Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Happy Birthday and Adieu Div1 Edtech in EPSB!

We Are Five Years Old

Five years ago a number of Edmonton Public School teachers and Rick Stiles-Oldring, who was a technology consultant at the time, felt there was a need to support teachers of K-3 students with educational technology. As a result, this blog launched on March 22nd, 2012 with five blog posts:

Including the post you are reading, there are now 155 posts on this blog! The most popular posts in the past five years are:

Who Is Behind The Blog?

Over the years there have been seventeen authors, including myself, Colette Mondor. Thank you to David Salmon, Kristi Howard, Marge Kobewka, Lissa Davis, Rick Stiles-Oldring, Karen Plant, Colleen VanVeen, Samantha Orosza, Evelaine Goggin, Kelly Flasha, Kerri-Lynn Cayen, Nick Reilly, Richard Troung, Blythe Simon, Elissa Woodnough, and Terry Korte for their contributions.


Most of our regular bloggers have since left division one. As a result it is time to retire Div1 Edtech in EPSB. Thank you to all of our readers, supporters and bloggers. The blog will remain up but will not have new posts. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

An Interview With Marjorie Foth

A Little Bit About Marjorie

Marjorie is currently a grade four teacher with Edmonton Public Schools (EPSB) and has helped open one of the new schools. This is the second time she was a part of a staff that opened a new EPSB school. Marjorie is adjusting to the Edmonton climate again as this is her first year back in Edmonton after teaching for three years in Amman, Jordan at The International Academy - Amman. Marjorie and I did our after degrees together and have grown as teachers together. She started as a music teacher and has since taught grade four, five and six in Edmonton. She taught grade three and five in Jordan. You can find her on Google+.

The Interview

What technology skills should students have before coming into grade four?
By grade four, students should be able to log into a Chromebook efficiently and ideally remember their password (or at least keep their passwords somewhere where they can check). They should know their email includes It would be great if students had basic keyboarding skills before entering grade four. Knowing how to resize text so it is easy to read is another useful skill.  

Where do you get your edtech ideas?
I get ideas from teaching myself how to use a program and professional reading. I get ideas from other teachers and from professional development days. Sometimes I will search Google and Pinterest; Google+ can be good, too.

What type of technology do you have in your school/classroom?
Each classroom has:
  • A teacher desktop computer
  • Wireless keyboard
  • 20 Chromebooks
  • Document camera
  • A teacher iPad
  • Four mini iPads
  • Epson Interactive board

If you could only keep one technology at your school, what would it be? Why?
Chromebooks, hands down.

It is so easy for me to share something with students because Chromebooks make accessing Google Classroom easy. Google Classroom is easy to put assignments onto and then each student then has the visual in front of them.

However, it is important to have that social time together. Coming together to look at something on the Interactive Whiteboard is important, too.

What is one piece of technology you would like to try in your classroom that you haven't had an opportunity to yet?
The iPad and iPad minis. We have iPad minis available for classroom use. I have never used an iPad in class before.

What is something new you are planning to teach this year?  
I have done coding with my students for the past two years. This year I want to have my students program robots such as Dash and Dot and do some more advanced coding with Scratch.

How has technology changed the way you teach?
It has transformed the way I teach, 100%. When I started teaching there were still film strips, chalkboards and overhead projectors. It has made everything easier. It is easier to communicate with students. It also enables students to use a variety of ways to show their learning, such as talk to text if they are struggling.

How do you decided what is worthwhile for students to learn through technology?
You need to have a balance between technology and books. Students still need to have book in their hands. I disagree with those people who say students do not need proper books, that loading everything on a Kindle is enough. Likewise, students need to learn how to print properly and write legibly. Typing is great but there has to be a balance. I have really noticed a change over the past few years  in the quality of student’s printing.

What are your favourite apps/tech tools/websites?
  • Senteos (we had them at my previous school but not this one)
  • Google Classroom, I use a different classroom for each subject.

What are your hopes for edtech in the future in your classroom? Alberta? Canada? Globally?
For my classroom, it is coding. For the past two years I have done coding with my students. This year I am hoping my students can transfer what they learn from block coding and use actual coding language to make their own simple game. I think it is important for them to transfer what they learn (coding) and apply it or teach others how to do it.

I think for all of Edmonton and even globally, there needs to be equality across schools in terms of access to technology. Not all schools in Edmonton have the same type of technology. Globally many classrooms of course do not have technology but it would be nice to one day have all classroom with accessibility - though thinking of what many countries are facing I don't see that in the foreseeable future.

If you had to interview someone for division one educational technology. Who would you pick?
Melinda Martin at the International Academy Amman knew a lot about technology. I use many of her ideas in my classroom this year.

What question did I miss asking in your opinion?
I think you missed asking about teacher training. What is being done to train teachers to use technology? I think that is lacking. Often you are given new technology and just have to figure it out.

Thanks to Marjorie for taking the time to share her ideas. Stay tuned for February's interview. 

Related blog posts:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Best of Div1EdTech in EPSB 2016

A Look Back

Do not have time to read all of our fabulous blog posts from 2016? With the help of in-person conversations, the stats from Blogger and the +1s we received on Google+, we have compiled this year's Best Of list for you! 

Top Posts

  1. I Co-Taught... With Myself! - Using video when you need to model something for your students.
  2. An Interview With Nick Reilly - The first interviewee for the new feature: Div1 Edtech in EPSB Interviews. Nick shares his thoughts on educational technology.
  3. Be Proactive! Teach Your Students How To Problem Solve Technology Issues - technology classroom management tips.
  4. Reflections and Learning from 'Movies and Math' - A summary of math related tips, tools, student blog posts, movies, and apps.
  5. Pear Deck In Grade Two - Using slides but in an interactive and very visual way that gathers formative assessment data as you go.

What is Next for 2016?

We are excited to continue the interview series into 2017. Stay tuned for some new guest bloggers, too!

Join Us!

Many of our bloggers have moved out of division one in the last year or so. We are looking for new authors to join our team!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Google Expeditions!

Virtual Reality in the classroom seems like a far away place, or something that's very expensive, or supremely technical to get into. Teachers are unsure of how to implement it, how to set it up, or how it applies to the curriculum that they're currently teaching. With the Google Expeditions Kit put together by our wonderful friends in District Technology you can bring Virtual Reality to your classroom in a free, very easy to use fashion. 

What is Google Expeditions?

Google Expeditions is a teacher directed Virtual Reality experience using 360° still images to immerse students in different environments and places around the world. It uses themed images and questions to guide students through different experiences around the world.

How does it work?

Google Expeditions is an app that works on iOS and Android devices. Expeditions has two sides to the app. There is a "Guide" side, and an "Explorer" side. 

  • The Guide will be able to direct the expedition, control whether students will be able to use the viewer, point things out on the screen, and tell how many people are logged on at a time. 
  • The Explorers will be able to view the experience on their devices when they are connected.
In order to start an Expedition, you'll need all of the devices to be attached to the same WiFi network. (The District kit does this very simply), and then have the Explorers choose "Follow" inside the app. Once they've done that, they're ready to go!

Who can run the Expedition?

Ideally, a teacher. 

But I had Grade 5 students run the kit and lead Expeditions for Grade 2 classes in our school. The reason a teacher is ideal is that it is a guided process. Guiding questions and pointing out things that you're looking at with your students are very helpful in leading discussion about what is being viewed.

What do I need to do?

As a teacher, there's a little more prep to do ahead of time for this to be successful. There is a listing of all of the Expeditions available, and it's worth a look to try to check some of them out beforehand. Getting the app on your own device could be a good way to preview some of the Expeditions, but if you plan on using the kit from District Tech, they've got a tablet that can be used for this. Once you've figured out which Expedition you'd like to lead your class through, it's time to start. Luckily, there's a start up guide.

What benefits are there to using this?

This is a great opportunity to talk about different environments and places, how those things affect people, and to see places and things we wouldn't normally see at school. Our kindergarten kids were very excited to see jungles and the animals that lived in them. It is a great opportunity for inquiry based approaches as well, as the expeditions lead well into questioning and getting kids to ask questions about what they're viewing. This is a great opportunity to get to see things that maybe your field trip budget won't allow for, and using the Google Street View app with some of the older kids would allow unguided exploration of some areas, too! (It's worth checking out beforehand).

How have other teachers used the kit so far?

At Balwin, a lot of teachers used them for guiding younger kids to see things they normally wouldn't. Our junior high students used them to inspire questions about what they were viewing and how it applied to what they're learning. The kit comes with a Theta 360° camera which allows us to take pictures and create content in a unique approach, allowing us to think about and find inquiry based opportunities around us.

What problems might we encounter?

The most common problem that we encountered was that the devices weren't always on the same WiFi network, which was a quick and easy fix with the router provided. The other thought was that we needed lead time to take a look at the Expeditions and think about how we wanted to apply them. 285 of them is a lot. With our use, there wasn't many problems that we encountered. It was a very straightforward process. 

In short, Expeditions is a great way to show your students other places or things around the world, and is an amazing way to start a discussion with students of all ages. We'd really like to look at creating content at Balwin, and were very impressed with the experience. Kids were always asking when they could use the kit next. I'd love to hear what people do with the kit as time goes on, and how they've used it to attach to their curriculum. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

An Interview With Amanda Fahey

A Little Bit About Amanda

Amanda is a grade three teacher with the Lethbridge School District No. 51. She is on Twitter, @amandafahey13, and Google+. Her Google+ profile says: Never let an opportunity pass you by! And if you follow her on Google+ or read her blog, Mrs. Fahey’s Class, you will see she does not let an opportunity pass her class by. 

I have always been inspired by Amanda's ideas and classroom activities. I think after you read this interview you will be, too!

What technology skills should students have before coming into the grade(s) you teach?
Students should know the basics:
  • how to log on
  • how to find various programs (Chrome, searching with Google, Word)
  • how to copy/paste
  • how to save documents to a USB.

Where do you get your educational technology ideas?
I get ideas from Google+, Professional Development Days, colleagues and blogs.

What type of technology do you use in your school?
My school has laptops, desktop computers, iPads, webcams, and Smartboard.

Imagine you only could keep one technology at your school. From the ones you listed about what would be the one you would keep? 

Based on your response to the question above. Why would you keep that technology?
There are so many useful iPad apps that I enjoy using with my students. Students can still access the internet (Google) from an iPad, as well as use Google Docs, or Microsoft Word to complete class assignments. It also opens opportunities for new apps and ways to complete assignments rather than basic paper and pencil. As well an iPad has a camera, therefore we could complete Hangouts with other students.

What is one piece of technology would you like to try in your classroom that you haven't had an opportunity to yet?
3D printer

What is something new or different you are planning to try this year?
I plan on teaching one-on-one Google Hangouts with our penpal/collaborative blog class. I am also going to attempt a Robotics lab this year. 

How has technology changed the way you teach?
Technology has allowed me to go outside my comfort zone and find new ways to be innovative within the classroom. Instead of all students having the same project, which needs to be completed in the same way, I find technology allows me to give my students more opportunity to be unique and creative and find their strengths to show their learning. As well, technology has allowed me to meet and collaborate with so many other teachers all over the world. Completing mystery hangouts, or collaboration projects with classes in the USA, Brazil or Australia has allowed me to change the ways I teach being a Global Citizen and how to be a "safe" technology user to my students. My focus is to teach my students about a positive digital footprint.

How do you decide what is worthwhile for students to learn through technology, given literacy and skill challenges in division one?
Technology is incredible, but students still need the opportunity to use paper and a pencil. However, I decide what is worthwhile based on my individual students. I assess their needs and go from there. I try to find apps or tasks that can be easily modified to meet my students needs. For example, having a built in voice recorder or a "read to me" feature is always helpful for those struggling readers/writers. 

What apps or technology tools do you use? Are there any that you use for specific projects?

  • Google Hangouts - As a class, we complete many mystery location hangouts, mystery number hangouts, as well we meet with our penpal class. This year we are working on a Connected Reader’s Club as well which is absolutely fantastic!
  • News-O-Matic - I use this app for our Newspaper day. I also incorporate it into Daily 5 centers for a listen to reading center.
  • Popplet - This is a favourite when we are brainstorming, specifically before a writing task.
  • Green Screen - I use across all subject areas. I enjoy using Green Screen mostly for social and science as a way for students to show their learning at the end a specific unit. For example, students use it when describing an animal, or a country in social studies. We've also used Green Screen as a way of publishing fractured fairy tales. Students draw the scenes, and as we read the stories, their drawings are the backdrop. Super student friendly.
  • Class Dojo - I use it for classroom management.
  • Google Translate - I use this to support ELL learners.
  • Google Earth - I use Google Earth when we have mystery location hangouts. This year we’ve used Google Earth quite a bit as an introduction to the Grade 3 Social Studies curriculum which focuses on Peru, Tunisia, India and Ukraine.
  • Word Clouds - I use this for writing activities.
  • Skitch - This is a great labelling app which is extremely useful, specifically in science, when introducing a new topic. As well I use it in Language Arts for vocab development in word work centers.
  • QR Code Reader - I use this app mainly in math for games or problem solving. Students use the QR code to check their work. However, we use QR codes in language arts for tricky words, and to listen to reading.
  • KidBlog - We journal using Kidblog rather than a typical journal notebook. Our blog is then linked with our grade 3 classes throughout Canada and the USA, where we discuss various topics, and complete collaboration writing projects.
  • Quiver - This is a fantastic app that makes artwork pop like 3D! 

What are your hopes for educational technology in the future in your classroom? Alberta? Canada? Globally?
I would like to see a specific technology curriculum, where skills are broken down into grade specifics. Not all teachers are as comfortable with technology as others, therefore we get students who still are unsure how to log on etc which makes things rather difficult sometimes. But in order for that to work, more professional development would have to be offered. I hope that educational technology becomes the norm within our classrooms, and students become great global technology users where they are aware of how to be safe and effective users.

I also hope for generalized programs where the province or even country can use similar programs, ie. Google Apps for Education, so that students of similar grades can collaborate with other students throughout the country, opening up more opportunities and giving students a wider perspective on the topic, or life in general.

Check back for the December interview with Marjorie Foth.

Related blog posts:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Halloween: Dance Their Energy Away (With Tips For Using YouTube)

Lots Of Halloween Energy? Try Some Halloween Energizers!

I remember the excitement I felt around Halloween as a kid. As a teacher, I tend to live more vicariously through my students now. As fun as it is to see students excited, it also can be challenging to keep them focussed and motivated. I find movement breaks can help.

In this blog post I will share Halloween movement break videos (see the playlists embedded below), I will walk through how to create and edit YouTube playlists and how to save playlists made by others. At the end I will share how I try to minimize distractions when using YouTube.

Thanks to M.F., S.M., and A.K. for their suggestions!

Halloween Dance Videos

FSL Halloween VIdeos

Halloween Movement Breaks (Younger Students)

YouTube Playlists

Movement breaks are a regular part of my classroom routine. During exciting times of the year, I use them even more. To help me access them quickly, I create YouTube playlists. This is helpful because it helps me organize the videos and then I have them ready to go year after year. I also like making playlists because often the videos are too short for what I want. For example, my Halloween physical education lesson is often done in class as the gym is often closed. If I want to have the dance portion of my lesson to be 20 minutes, I create a playlist that links a number of dances together. I still have the option of pausing or skipping a video.

To create a YouTube playlist you will need a YouTube channel. If you have a Google For Apps for Education (GAFE) account, you will probably already have a YouTube account. You may just need to activate it. When you go to, look in the top right hand corner. You will either see a blue sign in button or your avatar/icon for GAFE (this indicates you are already signed in).

Tip: If you do not have time to create a playlist, you can find the videos you watched most recently by going to "History" on the left side panel.

If  you want to create a playlist, there are different ways you can go about it. One way is to select My Channel or Library on the left. I suggest selecting "Library". Then you will have the option to make a new playlist. The new playlist button will have a plus sign.

You will be prompted to make a title. Also consider if you want your playlist available to others. You will see a globe with the word Public and an arrow. Public means anyone can search for and find your playlist. Unlisted means it is not searchable but anyone with the link to your playlist can use/view it. Private means only you can access/view the playlist. Note the default is Public and you have to select drop down menu to see the options. 

Once you have created your playlist YouTube will take you to the playlist settings page. Here you can edit your playlist. There are many options. Three that are important to know (to start with) are:
  1. You can delete you playlist from this page. Select the three dots on the right.
  2. You can change your playlist from Public to Unlisted to Private here at anytime.
  3. You do not need to know the videos you want to add yet. 

If you do know the video(s) you want to add, select add video button and follow the instructions. If you do not know all the videos you want to add yet, you can leave your playlist settings page (no need to save) and start searching videos. 

When you find a YouTube video you like, you can add it to one or more playlist you already have. If you are like me, and have many playlists, you may want to use the search tool (box with magnifying class under Add to) to find the playlist quickly. You can create a new playlist within this option, as well. The create new playlist option is at the very bottom of the drop down menu.

Does Order Matter?

Depending on what/how you are using your playlist, you may nor may not care the order the videos appear. YouTube will play the videos in the order you have added them to your playlist. If you wish to change the order, you will need to go into your playlist settings. To access the playlist settings, select library (left hand menu). You may see the playlist you have been working on underneath the word library (click on the playlist). If not, click on library. You should see your created playlists on the right-hand side. Select the playlist you want to edit. You can click and drag the videos by selecting and holding the small bar on the left-hand side of each video.

When you click on a video in your playlist, a drop down menu will appear on the right. It will say "more" and an X will be to the right of the menu. The X is how you delete a video from a playlist. The drop down menu gives you the option to move the video to the top or bottom of the playlist, to edit/add notes about the video or set the video as the thumbnail for the entire playlist. 

Tip For Next Year

It is useful to look at your playlist before you used it each year. Over time videos get deleted for a number of reasons. Your five video playlist from 2016 could end up being only two videos in 2017. Remember you can delete videos from your playlist. You can access the edit features when playing your playlist by going to the gear in the top right corner. 

Use Someone Else's Playlist

If you want to use someone else's playlist, you can! You will have no control over the playlist but you also do not have to spend time creating it! To find a playlist, include the word playlist in your search terms. Select view full playlist to check out what videos are included. 
When you select save playlist, it is added to your library.  To accessed any saved playlists, simply select the library option on YouTube's menu. You will see all your saved playlists under the ones you have created.

Free Is Great... But All Those Distractions

Using the extension ImprovedTube helps with some of the distractions that come with using YouTube. As it is an extension, once you install it, it will be available from your Chrome browser (to the right of the omnibox). You will have to select the setting you want to use. Click on the ImproveTube extension icon and you will get a dropdown box. I suggestion looking through all the settings. I use the options under Appearance Settings. I hide the related sidebar and I hide comments. Under Player Appearance I select Start In Large Player for player size.

Sharing Is Caring

This post is by no means exhaustive for how to use YouTube playlists. Please share your YouTube tricks or treats in the comments. Or share your favourite Halloween videos or playlists!

Further Reading/Viewing

Monday, October 10, 2016

An Interview With Alicia Kuzio Part Two

A Little Bit About Alicia

Teaching is Alicia’s second career. Alicia is currently teaching grade three. This is her third year teaching. In her short teaching career she has taught everything from grades one to six, including FSL. Check out her class website

You can find her on Google+. To quote Alicia, “in the early years of teaching, it is so vital to be connected to other educators with varying backgrounds and levels of experience to share ideas, resources, advice. We are better together.” So please add her to your PLN!

Here is part two of my interview with Alicia. Don’t forget to read part one!

The Interview Continued

How has technology changed the way you teach (if at all), as a beginning teacher?
The online and professional communities that I am a part of have enabled me to connect with other like-minded educators. In the early years of teaching, it is so vital to be connected to other educators with varying backgrounds and levels of experience to share ideas, resources, advice. We are better together.

I often reflect on how supportive the technology in my classroom is for assisting the literacy and skill challenges in my classroom. It allows opportunities to differentiate the ways that students can express what they know. I can present information and content in different ways to deepen and motivate learning.

How do you decide what is worthwhile for students to learn through technology, given literacy and skill challenges in division one?
I think of technology as a tool to support and extend learning. Given the diverse range in literacy and skill challenges in my classroom, my goal is to provide opportunities for students to have meaningful engagement in their learning and deepen their understanding.

What apps or technology tools do you use? Are there any that you use for specific projects?

  • Google Apps for Education! We most often use Docs, Slides and Forms.
  • National Film Board for short, relevant and engaging videos.
  • Canadian Wildlife Federation for their interactive classrooms (Wild Spaces) that allow classes across Canada to interact by sharing pictures and stories about the wild space that they have created or post environmental school events.
  • Storybird for creating original stories from a stock of interesting and captivating illustrations and images.
  • Kidblog was very engaging for my students to publish original texts and to read responses.

What are your hopes for educational technology in the future in your classroom?

My hope is that educational technology continues to grow social, cultural, global and environmental responsibility and understanding through interconnectedness. Through innovation and creativity, I hope that it can be equitable and accessible to all learners.

Check back for the November interview with Amanda Fahey.

Related blog posts: