Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tech Tip of the Day: Wonderopolis

Inspiring Quotation

This image is the "manifesto" of a famous Canadian yoga/athletic wear clothing company called Lululemon. It is one of my absolute favourite stores and a lot of my money seems to end up here! When you purchase something at Lululemon, you get a reusable shopping bag covered with these quotations. To view it online, follow this link:

Tech Tip of the Day: Wonderopolis

Wonderopolis is a site that I love for fostering inquiry and developing questioning and research skills. Each day, this site poses a new open ended question that challenges your students to think. I know some classroom teachers who visit Wonderopolis each day with their a whole class in the early years and as an activity for individual students who complete their work early. It's a great way to challenge your gifted and talented learners and can spark many investigations and inquiry projects. 

All previous "wonders" are archived so there's a lot to see and explore on this great site.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tech Tip of the Day: Today's Meet

Inspiring Quotation of the Day

Tech Tip of the Day: Today's Meet

Today's Meet is a web based back channel. What is a back channel? It is basically an online chat room. A back channel is a tool for maintaining an online conversation while another activity is happening, such as a presentation or lesson. How can you use a back channel in your classroom?

  • Visit and create a back channel. It is free, and your back channel can only be accessed by someone who has the link. You can set the back channel to delete in hours or as long as a month. 
  • Show your students how to visit the back channel and use it. They can access using laptops or mobile devices. This is an excellent opportunity for teaching digital citizenship and how to use a back channel appropriately...polite, respectful, etc. 
  • While you are teaching your lesson, encourage students to raise questions and summarize using the back channel. Explain that you will pause every few minutes, check the back channel, and address questions or misconceptions. 
  • Advantages? You can teach without interruption, and more students are willing to ask questions and share when they don't have to do so in front of their peers. 
  • Appoint a couple of students to summarize the main points of the lesson. Then all students can visit the back channel for additional reinforcement and review.
  • You can also appoint a student to monitor the back channel for you, and raise his or her hand whenever there are several questions that need to be addressed. 
  • You can print or archive a transcript of the back channel when you are done using it. 
How do I use a back channel in my teaching practice?

  • I use a back channel when I present at conferences or lecture at university, exactly as described above.  
  • When we use Skype to connect with other classrooms or experts, I often create a back channel. All students ask their questions through the back channel and summarize key points, and I appoint two "question askers" who monitor the back channel and ask the questions from it. This prevents 20 children or adults all trying to ask a question at once.
  • If I'm unable to Skype (due to bandwidth issues or blockages), I set up a Today's meet back channel and use it to talk with other classrooms or experts. I create a back channel and share the link with the other party. We use the back channel as a chat room/instant messaging tool so we can instantly talk back and forth. 

Tech Tip of the Day: Storybird

Inspiring Quotation of the Day

Tech Tip of the Day: Storybird

Storybird is a web based storytelling tool, free for educators. It allows students to use a huge library of free artwork to create and retell stories. In addition to narrative stories, learners can use Storybird to explain mathematical or scientific concepts, current events, or historical events. Students or an entire class can begin a story, then invite another student or class to continue the story, sharing the composition of the story back and forth until a finished story is created.

Check out this great free tool, perfect for all ages and subject areas!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tech Tip of the Day: Text Over Photo

Inspiring Quotation:

Tech Tip of the Day: Text Over Photo 
We see many inspiring quotations and memes that have been created using an image as the background with text over that image. Adding text to an image is a powerful way of conveying a message, and a powerful way for students to share their learning. It is also quick and easy to snap a picture using a mobile device, then add text to it using an app on the same mobile device. I use text over photo in a variety of ways.

Personal Life: sometimes you take a lot of great pictures, but you don't want to post them all separately on social media (we all get annoyed by the person with 20 Instagram posts of nearly the same thing). So using a collage app and adding text to it is a great way to share your images and explain what is happening in them by adding text.

Above: the first image collage and text caption was created using the app A Beautiful Mess. The second was created using the app InstaCollage.

Sharing with Other Educators: operating on the same premise as above, to avoid becoming "human spam", collaging multiple images into one image and adding a text is an effective way to share with other educators. These collages were created and captioned using the same apps as above and shared via social media to show what was happening in our kindergarten program.

Student Products: depending on age and ability, not all students are able to read and write. However, the majority of learners (from ages 4 and up) can use a device to create an image. And an image is a powerful way to share learning and convey a message. Adding text to that image only makes it more powerful.
Above: in my university class this past winter, students were given the task of creating an image and adding a quotation about differentiated instruction. Their learning was then shared via social media using our class hashtag. This image was most likely created using the app Over. 
My five year-old kindergarten students created this image and captioned it using the apps Pic Collage or InstaCollage. What is really interesting about this is that they were photographing and captioning pictures of squares. One of my little boys decided to make a collage of 4 squares. He saved it to the camera roll on his device and continued taking pictures of squares and made another collage to share. He then had the revelation that if he used his previously saved collages of 4 images, he could make a collage with sixteen squares in it! This turned into a teachable moment where we all stopped what we were doing and learned about "groups of" and multiplication! 

Gifts, Important Occasions, Bulletin Board Displays: we use text over photo apps for the first day of kindergarten, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, and other special occasions. After we create our images, I often send them directly from my device to a photography store and have them printed. 
This is one of my four year-olds on the first day of junior kindergarten. We took an picture (consider appointing a class photographer to free you up as the teacher), then added text over the image using the app Over (you could also use Quick, A Beautiful Mess, or many others). I printed two copies of each child's image--one for a bulletin board display and one to send home for parents. We've also done something similar to create Christmas cards and Mother's Day/Father's Day presents. "My mom is the best because" or "I love my dad because" with a cute picture of the child makes a quick, easy, and memorable gift. 

My Favourite Tools for Text Over Photo
Fotor (a Windows app that can be used on a Windows desktop, or downloaded to iOS, Windows, and Android devices)
InstaCollage app: iOS/Android 
PicCollage app: iOS/Android 
A Beautiful Mess: costs $1.19 in Canada but totally worth it! Available for iOS and Android. 
Over app: costs $4.99, but I really love how simple it is to use this app. It's available for iOS and Android. 
Quick app: a free alternative to Over. It's available for iOS and Android, but I find the interface a bit confusing. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tech Tip of the Day: Free Resources from BrainPOP!

Inspiring Quotation of the Day 
Available at

Tech Tip of the Day: Free Resources from BrainPOP!
At both the ISTE 2011 and Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Prague 2012, I was fortunate to encounter the team from BrainPOP. BrainPOP has both web and app-based resources for education, most notably short animated videos on hundreds of topics and follow up quizzes. BrainPOP Junior is for students aged 5-8 and BrainPOP is for older students. There's also BrainPOP ESL for English as additional language learners, and BrainPOP available in French and Spanish (great for foreign language teachers and learners). 

BrainPOP is subscription-based, but they do offer a number of free resources at each site (click on free stuff on the main screen). If your school has the budget dollars, I highly recommend a subscription. Click on the following links to check it out. The movies are excellent for introducing a concept or reviewing, and my students love them!

Additionally, there are apps available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Kindle devices for all the above sites. The apps feature a free movie of the day or week, as well as additional free content. If your school has subscribed to BrainPOP, you can login and access everything from the app. But even without a subscription, there's a lot of great stuff available at no cost! The apps are perfect for schools encouraging students to bring their own devices. 

For great professional learning, please join the BrainPOP Educators Community. It's absolutely free to join, and the best part is the free webinars you can participate in. A webinar is an online training course about a particular topic. Often it is interactive and lasts about an hour. BrainPOP regularly has new webinars, plus they have a huge archive of past webinars that you can watch like videos. It's wonderful professional learning without leaving your classroom or home! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tech Tip of the Day: Copyright-Free Music

Image available at

Tech Tip of the Day: Freeplay Music and Songsmith 
As educators, it is important to model ethical and responsible use of ICT for our students. As good digital citizens, when we are creating products in the classroom, we strive to use copyright-free music and images. That's where the site Freeplay Music really shines as a wonderful resource!

Even if you aren't concerned about copyright, Freeplay Music has thousands of great musical selections perfect for any movie or product. You can search by genre, style, instrument, feeling, etc. I find that I often search by feeling as that seems to be so important when my students and I are making a movie. Often, selections are available in 30, 60, and 90 seconds, and longer, and you can download the length that works for your project.

Freeplay Music is free and incredibly simple to use. Just search, listen to different selections until you find the right one, then fill out the license agreement, and download it for use in your product. Files download as mp3 which works in Windows Live Movie Maker, iMovie, and a variety of other app and web-based movie production tools.

Often my students generate their own images rather than "borrow" one created by someone else. I try to encourage the same thing with music. If you create your free account at Microsoft Educator Network,  you and your students can access a fabulous tool called Songsmith. Tutorials are available on the Educator Network to show you how to use it, but basically it enables the user to create and share music--perfect for use in movie productions, writing songs about concepts or events, etc.

Freeplay Music and Songsmith--two great resources to start using in your classroom that promote digital citizenship!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tech Tip of the Day: Tube Chop

Inspiring Quotation of the Day
'On particularly rough days when I'm sure I can't possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% and that's pretty good.'
Image available here

Tech Tip of the Day
I know that YouTube is a site that I would be absolutely lost without....I use it in my personal life for music, how to videos and tutorials, and planning vacations. At school, I use it for movement breaks, music, stories, and research. When using it in the classroom, often the advertisements are a concern. Other times, you only want to show a segment of a video and not have to search through the video to find it while your busy little students wait...not so patiently usually!

The answer is Tube Chop available at This site allows you to copy and paste a video's link from YouTube, then use the sliders on either end to find the exact segment of the video you want to show. Tube Chop then creates a brand new url for the video segment. 

What's the downside? You need internet to access Tube Chop, and chopped videos can't be downloaded using Mozilla Firefox Download Helper. It appears that they can be, but then it downloads the full video instead. 

However, if you have internet access, Tube Chop is a very useful tool for isolating a segment of a video and removing annoying, and often inappropriate, advertisements.