Pragmatic tools and ideas for the classroom

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 #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 #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 #7

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #7

Here are 5 links for you to explore.


A “Digital Arts” Menu for Multiple Intelligences

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2. Create online art

Mr. Picasso Head

I shared this with Trina, ask her how she used it with her class. I also wrote about it before on this blog.

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3. For your listening pleasure


Want to send someone a song without them having to download it? Tell them it is a Beautiful Day? Or just listen to songs from your favorite artists? Or create playlists? Songza has it all… and you don’t even need to sign up if you don’t want to.

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4. More fun…

I asked my Twitter network for ideas and Gabriel in Argentina suggested Mr. Picassohead as well as these fun sites:

Create Your own Kaleidoscope 

Get Muxicall

Paint like Jackson Pollock

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The purpose of homework…

Is homework an effective practice?

What is it intended to accomplish for student learning?

How do you use it effectively?

How do you deal with homework that isn’t done? Is this the same as others on your team?

What feedback have you had from students? Parents?

What I’ve read recently to get me thinking about homework: 

Rethinking Homework by Alfie Kohn

Homework, the tip of the iceberg by Harold Jarche

What do you think?

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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!

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Art, digital magic, education, learning, lesson idea, links, teaching, tools, web based | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #7

Digital Magic #5

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #5

Here are 5 links for you to explore.


26 Learning Games to Change the World

To be honest, the only one I’ve tried is Free Rice, and I wrote about it here.

If you use and like another one, please let me know!

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2. GLOBAL ISSUES… continued

World on Fire – by Sarah McLachlan

A typical music video costs about $150,000. Sarah only spent $15 on her World on Fire video, and then she took $148,270 and spent it in ways that positively impacted the lives of thousands of needy people! (Donations list)

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The Math Playground

If you click on the K-7 Mathcasts you will get to see Voicethreads in action... (I linked to Voicethread in Digital Magic #2)

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R2D2 in the classroom?

OK Lawrence, this one is for you, although I have to say, “I want one too!”

Sorry to say there is no money in our budget to get these into our school.

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Academe’s Dirty Little Secret

This blog post is written by Darren Kuropatwa, a brilliant high school Math teacher.

Here is an excerpt:

“You can require your students to demonstrate their understanding of what they are learning by having them apply their knowledge analyzing and evaluating relevant novel situations or problems. Better yet, get them to create content that educates an interested learner and they will automatically incorporate all those levels of engagement while they make their learning sticky. I don’t need to tell you that there’s nothing like having to teach a thing to make you really learn it.

Darren walks the talk! His students will go home and spend hours helping to teach others, when it is there turn to scribe the class notes and post them on a blog for the other students in their class. You can see this in his Scribe Hall of Fame… or if you aren’t into Math, just check out the link to the article.

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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!

May 4, 2008 Posted by | digital magic, learning, lesson idea, Math, Numeracy, social responsibility, Social Studies, teaching, technology, tools, web based | 1 Comment

Digital Magic #4

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #4

Here are 5 links for you to explore.



It simply doesn’t get any easier than this to collaborate online.

Click on “Start a new meeting”, name your session, check the ‘private’ box. Invite people to join you by e-mail… and you are collaborating on your own personal online space.

Real collaboration, in real time.

Mark up websites, graphics, and photos, or start brainstorming on a blank canvas. Browse the web with your friends or make that conference call more productive than ever. No plug-ins, downloads, or firewall voodoo – it’s all here, ready to go when you are. Browser-agnostic, user-friendly, mom approved. Oh yeah, it does one-click audio chats too.Real collaboration, in real time.

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A great site with sections for Teachers, Students and Parents.

Here is a link to the Teacher’s Resource Page: Lesson plans, illustrations, glossary and much more. 

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Probably most useful with students on adapted programs,

(and also in Biology/Science classes).
"Visual Dictionary, to learn by way of image with thematic, 

clear and precise pages, with concise and rigorous texts...

Different from an encyclopedia or from a traditional online dictionaries, 

thesauri and glossaries because the images replace the words."

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4. WOW


My favorite, taken from the original source below,

is the Silhouette Illusion.

Stare long enough and she changes directions!

(If not look away and use your peripheral vision.)

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NOTE ON THE USE OF THIS RUBRIC: [Check out the link before reading this!]

Habits of Mind are the characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolution(s) to which are not immediately apparent. These behaviors are seldom performed in isolation. Rather, clusters of such behaviors are drawn forth and employed in various situations.”

 (Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick: 16 Habits of Mind) The purpose of a rubric when assessing student work is to provide benchmarks of achievement based on these habits which allow a student to understand their current level of mastery and discipline in order to set goals for future drafts, assessments, or marking periods. For as long as possible we will refrain from discussing grades, per se, and focus our discussion on achievement and progress. As long as a student continues to set goals, reflect and evaluate their work and habits, set new goals and modify their work, habits and effort accordingly, they will realize increasing success and achievement as the year progresses. Thus, rather than penalizing a student who begins the year as a believer and ends the year with nothing compared to them by averaging a lower earlier grade with a later higher one, the student is evaluated according to mastery and achievement as demonstrated by their ability and mastery by the end of the year. However, a student who may begin the year with the drive and motivation to knock on heaven’s door, but who then slacks off, loses focus and discipline and ends up wondering what they did to deserve this, will not be boosted from a D to a C because first quarter was strong when it is not reflective of the ability or master he or she consistently demonstrated.

Could you use this rubric or parts of it?

How important are these ‘Habits of the Mind’?

What does this rubric look at compared to what our report cards look at?

Do you ‘average’ previous terms or give ‘snapshots’ of where students are now?

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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!

April 27, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., digital magic, learning, lesson idea, Science, teaching, technology, tools, web based | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Digital Magic #3

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #3

Here are 5 links for you to explore.


Periodic Table of Visualization Tools

Periodic Table of Visualization Tools

Click on the link and then put your mouse over any section for a visual example of the tool. Great to remind you of different ways to visually express ideas.

Lesson plan: Students choose one tool from two different categories to demonstrate what they have learned.

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Back to Wiki’s


At our staff Pro-D session there were more questions about wiki’s. (Wiki-wiki means Quick in Hawaiian, not ‘clueless’ as I joked) 🙂

I provided a more informational introduction to wiki’s in Digital Magic #1, but this video is much more fun! Think of a word document online, that everyone who is invited can change, that includes a tracking history to see who did what. Or ask an expert, Stan, Sharon, or Lawrence, to show off their wiki’s. Here is one that I did for Science, where I tried to bring Science Alive! Check out the Senses page for a few projects.
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World Mapper

Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest. The map below is according to Population.

The world drawn to scale according to population

There are now nearly 600 maps. Maps 1-366 are also available as PDF posters. Use the menu above to find a map of interest.
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Cyril has a fishy card trick

This is CRAZY! Cyril does his magic trick, ‘oooh-ahhh…’ then he says, “But wait…” and then takes it even further… simply amazing!
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Clarence Fisher, a brilliant Canadian teacher and blogger, wrote this short paper (4 easy-to-read pages), Changing Literacies (PDF).

Being literate is so much more than being able to understand a written text on a piece of paper.

Here is a quote from his section on Access,

“Fast forward to our society and the ability we now have to drown ourselves in
cheap, disposable information from books, television, the internet, radio,
magazines, video, etc. In our time, one of the major skills of being literate is
the ability to access texts in many different forms from many different sources.
Importantly, it is not about searching for texts, it’s about finding them.”

In this article, Clarence describes why I became a ‘technology guy’. Actually, I don’t really care about technology… I just see how these tools, like wiki’s, can engage students in meaningful ways, where they create and share what they have learned in new, interesting ways.

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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!

April 20, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., digital magic, education, learning, lesson idea, lessons, Science, Social Studies, teaching, technology, web based, web2.0 | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #3

Digital Magic #2

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #2

Here are 5 links for you to explore.


Classroom Organization- Cooperative Learning Strategies

Nothing new here, but when I found this, it reminded me of some of the really interactive things I’ve done in my classroom, but didn’t use as much as I should.


Working in small groups

Group Size

Cooperative Learning Strategies

Learning Role Cards

Role of parents/carers in the classroom

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Teachers can get a FREE ACCOUNT! There are soooo many classroom possibilities.

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Click on a ‘crisis’ and find out more about it.
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National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Great for many areas of the Math Curriculum… and FUN too!
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How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise.

A Feature in the The New York Times, By Po Bronson. I will let the article speak for itself:

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.” Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.” Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart”kids took the cop-out.

Later, when given a much more difficult test, these results were magnified. It really is worth reading the whole article, but here is a key point about the research above:

Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

More food for thought from the article:

Psychologist Wulf-Uwe Meyer, a pioneer in the field, conducted a series of studies where children watched other students receive praise. According to Meyer’s findings, by the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude. In the opinion of cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham, a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further.

In a nutshell, praise effort rather than intelligence. The article goes on to mention the value this has on developing persistence when faced with failure, while praising intelligence increases the stress and reduces the desire to face such challenges. I will be thinking about this a lot over the next few days both at school with my students and at home with my own kids. – – – – – Po Bronson’s blog, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. From Part 4:

“A common praise technique that people use (I know I did it with my tutoring kids… up til a few weeks ago, that is….) is to use a present success to control future performance. For example, if a typically-sloppy child writes an essay that’s atypically legible, a parent or teacher may say, “That’s very neat: you should write all of your papers like this.” Even if it’s meant as sincere praise and encouragement, the research shows that’s not only an ineffective way to praise. In fact, like praising for intelligence – it can actually damage a child’s performance. Here’s what is going on…”

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Have a great week!

April 12, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., David Truss, digital magic, learning, lesson idea, Math, teaching, technology, web based | , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #2

Digital Magic #1

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #1

Here are 5 links for you to explore.



Want to use games in your classroom to help teach or study for a test?

Try out this ‘Make your own games with Powerpoint‘ site.

“The Parade of Games web site was created to provide educators and trainers with easy-to- assemble educational games in a technology- enhanced environment to support key learning points. The site demonstrates the creative use of popular game shows and other familiar games to reinforce learning.”

I tried out the Jeopardy game. It is this simple to get started:

• download the game.
• Highlight the Category Headings on slide 3 and put your own in there.
• Go through the powerpoint and change the text boxes as instructed:
In other words, the page might say: “Enter text for $100-question-Category 1 here”
-Highlight the text and put in your question.
• Change the background- Why? Because the one they give you is ugly and distracting!
I went to “Format” -> “Background” and did two things, changed the background to blue (like Jeopardy) and I also checked the “Omit background graphics from master”- you don’t need to do this, but it looks better!
• Delete the instructions slide… you are ready to play!

The best part… Jeopardy music!

The only trick is that you have to hit the ‘home’ symbol after the answer to get back to the game board or else you just go to the next question or slide.

If you try out one of the other games and like it… please tell me about it!

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Let Fido the 7up guy read your mind!

You don’t even need a computer for this one… just figure out the math! 😉

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“You are living in great danger and must leave your country. Will you survive? Test yourself.”

A powerful, interactive look at what life is like as a refugee. Includes great teacher resources.

This is a bit disturbing in that wrong answers result in torture… try it out before showing it to your kids.

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So what is a wiki? Here is a nice introduction!
Be sure to ask Stan, Sharon or Lawrence what they are up to with wiki’s in their classrooms.



Actually here are two links for you!

a) Feel like reading? 15 year old Kris gives her eloquent view about what’s wrong with schools:

b) Just want to watch a video? Mr. Winkle Wakes

What do these two links have in common? They both make me ask myself questions.

Do we do what we do because we are used to it? Or, do we do what we do because it has always been done that way? Are we doing what’s best for our students? What do we do well? And, what can we do better?

What do you think?

April 6, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., digital magic, lesson idea, social responsibility, technology, web based | , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #1

The Truth: Research Source Reliability

The Truth by Sean Bonner

A little humour by Sean Bonner that would make a good conversation starter/ lesson hook.

December 6, 2007 Posted by | across the curric., lesson idea, teaching, technology, web based | | Comments Off on The Truth: Research Source Reliability