Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

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.


iOS 7 for iPads in Education

Posted on: September 23rd, 2013 by Chris Loat

The release of the new operating system for iPads (and iPhones / iPods) has a number of new features that will affect how they are used in the classroom. Below are the upgrades in the new iOS 7 that teachers and students should know about for classroom use of iPads.

  1. Upgrade to Safari
  • smart search field (one place to type both a URL or search term)
  • smart searching (suggests closest match when typing in the smart search field)
  • tab view for all open windows (tap overlaying squares at bottom right) for iPhone
  • instantly view all links in your Twitter account timeline (tap on bookmark icon at bottom right, then the @ symbol at top right)
    Smart searching results after typing in ‘Edu’ in smart search field – ‘Top Hits’, ‘Google Search’ and ‘Bookmarks and History’

  • New Interface / Gestures
    • search your ipad from any home screen (swipe down from middle of screen)
    • see the preview screens of apps you are using / scroll left or right through these apps (double tap home button to access all open apps with preview screens)
    • put away / quit apps (first double tap the home button, then swipe the preview screen upwards)
    • access the control centre (swipe up from bottom of screen)
    • folders can hold as many apps as you want (swipe left to see different pages of apps within the folder)
    • Education Apps Folder – Page 3 of 4 

  • Control Centre – access this multifunctional panel by swiping up from the bottom
    • timer – has stopwatch, countdown timer and alarm
    • airplay – connect to Apple TV
    • calculator
    • access to camera
    • brightness and volume control
    • lock rotation
    • turn on/off your wifi, bluetooth, airplane mode and do not disturb
    • flashlight
    • play, pause or skip songs
    • View of Control Centre

  • Camera
    • take portrait, landscape, panorama (not on iPad 2 or iPhone 4) or square photos
    • add filters before taking the photo by tapping on three circle icon at lower right (not on iPad 2 or iPhone 4)
    • burst mode shooting of photos (hold the onscreen shutter button or volume up button)
  • App Store
    • has a new ‘Kids’ section, which rates apps based on age (up to 5, 6-8, 9-11)
    • updates done automatically in the background (no more little red dots!)
    In terms of pedagogical improvements, iOS 7 is not really any different from iOS 6, but the handful of modifications will make the iPad a bit easier to use in the classroom. If you are currently running iOS 6, stay with that operating system as the upgrades to iOS 7 do not significanly impact how students use the iPad in the classroom. Also, some apps have not yet upgraded to iOS 7 so they will run better in iOS 6. Are there any changes with iOS 7 I missed that will impact use of iPads in the classroom? Let me know below. Thanks. 

    Screencasting Apps for the iPad

    Posted on: September 13th, 2013 by Chris Loat

    Screencasting apps for the iPad allow the user to draw/write on the screen and narrate at the same time. Students can use these apps to explain their thinking (e.g. how they solved a math problem) or a process (e.g. water cycle). Teachers can also use these apps to explain a process or concept and post the information online for students to refer to at a later time. Check out the below 5 screencasting apps that the SD38 iPad study group reviewed.

    Sharing: must create an account to export screencasts


    it’s free

    easy to use

    screencasts stored online at

    can search online for images

    can access thousands of other screencasts on their website


    only one page of recording at a time

    no ability to email screencasts

    In the end, ShowMe is a very useful app but the ability to export via email would be a nice feature to have.

    Sharing: saves to, then can be downloaded as mp4


    fairly easy to use

    can connect to dropbox and add one page of a pdf

    can control pen width


    no ability to take photo within app

    no undo button

    does not allow multipage recordings

    In the end, ScreenChomp is a very good app for its ease of use, but its limited sharing options within the app make it less desireable.

    Sharing: export as MP4 movie files, PNG image files, or PDFs to Dropbox, Evernote, Box, WebDAV, Email, YouTube and the iPad camera roll


    loads of bells and whistles (slide sorter view, laser pointer, shape tool, multiple fonts)

    can import photos, multi-page PDF, PPT, XLS, RTF, Pages, Numbers and Keynote

    import from various sources (Dropbox, Evernote, Box, WebDAV, Email, iPad photo roll and the iPad camera)

    can create layered approachCons:
    costs $2.99

    could be too complicated for younger students

    no central site to save screencasts to

    In the end, Explain Everything seemed to be the best app for all users if cost is not an issue.

    Sharing: exported to camera roll, to YouTube, or as email


    it’s free

    has multiple backgrounds (e.g. graph paper, lined paper)

    variety of drawing tools

    video editing features (can rerecord a portion of the screencast, can speed up or slow down certain parts)


    interface not as easy to use compared to other apps

    when sharing via projector only the whiteboard is visible (less distractions while presenting but makes it hard to show a class how to use the app’s features)

    In the end, Doceri is the best free screencasting app for older students.

    Sharing: exported to Educreations website


    it’s free and easy to use

    has multipage recordings

    add images from web or camera roll


    very basic set of tools (this could be a pro if using with younger children)

    no eraser, shapes, highlighter, pointer

    no ability to email screencasts

    In the end, Educreations is a very good app for younger children but would like the sharing to be done as an email as well as to their website.

    Your Technology Toolbox – How Full Is It?

    Posted on: September 10th, 2013 by Chris Loat

    The other day I ventured into my mechanic’s garage to pick up my vehicle and noticed a plethora of tools in his toolbox, which was overflowing to a point that the toolbox wouldn’t close.  I was very thankful since I would not want my mechanic to be limited to one wrench or screwdriver to fix my van. I was then reminded of my job as technology consultant in our school district and wondered how many teachers, and students, have an overflowing ‘Technology Toolbox’? Or conversely, how many have only one tech tool in their toolbox?

    Teachers have a veritable plethora of learning strategies and ideas (e.g. think/pair/share, tableau) to fully engage their students in the lessons they teach to their students. This pedagogical toolbox is quite full and in many cases to a point that it is overflowing. Having a full pedagogical toolbox allows teachers to be flexible in their approach to teacher and allows them to adapt to the needs of their students.

    However not all technology toolboxes are full, for both teachers and students. This prevents teachers from planning engaging lessons for their students and also prevents students from readily adapting to the varying assignments. Having only one tool in the toolbox means students can’t approach problems in a variety of ways. The clever quote by Abraham Maslow “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail” fully illustrates this notion.

    So the question begs ‘How to fill our own, and better yet, our students’, toolboxes?’ Here are some suggestions:

    1) Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or press a button. Teachers who are less likely to press a button or venture off to the virtual unknown are less likely to learn emerging technologies.

    2) It is OK if your students know more than you do. Learn from them, and better yet, allow them to learn from each other. It is amazing how much teachers can learn from their students with respect to technology. When we first integrated iPads at Blair Elementary, I was trying to save a photo that was on the iPad and for some reason it would not save. The look of frustration was evident on my face, until one of my grade 4 students came up to me and said “Mr. Loat, just take a screen shot”. A sense of relief and slight embarrassment came over me and since then, I have always remembered this tech tip.

    3) Allow students to explore technology (e.g. apps on the iPad or online webtools) to realize the benefit / use.

    4) Familiarize yourself with apps, webtools etc… so you can point students in their direction. To do this, try out the technology or at least search online for ideas.

    5) Ask students for suggestions of what technology they would use for certain assignments.

    6) Provide assignments at the beginning of the school year that target specific uses of technology (e.g. make a web with popplet) and remind students they can use this for future assignments.

    7) Allow time for students to share the process as well as the product, and recognize the process as much as the product.

    I realize that it is hard for some teachers to find the time to change their approach for using technology in the classroom, but we must also realize that we are not preparing our students for later in life if we don’t at least begin to fill their technology toolbox. 

    Beginning of the Year Tech Activities

    Posted on: September 9th, 2013 by Chris Loat

    Here are a handful of activities to start off the year with your class in the computer lab. Feel free to share other ideas below.
    1. Make a wordle. Students brainstorm 20-30 words about themselves and make a wordle using the   webtool wordle. Remember to duplicate the words that are most important as the more times you enter a word on wordle, the larger it will appear in the image. Students can type the words in MSWord, save the file, then copy and paste into wordle; if they type them directly into the wordle text box, they won’t get saved.

    Wordle my son did about me.
    2. Make a poster. Have students get 9-10 digital photos from the summer and use them to make a mosaic or motivational poster at BigHugeLabs. BigHugeLabs has many other options for using digital photos.

    Motivational poster I made in 10 minutes from a photo I took this summer.

    3. Make a nametag with MSWord. Use the freeform tool (Shape>>Lines and Connectors>>3rd icon on bottom row) in MSWord to write their name in chunky lettering and then insert photos of activities, food, hobbies, likes or favourites around their name. When using the freeform tool, increase magnification to 200% for easier use. When it is finished, print it, colour it (assuming you print in black/white), then tape it to their desk.

    My nametag – letters made with MSWord freeform tool then coloured in with formatting pallette.

    4. Create an autobiography. Using the webtool Prezi, students can create a presentation about themselves to present to the class. Students can insert photos or videos about themselves to make their presentation come alive.

    5. Create a self portrait. Using the photobooth app, students take a photo of their face with various special effects (e.g. sepia, xray, popart). Then, take a screenshot (command shift 4) of a small section of their face from one ‘special effect’ photo and insert this onto an MSWord document. Take another screenshot of another section of their face from a different ‘special effect’ photo and insert this onto the MSWord document. Repeat with different special effects until all parts of their face have been inserted. To properly arrange the sections of their face, students will learn about resizing, layering, moving, and ordering images. Thanks to Roy K. for this great idea.

    Self portrait using various effects from photobooth app.

    Student Search Engines

    Posted on: September 7th, 2013 by Chris Loat

    You bring the class down to the computer lab and get the students to ‘research’ a topic. How many of them go directly to the venerable ‘Google’? I’ll bet most of them; however unless they are well versed in Boolean language, their search will result in the proverbial needle in the haystack. To prevent a million or so useless sites popping up, I suggest 4 search engines that will help students find kid friendly websites for their research topics.

    1. Kid Rex  
                – emphasizes kid-related webpages from across the entire web

    – powered by Google Custom Search and Google SafeSearch technology          

                – has many different search engines for students to use

    – also has dozens of links for web guides and specialized searches (e.g. one dedicated for finding webcams around the world)

                – google alternative safe search engines for students

                – students can use visual cues to navigate to find their specific topic

    – has various search engines on one page, all geared towards student use

    Happy searching!! 

    Streamlining Educational Technology in SD#38

    Posted on: September 7th, 2013 by Chris Loat

    Ever feel that you are pulled in 137 different directions when it comes to technology? Can’t keep up with all those tweets, updates, pins, pokes, apps, and more? Don’t know the difference between RSS, URL, PLN, FTP or SMS? You are not alone, and in fact are in the majority when it feels to being overwhelmed by the latest and greatest innovations in the world of technology. In a series of posts over the next year, I plan to provide some simplification of the technological world when it comes to education. I will look at one specific area of educational technology and provide some background information on it as well as some options or choices within that specific realm. My first post is on search engines – specifically kid friendly search engines. Which one should students use when the work they are doing requires them to do some online researching? I will provide some background on the topic (e.g. search engines) and then provide a brief explanation of some options. I won’t give every possible options; this won’t be one of those “83 Tips and Tricks for Using Google”. I will narrow the field down to 4 or 5 options and you select from them. Don’t agree with what I have to say or with the options I select? That’s OK – send me a better alternative and I will add it to the information (hopefully 46 people don’t email me about kid friendly search engines as adding 46 ideas would defeat the purpose). If you’ve read this far, I thank you and hope you can benefit from what follows below and what will follow in the coming weeks. Lastly, if there is a topic that I have yet to address and you’d like to see it covered in and upcoming post, let me know by emailing