Thursday, 19 June 2014

June 20th, 2014 – Turn your computer into a ‘Mystery Machine’

I understand that everyone is in wind down mode; packing and preparing for a relaxing and restful summer, so when the time comes to begin planning for next year, I have a cool new idea to try with your class – Mystery Skyping!

The concept is simple – classes Skype call one another and try to guess where the other class is located.  One class I am aware of has connected with over 45 different locations around the world during this school year. 

You can either sign up via an online connection site such as 4th Chat Mystery Skype, #Mystery Skype or Mystery State or you can use twitter to make your own connections (#MysterySkype).  Then agree upon a date and time to meet up online – don’t forget about the time alterations due to time zone changes.  Prepare your students to begin answering questions about their part of the world, such as climate, weather, famous people from the area, etc.  Also help them to determine what questions they may be asked by the other classroom and how they will respond.  Some classes choose to group students into different roles - inquirers, researchers, responders, recorders, and mappers.  This way students will not be asking the same question multiple times, and the information can be synthesized into a coherent guess. 

When the call starts, you can simply take on the role of coach and facilitator and allow the students to lead the activity.  Many classes choose to take turns asking questions, however you and your partner class teacher may choose an alternate method. Once the students think they know the location of the Skype callers, they are allowed to make their guess. 

Once the classes have determined where they are located, allow them some time to discuss how their lives are similar or different and to interact with one another.  This is a great way to break down the classroom walls and bring other countries into your classroom.     



June 13, 2014 – Story Telling Made Easy

Happy Friday the thirteenth!!

Today I’d like to share a story making and presentation app that offers many 
options and can quickly turn your own voice recordings into animated presentations with just a few taps.  Adobe Voice is a free story making app that is simple to use and walks you through the process step by step to help create animated videos in minutes.

Once the app is downloaded, you can choose from the pre-made templates such as ‘tell what happened’, ‘show and tell’ or ‘explain something’ or take creative license into your own hands and choose to ‘make up my own’.  Once you have chosen your theme then simply
tap and hold the microphone button while you speak into the iPad to record single sentence snippets of your story.  Next, you can match the spoken words with one of the over 25000 images/icons included in the app or choose to use one of your own from the iPad, Facebook, or simply take one with the iPad camera.  Adobe Voice will add in the animation and background music turning your simple story into a work of art. 

I particularly liked the prompts at the bottom of the page which shows the basic steps in story creating (Who, when and where, this happened, how it ended, etc.) There are options to add text to your story, change the layout of the images, and add your own choice of music or even background themes and colours.  Finally, make your story viewable by the public or keep it private and share your story with others via email, Facebook, twitter or share by message. 



Thursday, 29 May 2014

May 30, 2014 - The New DIY Lego Movie

In 1998 this colourful and creative toy was one of the original inductees
into the National Toy Hall of Fame and for generations Lego bricks have been a fun way to entertain and share one’s imaginative ideas.  Now these versatile and engaging Lego bricks have now gone techie!  Lego Movie Maker is a free iPad app that lets students create stop motion movies quickly and easily using Lego models.

Once the app (Lego Movie Maker) is downloaded you are ready to begin snapping photos of your figures and creating your movie.  You can
add or delete frames within the movie in addition to including title frames, sound effects, text overlays and even include colour filters to the camera for special effects.  Once completed movies can be uploaded to YouTube or saved to your iPad.

The app is very user friendly and creates fun and will allow students to explore the art of movie making while expressing their creativity.  Provide your students with a topic and watch their imagination shine!

Past Tech Tidbits posts can be found on the blog at and if you have an idea for a future blog topic, please feel free to pass it along to me.


Friday, 23 May 2014

May 22, 2014 - Picture Perfect with iPiccy

Happy Friday everyone!!

This time of year teachers may be looking for fun uses for their field trip and classroom photos or working to collate images for a quick and uncomplicated yearbook. iPiccy ( may be the answer you are looking for.  This website is a very user friendly photo editing tool which allows you to apply a multitude of image effects, crop, rotate, add text and even turn your images into colouring book pages for your little ones to enjoy. 

When you visit the iPiccy homepage ( you will be asked to create a free personalized account by clicking on the ‘create account’ button in the upper right hand corner (see image below). 

After the account has been activated, you will be taken to the image upload page where you can begin to choose the images you would like to edit or choose to create a collage utilizing various images.   The initial list on the left hand side allows you to crop, rotate, adjust colour, and change the image to black and white or sepia tones.

By clicking on the magic wand in the tool bar across the top of the page you are able to access plenty of other options including altering the focus, and creating a pencil sketch of your image (great for colouring book pages!).  

Once you have determined that the effect is one you wish to keep, simply click on ‘apply’ in the effect box.  If after having applied the effect, you feel it is not right for what you are trying to accomplish, simply click on the back arrow above your image to have the last action ‘undone’.   

One additional effect which I feel would be useful is being able to add text to the image.  Simply click on the ‘Blender’ tab at the top of the page (see image below) and by clicking on the Capital T in the row below a text box will appear situated on your image.  

Type the text into the box on the left hand side in addition to choosing the text colour, font, size, alignment and transparency.  Just remember to click on ‘Combine layers’ when you exit this page so that your image will be captured as you have intended it to be.  Finally, your image can be saved to your computer files for sharing, printing or pasting into other documents.

Overall I have found iPiccy to be very user friendly and I have enjoyed experimenting with the effects and reading the blog of suggested uses for iPiccy creations.

Past Tech Tidbits posts can be found on the blog at and if you have an idea for a future blog topic, please feel free to pass it along to me.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

May 16, 2014 - Exploring a Few Math and Science Gizmos

Happy Friday everyone!!

Although I frequently bring you new tools and tips on how to use technology in the classroom, this week I have elected to highlight a tool that is frequently being underused by teaching staff.  GIZMOS are online, and iPad compatible, interactive simulations which help to make math and science concepts easier for students to understand.  Funded by the Ministry of Education, Gizmos are available to all Ontario teachers and can be accessed through the Explore Learning website ( as well as via a link on UG2GO (  Each school board has been provided with its own password and it can be accessed by contacting personnel at your individual school board.

Gizmos are interactive simulations designed to help students understand key math and science concepts in a visual and active manner. By clicking on ‘Browse Gizmos” after signing into your account, you are able to search by Academic Standard (further separated by province curriculum), Grade and Topic or by the textbook you are using in class.  Topics range from fractions and 3D shapes to astronomy and physics spanning grades 3 to 12.  These Gizmos can be used as examples in class to demonstrate concepts found in the curriculum, as well you may create a ‘classroom’ where you invite your students with a generated class enrollment code  and they will be allowed to view and practice preselected Gizmos chosen by the teacher. 

Gizmos Lesson Materials include a vocabulary guide, student exploration sheet and answer key in addition to the Gizmo itself.  Further, when you click on the Gizmo tab students are able to complete a brief assessment based upon the work they have done and the results and reports are sent directly to the teacher so they may monitor students learning and progress. The Gizmos actually tailor themselves to the student’s learning patterns and use this information to optimize a student’s learning and potential.  One difficulty I have with the Gizmos is that they are often wordy (especially the vocabulary guides) and may prove to be a challenge to students who struggle with language based activities.

I hope that you will take some time to revisit the Gizmos site (and iPad app) to see if these interactive tools may be of use in your math program.

Past Tech Tidbits posts can be found on the blog at and if you have an idea for a future blog topic, please feel free to pass it along to me.



Thursday, 8 May 2014

May 9, 2014 - Haiku Deck and a Freebie for our Fabulous Teachers

Happy Friday everyone!!

I am sure that everyone has become tired of the tried and true power point presentations and has experienced the prospective motion sickness when the ‘Prezi’ frames move about too quickly on the screen.   This week I would like to introduce you to a new option which you (and your students) can use to create and edit presentations online and on the web – Haiku Deck.

Haiku Deck is a free iPad/iPhone app (Haiku Deck) and online web tool ( that lets you create presentations with over 35 million fantastic images and 6 presentation themes.  By creating an account and clicking on ‘New Deck’ you can begin creating your unique and colourful presentation.  The unique feature that Haiku Deck offers is that you can save your presentation on one web tool (i.e. iPad) and retrieve it from your home computer and vice versa.  Additionally, when you are creating your slides, simply type in a key word (i.e. anxiety, books, biology) and Haiku Deck searches the web and locates Creative Commons licensed images for you to use.   If you would rather, you can add your own images or screen shots to the deck from your photo stream, Instagram, Facebook page, Flickr, Picasa or Google Drive, then share your finished presentations on a variety of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Slideshare.  You can even hook your phone or iPad up to a projector and present directly from it, embed the deck in a blog or website, or download a PDF version to use for a handout.  The iPad app version of Haiku Deck allows you to include private notes to guide your presentation or public notes for everyone to view as they follow along.  Decks can be published with three different privacy settings – private to be viewed only by you, restricted to be viewed only by those you grant permission to and public which is available for anyone to view and search out on Google.

One favourite feature of Haiku Deck is the user friendly format.  When you are not sure how to begin or where to go next, simply click on the question mark in the upper right hand corner and you will immediately view an overlay which describes the possible actions available to you.   Once you decide what you would like to do next, simply click on the screen and the overlay disappears to allow you to continue creating.

Finally, in honour of teacher’s appreciation week, Haiku Deck has offered to give teachers ANY OF THEIR PREMIUM THEMES FOR FREEJust open up the iPad app tap on Themes, and select any locked theme showing a green $ in the corner, and it’s your for free – but only until May 10th!!

I hope that you find Haiku deck to be a useful and productive tool for yourself and your students.


Thursday, 1 May 2014

May 2, 2014 - Everyone Surfing on the Same Page

Happy Friday everyone!!

Have you ever wished you could remotely take control of your students’ computers while teaching a lesson so that you could directly walk them through what you wanted completed on a website? Or at least know that they are all on ‘the same page’?  With the new tech tool I have for you this week – YOU CAN!!

Surfly is a real-time web sharing tool which allows you to link to a web address and when your participants join into the session, you are able to illustrate and have them follow along with your web tour.   Here’s how…

Simply head to the Surfly website ( and create a free account.  Surfly will send you an activation email and you are ready to begin.  Once you log, in you will see a pop-up window asking for the web address of the site you would like to share with your students, colleagues etc.  Merely type in (or copy and paste) the web address you have chosen and click on ‘Start a Session’.

You will be given a unique link to the guided web tour which you can post on the board for students to enter online, or share it with them via the UGCloud where they can click on the link.

Once students begin utilizing the link you will receive notifications that friends have joined your session (this way you can tell if you are missing anyone in the tour).  Students will not only be able to view exactly which website you are sharing with them, and follow you as you click on and travel to other sites along the way, but they can also watch as your highlighted pointer show them what you are clicking on, hovering over, etc.  When you wish to terminate your session simply click on the red X in the tool bar along the left-hand side of the page (see image at right) and everyone will be released to begin surfing on their own again.

I hope that this will be a useful tool you can keep in your repertoire and may come in handy in the future.   If you have an idea for a future blog topic, please feel free to pass it along to me.