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.