Tech in SD38

Posted on: January 7th, 2016 by Chris Loat

Change. It can be a scary proposition to some or welcomed with open arms. It can be a benefit to those affected while at the same time, detrimental to others. It is safe to say that change exists in technology.

Formative Assessment With the App NearPod

Posted on: April 11th, 2014 by Chris Loat

Janice Novakowski and I were invited to work with three intermediate colleagues at Blair Elementary as part of their Innovation project for the 2013/14 school year. One of the goals of their grant application was to investigate ways in which technology can help with formative assessment. After sharing a few webtools and apps with the teachers, we decided together that NearPod might best meet their needs.


This student took a photo of the work they did in their notebook and highlighted the specific question for the teacher before submitting it.

NearPod is an app that combines presentation, collaboration and real-time assessment tools into one integrated solution. The app creates a wireless connection between the teacher and all students’ iPads and allows them to share work that between them. Teachers can create a lesson and manage that content on the students’ iPads. Responses by students on the iPad can be sent to the teacher during the lesson. This app can be used in various situations with all learners and we have found it to be a versatile app for formative assessment.

We felt NearPod would best suit the teachers’ needs because it provided specific formative feedback for each student (as opposed to general feedback about the class as a whole that you would get with the webtool PollEverywhere.) The teachers at Blair were looking at how immediate feedback during a lesson might inform their instruction and provide feedback to students in the area of mathematics and in writing. While planning how to integrate this app into the classroom experience, we realized that it is not necessary to create an entire NearPod lesson for each time you use the app. Instead, teachers can create a lesson with 5-6 blank pages, formatted as a ‘Draw It’ page and a couple of blank pages formatted as ‘Open Ended Question’. As the pages are blank, the prompts need to be provided by the teacher, and can be:

    1. written on the board/screen at the front of the room
    2. read out of a book
    3. given verbally.

One ‘blank’ NearPod lesson can be used in different situations with the intention that the teacher provides the prompts each time it is used. The students can respond in a variety of ways including:

    1. writing on the iPad
    2. taking a photo of their written work
    3. taking a photo of manipulatives they have used
    4. drawing a picture on the iPad
    5. taking a photo of a passage/picture from a book.

Students can also annotate/mark up their photos they take, which would allow them to highlight something they want the teacher to notice.


This student to a photo of the hundredths grid BLM used in the lesson, annotated it, and then submitted this as their answer.

On Tuesday, Janice worked with Kit Kwok as she introduced the NearPod app to her grade six students. One of Kit’s goals in using this technology was for her to receive immediate feedback when students began their practice questions in mathematics, so that she could provide support to the students who might need a mini-lesson or review before continuing on their own.

In this Math lesson, students provided their responses in two different ways: 1) Students completed the work took in their notebook and took a photograph of their response, often circling the answer to highlight it;  2) Other students took a photograph of the hundredths grid and then annotated it on the iPad before submitting it to their teacher.


This student completed their work on the hundredths grid BLM, photographed it, then annotated it in NearPod before submitting it to the teacher.

It should be noted that the Blair students are relatively fluent in using the iPads and were able to support each other and problem-solve as they learned how to use this app. Other classes may need more direction and practice before using it independently. It should also be noted that to start a lesson, students log in with a 5 letter passcode and download the template. Depending on the strength / speed of your wifi connection will determine how quickly the students can connect to the lesson. It is advised to stagger the log-in or do it well in advance.

Kit was very enthusiastic about the experience and was confident that this would be really useful to both her and her students. She liked how she could quickly see the list of students who had logged in and then being able to visually see who had submitted their work. She was able to click on a submitted file to enlarge it and see it in more detail and then provide immediate feedback to students as necessary. Going forward, it looks NearPod will provide the specific formative assessment needed to ensure our learners are understanding the concepts and information we teach on a daily basis.

~ Chris and Janice

Stick Around – Latest Addition to My List of Favourite iPad Apps

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 by Chris Loat

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 12.38.17 PMI just finished the tutorials for the app Stick Around and after learning how to use it, I added it to my list of favourite apps for the iPad. This $2.99 app allows students or teachers to make interactive diagrams / pages in which students sort words or label diagrams with draggable stickers. These stickers and diagrams are custom made so teacher or students can tailor their creations to any lesson being taught in class. While I was learning how to use the app, I thought that this is very much like a smart board activity, except instead of one or two kids doing the work in front of the class, all students can participate at the same time.

IMG_0734So how does this work, and what can you do with it? In a nutshell, you make a background (the fence, the flower, the lines and the written instructions), and then you make the stickers (the labels and photos of plant parts). The next step is to create the answer key by placing the stickers in the correct location on the diagram and outlining the location (this outline designates the correct answer for that label). Press play and drag the stickers from the right hand tray to the correct location on the diagram. Once all stickers are in place, press ‘Check’ in the upper right hand corner and see if your answers are correct. To see the app in action and watch the video tutorials, you can go to the developer’s website.

I followed the video tutorials for the flower diagram and it took me about 30 minutes to complete. This could be the best 30 minutes a teacher spends as this app lends itself to virtually any situation and is easily integrated into any curricular area. Ideas for using this include:

  • labelling diagrams (e.g. water cycle, plant parts, provinces)
  • ordering numbers (e.g. fractions, decimals)
  • sorting words (e.g. parts of speech, syllable count, powerful vs. weak)
  • sorting objects (e.g. rocks by type, activities by aerobic / anaerobic, solid/liquid/gas, living or nonliving)
  • sequence events (e.g. War of 1812, Confederation, bill to law, life cycle)
  • venn diagrams (e.g. whales and fish, Canada and China, quadrilaterals and triangles)
  • ordering smallest to largest (e.g. animal speeds, population of countries)
  • matching (words to definitions, shapes to lines of symmetry)

Ideally, we would want our students creating these puzzles as it would require more thought than simply recalling of facts / ideas. Having the students make the puzzles forces them to think more critically about the information and shows a higher level of understanding of the information (synthesis vs. recall of info) if they make the puzzle rather than just complete it. Of course, when they finish creating the puzzle, they would share it with others in the class.


Learning From the Students

Posted on: March 11th, 2014 by Chris Loat

One of the best parts of being a teacher consultant is when I get to learn new technologies, new approaches, or new ideas. Although the purpose of my role is to share ideas, approaches and technologies with others in our district, I often find myself on the receiving end of this learning. It is especially gratifying when it is a student who is doing the teaching, and today at Kingswood Elementary was a time when I learned 3 different things from students.

On the iPad, the keyboard usually appears as a solid keyboard across the bottom of the screen, but once in a while, it appears as a split keyboard. I knew that in Settings>>General>>Keyboard, there was the switch for displying the split keyboard. But did you know that if you put two fingers on the solid keyboard and separate them, it will turn into a split keyboard? I didn’t until a tech savvy grade 4 showed me today at Kingswood. The opposite is true for turning the split keyboard into a solid keyboard; tap either side with a finger and then slide your fingers together.

Using the two finger pinch to turn a split keyboard into a solid one

Using the two finger pinch to turn a split keyboard into a solid one

In this same class, we were using the app ‘Pic Collage’ to document some of their art work they completed during the year. While explaining how to put text on the screen, I mentioned there were 8 different fonts. A young grade 5 girl beside me ever-so-quietly pointed out that you could swipe left for more pages of font styles. Little did I know that THERE ARE FOUR PAGES OF FONTS IN PIC COLLAGE!!! I was ever so thankful, as were the kids in her class, otherwise they would have been ‘limited’ to 8 font styles. I have shown Pic Collage on many occasions and never noticed the 4 dots below the font menu (indicating more pages). Time to start noticing a little more carefully.

Little did I know there are 4 pages of fonts in Pic Collage

Little did I know there are 4 pages of fonts in Pic Collage

Lastly, when we were cropping the photos of their artwork, some students were struggling using the scissors to clip the photo. I showed them how to crop the photo in the photo album, but one student pointed out he uses a ruler to help guide his finger when clipping the photos in Pic Collage. He placed his ruler on the screen, slid his finger along the ruler’s edge, and ended up with a nice straight crop of his photos.

photo 2

Using a ruler to make straight clips in Pic Collage

What does this tell us? That we should allow our students to explore and learn on their own. That with a little bit of guidance around the big ideas of a lesson, students will easily figure out the details. That teachers should not be afraid to learn from the students, especially when it comes to technology.

Thanks to the students and staff of Kingswood for their enthusiasm towards learning about and teaching with the iPads and making me feel welcome each week I was there.

Using Minecraft to Model School Playgrounds

Posted on: March 9th, 2014 by Chris Loat

The excitement at Blair Elementary is growing with the news that they are going to be installing a new playground in the near future. Fundraising is in full swing but one thing remains to be decided – the plan for what features will be in the playground. April Chan, the school librarian, teaches a gifted group each week and she proposed that the students make a plan for the playground.

Students in the school were surveyed to find out their favourite parts of both the existing playground and the playground at a nearby community centre. Students then brainstormed materials and ideas for making the playground and sketched it out.


Brainstormed list of materials

Then they created a model of the playground with various materials, including wooden skewers, pipe cleaners, plasticine, paper towel rolls and more. Students used problem solving, cooperation, creative thinking and communication skills while working on their models. One aspect that was reinforced throughout was the processes used during the project. Students wrote reflections in their ‘Inquiry Journals’ and used these to help guide them through the process.


Model playground using various materials

Two groups took the planning stage to the next level and created a minecraft version of their playground. To create these virtual models, students used cooperation, a lot of problem solving, spatial sense and creative thinking.


Physical and virtual Minecraft models of the proposed playground

For teachers who want to take the leap of using Minecraft in the classroom, there are countless online resources – ideas of how to get started and ideas of how to integrate Minecraft into your curriculum. A great starting place is the recent post on Edutopia. Another great starting place is with your students – ask them how many kids play on Minecraft and ideas of how to get started. It won’t be for all students in your classroom, but providing this as an option for students might create an engagement level never before seen in some of your students.


Formative Assessment On the iPad

Posted on: March 5th, 2014 by Chris Loat

Students highlighting their work and recording their reflections with 30Hands

Today at Maple Lane, I taught a lesson on formative assessment to a group of grade 6/7 students from Sarah Beairsto’s class. What was unique about this lesson was that instead of using a pencil, students used the iPad, and specifically the app 30Hands. The students were in the midst of a project on extreme environments and Sarah asked me to do a lesson that allowed the students to do a reflection on the processes used to date for the project. As 30Hands allows students to attach audio recordings to photos, I thought this would be the right tool for the job. I taught the basics of the app to the class, then had the students take photos of the work they completed to date. This included all rough draft notes, any unfinished pages, completed pages, and any other evidence of work that was completed for the project. We then chatted about formative assessment. We brainstormed ideas for sentence starters that could be used in their verbal reflections and wrote these on the whiteboard. After this, we asked the students to record their reflections for each part of the project. In the end, each student had a 4-5 minute video of their photos and of their verbal reflections of the processes used in the project.

Formative Assessment Sentence Starters

Formative Assessment Sentence Starters

This lesson was a hit on many levels. Firstly, it was a collaborative effort between myself and Sarah (the classroom teacher). Secondly, if focussed on the process used in completing the students’ work. Focussing on the process (instead of the product) is so valuable for students, and bringing it to their consciousness is paramount in them understanding the importance of it. Thirdly, the iterative process of students recording their ideas further strengthens the understanding of processes used in thir project.

Will I do this one again? For sure! It has so many positives that I hope to model this lesson to every class I go into. Thanks to Sarah for the great idea and to her students for their thoughtfulness in completing these formative assessments.

QR Codes in the Classroom

Posted on: January 2nd, 2014 by Chris Loat

QR codes are becoming more prevalent in our society and can be used in a classroom in a variety of ways. They are popping up in our schools, and teachers are finding many different ways to use them.

Example of a QR Code

QR codes are those square shaped codes that contain different types of information and are used to direct people to some type of digital information. QR stands for quick response, referring to the quickness of accessing information once the code is scanned. QR codes, like the one to the right, are scanned using an app on a mobile device. I use the app Qrafter to scan QR codes, and there are many other that can be found in the app store. After scanning the code, your device will display some type of information, be it a url (website link), a text message, a photo, an email address, a voice message, or any type of information that could be made digitally.

There are a variety of ways to create QR Codes. Various websites offer free service to create them, including qrstuff, goqr, and qr code generator. I have downloaded a Safari extension that allows me to quickly make a qr code while browsing the web in Safari. Here is a quick video tutorial of how to install Safari’s qr code extension. There are also many free apps that can be used on your mobile device that also allow you to create qr codes, including qr code maker, qr code creator, fancyqr,  or qr scanner. is a website that allows the user to type in up to 100 characters and the site will create a voice message and corresponding qr code. Lastly, some of these sites will ask if you want to make a static or dynamic QR code. Static codes are one link for one code, whereas dynamic codes allow you to change the linked information after creating/printing the QR code. Dynamic codes are good for teachers who want to use the same code for a long period of time but have different information from day to day or week to week.

So how are teachers using these codes in their classrooms?
1) One easy use is to create a qr code for your class blog / website and paste it into the students’ agenda or home/school communication book. This gives both students and parents quick access to your class blog / website and prevents the ‘I didn’t know the url’ excuse.

2) Christy Rollo and Joanna Fournier at Cook Elementary here in Richmond used QR codes to record student reflections about their art. Students’ art was put up in the hallway and their reflection was posted as a qr code beside their art work. While parents were waiting in the hallway, they could check out the art and scan the qr code to listen to their child’s reflection about the art they did.

3) Kevin Vines at Dixon Elementary created a scavenger hunt using QR codes. During a family teams activity in September, he posted QR codes around the school. Each family team had an iPad and they scanned each code to lead them to the next one. The students worked together and got to know the different parts of the school, which was a beneficial for the younger students and new students at the beginning of the school year.

4) During a research project, students can be directed to specific websites via QR codes posted around the classroom. Although there is value in having students find and assess websites for reliability and validity, sometimes it is worthwhile to point them to certain sites and using a QR code makes this easier.

5) Teachers can post QR codes on their website to provide additional support for lessons taught in class that day. These can be videos of the teacher doing the lesson or links to other sites (e.g. Khan Academy) that provide a different explanation of a concept.

6) Schools can create a virtual tour of the school by posting QR codes in different areas of the school. In the library, a QR code posted there could show a video of kids using the library’s various resources. At the front entrance, a QR code could provide information about the school’s vision, philosophy, etc…

7) If part of a student project is performance based (e.g. a demonstration of a Science concept), a video of this can be linked to a QR code that is attached to the written/hardcopy part of the project.

8) Give students a virtual tour of another city/country by linking a QR code to a youtube video.

9) Send home a QR code that is linked to a class newsletter. This saves clicks on the photocopier as you can print off 30 qr codes on 2 pages.

10) Link a QR code to some type of exit slip and have students give feedback before leaving the classroom.

11) Students can create a podcast of themselves reading their written work (personal write, poem, story) and the qr code linking this podcast can be attached to their written piece (ideally posted on a bulletin board in the hallway).

There are many other ways of using QR codes in the classroom. Sites such as Schrockguide or Educator’s Technology have loads of information on using QR codes.


Rererecording with AudioNote

Posted on: November 20th, 2013 by Chris Loat

Just returned from Homma Elementary where librarian Carole Wilson is having some grade 3/4 French Immersion students create animations with the istopmotion app on the iPad. Students had completed taking the photos for the animation and were ready to record the audio voice-over.

Before recording the audio, students practiced the narration of the animation by reading their scripts and recording themselves with AudioNote app on the iPad. Students were shown how to record and playback their narration with the app, and then found a quiet place in the library to practice. Students recorded, listened, rerecorded, listened again, and even tried it a third time. This practice proved useful for speaking their script in a fluent and clear voice. The repetition of oral language was beneficial for some as they required repeated attempts to pronounce their words correctly. Working in partners also gave students another means of feedback to ensure they are pronouncing the word properly. This iterative process is very important for language development and having the feedback loop by tapping the playback button gave the students a great idea of how they were pronouncing the language.

Making Book Trailers with iMovie

Posted on: November 14th, 2013 by Chris Loat

Students in Rakshin Kandola’s Eng. 10 class are creating a different type of book report these days. Gone are the book summaries or endless comprehension questions that students often find very

tedious. In her class, students are making book trailers (in the style of movie trailers) for the books they are reading. Students are working in groups and reading the same material, then collaborating their ideas to create a book trailer that lasts 60 – 90 seconds. In the end, the groups of students present their book trailer and lead a discussion with the rest of the class about the theme, tone, characterization, issues, problem / solution, setting, plot and more. It is likely the collaboration process in which students learn about the different aspects of the story, but it is the final movie presentation during which students really show what they understood.

Students not only learn about different components of a story, but also learn about collaborating, compromising, cooperating, and communicating. They learn how to present information using visual, audio and video components, and learn how to get across a message loud and clear. Lastly, students also learned the value in being organized and in having a plan. Each class, students set goals and wrote a reflection on the process, and used this to guide/monitor their progress. Students also created storyboards and developed a sold plan before opening their laptops and firing up iMovie.
How did they complete such polished book trailers? Below is the lesson sequence for doing this, along with a couple of examples from her class.
1. Select the story they plan to read.
2. Read their books.
3. Use storyboards to plan out their book trailer.
4. Collect images / videos / audio, film and take their own videos and images.
5. Load content onto a usb drive and subsequently on macbook computers loaded with iMovie.
6. Begin to create book trailer with iMovie 11.
7. Midpoint check in. Students present what they have completed and get feedback from other students in the class in regards to their information and technical aspects of the presentation.
8. Continue to work on book trailer.
9. Present book trailer at the class filmfest.
My role in this project was to introduce iMovie to the students and show how they can present their ideas with video clips, images, audio clips, timing of information, camera techniques and more. I showed them how to use timing to create suspense, how to use the camera filters to create mood (e.g. use soft focus to create etherial mood), the impact of background audio on how images are viewed, and how to use the Ken Burns effect to bring attention to part of an image. In the end, students fully understood the finer points of the story, as well as how to convey a message using different forms of media.

Below are some examples of the book trailers the students created, and here is the a link to the series of lessons and project criteria that were used.

Book trailer for the story ‘North End Faust’
Book trailer for the story ‘Rebellion’
Book trailer for the story ‘Door Knobs’
Book trailer for the story ‘The Betrayal’

Using the App ’30 Hands’ in a Math Lesson Related to Multiplication

Posted on: November 7th, 2013 by Chris Loat 3 Comments

I paid a visit to my friend Patrece’s grade 4/5 classroom and I introduced her students to the app ’30 Hands’. For those who don’t know about this app, it is an app in which students take photos and put them into a slide show and then do a voice over for each slide. The students can then export their creation as a movie. I call these creations ‘Audio Slideshows’ and are a quick and effective way for students to explain their understanding or what they know.

The lesson I led integrated ’30 Hands’ with Math. The students were to make an audio slide show of different arrays they could find in the classroom. This helped with their understanding of the concept of multiplication and reinforced their basic facts. We did a quick review of what an array was and then we took a look around their room for examples of different arrays that were already in their classroom. Students pointed out the tote trays, their display of art work on a bulletin board, and the calendar were all examples of arrays.

Then is was time to take photos. We talked briefly about taking good photos and pointed out that all of the parts of the array need to be in the photo. Conversely, students could take photos of only part of an array if the array was too big. Students opened the app we navigated to the slide screen, after which they were sent off to take five photos of different arrays in or near the classroom.

After taking their photos, we reconvened the students and looked at what information needed to be included in their audio recording for each photo: 1) name the array in two ways  2) give the multiplication sentence and related facts  3) provide the answer to each multiplication sentence. We also talked about speaking clearly and loud enough so their voices could be easily heard, and about the fact they might need to find a quiet place near the classroom to do their recording.

Students then went off to find a quiet place to record. Most students found they had to do two or more takes for each slide, but eventually they all recorded their narrations for each slide with the relevant information. Students then exported their audio slide show as a movie and we shared them with the class with the classroom projector. I find the students are more apt to complete a well crafted product if they know it will be shared with the rest of the class. Below are a couple of samples of the student movies.

Was it a useful lesson for the kids? Absolutely, as it not only solidified their understanding of arrays and multiplication, but also introduced them to a very useful app. I remember one student in particular who did not fully understand how arrays connected to the concept of multiplication, but while rehearsing the narrations for her photos, the light bulb went on and she had a big smile on her face. Was it the verbal rehearsing or the visual in front of her, or the combination of the two that helped her understand? I wish I had asked, but one thing I know is that when students utilize verbal and visual information, there is a greater likelihood they will better understand concepts.