Archive for the ‘Teacher Tech Tools’ Category

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.


Simple Animations with Keynote

Posted on: November 1st, 2013 by Chris Loat

I love learning! Whether it is when I learn new techniques with tech tools or when kids learn new tactical plays in hockey – I simply love it when people learn. In my role as teacher consultant for technology, I have countless situations in which I learn something from students. It was just the other day when I learned how to animate with keynote from a grade 10 student at McMath Secondary. I was in the school supporting the use of iMovie while the students were making book trailers for the stories they read. One student was sharing some clips on his youtube channel and I noticed he had branded all of his videos with a little introductory animation. I asked how he did this and this is what I learned:

1. Open a new Keynote presentation and select the ‘Showroom’ or ‘White’ theme.

2. Delete the two text boxes on the first page to get a clear white page.

3. Select a shape (e.g. square) from the ‘Shapes’ icon in the toolbar and resize / change color. Note that the following can also be done with a text box or with an imported image. Check out the below animation made by your’s truly using imported images.

4. Open the ‘Inspector’ window and click on the ‘Build Inspector’ button (yellow diamond). Make sure  the shape on your screen is selected.

5. Click on ‘Build In’ and below that button, select the effect. Try them all to see which one you like.

6. Once the object is on the screen, you can also make it move in a straight line or arc. The path (red line in the below image) your object travels can be edited by repositioning the handles on the path, and the speed can be changed by modifying the duration.

Moving an object in an arc with Keynote

7. For multiple movements, program a series of ‘Moves’ that automatically happen one after another. Use the add action button for this.

8. Tap on the ‘More Options’ button at the bottom of the ‘Inspector’ window and a drawer will slide open. Tap on the first build and the bottom, select wheter you want the build to happen automatically or with a tap of the keyboard/trackpad. I usually select automatically for all of them. You can also select the delay time between each build.

9. Close the drawer and then hit the ‘Play’ button in the top left of the toolbar.

10. To convert the animation to a movie, click File>>Export>>QuickTime and save the movie to your computer.

The below video is a screencast of the process for making a simple animation with Keynote.

How to create a simple animation with Keynote

This ability to do simple animations can be used in various situations, but the value in sharing this is allowing the students to be creative with technology and experiment with different effects. We all learn by trying out new things, and this is no exception. Give it a try with your students.

Screencasting on the Computer

Posted on: October 29th, 2013 by Chris Loat

Screencasting on the computer is a great way to capture / record anything that happens on your computer screen. Whether you are teaching a concept, showing how to do something on the computer, or simply sharing some student work that is in a slide show, making of movie of what appears on the computer screen is an easy way to share with others.

What is a screencast? For those who don’t fully understand, a screencast is a recording (usually a move) of what happens on your computer screen, and is often accompanied by an audio narration. There are many examples found on YouTube (specifically ‘how to’ videos for using software) and they are also becoming a big part of flipped classrooms. Regardless of how they are used, screencasts combine a verbal and visual explanation of what is happening on your computer screen. Free applications that are often used to create screencasts include Camtasia, Jing, and Screencast-o-matic.

I like to use the application Screencast-o-matic, but I have recently found another option that is available to all macbook / imac users – QuickTime.

Yes – Quicktime. QuickTime is an application that is pre-installed on all apple computers (making it very accessible for mac users) and is capable of recording a screencast.

To make your screencast with QuickTime:

  1. Launch QuickTime Player.
  2. Under the File menu, select ‘New Screen Recording’. A black recording window will appear.
  3. Check out the settings by clicking on the small triangle to the right of the window.
  4. Once the audio and mouse options are set, tap on the record button (red circle).
  5. Double click on the screen for full screen recording or click / drag to make a custom sized window.
  6. Record your video and narrate what you are doing.
  7. Stop the recording by clicking on the stop button the appears at the top of your screen.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make a screencast of the above steps. To watch how to make a screencast with quicktime, check out the below video. 
Now which one was more useful? Being a visual learner, the video is far more effective for me to learn how to screencast. 
I have just started screencasting and it takes quite a few takes to get it right, but with a bit of practice and patience, I hope to get better at it. Enjoy your screencasting experience.

Using Popplet in the Classroom

Posted on: October 13th, 2013 by Chris Loat 2 Comments

Popplet Lite is an app that allows students to create a word web, mind map, or any other organized collection of ideas. The big differences between using Popplet and creating one by hand is that the ideas can be easily moved around and colour coded, and that photos/images can be easily inserted instead of written ideas. Students add ideas by double tapping the iPad screen to create a cell or ‘popple’.

Inside the popple, students have the option to:

  • type text in the middle of the popple
  • use their finger to draw a sketch (or handwrite) with the pencil
  • add a photo taken with their camera
  • add a photo from their photo library
  • colour code and resize each popple.

Most students will figure out how to add the different elements; however here are a few tips for using the app:

  1. For drawing sketches with the pencil, enlarge the popple, draw the sketch, then resize the popple down to its smaller size.
  2. To select multiple popples, tap each one with two fingers.
  3. You can copy a popple by holding your finger one the popple. ‘Copy popple’ will appear and then tap this button.
  4. Paste an image copied from elsewhere by tapping and holding your finger on a popple. ‘Paste image’ will appear and then tap this button.
  5. Move the entire popplet by dragging your finger outside of a popple.
  6. Move one popple around the screen by dragging your finger inside of a popple.
  7. You can cut/copy/paste text within and between popples by tapping and holding on the text. A selection of buttons will appear which allow you to cut/copy/paste text.
  8. Create a new branch between two popples by tapping on the popple, then tapping on the grey circle just outside the popple, then dragging your finger to the popple you want to connect to.
  9. Colour code your popples so each similar idea / word is the same colour (e.g. all proper nouns are green).
  10. Change the arrangement (left, centre, right justified) or size of the text by tapping and holding on a word, then tapping on select or select all. A new dialogue box appears on the right side of the screen to alter the text. This is done while in text mode, so tap the T on the popple before selecting your words.

Ideas for student use of Popplet Lite in the classroom include:

  • brainstorm ideas for a written essay in an organized manner. Remember, the ideas can be images from a website, photos they take with the iPad, or sketches made with the pencil tool.
  • make a word web for a specific unit of study or in second language. This is a great tool for ELL students or for learning French vocabulary.
  • make a concept map with connections between ideas (sadly, words cannot be placed on the lines in popplet). One could make a concept map without the adjoining words and print it off, then have the students add the words to show their understanding between the concepts.
  • categorize ideas / words / concepts
  • create a timeline by arranging the popplets in a linear fashion
  • collect facts for a research project (using popplet makes it difficult to copy/paste long sentences or paragraphs, therefore helps to prevent plagiarism)
  • create a family tree with photos and names
  • Ideas for teacher use of Popplet lite in the classroom include:
  • create your own 4 Pictures 1 Word game
  • seating plan (with names and photos)
  • class brainstorm of ideas
  • create a unit plan

See the examples below of how popplet can be used in the classroom

Canada Vocabulary for an ELL class, with words categorized
Seating Plan for a Classroom
Framework for brainstorming essay ideas
Fact Collecting for a Research Project on homo habilis