Haiku Deck for Dyslexia?

I have to admit, when I was first playing around with Haiku Deck, I found myself thinking, “I am not sure how I am going to make this useful in my classroom,”…even with the examples given.  However, I knew that with some thought and patience, it would come to me.  And it did, I have a student in my class with Dyslexia, he is in grade 3 and struggles with books at beginning grade 1 level.  He tries his best to learn, and is actually very intelligent, the frustration he feels absolutely breaks my heart!  I have been using the Dragon Dictation App and been having some success with it in his writing, but it is still important he learn basic words so that he can improve his reading ability.  I chose to create a Haiku Deck for all of the basic words needed to go on in reading that he is missing.  I searched the word, and chose an appropriate picture to go with the word (careful, many inappropriate pictures came up for some words).  My hope is that he will learn these words in a way that makes sense to him and apply that learning to other reading that he does.  I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I do know what the outcome would be if we didn’t try.  Thanks George, you gave me one more tool for my special little guy!



Learning Leader

When I first read the email describing the learning leader project I knew it was something I wanted to do. I have always believed in technology as a learning tool but have never really known how I could incorporate the iPad as a learning tool as well.  In saying this, I will be the first to admit that I have never taken it upon myself to search for ways in which an iPad can be used other than a personal device. However, over the past month I have found that not only have I been using the apps we were asked to download, but I have also been looking for more that would be beneficial to both my students as well as myself…I am going to attribute this to having my interest peaked at the first session back in October! I guess to summarize, I could simply say that I am really looking forward to using my iPad for more than just surfing the Internet and can already see all the possibilities with it!

I knew coming into this that Twitter was going to be a big part of the experience. I signed up for Twitter last year with the intention of using it all the time, but I quickly turned into a “lurker” and then essentially stopped doing anything with it. In reflecting about this, I think the reason for this is because overall I am a very private person and I wasn’t sure how I felt about having my thoughts and questions all over the Internet. I know that Twitter is a great tool for connecting, sharing resources and so much more as I have seen the power of it through people I know. Here is where I need help (and am willing to admit it)…my goal is to open up and start using Twitter on a regular basis, but I am going to need to continually be pushed to do so until I begin to be more comfortable with the whole idea of it! So, please push me to use it…I know I will thank whoever does later!


Big Questions

Learning how to plug into other educators in my field across the globe on twitter connects me to some of the best professional development in the world. Not only am I broadening my professional network, I am encouraged to think of some of the ‘big questions’ that face education. The transformation that education is searching for will come from the consideration and reflection on those big questions: What is education for? Are our goals as educators the same as parents’ goals? Should they be? If we are too focused on the day-to-day teaching and managing in our classrooms, do we lose sight of what the ‘big picture’ of education is? If it does, to what extent does that take away from the value of what we are doing in the classroom? How can we balance our development as life long learners (and therefore become better teachers, in my opinion) with the fulfillment of our commitments to our day-to-day classroom obligations?

Learning Leader Session 4 (Overview and Information)

As this session will be done totally online, please comment on the bottom when you are done going through the material with either a general comment, or something specific to the content.  Please feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts with others to spur on some conversation.

1.  Joe’s Non-Netbook – This video is a great one for discussion with students and educators to show how ‘text’ may not have the same feel as an iPad or computer with the lack of interactivity.  Check out this short, funny video done by students:

2. ShowMe – ShowMe is a great iPad app for creating video tutorials on different content, but you can also easily create presentations using pictures and upload them as videos to the web.  These videos can be shared and embedded into different websites, but below is a tutorial on how to create a slideshow using this app:

Before you make a video, you may want to check out what content is already at the “ShowMe” community.

3.  SoundCloud – SoundCloud is a great audio recording site that works not only from a computer, but also Apple Devices as well.  This can be used for students reading books live and putting into a portfolio, recording lectures or talks, or making easy podcasts.  There is simply a”record” button that will save your audio on your iPad, but be aware that this will be posted onto a website.

The nice thing about this, is that the content can be easily shared on Twitter, a blog, or Facebook.  You can also record music or any type of audio file.  Below is a SoundCloud tutorial on how to create a recording from a computer:

This short video will also show you how to easily embed a SoundCloud file into your blog.

Here are some questions for this session:

1. What are you thoughts on “Joe’s Non-Netbook”?

2. What are some ways you can use ShowMe in your classroom with either staff or students?

3. What are some ways could you use SoundCloud with either staff or students?

Thanks for your dedication to this project!  Details for the next session will come out in May!

Endless Possibilities

I consider myself decently proficient when it comes to technology; however, when it comes to the amount of tech tools and ideas and the rate in which change in this area occurs, I realize the possibilities are truly endless. The amount of knowledge and skills I possess in this area is minuscule in comparison. I think that is part of the reason why I am so intrigued with tech stuff. There is always going to be something else that surprises me. My learning will never end. I was reminded of this again as I attended an iPad for administrators session led by @nlakusta where I learned about a number of new apps, tips, and tricks with the iPad.

One of the cool resources she shared was a collaborative Google presentation called 103 Interesting Ways To Use Ipad In The Classroom. Check it out!


In my adventures in iPad apps, I have consistently ran into the same problem.  What do you do when you have a great app you would like students to use for a project when not all students have and iPad?  In my iPad adventures, I have found that several of the Interactive Whiteboard apps have amazing potential to be linked to project-based learning but virtually all of them involve owning an iPad.  Now, with the iPad 2 now selling for a cool $419.00, the price is dropping but the majority of students still do not possess these nifty devices.

So I began searching for apps that students could use on an iPad or on a computer.  One of my administrators, directed me to a cool app called Voicethread.  The program allows you to upload pictures and make handwritten annotations on the picture while also recording your voice or recording video.  You can upload several pictures to make a sort of…well…story.  As a language teacher, I thought that this would be a great tool to use for my Japanese class, so I pitched it as an optional way to complete the Japanese Festival Project in my Japanese 30 class.  Many of the students opted out of using the new app and stuck with the familiar PowerPoint program but I did have a couple of students who gave the new program a shot and it made marking an absolute breeze!  The students who used the program used it in two different ways.  The first did it on her computer and was not able to make the written annotations but was able to record her voice while advancing through her uploaded pictures.  The second student actually used his Blackberry tablet to complete the assignment and he was able to make written annotations while also recording his voice.  While it was unfortunate that the written annotations were not available using a computer, I was pleased that a $199 device like the Blackberry tablet was able to incorporate this feature (a world of caution…one thing that some of you may not like about Voicethread is that you are not able to get the video as a file. You instead, have to share the link which does not allow you to save the video file.  Although this is typical to almost all of the interactive whiteboard apps out there, it is still something that I believe limits the flexibility of this particular application.  In addition, if you want to see one of the videos that your student has shared with you, you must already have a Voicethread account to watch the video.).


Tripit – An App for the School Traveler?

I was fortunate enough to be asked to chaperon a school trip to New York this Spring Break with 33 Drama students from SGCHS.  With the trip already planned by the travel company, I was trying to find a better way to organize the the itinerary so that I would have a better idea of what was going on each day.  It’s funny how now, when I am presented with a task, I am frequently asking myself….”Is there an App for that?”  Sure enough, when I checked out the App Store, I came across a travel planner called Tripit which allows you to insert maps, create itineraries, access your flight plans, plan out tours and a multitude of other useful tools. When I started inputting the itinerary that the travel agent gave us, I thought it was a bit labourious however, when I found out that I could share my itinerary with others via e-mail, I was blown away.  With most students having iPhones, iPads or even a laptop computer, I can now send the itinerary to all of our students so that they can access it at the push of a button.  I have yet to see if sharing the Tripit itinerary I have made will sync with another iPad/iPhone that has the App but I do believe this application has some great functionality to it.

Are Textbooks Going The Way Of The Dodo Bird?

Are traditional textbooks outdated? Are they convenient? Are they even practical? Will traditional textbooks go the way of the Dodo bird? Will they become extinct?

recent Scholastic survey commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and released in 2010 found few teachers believe traditional textbooks can engage today’s digital natives and prepare them for success. Teachers say they prefer digital and non-digital resources like magazines and books other than textbooks. Only 12 percent of some 40,000 teachers surveyed said textbooks help students achieve, while only 6 percent said textbooks engage their students in learning. (High School Hustle: Overloaded backpacks and outdated textbooks; a better way?)

I know that the above stats are American based, but I don’t think a Canadian survey would produce different results. So what is the alternative?

Open sourced textbooks utilized with the Ipad seem to be a much more more engaging and interactive way for students to work with content as exemplified in Apple’s video on the subject. I do not have any first hand experience using these at all; however, I think the potential for student engagement and learning is enormous. Not to mention the potential cost saving and practicality of students not having to log around multiple thick textbooks in a backpack or forgetting them at school when they have homework (I have yet to meet a student who forgets their iPad at school).

To be honest, I am not sure at this point the number of resources that have been made available in this format; however, I do know that some main education publishers such as Pearson and McGraw Hill are already partnering with Apple to create new a “new textbook experience for the Ipad“. In reading on the subject I have found a few of our neighbors to the south that have started projects to phase our traditional textbooks, replacing them with digital versions such as California, Utah and Washington. I a currently hoping to find some Canadian schools or divisions who have started utilizing open sourced textbooks. Regardless, I am definitely excited about this concept and am interested in continuing to explore this for the future.


Dragon Dictation

Since I teach language arts to students with learning disabilities,  I’m always on the look-out for programs to help them show me what they know and help them get their ideas out. A couple months ago, I ran across the app Dragon Dictation and I’m going to be using it to dictate this entire blog.

dragon dictation logoThe main reason I like this app is that it is very good for students who have a lot of ideas but have print difficulties, are slow typers, or their spelling is so off-the-charts that even spell-check doesn’t pick up on their mistakes.

One of my biggest successes with this program came last year at the end of the year. I had a student who would spend hours and hours and only get a couple lines out. The ideas that he had were good but he just could not express it on paper. We gave him a word processor and tried all kinds of things but none of them seemed to work. At the end of the year, I was at the end of my rope. I needed to try something different because even though this student had good ideas, if he wasn’t able to express them I wouldn’t be able to give him a passing grade in my class.

Around this time, our special needs classes went on a field trip to NorQuest College and visited the assistive technologies department. While we were there,  the staff showed us Dragon Dictation. Willing to try just about anything, we went back to school and the student downloaded Dragon Dictation on his iPod.

When it came time to write the test, the rest of my class worked on word processors in the library but this particular student dictated his narrative writing in my classroom.  He is a kinesthetic learner so he learns by moving. Because he had my classroom to himself, he just wandered around talking into his iPod. As I said before, this kid would work for hours and only have a couple lines written.

In only an hour, he had written a complete story. It was a little bit on the short side but it was complete. He uploaded it from his iPod, e-mailed it to himself and then put it into a Google Doc, which he used for editing. The results were incredible. Not only was this student able to achieve a passing grade in language arts for that year, but he had finally experienced success on a final exam. He felt good about himself!

I think, to me, that was the most rewarding part,  here’s this student who, for the past eight years, had not experienced any success language arts and in one morning he had written an entire story, thanks to Dragon Dictation.

This app does require quite a bit of editing, but at least the words are there, spelled correctly, and the reader can get the general idea.

If you’re wondering what it’s like without editing this is it and I’m making a big effort to enunciate very well and make sure that each word is pronounced correct obviously a teenager is maybe not to take this amount of care in detail and here she may not know where to put various punctuation but I think that’s a good part part of it too is that as a teacher who is looking to see if students can use for conventions correctly you get a good idea I using this program by that they cannot

It’s not the be-all, end-all, but it’s definitely a starting point which some students need.

Before you get started in the classroom with this app, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It does require quite a bit of editing, so if students are not able to edit very well that could cause some problems. This is also a benefit, as it allows teachers to assess a student’s editing and revision skills.
  • The recording time is quite short maybe only 15-30 seconds, so if you are the kind of person likes to talk, talk, talk, you’re going to become a little impatient because it keeps stopping to process.
  • If a person is mumbling, stutters, or has a cold or an accent, it makes it hard for the computer to know which are the lilts in speech and which are the actual words.
  • When dictating, the speaker needs to leave a second or two delay between when they finish talking and the program realizes that they’re done, or part of what they’ve dictated will be left out.
  • There’s no spell-check in this program because that assumption is that they’ve spelled everything correctly. There’s also no grammar check, so thankfully you can copy it to a word processor and do your editing there. However, Dragon Dictation updates its dictionary using the names in your contact list.
  • You can also copy whatever you’ve dictated to your e-mail,  Facebook,  or Twitter.
  • This app is available for the iPad, iPod, and iPhone, which limits accessibility for some. Also, some of the older model iPods don’t have microphones, so that can be a limitation, too.

This program is not very practical for someone who does not have print disabilities or hard time expressing themselves, but for the person who does, Dragon Dictation is a very good solution to getting their words out in a tangible way in a short amount of time.

“Show Me” The Money!

Okay, so you don’t have to show me the money, but I am excited about the new app that I found for the Ipad called “Show Me“.

ShowMe” is a global learning community – a place where anyone can learn or teach anything. Our mission is to make learning as accessible as possible, while giving great teachers and experts a platform to reach even more students. (http://www.showme.com/about_showme/)

I have been reading some blogs such as Jumping Aboard on flipped instruction and am excited to continue to grow in this area and make it part of my practice. With that in mind, I set out to learn how I could extend learning beyond the classroom. Using the Show Me App for the Ipad, I created my first Ipad screencast on the water cycle for my grade 5 science class.

I know it isn’t perfect… I stammered a little, my writing was messy, and it may be a simplistic explanation, but I think part of embracing the process of incorporating technology and flipping the classroom is getting over our own insecurities and pressure that we place on ourselves that it does need to be perfect. Taking risks and embracing technology is necessary to inspire learning… and that is what we all want to do.

I don’t know if the Show Me App is the best Ipad app for screencasting and I do know there are a few other options available. With that being said, here is what I liked about using the Show Me App to create a screencast:

  1. It is free
  2. It syncs with your online account at www.showme.com  so you can access it from any computer
  3. You can easily share your screencasts via Twitter, Facebook, email or embed it into a blog or website (as you saw above).
  4. You can share your screencast publicly or keep it private.
  5. You can tag your screencasts by adding “topics” (tags).
  6. You can access many other screencasts done and shared by other educators around the world that are sorted into topics.
Finally, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how I am making this accessible to my students. Although, I am very early (emphasis on early) in the process I am going to make all the links available, among other web resources, on my Parkland School Division classroom blog. I have made a “students resources page” on my blog with links to subject specific pages that I will update throughout the year with resource links and screencasts.
Well there you have it. This is one of the things I have been learning as part of the Learning Leader Project. I am excited to continue on in this journey of incorporating screencasting into my regular practice. Who knows, the thought has even crossed my mind to let the students make some screencasts, explaining their learning, that I can put on our classroom blog… because isn’t that after all when learning really takes place? When the student can tell the world what it is that they know as opposed to just listening to what I know?