add to this list?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Student Created Movies

Two big ideas for making a great student created movies.

  1. Use close-up shots
  2. Trim the shots – only keep the key action

While there are 100’s of factors that chance a good video to a great video.  This post shares two key ideas for elementary students to focus on when making movies.

Use Close-up Shots

Close-up shots are the key to a great video.  They engage the audience, let us get to know the characters in the video and display emotion.  Take a look at this photo, the close shot gets the viewer to wonder about what is the boy thinking?

close up by Jess ☆

In this shot below, it is called a ‘full’ shot.  Use these types of shots to set the scene or display some action.

Human children and pig child by surfzone™

Trim the shots – keep the cuts short.

Keep the shots short.  Try to limit each shot to 5-10 seconds, focus on the action and delete the rest.  Here is a short lego star wars movie.  Most of the shots are under 10 seconds.

Sharing the Video

Sharing and distributing videos with traditional methods such as DVD’s is very challenging and time consuming to create the disks.  Many of these issues can be solved by hosting the videos online.  There is a privacy feature of vimeo that makes it my preferred hosting service.  Of course, when sharing video of students, privacy is key.  Having parents sign a public release of photos and video form is an essential first step.

Here are recommended settings to password protect a video.  You could then email parents and let them know the password to view.  Another great feature is that you can embed the video in your website and still password protect.


See the video below that is locked.  Open to view by entering the password ‘piano’.


I wrote this post as I’ve been invited to work with a group of elementary students doing a year-end video project.  What advice would you give to a students?


credits: boy photo by Jess, children chasing pig by surfzone

Friday, May 21, 2010

Websites for Elementary Teachers and Students

Here is a list of websites that teachers could use to explore in a classroom with students.  There is lots to look at and discuss on these sites.  Hook up your LCD projector, speakers and enjoy.


Human Body and Mind from the BBC


  • Flash based site that lets you place organs or muscles in the correct location.

Earth Explorers – Wildlife from the BBC


  • Stories and information about animals from around the world.

CyberSafety Videos from LearnNowBC


  • keep yourself and students safe on the internet.
  • facebook overview and more

Oxfam – mapping our world


  • nine different activities for students to explore our globe

Life Size Blue Whale


  • size works great on a SMARTBoard as you can use your hands to explore a blue whale

Panoramas – 3D views of cultural and geographical amazing places


  • view amazing locations from around the globe.

Newseum – Front Covers from Newspapers from around the world


  • Front covers of 1000’s of newspapers
  • Many different languages

Math Illuminations: Interactive math tools


  • Interactive math lessons like the Bobby Bear one in the picture above.
  • Search by grade or topic.



  • Must access from your local library.  Ex. I live in Port Moody so go to the Port Moody Public Library.
  • Books that are read aloud by the author.
  • Some animations and games

World Book


  • Access through your school website.
  • Can have text read aloud
  • Different views for different grade levels.

Looking for more?

Check out all shared bookmarks on delicious!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quit Facebook

facebook - quit2Could you do it?  Could you actually go cold turkey on facebook? 

Seem like there is a growing movement of people willing to unplug, disconnect and delete their account.  On the site they have set May 31, 2010 as the quit day.  So far they have 5146 people committed to quit.  Considering there are an estimated 400 MILLION users, this is 0.000012865% of the users.  Maybe this is more of a media event as a quick search on Google News returned lots of papers reporting on this issue.  My favourite article has to be the one titled ‘Facebook Revolt’ from

It seems that all the hullabaloo has to do with privacy concerns and the challenge of keeping photos, thoughts and other facebook activities private rather than public.  Facebook has had a number of revisions of its terms of use that make is difficult to understand who can and can not access your information.

Well, if you actually decide to quit or at least explore the option, here are a few things to know.

How to quit facebook

On the top right of the page, hover over account and select account settings.  Click on deactivate account.  Don’t worry if you aren’t sure there is another screen with the ominous warning and question “are you sure you want to deactivate your account?”

I got a list of five friends (faces blured by me) that facebook claims will miss me and then probing questions on “Why are you deactivating?”

facebook - quit image

At least facebook as the option of letting them know that you have a privacy concern.

One word of warning, if you do actually deactivate, be sure that you don’t log back in for at least 2 weeks.  If you are tempted to check back in, your account will be restored.

Your privacy settings

Perhaps a less dramatic, but still effective way to control your imageprivacy is to dive into the facebook privacy settings.  While they are nearly as many layers as an onion, here are a few things to look for.

Hover over account and click on privacy settings.  Start with the profile information.  My recommendation is that you want to have it locked to ‘Only friends’.  The same applies for contact information.  If they aren’t a friend, do you really want them to have your phone number… etc?

Applications and website is where things get a bit more convoluted.  For example, on ‘What your friends can share about you’ allows your friends to link and share through facebook information that might have thought was for your friends only.  It is best to uncheck almost everything here.

Leave a thought or comment here on this blog

Will you quit facebook?  Why or why not?

Monday, May 10, 2010

How to Start Blogging

I attended the most amazing conference last week called Northern Voice 2010.  Keynote by Bryan Alexander, here are visual notes. Bryan Alexander's Keynote by Rachel Smith.

The conference focused on personal blogging.  I’ll be sharing many of the ideas here over future blog posts.  The one big idea that I wanted to share today is how to get stated with blogging.  I’ve really enjoyed having a blog and realized that many others might be interested in the details on how to get started.

A few ‘easy’ steps:

  1. Choose a blog topic, find your voice.  What are you interested in? Take a look at the slideshow below from Monica Hamburg for some great ideas.
  2. Create a blog.  There are lots of free servers for blogs.  I’m happy with blogspot, might also consider edublogs or wordpress.
  3. Use a blog editing tool.  While it is possible to write the blog directly through the web, I use an amazing free tool called Windows Live Writer (featured in a previous blog post).
  4. Start writing – put up your first post, share the link below.

Finding Your Online Voice by Monica Hamburg

While I was sorry to miss this session.  The twitter feed from Monica’s session was amazing and help me find the link to her presentation.

credits – mind map of keynote by Rachel Smith

How to Start Blogging

I attended the most amazing conference last week called Northern Voice 2010.  Keynote as Bryan Alexander, here are visual notes. Bryan Alexander's Keynote by Rachel Smith.

The conference focused on personal blogging.  I’ll be sharing many of the ideas here over future blog posts.  The one big idea that I wanted to share today is how to get stated with blogging.  I’ve really enjoyed having a blog and realized that many others might be interested in the details on how to get started.

A few ‘easy’ steps:

  1. Choose a blog topic, find your voice.  What are you interested in? Take a look at the slideshow below from Monica Hamburg for some great ideas.
  2. Create a blog.  There are lots of free servers for blogs.  I’m happy with blogspot, might also consider edublogs or wordpress.
  3. Use a blog editing tool.  While it is possible to write the blog directly through the web, I use an amazing free tool called Windows Live Writer (featured in a previous blog post).
  4. Start writing – put up your first post, share the link below.

Finding Your Online Voice by Monica Hamburg

While I was sorry to miss this session.  The twitter feed from Monica’s session was amazing and help me find the link to her presentation.

credits – mind map of keynote by Rachel Smith

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Technology is Changing Math Classrooms (for the Better!)

Guest post by Tracy Beach as part of the EdTech Blog Swap


The American classroom is constantly evolving. Dry erase boards took the place of chalkboards. In today’s lecture halls, the click-clack of laptop keyboards can be heard over the scrawling sound of pen on paper.

Technology can never replace teachers, but it makes an often-times difficult job easier by opening up new resources for teachers and students, fostering individual learning and communication with families, and making a deep pool of information more accessible than ever before.

Let's count the ways technology is changing math classes for the better!

Technology helps make assessment and progress reporting more objective and more frequent. It's imperative that a math teacher knows right away when a student falls behind, but it can be difficult in a busy, full classroom. With more immediate and more granular progress reporting, educators can determine a child's need, and communicate with students and parents outside school hours through email and classroom websites.

Virtual Manipulatives, adaptive curricula, and more

Not every child learns the same way. New, innovative technologies make math learning increasingly individualized. The most advanced online learning programs, like DreamBox Learning K-3 Math, capture every mouse click as a student learns in order to instantly provide the right lessons, at the right level of difficulty, with the right hints, sequence, and pace (and much more) for each individual child.

Virtual manipulatives, such as the ones used in DreamBox Learning (and which are available for any elementary teacher to use in the classroom free) let kids build an answer instead of selecting one from a multiple choice list. Research shows constructing knowledge this way is a more effective way to learn math.

Student progress reporting is being revolutionized by online learning as well. When every mouse click is captured as a student is learning, teachers get immediate, detailed, useful information about where each student is progressing and struggling.


As technology evolves, more and more kids expect to learn at their own pace and participate in collaborative learning and exploration. Students will also need strong tech skills when they enter the fast-changing working world.

Personal response technologies enable teachers to gauge students' skills almost instantaneously. No more having only one or two students raise their hands –one new calculator tool makes it possible for teachers to hear from every pupil in the classroom at once on a math problem. Hearing from every student on a math problem is a major plus for math teachers because they can better assess student learning curves.

The wide, wide world

Technology enables teachers to access data from a wealth of sources and in a myriad of forms – online math games and manipulatives, lesson plans, printables, creative activities for their classrooms, discussion forums and more. With access to these broad resources, lessons become richer and more colorful.

New infrastructures bring the world into the classroom and give kids opportunities to see and experience things they might not have otherwise. They can take a virtual tour of the Pyramids, complete math problems in real time with other kids around the globe on World Math Day, and rocket through space –all from their own classroom or home.

Math Teachers Unite


Teaching, although rewarding can be lonely –educators often collaborate with colleagues, but much of the day is spent in classroom talking to kids. Social media connects math educators across the country. They can share tools and success stories, help each other with various math teaching techniques, and inspire other instructors.

We the Teachers and are examples of social media "clubs" just for teachers. Teachers can share lesson plans, join a group of math teachers, or discuss new ideas in the forums.

And, technology brings students together – they can collaborate and cooperate on tough math problems. They can study algebra together, work out a challenging proof, and chat about this week's math homework right from their computers.

Technology turns the math classroom into a vast virtual space with unlimited learning potential. But in the words of Bill Gates, "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important."