Archive for October, 2010

Posted: October 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

Great web 2.0 resources for students

This article has some interesting technology that applies to teachers of all levels, but I think high school teachers could get more use from them. Check it out! Check back for a review of Scribblar over the next few days.


The Hindu : Life & Style / Metroplus : Classroom of the future.

Fascinating article about how schools will look in the future.

I don’t have much time to comment on this, other than to say: Hopefully this holds true: I can’t wait!


Posted: October 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

Two lucky people will win a code for Termites Seating Plan software!

Some of you may remember my very first review about a week ago on Termites Seating Plan software (here’s a link for those of you who haven’t read it). You can check out the Termites website here.

All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post or send me an email with:

1) Your name and Email address (if you don’t want to post your email address you’re welcome to just email it to me). I promise that your email won’t be sold to any lists or used to spam you. It’s only needed in case you win.

2) A suggestion of a piece of software, hardware, a video, or a website that I can use in my classroom. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, I’m just looking for more ideas.

That’s it! I’ll randomly pick a winner and let you all know who it is. Contest closes next Wednesday (November 3rd).

My email address is


Posted: October 28, 2010 in Websites
Tags: , ,

I have so many bookmarks, most of which are education related. When I stumbled upon this website, I couldn’t believe my luck! It would seem that most of the educational community has already discovered this amazing resource, but it’s new to me (and many other teacher’s I’ve talked to) so I decided to review it today anyway.

Livebinders allows you to store websites, pdfs, word documents, and images in a convenient digital binder that is stored online. Best of all, you can share these web-binders, with anyone you like, and you can search for other public binders that have already been created.

The technology: Livebinders

My impression:

I just started using livebinders last month, but I’m already excited about it. The possibilities to teachers are pretty amazing. Thus far I have limited myself to creating a digital binder for each of my courses to share with my students and their parents. I’ve linked these binders on my class webpage, and they’re already getting a lot of use. Parents love being able to access currciulum documents, rubrics, and assignments so easily. As an added plus, I haven’t had a student come to me saying that they’ve lost (insert assignment/rubric/resource here) because they’ve been able to access them online and print off a new one.

Putting the livebinder together was pretty easy. I used the livebinderit tool which allows you to add websites while browsing, and before I knew it I had a huge resource for my courses.

For the most part the website was easy to use, but there were a few tricks that I had to play around with a bit to figure out. I also had some technical problems trying to upload documents. Regardless though, I think this program would be easy to teach students and parents how to use, and it makes sharing information online easy and organized. Not only that, but think of the paper you could save!

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

Other than having resources for each class like I do, livebinders would be perfect for pooling together information for an assignment or test review, or posting letters or notices to students and parents. Another great application would be to have students create a livebinder for an assignment or portfolio.


Instead of a picture, here’s a video from Livebinders that shows how it all works:

Where can I learn more?

Livebinders website

A great livebinder filled with tutorials

Rating: 4 stars

This article is all over twitter today.

Ultimately, these 21 things are the way that I would like to run my classroom someday. However, I’ve decided to take things one step at a time. Starting in January I plan to use a minimum of one new technology every week. Ultimately though, becoming this amazing 21st century teacher isn’t as easy as just using techology whenever you can.

There are schools out there that block youtube, administrators that don’t allow students to use ipods, their cellphones, or facebook in class. Some students can’t afford the internet or a computer at home. Being a 21st century teacher is harder than this list makes it seem!

We hear all the time about how the world is rapidly changing, and our students are different- but are we willing to take risks and change with them? Are we able to help those students who aren’t financially able to keep up with the newest technological trends?

Bitstrips for Schools

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Websites
Tags: ,

I was recently reading this article about 6 websites that allow you create your own cartoons online. I was saddened that one of my favorite websites didn’t make the cut (though it likely didn’t make the cut because it isn’t free. The websites in that article are all fantastic alternatives if your school board isn’t able to fund purchasing bitstrips).

Bitstrips for schools is an absolutely amazing website that has enhanced my lessons in almost all subject areas. Once you’re registered, you can add students to your class and have them create their own avatars within the website. Once the students are added and avatars are created students are free to create their own comics using any of the avatars in the class along with a vast collection of props, characters, and backgrounds.

The technology: Bitstrips for Schools

My impression:

I have used this program with students of all ages, and it’s easy enough for very young students, but diverse enough that high school students enjoy it too. I have never had a student tell me that they didn’t enjoy working with bitstrips- there is nothing like having your students creating a good quality product when it’s not even an assignment.

There’s very little I can think of about this program that’s negative, but there are a few criticisms that I have after working on the program with my classes. The character creation is somewhat limited, and it can sometimes take awhile to create a comic that looks the way you want it to. Students who are perfectionists (or who like to goof off) can spend hours messing around in the program, trying to get it to do exactly what they want. While I normally applaud this kind of determination in my students, it can be frustrating when you have an assignment deadline looming and all they want to do is make sure their character’s hands are posed exactly the way they want them to be : ) .

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

One thing that I love about this program is that there are hundreds of activities and assignments that you can use with your students built into the websites. The majority of these assignments have been created by teachers for their own classes. Best of all: they’re searchable by grade and subject. I’ve used this feature a few times when I was in a pinch to create an assignment and didn’t have time to be creative on my own.


Creating a character

An example of what a finished class looks like.

Example of a finished comic.

Where can I learn more?

On twitter @bitstrips4school

Or their blog

Rating: 4 stars

Sign up for a free 30 day trial! If you like it, convince a colleague or two to give it a try as well. Having your district pay for a subscription to bitstrips is the cheapest way to activate an account. Individual teachers pay $9.95 a month, and school districts pay $1.50 per student per year.

I came across this video the other day while looking for videos on Google Earth. I had never seen it before, but it certainly made me stop and think. The message is clear: if you’re a teacher who is unprepared to teach using computers and the internet, make way for someone who is.

Is it true that computers and the internet are so vital? The authors of this article, along with countless others, would have you believe that it isn’t.

In my experience there seems to be two schools of thought on teachers and technology. You are either adamantly and passionately involved in trying to integrate technology wherever possible and appropriate, or you brush off the importance of technology in the classroom.  There seems to be very little room for compromise.

To me, the answer is glaringly obvious. I think there needs to be a middle ground on this debate. I am a huge advocate of using the internet in schools wherever possible, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog in the first place. Technology IS important, since it is such an integral part of our daily lives. Will it solve all the problems of our education system? No way. Technology should be used to enhance lessons and assignments, to reach out to students by demonstrating that we are living in their world, but it is not our savior.

The teacher is the really important part of this equation. The teacher has to be the one to use technology effectively in their classroom while not getting lost in it. All too often I have seen a teacher, inexperienced in using web 2.0 in their classroom, ambling overzealously into a lesson using some technology that they don’t fully understand just to say their lessons are up-to-date. It seems to me that this is just as damaging (if not more so), than not using technology in the first place.

A vision of K-12 students today

This video says something we all know: teachers need to respond to the needs of our students in our ever-changing society. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world where technology is always readily available.

If you’re reading this I can only assume that, like me, you want to integrate more technology in your daily teaching. Let’s face it: that’s not as easy as it sounds. If your school is anything like mine, there are days when it’s difficult to get your students in the computer lab. As time goes on I realize more and more that I have to get creative if I want to integrate the 21st century into my lessons.

So I’ve prepared a list of lessons that I have personally used in my classroom when technology was unavailable. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? All these lessons require is a pen and a piece of paper.

Technology-inspired lessons (texting, etc)

1)      Rewriting a scene from a book or play using text messages

2)      Write a twitter message to summarize a topic in your class using the 140 character limit. Students need to get creative, using netspeak and concentrating their ideas. This can be used for absolutely any subject.

3)      Write a blog post about a subject of interest

4)      Create a series of twitter/facebook updates that outline the progress of a major event in history (ie. World War 2).

5)      Write an article that convinces your teacher why you should be allowed to use an ipod (or other forbidden technology) in your school.

6)      Create a facebook profile for a historical figure/ character from a book

7)      Create a storyboard for a youtube video that will teach a concept. This will work in almost any subject.

8)      Write the script for a podcast (about anything!)

9)      Make a playlist of songs for an event in history, or a novel

10)    Write a text message to your best friend telling them what you learned today in school.

I can tell you that all 10 of these lessons were well received by my students, and that they were all done with a degree of quality and thoughtfulness that I wouldn’t have received if I’d asked them to simply write an essay or respond to questions from the textbook. I am constantly on the lookout for more lessons that I can add to this list. If you have one I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment and send some of those ideas this way. 🙂

Google Earth

Posted: October 23, 2010 in Hardware, Websites
Tags: , , ,

When I first became interested in using technology in my classroom, I turned to Google. Anyone who uses the internet at all is familiar with Google and how they have revolutionized the way we use the internet. Any search engine whose name has become a verb certainly has my attention! I started off using Google street maps and Google maps, but when I started to crave something more exciting I followed the advice of a colleague and turned to Google Earth. The program seems to be getting quite a bit of attention in the news lately, mostly concerning issues surrounding privacy.

The technology: Google Earth

My impression:

Google Earth is a very rich program which my students have loudly proclaimed as “wicked awesome”. It is essentially a virtual map that uses images from satellites and aerial photography. There are many features including:

  • A flight simulator: Allows you to fly around and explore. A favorite of my students (especially when they discovered they could fly underwater).
  • Sky mode: Allows you to view the stars and other celestial bodies with remarkable images.
  • Historical images of select cities (a very cool feature for history classes)
  • The ability to view Mars, the Moon, and under the Ocean.
  • Street view: a popular feature on Google’s website that allows you to see panoramic ground-level images.
  • The ability to create tours of different locations around the globe (fantastic for all kinds of subject areas).

The main hurdle that I have encountered with Google Earth is teaching students how to use it. It is relatively intuitive, but there are so many aspects to it that it does take some time to learn. As a teacher I don’t want to use too much of my time teaching students how to use a computer program (I have enough to cover in the curriculum as it is). This program is worth taking a little bit of time out of your day to show your students though, since once it’s been taught there are so many different ways you can apply it to lessons across the curriculum.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas: There are so many possibilities for Google Earth it’s impossible to name them all. Personally I have had history students create tours of important places in specific events in history, gone on scavenger hunts to find specific places of significance to world religions, and had math students calculate distances from one place in the world to another. There are also obvious uses in geography. Richard Byrne has developed a great resource for Google Earth across the curriculum which can be downloaded here (his blog, also has a whole bunch of information on Google Earth and a range of other resources, definitely worth a look).


Where can I learn more?

Google Earth Download

A series of tutorials by Google

The Google Earth Blog

Google Earth for Educators

And of course, there are a variety of other resources for Google Earth on the web. Google it and see what appeals to you (see, I used google as a verb!)

Rating: 5 stars

If you’re looking for some amazing sites that you can use in your classroom, take a peek at this. Some really great sites here that I’ll be using very soon!

I promise you’ll find something here that you can use in your class!