Connecting through the Global Read Aloud

The book used for the Global Read Aloud this year is Out of My Mind, which is about a girl who has Cerebral Palsy, who is not able to talk or walk.  After I signed up to participate, I was directed to the GRA wiki and joined a group on Edmodo.

I was lucky in that a teacher in New York (@MrsTharpsClass) set up a group for Special Ed Teachers where we have been able to ask questions, share resources, and generally connect about the book.


A teacher on Edmodo started a Padlet for us to share our thoughts about the main character, Melody:

out of my mind

After a series of Twitter conversations, @MrsTharpsClass, @girltraveling, and @DolphinICOM (us) all have tentatively started to talk about meeting via Skype and TwitterChats following the #OOMM.


I am excited about all of the connections we are able to make via social media and the level of engagement I see in my students is a motivating factor for me as a teacher. I want to work harder and make these connections work – because my students deserve it.


Paper Blogging and Inspiration

      In preparation for the Global Read Aloud (#GRA13) for the book Out of My Mind  by Sharon Draper (@sharonmdraper), I took some advice from Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) and used her ideas to introduce and to teach my students a lesson about how to blog.  I thought it was a great idea to begin the whole thing by creating a Paper Blog. She also had links to another blog, “Notes From McTeach” where there were more specific ideas and examples of student work through paper blogging. 


     In my class of LD students, reading and especially writing are daily challenges.  This introductory activity really engaged my students and made them excited about reading and writing.  Only, they didn’t realise it.  They were too interested in reading about one another’s passions and writing a response (commenting) back.  


    It is inspiring to see my students working hard, especially when they have to use skills they may have weaknesses in.  That level of persistence is what I hope my students can sustain and what I hope to help develop over the course of the year. 

     We have begun to go live on the internet and started our blogs.  If you have time, come for a visit and leave us a comment.  We would love it!  Click here to go straight to our page, and thank you for taking the time to visit!


Teaching and Learning in a Digital World Conference: #TLDWpeel

I have been debating whether or not to post anything since attending the TLDW conference on Wednesday and Thursday.  In the past two months, I haven’t written, mostly because I feel I have had nothing to share and partly because I haven’t made the time.

What two days can do to a person!

Ruben Puentadura (@rubenrp), the developer of the SAMR (Substitution, Augmenation, Modification, Redefinition) model of how technology can be effectively utilized in our teaching was our first keynote speaker.  He really helped me realise that using tech tools to push the boundaries for and with my students is key in creating an authentic learning experience for them.  It will and can cause all students to succeed.  My mind went into overdrive, contemplating all of the possibilities we could try this year (as well as making me freeze with anxiety! … this feeling really hasn’t dissipated… uh oh).

Ruben Puentedura's (creator of SAMR) blog

Ruben Puentedura’s (creator of SAMR) blog


The following day, George Couros (@gcouros) came to speak.  He is definitely a gifted speaker and knows how to engage his audience.  I am pretty sure he has a pretty big fan club after his talk!  His message was about the need for our students to be and feel connected and how tech tools help them achieve that connection.  I heard from him that using technology in our classrooms, as educators, is not about how skilled we are at using those tools but about a change in our mindsets.  Huh.

I loved that he asked us, “How will YOU learn?  Not, how will you change how your students learn (using technology)? How will you change first?” (I’m totally paraphrasing here).  Because it is really about how WE will change!  We have to, for ourselves and for our students and children.


Finally, there were sharing sessions led by teachers who have actually implemented 21st C tools in their teaching.  It was inspiring to see so many teachers speak so passionately and share their experiences.  I have so much to learn and am so excited to build another PLN with teachers from our own board!

For some other thoughts on this conference, hop over to Debbie’s blog and Hazel Mason – 21st Century Tech Quest , or Miss Kit Kat.   



Do I want to become a Google Certified Teacher?


At the end of April, I participated in the first ever #cdnedchat on twitter.  It was a great experience and I definitely learned a lot.  A couple of weeks before it started, I connected with one of the moderators who was attending a Google Certified teacher conference (or something like that) at that time.  I had been hearing about Google Certified teachers through twitter and was curious about it.

I have come to learn a few things:

  • You have to attend a Google Teacher Academy for two days of intensive training (cool!)
  • You have to apply for admission!  There are only 50 spots available.  This admission is based on your “… professional experience, passion for teaching and learning, and successful use of technology in school settings.”  The admissions package includes questions about your involvement in educational technology.
  • You have to produce a video and post it to YouTube!!!!  Short, one minute, and based on a topic the Teacher Academy has chosen for the year’s submissions.

I think becoming a Google Certified Teacher would be a wonderful opportunity – especially to connect and to share with other like-minded teachers and to learn about all kinds of innovations Google has to offer through their online community, their apps and tools.

What was your experience in becoming a Google Certified Teacher?

Online Collaboration: Edmodo

Online Collaboration with Students: Highlight on Edmodo
What is Edmodo?
In my search for increased student engagement in using a class website (as opposed to our board’s “class website” system and D2L), I was introduced to Edmodo. It is place where students and teachers can connect online, in a social networking format. It’s interface is very similar to Facebook, which is one of the reasons I chose it over other classroom networking sites (Collaborize Classroom or Kidblogs but these are great too). Part of enticing my students to try this new tool was to choose as attractive and user friendly a site as possible.
Edmodo has allowed me to share information with my students in a variety of ways. I am still a beginner user, but so far, I have been able to:
  • post homework and assignments and have students turn in assignments online
  • communicate with my students and create groups within my class
  • post resources, files, readings, power point presentations, etc for my students (and parents)
  • connect with parents
  • attempt to ‘flip’ my lessons
What I like about Edmodo is that it is a safe and secure place for students and teachers and parents to connect.  There is no ‘direct messaging’ between students as everything is posted publicly, every student needs a special code to enter into our group, and parents are invited (with their own code) to see assignments, marks, posts, resources, etc.
After using it pretty consistently over the past year, I will most definitely use it again in my class next year.  It has been an extremely effective way for me to communicate with my students and network with other teachers.

Click here for an online demo of Edmodo.

More on Digital Citizenship

Watch this:  Be a Digital Citizen:

Digital citizens refer to anyone who uses the internet on a regular basis. Those who use blogs, social networks, and smartphone technology are digital citizens.  Digital citizenship is “a principle that helps users understand how to utilize technology in an appropriate way.” (Digital Citizenship, Web, Jan, 2013).  

Understanding how to manage personal information and how to use the internet safely is so important because people are spending more and more time in the digital universe.  It is becoming increasingly important for us, as educators to teach our students what it means to be a digital citizen and how to use the internet responsibly.

The article, Digital LIfe:  Our Kids`Connected Culture, lists facts of digital life as well as some parenting tips (better for parents than educators).  It also has a great video about digital life that`s worth watching, featuring students who have been positively and negatively affected by the internet (from plagiarizing to finding and feeling accepted in an internet community).

Edmodo provides a great PDF of some tips on being a great digital citizen.  Click here if you would like a free copy (they also have an 11×17 size if you are interested).



Creating Infographics with Web 2.0 tools.

I currently am teaching a special education class with students who have varying needs and who learn in very different ways. Using infographics can be a powerful way for students to learn and absorb information they have learned in class.  It is visually expressive, contains short and brief information, and ultimately, is a memorable way for students to learn.If you are interested in creating your own infographic, I think an easy pace to start would be to use one of these websites: Wordle or Tagxedo.These two sites take any text you input and generate a “word cloud” that arranges the words in a random pattern.  Words that occur more often in the text are larger and emphasized.  This is fantastic for students who might want to summarize text and need help in identifying key vocabulary.There are a number of websites that you can use to create infographics. This article summarizes these three tools and more.


Digital Footprint

Posted February 10, 2013 for my course blog.  

Check it out:  The Digital Footprint

The digital footprint is aptly named as a digital shadow (Wikipedia, February 2013) because of the information left behind through our activities on the internet.  We may be leaving behind information to a number of different parties based on our browsing activities.  Private information could be collected without our knowledge, which might leave us vulnerable because anything put on the internet can never be erased.

Our activities are being recorded!  I wonder if that bothers anyone…  I know with absolute certainty that it doesn’t bother my seventeen year old cousin at all.  Some of the pictures I’ve seen her tagged in, I’m not sure should even be circulating.  Even if I talk to her about it, she always answers with, “it’s okay, everybody does it.”  I know that this is the attitude of so many children.

In tracking my digital footprint through Discovery’s website, “What is Your Digital Footprint?” I scored 24 points – meaning I leave a moderate digital trail during the course of my day.  It was not different from what I expected however, I do think I am becoming more and more lax each day, as I become more comfortable and less vigilant about my internet activities.  What a scary thought.

I remember when I first started signing up for things online (mainly social networking sites), I always tried to use a pseudonym and made up personal information because I was so afraid of what was being tracked.  I didn’t have a full understanding of the ‘world wide web,” and it scared me.  Even today, I can say that although I feel more comfortable, the scope of my digital footprint and its impact is still difficult to fathom.

Privacy does not seem hold the same conceptual meaning as it once did.  To me, the idea of privacy was more synonymous with ‘secrecy’ and holding my cards as close to me as possible.  But now, I think that has completely changed.  The whole idea of tracking cookies and my browsing habits being followed is so much bigger and beyond my own ability to comprehend. It is understandable why my students can’t even connect that there might be implications of their actions now to their behaviour/choices in the future.

I wonder what type of impact my digital life will have in the future.

This leads to the question of how to deal with it in the classroom.  In reading Will Richardson’s (follow him on twitter:  @willrich45) blog post titled, “Teach. Facebook. Now.”, he addresses this by discussing the fact that teaching about our digital footprints is something that cannot be ignored any longer.  He lists the following points:

  • Upwards of 75% of the kids in high school use Facebook.

  • You need a manual to figure out how to appropriately set your privacy settings on Facebook.

  • Because of that (to some extent, at least), lots of your kids are doing not so great things in public that might get them into trouble.

  • Most of the younger kids in your system are going to be on Facebook when they are in high school.

  • No one is teaching them (about their digital footprints).

In surveying my class, it reminded me of something else I read in his post: young adults are more  concerned about their exposure in the digital world than adults (He actually got that from another blogger whose fantastic rant can be found here).  Anyway, I asked my class a few questions about social networking and about web browsing.  Amazingly, none of my students have Facebook accounts (They all have Twitter!). Maybe it’s their age (Grade 6/7), maybe they are very obedient children – but their main reasons were because they didn’t want their actions now to impact their future job prospects.  What?!?!?!  Unfortunately, their understanding of a digital footprint only focuses on Facebook and not on other social networking platforms or web-browsing activities.  I think my students are aware of what could happen but are not fully informed.  Yet.

I’m going to have to change that.  Somehow.


Digital Citizenship

Originally published February 10, 2013… This was before I really knew ANYTHING about our board’s policies and what we had been involved with on a larger level.  That’s what happens when you are “just a teacher” in a school, fighting for access to information, I guess.  The board has since developed a very comprehensive plan which all teachers have access to.  It’s a very exciting time.  BTW, my school still does not have WiFi.

According to Ribble and Bailey (from Raising a Digital Child, 2010), digital citizenship is defined as being “the norms of appropriate, responsible behaviour with regard to technology use.”  The goal is to, “provide a framework to help parents and educators to define the issues concerning technology and how to help their children.”

Our school recently had an anti-bullying speaker come in (find him at as part of our character education initiative.  Part of his presentation dealt with what it meant to be a digital citizen, as he recounted many stories of students he had met.  It seems that with our seemingly anonymous status of the digital world, we forget that our social networking lives are intertwined with our ‘face-to-face’ life.  This is especially apparent with school age children.  I notice this with my students. They seem to interact and connect very easily with strangers over the internet through various platforms, be it their Playstations or Twitter or Formspring.  Students who sometimes find me through Facebook, have thousands of friends — I don’t understand this (and I never add them!).  However, I believe that this ‘desire’ to collect as many ‘friends’ as possible is due to that feeling of security.  Being in your home and posting inappropriate statuses or texting embarrassing photos is very different from doing those same things to someone’s face.  You feel so much braver when you can hide behind your technology.

Because schools are trying to figure out what the “norms of appropriate, responsible technology use” are, teachers are left to their own devices to develop their own “norms.”  This is definitely how I feel and this task is daunting.

Case in point:  our school board’s director released a statement giving us a guideline about the board’s BYOD and Digital Citizenship policies, as well as how committed they were to our students as 21st Century learners.  As I scoured the webpage – I looked for our stance on digital citizenship.  The page is “coming soon” and guess what – we’re expecting to go wireless soon.  We are also expected to implement technology within our teaching programs.  No wonder staff members at my school are resistant and reluctant to participate.  When I try to talk about Edmodo or Twitter, some teachers even look at me with disdain and talk to me about how I need to be careful and how they would never use such networking websites with their students.  Without any formalized ‘training’ or policies that have been mandated yet, tackling the domain of digital citizenship is too large a task.  It’s also intimidating.

When I see how my toddlers are able to manipulate the intuitive technologies on our smartphones, it demonstrates how, “even very young children are frequent digital media users.” (Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, 2011. p. 9) The impact of digital media is so far reaching it has transformed societal values and norms.  This digital world in turn, will impact my children’s (and student’s) lives and will influence how they learn in every way.

As a parent, I feel that teaching my children to one day be responsible citizens as well as digital citizens is becoming increasingly pressing.  I cannot ignore that this will definitely be (already is?) a significant issue in our everyday lives.

This is where the school becomes an integral part of reinforcing digital citizenship with our students/children.  My students should have a clear understanding of how to use technology appropriately and about how it directly impacts their lives.

Watch: Be a digital Citizen

The Importance of a Personal Learning Network

Originally posted January 8, 2013.

At the end of Part 1 of the Tech AQ in June, I really struggled to figure out how to sift through the vast amounts of information I had gathered.  It was a very overwhelming endeavour.  I basically gave up in the middle of the summer, thinking it was a task I couldn’t handle.

The school year started in September and I was re-energized just because I was back in an environment where I would be able to collaborate and participate in creative programming again.  Ultimately, this is what keeps me going as an educator:  continually learning and being exposed to new and innovative ideas.  As the months passed, I began to realise many things (and now I have a name for it!).  I needed a network of people who are  “… finding and sharing information,” who could give me  “… – the group feedback that you get on ideas and projects,” (Kate Klingensmith from the Once Upon a Teacher blog, 2009).  Very simply, this is a personal learning network.

The opportunity to “… extend your knowledge and learning outside your classroom.” (The Innovative Educator, 2008) is invaluable especially in my personal situation.  And that is what is so important about PLNs.  A PLN is created for your own needs.  You are able to make connections with people all over the world through social media in order to learn about something that is of personal interest.

I was able to create my own PLN by seeking out information that was of interest to me.  I created a twitter account and participated in educational webinars that I was able to find out about through twitter and the educational categories available.  I am by no means an expert at tweeting or as resourceful as some however, I am able to take advantage of the opportunites that I find relevant to me.  I consider myself a “PLN 1.0” as the Innovative Educator would define, because I have not actually taken the risk to publicly share my ideas (other than at school) but this is part of my own professional development.  As we know, a PLN should be an environment where everyone is helping and responding to one another in a collaborative way.

Being away from teaching after a year of maternity leave and then transitioning to balancing family and work life, PD seemed to be completely out of reach for me (our PD sessions are usually in the early evenings, at a time when it is impossible for me to attend).  An online PLN has really opened doors for me and I believe has been more useful to me than any face-to-face workshop in the past.  I am able to collaborate with my colleagues through twitter instantaneously (there are only 3 at my school! But still!) and learn from so many other people in the twitter-universe.

This is my first year in a new class.  I am teaching a contained group of special education students with learning disabilities of varying degrees.  Every student requires their own academic program.  Having an online community has enabled me to connect with experts in special ed who have previous experience and can share, it has allowed me to find web 2.0 tools to use with my students, links to websites with relevant content (like Youtube) for various subject areas, tips on new resources and software that might be useful, and also provided me with the latest news in education.

I believe that it is my responsibility as an educator to continue to grow professionally.  The accessibility that a PLN provides especially through an online presence really does help me stay current and challenges me to become an innovator it my school and in my classroom.  I am learning a lot through PLNs but I do believe there is so much more to uncover.