Monday, December 14, 2015

The Best of Div1Edtech in 2015

A Look Back

We had another great year at the Div1Edtech Blog. We had five unique authors and wrote 23 different posts that included topics for grades one, two and three.

The Five Best Posts of 2015

Do not have time to read all of our fabulous blog posts from 2015? 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 on Google+

Tied for first place, many Google+ readers obviously liked both:

  • Technology As My E.A. - What do you do when your educational assistant is away for two weeks? Use technology!

  • Super Sentences Centre - Students use Google Docs and Read and Write for Google to work on editing and revision writing skills.

Three Other Top Posts

  • Makerspaces in the Classroom - Want to encourage curiosity, wonder, playfulness and problem solving in your class? Maybe you need a Maker Space? 

What is Next for 2016?

Do you find the Div1Edtech Blog helpful? What topics would you like to see more of in 2016? Leave a comment to let us know.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hour Of Code in Division One, 2015

Why Hour of Code in EPSB?

Why? It fits perfectly with Edmonton Public School's Career Pathways! By doing the Hour of Code, you are not asking students to become master programmers. You are exposing them to a possible career pathway or perhaps a future hobby. You are helping them develop a general understanding of how a wide range of things that they use daily work - computers big and small run because of programs.

It also teaches and encourages the skills 21st century students need, such as:

  • Logical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Persistence 
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

How To Do An Hour of Code in Division One?

openThere are many ways you can do the Hour of Code with you class. I used the activities provided by and the majority of this post will focus on using their Hour of Code activities. However, it is helpful if students are able to read as they are given text instructions in addition to video tutorials.

For younger students, many coding activities are tablet based but some have a browser activities, too. Below are some alternatives suitable for younger students:

What I like about's tutorials are:

  • the video tutorials embedded throughout the activities.
  • that students can see what javascript code actually looks like. After each successful puzzle they complete, students have the option of looking at what the code actually looks like. 
  • that when students are not successful they get feedback as to what they missed. For example, they may get a message that says: You have to use a block that you are not using yet. 

Make It As Simple Or As Complicated As You Want


No signup or login is required for students to try the Hour of Code. Students can follow these simple steps:
  1. Go to
  2. Pick on of the eight tutorials
  3. Code! 
... but you do require account creation to save student progress.

Go Big!

If you want to make it bigger than just a one-off, you can go to's How-to Guide. They have a number of ideas from printing certificates to ordering t-shirts. What I liked and used was their map/database of local volunteers, and yes there were a few for Edmonton! 

We had a fabulous IT professional come in to speak to my grade two class. He brought a motherboard, a CPU chip and a memory chip. 

Structure Versus Open-Ended

No signup or login is required for for students to try the Hour of Code but you do require account creation to save student progress. I chose to provide my students with log-ins and I assigned my students the same activity. By having all my students working on the same activity, they can help each other problem solve. 
The first thing I do is model doing the first two stages of the tutorial I selected for the students. The very first thing that happens for the first stage is a video, and we all watch it together. Then I model the first activity successfully. Next I model the next stage but so that I am not successful and demonstrate how to try again. Upon successful completion of the second stage, I show them how they can see the actual code they wrote. Then I let students work at their own pace.

When working with grade fours and grade sixes, I offered students a choice. I worked with two tech helpers prior to their Hour of Code and let them complete one of the tutorials. Then they were available to help their peers on the day of and as they had already completed it once, they were not missing out on the experience themselves.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A List of Christmas Sites That Will Engage Students in Learning

Ahhh, teaching in December! Report cards and conferences are done, but we still have another few weeks to teach while working around Christmas Concert schedules and uber-excited students. Some of us dig down, ignore the holidays and get through as much curriculum as we can, while some go all out and embrace the holiday spirit. However, who says we have to give up one for the other? Here is a list of Christmas sites that will engage students in learning, with a few games for when they (and you) need a bit of a break!

Language Arts is one of the best ways to integrate holiday themes into your classroom. offers reading and writing activities related to Santa and his North Pole workshop. The Elf Pal Academy has many printable activities especially suited to little ones and English Language Learners.


My students LOVE MadLibs. Classroomjr has a variety of printable winter and Christmas MadLibs, word puzzles, mazes and math sheets.
Winter Mad Libs   Snowstorm    Classroom Jr..png

ABCteach also has a variety of printable Language Arts activities, including word scrambles and comprehension sheets. (ABCteach does require an account, however it is free.)
Christmas Theme Unit   Printable Worksheets  Games  and Activities for Kids page 1   abcteach.png

Storynory is an online story resource that has Christmas-themed audio stories that can be listened to online or downloaded for later.

Storynory   Free Audio Stories for Kids.png

Social Studies

How do students around the world celebrate Christmas? Education World has more activities than Santa has in his sack (sorry, couldn’t help myself!). This Christmas Symbaloo also offers links to Christmas around the world sites.
Education World  Christmas around the world  Lessons and activities.png

While NoradtracksSanta starts tracking Santa on Christmas Eve, the site also offers games, books and music related to Santa.

Need more ideas? Here are a few Symbaloos  (my favourite bookmarking site for younger grades!)  
Christmas Fun has over 15 000 users, and no wonder, with math, stories, games, and puzzles
for all grades.

Christmas Fun   Symbaloo.png

And Christmas 23 is the place for holiday music for your classroom!

Christmas   Symbaloo.png

Do YOU have any favourite sites for the holiday season? Share them with us in the comments!
(And have a Merry Countdown to Christmas holidays!)
Lissa Davies

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Persons, Places And Things And Technology

My Twitter handle is @sundayideas. I chose that as my handle because, at the time, I was regularly emailing colleagues technology ideas I had found during the week... on Sundays. Usually I had a theme. Either it was related to an upcoming event/holiday, or to concepts/activities I was researching for use in class. When I joined Twitter, I initially saw it as an extension of what I was already doing. This blog post is a bit of a throwback to my pre-Twitter days. Here's what I have going on for teaching nouns next week.


This may come to a surprise to many, but my class and my teaching is filled with no-technology activities. I introduce my students to nouns with a book: Chicken In The City. In addition to that, my spelling words for the week are all nouns. I review nouns later in the year again and at that time I read A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What is a Noun?

Using Read and Write For Google 

Using the SmartBoard to demonstrate, I demonstrate the technology task I assigned (using Google Classroom) students for nouns. As it is still early in the year, I first I review how to use Read and Write For Google for those students who want the text read to them. 

Then I demonstrate how to highlight text in Document. We will do other parts of speech activities throughout the year, so nouns will always be green (it matches the colour of the nouns poster I have in class). 

The Google Document I used for this activity, along with others, is available at the site: Division One Collaboration Site For Educational Technology.

For those of you working with older students, you could have students use the highlight function in RW4G and then have them "collect" the highlights to create a list of the different parts of speech you want them to identify.

I also show students how to use the dictionary tool in RW4G. The dictionary identifies the part of speech of word, so students can double check if they are unsure. What I like about this process is that often a word can be a noun or a verb (or other parts of speech). So students still have to "use their brains" and not simply rely on RW4G. It is a good introduction for younger students to not relying on computers/Internet for answers, that they still have to use their own critical thinking in combination with the tool.

Initially this is a whole class activity to teach students the steps. Eventually, this will become a literacy centre that I differentiate for students' abilities (using Doctopus). Students will do the same activity with verbs, adverbs and adjectives. Eventually students will also do similar edit/proofread activities and then a revising activities. I hope to expand this centre even more this year.

Practice Through Games

One of the powerful things about using computer/Internet games is that students get immediate feedback about their answers. In my literacy centres, students will first answer a Google form about nouns and then play:
I also include a two video playlist at that centre. 

I am on the look out for more grade two friendly noun games, so please post your favourites in the comments.

The Google FormI used for this activity, along with others, is available at the site: Division One Collaboration Site For Educational Technology.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Add The World To Your Lessons

Google Apps For Education (GAFE) offers great opportunities for collaboration and connecting students to other students in the world. However, in division one, this is not always easy due to students' skills. Google Hangouts offers a simple way to connect your classroom to other classrooms through a webcam.

There are actually three types of Hangouts. You can do instant messaging/chat. You can do a Hangout video call. Finally, there is Hangouts on Air which is when you broadcast your video call. This post will focus on the video call hangout.

Tools You Will Need

A Google Account
To participate in a Google Hangout, you will need a gmail address or a GAFE email address. The person/class you are connecting with will also need a Google account. To connect with another person/class you will need to be Google+ contacts with them or you need their gmail address. 

You can use a built-in camera on your device however an external webcam usually offers better quality. The first time you use the camera, you may be asked to "allow" it in a pop-up window.

You can use the built-in mic in your device. If your desktop computer does not have one, then you will have to use an external one.  The first time you use the microphone, you may be asked to "allow" it in a pop-up window.

You can use the built-in speakers from your device. However, sometimes you will get feedback or echoing, so you may want to use external speakers that you can move to limit this. If the conversation is one-to-one consider using a headset mic.

If you have a poor internet connection or slow computer speed, you can adjust the bandwidth. The lower the bandwidth will also lower the quality of the Hangout.

Make Learning Relevant: Add The World To A Lesson

What Is A Mystery Hangout?

"Mystery" events started (and still continue) with Skype." Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions."

The same process can be used with Google Hangouts. Watch the video below to see how it works.

Not Just For Social Studies

There are a number of different ways teachers have begun to use Google Hangouts and Skype, not just Mystery Hangouts. Really it is only limited by a teacher's imagination and connections. Here are some events and activities:

Please leave a note in the comments for other events and opportunities!

Make It A Part Of A Larger Collaboration

This summer I had an opportunity to see how division one teachers have used Hangouts in combination with other GAFE resources to connect their students with others. A class from Alberta connected with a class from Illinois through Google Docs and Google Hangouts.

Collaborate With Other Teachers

This summer I participated in Project Overseas. My team was made up of teachers from Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta (me). Prior to leaving we needed to collaborate and plan. We used monthly Hangouts as a way to communicate face-to-face. It provided a much easier and effective way to collaborate before we left than by only using email.


Anyone who has used technology in class, from old-school overhead projectors to iPads, knows problems WILL happen.  Sometimes these are avoidable (properly charged devices) and sometimes they are inevitable (light bulb dies). Using Google Hangouts is no different. There are some issues that are avoidable, if you know what to plan for, and some you will have to deal with when they happen.  One thing I like to do to be proactive is do a test Hangout with the teacher I'm connecting with before we connect during class time.

What timezone is that again?
My student teacher learned this the hard way last year. He did not double check the timezone that the class we were going to Hangout with was in. As a result, they were not in class when we tried to call them.

Webcams and Microphones - Give Access!
When a user first uses a webcam/camera or microphone on a device, the device will often ask for you to allow this. It is a small pop up that sometimes can be missed.

If you know your school's internet is going to be heavily used on a certain day, avoid setting up at Hangout for that day.

Okay, So How Do I Find Like Minded Teachers?


Social media is the best way to locate another class to connect with. On Twitter, you can start following like-minded educators. You can also follow hashtags, such as:


Google+ is another great resource for connecting. Again, you can add like-minded educators to your circles. You may want to add Google in Education on Google+ to your circles. This is Google’s official education account on Google+ and they host and post educational Hangouts. You can also join communities that are all about making connections, such as:

I try not to use my FB account for teaching. However, I am sure there are a number or groups there for Google Hangouts or Skype as well.

Please leave a note in the comments for FB events and opportunities you know about!

Further Reading/Viewing

 * Disclaimer: As Hangouts has gone through many changes, many of these links do not have updated information.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Global Read Aloud - Finding the Right Tool to Connect

Were you inspired by Colette Mondor's post to participate in The Global Read Aloud? 

Now, are you wondering how to make connections with other classrooms?  

Looking for something simple and effective?  Me too! 

I was mulling over my options for sharing, when a colleague mentioned  Padletand I knew I found the answer.

The creators of Padlet describe it as, "possibly the easiest way to create and collaborate in the world."  And in many ways it's true! 

Padlet is an online bulletin board, where students share their thoughts and ideas with others. Participants share via text, audio, video, photographs or documents.  

Using Padlet for The Global Read Aloud

It is easy to create and share a Padlet with others, enabling Read Aloud participants, to share their responses to the weekly chapters. This week, students reading, The Year of Billy Miller, are reading Chapter 5 of part one, and chapters 1-3 of part two. 
Take a look at this Billy Miller Padlet created and shared for week 2 by a teacher in the United States.

You will see this tool in action during the second week of The Global Read Aloud, October 12 - 17, 2015.  
My grade threes are using Padlet to share their Text to Self and Text to Text connections. And we are eager to share with others. Let me know if your class wants to connect with us.

Get Started 

Once you have signed up for your free account, (limited features) log on using your Google user name and password. You can purchase an education account with added features, however I found that the free account meets my needs for now. 

Once on Padlet, click - Create a New Padlet. There are two easy menus, to help you design and share your padlet.  Start with Basic Info which enables you to state the purpose of your online bulletin board. 

The Gear Icon enables you to modify your padlet, by selecting the wallpaper, adding an image to associate with the wall, writing a description, and determining the layout of the posts. 

The Privacy Icon, a small lock, enables you to set the visibility settings for your Padlet. There are several levels of privacy and I chose 'Hidden Link' which means that it is public on the web but not searchable on Google.  You can also select levels of accessibility for participants. Do you want participants to write, view or moderate posts? However most important, scroll all the way down and check  the box - Moderate Posts, which will allow you to approve or delete any posts before they are public. 

Sharing Your Padlet

Under the Link Icon you can find an assigned URL for your Padlet, which you can also personalize. This is the link to share with collaborators.

Another option is to click on the Export and Share arrow where you'll find countless ways to share. I used the embed code to add the padlet below to this blog post. To do this, copy the code under the embed title.  In editing mode for a Blogger post click on the HTML button on the upper left of the screen. Scroll to the end of the text on the page, and paste the embed code there.  Now click on Compose and you will be back in editing mode. The Padlet will appear in your post.  

Try Padlet

Think of the many ways to use a tool like this in Division one.  Now go ahead and try it! Just double click on our wall and share your ideas.  Just so you know, comments on this Padlet are moderated and will appear once approved. 

Padlet is a great way for Division I students to share and collaborate.  In many ways Padlet is like Twitter, students are sharing short snipits of information. The strength is that everything on one Padlet is about a related topic. There are no hash tags to follow and no one will retweet your post. 

Finally,  you can observe others posting on your Padlet in real time.  Share your padlet, keep it open and you will see the bulletin board change as others contribute.  What fun!

Monday, October 12, 2015

So You Want To Participate In The Global Read Aloud

What Is Global Read Aloud?

Last May, Div1Edtech blogger Marge Kobewka mentioned learning about The Global Read Aloud (GRA). The tagline for GRA almost explains exactly what it is: one book to connect the world. GRA lasts six weeks. Teachers who participate read the GRA book(s) with their students and then use Twitter (#GRA15), Google Hangouts or Skype, Kidblog and other internet tools to connect their students to others reading the same book. 

As not all students around the world are the same age, or reading ability, there are actually a number of books that are a part of the GRA. For instance for older division one students there is The Year of Billy Miller. For division two students there is Fish In A Tree.  For division three students there is Fish. For division four students there is Yaqui Delago Wants To Kick Your Ass. While there are suggested ages for each book, there is no hard and fast rule for which book you pick for your students.

There is also an author study for picture books, so each week there is a different book you read. This year the author is Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  Global Read Aloud nicely ties into Read In Week in Edmonton as both are in October. 

How Do You Participate?

This is my first year participating in the GRA. What I have done so far:

  1. Selected the book(s) I was going to read. This year I decided to do the author study.
    TIP: Do not wait until the last minute to locate the books. I did procrastinate. I found out that our school library only had two of the six books. So I went to the Edmonton Public Library (EPL). They had nine copies of first book, Chopsticks, but they were all loaned out. As a back up measure I looked to see if any Chapters in Edmonton had Chopsticks available. They were all sold out! Fortunately the hold I put on a copy at the EPL became available in enough time to have it for week one. In the meantime, I have had my school librarian borrow copies of the other books from other EPSB schools. We now have all the books! Phew.
  2. Filled out the form on the GRA website. This populates a Sheet.
    TIP: Do not fill out the form and hope you will be contacted. I filled out the form and forgot about it. Then during the first week, I was left without any "global" connections to kick off GRA. So I spent sometime looking through the Sheet for other people doing the author study. For my purposes, I wanted people who were also on Kidblog and/or wanted to do Google Hangouts. I sent out a number of emails. I heard back from three people and made two connections so far.

    There are other ways to connect with GRA participants. Facebook seems to be a popular way to connect this year.  I did not find using the Twitter hashtag #GRA15 helped for making connections yet. Regardless of how you try to make a connection, remember to be proactive. Do not wait for others to come to you.
  3. Planned how I will make my students' learning public. I decided to use Kidblog. I decided to get my student blogging earlier this year because of GRA. I felt that blogging was the best way to make my students' learning visible because it was a platform I was comfortable with. Also, it was a way to start participate in GRA without having secured connections. As well, it is an easy platform for others (even those without a Kidblog account) to interact with my students because of the comment feature.
    TIP: Test your settings for accepting comments from the public. I some how had turned that setting off initially.
  4. Started reading and writing.
    I explained what The Global Read Aloud was on Friday as a wrap up to Read-In Week and a kick off to the GRA. Then we read Chopsticks.  Students did a first draft of explaining their favourite part in their reading journals. As my students are still new to blogging, I am currently requiring them to do a paper draft first. When the recess bell went, some students asked if they could stay in for recess to work on their writing because they knew other children were going to be reading their thoughts! That's the power of having an audience and purpose for writing!

    Students will be typing their blog posts about Chopsticks this week. Stay tuned to Team Spectacular's Blog.
  5. Gave a shout out to the author on Twitter.
    We wrote a short tweet to Amy. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we'll get a reply. Students enjoyed the play on words in Chopsticks, so wanted to use the word "sweet" (said by Sugar in the book)  instead of awesome. There was much debate if the word sugary was needed. 

It's Not Too Late To Join!

As it says on the GRA website somewhere: it's okay to get behind, just don't get ahead. Do not worry if you are just getting started. Just start! You can make this as a huge event as you want, or, if you are like me, keep it simple. Check out how Shannon Pasma's class started: CTV Edmonton, Global Read Aloud.

Want To Know More?

There are a lot of resources for GRA. Here are just two:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Countdown to a New Year!


The Final Countdown

The countdown is on! Are you sitting back and relaxing, knowing your classroom is ready to go, frantically trying to put everything together, or somewhere in between?
Wherever you are in your planning and organization, take a moment or two to ask yourself, “Am I where I want to be with using technology for teaching and learning?” This is the time for you to be more reflective on what you want to achieve with students, while you are not in the thick of teaching!

Digital Kids

We’ve all watched the videos and heard the conversations around Digital Kids. The message has been clear - use technology with your kids. However, this message comes with no extra time for teachers to learn and build their confidence and skills with technology. While many of you are ‘full steam ahead’ teachers, fully integrating technology, many teachers feel that technology is an ‘extra’ to be packed into an already full curriculum. Once you get going with it, though, you will find many ways to use technology to enrich your classroom practice and engage students!


Small Steps, Please

If you are just getting started, think of baby steps. Each one of the items below will take you 10 minutes tops to set up! Choose one thing that will make your teaching life a bit easier:



Using Google Docs to collaborate with colleagues to create units, lesson plans or report card comments

(While you’re at it, why not use the Upload button on your Drive to store all of your favourite Word documents in Drive? Sub plans, lesson plans, centres rotations, all available quickly for editing whenever you need them!)


Using Kahoot to create an engaging question and answer game or even a test


Creating a Symbaloo so all of your links are in one place for easy access for students

I’m Ready For More!


Get your students going with Chromebooks

Have students create Google Presentations to show their learning (Grade one teachers, this is a great activity to do with your buddy class!)

Get students writing with Google Docs and Read&Write for Google

I’m Ready For Even More!

Use Google Draw to create digital worksheets, get pictures for research questions and even write their own Geronimo Stilton story!

Before you know it:

You will be a Digital Teacher!