9 Powerful (And FREE) Tools To Boost Summer Learning

The closing ceremonies were yesterday and there is only one week left of work before we head off on our summer adventures. Why notkill two birds with one stone and blend your travels with learning some new iPad tricks?

Check out the great ideas on how you can take your vacation photos and make some interesting multimedia presentations!

Rapidly approaching the dog days of summer (give or take a few days or weeks), I felt a need to share a power packed suitcase of tools that could be used to archive your summer highlights and memories. Many educators never really go on vacation. While they may appear to be leisurely sipping daiquiris on …

Source: www.edudemic.com

Wednesday Workshop: Moodle, Showbie and Conference notes

Just in case you missed another installation of our staff iPad Show and Tell, here is a list of links to the presentations and resources discussed!

1. MOODLE by David Pelletier

The first presentation was from David, who attended a tech conference and became enamoured with Moodle. Unbeknownst to him, he had already been using Moodle as a student – he is taking an online course on wine that uses it as a platform. It was the perfect opportunity to show us what the tool is capable of.

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2. Showbie by Nadia Schoonhoven

Nadia has been playing around with Showbie as a way to collect student assignments and give feedback. She is using the free version which means she does not have access to the built-in annotation function in the app. To get around this, she uses Showbie in conjunction with Notability to send her feedback to the students. As she mentions in her presentation, it is a great tool to help you go paperless!

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She even shared her presentation via Showbie so that I could have access to it:

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I also wroe a rAPPido review on Showbie which you can see here.

3.Conference notes by Melanie Leblanc

Last but not least, Melanie gave us a whirlwind tour of a dizzying amount of resources she learned about at her conference. Highlights include resources for making info graphics, and mind mapping tools.

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The presentation includes many excellent links so check it out!

Thank you so much to our presenters!


Updating my Skill Set: Getting Over my Fear of Photoshop

ladieslearningcode-500x500Learning something new is scary, especially if you have had time to build up a good infrastructure of fear around it. But there comes a time when you have to woman up and face your fears directly. That time came for me this last Saturday, when I took an introductory workshop on web design with the organization Ladies Learning Code.

That wasn’t the scary part. The scary part was that we were using – gasp – Photoshop as a design tool.

Confession time. I am Photoshop phobic. The few times I have tried to use it, I end up simply moving my mouse up and down with no idea where to even begin. Anytime photoshop is required beyond resizing or cropping images, I get my husband to do it (or my daughters- they are now both adept at using it due to Mr. Scruton’s multimedia class.)

Photoshop is one of the few tools I felt I needed some handholding to begin to understand (and, for the sake of my marriage, the hand holder could not be my husband), so I jumped at the chance when I saw the workshop advertised. It cost $50 and included a catered lunch. There was a workshop leader and then a mentor for every 3 participants (these people volunteered their time to help out) which meant that there was always someone around to help if I got stuck.

I met some interesting people and above all, learned the basics of navigating the arcane (ok, now a little less for me) world of Photoshop! I was even able to put my new found skills to work on Monday, when I designed the following poster using Photoshop:

Used Book Sale Poster

It was way easier than using word or powerpoint (which is what I have been using) once I finally understood the advantage of layers. Okay, so I have a ways to go in terms of design, but it’s a start!

I would definitely recommend Ladies Learning Code if you want to learn something new (they give introductory workshops on html, CSS, etc.) Their next workshop is a mother/daughter introduction to html/css. Check it out!

Now can anybody tell me what the heck rasterizing means?

Conference Notes Part II:Practicing Safe and Ethical Use of Social Media

The other conference I was able to attend in March was given by Alissa Sklar, the writer of the Risk within Reason blog (among other accomplishments).  This was a day long event for educators held in the beautiful McGill Faculty Club.

The morning was spent looking at a bunch of research and resources Sklar had curated for us as well as engaging in a discussion about the challenges in our schools and possible solutions.

We began by going through the 9 elements of Digital Citizenship as laid out by Ribble and Bailey:

1. Digital Access:

  • Who has access?
  • Who is tech literate?
  • Accommodations for those with no wifi at home

2. Digital commerce:

  • internet scams
  • create informed, careful consumers
  • ID theft

Here a question was asked that gave me pause:

What does it mean to have everything you do be a commercial transaction?  All the tools we use online (or at least most of them) are gathering our data, analyzing it and then targeting our ads. They are gathering our likes, dislikes, our browsing choices, etc. and using it for commercial purposes.

How does that make you feel? Ambivalent? Sort of creeped out? Feeling like that is somehow deeply wrong but not sure why?

Yeah. Me too.

3. Digital communication:

  • Communication online cannot be controlled
  • Privilege/responsibility are flip sides of the same coin

4. Digital Literacy

  • Evaluating online resources
  • how to search effectively

5. Digital etiquette:

  • Illusion of multitasking
  • Mindfulness

6. Digital Law:

  • hacking
  • Copyright
  • plagiairism
  • libel
  • school/teacher liability:
    • should teachers friend students on Facebook?

7. Digital Rights and Responsibilities:

  • Do no harm
  • Freedom from harrassment
  • Freedom of expression

8. Digital Health and Wellness:

  • Physical issues:
    • ergonomy
    • carpal tunnel
    • sleep deprivation
  • Time management
  • Impulse control
  • Technology hygiene

9. Digital security:

  • Protecting/backing up data
  • ID theft
  • online predators

As you can see- there is a lot to talk about, a lot to address with our students. Sklar then went on to suggest some ways we can address these issues in class. A couple of exercises she suggested were to ask the students to fill out a questionnaire on how much time they spend online and then keep a log of the actual hours they do spend online to see if their perception and reality match up. Questions to ask students are what kind of info can we learn from someone’s Facebook profile? Try making a book report on it. Or What does it mean when you sign on with Facebook? Google? What happens to your information?

Here are some of the amazing resources i was introduced to and which undoubtedly help in my development of an awesome, all in one, Digital Citizenship toolkit:

Family Online Safety Institute: Fosi.org

They have a family online safety contract you can sign with your kids as well as many more resources.

Scrubbing services: you can actually pay someone to scrub your data of all those pesky pictures your ex-friend posted of you at that party you don’t remember so well…

Hall Monitor app created by a quebec teacher, it is an app to help monitor students. We use google docs at our school, but someone actually developed an app for this.

Scarlet teen: It bills itself as sex ed for the real world.

SPARK Movement: “SPARK is a girl-fueled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media.”

Wattpad: an online space to showcase your writing. You can see some of the novels of a few of our students here!

Goorulearning: “Create and share collections of engaging web resources with your students. Browse courses in our K-12 Community Library to get started.”

Quixey: A search engine for apps!

Reading Rewards.com: This one is very intriguing- it adds a ramification element to reading- especially good to motivate those competitive students or the reluctant readers. The idea is that at first they do it for the rewards and soon find out that reading is in itself a reward.

TES: Teaching Resources: From the UK

As you can see, it was a full day!





Conference notes, Part I: MELS Symposium

The month of March was a busy one for me in terms of professional development, which is saying something seen asMarch break took up half the month.

On Tuesday, March 19th, I attended the annual Symposium for  Secondary librarians working in English (now that I think about it, that is kind of a miracle in itself, given the political climate in our pretty province. However, I digress.)

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 9.03.55 AMNow, confession time. The last couple of times I have attended this particular event I have not left it with anything new, besides the benefit I get from talking to my peers (we school librarians are lonely little islands unto ourselves). I am pleased to say that this year was the opposite. It shook me out of my own complacency and made me eat some humble pie (it is so easy to get arrogant about our own knowledge – it is good to have one’s mind blown from time to time.) Ok, so maybe mind blown might be an overstatement, but I definitely left with new ideas, and a lot of things I want to try out.

The learning was not only in the content but in the platform they used to deliver us the material for the symposium. They used an app called guidebook:

photoIt was an excellent way to organize a meeting, now that I think about it. Above you see the schedule for the day. If you tap on a session, you will get all the info attached to it:


I also appreciate having all the info in one place as I am writing this two weeks after the symposium and, well, let’s just say there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza….

Guidebook is something we might want to try for any large staff meeting or PD events. Wait for it!

The morning sessions were very interactive- I really enjoyed seeing how a whole conference could work on a same google doc. It was a good reminder that the simplest uses of the iPad- using a google doc- is also one of the most effective. I wonder how many teachers use this for collective note-taking?

Poster session

Even the poster session contained something interesting ( I know, I know. I sound so jaded, don’t I?) If you come to the library, you will see I put up some posters about the inquiry process. There is a new website, put out by MELS and in English and French. It provides resources to help teach information literacy specially adapted to the Quebec curriculum. Here is a screenshot of the website:

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I highly recommend you check it out. This will be very useful as I develop my Digital Citizenship tool kit for the staff! (what is that you ask? Well, that, my friends, is a whole post on its own. So wait for it. be patient. I know you can…)

Afternoon sessions

The last couple of hours were by far the most interesting. Here are a couple of things that struck me.

First was the online book club started by Lester B. Pearson Librarians:

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They had an interesting model- each month the librarians would choose three books. The students interested in the club would vote on the one they wanted to read most. The winner would be the book discussed in next month’s meeting.They used the built-in poll  widget available through wordpress.

Then there were two very excellent presentations:

The first on building your own personal learning network. Now, I thought I was pretty good at keeping up with my profession – I follow blogs, I use Facebook and twitter for professional purposes, I RSS stuff, I scoop.it… But still, Raphaella managed to introduce me to some tools I was not aware of. I also got a firsthand experience of how tweeting can work in a professional setting:

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Here are Raphaella’s slides:

Then the presentation that really set my mind a buzz- Gaming Strategies to Improve the Library Experience by Sandra Bebbington. Gaming strategies include using badges when students reach a certain level, giving points for achievements and leaderboards (though the last one wouldn’t work so well in a classroom setting…) Sandra added so many different links that provides interesting game strategy that my head is still spinning. Though most have a library focus, some have some cross-curricular interest.

The one that was especially interesting to me was the GAP project (Gaming against Plagiarism) from the University of Florida. Alas, they are in Flash so they don’t work on the iPad.

Seriously, check out her presentation- it is chock full of good stuff and ideas!

Apparently there is a game that overlays on your library catalogue- students get points every time they check out a different aspect of the OPAC. I am going to try and see if I can get it going- it would be a great way for the students to learn how to search for a book!

All in all, a very worthwhile day.


The Plagiarism Plague: A presentation using NearPod

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 12.37.15 PMYesterday I gave a presentation to the Grade 7s about plagiarism. It was meant as an introduction – what exactly is Plagiarism? What are the consequences? What is the best way to avoid accidental plagiarism?

I focused on talking about  the different ways you can accidentally plagiarize and suggested that summarizing or paraphrasing the information instead of copy and pasting it into their projects would go a long way in avoiding cheating. Once again, I want to repeat: this was meant only as an introduction! There are so many other things I want to tell them (how to evaluate a source, how to cite your sources, etc) but at least this is a good start.

I used this opportunity to try out Nearpod, an app that claims to be an” all in one mobile solution for teachers” and which I reviewed recently.

Although near pod allows you to create slides in the app itself, they only give you one template. But they do allow you to import slides from power points, PDFs, image files. So first of all, I made a simple powerpoint presentation and then uploaded these to Nearpod.


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LESSON LEARNED: I spent a lot of time deleting and re-importing my powerpoint slides. Either I found a mistake, decided I wanted to add a slide, changed my mind about layout. Every time one of the slides changed, I had to delete the previous slides and re-import the new ones. Each slide has to be deleted individually and sometimes the Nearpod site was very slow so this was very time-consuming.

BEST PRACTICE: I would suggest mapping out your presentation before even uploading to Nearpod. Make sure your slides are the best they can be, has everything on them, etc, before uploading.

Why not just use a powerpoint presentation you ask? Well, it is because of the interactive nature of Nearpod. When the students join your session, they see your presentation and you control their screens, in that they can’t rush ahead. When you swipe to another slide, the presentations on their iPad changes too. I wanted to try out this interactive feature- give them formative assessments, try out the drawing tool.

But I get ahead of myself…

Once the students join the session (You see the session code at the top left corner of the screenshots) they are asked to identify themselves:

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When I asked them if they knew what Plagiarism is, I was surprised by how many students had no idea what it was. In the future, I would put my definition slide before I gave the following quiz:

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I asked them a series of 9 questions, all true or false. It is plagiarism…

  1. If you copy a few sentences without adding quotation marks
  2. If you copy a few sentences without citing your source
  3. If you take someone else’s ideas without citing where you took the ideas from
  4. If you copy and paste information into a project
  5. If you write you opinion about someone else’s ideas
  6. If you copy someone else’s homework
  7. If you change a few words from text you copy and pasted
  8. You download an image licensed under the creative commons
  9. You do not cite your source for the image you downloaded

Here is what I saw on my screen as the students submitted their answers:

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As you can see, very few students got them all right. Confusion about whether or not changing a few words in a text was plagiarism or not abounded.


  1. In a stubborn old school moment, I was still projecting this presentation, even though all the students could see it on their screens. If I had to do it again, I would not project my screen, as everyone could see the results of the other students. It didn’t matter so much in this context, but one of the great aspects of this kind of guerrilla formative assessment is that the students can answer honestly and discreetly.
  2. I would take some time to discuss every question before they move not o the next. The results were coming in very quickly and because my screen doesn’t give me the actual questions, I ended up not being able to understand the results on the spot. I would have gone slower in this part and talked about every question.


  • Only project when necessary- remember the kids have it on their screens!
  • Get to know the software a little bit – how the quiz results look before actually using it in class. I only tried it out with one other person, which doesn’t give you the experience of having to dissect the answers of a whole class.

I am not going to show all my slides because, well, that would be boring, but here is an infographic I made last year about what makes you a plagiarist:

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Once we talked about what kinds of behaviours constituted plagiarism, I gave them an activity. We read a text about the Tasmanian Devil. Once we were finished reading it carefully (I read it aloud and the kids could follow along) I asked them to draw a mind map with the information they could remember of the text. This was a way for them to get some distance from the actual text and start thinking about it in their own words.



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The students used the “Draw it” function of Nearpod and submitted their mind maps:

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BEST PRACTICE: This worked very well, though the Draw it function is limiting and a little hard to use. But their mind maps didn’t need to be perfect for this experiment – it was only to give them an idea of how you construct one. For the purposes of this presentation it worked really well. The students also liked seeing their mind maps being shared with the group.

We looked at the information on the Tasmanian devil again. This time I asked them to write a summary of the information in their own words, once again without having the text in front of their faces:

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We shared a few answers with the group- and lo and behold, they sounded very different from the original text!

We then looked at other note-taking techniques: index cards, audio notes, columns, etc. We ended the workshop with the students pairing up and trying out the different methods of note-taking.

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Here are some screenshots of their work:

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BEST PRACTICE: I was very nervous that Nearpod wasn’t going to work, that the internet was going to be slow, that the software would crash, etc. so I made sure I had my slides loaded in my keynote on my iPad and that there was analogue solution for all the activities- I had a whole bunch of scrap paper at the ready just in case. I didn’t end up needing it, but it made me feel a lot better to have a Plan B, especially since the app crashed about two minutes before the presentation.

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All in all, I think it was a successful first attempt!

rAPPido Review: Nearpod – an app for the 1:1 classroom

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 12.37.15 PMWhat is it?

Nearpod markets itself as an all in one mobile device solution for teachers. It’s motto is ” Create, engage, assess.”

I know, I know. What exactly does that mean? It means that you can upload your presentations, add interactive quizzes, polls, websites, videos, etc. Once you have uploaded your presentation, your students download the app on their devices (in our case, their iPads) and they can follow along with your presentation on their own devices.

Their is a free version as well as a subscription based paid version.

I tried it out by uploading my Traf Reads 2014 presentation.


I could either upload content from my iPad (though it only allowed me to browse files in my camera roll, Dropbox and google drive) or I could use my desktop and simply drag and drop my files.This worked well once I figured out how to get to the screen that allowed me to crewe a new presentation- it wasn’t obvious on their default screen. But now that I have logged back in I am getting a very clear, intuitive screen that tells me exactly where to go, so maybe that was an anomaly…

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After that it was very intuitive, but BEWARE: you have to first convert your presentations into PDFs.

I also tried creating my slides from scratch on nearpod:

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I guess it would do in a pinch, but I personally like having more options.

It is also very easy to add a poll or a quiz:

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For the poll option however, you are only allowed 8 options per question. You can also ask your students to draw something for you. For example, if you have just gone through a geometry concept, you can give your students a problem and ask them to draw their answer and submit it.

Sharing with your students

This is the super easy brilliant part. The students simply need to download the free app and choose the student option:

photo 1-1


They are asked to join a session:

photo 1


They can then follow along with your powerpoint on their own device. Here is an image of the student iPad on the left and the teacher iPad on the right:



The students are then asked to sign in so that the teacher can see their responses:

photo 2


This is how the quizzes look like to students:

photo 3


Nice, elegant interface!

The teacher in the meantime is collecting the results on there device:

photo 4


So far, this is the best interactive assessment tool I’ve seen. It is simple and intuitive. The downside is the fact that you can only upload PDFs. It also does not function like an interactive whiteboard like showme or explain everything, nor does there seem to be a recording feature. However, if you have an existing powerpoint you use, this is a great way to go through the slides with your class (as long as it is a 1:1 class). The ability to add assessment tools to your presentation and give them in realtime, as well as the ability to anonymously evaluate your students’ responses, is extremely interesting.

Free Vs. Upgrade

The free version allows you to do quite a bit, but it is limited. The upgrade is a subscription where you have to pay a monthly fee, one that I find a little steep.Here is a screenshot of the different upgrade options:

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 10.18.00 AMIn my opinion, the free version gives you enough to work with.

Nearpod is a very interesting option for delivering content in a 1:1 device classroom. Check it out!