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: