Pragmatic tools and ideas for the classroom

Digital Magic #19


This Digital Magic is all about Search tools. The term Google has become synonymous with looking things up. ‘Just Google it!’ can often be heard in response to a question… but intelligent search is not instinctual and takes critical thinking skills. Here are some tools that help make searching a little easier.

1. Google Advanced Search

Refine your Google Search with their new and easier to use ‘Advanced Search‘. What I like about this is that it shows you what the search looks like without using Advanced Search in the top box. So, students actually learn that wording in quotes looks for “exact phrasing” and a minus sign, (-), will search for pages that do not have that -word on the page. Note the + sign at the bottom where you can refine the search further with things like the date or the usage licences (which is handy when searching for images.


2. Images

Flickr Creative Commons Attribution Search is ideal for searching images that students are permitted to use if they are respectful to attribution rules (giving credit to the photographer) etc. I often use photos from this license on my Pair-a-Dimes blog: BY :: NC :: SA -Give credit to who took the photo, don’t use it for sale/profit, and what you use it for should be shared ‘alike’ with others.

Just for fun, check out Tag Galaxy to see a very visual Flickr search.

3. Newspaper Front Page Search

Newseum: As it is discribed on the site: The Newseum displays these daily newspaper front pages in their original, unedited form. Some front pages may contain material that is objectionable to some visitors. Viewer discretion is advised. I looked at September 12th, 2001 and I see why viewer descretion may be advised. Although this site is very US centered, I think it would be a great tool for Current Events and global perspectives.

4. A few more to check out

Colossus – International Directory of Search Engines. When you click on a country it even tells you which of these search engines are in English.

Search Me – see the front page of each page and scroll through them visually.

Joongel – Shows you different places to search for specific items such as images, music, video, news, cooking, health, and even gossip.

NoodleTools – A search engine that helps you find the best search engine for your search… umm o.k.

5. Things that make you go hmmmmmm….

Take a look at the New Blooms Taxonomy. Where does intellegent searching fit? How important will it be in our students’ futures?


Did you miss an edition of Digital Magic? Is there one you want to look back on again? Here are all the editions of Digital Magic in reverse order, (most recent first).

Have a great week!


November 16, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., digital magic, Social Studies, technology, tools, web based, web2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #19

Digital Magic #18

The Power of Sharing

On Thursday Oct. 30th I was interviewed on a live Webcast called Seedlings. It it now saved as a podcast and you can find it here. The last 15 min. of their show is always reserved for the Geek of the Week which is a chance to share links to really cool sites.

Here is the Geek of the Week on Del.icio.us.

So, this week’s Digital Magic will focus on what others have shared that they like:


1. Kerpoof



2. Liz Davis’ 21st Century Technology Tools

A collection of tutorials on Web 2.0 technology tools such as Google Docs, Wikispaces, Ning, VoiceThread, Diigo and Delicious.


3. Quizlet



4. VoiceThread

Although this was shared on Geek of the Week, here is a VoiceThread that I created for a presentation:

Learning Conversations

Notice how others have commented on my presentation using text, voice and video?

Things that make you go Hmmmmm…

How can you use Voicethread in the classroom? What benefits would there be to having students comment on presentations so that other students can see and hear the feedback? What subjects could you use this in?


Special thanks to Alice Barr, Cheryl Oakes and Bob Sprankle for having me on Seedlings hosted by EdTechTalk. They are wonderful educators that promote sharing and learning by teachers and students alike!

November 9, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., del.icio.us, digital magic, lesson idea, links, teaching, technology, tools, web based, web2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #18

Digital Magic #17

Photos and Bookmarks

Tagging and Storing them online!

Digital Magic was about the K12Online Conference two weeks ago, and Digital Magic featured Del.icio.us last June.

Well I’m combining those and featuring Chris Betcher‘s K12Online presentation called “I Like Delicious Things: An Introduction to Tagging and Folksonomies”.

He talks about saving and storing photos and bookmarks online, as well as the use of a really cool tool called Wordle. He focuses on ‘tagging’ which is like sorting into folders stored online.

Like all other K12Online presentations, this presentation is just 20 min. long and so it is a really quick way to get some Pro-D on using tech tools.

Also, if you are interested in storing all of your bookmarks online, so that you can access them from any computer at any time, (one of the most useful things technology has done for me), then ask our resident expert Stan to help you out. He just recently presented on del.icio.us at CUEBC. Or, go back to Digital Magic #9 to find out a whole lot more and to explore my bookmarks.


Things that make you go hmmmmm…

How can you use Wordle in the classroom? Words used most frequently show up larger. I used my Statement of Educational Philosophy to create this wordle.

Statement of Educational Philosophy

Statement of Educational Philosophy

How could you use this with provided texts or student work?

November 2, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., del.icio.us, digital magic, Pair-a-Dimes, technology, tools, web based, web2.0 | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #17

Digital Magic #16

Digital Story Telling with feature guest Sonya Woloshen

I teach grade 8 French Immersion.  Acquiring a second language requires four main components: reading, writing, speaking, and hearing.  Reading and writing are easily achieved in a classroom setting. However, listening and speaking are more challenging and, in my opinion, the most important for full comprehension of a new language. Traditionally, teachers play a CD of French conversations and students have a questionnaire to fill in.  Also, teachers give students oral presentations to fulfill their speaking mark.  Although these methods are useful, I feel as though there is a way in which we can heighten student learning.  When listening to a CD, there are many distractions: Jimmy is shuffling his papers, the CD is too quiet, Jane didn’t hear it and needs it to be repeated for numbers 6, 7, and 12.  With oral presentations, students are nervous in front of a crowd.  As well, they are not giving the presentation in their native tongue, which can be a very daunting task (even for me).

I came up with an idea to enhance listening and speaking after speaking with the department head who teaches Grade 6 late French Immersion.  She told me that the students are reading a series of 12 books to give them a foundation of basic vocabulary.  The students read the books in class, study the vocabulary and take the books home to practice.  However, she said she wished there was something the students could listen to at home that went along with the books, which were written in the 70’s.

This is when a light went off for me!  I thought, my students need a speaking mark, and her students need to hear an example of correct pronunciation.  My reply: podcasts, of course!
My students would record podcasts and I would post them on my website for the grade 6’s to listen to at home.  While I was testing this idea myself, I thought it would be even better if the grade 6’s could see the words and listen to the podcast at the same time.  Thus, I worked on a keynote presentation and added pictures to illustrate the story.  Then, I screencast the presentation while narrating it and adding music and voilà: a videocast!  I showed the example I had made to my grade 8’s.  They were super excited and wanted to start right away on our digital story telling unit!
I booked mac lab time and my students went to work right away!  I was so impressed with how quickly they picked up on how to use keynote (completely new to them).  After the next week, they started narrating their slidshows and I converted them and posted them online.  We also converted the finished videocasts to ipod files so that the grade 6’s could put the movies on their ipods if they wanted (to have it with them at all times).

Now, each week, the grade 6 class watches the Napoleon movies the grade 8’s have created.  The grade 6’s are really enjoying the videocast series and constantly ask when the next one will be
available on the web.  As for the grade 8’s, they couldn’t be more proud of themselves.  After I have published their movies to the web, I show them in class on the LCD with the speakers on.
Even though they are more advanced than the series of books, they watch and enjoy the movie.  I look around and see normally shy students beam with pride over the work they’ve done.  At the end of
the movies, they always clap for those who have made it (without my prompt).

Programmes used: keynote (mac ppt), screenflow, screencast-o-matic, quicktime pro, visual hub, imovie.


Thanks again Sonya!


Did you miss an edition of Digital Magic? Is there one you want to look back on again? Here are all the editions of Digital Magic in reverse order, (most recent first).

Have a great week!

October 26, 2008 Posted by | digital magic, feature, Languages, lesson idea, technology, tools, web based | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #16

Digital Magic #15

Amplifying the Possibilities K12 Online Conference

Go to their wiki

Click to go to the wiki

This K12 Online Conference kicks off with great 20min. presentations every day this week.

The focus is on several areas, but for the sake of Digital Magic, I will talk about the Getting Started Strand. Here are some video teasers to help you decide if you are interested in seeing any of these presentations.

K12 Online 2008 – Getting Started Teasers

“I Like Delicious Things” Teaser

By Chris Betcher

“Never Too Young” Teaser

By Sharon Betts

“Web 2.0 Tools to Amplify Elementary Students’ Creativity and Initiative” Teaser

By Jackie Gerstein

“What Is School?” Getting Started Keynote Teaser

By Alice Barr, Bob Sprankle, Cheryl Oakes

“What did you do in school today, last month and three years ago?” Teaser

By H Songhai

“Traveling Through The Dark” Teaser

By Steven Kimmi

“Reading Revolution: New Texts and New Technologies” Teaser

By Laurie Fowler

“Free Tools for Universal Design for Learning in Literacy” Teaser

October 19, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., digital magic, technology, web based, web2.0 | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Digital Magic #14

Creating a Wiki Page with Sharon Vanderhook

Thanks to Sharon for doing a great job breaking down the steps for those who may not feel totally comfortable with this great tool. Teachers can learn more about signing up for ad-free Wikipsaces here. I know these kinds of steps are just what my wife needs to get going on a wiki, and Sharon and I both hope that they will help you out too!


To Create a Wiki:

* Go to Wikispaces.com and sign up for a new account
* Sign up for the education plan – it’s free! You need to get a free plan first and then request to change it to an education plan so you get no ads and it’s FREE!
* Make sure you don’t leave any spaces in your name (you can leave a space by using an underscore – ex: Ms_Smith)
* Create your Home page (you will attach all your other work pages to this one)


* name your Home page
* If you specify you are using the wiki for educational purposes they will delete the ads that run along the side of your wiki

Under Look and Feel:

* you can choose the Theme
* background, text, links, and menu colors. Note that not all themes support all color options (I use original which allows my choice of background color).
* Choose a logo for your page


* Here you can specify who you want to view your site (public, private, or protected (where others can view but not edit your page).
* When you have people signed up on your site then you can also view who is a member of the wiki and delete or invite people here.
* You can specify whether messages are allowed from non-members
* It’s best to keep only you as the organizer with the ability to add/delete people from the wiki

Recent Changes

* You can see the history of the changes made to the site (which page, date, time and name of editor)
* If you click on the page or date/time it will show you what was deleted (red highlight) or inserted (green highlight)
* You can click on the name and see how many edits they have done and how many messages they have posted

New Page

* You can create new pages here to attach to your wiki
* New pages can also be created on the edit menu
* If you want to create a subpage (like personal spaces for students to do work) from your main page you can do this by going to edit this page and then highlighting the word (name) you want to link to the new page and then clicking on the web link icon (chain on world) then type in the title for the new page where it says wiki link. This will link the word to a new page that is a subpage (it won’t show up on the navigation bar on the left) of the one named on the wiki link.

Manage Space

* Located on the left bar
* Can access the settings where you can change the setup of your wiki, changer permissions, domain name, look and feel, as well as see what pages are attached
* On list pages you can print, lock, unlock, or delete pages. You need to lock the page if you don’t want anyone else to edit it.

Edit your page

* Holding your cursor over top of the button on the menu bar will tell you what the button does
* On this page they give you directions on how to edit your home page (by clicking on the edit this page button at the top)
* The first 3 buttons are bold, italic, and underline
* The next button, A, will allow you to change the font, color, and alignment (and sometimes the background color)
* The Normal button is for the type of heading you want.
* The next 2 buttons are for numbered or bullet lists
* The next button with the AlA allows you to put a horizontal line across the page to separate the sections
* The next 2 globes with a link are the add link and remove link buttons to link to other sites or to link pages within your wikispace
* The palm tree box is the add images or documents to the wiki
* The TV is used to inbed widgets (RSS feeds, video, audio, calendar, documents, polls, other Wikispaces, slideshows, maps, bookmarks, and other HTML (which is what I used to insert my cluster map)
* The table is used to insert a table

Inserting a Table of Contents

* In Edit This Page put [[toc]] at the top of the page and a Table of Contents box will be created on the right side of your wiki.
* Then you need to highlight text and change it from Normal to Heading 1 for the main headings
* For subheadings highlight the text and choose Heading 2

Changing your Profile

* You can add a picture or avatar to your profile
* You can send and receive messages. This will also allow you to send messages to everyone in your membership group. If you have messages, a letter with a red circle and a number to show how many messages you have, will appear next to your name at the top of your wiki page.


* You can post discussion items here and respond to other people’s posts.
* You can see how many people have viewed the posting as well as how many replies they have had.
* By clicking on the discussion item you can see what was said, who said it and when. You can also delete items (if they are inappropriate).

Notify Me (on top menu bar)

* Here you can set your monitoring ability for the pages. You can receive RSS Feeds for page edits and page discussions but this will load up your email so I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s easy enough to go in yourself and check the edits done on the page history.

Navigation Bar

* You can edit the navigation bar on the left side of your WikiSpace by clicking on the bottom link – edit navigation
* The Navigation Bar will allow you to move between the pages on your WikiSpace.

Inserting a Clustr Map

* You can add a thumbnail world map that will count show the location of all the visitors to your page. By clicking on it you can zoom in to a big world map, and even zoom in on continents
* You can get a free cluster map from http://www.clustrmaps.com/.
* You need to register to get one and they will send you a password to your email. On the registration page you need to type in the URL of where you want the clustrmap to go. Then type in your email address twice.
* Go to your email to retrieve your password. Make sure when you log on to your ClustrMap you change your password right away.
* When you go to your ClustrMap file then copy the url
* On your wiki click Edit This Page and then click on the add widget button and then other HTML and paste in the URL.


Thanks again Sharon! Want to learn more about wiki’s? Ask Sharon, Lawrence, Stan or I and we will be happy to share more!

Here is another introduction to wikis that I first linked to in Digital Magic #1.

Did you see how Lawrence used his wiki for Digital Storytelling in last week’s Digital Magic?

…And finally, here is a wiki I did for Grade 8 Science (the front page is my daily agenda), and a reflection that I did afterwards.


Did you miss an edition of Digital Magic? Is there one you want to look back on again? Here are all the editions of Digital Magic in reverse order, (most recent first).

Have a great week!

October 13, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., David Truss, digital magic, feature, Pair-a-Dimes, teaching, technology, tools, web based, web2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #14

Digital Magic #13

Digital Story Telling with feature guest Lawrence Mak

Thanks to Lawrence Mak for sharing this great project with us!


Here is something that I could never have done without wikispaces.

Last year, our class was able to make a collaborative novel. Someone else in the 1 to 1 Laptop program actually published a novel that the class worked on, and it took him all year. I thought that was a pretty cool idea, so when I got the laptops for the second half of last year, I attempted it using a wiki.

We had a group discussion and came up with three different characters (all middle school age so it was easy for them to relate). We came up with a general plot with the theme of conflict resolution (problem solving was a goal last year and still is this year) and bravery too.

So we brainstormed ideas of what things could be happening to these three very different kids. We came up with an overnight camping field trip where these three characters got lost from the rest of the class and had to overcome their differences to make it back safely. We brainstormed other twists & turns, and I took all these ideas and made 25 chapter divisions (one for each student to sign up for) so each chapter dealt with one small part of the story.

Before writing I taught them thoroughly about quotation marks, using direct quotes, and paragraphs. Students then wrote their individual chapters. Then the idea was for students to check and edit each others’ work (especially the one that preceded their own chapter for continuity’s sake). It didn’t work exactly to plan because we ran out of time in the school year. You can check out this “un-named” class novel here.


Thanks again for sharing this with us Lawrence!

Here are a couple other links to check out for Digital Storytelling:

1. 1001 Flat World (Wiki) Tales

The 1001 Flat World Tales Writing Project is a creative writing workshop made up of schools around the world, connected by one wiki. This blog will be the home to the award-winning stories from each group of schools that participate in the workshop, different topics, different grade-levels, different cultures, brought together by the power of stories. So, enjoy the tales, click around, meet the authors — and check out their blogs!

2. Alan Levine’s 50 Ways to Tell a Story Wiki

You will find 50+ web tools you can use to create your own web-based story. Again, the mission is not to review or try every single one (that would be madness, I know), but pick one that sounds interesting and see if you can produce something. I have used each tool to produce an example of Dominoe story and links are provided, where available, to examples by other people.

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Did you miss an edition of Digital Magic? Is there one you want to look back on again? Here are all the editions of Digital Magic in reverse order, (most recent first).

Have a great week!

October 5, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., digital magic, feature, lesson idea, lessons, teaching, technology, tools, web based, web2.0 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Digital Magic #12

Digital Magic #12 :: Big Thinking

Google is sponsoring a contest:

Project 10100 is a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible.

May those who help the most win!

– – – –

Also, here are a few people making a difference:

Students here in our district are using: Kiva.org.

Craig and Mark Kielburger: Free the Children.

Sarah McLachlan: World on Fire.


Click for World on Fire Video

Click for World on Fire Video

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Things that make you go hmmmmmm…

Are these ideas worth talking about with students?

How can you use one of these links/ideas in your classroom?

Do our students believe that they can make a difference in the world? 

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Did you miss an edition of Digital Magic? Is there one you want to look back on again? Here are all the editions of Digital Magic in reverse order, (most recent first).

Have a great week!

September 28, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., David Truss, digital magic, education, learning, lessons, Pair-a-Dimes, social responsibility, Social Studies, teaching | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #12

Digital Magic #11

Digital Literacy

Has a student ever handed in to you a Powerpoint or a movie that was absolutely painful to endure? I’ve seen my share of these!

Design is an important part of these kind of presentations, but do we teach it? George Lucas doesn’t think so, but he thinks we should.

Kids Learn How to Navigate the Multimedia World

Media Smarts: Kids Learn How to Navigate the Multimedia World

Click the image for the video, or see the Edutopia article here.

Last year, I showed a comedian talking about How NOT to use Powerpoint, then went through some presentations that I thought were  well done with my students and I was amazed at what (some) of the groups came up with on a big project we did.

Is design something we need to teach? Is digital literacy important? When are our opportunities to teach these skills to our students?

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Did you miss an edition of Digital Magic? Is there one you want to look back on again? Here are all the editions of Digital Magic in reverse order, (most recent first).

September 20, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., David Truss, digital magic, education, learning, teaching, technology, tools | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #11

Digital Magic #10

A Brave New World-Wide-Web

Last February I did a presentation to student teachers from SFU. It was done on Powerpoint and I wanted to put it on a wiki so I added it to a service called Slideshare. By adding it there, others could see it as well as the SFU group. I was shocked at the response, here are the current stats:

3676 views  |  4 comments  |  17 favorites  |  105 downloads  |  40 embeds

A number of people suggested that I make it into a video. I decided that I would do this for the end of one of my presentations at BLC08 this summer. So I added to the Powerpoint some details about how I am a networked teacher, as well as some music, and here is what I came up with in video format:

(It loads faster on the web site here. Or click below and be patient while it loads.)

One thing to understand is that this was not an easy process for me! I had a really hard time converting my Powerpoint presentation with timed advances into the video you see above. In fact, I didn’t have it ready until I had some help from my network this weekend. (I had to show it in Powerpoint format in Boston). You can see this video in very poor quality, here on YouTube, but it is crystal clear above thanks to another free service that was pointed out to me, called Blip.tv. I’m by no means an expert, but more than ever I’ve become connected to people who can help me! 🙂

The student quotes in the video are real quotes from feedback that I got on my first blogging and wiki experiences with students. These experiences really changed my thinking as a teacher.

My other blog Pairadimes for Your Thoughts has been a chronicle of what I’ve learned from engaging students with web2.0 tools online.

So there is a story about me and some of the things I’ve done online. I hope to feature some of you with your experiences. It can be as simple as describing a link you really like, or a lesson you’d like to share. Or it can be a story about how you’ve used technology to really engage a student or a class! Let me know what your thinking and I’m glad to help you out with it!

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Did you miss an edition of Digital Magic? Is there one you want to look back on again? Here are all the editions of Digital Magic in reverse order, (most recent first).

Have a great week!

September 14, 2008 Posted by | About Me, across the curric., David Truss, digital magic, education, feature, learning, Pair-a-Dimes, teaching, technology, tools, web based, web2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #10