Coetail- Final Project with Google Earth – Year 7 Humanities

Diigo Groups application for the classroom.

Our final unit in year 8 Humanities focus on concept of Systems.  Looking at Rainforest, students inquire into the reasons that Rainforest are such an important part of our environment, yet they are constantly under threat by different people and for different reasons.

In order for the students to see the different perspective on Rainforest Deforestation, they pick a lens trough which they look at the unit. These steakkholders as we call them are roles like WWF, furniture makers, loggers, indiginous communities, CEO’s.

Rain Forest Stakeholder Roles

When the kids chose their role from this list, they spend time looking for articles and information that they can use in the final activity whereby they present their perspectives on Rainforest deforestation. In order to keep track and share resources the kids use Diigo to bookmark their websites into groups. Since two or  more kids can share a role, they will also be able to easily share links!

The hope is that the students discover the benefits of this tool and use it on a regular basis, when discovering cool stuff online!

So a year later..where am I?

After working on this course for the past year, I felt it was crucial to take a look at what programs and web 2.0 tools are an important part of my teaching and learning. Over the past year I have read many blogs, followed lots of tweets and thought about how technology impacts my teaching. I have broken down my ideas into daily, weekly, and monthly.

On a daily basis I am using:

Diigio to keep track of the cool websites and articles I come across. I also receive weekly updates from different diigo groups I follow. (Classroom 2.0, Project Based Learning, Global Education Conference, Coetail, Online Tools, Interactive WhiteBoards in the Classroom. and many more) My students also used diigo to keep track of their bookmarks, and in an upcoming unit we are explicating using this for the kids to look at a unit through the lens of different stakeholders (a detailed post on this to come)

Dropbox- Always using it to save files, and share folders with my co workers

Email updates from Larry Ferlazzo - He sends out the best websites of the day. Very useful stuff from this guy!

Year Level blogs at our school. Year 8 and Year 7 

Aslo each student has a personal blog, which I follow using netvibes.

Utube: Always searching for cool videos, and uploading my students work to our school account. Teacher Tube is also a great addition.

Vimeo- Another great source for video footage

Onenote program to share and plan notes with my students

Veracross- to communicate homework and assessments to students online.

Weekly I am using:

Reading my RSS feed from Blogs like Langwitches,Teaching Sagitarian , 21 Century Presentation.These blogs are really the main ones that I read on a weekly basis, but do scan others from our suggested RSS feeds.

Portal Page- Our school keeps curriculum and units accessible to students on a portal page. Each course has its own portal page. Weekly I updating these pages

Dyknow- To send my students work and receive work, also at time to screen share.

Weekly updates from my Diigo Groups, TedTalks, TedED


Podcasts from Live Web 2.0, passed Coetail course discussions.

Occasion Tweets @jhortop

GoogleDocs, video editing, In Plain English, glogster, voice thread, flickr, compfight, powerpoints, many website links, prezi, google maps, google earth, screenr, sound cloud, Radio Lab, creative commons search tools, brain pop videos, linkendin, flocabulary.

For me this is not an overload of resources, and I find it quite manageable. I also am always on the look out for new ideas and new tools that will enhance student learning!

Technology Terminal

Yes, well we all love technology! Yes we love learning about new ways to integrate  technology in our classroom, follow RSS feeds,  tweet out new ideas, develop our PLN. For the past year I have been totally emerged in these new ideas. I have discovered lots, implemented lots and reflected on the process. However, over Songkran I stopped. I travelled to my long lost home in a village,  in Kimundo Tanzania. This home has little hot water, let alone a solid internet connection. Peace Matunda  For the second year in a row, I travelled with a fellow co-worker to this small rural village, with 18 student.

Typical Classroom at Peace Matunda School - Techo Free


It was so nice to totally disconnect from technology. No RSS feeds to follow, no tweets to be sent, and only reflection through writing occurred. However, the expectation from  parents was that emails be sent on a daily basis to update them on our daily activities and most importantly ensure the safety of their children. B

Before leaving for the trip, I asked all students to leave their technology at home! Embrace the laptop free environment, and enjoy the fresh air! Despite having lots of assignments to complete over their holidays, the kids agreed, and were happy to have some time away from the demands placed on them, and thus the importance of having a computer at their fingertips.

Days were spent working in classrooms, classrooms very different then mine. Blackboards, no electricity, a few books, and teacher directed learning. There was no computers, smart boards, front row, speakers, air con, lights. The computers that have been donated to the school were sitting collecting dust in a cement room. As I pointed out, without electricity, there is no use for computers. Nonetheless, there was learning, and engaged students. 

It was a great experience for our students to see how kids are interested in learning without even the possibility of using technology. It was also great for me as a teacher to watch kids and teachers share ideas using the traditional methods of several years ago. It made me realize that I am living in a technology tunnel, where my life revolves around technology, and using technology. It was a pleasant reminder that life without technology is something that, in my opinion, we need to shut off and take a breath of fresh air.


My Place Planning

In year 7 humanities we have unit of inquiry called My Place throughout the passed two years we have used a variety of web 2.o tools, but just as small components. This time, not only is our unit interdisciplinary with English, it is based around web 2.0 tools, which without the unit would not succeed.

My Place Novel Unit Planner – Humanities

As you can see we are using tools like voice thread in order to have an exchange between a country in Sweden. Looking at their lives compared to ours. The students are going to take photos of their houses, and describe them using voice thread, and be able to receive feedback within 12 hours of their initial sharing.

In addition to the activities listed in the unit, we are also going to create a flight stimulation using google earth.(inspired by the video made below)

The kids are going to pick a place in the world they want to go, and using google earth street view they are going to describe the aspects of the city. We will publish these videos to u tube, then our year 7 blog, and then finally share them with another school in that area to see if the kids impression of the city was correct.


As our significant concept points out, our connections to place shapes who were are and the choices we have available to us. Instead of the kids just finding out about a city and telling me about it, they are going to pick a place, and explain it to someone from that place, and see if their interpretations are correct. This will provide the kids with a much larger audience.

Since using google earth street they are creating their own representation of something! This unit is what my final project is going to be based around. I did not want one lesson based around technology, but a series of lessons that are linked to unit I am currently teaching. I am looking forward to seeing how it goes!

Digitally Distracted

With the implementation of one to one laptops in my school, the question arose of what do with kids who are distracted by computers. How will they ever pay attention now? They will always be on social networks, and not listening? Where concerns I heard from teachers, and also concerns many would have.

First I will explain my management strategies with laptops, in middle school.

Not always, but often my classes will begin without laptops, in order for the kids to get an idea of what the class objectives are.

Often when explaining a concept the kids will come and sit on the floor, and then return to their seats to use their laptops to show their understanding of what was just explained.

When the students are working on their and I need to get their attention, I will ask the kids to put their tables at “half screen”.

We also have a program at school Dyknow that monitors kids screen, among other digitally savey things, explained in the video.

Some teachers use Dyknow as a way to catch kids messing around on the computer, but I am not sure that was the sole reason the technology was created. However when researching the software the short description of the tool is “DyKnow has been developing and delivering the best classroom management and interactive learning software for teachers around the world..” Notice what is emphasized first.

That is basically it. Rarely have I encountered serious behavior issues with laptops.

However, on the occasion that a student is distracted or playing games on their computer, I talk to them about the situation. Often the discovery is made that they are board in class, and needed a distraction. Now as much as I know the kids probably should have been doing their work; if I am honest with myself, I know that when I have been in a conference, and not interested in the topic of discussion or assignment, I will be doing something on my computer, that does not directly link with the task at hand. Is that bad? Is it really the computers fault that I am day dreaming? Would I still be distracted and board without the computer at the touch of my fingers? Probably.

I really do not think that we should hold computers to blame for distracting kids, we need to think about how to change our teaching or lessons in order to keep the kids engaged in the activity. We also need to recognize that sometimes kids need a break and a short distraction is really no big deal, and is a normal occurrence in a kids life.

I did appreciate some of the tips on the 23 Things with classroom lap tops, but would point out many of these things are important in a classroom with or without computers.

Technology in Time

ASB unplugged. Well what a 5 days. I learned some ways that people believe education will change in the future, and how we as teachers can support students in these changes, but perhaps more importantly let kids lead these changes in technology. In order to for kids to connect with technology they need to understand their experiences and connect to them. I was thrilled when listening to the kids in the “Spotlight” sessions on Thursday morning. The idea of connectivism, happing right in front of my eyes. There were so many passionate kids sharing their ideas on how they are working with technology in the future. Some of these ideas that I will  bring back to my classroom are: 1. Try to find links with professionals online through twitter that my kids can talk to. This was inspired from a girl in grade 6 who is tweeting with an artist whose art they are studying. In year 7 we are starting a new unit on “My Place” where kids will inquire how environments impact their lives. I am going to try to find some educators in different parts of the world, who the students can ask tweet with to ask questions about their environments. * In the future students should be able to connect with professionals they can learn from  both in and outside class time. They do not only depend or want one subject teacher, but many teachers to talk to about a topic. This idea has started to develop but with time and the expansion of social media sites to connect people all over the world, it will only become larger. 2. I listend to a very passionate gamer, and how his grade 9 teacher uses a game called Civilizations.

Civilization for Colonization to help his kids to have practical experience with what early explorers went through when colonizing an area.

These are just two examples of what I heard from kids, they were also talking lots about voicethread, googledocs, moviemaker, and one note.

It really made me see the reality of the point from the connectivism article  that: “The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.” Kids have a project they want to work, on and can pick the tool they feel works best to show their learning. (starting from the individual) Then they use their peers to share their ideas with, continuing to to provide learning to themselves. Also in this process is the kids sharing their individual learning with adults, expand the connections they have made to their learning. Adults take these examples back to their own students, continuing the development of their knowledge.   I have used games like the Middle Passage on the active history site. Both of these games require a fee, however, I have been convinced that the use of games in education is something of the future. Both the idea that kids like playing games to learn, and they are also interested in developing games. However, as pointed out in session on Game Based Learning, it was pointed out that there are often cool games for kids to play, but the connections to the concept they are learning in school might be a bit weak. None the less, over the next few years the creation of games for learning is defiantly going to expand. In my upcoming unit on Poverty, I have dissevered two games that will help kids to understand some of the dynamics of the issue, in a gaming formate.


SuperStruct where kids create a new future.

Another cool game that I will share with my colleagues is World Without Oil

* In the future gaming will be a large part of how kids access education. This has already started and is only going to expand over time. After my presentation on using Twitter in the classroom. (where I discovered dispute so many schools having 1 to 1 laptops, many teachers have no idea how to use twitter or what it is)

I was tried of listening to adults, and headed over to the Flat Classroom Project!  Wow, instead of listening to adults talk about where technology in the future is headed, listen to the kids. At the Flat Classroom Project, the students from different schools came together to create a pitch on an idea of how they could connect with other schools around the world. Working in a group of eight these kids created pitches to teacher’s on what they thought were good ideas for a flat classroom. The two ideas that stuck out most in my head were connecting schools on helping to end Child Labour and creating an online Math website where kids of all languages could connect in order to help each other understand math. Fabulous ideas. I am planning to get my class linked into the Flat Classroom Project next year, as we have one class in our Humanities cycle that is for Global Issues. I think it would be great to work on a project like DigitTeen or a A Week in the Life. Where kids can “A Week in the Life…’ is a Flat Classroom® Project for Elementary School students of approximately ages 8-10. The curriculum focus is Interdisciplinary, how we live, how we communicate, cultural understanding and awareness. The aim of the project is to join Elementary School classrooms globally with a view to exploring what life is like in each country through discussion, sharing and collecting multimedia to create final products together.” Next at my school we are creating year level leader positions. It would be great if a year level could pick up one of these projects to collaborate with other schools. This is linked to the idea of Project Based learning, where students are the focus of the projects and projects are the driving force for learning, based on individual students.

At this conference I discovered that the idea of MOOCS is not a far off reality. Many connections from around the world were created that can allow for the further development of this idea. Both with the teachers who made connections and the students at the flipped classroom. We do not always  need to be in a face to face course to continue to have this connections. I like the idea of MOOCS, and feel that our COETAIL course is a step in that direction. I have people in my own network, I post my thoughts and comment on others ideas. I also found out that kids want the same concept. They called it a VIS (Virtual International School)

Flickr @ ASP

A conference on technology integration in Bombay India. Again so many different definitions of what 1 to 1 is, and what true technology integration means.

Reverse Reviewed

With my diigio updates via email, I am across this new post blog on the Emerging EdTech Blog regarding reverse instruction. They have presented several ways to get started-programs like slideshare, wikispaces, googledocs.  All programs that we have talked about and are comfortable using.In my opinion you can create a reversed classroom, without having always to use these tools. Other simple ways of creating a reverse classroom is on kids personal blogs or on a school blog. Often in my class I will ask the kids to find out about a topic prior to the class, so they have an understanding of the topic. For example, in my year 7 Humanities class we are inquiring into the unit question “What forces create change?” For homework the kids found out what the Industrial Revolution was and created their own definitions to share the following lesson.  Check out Varun’s idea.

This worked out great, because the reversed instruction method allow for us to have a quick chat about what they found out and then get started with what the objective was for that day: With a group pick one of the following: ancient civilizations(which the kids already had lesson on) the industrial revolution, and the green revolution. They had 30 minutes to look at the resource on our year 7 blog and then explain: “How farming created change in that society” The final product was for them to give a 2 minute presentation to the group on their time period. This task is part of a series of lessons on forces that create change in our world. The final project is going to be for each student to pick a `force`and explain how it has created change in our society, using the Zen presentation method- to both orally present and post on their blogs.

To me, the use of blogs easily creates a reversed classroom, as the kids already have an online platform to share ideas both inside and outside the school. Yes tools like googledocs, scribed and wiki spaces work great, but I am thankful my school has created individual blogs for all of our kids.

I would say that for younger kids, grade 6 to 8, there are very few times that we “lecture them” but often provide interactive learning environments for them to discover the information during class time. I can see putting power points and lecture notes on google doc, but it is rare that I use the death by power point idea in class. As pointed out on the University of Northern Colorado the idea of reversed instruction can work great for older kids, especially in university.

However, there are videos I have found that are easily applied to younger kids, but require a bit of  additional explanation.

I really liked this example of a video made on the ancient civilizations by:

This video is a great introduction to the the idea that ancient civilizations started nearby rivers.

Next year I will use this video prior to teaching my kids and post it on the blog for them to make comments on. Words they do not understand will need to be identified in their comments on the video.

I also liked this prezi on civilizations but would need to edited the language for my 11 and 12 year old kids.


Another way I have used a flipped classroom is that one every ten days there is a scheduled lesson on global issues. The kids present any topic they,  linked to global issues. Their ideas are posted on our year level blog, where the kids share feedback to the presenter.

I liked the ideas from John Sowash, on the Principles Connected  blog about putting secret words or numbers in the text to ensure the kids read the information, or the accountability the kids need to have showing the notes they took prior to the class beginning. Also his comment that it can a while, after you have developed your lectures for the reversed classroom, to then create new hands on activities for the kids to engaged with the materials they just learned.

A new site that I enjoyed reading and have singed up for  was the vodcasting ning. Hopefully I can get connected to a few of the ideas shared with these educators. Also their real life frustrations and successes with a flipped classroom are great!

I now recognize there are times when I should put quick clip of a video easily view from students blogs, and commented on for homework instead of spending the 20 minutes watching and viewing in in class. My stance on teaching is that it is differentiated, so that the kids have a chance to access the information through a variety of ways, including strategies in a reversed classroom.


Fluent or Literate?

Photo on Digital Literacy vs Digital Fluency from Social Lens site

The above photo is from a book called Digital Fluency: Building Success in the Digital Age and  links to what we have been talking about in course four, the practically of integrating technology into your classroom. They define digital fluency as “helping your organization find answers to these
questions, as well as act on them.” Or in teacher terms, helps your kids find answers to the questions they have and have ways to share the solutions they come up with. Do we want our kids to be fluent in using technology, and what exactly does it mean to be fluent in technology.

As a teacher I think that being in fluent in technology means that I should know when to use technology and what tools to use. I think that I am growing more aware of what tools are best suited for certain tasks, but that does not mean that I know all of the tools possibly available  to me,  for a specific assignment.

Does successful technology integration mean that you only use technology when it is the best possible tool for the kids to use?

For me this is dependent on who the teacher is, if a teacher is technology fluent then they would know what tools are best suited for certain tasks. But if they are not comfortable with using technology and do not always use the best tool for the task, should they stop using technology until they figure it out? I would say no!

Many teachers in the world are uncomfortable with using technology on a daily basis in their classroom, and are not sure what tools to use, but this does not mean that they should stop using and learning how technology can benefit them right?

I mean we did not become master readers over the course of a year, and I truly believe that teachers should be life long learners who do make mistakes, but learn from them and admit when they are wrong. The English language as been the same for 100’s of years now. In comparison to technology, it has hardly changed at all.

Google created a cool video to show how much they have changed in the past 50 years and what Digital Literacy means for the “Google Generation”

As the video points out kids, totally rely on the internet to find the answers to their questions in life,  but they do struggle to figure out how to evaluate the information. The reality is it is our job to work with the means at which the kids are receiving information and help them to understand what is being told.


So yes, go a head those of you who are frighten by technology, embrace the idea of trying and do not worry about what the experts say is correct implementation of technology in your classroom! Learn from trying, just as you would expect the kids to do. Just keep in mind it is up to you how you define yourself and being digital literate or fluent could mean a number of different things, just as this video stragely suggests.