Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Season's Greetings to All

The holiday season is upon us. Normally in our blog we would share with you our thoughts on educational and social opportunities/issues and provide some connected resources.  However, as we plan for the Christmas break, we would like to share with you some of our all-time favorite seasonal ‘net resources.

The Christmas Story by the Metropolitan Museum is a beautiful site where you can have the Christmas Story read to you while viewing the artwork, you can read the story yourself, or look at the Christmas Story in art.

Some may think advent calendars are a “chocolate” event, but this Advent Calendar site provides Christmas traditions - food, treats, candles, even reindeer - within the context of the bible. Make sure you click on all the links on each page to learn and hear about each tradition.

While spending holiday time with your children, visit the Norad Santa Tracker.   There is lots of information about Santa, how Norad tracks Santa, and more if you click on the Norad HQ link on the side menu. And then, of course, there is the actual tracking of Santa on Christmas Eve - what fun for kids of all ages.

For fun and a time for all adults to be child-like, we always love the Rein Deer Orchestra. This site can’t help but bring a smile to your face.  

All of these sites above and much more can be found on our Christmas Enjoy page.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the Chanukah [Hanukkah] resources we have gathered together to celebrate the eight day festival of lights.

We at wish you the best of seasons, with family and friends.  We look forward to 2015 with great anticipation of what the educational technology world will bring!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Calling All Teachers - The Hour of Code Movement Dec. 8 - 14, 2014

December 8-14 is the Hour of Code learning week. Last year hundreds of organizations joined together to create fun introductions to programming for all to learn. In one week alone more girls tried computer science than in the last 70 years and 15 million students worldwide learned an Hour of Code. This year the goal is to get 100 million participants from all across the globe.

The Hour of Code website provides a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. “The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 30 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104.”

This promotional video about the Hour of Code about coding is a great place to start. Featured stars work with students and discuss the merits and opportunities in learning how to code. wants to add our enthusiastic support for the Hour of Code movement.  Here are some videos and tutorials to help get you and your students excited about coding.

The movie “ Frozen” is the basis for this Hour of Code instructional video on how to code a pattern for Elsa to skate.  

Want to try it with your students? Use code on the site to "join Anna and Elsa as they explore the magic and beauty of ice."
As well, there are some very engaging tutorials for students on the site in the Learn section to get you started.

Heard of Scratch, Kodu, Hopscotch or Light-Bot? Links to these great coding sites and more can be found in Create to help you and your students get coding!

If you are looking for some extra guidance, be sure to check out the Teacher Resources on coding, also available right from the Teacher Resource button on the page with the coding links.

If you are an Alberta school with students involved with the Hour of Code, we would love to hear your story!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Homelessness - What can we do?

So Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 was Giving Tuesday - “a new Canadian movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Cyber Monday. The “opening day of the giving season,” it is a day where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.” 
This time of year is always a significant time to participate in the BIGGER sense of gift giving, as young people anticipate the upcoming holiday.

According to a recent CTV video, new numbers from the homeless count show there are more youth and families without a home.  Of the 2200+ homeless in Edmonton, there are 17% more youth and 25% more families on the street since last year.


So what can we do?

Report what you see.  The Edmonton Journal, Nov. 10, 2014 feature on “Call 211 for homeless in distress describes how the system works.   “Calling 211 will connect to the Bissell Centre’s 24/7 mobile team, allowing staff to help without unnecessarily involving police or emergency services. The staff can give out warm clothes and help people living on the street reach long-term help.”

In December, it is a tradition of the Provincial Team to collects goods for those less fortunate, from turkeys for the Food Bank to clothing for the Bissell Centre.   This year, a call to the Bissell Centre in Edmonton revealed a high need for baby formula and larger sized disposable diapers.  As well, they always need a large supply of men’s dark toques, gloves, socks and new underwear.

We know the spirit of giving is alive and well in all schools in Alberta. In your school or class, you may already be collecting for a cause that you value.  If you are a greater Edmonton based school, the Bissell list may help.  If you are looking for opportunities to give locally, contact your local support agencies (Salvation Army, Mustard Seed, Hope Mission, or churches for example).

If you are considering teaching a lesson or unit on homelessness, the Homeless Hub website has some excellent teacher and student resources for all grade levels.   

In teaching and reaching out with your students you make an impact on building that spirit of giving.

“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
[Mary Anne Radmacher]

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

If they’ve got the tools, let them speak...

Looking at articles and research that have appeared in the last couple years, there has been much discussion about emerging technologies that will heighten student engagement.  In recent visits to schools, we’ve been hearing a lot of talk about new student response systems.  Boy, has this technology come a long way from clickers, and before that, an even longer way from the old “raise your hand”. And these systems work.
“Citing a number of research studies, the benefits of using a student response system have been highlighted... In summary, such systems provide an immediate source of feedback for the academic and student, rapidly identifying areas of misunderstanding. Moreover, there is improved student interaction, engagement, active-learning, and participation. Significantly, students are enthusiastic towards their use and there are potential improvements in student learning and they drive increased levels of advance preparation.”  Paul Dervan, 2011 [Increasing in-class student engagement using Socrative (an online Student Response System)]

While there are now many online student response systems, Plickers is a free student response system, downloaded as an Android or iOS app, that requires no electronic devices in students' hands.  Each student holds a piece of paper showing their answer (as a barcode) to the multiple choice question; the barcode is scanned by the teacher's smartphone. The teacher gets a real-time bar graph showing the results.

Edmonton Public Schools wrote a great blog post about using Plickers instead of the “old” clickers.  The post describes how Plickers can be used, how it works and what you need to get started.  There is a short video at the end to show a teacher using Plickers in the classroom.

Along with the new student response systems, backchannels are being used to engage students in synchronous discussions in parallel with ongoing activities in the classroom. As mentioned in this Edudemic article about backchanneling, there are many different ways you can use a backchannel to open up a conversation to all students in class and expand on any discussion.  Depending on the technology in your classroom, you could use Twitter, Today’s Meet, or Google Moderator or a number of others.

Beth Holland also wrote a great article for edutopia, describing how backchanneling can give all students a voice, capture curiosity and capture the ideas that students have but are not always willing to share in class.

If you are looking for a few ideas to start backchanneling in your classroom, try out this article, which includes ten ways to use backchannels.

The Langwitches Guide to Backchanneling provides planning considerations, skills learned and Bloom’s taxonomy points

Still need more information? Visit Create, where we have collected teacher resources about using student response tools and backchannels.  We have included articles about Plickers, Poll Everywhere, Socrative and more.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Start the conversation - November 16 - 22 is Bullying Awareness Week


Bullying, to me, starts very small around the kindergarten age where the first thing we learn is to call each other names. Something so small can be so long lasting in someone's life.[Shane Koyczan]

There’s a wealth of interactive media that you can use with your students to start a conversation about bullying, no matter what their age. We’d like to share three examples.

For younger students, here are some friendly faces to help students have a conversation about feelings and being a good friend.  From PBS, this interactive video - So Funny I Forgot to Laugh - shows Arthur making some jokes at Sue Ellen’s expense.  When Arthur is making jokes, is he being funny? Is he going too far and hurting Sue Ellen's feelings?  

For older students, here are two great examples, created right here in Canada.

Words Hurt is an interactive video experience about how our words affect others. In real time,  you have an online interaction with the young woman on the screen.  Fill in the box with positive or negative words to see how she reacts.  

To This Day is a powerful and beautiful slam poem by Shane Koyczan. The animated poem describes how bullying touches us all.  From this TED link, you can access a short quiz in the Think section and additional information about Shane in Dig Deeper.  

You will find many linked sites for teachers or students in our Cyberbullying and Bullying special edition.  We know that you will be considering necessary conversations not just this week, but all the school year through. Be proactive, not just reactive. In planning for conversations about treating others fairly and respectfully in your classroom, use’s curated collection of resources as a place to start!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Virtual Housekeeping: The Changing Nature of Internet Content

We often get asked how we check the database for broken links, dated resources and inappropriate content.  We believe that keeping our database clean is an important task.  We also know how challenging it can be to maintain links to the best content when websites are constantly being redeveloped, reformatted, updated, etc.

A dramatic example of this is Sort It Out.  This interactive about sorting recyclables was made right here in Alberta and was used by many Grade 4 teachers.  Over the past few months, the domain ownership has changed and the link is now about things that are decidedly NOT recycling [see the screen capture].  This site was definitely removed from the database and other sites on recycling with more appropriate content were added.

Another of our favourite examples is Wumpa’s World.  This is a Canadian interactive that explores Inuit culture, a perfect fit for Grade 2 Social Studies.  A few years ago, the interactive was moved to a new URL without a re-direct. Alberta teachers who had been using the link from our Ready site called us, “Where is Wumpa’s World?” We tracked down the creators of the site and after a few email exchanges, were able to update the link for teachers.
Recently Wumpa’s World has been redesigned in HTML 5 with new content and a new URL, and is linked in Ready

The Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits is a popular interactive linked in Kids Love for the Grade 5 Science unit on Electricity and Magnetism.  A few years ago the site disappeared. We tracked down the owner/developer of the site who had forgotten to renew his domain.  Our email to him was his reminder to pay his bill - which he did - and we continue to benefit from his work!

How do we find out about website changes, broken links, and re-directs to inappropriate content?  First of all, we check our most popular sites on a regular basis - for example as we prepare for our seasonal Enjoy pages, ie: Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. or in preparation for presentations.  We review sections of the site on a regular basis for links which are not broken but need updating. Teachers also contact us when they find broken links within our student sites. We are as proactive as we can be in this worthwhile ‘housekeeping’ task.

We know that Alberta teachers rely on the rich digital content that we have linked in our database. With over 10,000 sites in our database and over 5,000,000 hits on the site per month, we are motivated to do our best to keep these sites current for our users.

Monday, October 27, 2014

We stand on guard for thee…..

Planning for Remembrance Day ceremonies is underway in many Alberta schools. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the main concern in this planning process was in making the ceremony relevant. Unfortunately and sadly, in the past ten years, international and Canadian current events have reminded us once again of the need for, and the high cost of, maintaining peace abroad and at home.  The peace process, the history of our world wars and modern conflicts, as well as the changing nature of ‘war’ helps set the context for ‘remembering’.   

There are many resources that can help classroom teachers in preparing their students for Remembrance Day – and not just as a ceremony. Selecting these resources and planning for their best use in the classroom is made easier through the Remembers special edition page.

For example, Veterans Affairs Canada has excellent resources for educators, including downloadable videos, historical fact sheets, booklets and suggested activities for all grade levels -“provided to help ensure that the torch of Remembrance continues to burn brightly in the hearts of all Canadians.”  

The National Film Board provides Images of a Forgotten War - a rich and unique collection of more than 120 historical films, images and essays from WWI. 

Another resource, the Over the Top Interactive Game allows intermediate students to experience life in the trenches during the First World War. Part history and part adventure story, Over the Top allows players to determine the outcome of the story by making decisions at key moments.

Also for students is a CBC: A Wounded Soldier multimedia presentation - a series of photos of a Canadian soldier, Corporal Christopher Klodt and  audio clips of an interview completed after he was seriously injured in Afghanistan. It also includes comments from junior high students who had the opportunity to meet with Corporal Klodt.

Remembrance Day is an opportunity for teachers of young Canadians to connect to history with empathy and help students create an understanding of what it means to “keep our land glorious and free”.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Things that go bump in the night…

Halloween is finally just around the corner. We say finally because those big seasonal Halloween costume outlets appeared before this school year began!  It seems that Halloween is now one of the three biggest retail events of the year.  This infographic below confirms the kind of spending and other activities we Canadians engaged in for Halloween 2013. Imagine what those figures will be in 2014!

Before it became a big retail event, in its simpler form, the spirit of Halloween was about stories, crafts and homemade costumes - and a chance to become really scared - in a fun way!  
In schools we have a real opportunity to enjoy the Halloween spirit without it being a financial burden. Stories, poems, online interactives, Math and Science activities, Arts and Crafts and recipes for treats, like those found in our Happy Halloween enjoy page, are all ways that we can enjoy the season in a positive way.  

For students who are a little older, zombies are still trending as a topic of interest, given current TV programs and many popular movies.  Want to engage junior and senior high students in some zombie-related literature?  Try our Z is for Zombie enjoy page.

New this year to’ s Halloween-themed pages is our Creepy, Crawly but Cool page. For all those students who love tiny things that go bump in the night, this is a collection of resources about bats and spiders, including video, online stories in both fiction and non-fiction, and mythology.  Don’t miss the teacher resources to help you get creepy, crawly but cool in your classroom.

There is a richness of resources about Halloween that won’t cost teachers a dime - no tricks - and engage students in activities and learning that will be a treat!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Teachers Make Me Smile!

Today's post is from Catherine Macklam,'s Provincial Team Leader.  Catherine has been an educator for 40 years and's Team Leader since its inception in 1997.

It is always such a pleasure to work with our new teachers, but this year was special. I had the opportunity to present at the ATA Beginning Teachers Conference in Calgary on October 4, as did my colleagues Daryl and Theresa in Edmonton on September 27.   We did two sessions - Step Away from the Textbook: Digital Content for Your Classroom and Resources for DIY Professional Learning: Teaching Essentials. In all, we presented to over 165 new teachers.

We had a very positive response from our session participants, as you can see by their feedback. On Monday, October 6 I came to work and waxed eloquently about our new teachers in the field - so much so that the team suggested I put my reactions into words (our blog)...although I think this may have been their way to get me back on task.

What became apparent in both sessions is the need for curated digital content such as provides. Equally important are the conversations we facilitate to support understanding of how to best use digital resources in unit and lesson planning. Essential digital tools for creation/demonstration of knowledge need to be paired with professional learning documents to support teacher and student digital content creation.  Create and our student sites on were really well received, which was heartwarming, particularly in light of the Ministerial Order and the LTPF.

For me personally, I came away with a strong reaction to the quality of individuals new to our profession. I can sum up my image of them in these words - energetic, excited, inquisitive, engaged and committed. Talk about inspiring! I’m still smiling from the experience.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Today is the day! [ Book Club]

Our online discussion of A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy begins today.  We are excited that many educators in a variety of different roles and responsibilities have already joined our Book Club.  We’re starting this week with a discussion of Chapter One, with subsequent chapters discussed each week through October and November.   We’re looking forward to eight weeks of opinions, insights, ideas and sharing.

As Fullan and Langworthy describe “new pedagogies” as learning partnerships “aiming towards deep learning goals and enabled by pervasive digital access”, we ourselves will be actively connecting in this digital environment.

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. [Oliver Wendell Holmes]  If you haven’t joined this community yet, take a look and consider adding your voice.

To join the Book Club (G+ Community)

To start reading A Rich Seam