Thursday, December 13, 2012

Apple Learning Tour 2012 - Engage students. Explore apps, interactive books, and Multi‑Touch textbooks

Today, I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Apple Learning Tour 2012 in Regina.

The first workshop I attended was all about apps and multi-touch textbooks. The description of the morning session was:

Engage students. Explore apps, interactive books, and Multi‑Touch textbooks.
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Discover amazing interactive iBooks. Immerse yourself in the world’s largest online catalog of free education content in iTunes U. And experience some of the thousands of education apps for iPad. Learn how to create your own interactive Multi-Touch books with Mac and iBooks Author. Discover how a course is built with iTunes U Course Manager using interactive learning materials. Then see how it all comes together with an overview of ownership and deployment models for content.
The second session I attended was all about creating my own course for the iPad using iTunes U. The description of the afternoon session was:

Learn by doing. Create courses with iTunes U Course Manager.1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
In this hands-on session, you’ll learn how to build a course by exploring all the capabilities iTunes U Course Manager has to offer. Experience the ease of pulling together content such as audio, video, iBooks textbooks, and over 500,000 resources in iTunes U into an organized syllabus. Make available all the assignments, quizzes, and materials for your students or anyone who’s interested in the topic — whether in your class or anywhere in the world.

Resources that teachers might want to check out can be found on the Apple website for education: Resources

My notes from the session:

Demonstration of products:
  • Apple TV to turn your projector into a sharing screen where students can use airplay to share what they are working on from wherever they are working in the classroom.
  • Exploration of accessibility features on an iPad such as speaking, guided access, mono audio to make the device meet the needs of students and their different learning requirements.

Apps we explored on iPad and Mac:
  • Explain Everything: (iPad) Allows students to record a voice over, edit photos, write text. Project idea is to give the students a slide deck (or have them create a slide deck) and each record their understanding of a concept or explanation in 60 seconds or less. Interesting demonstrating of learning idea.
  • Doceri: (iPad) Allows you to use an interactive whiteboard similar to Explain Everything recommended by another participant.
  • Book Creator: (iPad) Allows you to create your own book with photos, text, voice over and drawings. Students could even create their own book for their demonstration of learning.
  • iBook Author (Mac) We then spent some time exploring how to create books on iBooks Author which is a Mac app that allows you to create your own book using video, links and interactive features. For more detailed instructions, I encourage you to visit the education resource section of the Apple website as it has instructions to help you create your own iBooks. Apple Education Resources
  • CloudOn: (iPad) (Thanks to Jim Swan for this one) Awesome app that allows you to use the Office Suite of products to create and use documents but save them to your Google Drive or Dropbox. 
iBooks we explored:
  • Life on Earth (Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University)- Saw features like including video and interactive maps and materials. Also saw how highlight parts of the text and allow students to create their own study notes and cards based on their highlighted information. There are also accessibility features that allow the student to have content read to them.
You can create your own account (using Safari browser on Mac or PC) in the iTunesU. Once your school or division signs up, then you can be linked to an institution, which I understand has extra features or benefits. Using their course management system, you can design your own courses to be delivered through the iTunesU app. More resources and instructions are included in the Apple Education Resources

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Using Twitter to Connect and Learn as a Professional

Lately I haven't had a lot of time to write a lot of formal blog posts about what I'm doing in my classroom or to share new ideas and resources with others. I've simply been too busy to sit here and write a post and ensure that it is well written before I post it. (The perfectionist in me sure slows down actually posting all the stuff I have in my drafts folder!)

As I read new and interesting content online, I tend to use Twitter on a more regular basis to share new and interesting articles and media that I find online. I know I have written about this before on my blog, but there seems to be a new uptake in using Twitter by my colleagues lately and I hope it continues to be a growing trend. It is one of the easiest ways to connect and grow as a professional online and isn't complicated to learn. Plus, there are lots of us on Twitter already and we are always happy to help you out if you have questions or need help getting started!

There are numerous articles online already written about how to use Twitter to connect and learn online. I'm continuing to explore this tool as a way to incorporate Twitter into my classroom to further engage my students. But before I suggest you use it with your students, start using it yourself. If you are a teacher trying to embark on Twitter for the first time, or you haven't used it much in awhile, I encourage you to start by reading this post about Twitter chats for educators on Edumatic: The Top 50 Education Twitter Chats (And How to Use Them). Other good reads are The 7 Habbits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology and 100 of the Best Twitter Tools for Teachers by Category

I also found this article interesting on Edumatic: The Teacher's Quick Guide to Educational Twitter Hashtags, most likely because of my new obsession with infographics as it contained a good one.

Source: Edumatic
And don't forget to follow me @MmeSanders (and I will do my best to follow you back) so we can share and learn from each other. It is one of the best places or online tools that has let me grow and connect as a professional and has impacted my practice immensely.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Incorporating Video into the Classroom

Since becoming a YouTube Star Teacher in 2011, I have worked to incorporate more video into my classroom and I use my YouTube Channel to share and organize videos that I use in my classroom through playlists.

I use a lot of videos to help my students discover and better understand the content they need to know. My favourite way to engage my students is to allow them to demonstrate their understanding of a concept or topic that we are studying by making a video. Working at a new school with new students can be a challenge and I have experienced mixed success with this tool in my classroom. Most students have embraced the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding through video rather than simply writing a paper or a test. But there are always students who don't put as much effort into their projects as others and that is something we are working on. I find that they haven't had much opportunity to create masterpiece videos and we are all working together to become better videographers. Here are some of the projects my students and I have been working on over the past few months based on small or large inquiry group projects:

Francophonie 30 - Qu'est-ce que c'est la Francophonie?

Sciences Humaines 9 - Explorateurs vs Premiers Nations (Our understanding of World View)

Sciences 10 - Explorer 3 cycles en Biologie - l'azote, carbone ou nutritif

Friday, September 21, 2012

B.Y.O.D. - Yes or No?

At Thom Collegitate, students are allowed to bring their own devices to use in the classroom. These powerful tools allow students to extend their learning beyond the classroom. Planning to use these devices as learning tools can be challenging as not all students have a device, or it may not be a device that enables students to browse the web, etc. Exploring how to best make use of these devices is one of my goals this year, as the fact that most students in my classroom are carrying some sort of smart device in their pocket, it is a tool I can't ignore.
Recently I was asked by CBC English and French TV if they could come into my classroom and see how I integrate technology into my classroom to engage and extend student learning. I decided to demonstrate one way to use student devices to engage students in a class discussion by using Poll Everywhere. During this class, my Grade 9 students were working on their understanding of world view and were responding to and discussing a number of questions of self-reflection that I needed them to consider before we could explore other civilizations around the world.

Here are the two videos (first one with English CBC TV reporter Jamie Mauracher, second one with French CBC TV reporter Genvieve Tardif):

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

City Slicker Magazine - Cool and Clever Teachers

Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by City Slicker Magazine for a feature that they were doing on Regina teachers, as part of their Back To School themed issue. It was a real honour to appear in this issue, along with some of the other fantastic teachers we have in our city.

You can read more about it here on the Regina Public Schools' news blog.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A New Year - A New School - A New Role

I have now official completed my first week of school as high school teacher. Wow! Is my life different, or has really changed immensely from this time last year. I am now a secondary school French Immersion educator at Thom Collegiate with an interesting teaching load full of content heavy classes. This year, I will be teaching, History, Social Studies, Francophonie, Science and Visual Arts to students in grades 9-12. The joy of teaching in French is that you always get a hodgepodge of subjects to teach. This should be interesting!

As I leap into this new role with both feet, I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to discover. But just like my students, I like to learn hands-on and I like to get my hands dirty with learning. My challenges will be many, but I have never been scared off of a new adventure. It just means I get to work with new material, new curriculum and bigger kids.

So far, my first experience with Thom Collegiate has been overwhelming but wonderful all at the same time. Most staff are friendly and very welcoming. My students are bigger, but really just bigger boddies filling the desks in my classroom waiting to learn something new.

This year, I want to not only focus on new curriculum and content, but I want to focus on how to make my secondary classroom an inquiry driven, project-based environment, supported through integrated technology whenever possible. Is this possible in content heavy high school classes? I guess I will find out! My goals include an effort to make my lessons more engaging and relevant to students, by not allowing them to be simply be direct-teacher instruction, but to eventually build the learning environment necessary that allows for student-directed learning to dominate my classroom. I want to experiment with Project Based Learning and engage my students through inquiry journeys of discovery. I also want to explore new ways to allow students to incorporate their hand held devices into my planned learning activities. Here's hoping a content heavy load of curriculum can still be taught through project based learning!

I wish all of my fellow teachers the best of luck as they embark on a new school year.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School Tech - What do you really need?

The evenings are a bit cooler, the leaves are starting to change colours and there are aisles full of school supplies at your favourite store. It must be fall! Time to get back into routine and return back to school.

If you listen to all the ads and news stories out there about "Back to School", you might think that it means parents should be forking over hundreds of dollars to get their kids ready to return to the classroom.

This time of year can be expensive, especially considering after-school activities are also asking for registration fees and may require new or special equipment in order to participate.

But what does your child really need to go back to school?

As an educator who is passionate about integrating technology into the classroom, you are probably expecting me to encourage you to buy your child the latest and greatest technological gadget. Or maybe say, "forget the notepaper and pens, an iPad is where it is at!"

But the more I think about it, the less I think is required for students to be ready for a new school year. Yes, buying new things helps get kids excited about starting back to school, but do you really need to spend hundreds of dollars every fall?

It is important to think about your child and what their needs really are before hitting the mall or clicking on a favourite shopping website. When it comes to technology, more thought needs to be put into what you already have as a family and what your child really needs to help them learn. Does your child need the latest and greatest tech toy out there? Is the laptop you bought last year still meet the needs of your teen in high school? 

Ideally, every school would have adequate funding to ensure that every child be provided with the computer and/or device that is appropriate for their age and grade level. Unfortunately, schools don't have the means to provide these tech tools to the degree they would like to. That means sharing limited devices and computers and having limited opportunities to learn in a technology supported environment. This doesn't mean that you need to run out and buy your child a laptop, smartphone and iPad for them to be successful in school. You need to decide what your child's school allows them to use in the classroom (is it a school that allows access to their wireless network and encourages them to bring their own devices). You need to also consider the maturity of your child and the added responsibility you are putting on them by making them responsible for an expensive device.

You also need to ensure that your child understands your expectations when it comes to technology access and what responsibilities come with this access. Digital citizenship can be taught at school but also needs to be reinforced at home through honest conversations and monitoring of your child's online activities. They are building a digital legacy that can follow them their entire lives.

Lastly, I believe that the best thing you can do to support your child in school is to develop a good working relationship with their teacher(s) by ensuring that you have open and honest communications. Your child should know and understand what technology they have available to them at home so that they can discuss problems with their teacher if homework is assigned that they can't do at home, such as lack of internet access or limited computer access. That way, the teacher can discuss these issues with your child and help support them at school to ensure they have access to the technology they require to complete assignments.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

IT Summit 2012 Cool Tools Duel by Dean Shareski and Alec Couros

Here is a link to last year's duel: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duel 2011

Cool Tools Duel by Dean Shareski and Alec Couros

View the results of the Duel voting here: Results

Tool #1:Both tools for screencasting
Dean: Screencast-o-matic-

Tool #2: 
Dean: Language Immersion for Google Chrome (translate on the screen)- In Chrome (browser) Web Store (Search Language Immersion and install in your browser)
Alec: (text message without sharing numbers) - 

Tool #3:
Dean: Trigger - Put the internet to work for you -
Alec: Download YouTube videos- To get the script go to-

Tool #4:
Dean: Hire people for $5 to do things for you on fiverr -
Alec: Way to share media quickly - Dropmark-

Tool #5:
Dean: Infographics: -
Alec: Storify (Create social media stories) -

Tool #6:
Dean: Classdojo - Class management tool -
Alec: Otixo - Bring tools all into one place -

Tool #7:
Dean: iPad - Actionmovie FX - iTunes Store link
Alec: Google+ - Hangout feature and can make your hangout public by enabling a hangout on air using your YouTube channel (a way to broadcast your conversation)

Dean: iPiccy - online photo editing tool including online photos -
Alec: Egg Timer -

School as Real Life - Session by Diane Laufenberg at Sask IT Summit 2012

Diane Laufenberg, Teacher
Science Leadership Academy
Philadelphia, PA

Great Web 2.0 Tool for student planning and creating diagrams and flowcharts:

Laufenberg spoke about authentic learning and taking advantage of real-life opportunities to engage her learners such as election day or public meetings. The students gather authentic documents (primary source documents) and footage that they then publish to their blogs and these artifacts are discussed in class.
Her students reflect on the learning process on their blogs. Their reflections really reflect the thought process and the difficulties or obstacles the students may have had to overcome to complete their project. Giving students the opportunity to have an authentic audience and challenge students to rise to the occasion can provide real student engagement. Tapping into student creativity and allow them to demonstrate their work in manner that allows them to articulate their learning can be very powerful.

Chris Lehmann and Diana Laufenberg - Building School 2.0 - TuesdayMorning at Sask. IT Summit 2012

Science Leadership Academy
Philadelphia, PA

This high school is a student centered, community supported, with a focus on collaboration. Students are encouraged to pursue their passions. They spend every Wednesday working on a project of their choice.

Teacher collaboration at its best where three subject teachers stream their classes live and work on an integrated delivery of the curriculum.

They are understanding-driven and centered on project-based classrooms. They end up doing 80 projects during their secondary career at the Academy and they are all presented.

Technology isn't the focus of the students' learning, it is a tool they use to support their learning.

All of the teachers' units are published online so their classrooms are very transparent. Everything is inquiry-driven centered around an essential question that is woven through all subjects for that grade level. This is all done through common lesson planning.

Assessment is done through three types of tools. Common rubric, narrative and standards-based. Students self-assess and then sit in groups and assess each other. By the time the teacher assesses the learning, they have already had a number of focused conversations to reflect on their learning.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Integrating QR Codes and Video Across the Curriculum, 2012 IT Summit Presentation

Here is my presentation that I gave at the 2012 Saskatchewan IT Summit.

Update: to be able to read QR codes on a PC desktop or PC laptop using your webcam, try QuickMark QR Code Reader.

Integrating qr codes and video
View more presentations from Joanna Sanders.

Alec Couros - IT Summit 2012 Monday Keynote

Alec Couros - The Power of Networks: Why it Matters in Education

Power of Networks
View more presentations from Alec Couros
It is importance of being a critical thinker in the digital age. Ideas can spread through society like viruses. Meme is a virus or an idea that spreads through a culture or society. Example - the video hoax about how to charge an ipod with an onion.
Meme can be used politically. Once you create one, you can get people to come back to the original story by sharing versions of it or by spreading the word through social media through sharing, liking on Facebook and retweeting something. Are you endorsing something by liking it? What is the impact of recommending a link to your friends on Facebook by liking something on Facebook or YouTube.

Digital Identity - Google Chrome commercial - A Dad writing emails to his daughter.
The average digital birth of children happens at about 6 months because people share information about their children, sometimes before they are even born through photos, video and social media postings. The best idea is to overload Google with good stuff so that anyone that searches your name will have only good things to read about you.

Network Literacy - understanding how networks function is the most important literacy of the 21st Century. How did Obama get elected? There are a lot of great places to participate, such as using hashtags in Twitter to be part of different conversations. Social and crowdsourced information can influence where you stay or where you eat.

The rise of the networked individual. We have evolved from little boxes in our classrooms, to connecting to others in our school or city and now we are connected to people around the world. We are connected now to a person than to a house. (Phoning a cell phone rather than a land-line).

You are the hub for all of your learning. It used to be the role of the classroom but now it is the responsibility of the individual to be in charge of your own learning. Classrooms are there to help guide us and ensure we know how to navigate the individualized learning path.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Virtual Science Fair

Inspired by the Google Science Fair, I decided to challenge my Grade 6-8 students to explore their own scientific question by holding our own virtual science fair. The main outcome of this activity was to have students use the scientific method to solve their question and be able to present their research and experiment using scientific language.

We spent a lot of time exploring potential scientific questions and ideas as I wanted to ensure my students chose challenging bigger questions that required deeper thinking. In the end, those students who chose their questions carefully were much more successful in their projects than those who pursued a question based entirely on a simple experiment. In order to think big, I wanted my students to challenge themselves to find a larger question that they would only be able to solve in part. Like real scientists who spend their lives trying to answer one huge question, such as how to cure cancer, how to reverse global warming or how to find evidence of life on another planet.

Students presented their findings in the form of a Google website. I gave them the required basic template to follow and they made it their own after that. They were encouraged to take photos and to include video on their websites. They were also allowed to chose if they wanted to work by themselves or with a partner to build the website. Because they had a required off-line component involving research, were marked individually on their presentations and on their ability to answer questions after the presentation and on their blogs, it was relatively easy for me to give final individual grades that reflected individual efforts and understanding of the scientific method. Figuring out how to give individual marks that reflect individual efforts is often a challenge in a group project.

Although I was satisfied with the final demonstration of learning and I am confident that my students have a better understanding of the scientific method, I think that if I were to do this project again, I would provide more support to ensure all students had good visuals on their websites. Perhaps we would devote a bit more time to producing videos that demonstrate the different steps of the process or to allow for the students to record their explanations and thinking during the length of the project. I would also set minimums for length of text required for each page as some students put more effort into the writing component of the website than others.

Here are some examples of the websites produced during our virtual science fair:

Grade 8:
Howard and Lane: L'énergie des fruits
Zara and Erin: Pourquoi le ciel est bleu? 

Grade 7:
Ella and Brianna: L'électricité apartir de la nourriture
Hannah, Elizabeth and Victoria: Pousser les plantes avec des aimants

 Grade 6:
Daisi, Jenna et Maija: L'énergie éolienne
Matthew and Hudson: Est-ce que les robots peuvent prendre charge de la Terre?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Do students care about the provincial budget? They do if you let them "tweet" about it!

Grade 6/7 students participated in a live "tweet-up" event
while watching the Saskatchewan Minister of Finance
deliver the 2012-13 budget speech.
Figuring out how to engage middle year students in politics and making them understand that government decisions apply to them is a challenge. One of my goals in my classroom is to make students feel connected to what they have to learn and to encourage them to make a difference in the world around them. The provincial budget is an abstract idea to most students and I decided to challenge myself to make them better understand the event.

Some of the budget themed
snacks enjoyed by students
during the event.
I organized two classes of students in Grades 6 and 7 into student response groups, each responsible for a certain part of the budget, i.e. health, education, agriculture, etc. I then created a generic twitter account for each group and their job was to listen to the Finance Minister's speech and the Finance Critics' response and tweet about their assigned area of the budget and anything else they found interesting. Reporters had also offered themselves up to answer questions via Twitter so they were allowed to tweet them to ask questions of clarification on their topic. Students worked as teams to compose relevant tweets and also participated in the online budget discussion about the provincial budget that took place under #skbudget. The assignment follow-up is listed on my website here: SK Budget 2012-13 A Live Tweet Event

It was fascinating to observe students, who are not normally engaged in class discussions, participate actively in this activity. Most groups started by tweeting the facts that they were hearing, but later, they started tweeting their opinions about what they were hearing in the budget. The received questions about what they were saying and had to justify their "tweets" to people and support their opinions when challenged by others.

We received some attention online from others who were excited to see students get engaged on the topic. Some of the tweets included:
Saskatchewan School Board Association
Sheila Coles, CBC Radio
Murray Mandryk, Regina Leader Post
Using social media made an otherwise boring event engaging and relevant to the students. If I had simply made them watch the budget speech and then discuss it in groups or as a class, we would have been able to have a conversation about it, but it would have been limited to the knowledge and understanding in the classroom. The opportunity to ask others questions and engage in conversations with other people was a huge incentive for students to participate. There were definitely risks involved. We discussed the importance of being responsible digital citizens who were representing our school online. They had to ensure their tweets were appropriate, correct and would not embarrass our school or myself for allowing them the opportunity to participate in a live event. In the end, I had no inappropriate tweets show up. The students understood their responsibility and rose to the challenge.

Given the success of the activity, I would not hesitate to participate again in a live social media type event. The students' understanding of the budget and the conversations that took place were rich and impressive for their age. At the end of the day, I was rewarded by receiving tweets from students about their experience. Here are a couple of examples:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Presentation to Key Women Educators

Here is the online version of my slidedeck for my presentation to Key Women Educators in Regina, SK, on February 8, 2012 about the use of technology to engage in lifelong learning for both students and educators.