Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reflection On EPSB EdTech Tablets in Schools Session

Managing school sets of iPads & Android Tablets

So I went to the session on managing iPads and tablets because was not just about iPads, which so much of the discussion about tablets in education is often about. However, I was the only user that did not have iPads. So I did not find any solutions to my Android tablet woes but I did come away with some ideas, mostly from Randy Lyseng. Many of his ideas apply to any tablet device.

Good Reminders

  • schools tablets do not work the same as our personal tablets
    • The example given was ask someone to use their tablet for a day. They are like our smartphones, they are personalized devices with personal information. That is very different than a device shared among many users. 
  • tablets in schools are rarely 1:1
  • they need to be supervised devices
  • no matter the device, you cannot purchase apps easily

Things to Consider Before Use

The message that stood out for me was: protect your investment

  • buy cases
  • consider screen protectors 
  • possibly re-purpose an old laptop cart for storage
  • store securely
  • label devices
  • bar code devices

Start Small

The messages that Randy gave around starting small really apply mostly to iPads but there are some ideas that relate to Android tablets that are used in EPSB. 

  • iPad:  start with one page of apps and organize into folders.
    • Android: for the amount of time and energy involved with Android apps I would say even start smaller, maybe start with a handful of apps, no folders. 
  • iPad: be picky about the apps you buy, pick apps that will provide the biggest bang for your buck.
    •  Android: at the moment in EPSB spending money on apps on the Android tablets is financially unmanageable when multiple users are involved.
  • iPad: encourage student to same apps at home by having an App of the Week.
    • Android: being an Android school, it would be best to have ones that exist on both platforms, for while we have Android tablets at school, likely  many students will have Apple devices at home.

Have a Plan

Think about how the tablets will be used. Do not only consider general classroom use but also how they can be used for intervention or enrichment.

Consider your special needs and English language learner students and consult with ILS consultants. When thinking about using tablets with special needs students, he suggested using SETT: student first, then environment, then the task and finally the tool. You do not start with the tool and work from there.


When deploying tablets at your school, have one person or team to manage them.  The lead technology teacher should work together with the ITS analyst. 

Final Thoughts

I would argue these are things to consider not just before using tablets in schools but before buying them. Often people see how useful and easy to use these devices are in a home/personalized setting which is not the same in a school setting. 

I would also argue look at how much the devices cost to purchase and include in that total the tablet covers, apps, (and in the case of iPads the laptop to configure them all), etc. I think that in some cases that tablet will still be the tool the makes the most sense but I think in many cases other technologies are better choices at this point in time. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Flipping the Grade One Classroom

Using the flipped classroom model can create collaboration amongst students and also between students, teachers and parents. It can also be a powerful tool for increasing engagement and differentiation. 

Using the flipped classroom model is very achievable in the Division One classroom.  Like anything in technology, its all about practice.  When I originally watched the Flipped Classroom video I thought, "I was not ready to take that on."  I had never used YouTube for that purpose before but just by exploring the website, doing some reading and asking some questions, I was able to figure it out.  I am still not an expert but now that I have experienced an amazing degree of students success, I am motivated to continue using the model.  

I have heard many teachers say that time is a factor.  When you are starting, time is certainly a factor.  I have found that if I can plan ahead and make several videos at one time I decrease the time for setup.  Then I have several lessons planned ahead of time and ready to use in the classroom.  I spent an hour preparing, making and uploading six videos.  I have used those six videos for five, one hour class periods.  Also, I will refer back to these videos later in the year for review and further extension of the skills.  It is an investment of time up front that pays off big in the classroom. 

My goal is to continue using vodcasting to present new concepts in the classroom and at home via SchoolZone.  The next step is to create learning opportunities where students can apply the learning to more project based work in the classroom.  My latest idea is to continue recording videos for the Math curriculum but switch topics to patterning.  Each video will introduce a skill from the Program of Studies, such as: creating patterns, naming patterns, extending patterns and translating patterns.  The students would start a larger individual project where they incorporate each skill as they learned it.  The criteria for the project would be tailored for each student.  Different videos stationed around the room, and made available at home, would make for a custom project tailored to meet the needs of each student at the speed in which they are able to learn. 

Yet another idea was suggested today, and that is to have the students make their own video to share their learning.  This would certainly be a powerful learning experience for the students. And something new for me to think about.  I would start by making a class video or small group videos. We could use the video camera or the Chromebooks. We could use the videos for assessment. We would have lots of discussion about digital citizenship; we could share the videos with an audience.  Some many ideas and lots to think about.  If you are familiar with the Flipped Classroom model or with making videos with Division One students, I would like to connect with you and here about the process you used.  How can we collaborate as teachers to create collaboration in our classrooms?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Community of Practice Blogger Session

Here is my presentation for Edmonton Public School's EdTech Google Apps Community of Practice (December 2013). Please share your successes, ideas (tried or not), problems/concerns and questions about blogging with younger students. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013: A Look Back

Top Viewed Post

In 2013 I was lucky enough to go to the Edmonton Google Apps Summit (which I'll be going to again in 2014, woo hoo). I left with my head filled with so many ideas for the classroom. It also led to the most popular post for our blog in 2013: 

Top on Google+

I use Google Slides a lot with my grade twos, as a result, I blog about Google Slides/Presentation a lot. Many readers liked:

Other Favourites

Here are the other posts that were popular in 2013:


Monday, December 9, 2013

Shared Folders to Share Photos

Why Shared Folders?

I wanted to create a fast and easy way for my students to access photos. With Google moving away from Picasa and toward G+ for photos, I needed a way to easily give students access to class photos. By creating a shared folder called "Photos for Room 13", I only have to create share settings once. Now when I have new photos to give to my students, I just have to add them to that folder. I did not spend a lot of time explaining shared folders. You can watch the video Managing Shared Folders for more information.

When Do I Use Photos From the Shared Folder?

For Students To Use In Their Work

My students created a brochure on Edmonton 100 years ago. They needed to put pictures in their brochure along with their sentences. Many of their great ideas did not have suitable (easy to access) images to go with the topic. So I shared the photos from our class field trip to Fort Edmonton Park where many of the buildings were things they wrote about.

Using the Smartboard, I demonstrate how they go to the image icon and then they select "Shared with me" under Google Drive.

For Sharing On SchoolZone

During Halloween I took photos of all the students. So I put the photos in the class "Photos for Room 13" shared folder and put the link on SchoolZone. More recently I took photos of students sorting by two attributes. It is a tough skill to master and I wanted to visually show parents on SchoolZone what it would look like. I uploaded one photo to SchoolZone and then put the rest in the "Photos for Room 13" folder with a link in the SchoolZone entry.

Try it for videos too!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blogger As Enrichment For Reading Response

School Reading Routine

The school I am at this year has a school-wide practice that was new to me: PERT (paired-echo-reading-time). In a nutshell, every morning almost all the students read with a partner. Older students are trained to be coaches and read with younger students. Students either read at the same time (paired) or the older student reads first and the younger student repeats the passage after (echo). The occurs for about 15-17 minutes every morning.

Blogger As Enrichment

I have a grade two student who received enrichment during PERT last year and did book reports after completing books with his older partner. I did not want to simply repeat last year's enrichment. So when thinking about what to do this year I looked to what my area of expertise and strength: technology. I thought a blog would be an easy way to build on what he did last year. It would also help him and his partner build some technology leadership that could be used in class later. 

Things I Considered

  • When I went to set this up, I had to remind myself he is still only in grade two and there is limited time each morning. 
  • I also wanted to create a structure so that they would not need my assistance very often once they got going as I have other responsibilities during PERT time. 
  • I wanted to be in control of the blog. So that meant I would own the blog and he and his partner would be added as authors, rather than having him own the blog.


  1. I created a new blog. I decided that it would be best to keep it open ended as possible. So I made it a general review blog for the school that I would manage. That way if other students require enrichment or a whole class wants to do a book review project, they can use what is there already. However, I only added the two students as authors for now (as the creator, I am an author as well).
  2. I changed the settings so the comments would be moderated by myself. I also decided to not allow just "anyone" to comment. While it is moderated, I feel that by having people having their username attached to comments, we were more likely to get useful and thoughtful comments and less inappropriate comments for me to moderate. 
  3. While the school already had FOIP forms filled in at the beginning of the year, I also wrote a note to get permission from both families. 
  4. I found a worksheet that could serve as a note taking tool for the pair from Read Write Think.
  5. I created a post that would serve as a template for their reviews. 
  6. I sat down and spoke to the boys and explained what they would be doing the day before actually starting.
  7. I started them off with a short and simple book. 
  8. I helped them with their jot notes on the planning sheet.
  9. I worked with them on their first post, showing them how to copy and paste the template into a new post. I explained they needed to take turns writing as it is a partner project.
  10. I will repeat steps 6 to 8 until I feel they were ready to try longer books. I likely will have them do a review for each chapter but I am currently undecided.
  11. I will comment on each post and encourage other staff to do so as well!

Added Bonus

As we have four permanent computers in class, I as able to use the blogging activity as sort of anchor activity. He was able to work on writing the review during class time after finishing his other work. It was a meaningful and relevant anchor activity for him. 


Having set it up so a registered user can only comment has deterred staff from commenting as most of them do not have Blogger accounts.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SMART Tables as an iPad Center in K-3

- Originally Posted in Heeding Thamus
More and more we are seeing iPads being used as a learning center in K-3 classes. Typically, a teacher will have four or five iPads all linked to one iTunes account. Apps can then be bought and shared between the iPads and organized into thematic folders. (It is important to note here that unless the teacher is using Configurator, this practice violates the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions – section MAC APP STORE PRODUCT USAGE RULES). As these iPads are not set up for individual students, most of the educational apps used do not collect learning data and tend not to be collaborative.
One solution that has promise is the SMART Table, where students can use it as a center to collaboratively solve problems and learn through playing. The idea of immediate feedback and the potential for the collection of learning data is excellent.

However, before we get too excited, there are some fundamental problems with the table. The first is cost. They run between $7000-$8000 CND, which might be worth while if the table managed learning analytics, but doesn’t, at least not yet. Also, in order to set up the table for students to play on, the teacher needs to insert a USB key. It makes sense to have a lock on the teacher screen, but a USB key seems a bit 2003. The resolution is good, but the screen would occasionally disappear for a second or two.
Finally, and most importantly, it is difficult to see how the learning is improved through the use of the table. If the goal is to improve collaboration, the table is an expensive alternative to manipulative and games already in the classroom. As well, some of the learning activities immediate feedback told students they got the answer right, even though they selected the wrong answer.
There remains a lot of potential in a SMART table in the K-3 classroom. Unfortunately, the price point and the lack of an improvement in learning puts this device in the “Maybe in the Future” category.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Technology is A Part of My Social Centres

Background Information

I break up the grade two curriculum into the regions and teach those separately. As students learn about another region, they compare and contrast it to the other places they have studied. I have tried teaching all the regions together (as most of the resources are set out to do) however I found that students mixed up the regions more often.

Within each region, I break up the unit into three parts: the land, the people and the economy. Currently we are studying about the land.

Big Class=More Centres

In past I have done these particular social centres where they are rotating through three centres. With a class size of 26, that seemed to be a recipe for disaster. So I now how have four centres.

Day One 

I allot about 16-18 minutes to each centre. I allow 1-2 minutes inbetween centres for tidy up and switching. Students take a handout with them.

In The North Centre  

Student read the book, I Live in The North, as a group. They then make a list of what they can see if they were in the north based on what they read in the book. I worked with this group primarily.

Netbook Centre 

Students use the a website, Animals in Nunavut, to learn about the animals found in Nunavut and make a list.

Video Centre  

Students watch a YouTube playlist I made on the Smartboard. They  write and draw about what it looks like as they watch it. The playlist of Nunavut videos does not last the whole centre, so they watch it twice. Once for enjoyment, the second time to do their writing and/or drawing. 

The Inuksuk, Guide In The North Centre  

Student read the book, Inuksuk, Guide In The North, chorally with a teacher. This book has the book on CD, so there is an option for having this as a listening centre. I have a retired teacher as a mom, so I have her volunteer on days like this! 

Day Two (no handout)

Artifacts Centre 

I had a kit that had some Inuit artifacts. Students work with me to handle and discuss them.

Inuksuk Centre  

Students use sandpaper and black construction paper to make an inuksuk picture. Before centres start I remind them we can use pictures to show what we know. I make a connection to the book In The North from the last set of centres. Students are encouraged to show the Northern Lights, the North Star, snow on the ground in addition to making an inuksuk. Early finishers have books to read about inuksuks.

Netbook Centre 

Students use the class website to access the following websites:

The Inuksuk, Guide In the North Centre PART TWO  

Student read the book, The Inuksuk, Guide In The North, as a listening centre (12 minutes). Then they answer questions about the book (from day one's handout). As it is quite a long book for grade two, the first time they read it with a volunteer it took the entire time because they were discussing as well as reading. So I added it as a second centre on day two. As I do not have a CD player in my class this year, I improvised with an iPod and speakers. Not ideal but it worked okay. 

What's Next?

The goal of the centres is that students will have a really solid understanding about what Nunavut is like (land and animal). They are now ready to make a travel brochure using their notes from their centres. While it is a travel brochure, we won't touch on tourism until later.

Related Posts

Showing Videos In Class (discusses playlists)
Benefits of a Class Website (great if you use technology in centres regularly)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Read & Write for Google

Read & Write for Google

Get this app from Google and try it out for 30 days free. This is a text-to-speech and word-prediction tool that supports Inclusive Education, ELL, and UDL. I heard of it for the first time today at the community of practice. It can be used with Google docs, epub or while browsing websites. You can use it to simply read aloud text to students who are struggling, reluctant readers. It will highlight the sentences being read as well as highlighting each word as it reads. It has a variety of voices to choose from as well as the languages English and French. Hopefully they will add more down the road. As the student listens or reads a document, story or website independently they can stop, highlight a word they do not understand and click on either the dictionary for a definition or the picture dictionary to see a picture which will deepen comprehension.

Another use for this app is to create a document that provides a personal dictionary of words students struggled to comprehend when reading. Students can highlight words they did not understand or could not read and use the multi-coloured arrow tool to group them into a document. It can then be shared with you the teacher to provide you with information of vocabulary to review, or introduce, to build students English vocabulary. These documents are automatically created when the coloured arrow icon is clicked and it will be saved in the students drive. They need to remember to name the document so they can refer to it again or share it with you or others. 

There is one last icon you need to know about. It is the vocabulary icon that has 3 bullets with lines. After students highlight words they are unfamiliar with, they then click on the icon and it will automatically create a document. It will provide them with a personal dictionary that includes a picture, if it is available, and a written definition or synonyms for the words. This is also saved in the students Google drive. Remind your students to rename the document so they do not have a long list of untitled docs. This can be useful in growing basic vocabulary or as a research tool. 

It will be a word prediction tool in the near future as well. Look for this update coming soon!

Please add comments to this post if you try it out and find different uses for the app. I have added a link to a document that was used in the presentation I was at. Please make a copy of it and try navigating through the different icons. You will have to add it to your Google apps connected to your user. Search for it on Google Chrome or look for it under the apps icon on a Chromebook. You can also search for it under your drive , create button, connect more apps. Once I have tried this with my students I will do a follow up post.

Read and Write for Google Treasure Hunt- Created by Lindsay Ballance (ILS)

Keep Your Skills Sharp, Use Google Apps When Making Unit Plans

This year I have decided to try to integrate more multiple intelligences activities into my units. One of my first road blocks was trying to keep all my ideas, resources and planning in one place. I decided to try using Google Document to meet this goal and so far I like the result.

More Time?

Like anything new, there it can be more time consuming initially. However, I think in the long run, having everything in one place will be time saving in the future.

Useful Skills

There are a few basic skills that you will need to make this effective.

1. Scanning
2. Uploading and converting
3. Bookmarking and linking
4. Make A Folder


The biggest reason I did this change is to have everything in one place that is accessible at one time. When I started working on my magnet unit (after not having taught science for a number of years), I always seemed to be missing something. Either I was working at home and forgot something in a binder at school or I was working at school and had left something at home. By having everything online, I could access everything I needed anywhere.

A secondary benefit is the fact I am keeping up on my Google Apps skills by using them regularly.

The third reason maybe wishful thinking. My thinking is that I could share my unit plans with other grade two teachers and that could lead to some collaborative planning.

Example and Steps

Here is a unit I have in progress. It is a math unit on equalities and inequalities. Here are the steps I used.

  1. Create a Folder for the unit
  2. Scan Materials to PDF
  3. Upload Word Documents and scanned PDFs to Google Drive  * If you have your unit folder open in your Google Drive when you upload your documents, it will automatically add them to that folder. If you do not, you will have to move the relevant items to the folder.
  4. Create a Document that will be the core of your unit plan.
  5. Create a table of contents.
  6. Create headings in your document (such as curriculum outcomes or scope of lessons).
  7. Highlight these headings and make them a bookmark. Then go back to the table of contents and link the contents to the related headings you just bookmarked.
  8. Begin to plan/write. As I get to a lesson that requires one of the items I've uploaded, link it to your plan.
  9. Share your folder (it will therefore share everything that folder) with those you wish to collaborate with.

So No Paper or Word Documents?

I still have paper copies of things I want to photocopy and I still have my Word documents for now...

Reflections On ESPB Edtech Community of Practice (COP), October 29

EPSB EdTech Google Apps Community of Practice

Today was this school year's first EdTech Community of Practice (COP) for Edmonton Public Schools. For me, these sessions are not only to learn new things but it is a chance to confirm I am on the right track as well as network with other educators using technology.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Android Apps And Grade Two, Part Two

Android Apps And Grade Two, Part Two

I was so excited to hear that my new school had tablets; I even did research over the summer. I do a lot of centres in class across the curriculum and I anticipated that tablets would enhance them. Then I started to look into how to use them and my excitement waned.

So, getting started with our tablets was not as smooth or as quick as I had hoped. It is almost November but we are finally going to start using them in classrooms.

Road Blocks

I know tablets are intended to be single user devices but I had seen iPads used successfully without too much headache in a kindergarten classroom. Being an Android user myself, I was pleased that we had Android tablets. However, Apple has somewhat of a way to help schools manage iPads and apps. It has not been as simple with the Android tablets. Here are some of the road blocks:

  • Logging onto the WIFI is not simple for younger students (and reminding users to log off WIFI when done).**
  • Paid apps are user specific.
  • By using the Google Play store, the tablet automatically connects to your Google account. You have to delete your account EACH time after using the Play store.
    • You have to go into Settings, then select Accounts, then select Google and then select the option "remove account".   
** We still wanted to be able to track individual users and that is why we still want to have students sign on to the WIFI with their own usernames and passwords.

Work Arounds

  • Like all technology, it is important to take the time to teach the skills to students and provide them opportunities for repetition so they can become proficient at logging in and out of WIFI.
  • NO paid apps (means many free apps have ads)
  • Plan ahead - get a list of all the apps you want to install on the tablets so the long process of signing into Google Play and then removing the account only happens a few times.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chrome Books in Grade 1... CRAZY... not really...

Getting Started
First thing you need to know is all passwords must be changed if your students have not done so. I recommend you add a 1 to all existing passwords as that seemed to be the easiest for me. They were eager and excited to go as was I. We used a buddy system so only half my students had to log on so I only had  half the problems. The next time they would swap so after two visits everyone would have logged on. This provides scaffolding for the students who may struggle.  I had a plan to show them what they could do once they got on, so they were motivated to be independent. I chose a free app called Lego builder that I would help them get.(Fits with building things curriculum in science) Everything was going as well as expected with 11 of 22 grade 1's logging on for the first time when we reached a road block. After they got all of the email and password in they received a security message where they need to type the funny written letters. In grade 1 they have a hard time with proper letters so this required a lot of patients from myself and them.This happens the first time you use the email and password. As it turns out having only half log on at a time was smarter than I thought. I have an EA who was able to help so those of you that are flying solo you may want to do this one at a time in the class or have a couple volunteers to help you.

Step 1-I started modelling in the classroom showing them the basics of what logging in to a computer would             look like. I also showed them how it did not work if they even made one mistake. We talked about               how to problem solve by checking each letter one by one and retrying the password carefully and                 slowly.

Step 2- I took out one Chrome book and modeled how to log on and how to get @ symbol. They chanted               "hold shift, tap 2" repeatedly until they had it stuck in their brains.

Step 3- Show them the Lego building app they will use,  if they can get on. Insert " wow, cool, so fun"                  here. This is the carrot you need to dangle for motivation. Go on the Chrome book look for what will              work in your class. Under apps, education there are many free ones that your students will love. Just               remember you will have to model how to get the app and help them get it. Once they have it, it will be           there forever.

Step 4- Release the Chrome books to the partners. Wait for it.... they all get on with minimal assistance                     (funny written security word)  and enjoyed the app. Some students did it in 10 or 15 min others only              had 5 min to build but they all were successful. They were able to take turns and build.

Step 5- Repeat next time so the other 11 students can log on.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Small Step Is Still A Step (A Reflection)

How Do You Know All This Stuff?

Today I was casually sharing with a colleague some of the things I do with Google Apps. Her response was, "how do you know all this stuff?" The answer is by playing and trying. A significant amount of my playing and trying was because of the professional development I have received from EPSB.

My First Exposure To Google Apps For Education (GAFE)

I remember when I went to my first professional development day for GAFE, at the time called the Portal Project. I was a deer in headlights. Teachers were talking about what they were doing with their students and I couldn't even wrap my head around how I would do it myself, let alone with grade twos. Now when I talk about what I do with my grade twos, I get grade six teachers giving me that same look.

Where To Start? One Small Step!

The best advice I can give is start small but start It's amazing how one small step at a time can accumulate to a long road of knowledge and skill! With all things technology, what I find useful is to pick just one subject area to focus on. When Smartboards first came out, I chose math to focus on. By picking one subject it became manageable and less overwhelming. That's not to say I never used the Smartboard in other subjects. Rather that I tried to use it as often as I could in math and gave myself permission not to use it regularly in other subjects. I was quickly able to apply what I figured out during my math lessons to use in other subjects once I felt comfortable. 

I did the same for GAFE. I chose social studies as the area I was going focus on with my students. My students did many of the summative projects using Presentation over the last two years. As a result, many of my blog posts related to social studies and technology

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Am I Crazy? Moving My Class Website to Google Sites

Some History

When I first started using the Internet with division one students many many many years ago, it was quickly apparent that too much time was spent having them type websites into the address bar. Initially I created a Word document with hyperlinks and saved it in a shared folder on our server. I taught them how to open that document and all they had to do was click on the hyperlinks. I just changed the content of that document for each technology lesson. Eventually I made my first class website on Tripod way before it was Tripod.Lycos! Later I moved it to Wordpress as I did not like the banner ads Tripod had.  

I Like Wordpress

I like Wordpress and have used it for over five years. It was relatively easy to learn and use. The URL for my site is which meant when students searched "msmondor" my site was the first thing they found. I made Ms Mondor a spelling word in the first weeks of school. Things I like about Wordpress:

  • You can schedule posts.
  • It is user friendly.
  • It is free without a lot of annoying ads.
  • You can customize an easy to find URL.

So Why Move?

When EPSB first "went Google" I tried Google Sites and I hated it. It was clunky. So I pretty much ignored that part of Google Apps for Education. Last year I made a landing page for my former school using Google Sites. My, had things changed. It had all the things I liked about Wordpress plus I could make the interface more division one friendly than I could with Wordpress. I will miss my short and convenient URL. Things I like about Google Sites:
  • You can schedule posts.
  • It is free without annoying ads.
  • Can upload files for parents. For example on my math page I have math games that we've played at school.
  • Division One friendly interface.
  • Can integrate other aspects of Google Apps for Education easily.
  • It is easy to use after some initial trial and error/instruction.
  • There are templates to use create class websites.

Links to Consider Viewing

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Student Profile Template

Multiple Intelligences Survey

I used multiple intelligences surveys this year as part of working toward integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into my teaching and in my grade two classroom. I initially sent home the survey for families to do with their children. My intention was to give students a simple half page summary of their strengths and areas for growth based on the survey. However, while most families completed the survey promptly, not all of the families handed them in. I did not want to have any students left out of the next step which was to discuss goals for a strength and an area for growth. So I decided to administer one in class as well.

Home Survey 

As a part of the collaboration my staff is doing with a number of other schools, the grade two teachers decided to not include the existential component. I found a survey that did not include it and modified the language  very slightly to make the format a little more accessible. The grade one teachers in our school drafted a parent letter that explained the survey. 

School Survey

When I decided to do a survey in class I wanted something would not be too time consuming but have grade two wording. The survey I used was short and on one page. We completed this as a class. I read the statement and gave examples of what a 0, 1 or a 2 might be. 

The formatting was not very user friendly for grade twos. Next year if I were to use this in class I would number them and make the font larger. I did change the scoring from 0-5 to 0-2. I also only had students put the number beside the question. I later put their numbers in the bold boxes and tallied them. Actually, I delegated that to my husband! :)

What Next

After these two surveys I was left with a lot of paper but still not the overall picture I was looking for. So I decided a one page summary of each student would be more useful. Alberta Education has a document called Developing Learner Proļ¬les. I found this very useful and from it I created a Google Doc called Student Profile Template. I have set the settings to view only but I would love comments on the document for suggestions about how you would use it.

I will also give my students a short summary of their "smarts" so that we can discuss goal setting next.

Microsoft Word? No! Google Docs! A Habit Shift.

As I have begun to research UDL more this year, I have tried to use as many available resources as possible. I have also tried to share things that I am creating. I almost have always exclusively used Word to create documents for planning, parent letters and student work. I still like Word better for creating student activities. However, I have started to make a mental shift to creating new planning documents and parent documents using Google Docs. It is much easier to share what I am doing. I encourage others to make the shift and not just create in Google Docs but share what you are doing with others. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making Your SchoolZone Parent Resource Page Easy To Navigate

A Paperless Lesson

Two years ago I decided to go paperless for class communications*.  Instead, I started posting the PDF or Word versions of the documents in class news of SchoolZone for a set period of time. Then I would also post it for future reference in the reference section. What I ended up with was not very user friendly. 

* I do provide paper copies for families who request them.

Using Headings 

Last year what I decided to try was to create a heading for each subject area at the start of the year. I even colour coded the headings. As I had something to add to that subject area, I would go back to the date that heading was created on and edit that post or insert an additional document. So, for example, all math items would be together and easy to find. I set the end date for the end of the year for each category/post. 

The Category and Date Matters

I set the the "class" for each heading as "home room" otherwise SchoolZone will be helpful and order the topics alphabetically (art, English LA, etc.). I prefer to have my school start up information first followed by the core subjects. 

This led to another discovery. If you catgorize everything by "home room" the date you set as your start date matters when you set your resources page up this way. If you want General Information first, make sure it has a start date that is the LATEST. I found it useful to put all the information I sent home the first few weeks of school together under General Information. Then I had the core subjects, followed by everything else. 

You can have all the items under one "start" date but if you change your mind about the order you want them to go in, there is no easy reordering solution. Assigning each item/topic area a different start date was an easier way to manage the Resources page for me.

Don't Forget

I am surprised at how many teachers still do not know that they can assess their Discovery Education (formerly United Streaming) through the staff resources section of the resources tab. You no longer have to remember that username or password! 

Parents and students also have access to Discovery Education through SchoolZone as well as access to LearnAlberta

While We're Talking About SchoolZone

On August 19th a new version of SchoolZone was released. Two of the most significant changes for teachers were:

  • no more workspace tab for schools that use Google Apps.
  • SchoolZone News said: "When teachers make changes to student files shared through the Hand In box, students will now get a flag alerting them of the change.  Click here to learn more."

Your Turn

Please post your September SchoolZone tips in the comments! 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New School? New Technology!

Started at a new school this year? What are the technology questions you should be asking? What technology preparation should you be doing? Here are some ideas!

  1. Do an inventory of what technology is in your school. 
  2. Talk to the technical analyst or lead technology teacher. I think understanding HOW things work will help you problem solve when things stop working (or even to know when to stop problem solving because it is not fixable by you). Possible questions to ask:
           What are some ongoing technology problems? 
           How old is the technology in the school?
           What is the plan for technology in the school?
           How reliable is the wireless?
  3. Find out the procedures for accessing the various technology. You may need to talk to the librarian, the technical analyst, principal, lead technology teacher and others! 
  4. Find out the subscriptions and cloud computing programs the school has access to. Thing to find out:
           Who manages the subscriptions/programs?
           What setup is required for you/your students use the subscriptions/programs?
           Are there programs you are REQUIRED to use?
  5. Learn about the technical savvy of your new community. Are the parents and families happy to go paperless and receive everything from you via the Internet? Do many of your families have limited access to technology. Are there any on-going community issues around technology?
  6. Have an open-mind! Like all things about moving schools, things are not going to be the same as your old school. There will be things you miss and things you do not miss. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Android Apps And Grade Two

I will have access to Samsung tablets this school year. In anticipation, I have played around with some Android apps on my Nexus 10. These will not be full reviews yet, as they have not been tested out in a classroom setting. 

The blog post 50 Ideas For iPads in the Classroom has some iPad specific items mentioned, however, it includes great ideas for procedures and is well worth a read for people starting to use any tablet in the classroom.

Common Sense Media has some reviews on Android Apps as well. They provide the age the app is intended for, they give it a learning rating and a quality rating. When you read a full review, they also provide information about: ease of use, violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking, drugs and smoking, and privacy and safety. Their audience for these reviews are parents, however, not teachers in a classroom setting.

I've started by trying the free versions of all the apps if a "lite" version was available. The majority of free apps are supported by ads. I would not recommend using the "lite" versions in class. If you do, it is recommended that lessons around consumerism and advertising are a part of your preparation for teaching students how to use the tablets. Common Sense Media has a lesson called "Things For Sale"

Android Apps Previewed

BrainPop Jr. (free)
This is app gives the user access to the current movie of the week plus an easy and a hard quiz about the movie's topic. As well, it gives the (free) user access to six additional free movies. For those who have a subscription, you can also access other educational videos, games, quizzes, and activitiesThe free movies are about:

  • classifying animals
  • bullying
  • nouns
  • US symbols
  • tally charts and bar graphs
  • Internet safety

Will I Use It? Yes. Five of the six free movies are things that fit with the grade two curriculum. I would use this app as a centre activity when we are exploring those topics in class. 

Google Earth (free) 
This app does not have the full capabilities of Google Earth. In theory it would be a great resource for students to have quick access to satellite views of the Earth but I found it glitchy and slow when I used it. 
Will I Use It? Maybe. I'll try it again on the tablets at school and see if it functions better for me on them.  

Guardian Eyewitness (free) 
This app has great pictures but I think it is better suited to division II and up. 
Will I Use It? Not with grade twos

SpellingCity (free*) 
Unlike the website, the (free part of the) app gives you basic spelling practice from ten sample lists that go from kindergarten to grade twelve. If you want students to be able to access the spelling lists you have created on (with your free or paid account), then you will have to pay $1.99* for each mobile device for what they call a Mobile PassThe downside is the user is  logging with the teacher account, unless you purchase the classroom premium subscription of $49.99.
Will I Use It? Yes. I think it is worth the $1.99 to try!

RAZ-Kids (app is free but it is based on a subscription)
I have used RAZ-Kids with my grade two classes for the past four years. It is a great addition to reading centres. It costs $89.95 for a subscription. The app connects to this subscription, so students can access their account using this app. 
Will I Use It? Yes 

iStoryBooks (free) 
Common Sense Media summaries this app well: kids' reading skills may not get much of a boost as reading level is typically too high for the targeted ages and writing style is not exceptionally engaging. iStoryBooks offers kids free access to colorful books but would benefit from higher quality literature and a better user interface.
Will I Use It? Maybe. I plan to use RAZ-kids on the tablets. While it is a free app it prompts the user to buy more books. 

Math Pack Flash Cards (free) 
This app has a variety of "flash cards"/questions for math operations for  kindergarten to eighth grade kids.
Will I Use It? No. The layout and organization of the site is not ideal for grade twos in a centre situation. 

NASA (free) 
The NASA app provides information, videos and photos about space. This would be a great app for any grade six classroom! 
Will I Use It? NoWhile anything about NASA is very cool,  I do not see a direct link to grade two curriculum. 

TangramHD (free) 
There are many tangram apps. For classroom use, I did not want one that was based on levels or scores.  This one has categories of puzzles that the user can select from: people, animals, boats, numbers and alphabet, stuff and buildings, and geometry. It does have advertising for its other game but it is minimal. 
Will I Use It? Yes

Apps On Deck For Preview

The following apps are ones I have seen suggested during my research:
Bad Piggies (free) - puzzle games
Cash Cow ($4.03) - a math puzzle game that uses money
Doodle Fit Free (free) - spatial puzzles
Dragon Dictation Lite (free) -    voice recognition dictation ap
i-Prompt (free)- Tele-prompting software
MathBoard ($4.92) - math drills
Math Workout (free) - 
Minecraft Pocket Edition (free) - open-ended activity that is about exploration and creation
Mobile Mouse Lite (free)- makes your tablet a wireless remote for your computer/whiteboard 
My DPS (Digital Problem Solver) $0.99 - it teaches emotions and coping strategies
Story Dice ($2) - dice with symbols for telling stories
Where's My Perry? Free (free) - a puzzle game
Where's My Water? Free (free) - a puzzle game