Relevant posts

I haven’t been back here since the semester started but I have been blogging quite a bit. You might be interested in my blog posts tagged “New Learning”:

You might also be interested in the project that I am working on. You can read about the progress here:

Please feel free to comment!

Blog info until December

I am taking a class towards my MEd called Social Media and Open Source Learning. As part of the requirements for this course, I needed to start a blog. I will likely be doing most of my posting on that blog from now until the end of the class. I also really like the set-up of the other blog, so I will probably be moving this blog over there when the class is done. Until then, if I blog about anything relevant to my SMARTBoard learning on that blog, I will be posting the link to that post here instead of cross-posting.

Today I took advantage of half a day of personally directed PD that we get through the project. Look what I did! You can read about it here.


K-5 Technology Lessons

I was reading my Google Reader this evening and came across a website that has listed computer, technology,  and word processing lessons for each level from K-5.  This website, seen here, lays out lessons from turning computers on and off in kindergarten to Internet Safety in grade 3 to creating and publishing an independent multi-media project in grade 5.  The lessons incorporate language arts components such as proper capitalization and punctuation, writing and formating a friendly letter and creating a proper bibliography.  They also incorporate math concepts such as data collection, addition, averages, and graphing.  It seems like a great layout that brings children along, right from the beginning of their school experience, to appropriate and effective integrated use of computers and some other technologies.

I got to thinking if this was possible at my school.  We do not have a computer lab, as such.  Instead, we have four computers per classroom and one class set of laptop computers.  They are working on the wireless access for the laptops.  They need to be able to connect to our system wirelessly for the students to log in.  It is spotty right now and it often connects and cuts out in my classroom.  I do not think that I would be able to teach these lessons with this school set-up unless I did a group lesson using my SMART Board and then rotated the students through the four stand-alones while the rest of the class is doing other things.  However, I am the only teacher from K-5 that has a SB in their room.

I absolutely think that it would be valuable to have a set of lessons laid out like this.  Since each classroom teacher is responsible for teaching computer and technology in their own room without any direct curriculum, it would help guide those who feel like they, themselves, lack knowledge. It would also help to ensure that the students develop knowledge each year from K-5 so that they go into the middle years with a solid set of skils.

How would you go about ensuring that students learn some of these skills?  Do you like the idea of a set of lessons laid out or not?  How would you suggest teaching these skills to younger students without access to a computer lab?

Reflections on the year

It was this time last year that I was applying for the SMARTBoard program through my school board. It had seemed at the time to be a new and exciting way to learn more about technology and about how to get my students more involved in their learning. I knew that I was going to be starting my M.Ed. studies and was going to have a class that was almost 10 students bigger, so I wasn’t sure how much time I would have to “play” with the SMARTBoard.

Now, a year later, I am reflecting on my year and the changes that have occurred. Some were foreseeable, others were unexpected.

• My method of planning has completely changed. I mean, I still base my lessons on curriculum outcomes, but now when I look at these standards, instead of finding an activity or worksheet to use, I think about how I can make my lessons more interactive. My SB has made it easier for me to follow the “I do, we do, you do” method of teaching. I am able to prepare the templates ahead of time and to bring them back again and again, saving time during my lessons.
• Student participation and enthusiasm has increased. Students who were often disengaged or lacked confidence to participate in discussions now want to participate because they get the opportunity to use the SB. They are now even suggesting ways to use the SB and the programs we have used when I hadn’t planned on it, or thought of using it in that way. They are starting to take ownership of their learning. They are starting to tell me what helps them learn and what doesn’t. They say things like: “Remember when you showed us how to regroup on the SB Mme? I just think of that when I’m adding.” or “When you showed us how the Earth travels around the sun with the animation on the SB I really understood. Do you have one to show us how the moon goes around the Earth?” They are also talking about these things with their parents. The evidence is that I have received several emails from parents commenting about how excited their children are.
• Trying to find resources to use with my SB led me to join Twitter. This has been both powerful and informative in my growth as a teacher. I have learned so much about using my SB effectively in my classroom. I have learned about the many tools available to teach as well as have been exposed to many different projects that wonderful teachers around the world are doing with their children. I have developed my own Personal Learning Network that answers my various needs. I have colleagues who are interested in tech integration, colleagues whose focus in developing literacy skills through the love of reading, colleagues whose focus is second language learning, colleagues who are interested in making things better for students who are gifted and those who face challenges, colleagues who are interested in educational reform to make things better for all students and finally colleagues who are just striving to become better teachers. Combining all these groups together has created for me a wonderful and powerful support group in my own development as a better teacher.

There were two completely unexpected outcomes from my participation in this SB project:
• First, being a part of this project has allowed me to feel like I am valued by my staff. Not that I wasn’t valued before, but now I feel like I have something truly unique to offer my staff and my school. I have been told several times this year that I have become somewhat the “tech expert” for the younger grades. People are coming to me with questions and I am able to answer them, or point them in the right direction. My enthusiasm for what I am doing is rubbing off onto others and they are now looking for ways to use some of the ideas with their own kids. I love being able to help others, so being a part of this project has allowed for this to happen.
• Another unexpected outcome of my participation in this project is the link that I am making between my tech learning and my M.Ed. learning. I went into my M.Ed. program with a vague idea of what I wanted to focus on: reading instruction. The more I learn about Web 2.0 and student participation/interaction, the more possibilities I see for these tools to impact student reading and writing outcomes. The more I learn, the more I read, the clearer my ideas for possible research and thesis integrating these two topics becomes. There is very little research done in this field, and even less when speaking of second language learning. Isn’t it amazing that all of this has come together?

I am sure that I will have more to write about as I finish up the year. There are a few more projects that I would like to attempt with my students before June. My students are just finishing up their collaborative projects with their grade 5/6 buddies using Comic Life to illustrate what they’ve learned about the virtues. We are using Nike+ to log our distances as we attempt to run a marathon with a grade 5 class in Alberta. I am hoping that I can have my students publish one of their stories using Storybird before the end of the year. Finally, I plan on creating an Animato using pictures of my students reading all over the place to share with next year’s students as proof that reading really CAN happen everywhere!

Now, what to do next?


Hello again. It has been awhile since I’ve updated my blog with regards to my progression as a teacher trying to integrate technology into my classroom. Today I, and this blog, was mentioned in a blog by a grade 3 French Immersion teacher in Ontario that I have connected with on Twitter ( We have been bouncing ideas off of each other for a few weeks now. It is nice to have a colleague (albeit one that is across the country) that is sharing the same journey as me, and knows some of the same frustrations of teaching in a second language. It was her blog mention that inspired me to update today.

Last weekend, I participated in a virtual 24-hour read-a-thon ( This was a very unique experience. Each participant (numbered in the hundreds) was reading in their own space, in their own time, and posting their progress through Twitter and their various blogs. During this event, various activities were posted around the net hourly in order for you to take reading breaks. Prizes of books and other reading stuff were awarded for these events. There were designated cheer-leaders who were posting positive words of encouragement and praise throughout the 24 hours. I posted a couple of these challenges to this blog and managed to read for about 16 hours, with a grand total of close to 500 pages read. This event takes place twice a year, in April and in October. I loved the experience and will be encouraging my students and families to participate next year! Maybe even having a mini-event in my classroom. It is something to think about.

Now, the whole point of getting the SMARTBoard in my classroom was for it to have an impact on my students, not just on me, right? So, what have I been doing with my students lately? Well, in my M.Ed. class this term, we have talked a lot about the teaching strategy of “I do, We do, You do” when teaching any new concept. First, I will do it to show you, then we will do it together, then you do it on your own. I have really taken this to heart this year and my SB has made this process both easier for me to accomplish and more engaging for my students. Using Notebook to create lessons has allowed me to create templates that can be used over and over again (I do, we do, you do). It also allows me to save our work so that we can refer back to it in later lessons. This has become a regular part of our daily lessons.

Many of my students have come into my classroom with little or no computer skills at all. The SB has allowed me the opportunity to teach the class basic skills like opening windows, saving, changing font, bold, italics, center, and many other simple skills. In the past, I would either have taught these things 26 different times to students on individual computers, or simply projected on to a screen. Now, I am able to show them as before, but then invite them to come up to change and manipulate as well before I send them to computers. It truly does make a difference for them. They recently finished “publishing” a French book report using Microsoft Word that will be proudly displayed around our library for the other students in our school to see.

Another project that we have been doing is a collaborative project with the grade 5/6 classroom. Our school is studying Virtues this year. Our students were placed in groups (with both grade 3s and grade 5/6s) and were each assigned a virtue. They studied their virtue, came up with a storyline that represented that virtue, took pictures of themselves “acting” out this skit, uploaded their pictures, and are now in the process of creating comics of their storylines using Comic Life. The older students are mentoring the younger ones. This project, so far, has been a great success! My students are learning so much and are becoming more and more comfortable around computers.

The last thing that I wanted to talk about is something that I introduced to my students as something they could do at home. I am constantly trying to find new ways to encourage my students to read, to find books that they like, to share what they are reading, to be proud of their reading… (A lot of these ideas are written about in a book I recently read called The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.) Since my students seem so taken with technology and the computer, I looked for a way to incorporate this with my goals for reading. I signed up for a Shelfari page ( and started putting the books that I was reading up there. I purposefully chose to put professional books, personal books, and books that my students were reading to set the example that all kinds of reading are valuable. I then also book talked about these books too. Almost half my class is now on Shelfari, updating their bookshelves, sharing with each other. They send me notes, they send each other notes. I also sent a note to the parents to ensure that their parents were the primary holders of their child’s site so they could monitor them. This online sharing has transferred to my classroom in real life too. I have students who are regularly doing book talks and often ask to share their bookshelves with the students who are not online. I provided all my students with notebooks that are divided as the Shelfari bookshelf are: Books I want to read, Books I am reading, Books I have read. This way all my students are involved in this sharing!

So, there you go, this is my latest update.  Next I hope to find a way to promote physical fitness using tech.  Ideas?

Teacher2Teacher – My thoughts

                This past week, I attended my first ever technology conference: Teacher2Teacher, held in Bow Island, Alberta.  Now, my sister-in-law lives in Taber, AB and we have to drive through Bow Island to get to Taber.  I wondered, what in the heck kind of conference could be held in such a small center.  At first, I was sceptical.  However, in connecting with other educators from around the world who would be attending this conference, either as presenters or participants, I became more and more excited.  I ended up having a great two days of learning and sharing.  I went to 8 different sessions over the course of the two days.  Some of the sessions confirmed what I was already doing as valuable, some opened up my eyes to things that I could still put into place this year with my class, some just opened me up to future possibilities.

                The first session that I went to featured James Hollis (of, @jameshollis on Twitter, talking about how to create a Magic 8 ball Notebook Application.  This is a multiple choice type question application where, when the answer is put into the middle of the 8 ball, it adds an 8-ball type response.  For example, “Outlook Not Good” shows up for an incorrect answer.  This is something that I will have to play around with and try.  There was not enough time in this session to play around with it.  Just like with most other Notebook pages, once I figure it out and create one template, I should be able to use this as a quick check of understanding, or as an attention-grab at the begging of a lesson.

                The second session I attended featured Harvey Almarode (of ), @MacHarvey on Twitter, talking about how to use the SMARTBoard to engage students in their learning.  He started his session with information on activating memory.  He talked of the four parts of memory: Semantic, Episodic, Procedural, and Emotional.  The first is what traditional teaching is based on…  Semantic is learning facts, symbols and figures.  This involved reading, memorizing and practicing.  He quoted research as saying that 90% of the information we learn in this way alone will be gone within 30 minutes.  The second part of memory is episodic.  This is learning we can link to location, circumstances and/or events.  Harvey suggested that if we are teaching a particularly difficult concept, we should try to introduce a new episodic event to which we can link learning in order to help students remember.  For example, teach the lesson in the library, so that later, you can say “remember, we did this in the library” or introduce a special picture or avatar on the SMARTBoard that is used only for this lesson.  The third part of memory is procedural.  This is learning linked to hands-on, moving, and using manipulatives.  This can include students in moving things around on the SMARTBoard and moving around the room.  Harvey pointed out that although there are virtual manipulatives to use on the SMARTBoard, these cannot replace the actual real-world manipulatives for early learners.  The last part of memory is emotional.  This is learning that can be linked to how the student feels while learning.  Harvey said that something as simple as smiling while learning can release serotonin which will make the student feel good and help them remember what they are learning.  He suggested using smiling face clip art such as the free clipart pictures from or having the students create their own avatar at to add to your notebook pages to give that little “smile”.  After this, Harvey went on to show us how the math lessons on his webpage can answer at least 2-3 of each part of the memory at any given time.  All these lessons are available for free download from his webpage.  His only requests (and Phillip Martin’s for use of his clipart) are that we attribute where they come from, and that if we create something, we will in turn share alike!  This was a great presentation.

                The third session I attended on Thursday was called a Feature Teacher session.  This particular session featured three grade 3 teachers showing off their stuff.  There were so many ideas and ways to use the SMARTBoard in the classroom that I can’t possibly talk about, or remember, all of them!  Amber Pinchin, Janessa Connor, and Judy Parley presented some of the things they did in their classroom.  One of the teachers has a question on the SMARTBoard each morning when the students come in.  The students must move their name from the side to the category that answers the question.  She uses this as both attendance and a way to review content.  She gave two examples of the types of questions she uses.  The first type is a quick review of content.  For example, she had the students move their name to the category of the number of vowels in their name.  This type of question have a different answer for each child (because it is based on their name) so they can’t just copy and it allows for the teacher to do a quick-check if they know what vowels are.  The second type of question is one where she would use the answers later for another activity.  For example, What colour socks are you wearing today?  She then uses this information in later lessons, for example to talk about fractions or make a graph in math.  I was also introduced to some of the games available in Notebook to work spelling, vocabulary, sequencing, and other concepts.  These are all available by searching FLASH in Notebook.   One of the teachers also shared how she set up her daily agenda in a notebook file so she can go back and see what she has assigned during the week, and show students who are absent what they missed.  There were many other things, but I can’t remember them all at the moment.

                The last session on Thursday was that SMART French session.  This was not what I was expecting and was a little disappointing, though through no fault of the presenter, Allan Thompson.  This session was designed for High School Core French classes and I found that most of what he presented were way above the heads of my students’ interest levels and did not fit well with my curriculum.  I did, however, come out of his session with one gem of information.  As a take-away from this session, we received a poster with 20 brain-compatible teaching strategies.  This list is a good resource when planning lessons to make sure that we cover many different learning styles in our planning. 

                My Friday morning began with a session called “Get in the Lit” with Helen Mowers (of, @techchick94 on Twitter.  Her session focused on using multimedia and web 2.0 to motivate and engage children in reading.  Her wiki features links to FREE online books.  She also has a list of websites that can be used to set up virtual book clubs.  She encouraged students (and teachers) posting what they read, as well as their reactions.  Then, students can see what their classmates are reading, take recommendations, and make their own comments if they read a book that has already been read.  Students are motivated by what their friends are reading, and are also encouraged to read seeing that their teacher is reading as well.  She suggested using wikispaces as a forum because it does not require students to have an email address to leave comments.  She provides all the links and web pages she spoke of on her wiki.

                My second session on Friday was about ePearl.  This is a digital portfolio.  It stores student work, gives the opportunity for students to choose their best work to “publish”, and the published work follows the student through their school career.  There are three levels available.  Level 1 is meant for K-3.  This level has two components of work…  My Readings and My Creations.  My Readings allows for students to post what they are reading, record themselves reading, and post their own questions and/or comments about their books.  There is also a link to ABRACADABRA (A Balanced Reading Approach for All Canadians Designed to Achieve Best Results for All) that comes with ePearl.  This will automatically keep track of the students’ reading on this site.  My Creations can include any writing or other projects the students do.  In this section, there is also a spot for student reflection on their work.  One last feature of this level is that all the instructions can be read to the student as can their work be read back to them.  Level 2 (grades 4-8) and level 3 (grades 9-12) have the same features, but the student pages can be personalized, much like their own website.  It seemed like an interesting project.  I was particularly interested of the possibilities of recording and storing student reading in the primary grades to show progress and the idea that student work could follow them through the years without actually having to keep anything on paper.  This is not, however, something that I as a teacher could choose to use.  This would have to be something that our system took on.

                The next session I attended was one that I had been waiting for.  The speaker was Danny Nicholson (of, @dannynic on Twitter.  I first “met” Danny many months ago on Twitter and have been learning from him ever since.  He is truly a wealth of knowledge when it comes to integrating what’s out there in the virtual world into daily lessons in interesting ways.  The session was called Essential Digital Resources.  This featured websites and digital tools to use to make our lessons more engaging and relevant.  He spoke of where to legally (Creative Commons) find pictures, audio, video, and a few other gems.  He also had some interesting ideas of short quick activities to engage students.  He shared all these links at .  One thing I took from his session that I will be using in the next few weeks is an interesting way to use .  He suggested pasting the text of well-known fairy tales into wordle and having the students guess which tale it is.  I have already incorporated this idea in with the attendance idea I wrote of above.  This will be my attendance questions for 2 weeks coming up after Easter break!  So many good ideas!  He is currently working on a project called Espresso that creates a website catered to an areas’ specific curricular requirements.  It is launching in Alberta soon.  It looks interesting!

                The last session of the day was about RAZ-Kids.  This is a program that I already use in my classroom as a part of my guided reading program.  I was hoping to learn some new ways to use this program, but, unfortunately, I already do more with the program than was presented during this session.

                Overall, the two days were amazing!  I met many amazing people (with whom I will continue to connect on Twitter), learned many amazing things, and hope to share this with my colleagues.  It was a way to get PD in reading, language arts, math, science, AND technology!  I hope to make this an annual event, continuing to build my virtual PLN and incorporate it into my real-world PLCs!

Using SmartResponse

I used the SMARTResponse system for the first time this week with my students. It was quite successful. I used it to take a quick picture of how my students were doing in 2-digit addition. It gave me a quick overall picture of who gets it and who doesn’t. It allowed me to know which kids I needed to review with (1 of which was a total surprise to me!) It was a great experience! Will attempt a science assessment next week.

My newest discovery –

Sharing on Twitter never ceases to amaze me.  In a recent exchange with one teacher (@mbteach), I discovered a website called  This teacher had posted the stories that her grade 2 and 3 students had written.  Check out her grade 3’s stories at .  I was completely inspired by these and got into a conversation with her about how the program works and about how she went about the logistics of getting her students to actually publish them.

From this conversation, another teacher (@mme_henderson) led me a great website by (@wizencroned) who made a wikispace for language teachers to post and share their storybird creations. 

I was quite inspired by these creations and decided to create my own storybird book to reinforce some of what I have been teaching in science class.  You can check that book out on the wikispace listed above. 

I plan on having my students create their own books too!  This is a great way to reinforce the writing traits that we have been working on in our classroom and for my students to be able to share their work with other people!

How I have used my SMART Board

So, one of my Twitter colleagues challenged me to blog about how I have actually integrated my SMART Board into my daily teaching and planning…  I would like to take that challenge, but I need to stop and think about this…

 At first, I started with what I would call “flashy” applications.  I used it for balloon popping attendance.  I have also used the group generator application from SMART Notebook almost daily to create groups for various discussions where specific partnerships are not necessary.  At the beginning, I would have to say that my SMART Board was an “add-on”, not an integral part of my planning and teaching.

 I have always used Essential Skills Spelling in my classroom to support my spelling program.  I created custom lists and recorded my voice so that my students could use the program for our French Spelling words (although the program was not designed for French words).  I would normally send the kids out through the school to log on and use the program individually.  (Our school is set up with four desktop computers per classroom, no lab.  We just got a portable lab this year.)  So, I started doing the activities on the SMART Board as a class.  We discussed the spelling, made competitions about it.  Collaborated and helped each other.  It has been amazing to see the students help each with their own little spelling tricks whereas when I sent them out to their own computer, they would not be able to talk because they would be disturbing the class that they were in.

 I then started to use some of the pre-made science and math lessons out there. I’ve always been pretty good at word processing, so changing the text in these lessons to French for my class was fairly easy.  At first, that is all I did.  I found lessons through SMART Notebook and by searching online.  This worked for awhile.  Then I started to notice that I didn’t like the way that some of the Notebook lessons were formatted, or that they didn’t exactly meet the outcome that I was seeking, or that they were very base-level questioning, and I wanted to push my students further.  So, at first, I started to make small formatting changes to the lessons.  For example, in a science lesson about the properties of matter, the students had to sort pictures into solids, liquids or gasses.  I noticed that the background chart was not locked into place.  I anticipated my students losing the picture along the way and picking up the chart.  So, I decided to lock the chart into place.  A small change, but one that made a big difference during the lesson.  Then, I realized that that lesson didn’t push far enough.  My students had no problem sorting the pictures, but that didn’t tell me if they really understood what a solid, liquid and gas actually is.  So, I added little boxes next to each picture that held the reasons for each sorting.  I had seen in another lesson that they had created another box over top of the text that hid the text until they moved it.  I then asked my students to explain their reasoning when they moved a picture and then check in the box afterwards.  By doing this, I met another of my curricular standards and pushed my students understanding a step further.  I also found that some of the pictures had elements that could be categorized as two states of matter depending on what you looked at in the picture.  So, I decided to make the pictures infinitely cloned.  That way, we could talk about the two choices, without having to decide where a single picture went.  So, my SMART Board has allowed my teaching to become more interactive and it has elicited more discussion.  Before the SMART Board, I may have asked a student if Pepsi was a solid, liquid or gas.  They would have had only one answer.  A picture of a Pepsi elicits the conversation around the can, the liquid in the can, and about how the liquid takes the form of the container.  I also posted a blog question at the end of my unit asking the students to tell me what they learned.  My students responded with simple sentences.  It took them about 30 minutes to log in and type 1-2 sentences, but the discussions that followed about their classmates’ responses was well worth the time!  As we read the responses on the SMART Board, they identified the things that they had forgotten but were remembered by others, and they helped their friends when they had made a mistake by crossing out and writing right on the board.  At first, these students were a little embarrassed by their mistakes, but the fact that they got to use the SMART Board to correct their own mistakes made it fun for them.  They became the teacher.  I had students volunteering other information that they remembered and asking to come to the board and add it.  That was truly one lesson that left me feeling like I was a pretty good teacher.  My kids felt good too.

 Another way that I have used my SMART Board fairly regularly in my classroom this year is as simple as using the lined background in Notebook and scans of textbook pages.  My level, grade 3, is the first year where textbooks are introduced.  How to read a textbook and how to transfer info and format a notebook are skills that need to be taught at my level.  In the past, I have used overhead copies of textbook and notebook pages.  This year, I use my SMART Board.  I am able to use colour scans of the textbook pages.  I can use the Shade function in Notebook to hide unessential parts, or to focus in on important parts.  I can circle, write, highlight, star, or do anything that I want to the page when I am teaching my students how to read it, then choose to save what I have written or erase it to focus on something new.  I use the lined background in Notebook to show my students how to format their work on a page.  I can save it and bring it up again the next day. 

 I use this to model other work as well.  We brainstorm to invoke prior knowledge and to establish important vocabulary.  I can then post this brainstorm day after day as we work through a unit or assignment.  We can add, change, or erase as we learn more throughout the unit.  It is kind of like the old large-format chart paper without the storage problem and with added benefits.  I was always hesitant in the past to write down misinformation on that chart paper because it was so permanent.  The SMART Board allows for fluidity and change as we learn more.

 I have integrated my SMART Board as a center during my Guided Reading.  I have always had a center called Choice Reading.  This consisted of a basket of levelled books from which my students could choose a book or two to read.  This has now been changed to a digital basket with the use of  .  What was once one of their least favourite stops along their reading route has now because they are using the SMART Board.  It also encourages digital reading.  I read an article recently about how the eye-brain connection is actually different when reading paper text and digital text.  I don’t know if there is truth to that, but knowing that my students will be adults in a time where a large part of their reading will be digital, it would pay to develop that skill.  Also, my students have access to this website at home, so if they have access to a computer, they can continue reading at home.

 The last way that I have used my SMART Board is for what I call “incidentals”.  These are the INQUIRY-type questions that come up during the day.  This had been as simple as a student asking where Haiti was after the earthquake, and being able to pull up a map to show the students.  We were doing a dance/drama unit that focused on The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde.  Just was we were finishing the unit, one student asked what had happened in the story again?!?  So, I googled the story and found a kid’s adaptation to read to them and a cartoon video to show them (which I previewed before showing them!).  It makes learning so much more relevant to them!  I also try to teach them some tech skills along the way too.  I do “think-alouds” as I search for these things.  What keywords do I use?  How do I tell which links are good?  How do I find a picture?  How do I find a video?

 So, to answer your question @mme_henderson, this is how I have used my SMART Board in my daily classroom.  Thanks for the challenge.  It has shown me just how much I have used it and how valuable it has been in my classroom.