Two min. tech. tip – Introducing Ziggi (great product+great price=great for schools)


Having a document camera (like Ziggi) available in the class allows teachers to instantly display materials to everyone using their projector. Whether you want to demonstrate an excellent piece of student writing, a math solution, a science experiment or a diagram from a social studies textbook,  a document camera is a quick and easy way to enhance those teachable moments.

Here is a link to the Canadian supplier of this device.

A list of 50 ways to use a Document Cameras in the classroom:


Two min. tech. tip #8 – Welcome to the Class Dojo!

We are all familiar with the practice of rewarding students and classes with points for specific behaviours and good practices.

Class Dojo is a free website to aid teachers to record and manage specific learning goals and behaviours to extend this practice further. Students can create their own avatars, check their points at home and their progress is easily displayed on a laptop or SMARTboard or tablet with the app.

Below is a video of a teacher using Class Dojo to start his class. At my school, I am using the same model to start my class in the computer lab and it works really well. (I created my own “tribute” video that I shared internally to help staff see this app in action.)Here is a screen capture of the video.
cd transition pic
I chose Independence (1 of 6 my skills) for the class as an area of development. When each student enters the class they immediately login to the computer and open their project. Then, they reward themselves by going up to the SMARTboard without asking and giving themselves +1 for independence and then returning to their project.

Overall, Class Dojo is an excellent tool to manage transitions especially when students are arriving at different times. It is student-friendly and a measurable record of progress and success in the classroom. I welcome your feedback and let me know if I can help get you started.

More visuals –

Introduction to class dojo video for students

2 min. tech tip # 4 – Brain Pop and Brain Pop Jr.

YouTube is pretty hit and miss (but mostly miss) for specific educational clips for your students. For an alternative, try BrainPop and BrainPop Jr. for short, specific, age-appropriate, fun and educational videos to kick off a new topic or reinforce lessons and learning. 

This site is a big hit with students for an excellent balance of humour and learning and a sure hit for teachers with its excellent content. I love how you can search the videos by standand, subject and grade too! The IPad app is also used by my two primary kids too! The Game Up section is my next area to explore!

My top 5 Interactive ebook resources for primary students

To some of us, it probably seems too little early for teacher software nostalgia but I have to say that one of my all time favourite ebook apps (we just called it software back then) was the Living Books Series on CD-ROM! After popping the disk in the good old cd tray, this series transformed books like Mercer Mayer’s Grandma and Me and Marc Brown’s Arthur’s Computer Trouble into multimedia treats. Kids loved these as the animations always surprised and often yielded extra depth to the stories (ok, characters falling over often helped too!) In the “Read to Me” mode, the text appeared on every page and highlighted relevant words with the narration. These interactive stories were an excellent stimulus for projects but were just as relevant when simply read and enjoyed.

The good news is that, today there are many sites or apps similar to Living Books, ready to interest and engage this current generation of students. With Apple’s new IBook2 creator app for the Mac, I see great potential to embed an interactive storybook inside a teacher-created textbook for students, parents and teachers to analyze, examine and enjoy.

Here is a list of my favourite interactive e-books for primary students.

1. Tumblebooks: This site is nicely categorized and the navigation allows easy access to many fiction and non-fiction books for students. (Some are even IPad friendly.) Features includes music,  narration (sometimes by the author), highlighted text and some even have related games and activities. It is subscription-based site but provides a good cross section of ebooks appropriate for a school setting. Local libraries here in Canada often have their Tumblebooks sites open to the public.

2. We Give – This Flash-based site is not interactive but the stories are displayed in its entirety in a “flipbook” style on the web. Perfect for viewing with a IWB or projector for group discussions and activities. Finally, the site is free(!) to use and the publishers donate to charity when you “click through” and complete reading the book. Free books and reading to donate makes this site a worthwhile to me.

3. – A colleague recently shared this subscription-based site where students have access to leveled reading books. This site allows teachers to track student progress and students can read the books themselves, listen to the story with highlighted text and record their own narration. In addition, the software has a built in incentive program. Completing activities earns them stars to customize the site and earns ranks and virtual items.

4. App Store or equivalent for your tablet device: Comb these stores for a number of free and paid interactive ebooks. For  my IPad and IPhone, I recently found a Rapunzel app for free is a current favourite. The original Toy Story app (free)  is great with some of the features of Living Books but with the added bonus that kids can record their own narration. Also the Dr. Seuss books like Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat (currently $3.99) are great fun too. Also worth it to mention Pop Out Peter Rabbit and a Charlie Brown Christmas as others that spring to mind.  In short, there are so many to choose from and the best advice for teachers is to build a collection of books appropriate to your students and their needs. Thankfully, your iTunes account remembers all your purchases (I only have a 16G IPad so space is sometimes at a premium) so the story can rest in the cloud and be downloaded and enjoyed when needed.

5. –   Have to include this site as there are many excellent video clips. Obviously, video is not exactly interactive but the huge database of resources is impossible to ignore or use in the classroom.  Here is a playlist of a few fun stories for primary students. 

Here is a YouTube clip of a Living Books (yes, still alive!) version of Tortoise and the Hare. This video version demonstrated some of the animations that allowed you to explore a text in a non-linear fashion but the video is definitely not the same as the software.However, the story provided a good starting point for our Grade Two classes to learn about and create their own folk tales.

Feel free to send me your comments and ebooks suggestions too!

Sharing Student work digitally

As a teacher, there is nothing better than sharing projects from students on the web. They love showing off their hard work and feel validated that their sweat and tears (hopefully not that many!) have an audience beyond the teacher with the proverbial “red pen” at the ready! In addition, I avoid projects that give away any information about the student. Our school has a LMS (Blackboard) and we created a section in each student’s course to showcase their work and progress. This password protected area is an excellent place to showcase student success and achievement.  In our Junior division, we have taken it a step further by having each student create a “blogfolio” which combines elements of a digital portfolio and allows students to learn the basics of comments and online discussions with student work as a focus.

My latest tool for sharing is called Flipsnack and this free service creates a digital flipbook from any .PDF file. In training sessions, I have encouraged our teachers to either scan documents through our printer as a .PDF or create .PDF’s  (i.e. saving a Word etc.) Their “Flipsnack” creations can then be shared by a URL or embedded in a web site, blog, wiki or LMS. Also good to note that there is 15 page maximum for each “free” book. However, it ended up creating two books for each project per class.

A good tutorial from the HP Teacher Exchange.

Here is an example of some Pioneer buildings created by 8 years old using a software called Community Construction Kit.

Overall, the feedback has been great and Flipsnack has joined my collection of sharing apps including Google Docs, Picasa, Photo Story or Windows Live Movie Maker.  Happy sharing!

Presenting at the Ontario SMART Conference 2011

Thanks to all those who attended the SMART Ontario conference at the new Crossroads Public School on Saturday October 15th in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake.  In my first experience as a SMART Exemplary Educator, I led a class full of dedicated and keen professionals through an “Introduction to SMARTboards” session. We explored a number of resources and best practices with the SMARTboard to aid student learning and provide educationally rich resources for the teachers in attendance.

In a 21st century classroom, a SMARTboard is one excellent tool to aid teachers design interactive lessons and activities to target a variety of learning styles and promote rich learning. Thanks also to the Crossroads P.S. team, Giancarlo and the SMART team for the countless hours of planning and preparation necessary to make such an important, collaborative and successful conference run so smoothly.
Here are the files from the session. All are in .notebook format.

Module One
Module Two
Module Three
Module Four

Also here  is a file with instructions on the the famous Magic Magnifier.

For more tips and tricks, please feel to browse my web bookmarks at:

Follow me or feel free to contact me with questions or ideas on twitter at

My top 3 graphic organizers for students

We have found Inspiration and Kidspiration useful at our school but recently there has been a substantial growth of web-based (and free!) mind-mapping and graphic organizer tools. Here are a few tools to aid writing, planning, organization and the development of 21st Century skills.

1. Popplet – a Prezi-like graphic organizer and mind-mapping tool that is an excellent platform for students to demonstrate their learning. The presentation mode is similar to Prezi and useful for students to present their ideas in larger maps. Students must create an account to save their maps. Files can be shared as images files (.jpg or .gif) or embedded into a website or wiki.

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The 30 day Teacher Challenge

This 30 day teacher tech challenge is a pretty good list of free and useful educational apps for teachers and their students.

So far I am already using #1 – Wallwisher, #3 – Bitstrips for Schools, #7 – Kerpoof, #11 – Skype, #12 – Animoto,
#13 – VoiceThreads (although not free for students), #17 – DropBox, #18 – Jing, #19 – Audacity and #22 Little Bird Tales,

Want to investigate: #4 –, #5 – Edmodo, #6 – DoInk, #15 – Livebinders