Creating Student Accounts with Gmail.


If you have not yet checked out, now is the time.  This post comes with lots of thanks to the Gmail Tips and Tricks section of the Google Apps Documentation and Support Page!

This is a simple solution to a problem that plagues teachers as they attempt to meaningfully integrate technology in (and out) of their classrooms.

Most Web 2.0 tools require users to have an email address to create an account.   Many students, especially younger ones, do not have their own email account.  This makes it a quite difficult for teachers to use may great tools with their students.

Follow these steps to get around this problem:

Step One: Create  a classroom Gmail account such as

Step Two: Visit the site of the Web 2.0 Tool you plan to use with your students.  Start signing up for accounts using your classroom Gmail account but add a + sign plus a number or word to represent each student or group.  For example:,,, etc…

Step Three: Create a spreadsheet to keep track of each student and their associated email account, Web Tool account, and password.

Step Four: Many Web 2.0 Tools require you to confirm that you are the owner of the email, so check the classroom email account and confirm all accounts as necessary.

This trick works for most, but not all, Web 2.0 Tools.  Have fun!

Posted in Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Real Learning


I had the pleasure of attending Connect2013 this past few days.  The line up of session topics was broad, and the many presenters were accomplished.  I’ll likely blog about some of those topics in the coming weeks as I have a chance to digest and reflect on them.

But despite all the great presentations, I find myself thinking about a theme present throughout the conference, and illustrated by this representative tweet.


The smartest person in the room is no longer a person but the room itself.

What the Internet Means for How We Think About the World (viacourtenaybird)

While the ‘delivered’ content from the many sessions was integral to the outcome of learning, for the connected individuals at the conference, the real learning took place (and will continue to take place) as a result of the analysis, conversations, connections, and reflections from those that took part in the Backchannel.

What this tells me is that my learning benefits greatly from these sorts of interactions with a wide range of individuals that comprise my ever-growing PLN.  If we are relying solely on the Learning Network that we have access to on a face-to-face level, we are missing out on great opportunities for learning.

If this is true for me, why would it not be true for our students?  I believe we are severely limiting the learning possibilities for our students when we do not model and facilitate more open learning in our School Boards and classrooms – and this should be happening at all levels.  I know this approach involves a great deal of change, but change is easier to handle than irrelevance.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

It’s not (just) about the technology.


When I was growing up, I always enjoyed books and movies about school and teaching; I would imagine many other teachers share this experience.  A few favourites I can remember from the past and not so recent past include: Teacher Man: A Memoir,  Stand and Deliver, Dead Poets Society, Freedom Writers, School of Rock (Yeah…I know), Inside Mrs. B.’s Classroom, and a host of others.

I can also remember many classroom moments when I have been re-energized about being a teacher.  What these books, movies, and experiences all had, and continue to have in common, are that they deal with the pivotal moments that lead to learning for students.

Not one of these moments has ever been dependent on someone rolling an iPad cart into a room.   This isn’t to say that technology doesn’t play a pivotal part in teaching and learning, but it is far less about having the technology so much as what you (have the students) do with the technology.

In my day to day conversations with teachers, I am finding the principle topic for discussion is increasingly becoming technology.  I love to talk classroom technology but am getting tired of all the hardware talk taking over when there is more important things to discuss.  While I am very much an advocate for technology in the classroom, I am more of an advocate for good teaching in the classroom.

As David Warlick has so succinctly stated: “We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.”

Technology is only beneficial if it supports sound pedagogy and allows our students to do things they could not previously do.  We all need to remember that it is not, and never has been, just about the tech.

I will leave the last words to Sir Peter Blake: “New technology is common, new thinking is rare.”

Posted in Technology | 3 Comments

A few great ios apps.


Super short post to share a list of my favourite ios apps for Teaching and Learning.  As you will see from the list, I prefer apps that let us create and share our thinking, rather than apps that focus on content.

  • Google Drive – create, store, access, and share docs, presentations, forms, spreadsheets, drawings…, can also be used by students to keep track of research or as a digital portfolio
  • Evernote – my preferred tool for colecting and housing assessment data, can also be used by students to keep track of research or as a digital portfolio
  • Snapguide – create how-to’s, stories, etc… imagination required to harness all the potential
  • Checkthis – simple way to publish and share ideas and work
  • Educreations – Interactive Whiteboard tool that lets you record your voice as you write
  • Note Anytime – easily anotate anything
  • Dropbox – an easy way to get content on and off an ipad
  • Dragon Dictation – great tool for pre-writers to write!, best used in conjunction with other apps
  • Prezi – another tool for presentations, having a variety of choices lessons possibility of death-by-powerpoint
  • VoiceThread – nice tool to share work and a great venue for students and teachers to engage in the feedbcack process
  • Videolicious – make short videos easily!
  • Twitter – great tool for writing, sharing, learning, connecting, giving and receiving feedack

What are your favourite apps for the classroom?

Posted in Web 2.0 | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Digital Footprint (Part One)


As more classrooms fill up with technology, so increases the need for our students to truly understand the concept of Digital Footprint.  From Webopedia:  On the Internet a digital footprint is the word used to describe the trail, traces or “footprints” that people leave online. This is information transmitted online, such as forum registration, e-mails and attachments, uploading videos or digital images and any other form of transmission of information — all of which leaves traces of personal information about yourself available to others online.

There are quite a few great websites geared toward kids.  Here are a few to explore with your students:

Kidsmart: Digital Footprints

Digital footprint: Cybersmart

According to a study by AVG, the Internet Securities company, 92% of children under age 2 already have a Digital Footprint. A little over 1/2 of all kids between the ages of 6-9 regularly use a social network.

With that in mind, here is a great site geared toward educating parents about their child’s Digital Footprint:

Your Digital Footprint: How to preserve your kids online reputation

Here is a collection of youtube videos about Digital Footprint.

A final note on this topic is that a Digital Footprint can be a very positive thing as well.  Increasingly people are putting greater weight toward our online identities.  Just this past week, a high profile ad company announced they had an opening and would not be accepting resumes.  The requirements were high Kred and Klout scores and an active Twitter feed with over 1000 active followers.

More on the Twitter resume can be found Here and Here.

Safe surfing everyone!

Posted in Digital Literacy | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Evernote in the Classroom


As more and more teachers embrace the powers of Student-Driven Inquiry, Triangulated Evidence, and Assessment for Learning practices as outlined in the Growing Success document, a new need has surfaced.  Actually, it isn’t really a new need, but rather a current need has been underlined.

In a Student-Driven Inquiry environment, students’ learning is driven by interest.  In this type of learning structure, students research, collect, synthesize, and analyze information, then work with their peers or alone to share their new understandings.

Triangulated Evidence is a more balanced approach to assessment.  While traditional assessment involved lots of products (tests, essays, letters, presentations), assessment that takes into account Triangulated Evidence assesses looks at a balanced body of work including Products, Observations, and Conversations.

In an Assessment for Learning environment, the classroom is always focussed on Learning Goals.  Success Criteria is developed and refined over time by the students and teacher, to help focus the efforts of the class, and to provide speaking points for peer-assessment, self-assessment, and teacher feedback.

In each of these environments, the need that seems to be highlighted is how to best collect and organize this Triangulated Evidence for easy analyzing and retrieval, and to support future teacher moves and lesson planning.

I believe Evernote provides a simple solution to these needs.

First of all, Evernote tics an important box for me as it is cross-platform and multi-platform, allowing you to use it on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, Windowsphone,  and Android Tablet or phone, and works efficiently with Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers.  This is important as it allows users to gather evidence on the fly regardless of the device they may have.

The first step in using Evernote to help you address your assessment needs, after signing up for an account of course, is to create a ‘Notebook’ for each of your students.  Evernote will also have created a Notebook for you, as well, where you can keep other things.  More on that later.

Within each Notebook, you are able to store a collection of ‘Notes’ about each student.  Each Note can be named, dated, and even tagged for location. Evernote can also be easily linked with the calendar on your device to include information about where you currently are and will note the subject of the calendar event.  The Notes can take the form of any combination of text based anecdotal notes, audio recordings, pictures, and hyperlinks ( <—– very important feature).  All the previously mentioned things can appear and be housed in the same single note within any of your Notebooks.  My favourite feature of Evernote, as opposed to other Note-Taking apps, is that you can also ‘tag’ each note with a single or multiples tage to help you further define the content of the Note.  This is important if you want to harness the full power of the PC and Mac desktop versions of Evernote to search through your notes to quickly and easily locate and sort your data to use it to inform your teaching practice and to Evaluate your students, when necessary.  Some examples of ‘tags’ are Subject-related such as: Math, Number Sense, Probability, Visual Art, Procedural Writing, Media Literacy, etc.  Some examples of Process-related tags are: Cooperation, Peer-assessment, Goal Setting, Inquiry, etc.

In practice, this means you can carry your device about the class with you and use it in place of a clipboard or paper notebook to gather a myriad of assessment data.  When you open the App, Evernote also allows you to simply name a new Note then worry about what Notebook it goes in later.  This allows you to quickly get to gathering your evidence.

While there is no native video recording option in Evernote, there are simple ways around it so that you can also store video within a Note.  The first step is to record video using the standard recording app on your device.  Next, you can either upload the video to your Dropbox, Youtube, or Vimeo account.  In each of these instances, you can make the video private and therefore not searchable, and only accessible with a link.  You can then paste the private link to the video in the appropriate Note, in the appropriate, Notebook.

The one caveat, to this fantastic App and solution, is that Evernote only allows 60 MB of data per month on a free account.  This is more than enough if the majority of your Notes are of a text nature.  However, you can quickly reach your limit if you take a lot of pictures and audio recordings.  This obstacle can be overcome if you become proficient with the video trick I outlined above.  The other simple solution, is to pay the very reasonable $5 per month for unlimited data uploads.  Problem solved.

One last feature I wanted to highlight is the ability to share Notebooks with other users.  This is handy if you teach on rotary and you want multiple teachers to have access to create and review Notes on the same students.

I mentioned earlier that I would write about your own personal Notebook that is created automatically for you.  You can use this Notebook for web clippings, bookmarks, saving and cataloging important emails, taking pics of handouts from in-services, etc…

Happy Assessment!

Posted in Web 2.0 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Snapguide in the classroom!


Snapguide is a pretty new ios app that has quickly grown in popularity.  In their own words:  “We started Snapguide because we knew there had to be a simpler way to create, share and consume instructional knowledgeWe set out to create a service that made it easy to learn together and be inspired by one another. Our aim is to empower people with simple tools to share their accomplishments online.”

I can duly report that they accomplished what they set out to do.  Once the iPad or iPhone app has been downloaded from the app store, Snapguide is quick to set up (all you need is a name and email address!), and incredibly easy to navigate.  Within minutes, I was able to explore the process for making a guide.

An important feature, from a teaching and learning perspective, is that viewers are able to leave comments on each individual page and also on the guides in general.  This is then a powerful and ideal venue for Descriptive Feedback to students, from both their peers and their teacher.  Students could also self assess their work using the comments option.

Recently I tried out Snapguide with a grade 7/8 class in a school involved with a 21st Century Library Project.  Among other things, the project placed an iPad cart in each of the schools involved.

The classroom Teacher passed out the iPads (1 for every 2 students), and I invited the students to make an account and explore what the app had to offer.  The students quickly made an account and began to explore the various guides found within the many topics.  There was a happy buzz in the classroom as the students discovered guides such as “How to Make a Toilet Paper iPod Speaker” and “How to Make Orange Peel Vinegar Cleaner.”

After about 5 minutes, I invited the students to make a guide of their own, on a topic of their choice.  The students quickly got to work! (Note to Teachers: at no point did ANY student ask for an in-service!)

The groups make guides such as “How to Tie a Tie” and “How to Disrupt a Class (which involved their Teacher in a cameo role!).”  The students had an absolute blast.  As they finished their guides, they coped the link to their work and posted them in a thread on their Edmodo accounts so that they could all be found in one simple location.

So, although I’m sure the ideas are already percolating in your minds, here are just a few ways you can use Snapguide in your class:

  • Students can document the steps they used to solve a rich Math task.  The teacher can then share some of the guides on their SmartBoards during the consolidation.
  • Students can learn about, and share their learning about, procedural writing.
  • Students can create a gallery of their art work.
  • Students can create a digital poetry book.
  • Students can create a guide to share nearly anything!

A nice extension to Snapguide would be having individual or a classroom Twitter Account to share out the learning to a much wider audience.  By doing so with appropriate hashtags, students could potentially receive helpful Descriptive Feedback from experts in the field.

Although this example was with Intermediate students, I believe that Snapguide could be used in a modified way with students from Kindergarten and above.

Thanks for reading and please share ideas of your own in the comments section!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments