Dancing Lampshades

This beautiful choreography of human and quadcopters inspired a sense of wonder and inquiry in me. I checked out the behind the scenes video and got insight into the creative process, but my questions weren’t answered. Were the drones very carefully programmed in sync with the human? Were there independent people controlling each of the quadcopters? Are all quadcopters technically classified as drones? How expensive is this technology?

I think that videos like these are great for classroom room. Here are five reasons why:

  • inspire a sense of wonder in students (and teachers)
  • provide a context for exploring the language of inquiry and questioning
  • demonstrate the usefulness of technology as extension/transformation
  • activate research and exploration (online, contact an expert, etc.)
  • writing prompt for a blog post/ prompt for an open classroom conversation

And a bonus, for pure enjoyment.


Cross-posted at http://blogs.isp.cz/esit/2014/09/24/dancing-lampshades/.

Google Docs Adds Suggestions

As I was using a document in GoogleDocs the other day, I noticed a new button which said Editing. Curious what is was, I clicked on it to find out what it was:

If you’re a Google Apps user, you’re probably used to Viewing and Editing documents in Google Drive. A recent addition to GoogleDocs adds the functionality to see your own documents as those with view only access would see it. Suggestions adds the ability to color code edits in a shared document.


This lets the collaborators on a document accept or reject changes made to the document. This can be very handy for collaborations where individuals may review a shared document. The collaborators may go through the document together, deciding to accept or reject each addition as they work towards a final version.

It seems that this update to GDocs was actually done in June (while I was away from civilization with no Internet). The official Google Blog explains that suggestions will be able to be made by anyone with Editing or Commenting privileges, and can be accepted or deleted by any editor. Suggestions can be seen by everyone except those with View Only Access. Viewers also won’t be able to seen comments made in the document.

I think that these changes can support collaboration. It’s important to help students create agreements around edits, additions and deletions whenever they are collaborating on a project. Agreements are an important facet of collaboration in GoogleDocs where it is not immediately obvious what changes have been added/deleted to a document.


Cross-posted at http://blogs.isp.cz/esit/2014/08/27/google-docs-adds-suggestions/.

Now Crop Images Inside Google Documents

New Feature Alert

New Feature Alert

I’ve often added in an image to Google Docs, only to realize that it needed to be cropped. It’s been a source of annoyance to me that I had to crop the image in another program and re-import it to Google Docs. This problem no longer exists!


To crop an image that you’ve inserted in a Google document, select the image and select Crop from the Format menu.

Crop an image inside Google Documents

Crop an image inside Google Documents

I think that this is a great enhancement to Google Docs. How much will you use this new feature?

Cross posted at http://blogs.isp.cz/esit/2014/05/07/now-crop-images-inside-google-docs/

10 Reasons for Parental Guidance in the Use of Handhelds

Cris Rowan has recently written a Huffington Post article that outlines 10 reasons why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12. I acknowledge that she makes some important points but I do not agree with her conclusion:

Point 1: Children under two are experiencing rapid brain growth which could be impeded by use of technology devices

I take no issue with this idea.

Point 2: Technology use can delay a child’s development and learning

The research referenced in Ms. Rowan’s 2010 paper show a lack of parental guidance in technology use and overuse of technology in non-educational ways. The research also showed the importance of touch, connection and movement in development. The conclusion presented by Ms. Rowan is a ban of handheld technology, but an approach of meaningful technology within a balanced family and education environment (outdoor recess, storytelling, playing sports, etc.) is not addressed.

Point 3: Epidemic Obesity

I think that it’s important for schools and parents to provide children with engaging environments and adequate guidance so that they are not spending all their time online. Certainly, technology provides an alternative to engaging in physical activity. As a child, reading books was a challenge to my physical activity and I can remember my grandmother telling me that I had to put the book down and go outside to play. My point is that it’s the job of parents and other caring adults to model engagement in physical activity, and to provide frameworks for children so that they are physically active. One family rule may be that children are not allowed to use digital devices during an afternoon play date; a school rule could be that children cannot use digital devices for entertainment during recess.

Point 5: Sleep Deprivation

The issues raised in the article are that of inadequate parental supervision of children’s technology use and children having technology access in their bedrooms. Using an approach of finding a best fit of solution to problem, parents could create technology use contacts with children and have children turn in/turn off technology at a certain time each evening. This approach is more difficult than prohibiting access to technology.

Point 6: Aggression

This point raises the question, for me, of how we can protect children (under 12) from violent media content. In an elementary school setting, we wouldn’t select violent media content for use in class. Technology contracts with children should include details about quantities and types of media consumption/creation.

Point 7: Digital dementia

Have a balanced approach to life. Alzheimers.net list five things that people can do to fight digital dementia. We do all of them within our elementary program. There are many good reasons besides digital dementia for parents and children to do them also.

Point 8: Addictions to technology

Given that the problem here is that parents are addicted to technology and consequently detach from their children, it seems the solution should be to ban technology use for adults. If parents aren’t building strong attachments with their children, how do we fill that void? We need to address the problem (children need attachments with their parents) not the solution that children are finding for consolation.

Point 9: Exposure to radiation

Much of the research is on cell phone use. What do we know about radiation when using handheld devices? We don’t typically hold our handheld devices in close proximity to our heads like we do our cellphones.

Point 10: Unsustainability of our current approaches

I agree with the point but not the solution. The solution is to build a stronger culture of citizenship, not to simply disallow handheld use.


Finally, none of the 10 problems are confined to handhelds. This leaves me feeling that handhelds have become the scapegoat technology. It may be more difficult for parents to regulate and supervise handheld technology, but I’m a strong proponent of modeling citizenship to children and involving children in experiences where they get to make good citizenship decision with adult guidance. I think that it is more important to grapple with the difficult issues of allowing children under 12 to use handhelds within a framework where they are guided and supported than to ban all use of handhelds by them. This may mean having very strict guidelines about when a child can use a handheld device (e.g. during a long trip in the car but not at a family picnic; at home during set times but not during dinner). Parents also need to decide when they need to turn off WIFI on handheld devices, and whether or not it is a good idea for a child under 13 to have constant internet access provided by 3G.

Much of the research is on recreational technology use. Where does education fit into this discussion. Studies have shown that not all media consumption is equal (e.g. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-dobrow/screen-time-for-preschoolers_b_4184335.html). It seems a reasonable extension that different uses of technology affect children differently. This is an area requiring further research.


Link for Parents

Managing Media: We Need a Plan – http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/managing-media-we-need-a-plan.aspx

Who Wrote That? Authority Online

On January 22, Google added a feature to search to help you verify the authority of publishers online. This information automatically shows up in your search results when “when a site is widely recognized as notable online, when there is enough information to show or when the content may be handy for you”. Read the Google blog post to see what else Google had to say about this change.

I was trying to share this feature with a colleague today and it had dissappeared. Well, not really. As it turns out, the extra information showed up when I performed searches on google.com but not when I used a regional google search page such as google.ca or google.cz. This extra information shows up as a grey hyperlink to the right of the site URL.

google search

The search on the right is done in google.com; the one on the left is done in google.cz.

When you click on the grey arrow, a dropdown box provides information taken from Wikipedia about the organization responsible for publishing the web page, as in the case of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences shown below.

Image showing drop down box providing information about the website responsible for publishing the page.

Image showing drop down box providing information about the website responsible for publishing the page.

I think that this is  a great feature to help people evaluate websites. However, one shouldn’t depend on it too much. For example, the Missouri botanical gardens is likely a reliable source on water pollution but my search didn’t provide any gray indicator of additional information to suggest credibility.

TED Ed Clubs

TED has recently introduced TED Ed clubs. It requires that interested facilitators submit an application. If you’re interested in implementing TED like presentations in your classroom, you can sign up to receive access to the facilitator resources, even if you just want to use it in your classroom.


  • applicant must be over 13 years old
  • clubs must have an adult facilitator
  • 5-50 students per club

I have applied and will take a look at the 13 lessons. I wonder how the elements of TED presentations in the lessons compare with the elements that my Grade 9 students in previous years came up with for their TED inspired talks.

Google Search – Filters

Google has modified search to include an Applications tab. You may have to click on more to find it. I first learned of this from Martin Hawksey on Google+.

Screen shot 2014-01-15 at 3.37.43 PM

At the top level, you can also filter by images, maps, shopping, videos, news, books, blogs, discussions, patents, recipes and flights. The filtering options will depending on the Google domain that you are searching from. I see all filtering options when I search with google.com, but flights and recipes disappear when I use google.cz.

Digital Storytelling in Your Classroom


Collaborative Digital Storytelling by Langwitches, License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Collaborative Digital Storytelling by Langwitches, License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling is the creation of stories using electronic devices. These stories generally include multimedia such as narration, sound, video and images. Please respect copyright and fair use rules when selecting multimedia to incorporate into digital stories. Use Google custom search or sites like http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/, creative commons, and free sound to find multimedia that you are permitted to use, and remember to give credit to the creators of the content that you use.

Why digital storytelling

Digital storytelling provides students with opportunities to create understanding by analyzing and synthesizing content for use in the creation of a story with a particular perspective. These stories can be shared broadly and can be used to contribute to our communities.

Elements of Digital Storytelling

Traditionally, digital stories have 7 elements. These elements have been reframed for the educational context to create 10 elements.

  1. The Overall Purpose of the Story
  2. The Narrator’s Point of View
  3. A Dramatic Question or Questions
  4. The Choice of Content
  5. Clarity of Voice
  6. Pacing of the Narrative
  7. Use of a Meaningful Audio Soundtrack
  8. Quality of the Images, Video & other Multimedia Elements
  9. Economy of the Story Detail
  10. Good Grammar and Language Usage


Uses of Digital Storytelling

  • Biographical narrative from a first person or third person perspective
  • Present a historical event
  • Create a book review
  • Create a documentary
  • Construct a story around an image or set of images (e.g. creative writing)
  • Explore vocabulary using images and context
  • Explain a concept using images and sound

Activity 1: Create a Video

  1. Use a movie making app such as iMovie to create a video. Interview colleagues at your table about how they might use an iPad as an educator. Then edit your video. Finally, upload it to YouTube.
  2. At your table, discuss what content and pedagogical approaches would lend themselves to using video in your classroom.

Possible apps: iMovie, Puppetpals, Sonicpics, Sock Puppets, Splice, Animoto, SloPro, Vimeo, Toontastic, Fotobabble

Activity 2: Create an eBook

  1. Using the content that you gathered from your interviews in Activity 1, as well as your own reflection, create an eBook that highlights ways that the iPad can be used at your grade level. Include some multimedia content, e.g. for demonstration.
  2. Publish your book and be ready to share with others in the session.
  3. Reflect on how you can use eBooks for teaching or how you can facilitate student use of it. Does it fit with your content and pedagogical approach?

Possible apps: I Tell a Story, Kid in Story Book Creator, Zooburst, Book Creator, Storykit, Scribble My Story, Comic Life, StoryRobe, Little Bird Tales, Strip Designer

Digital Storytelling in the Curriculum

Digital storytelling can take the format of video, ebook, podcast, etc. Think about the unit that you most recently taught or was teaching. How could you have used digital storytelling as part of your learning engagements or your assessments? Please share your ideas on our padlet.

Bonus 1: Find a podcast of interest to you in the Podcast app, subscribe to it and customize the settings to fit your needs.

Bonus 2: Visit Apptivities.org and browse for something relevant to you or your students.


Links to explore

Multimedia Resources


Not all Screentime is Equal

Last week, I was in St. Lucia visiting my family. I observed my four year old niece’s screen use habits. Occasionally, she was quiet while watching TV or playing on an iPhone. However, most of the time, she was singing along with the show, answering educational questions posed by the actors, matching rhyming words, drawing pictures and reading books. At other times, she read physical books to me (mostly from memory), played with Play Doh, played with the family’s cats, wrote out most of the letters of the alphabet, played with her cousins, and inquired about everything that she observed family members doing. She is inquisitive and loves learning. She is ready for school before the teacher, who is a relative and lives next door.

Let me be clear, my niece is in the four year old program at her school and they use no technology during the school day. She spends several hours watching television or “playing” on the iPad each day. The apps installed on the iPad are all educational or blank canvas (to encourage creativity). As I watched her interaction with screens, it reminded me that not all screen time is created equal.

I had read a little on the screen time debate but my observations triggered my desire to know more on the issue. One of the first studies that I came across showed that “the effects of media are mediated more by what is watched than how much is watched” (Christakis & Zimmerman, as cited by Christakis, 2011, p.1).

I used to think that there was no reason to get a tablet for my niece, despite the interest of her parents to get one. Now I think that there is no problem with getting her a tablet, but that we need to be thoughtful about what we install on it and careful to use it with her to model responsible and meaningful uses. We know that a strawberry is a much healthier treat than a lollipop. Is it any surprise then that the impact of media on children depends on the quality and content?

I’m not saying that we should have no concerns about the rising consumption of media by children. I think that balance is important and that children should be exposed to a variety of experiences, many of them in the physical world. I also feel that an (arbitrary) determination of a maximum amount of screen time that children should have circumvents the more important discussion about the impact of different types of screen time. I say yay to learning time that involves screens, while recognizing the importance of other activities in a child’s (and adult’s) life. However, I acknowledge that it may be difficult to determine which apps and programs facilitate the ability of children to learn valuable skills, concepts and information. Lisa Guernsey stresses the importance of context, content and the particular child in determining the use of media.


Christakis, D. A. (2011). The effects of fast-paced cartoons. Pediatrics, 128(4), 772-774.