Que Siri, Siri…

After seeing this video, I decided to give Siri a whirl. I asked her to take a note for me and she obligingly did so. Then a student came in to ask me for some iPads and I said, “I am talking to my iPad.”

What Siri transcribed is not fit for public consumption:

How embarrassing. Siri obviously does not like me.

After talking for a bit, we started to get along:

She even started calling me baby.

We talked about the weather:

Then got on to deeper subjects, like the square root of 360:

We even got into a debate- Siri insisted that Alexander Mackenzie was the first Prime Minister of Canada.  I always thought it was that charming reprobate, John A. Macdonald:

Don’t tell her, but I still think I’m right. After talking about our love of Paris:

I thought it was time to pop the question. Clearly, I too had fallen for her dulcet tones. But alas it was not to be:

As you can see, though the technology is brain-addling, it is not full proof. Siri still makes mistakes, misunderstands, takes us on some circuitous roots, despite her charming wit.

Here is an interesting article on how Siri can potentially change the face of education:


Read more…

What do you think?

Science Apps

via Teachthought

I came across this selection of  apps that might be of use to our mad scientists in the Science Department:


Read more…

We have only a few of these apps  on the iLab, but I would love to have the expert opinion of our mad scientists about some of the rest!

What we have on the iLab:


Using Virtual Worlds in the Classroom

via Techchef4u

Lisa Johnston has put together a great list of virtual tours from around the world:

Read more…

She writes about how these apps can be used to support literacy on her blog. However, I would like to go farther. I have already written about how Historypin and Aurasma could be useful in a history lesson in this post. For Geography- use the virtual tours of Hong Kong, Barcelona, London, San Francisco, Paris.  For History- what about  a tour of Malmaison or of the historic town of Assisi? What about presenting a few slides from the tour for a French  or Spanish class?

Any other ideas on how these virtual tours could be used?


By Guest Blogger, Mr. P.

At today’s morning meeting, I was scheduled to give my colleagues pointers as to how to use the iPad efficiently in an evaluation situation. But, as is often the case in meetings, we got excited over another topic, and the discussion was so fruitful that it would have been a shame to cut it short. So I thought, what better opportunity to guest blog than this!

Since the issue has been raised because of recent infractions involving the use of an iPad in a formal assessment situation, I thought I would look at the problem and find some pointers to help my colleagues use the iPad in their evaluations. I’m going to try and share my thoughts here.

Is the iPad absolutely essential to your evaluation? If so, why?

Why is the iPad needed for your specific evaluation? Are you allowing kids to research a topic, or are you just allowing them to use a scientific calculator application? If your students need to go online for the evaluation, just know and accept that this is the equivalent of giving an open book exam. Sure, you could tell your kids not to go on FB and share answers, but the truth remains that, given the possibility, some will give in to the temptation and communicate through their tablets; they could possibly argue that it’s not cheating, it’s “collaborating” (as one of our alumna used to put it), but quite frankly, your best weapon of defence against this is vigilance. You could ask the students to flip their desks around so that their iPad always faces you, or just request than you can see the iPad screen at all times, but ultimately, the onus is on you to keep your eyes open.

Thankfully, an iPad doesn’t multitask as efficiently as laptops do, so it’s more of a hassle to switch from one app to the other and therefore very easy to detect when kids aren’t using the apps they are supposed to be using. Again, in that situation, vigilance is key.

But what if I need the iPad, just not for its connectivity?

 Aaaahh, now we’re talking. If you want your kids to use a certain app in the evaluation that doesn’t require connection to the network, then you can kindly ask them to turn their iPad to airplane mode.

In your Settings app, Airplane mode is at the very top of your list on the left. It was designed so that such devices could be turned off while a plane takes off or lands, because apparently, the possibility of interference and running the plane in the ground because you wanted to check your email is real. To turn your iPad to Airplane mode, simply slide the switch to the right, like on the next image:

As you can see, the WiFi and Bluetooth capacities of the iPad have been disabled. No link to the outside world. Notice the airplane symbol that appeared in the top left corner. That’s your proof the iPad’s been disconnected. This way, students can’t communicate with one another, at least not with the tablet. Good ol’baseball signals could still be used. Look out for that.

On your end, if you really want to push your invigilation to big-brotherish levels, you could also turn on your Settings app and select Bluetooth. This way, your tablet will detect any other device that’s connected to the network. I ran a test for this in the rotunda, a test of which you can see the results on the following screen cap:


Three devices were on during my test. I suspect the phone was the property of a prospective parent that was sitting on the benches, waiting with his daughter, a future Traffite, no doubt. The other two devices were laptops carried by kids, computers that were not in use but willing and able to connect with my iPad.

For this to work, kids must have activated their Bluetooth capacities on their iPad. You could ask them to turn on both the Bluetooth and the Airplane mode (in that order) during a test, so this way you’d be able to see any device that tries to connect. Or you could also instil a feeling of trust, give the students rope, and hope for the best. That, may I stress it again, requires vigilance on your part.

By the way, the Bluetooth function is a sure-fire way of detecting cellphones in your classroom. Just sayin’.


Article from Alissa Sklar on the Amanda Todd Tragedy

Here is an article from Alissa Sklar (mother of two of our students and author of the Risk within Reason blog)  that nicely compliments my recent focus on digital citizenship:


Read more

Sklar reinforces our school’s attitude toward social media, where it is better to teach our children about it than to ban it:

Hysterical, fear-motivated responses include passing thoughtless and ineffective “zero-tolerance” anti-bullying policies at schools or banning the use of social media at school instead of teaching good digital citizenship.

She also reminds us that cases like Amanda Todd’s are extreme, the worst case scenario. That most teens’ experiences online is positive and kind. As well, she reminds us that it is very important to clearly define bullying and what kind of behaviour does or does not fall under this rubric.

Results of the Grade Seven Mindful Use of Technology Presentation

Last week I gave a presentation to the Grade Seven class about Netiquette and appropriate use of the iPad (and other technology).

Here is the presentation:


Click here for the presentation

NOTE: The slides don’t give a lot a way, as I don’t believe in reading off slides. If you want to peruse my notes, you can download them here: Grade Seven Social Media Presentation Notes

How did it go?

The students responded well to the presentation. They were extremely engaged and eager to contribute with their stories and examples, sometimes relevant, sometimes not so much (cough, cough.) As people who teach Grade sevens girls may know, they tend to be Chatty Kathies.

Still, having the problem of too engaged students is infinitely more desirable than the opposite. In fact, the discussion went on so long we needed a whole other period to finish up our contract. Thanks to Ms. Jackson and Ms. Allison for letting me take over their class for two whole periods.

Some Interesting Points

Teacher Use of Tech

As the goal was to create a contract which both the students and the class will sign, the conversation also covered the ways teachers are using technology. What became very evident is that the STUDENTS ARE WATCHING US. And though it might not seem like it, they are looking to us for models on how to behave. Our online use is just one of the laces where they are surreptitiously looking for guidance. The told stories of teachers (mostly in elementary school- so no fretting please. We are not talking about you, specifically) who would give a math test then proceed to play on her computer without turning down the noise. With the result that the quiet of the classroom was interrupted by the little beeps and keyboard clicks and email alarm sounds. Or of a teacher who would give her students reading time and then proceed to do her online banking. A lot of examples of teachers going on their facebook during class time abounded. I think these stories tell us that it is time for us to practice what we preach. Though it is not always possible as a lot of our work is on the computer, it is important to remind ourselves to be mindful about our use of tech in the classroom.

Versed on the Negative but not the Positive

I also found that many of the students knew a lot about the dangers lurking in cyberspace- internet predators, cyber-bullying, unsafe behaviours. But they had not thought much about the ways in which a well-managed online identity could benefit them.  As we all are pretty much in agreement that social media is here to stay (barring a zombie apocalypse of course), I think it is important to stop the less than effective scare-the-pants-off-them strategy (akin to the abstinence-is-the-only-kind-of-sex-ed-kids-need school of thought) and focus more on how developing a positive and safe online identity can be a good thing.

Constant Vigilance!

As Professor Moody says, we need to practice constant vigilance in terms of reinforcing the behaviours we expect from our students. If the iPads are not needed for a particular lesson, begin right off the bat with what I like to call the “wands away” rule. Ipads away please. If they do not listen, then behaviour marks are issued. Every year we have a few weeks where we need to reinforce proper attire with this method. I think iPad behaviour must be subject to the same scrutiny. After a while the students know to put it away.

Balance, Balance, Balance and Personal Responsibility

When I asked the students what teachers could do differently in the classroom as regards technology, a student answered,”give more paper worksheets.” Surprised, I asked her why. She said it was because the iPad is too tempting for her- that she found it hard not to resist playing games, etc. She thought if she could go back to having paper worksheets this would solve the problem.

I thought this was a good opportunity to remind them of their personal responsibility when it comes to their own behaviour. Aside from the fact that the iPad allows us to function with way less paper changing hands than before thus having a positive environmental impact, the technology was here to stay. There is no going back.

I also mentioned how our social media policy at Traf is very liberal as we believe in fostering personal responsibility and self-management in our students. To do that, they need to really look at their behaviour and challenge themselves to do better. Yes, the iPad can be a very big distraction, just like the book I tucked into my math textbook for pretty much my whole primary and secondary career was for me. the teacher can only catch so much of it- it is up to the student to be aware of their own behaviour and strive to change any bad habits.


In conclusion, here is the contract the Grade Seven class came up with on their own (okay, with a little bit of prodding, but not as much as you would think). As you will be called upon to sign this as well, I would love to have your feedback.



  • I will treat people online and offline the way I want people to treat me.
  • I will not be a jerk.
  • I will put my best foot forward.


  • I will always THINK before pressing send.
  • I will be aware of other people’s feelings.
  • I will always be careful about posting information about where I live or where I go.
  • I will always put my settings on private.
  • I will never talk to strangers online. I will also not send pictures of myself to strangers.
  • I will only friend the people I know.
  • I will always have a strong, secure, password. Not something that people can guess.
  • I will always DOUBLE CHECK to make sure I am sending my email to the intended person!
  • I will be aware of the “noise” of my device (playing music, youtubes, etc. in public places without earphones) and do my best to keep it to a minimum.


  • I will not play on my iPad when other students or teachers are talking.
  • Teachers- I will not use the internet for personal things during class. (ONline banking, facebook, shopping, etc.)
  • I will only use my iPad when the situation requires it.
  • I will give my full attention to someone when they are talking to me (I will put my device away)
  • I will represent myself and my school with respect.
  • I will stay focused in class and not get distracted by social media (eg. Facebook) or games.
  • I will never record or take a photo of teachers or my fellow students without their permission.
  • I will never say something online that I wouldn’t say in person.
  • I will not be rude or mean to other people.
  • I will not use social media to hurt or offend others.
  • I will not send an email, text or instant message when I am angry.
  • If I am not sure if my email/text/instant message may offend people, I will read it to a friend or parent first and ask their opinion.
  • I will not hack into other people’s accounts, change their statuses, or post under their names, even if it’s only a joke.
  • I will never copy and paste information from the internet directly into my project.
  • If someone asks me to take down a post or a picture that concerns them, I will take it down.
  • I will respect myself by not posting provocative pictures online.


  • I will take time to get away from the internet and be active (go outside and socialize face to face with my friends and family).
  • I will make sure to take a break from my computer (I will get up and move around).
  • I will remember that sitting and looking at a computer screen for long amounts of time is really bad for myhealth.
  • I will turn off my iPad at recess and lunch (unless I need it for for homework)
  • I will remember to talk to my friends!
  • I will prioritize the living person beside me and log off facetime.
  • I will set a time to turn off all my devices before bed.
  • I will agree with my friends to stop texting, instant messaging, facetiming, etc. after a certain hour at night.
  • I will never, EVER sleep with my phone under my pillow.

Questions? Comments? Rants?

Why iPads

After yesterday’s evaluation, I thought I would try my hand at writing a more detailed response to the “Why iPads?” question. Below is the result of my preliminary brainstorming.

I would love to have your feedback- what do you think?

The part I would like to bulk up is the claim to student-driven learning. Not that I don’t believe it- I obviously do, but have only anecdotal evidence from my daughter and from the classes I see coming throughout the library. In my daughter’s case, she has spent a lot of time voluntarily perusing apps such as Starwalk and anything to do with astronomy. When the students are allowed to “play” with the iPads in our iLab, their first stop is always the frog dissection app. A grade seven parent told me the other day her daughter, who has always been interested in filming, spends her time making movies- recording her world and then putting it together on imovie.

I would also like to mention that a tool is only as effective as its user. And in order to use it effectively, both teachers and students need to learn how. It is unrealistic to think our transition to an ipad school will be without glitches, or that the tool is some miracle cure to student disengagement. It is not. However, it has the potential to engage each student in a unique way. As for distractions, it is up to us to emphasize  that they also have a personal responsibility to use the iPad wisely. This is not a lesson I expect to hit home right away- it will take a lot of time, nagging on our part and discipline on theirs to drum the message into their heads. But this discussion will be continued in my next post when I will be unveiling the Netiquette contract the Grade Sevens came up with, as well some of the interesting comments they made about teachers’ inappropriate use of tech (cough cough).

In the meantime- let me know what you think!

Why iPads? 


Because it is lightweight, extremely portable and hardier than a laptop, the iPad is perfectly suited to the life of a high school student. It is small enough to be as mobile as a smart phone or an ipod yet with the functionality of a laptop.

As iPad expert Ian Wilson says, the iPad occupies the “agile” space:

[The iPad] occupies a new space in technology, one which is still undefined to some extent, yet which is likely to be significant over time. The space is between the mobile space occupied by phones and iPods, and the portable space which is where laptops and netbooks live. The new position in between these established areas is one I am naming the ‘agile’ space – as the iPad largely does what the other devices offer yet also offers so much more. Ian Wilson


The interface is simple and intuitive. The tactile aspects of the iPad are also uniquely suited to younger students as they can pinch and zoom, swipe from one screen to the next and generally interact on a more physical level with their work.  As well, the iPad has a long battery life that can last throughout the day. The auto-save function ensures students will not lose their work. It is hardier than a laptop and can withstand the migration from class to class as well as the commute home better than a laptop. Its mobility and functionality allows the teacher to not only manage their classroom more efficiently but go beyond the traditional space of the classroom.


Here are some of the ways an iPad can be used:

  • a word processor,
  • an e-reader,
  • a collaborative device,
  • a student response system,
  • a video and/or audio recorder,
  • a camera,
  • a movie or music editor,
  • a whiteboard,
  • a presentation creator,
  • a language/math/science lab
  • and many other uses.

This kind of versatility available in one device is unprecedented. The students need only bring one device to class and the majority of their needs are met. Here is an example of how the iPad helps teachers manage their classroom more efficiently: some teachers are using their iPads as a whiteboard, recording their lessons and sending their students the link as an additional study resource. All this with the aid of only one whiteboard app.


A 1:1 iPad program allows for amazing collaboration projects. For example, if a teacher does not feel the class is following a lesson, they can quickly give an online, interactive quiz to their class via an app such as Socrative or Clicker. They receive the results instantly, enabling them to see who is following and who is not. Students can share notes in real time, collaborate on documents, and work on presentations using their iPads.

21st Century Learner

Most importantly the iPad is a tool that supports many competencies essential for the successful 21st Century learner:

  • The ability for the teacher to record their lessons so that students can view them at home allows them to flip the classroom, liberating more class time for giving individual attention.
  • The students have the world at their fingertips- they do not to be in the library or the computer lab to access information, but can be on the bus home, or in the park.
  • Using the iPad for researching and creating develops essential media literacy skills.
  • With guidance from the school as well as the parents, an iPad can become a powerful training tool on their road to becoming digital citizens.
  • It supports student-driven learning. Exploring the different educational apps, using imovie, garageband and other creation apps to make something new, etc.
  • It supports different kinds of learners. The multi-meida aspect of the iPad allows students to consume their information in the format they are most easily likely to digest.