Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quelques bons livres en français.

If you are looking for French titles to supplement your Immersion collection, and you are working in an "hors-Québec" Canadian school, you will often find that local booksellers have a very limited French selection. Chapters carries just a few books, and prompts me to order titles from Europe. If I choose the French version of, the titles I see are still mostly English.

My solution? I click on the website of Renaud-Bray . This well designed bookstore has suggestions for novels, movies, music and best of all, it's Canadian (good for me, as I am in Canada!) Order enough, and shipping is free. Great selection, and no-fuss shopping. One of my strategies is to select teen novels that have been translated from English. The students are always keen to read something from a series or an author they know.

What Time is it Mr Wolf? Timekeeping Tools

In one of my Masters classes, I was talking to a fellow student about ways to make the SmartBoard an on-going useful tool, rather than a once-in-a-blue-moon activity. I think the secret is to use this resource as much as possible, even if it's only for a simple mundane purpose initially. Then, once using it is built into your routine, you can add more applications.

Take for example the "problem" of timekeeping. Often, it's a great strategy to give students a time limit to reflect, discuss with a partner or work through a problem. This keeps the activity focused and avoids unproductive lulls in your lesson. The timers you can buy for the overhead can be quite expensive, but there are "free" on-line tools that will to the same this. For example, having these links bookmarked on your SmartBoard means you can pull it up at moment's notice.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm ready for my close-up

Want to edit red-eye, add some special effects or just tweak a photo before you use it? But you are not on a computer with iPhoto or Photoshop? Try this clever web-app: Fotoflexer. You can upload a picture from your computer, make the changes you want and then download the finished product to your local computer. Very slick!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Slide show sharing?

As we move to bringing more technology options into classrooms, many teachers and teacher-librarians are giving students the choice of creating Powerpoint presentations to demonstrate their learning. But I have seen some of those presentations, and many need work! How can we help our students do a good job?

Too many words, too many animations, reading the slides word for word, bar-graph overload, bad colours, no real content.... Jamie McKenzie has a great (even if it was written in 2000) article on avoiding Powerpointlessness. He includes many tips from planning to presenting, and assessing. Worth a read.

There's actually a funny clip that illustrates the bad techniques some designers use. Click below for the video.

Life After Death by PowerPoint

There are a number of on-line tutorials that teachers can consult to help students create an effective presentation. The important thing to remember is that the slide show simply highlights the points that the presenter is making: main points & key graphics, not pages of text!

One way to have students present PPT and also make them available for the rest of the class to review later is to use a site like Slideshare. With this Web-app, students (and teachers) can upload short Powerpoint files, and then play them on any web-connected computer. While it doesn't support fancy transitions and dancing graphics, it's also a good way to archive student work. It will also allow you to add audio.

How To -ppt-design
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: ppt tutorial)

Another way to upload your Powerpoint with audio is to use "Authorstream" - it's a quick registration (And it's free.) Click here for the instructions.

And if you want templates galore to try, check out "Indezine".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Youtube" for Picture Books! - LookyBook

[As of Mar 2009, Lookybook is no longer active.]

Elementary teacher-librarians will love this site I stumbled across: LookyBook. What's so great about this resource is you can use it to preview a title, or allow kids to re-read at home a book you've presented in the library. You can even embed your favs on your own webpage. See the sample below! (Clicking on the orange eyeglasses will take you to their site. )

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Plan Your Space!

There are so many super little tools on the web that do just one thing, but really well. Want to re-think your classroom arrangement, but don't want to get out the graph paper? Try this very slick site from Another fun use is to have students design their bedroom, drawing in the needed furniture with the draw tool. This makes a great math activity. The finished product can be printed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Video Games and Language Learning

I'm always delighted when seemingly unrelated sources come together around the same topic. Case in point: my Masters' class had what is called an "institute" on Friday evening that gives the participants in the program an opportunity to see what everyone is working on.

One of the presenters spoke about the perception teachers have regarding "Educational Video Games" (EDVG) and their effect on language learning.

Coincidentally, I just read an article in School Library Journal about the future of books that contained an interesting quote about EDVGs.
"We all know that most teachers and schools are going to do everything possible to resist gaming in classrooms." (Do Books Still Matter?)

Both the tenor of this article, and the responses of the teachers interviewed for the Ma
sters' project were decidedly hostile to the value of video games in the regular classroom. Are we selling ourselves short by not capitalizing on students' interest in this phenomenon? In an article posted in the Ottawa Citizen entitled "Gaming Nation", the author reports that "[a]s many as one in three North Americans, or 120 million people, play video games for at least one hour every week [...] Canadians spent more than $933 million on video gaming last year [2007]. "

And when I talk to boys in my library, there is a lot of interest and knowledge about the different platforms, the games themselves, strategies, games sites, forums, etc.

So with all this "extracurricular" interest, does it make sense to pull some of this into the classroom? Do we have the hardware to do this? Do we want to?

Even if we are not prepared to have students "play games" during class time, we need to be more tuned in to the possibilities that video games can offer. For example, the very well-rounded and detailed worlds that some students inhabit can be an excellent source of inspiration for fiction and poetry writing. We encourage kids to write about what they know: for some students the world of the game is as real as any other. What about reading? If I know a student is interested in basketball, I'll look for a novel that is connected to that sport. For the video gamer, there are a number of novels that use the universe of the game as the backdrop for the story. These novels are so popular (I have a few in my library) that I can't keep them on the shelf and I have to keep replacing them because they are being "read to pieces."

The reading that gamers do in instructional manuals, strategy guides or message boards, though often cryptic and more technical than narrative, might serve as a “gateway drug for literacy.” [Constance Steinkuehler, assistant professor in the school of education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.]

Reading and contributing to game forums is another way to involve students. And I even know of one young man who has purposely joined a French speaking gaming community (on what's called an "international channel") so that when he "voice chats" during the game, he is forced to practice his second language!

For more on this, read "Composition, Literacy, and Video Gaming" from "Computers and Composition", an on-line journal that looks at the impact of new and emerging media upon the teaching of language and literacy.

See also:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Experience the "Teaching"

I just finished reading "Experience the Message" by Max Lenderman. This book has a lot to say about how advertising and promotion is changing in the new 2.0 on-line world. The old ways of reaching the consumer are giving way to what Lenderman calls "Experiential Marketing" or XM for short. (You can read more about this on his website.)

What I found interesting, was that the 8 principles that he claims drive the new way of thinking about advertising work well as a metaphor for a new way of thinking about teaching. If you replace "experiential marketing" with teaching/learning, and "consumer with student, in the first 7 of his 8 principles, here's what you get:

  1. Teachers should clearly deliver a meaningful benefit to the student.
  2. Learning will be predicated on a "one-on-one" personal interaction between a teacher and a student.
  3. Learning will be authentic.
  4. Teaching is based on engaging students in memorable ways.
  5. Learning will empower the individual student.
  6. Teachers will deliver relevant communication to students when and where they are most responsive to them.
  7. Teachers succeed when they use innovative approaches and tactics to reach out to students in creative and compelling ways.
Because our students are citizens of this new world, and respond poorly to old, traditional ways of marketing, it might also be true that they respond poorly to traditional ways of structuring the classroom experience. I think Lenderman might have something to teach us after all!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bibme - the easy way!

Ask any student what the least liked aspect of any project work is , and you will likely get the same answer: the bibliography. When I talk about this with my students, it usually comes down to the same scenario:
"It's midnight plus 1 minute on a Sunday night. The project is done! Pictures taped on, sparkle glue applied, titles and underlining all done...but wait. Oh no! The bibliography!"

There are a number of tools that students can use. If the school library uses Destiny/Follet as its OPAC (my district does), then you can use it to generate a bibliography for any books used from the collection. This link explains how to create a list, and then print that list as a bibliography.

Citation Machine and Noodle Tools also help with the process making it much easier. But wait, there's something even better. My latest discovery is BibMe. ( As it says on the website: "the fully automatic bibliography maker that auto-fills. It's the easiest way to build a works cited page. And it's free." Once you've created a login ID (easy to set up), you can enter author or title or ISBN (with a scanner, it's a snap) and get a complete record for your citation list. Bibme will even save your results so that you can add to them later in a second or third fact finding session. It almost makes creating a bibliography fun!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Another eBook post: Stanza

Reading on a screen is not like reading from a book. But maybe, in some cases, it can be better than a book. Lexcycle has released a Beta of a new ereader called Stanza. The strength of this program is that you can view very readable formats on a variety of platforms. While it currently doesn't work with DRM formats, the website lists a great number of public domain ebooks that are compatible. Give it a whirl.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Flyers, pamphlets, brochures...Authentic tasks!

A brochure can be a great way for students to demonstrate their learning. Especially if the "target audience" is a legitimate recipient. Research on a country becomes a travel flyer, research on a disease becomes a Health Canada brochure, research on an ancient civilization becomes a pamphlet for a new History TV series.

Depending on your students' computer access, doing it all on-screen means that the finished product can be emailed, sent home for parents to see, or even projected "big" for the class to view.

Here are some helps for your brochures:

Brochure Word tutorial

Easy Word template:

Other Word templates to download

You can even try this software needed: