Sunday, 30 October 2011

Happy Hallowe'en from the Giourmies

Happy Hallowe'en from the Giourmies. I had a little fun with Animoto

This has got to be the easiest media to use to create a movie. First, you choose your background. Then,you simply have to load as many pictures as you want. Next, you add text if you like. Then, you can rearrange the pictures and text in the order you want them to appear. Finally, you add music from the library (you can add your own music but you must have permission to copyrighted material). Then, you simply push the "make the movie" button and Animoto does the rest, resulting in a professional looking product. You can create 30 second movies for free but for a small cost, you can increase the length of the movie and have access to more music and backgrounds. What a great product to use in the classroom instead of using the same old powerpoint again and again. I uploaded my photos to Flickr as Animoto easily uploads from Flickr directly or you can use pictures from your computer. I found it tricky to upload photos from Flickr so I used my computer. I still have not completely figured out Flickr so that is my goal to thoroughly understand this tool!!

Happy Hallowe'en!

In honor of Hallowe'en, I thought I would play with one of the tools I wanted to learn about: Voki. This fun tool would offer students the opportunity to share their learning in a fun, creative way. Many students today play Wii or Nintendo and are familiar with creating avatars to represent themselves, so this would not be new. Voki allows students to create an avatar and then give the avatar a voice. There are different options to give the voice: you can type and the program reads your message or you can record your message. Here is my Voki in the spirit of Hallowe'en with a short message.

If for some reason, you cannot get the player to play, try this link:

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Practical Podcasts

from Flickr By
I started doing a bit of research about podcasts. I downloaded an ap on my iPhone that allows me to subscribe to some educational podcasts. I googled why podcast? on the computer. Wikipedia defines a podcast(or non-streamed webcast) as a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication. The word replaced webcast in common use with the success of the iPod and its role in the rising popularity and innovation of web feeds.
I am trying to figure out what the point is. Amanda G. Watlington says that podcasts would be another way for teachers to deliver lessons. As a visual learner, I have a hard time seeing the value, but I realize that if we are to meet the needs of all learners, then a podcast would be an excellent learning opportunity for an auditory learner.

Angela Willis says that there are 5 main reasons to podcast including portability, the emotional side of podcasting, the cost effectiveness, the attention it would get and then the fact that you can subscribe to regular feeds.

Berger and Trexler compare the podcast to an old-fashioned radio show.

Will Richardson, in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms, says that podcasting is "yet another way for [students] to be creating and contributing ideas to a larger conversation, and it's a way of archiving that contribution for future audiences to use" (p 115).
He gives the example of Radio Willow Web from Willowdale Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska This podcast is hosted by a student talking about matter. Definitely a great opportunity for students to share their learning by another means. How empowering for students to be the experts on subjects from school.

At our school we used to have daily announcements that were read by me. Picture Charlie Brown and his fellow students listening to his teacher.
I am sure that is how the announcements went over in class. So, this year I am not doing announcements. Instead, we have a daily bulletin that comes with the attendance system so students either read it on the SmartBoard or the teacher reads it to them. I would love for students to do the announcements once per week via a podcast. I know students would listen to other students. Students who don't normally speak up in class might be far more comfortable recording their words in private that could be shared publicly later. This is a thought worth pursuing, however, I need to get a teacher to buy into taking this on as a project. Certainly thoughts to consider. . .

Down Syndrome Awareness Week

This next week is Down Syndrome Awareness Week.
On Paula Kluth's website, she shares a wonderful success story of inclusion. Here is an excerpt from a letter written by Kacie's mom.

Dear Paula,

A few years ago I attended a seminar in which you spoke about inclusion. I had an opportunity to speak with you, and what you said convinced me to insist that my daughter, Kacie, be included in classes with her peers. It was a wonderful decision, and I’ve never regretted it.

I wrote to you several months later and told you about her experience with French class. She went on to spend four years in French classes and really enjoyed them.

Kacie was “graduated” with her class last year, went to the prom with a young man who also has Down syndrome, and had a graduation party. At graduation, I waited patiently all the way to the S’s as the students marched across the stage to receive their diplomas. When it was Kacie’s turn, she paused mid-stage and raised both fists over her head in a victory gesture. The applause was thundering. We were near the front of the auditorium, and it was only later that another parent approached me and asked me if I knew that Kacie had received a standing ovation. I still tear up thinking about it.

This letter brought tears to my eyes also. This should be the story for every child. How is it that we decide who should fit in and who should not? How is it that we decide who will have the experience of friends and prom and who will not? Who's criteria should be used to decide? During this special week, we should be intensely aware of what true inclusion means for all children not just the ones we choose to "allow".

BTW, I started this post in my iPhone mobile blogger ap. . . how cool is that?

Playing with Pictures

I was reading one of the many blogs I have enjoyed following in the past week; Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog and reading in my new non-linear fashion, came across a link to a wiki he has set up to introduce 13 simple tools to alter digital images. It contains a wealth of ideas to use images for both students and teachers.
Here is the original picture of my grandson taken with my iPhone

Now here is Markos' picture using the free site, Picnik
It took me only minutes to do. What fun for students to try different applications to present their images as part of a larger presentation.

Now for something fun and completely different at ImageChef
And for one more. . . Big Huge Labs
My creation
(uploaded from Flickr, by the way. . . )
What fun for students. . . When you are working at creating a community, students could create their own motivational posters for the classroom or the school. Our school is a Leader in Me school and what a great idea to post posters around the school. Every student could create a poster that would contribute to our focus on Leader in Me. These are only a couple of tools demonstrated. One great site for image play is One of my teachers discovered this and created a "smilebox" with her students sharing their spooky ghost poem. Every student in this highly diverse classroom was excited to contribute and was proud of their contributions including our little student with virtually no English. It was a huge success.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Just Google It!

So I was playing around with my Diigo account to get ready to share my new found knowledge with a grade 6 class in my school and I discovered the Tag Cloud feature. The only thing I can't figure out yet is how to import my tags in that format. Then I had the great idea (I think it is great) to take a screen shot of the cloud. Well, that posed a problem because I didn't know how to do that. So I took the advice of a wise friend who said, "Just Google it!" I found an easy explanation at IOpus. That done, I found out that one on the keys on my keyboard actually has a function. The key marked PrtScrn/SysRq really does do something. If you press that key, you automatically have a screen shot saved to your clipboard. Next, you can paste that in a word document, which is what I did. Here is the shot. . .
Now all I have to do is figure out how to get the cloud to my blog without a screen shot (although I am thankful for learning about screen shots and that funny key on my computer that I thought was just for decoration).

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom: Why Diigo Rocks!

Here is yet another great post about the values of Social Bookmarking with some great opinions offered by Twitter Tweeters. . .

Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom: Why Diigo Rocks!

Bookmark This!

As I visited a grade 6 classroom at my school, the teacher asked how students could save the websites they had found. They had saved bookmarks in the previous class, or so they thought, and now they were having to re-search for their information because the bookmarks were no longer there for some reason. "Aha!" I said, "I have a new tool to share with you." After explaining my new found understanding of social bookmarking, the teacher invited me to her next class where I will have the distinct pleasure to share information about social bookmarking to a group of grade 6 students.

After researching and using both Delicious and Diigo, I think that either tool would serve the purpose they need. However, I like the sticky note tool and highlighting tool in Diigo, as well as some of the other features, so I will likely share Diigo with the students. As I was looking for a way to show students in case I missed any pertinent information, I came across the blog, InTec Insights: Technology Integration Ideas for the Classroom
The writer states the advantages of social bookmarking and how social bookmarking can be used by educators.
1. Save all of your bookmarks in one place. You will no longer have some of your websites saved on your home computer and some saved on your school computer. Many bookmarking sites also have apps that you can use on iPads and Android devices, so you can also access your bookmarks on iPads or mobile devices, too.
2. Social bookmarking is social because you are sharing your favorite websites with others. You can also view the bookmarks of people with similar interests. So, if you teach math you may find some great sites that are bookmarked by another math teacher.
3. Bookmarking sites allow you to add tags to the websites you save. So a math website could be tagged: math, 6th grade, and algebra. Tags allow you to categorize and organize your sites. So when you are looking for a particular site, it is easier to find.
4. Share your online bookmarks with teachers, students, or parents. You are creating a great resource!
5. Create a grade-level or classroom account and invite students to add websites. Encourage students to evaluate websites for educational merit before including them on your class bookmarking site.

The writer includes a great "how to" video, however, the social bookmarking site, Delicious, is used to demo, but still great information is shared.

Also listed on the blog are several different social bookmarking websites, several I didn't know existed. Everyday I am amazed at the capacity of the Web to help me organize myself and learn.

Here is a video that I will show the grade 6 students to begin their journey with Diigo's social bookmarking. It is so exciting to see teachers embrace these new ideas. I can't even imagine the possibilities for our children with exceptionalities. If you set up a group and several students in the classroom were researching, any student could use the collective knowledge of the group to learn. Such possibilities for all students.

Monday, 24 October 2011

You Make a Difference!

Darren Kuropatwa writes on his blog, A Difference that teachers make the difference for students. He writes,
You matter because you can change the face of teaching and learning in your school. All you have to do is change the world - a little bit at a time.
No teacher before you has ever taught children quite the way you do. No one ever will again.
The world needs to know what you’re doing. How you go about sharing your passion, your excitement, your enthusiasm for learning with the students in your classroom every day.
You make a difference in the world in the way you do this.
What you want for your students is for them to excel beyond your own expertise in all they learn from you.
It’s the dream of every teacher: to have your students become more knowledgeable, more capable, more competent than you.
It’s a measure of success.
Essentially you share your spark with them.
What we most want is to pass on that spark, this other centred attitude, an attitude towards the world that says: You Matter!
Adopting the attitude: “You Matter”, making people other than ourselves important and finding ways to make them more awesome, in the end, makes each of us a little more awesome. It creates the change we need in the world.
Let's pass that on to our students so they know they matter and understand their job is to make everyone they meet a little more awesome. When they’ve internalized what they’ve learned from us and brought it to another level: that’s success.
No one will ever see the world through the eyes of our students again. No one ever has, throughout the entire history of humanity. They have a unique contribution to make. We help them understand this is also true for everyone they meet.
Imagine a Canada, a world, where every politician, every trades-person, every professional, every store clerk tackled the world in this way? They’re all sitting in your classroom. Learning from you. Teach us too. Share what you know. Share how you know. Share what you learn. We need you too. You matter.

Here's to the teachers who make a difference! You matter!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The world needs all kinds of minds

When we think about inclusion, I am reminded of a discussion I heard lately about "those students" who need to be in a different place because they take up so much of our time. I wonder when educators will get past this kind of thinking? If we give up on children who may need more of our time and effort to offer them an experience of success, we may miss a student who will contribute great things in the future. What if Temple Grandin's parents and teachers had decided she should just be "put away"? We would have missed a great mind who has contributed great things in the field of agriculture. Watch this Ted Talk by Ms. Grandin. I hope you will be as inspired as I was.

Who Even Cares?

Loneliness by Ү
Loneliness, a photo by Ү on Flickr.

Now that I have learned about VoiceThread and posted a couple on my blog, I am wondering what is the best way to share them? I mean, just because you create a VoiceThread that you think is important doesn't mean that someone will even comment on it. How do you get the conversation started? The VoiceThread I posted about assessment was part of an online "course" so I realize that many people likely signed up to be part of the conversation. As well, I can also see the value of creating one for a conversation in the classroom with students commenting on each other's creation. BUT, what about creating a VoiceThread about something that interests you. Who even cares? Do you send it to your colleagues, hoping that they might take the time to look at it and maybe comment? Do you "volun-tell" your family to take part in the conversation? Or does your VoiceThread go to the land of other created, but unappreciated VoiceThreads?
After much thought, I realize that you must make a VoiceThread with a purpose in mind or it may end up on the "cutting room floor" so to speak. I am wondering if this would be a useful platform to begin a discussion with teachers or are they simply too busy to take the time to comment. Perhaps the greatest use is in the classroom or on your classroom blog to allow others to comment (parents, relatives, friends, other teachers, and students).

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Assessment in the Inclusive Classroom

I am learning to post VoiceThreads with more consistency. I found this interesting VoiceThread from Solution Tree that talks about assessment in the classroom while reading my Twitter feed tonight. As we work to create inclusive classrooms, we must remember that assessment is one of the four key questions we must ask as educators:
1. What do we want the students to learn?
2. How will we know that they have learned it? (Assessment)
3. What will we do if they have not learned it?
4. What will we do if they already know it?
(adapted from Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement by Rick DuFour and Robert Eaker)

Out of the Mouths of Babes

As I read my RSS feed tonight, I came across a post from Thinking UDL that shared some slides from a course offered on Universal Design for Learning.  Of course, you can't just read one post when the post talks about information gleaned from yet another post.  It is like a choose your own ending book.  You get to one point and then you go in another direction and then another and another and so on.  That is the joy of reading blogs.  You can never stop learning.  I must say, though, that sometimes my head is just so full.  Anyway, back to the post.  When I checked out another link, I found Anita's Tips, Tricks and Weblinks where she describes a primary classroom that demonstrates Universal Design for Learning.  This highly inclusive classroom allows children to represent their learning through multiple means and it is impressive how these little ones manage all of the technology.  Please watch the video of Kathy Cassidy's class of youngsters using a variety of technology tools.

If this isn't inspiring, I don't know what would be.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Who Knew What You Could Do With VoiceThread?

When I sat down to take a look at what is being done in the classroom with VoiceThread in order to have "ammo" to convince my teachers how awesome this tool was, I was very surprised at all of the ways to use it. Angela Christopher describes the process she used in her kindergarten and grade one class; yes, you read correctly, children that young created a wonderful project using VoiceThread.
Thinking Machine shows a VoiceThread and describes 100, yes 100 ways to use VoiceThread in the classroom. One particularly interesting thought is to use VoiceThread in the Bilingual Language classroom. What a fantastic opportunity to practice using the target language in a second language classroom by creating an opportunity for conversation around an image. Penn State University posted 24 Ways to Use VoiceThread in the classroom.
from the Hortonville Area School District website

Bill Ferriter describes the use of VoiceThread in the classroom as a tool to banish timidity and to boost participation. Ferriter says
more students participate more actively in digital discussions than in the classroom. "You don't have to be the loud one or the popular one," he points out. When he asked his students about their online involvement, he said they cited the sense of safety: "They can think about their comments beforehand." They also liked the fact that any VoiceThread has multiple conversations going on at once. "In a classroom conversation, there's generally one strand of conversation going at any one time, and if you're bored by that particular strand, you're completely disengaged.

screen shot from my iPhone
On the blog, Successful Teaching, the writer makes the point that voices can capture emotion and feelings where the written word cannot. What an added value. You not only "read" the writer's voice, but you actually would hear the emotion.

Finally, I discovered the mobile app for iPhone.  It is brilliant.  I could watch my VoiceThread right on my phone AND I can even create a VoiceThread on my phone.  Everyday I am amazed at how I can use technology. 

My hope is that with all of this rationale to share with teachers, they will see the value of using VoiceThread in the classroom.

What a great tool for the classroom!

I have to say I am impressed with Voicethread as a classroom tool but a bit frustrated with Flickr. I have read some great instructions in Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Teaching and Learning by Pam Berger and Sally Trexler and thank goodness for their no-nonsense instructions. The Voicethread program is easy to use and would definitely be one I would try in the classroom to give our students another opportunity to share their knowledge; Particularly our students with special needs. I can envision all students posting pictures and talking about them and feeling so proud when their fellow students commented back on their pictures. What a great way for students to share their knowledge without having to do a lot of writing. This would be particularly engaging for students who are reluctant writers or who are shy to speak out in class. This definitely gives all students a "voice." I am excited to share this with my staff and I hope they take the time to use it as an option for demonstrating learning thus adding to multiple means of representation as part of Universal Design for Learning.
As for Flickr, I am still getting used to using pictures from the Creative Commons and figuring out how they should be organized in order to make it easy to upload the pictures on a Voicethread. I know I did it in a convoluted manner and it took me much longer than it would had I organized the photos in the correct folders to start. I know now that I must organize the pictures differently.

Please find attached the Voicethread I created after collecting just over a dozen opinions regarding inclusion at the Alberta Teachers' Association Special Education Conference October 2011. Granted the opinions in the Voicethread are those of Special Educators, but overall, I think that the tone is hopeful for inclusion to become an Albertan reality. (The sound on the Voicethread is quite quiet but I think it is because my microphone is not that great but it is what we have at school currently.)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

voicethread in the classroom

So I am looking at different tools that could be used in the classroom in order for students to have multiple means of expression. As I was looking at the Voicethread website, I thought I would take a look at some voicethreads already posted and I came across this one about inclusion. I tried to embed this directly on my blog and may not be successful. So I will provide the link just in case: I look forward to creating my own voicethread based on a little informal survey I did at the Special Education conference sponsored by the Alberta Teachers' Association Special Education Council.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Learning Coaches and Inclusion

At the Special Education conference in Kananaskis, Alberta, I listed to Joellen Killion talk about Learning Coaches and the need to have this system in place to improve student learning. Alberta Education has two pieces of writing on the subject of Learning coaches on their website and the first line of the second article reads Learning coaches are educators who are knowledgeable about inclusion and are skilled at facilitating teacher collaboration and sharing of promising practices. The article describes a learning coach as a Change Agent who:
Promotes exploration and change in instructional
practices (e.g., introducing innovative ideas, questioning
practices, making observations, exploring new
• Ability to motivate others to implement innovative instructional
practices that respond to the needs of 21st century learners
• Knowledge of implementation of sound classroom management,
higher-order thinking skills, engagement strategies and differentiated

What better way to promote inclusion than to have a learning coach in the school who could support teachers who are unsure of how to include all students in the classroom, who are afraid of the unknown waters of inclusion, who have never welcomed a child with moderate to severe special needs in the classroom, who have never really taken (or had) the time to discover the assets of a child when his/her apparent disabilities seem to stand out?

On the Alberta Teachers Association website, the discussion paper on Learning Coaches: Support for the Inclusive Classroom states,
The provision of school-based expertise supports the notion of dynamic and responsive professional development. It offers many of the characteristics of effective professional development such as job-embedded, school-based support and ongoing professional learning Discussion Paper on Learning Coaches—Support for the Inclusive Classroom that is context specific (Darling-Hammond and Richardson 2009; Desimone 2009; Guskey 2002; and Birman et al 2000). Professional support and resources are then focused on the needsof the teacher, which may be determined by the individual needs of the students in his/her classroom. Thus a coaching model attends to both the needs of the teacher and, indirectly, to the needs of the students. By having learning coaches available to every school in Alberta, the
support to teachers is responsive to and respectful of the needs of the teacher and occurs through targeted and ongoing feedback. As a result, teachers increase their capacity to address diverse learning needs.

What better way to create inclusive learning environments but by having teachers help teachers?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Is there ever enough time?

All of this learning is for naught if my passion for learning does not light a fire in the hearts of my staff. As George Couros explained his personal journey in his blog post, Learning the way, “it is WAY easier to encourage others to do it now when I can tell them where my URL is so that they can look at the work that I have done” (October 4, 2011). He also quotes a previous tweet by Will Richardson,
It’s always interesting to me how many people in education, once they start waking up to the big shifts that are afoot, immediately jump to the “ok, so how do we change our schools?” question without addressing the “How do we change ourselves?” question first. It’s as if they’re looking to buy the off-the-shelf “EduChange” software program and install it on top of their current school operating system. They don’t like to be told that there is no program to buy, no system upgrade to run, and that the only way they’re going to start doing anything really differently is if they decide to reflect on their own learning first.
This will require time on my part; time to write, time to read, time to reflect and time to share with my staff. Do I have the time? Probably not, if I look carefully at my work load as a Principal (I am also teaching one and a half days per week), but can I afford not to spend the time? No, not if I want my staff to embrace the concept that “all of these technologies allow students and teachers to contribute their own ideas and work to the larger body of knowledge that is the Web” (Richardson, 2010, p 153). The work produced by students is “meant for the world – literally. It’s not meant to be discarded or stored in a folder somewhere; it’s meant to be added to the conversation and potentially used to teach others” (Richardson, 2010, p 154). How empowering for our staff and ultimately, for our students? I am energized by the possibilities.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Appealing to the Elephant and the Rider

If I am able to demonstrate the ease of use of Web 2.0 in the inclusive classroom, I will have to thoroughly research each tool to provide rationale for its use, and only then can I be assured that many on staff will give Web 2.0 a try. Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Switch: How to change things when change is hard liken the change process to that of a rider and an elephant with the rider representing the rational side of our being and the elephant representing the emotional side. (2010, p 7). They note that
if you want to change things, you’ve got to appeal to both. The Rider provides the planning and direction, and the Elephant provides the energy. So if you reach the Riders of your team but not the Elephants, team members will have understanding without motivation. If you reach their Elephants but not their Riders, they’ll have passion without direction. In both cases, the flaws can be paralyzing. A reluctant Elephant and a wheel-spinning Rider can both ensure that nothing changes. But when Elephants and Riders move together, change can come easily (p 8).
I know that I must provide inspirational motivation to appeal to the Elephants, but absolutely must also provide research and rationale to appeal to the Riders or none of this change either with Web 2.0 or inclusion will come about. I expect to measure my achievement in this endeavor by firstly viewing the number of staff who take on the challenge to use Web 2.0 tools to enhance their teaching and secondly to see engaged students in the classrooms. Berger and Trexler describe “active, engaged learning [as] one of the major benefits of integrating technology into the curriculum” (2010, p 11) and Rose and Meyer (2002) further explain “the task for educators is to understand how students learn and use the technology available in this digital age to provide selected supports where they are needed and position the challenge appropriately for each learner. In this way, we can engage more students and help every one progress” (para 4). I know staff want to have highly engaged students in their class and find it inspiring when this is the situation (The Elephant) but they will need the rationale for incorporating the tools (the Rider). No small task. . .

Friday, 7 October 2011

UDL toolkit

Here is a great find shared with me by a parent in my school. With inclusion on the lips of all in Alberta as a result of Action on Inclusion, here is a great wiki site (is that what you call it) with many UDL (Universal Design for Learning) tools, research, and an opportunity to collaborate.

The next goal will be to have all my staff understand that inclusion is here to stay so we need to learn about tools that will ensure the success of all of our students. And the even bigger goal is to get educators, in general, to accept that technology is not a way of cheating, but a way to allow all students who previously were silenced to have a voice.

the beginning of this journey to really seeking the meaning of inclusion

I have been reading all week the posts of those about Steve Jobs.  I was especially touched by George Couros'  blog, Crazy or Genius?.  He talks about the quote from the Think Different ad campaign
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Powerful stuff.
Imagine if we always looked for the genius in our kids?  It might not be what the “test” is looking for, but it is in there.  We just have to find it.
Here is the video George added to his blog. It is indeed, powerful stuff

If we approached the notion of inclusion for all students in this light, we might discover that some of our students who we thought to be "a pain" or a "problem" had some genius that we needed to search out.  It is time to do away with deficit thinking and move to asset viewing to see the best in our students.