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 #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!

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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

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 #6

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #6

Here are 5 links for you to explore.

This week we have a video theme. I was tempted to discuss them, but instead I will let them speak for themselves… comments are welcome.


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2. The Power of a Signature

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3. Talking to Teens

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4. Miniature Earth

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Video’s are a great teaching tool! One way to start collecting them is to sign up for a free YouTube account. When you are signed in, and you find a video you like, just click ‘Favorite’ and you can collect videos there. Then from any computer you can sign in and find all your favorites.

YouTube buttons

You can also make Playlists, which lets you create video players, like the one seen on this wiki.

I like this because you can show a number of videos without students seeing the comments under the videos (which can sometimes be very inappropriate for classrooms). You can also use playlists to separate your favorites for different uses.

Start with the simple task of signing up for a free YouTube account, and then I’ll be glad to help you.

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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 10, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., David Truss, digital magic, learning, social responsibility, Social Studies, teaching, web based | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #6

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