Tools for teaching French

Sue-Ann brought her UBC FSL student teachers to the DRC for a look at our resources and some pointers about how to use technology to help them teach French as a Second Language. I put together a page of links that they could refer to. (LINK) We looked at "Le Bon Patron", the entry level of World Book in French, 24 Heures (a "free" French-language paper), as well as some on-line magazine links and some other fun Web 2.0 tools to play with. (Here's an updated list (LINK.)

Rapid Web Developer workshop

This past week, I met with the Elementary administrators at Blundell School to review the steps needed to update their school websites. With Rosamar's help, we walked through each of the "editable" areas in the RWD folder and went over how to make changes and how to fix some common mistakes. Here's a link to the webpage I used for the session. The key is to stay on top of those few areas that must be updated (ie. Newsletter, Calendar). Other spots , like the School_News area, might need updating only once or twice a term. The advantage of using the RWD template is that everyone gets a nice looking site without having to know html or design layout.

Using the DRC - workshop

Linda F. asked me back to Tomsett to run through the process of research resources at the DRC (District Resource Centre) and booking them. I used the opportunity to talk about the 3 "Destiny" databases that teachers can access to support their work in the classroom: the library, the DRC and the eLibrary.

We looked first at the local Destiny catalog. (All district libraries are browsable by going to ) Teachers can use this link to check for DVDs, videos, books, etc that are located in their school library resource centre (SLRC). I showed participants how to create a personal list that they can then print or email to their TL. Keeping a list from year to year helps teachers keep track of what they did for units they develop.

The next area we looked at in detail was the DRC collection. Again, teachers can build a resource list for themselves, and then email the staff (from within the DRC catalog) to request kits or AV resources to support their teaching. I handed out a brochure that gives step by step instructions on how to do this! (You can find a downloadable version here.)

Finally, we spent a few minutes exploring the eLibrary, and looked at the eBooks, websites and WebPathExpress site lists that DRC has cataloged on a variety of subjects.

Indispensable - RTLA Sept Mini-conference (2009)

Our annual Fall Mini-Conference was another success this year. We were fortunate to have Maureen Ciarniello, Assistant Superintendent from West Van as our keynote speaker. (Click on image at left to view flyer for the day.)

Coffee and muffins, ULS books (thanks Ren Speer), a catered lunch, DRC tour and two tech sessions. A very busy day!

The tech sessions included a teaser about using EBSCO and WorldBook, and a walk-through some cool web apps to use with staff and students.

The link for both mini-presentations can be found here.

Outils pour l'Immersion

This week, I made a presentation to the summer Immersion institute at Dixon. My topic was "Des outils utiles pour l'immersion". I shared a number of useful sites, tools and ideas that teachers could use with their students. Here's the link to the "handout" I used: <CLICK HERE>

The great thing about these tools is that they add significantly to the kinds of things the immersion teacher can offer in the classroom. From "le bon patron" to "24 heures Montréal" and on to "Musikouèbe", teachers can spend less time correcting, and more time bringing "les actualités" and culture to their students. (Feel free to leave a comment if you find a particular link useful!)

Using Destiny

Linda from Tomsett invited me to come to their end-of-June Pro-D to talk about how to make better use of Destiny (our on-line library catalog) as well as how to use the Worldbook on-line encyclopedia and the EBSCO databases.

I've pasted below the Scribd version of the Destiny handout from the session.
Step by Step Destiny

The rest of the handouts can be viewed by clicking <here>.

A quick orientation to iMovie

I was asked by Bev at General Currie and Glenda at Spul'u'kwuks to introduce their students to iMovie. They both planned to have their kids use this software package to present learning from a unit they were currently working on, but wanted the students to be familiar with the application before they began.

The mini-project we came up with was a simple, fun presentation that would allow the students to use all the elements of iMovie:

  1. Pick a topic (ie kittens or gummy bears or...)
  2. Find 5 pictures (only five!)
  3. Import pictures.
  4. Place on timeline
  5. Add narration
  6. Add sound effects
  7. Add transitions
  8. Add titles
  9. Tweak final view
  10. Export as a QuickTime file. (Share)

In two sessions, after a brief demo, students were able to produce great little clips that they could show to the class. (An extra bonus: it was exciting to see students helping each other problem-solve issues that came up. )

I also used this same format on a Pro-D session with McNeely staff.

Rethinking the Library Page

I recently met with Colleen, the TL at Quilchena Elementary. She wanted to rethink her school library web page and was looking for some suggestions to implement. Colleen had already created a Blogger account that she was using as a jumping off point.

Here are some of the things she was looking for:
  1. A place to feature "Book Contest" titles.
  2. A place for kids to review books.
  3. A way to show off the new titles in the library.
  4. A place to list important links for research.
To keep things simple, the "review" feature was moved to a "sister" blog (Cyclone Review) and linked back to the main page. We set up the account so anyone could comment on blog posts (which were really a stem with the novel name and author name), but turned on "comment moderation" so Colleen could screen the reviews before they went live. (While most kids are great, you don't want to be caught having to do damage control!)

Each of the book posts in the sister blog is labeled with the book's title, which allows Colleen to add a "label gadget." This is an easy way to create an index! (See the sample pasted here:

As you can see, the contents of the Book Titles feature are listed alphabetically, and make it easy for kids to find the novel they are looking for.

Showing off the new books required a different strategy. For this feature, it was simply a matter of creating a LibraryThing acount, and adding the new titles. (This can be done using the title, author name or even the ISBN using a scanner.) LibraryThing can then generate a widget that supplies random book covers taken from your newly-created collection and serves them up on your blog. Very cool. Here's the link to the library for a look-see:

Near the top, you'll see the "New Titles" widget with book covers. Clicking on a cover icon brings up a short description of the novel.

Smart Board Training

I had an opportunity to go to a SmartBoard training session. While it was Level 1 (ie for beginners), I did meet some other people in the province doing fun things with this technology, and I did pick up some useful tips and tricks.

Here are some useful links we looked at:

The Smart Tech Newsletter

Browse lessons by IRP standards

Smart Tech Training Centre

There are a number of tutorials on this site, including:
Some Mac specific FAQs/files.

Some printable documentation for Mac users:

Here's a Manual for Notebook on the Mac that I found on-line.
(I think it is simply a compilation of the docs on the Smart Tech site.)

WorldBook and EBSCO with Steves staff

I met with members of Steves Elementary staff to look at the new Worldbook on-line (3 different versions: kids, Middle school and advanced) as well as some of the EBSCO host magazine databases the district is subscribed to (in particular Novelist). These are services that all Richmond District students and teachers have access to, providing a reliable source of web-based information. While it is important to teach kids how to Google effectively, it is also a good idea to point out the many fact-checked databases they have at their finger-tips. (As an aside, students can also access this information from home with a school code and password, or via RPL with their card number.)

Here's a link to the handout I brought to the session. It explains some of the features of WB on-line.

Novelist and Novelist K-8, are databases accessible using EBSCO. They give reviews of novels, provide suggested reading lists and in some cases teacher activities. Worth checking out to build your reading program. Here's the description from the service:
NoveList K-8 allows you to discover the fiction titles that are popular with young readers as well as titles to use in your classroom. The NoveList Learning Center provides a complete introduction to the product and shows you how to use NoveList to meet the reading needs of your students. NoveList K-8 contains materials for all K-8 grade levels and includes picture books, children's "chapter" books and young adult titles. Updated monthly, NoveList K-8 is your starting place for learning about the books that you and your students need and will want to read!

Students and teachers can get to WB and EBSCO via the eLibrary link that can be found on the District Library directory page. (Follow the links to "databases".) You can also look under the "Visual " tab on your local Destiny library catalog. (Go to your own library, click on "Visual" and then "eResources".) Your teacher-librarians can be a great help in brainstorming ways to incorporate these resources into instruction.

ESL Podcasting Production - McRoberts

I met with Ruth and Christina to work on setting up some demo ESL podcasts. They both wanted to create mp3s that ESL level 1 and 2 students could use to practice their English skills and speed their mastery of vocabulary and common phrases.

We looked at the variety of ESL audio resources on the internet: there are many! However, some use regional accents or expressions that aren't used here in BC. Ruth and Christina wanted a homemade solution.

I proposed two options: 1) easy but plain, 2) harder but more professional

Method 1 uses the podcast feature built into FirstClass. One of the "new page" options in the "WebPage Folder" on the FirstClass desktop is "Podcast". Users can record their voice with the built in Mac microphone, give the podcast a name, and in seconds it is on the internet for downloading. (This method doesn't allow for editing or sweetening - but it's fast!)

Method 2 uses GarageBand. (PC users could do the same thing with Audacity.) We we planned to record 3 samples: vocab, simple phrases, a listening exercise. After a few trial recordings, we used the following steps:

  1. First, we opened a GB file (New Podcast) and added an extra voice track, and an extra jingle track. (We simply copied existing tracks.)
  2. Then we recorded the first voice, all the way through, reading English vocab words, and leaving an "empty" pause to allow for the Chinese equivalent.
  3. With earbuds plugged in to prevent audio interference, the second voice was recorded onto the second voice track, responding to the English prompts in Mandarin.
  4. We then added a short spoken intro, and some "theme" music (from the GB jingles section.) and then tweaked the timing and volume levels.
Once we were happy with the final version, we chose "Share" from the GB menu, and then "Export Song to disk". We uploaded the resulting mp3 to a webpage for downloading by students. (Here are the samples)

Ruth and Christina are excited about the prospect of creating vocab podcasts grouped around themes. They hope to do the same for additional common classroom phrases. The third sample was a listening exercice: both teachers see lots of potential for this kind of activity.


More Pointers on using Garage Band can be found here.
Garage Band 3 Steps Garage Band 3 Steps powell.gordon

Baroque Music Project with Garage Band

I met with Lauren and Spencer at Mitchell to plan a Fine Arts project using one of the laptop labs.

Our goal is to have students learn about a Baroque musician, explore some music from the period and then compose some simple "pseudo-baroque" tunes using Garage Band. We decided on a stations approach.

1) The Listening Station:
Students can analyze some Baroque tunes by visiting the "podcast page" I've set up.
(Here's another good site.)

2) The Composer Research Station:
We will ask the teacher-librarian at Mitchell to help us pull some material for this station.

3) The Garage Band Station:
The students begin by playing with some demo clips I put together for the activity. Braver souls can try composing from scratch. (I'll post some student samples once we get rolling.)

Assorted midi samples and handouts can be found here.

And I've put the student handouts up on Scribd. You can view and print them below:

Baroque Unit PDF

Portable Lab Orientation

I've been traveling around to the schools that have booked the portable lab and talking about set up and brainstorming. Having the iBooks in the school (in groups of 10 or 15) gives the teachers great opportunities to extend what they are doing in the classroom without having to move to the computer lab.

Here's my handout for the teachers:

What Do You Want to DoPDF

Introduction to Word: Pro-D Session

Earlier in the year, I was asked to give a Pro-D workshop highlighting some of the features of Word that can help make work easier for student and teacher alike. I created a Word document illustrating a number of "tips and tricks" and then we played with the document to practice each new skill.

My presentation outline, as well as the practice Word template download can be found here.

Comic Life: "What I Like"

Kathy M and Sharron brought their Grade 2 classes to the computer lab today to learn about how to use ComicLife. (This fun program is installed on all the Macs in the district and provides lots of great opportunities for students to show their thinking.)

Because students import pictures rather than draw them on the screen, all students can see immediate, "professional" looking results. Budding artists can scan their drawings or hold them up to the Photobooth camera and import them easily.

We began by reviewing with the kids the various elements found on a typical comic book page: the panels, the pictures, the speech and thought bubbles, the "impact" words ("POW", "CRASH") and narration blocks. We asked the students to create a 4 panel page with a title in the first square ("What I Like"), and then insert three pictures of themselves: happy, happier and a little sad. Then they added a 2 speech bubbles and a thought bubble: "I like...", "I really like...", "But I don't like...")

Students had a lot of fun trying out the different options and experimenting with the program. (Plasq has just released a Windows beta that kids can try free for 30 days!)

Here's a sample I made to demonstrate:
What I Like2

Here are a couple of "how-to" handouts (2 page and 6 page) that teachers might find useful:
Comic Life Mini Manual

Child Labour: Brochure and Video

I met with Eve and Linda's Humanities classes today to introduce the project for their "Child Labour" unit. Students are researching some aspect of child exploitation in the modern world and tying it to the conditions of children in the Industrial Revolution.

We asked the students to imagine that they are coordinators of an outreach group that is trying to raise awareness about the plight of children working in difficult conditions. Each student will pick some aspect of the issue: carpet making, athletic shoes, exploitation, etc. After some in-depth research, the students will take on the role of an advertising agency tasked with marketing the human rights issue the student is targeting.

Students were asked to imagine that May is "Child Labour" month, and as part of a nation-wide campaign, they needed to produce a brochure (using Word) explaining the campaign issue, as well as a short, 30 second "spot" (using Animoto) that could be run on television and Youtube to raise awareness.

The brochure is being produced using the "business forms -> brochures" template from within Word. In order to introduce the technology piece, we spent some time choosing a format and playing with inserting and manipulating images.

(Students were also given the option of downloading templates from the internet: sample set 1, sample set 2.)

Note: If Word seems too complicated, or the teacher is looking for a more straight-forward way to produce a flyer, check out the "Mybrochuremaker" site.
Here's a sample made using this service:
Child Labour Brochure

The 30 Second "Spot":
We took the students to the Animoto site and had them create an individual account. Animoto will allow students to create professional looking flash movies that can be downloaded or posted to Youtube. They can upload pics from their computer or their Flickr or Facebook account. After picking the order of the images and adding text, they can pick music from a library of tunes or upload their own. Students can remix the project numerous times and then pick the best one for public viewing.

Once they are finished, they then email the embed code to their teacher so it can appear on the class blog.

Here's an example of Animoto in action from another project:

Top Ten Lists: in iMovie

I met with Norma J and June L and Boyd today. We were putting the last few details on a "Top Ten" project June is planning for her Communications 11-12 class.

She and Norma have planned a reading activity using the Top 10 magazine series. Once they've had a chance to read and rate a couple of the titles, the students will be asked to generate their own ten winners in an area they are passionate about: food, cars, skateboards, singers, etc.

Here's the handout we will use to help them organize their project:

For more detailed explanations on using iMovieHD, there is also a *great* tutorial for iMovie at on the U of Texas site.
You'll find a webpage, with short video tutorials, and a link to an entire video walk-through as well as a handy PDF version to reference. Worth visiting. (Scribd version below)


The plan is to use iMovie to present the "Top Ten" lists to the rest of the class. Here's a sample I created to show the students.


For royalty free music: (best choice, great variety) (15 sec free downloads...lots of choices)

Sound samples: (great selection of mp3s, plus some tunes)

For IMAGES, (Watermarked) (don't forget to give credit!)

For Video CLIPS (Watermarked) (don't forget to give credit!)

ESL Book Report Ideagram - with Scrapblog

Angela Lo asked me to come in and brainstorm an engaging twist on the "poster project" she usually does as a wrap up for her Lit Circle novel study.

We decided to use Scrapblog as a way of helping the students represent their thinking.

Here's a sample we created:

We divided up the 9 different elements of her "Ideagram" poster project into 9 separate scrapbook pages.

Ideagram PDF

Students were asked to do some pre-thinking and bring quotes, images (on a memory stick) and some text-text, text-self and text-world connections. In the computer lab, students were given an overview of Scrapblog, shown how to create an account, and turned loose on the project. (We gave them 2 blocks)

The students then presented the finished pages as a slide show. The beauty of using SB rather than PPT, according to the students, is the multitude of creative elements that they can use. If the student chooses one of the many templates available, then they can resize, copy and reuse all of the embellishments, frames, background, shapes and colours. Add to this, the ability to import your own pictures and graphics and you have a super tool for presenting your ideas.

Your resulting Scrapblog can be shared via email, or even embedded in an existing page. Because the project is stored in an individual student account, kids can work on it at home or at school, and the finished product can be viewed as a slide show with music, or "stepped-through" much like a ppt show. Students also have the option of exporting each page as a jpeg and printing or incorporating into another project.

Here's a student sample:

CSI websites for Science class

I met with Catriona at McNeill to plan a "CSI-like" project in cooperation with two science classes. The goal is to have students create a website, where each student contributes a piece/page and the combined effort results in a "crime solving" website designed to show their learning.

My first step, after creating accounts for the students, was to meet with the classes and go over the "ins and outs" of Richnet. I used the site I had created earlier for McRoberts Day. (Here's the link.)

Once the students logged in with their accounts and submitted the "Acceptable User Agreement", (I showed the students a version of the AUA, with the important points highlighted so they were fully aware of what they were agreeing to) we had them change their password to something they would remember (ie a Facebook password or Hotmail password) and then personalize their "resumé" with fun picture of a hobby or interest they have. (Students were reminded that all content needs to be "Granny Safe"!)

In a second session, I had the class apply for individual web accounts. The plan is to use their Richnet accounts to build their project webpage. (See sample screen shot below)

For each group, students created a common welcome page in each of their accounts, and then added their individual content page. The pages of the other group members were added as "bookmark" links created in the Bookmark folder on Richnet, and then dragged into the Webpage folder. Once the group members agreed on the order of their pages, visitors to any of the group members' site would see the same set of links, in the same order, with a common welcome page. (Last year, each group created their pages in a common Richnet account, but there were problems with work going missing or being deleted inadventantly. The advantage of creating the project in individual Richnet accounts and then linking them, is that each student is solely responsable for his/her individual page and doesn't have to worry about "cyber-vandalism" by a disgruntled group member.)

More Book Trailers - Com 11

Dave G and I worked on creating a booktrailer for "Kat's Fall", the novel his Communications 11 kids are reading.

I demo-ed the the Coraline trailer I had created, and then previewed a few samples from the book-trailer sample sites I used with Krista's class.

In order to help the students focus their thinking, we asked them divide their "trailer" into 8 sections. Dave used a legal sized sheet folded to help organize their work (See below):They put images (or ideas for images) above, and words (or themes, or script) below. Using both sides of the paper gives the students a total of eight pairs of "panels" to work with.

For homework, they looked for images that matched up with their "organizer" and then began assembling them in iMovie. Adding music, sound effects and a voice over completed the booktrailer

The project gave the students an opportunity to share the themes and ideas they noticed in the novel in a fun and exciting way.

Book Trailers

How do you sell a book to students when they are so tuned into video games and the latest DVD releases? Simple: sell the book like it was a movie!

And many publishing houses are doing just that! A quick search using "Book trailer" brings up a wealth of sites. (See below for additional resources)

Krista and I worked on this project with Grade 9/10 English students.

After reviewing her criteria with the group, students spent a couple of days collecting images, video clips, music and sound effects that they wanted to use in their creation. (Many students brought resources from home on a flash drive.)

The class was asked to keep track of where they found their images and clips so they could provide this information in the rolling credits at the end of the trailer. (Cutting and pasting URLs into a Word document works fine.)

I showed the students a demo that I had created based on the book "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman (see below) and then did a quick mock up showing them the steps I used:
  • Use your "script" to plan your images.
  • Load pics and clips into the Media Browser in iMovie.
  • Drag them onto the timeline in the order you prefer.
  • Narrate your trailer onto the top audio track. (You can break the narration into chunks by stopping and starting the recorder. That way, if you make a mistake you don't have to re-record the entire thing, just the offending part.)
  • Add sound effects, music and stingers to the bottom track. (They can overlap one another. If you want better control, the sounds can be mixed in Garage Band then imported into iMovie.)
  • Tweak and tweak some more: add transitions and effects. (But, remember, perfection is only for Hollywood, and multimillion dollar budgets.)
  • Add credits at the end!
Here's my demo-sample:

Here's a list of resources you can use to help you students create their own:

Music Video with Animoto

On McRoberts Day, the Grade 12 students will be using Animoto to create a 30 second music video on the theme: "what high school means to me". (For full length videos with your own uploaded tunes, you have to pay. Otherwise: it's FREE!) They will be put in groups of 3, sharing a laptop for each threesome.

What we plan to have them do:

1. Brainstorm with your group using the outline sheet - see handout.
(You will each need to create an “Animoto” clip.)

2. Look for 10-12 pics (put them in folder on the desktop)
Google Images is a good place to start. (Animoto won't use more than 12 photos, but may only use as little as 6 or 7.)

3. Create an Animoto account: this requires an email address.
(This is fine as long as the students are over 13 years old!)
Go to

4. Upload pics, + add music (from the Animoto library), + text (if you like): = create!
The total number of pictures used for your creation depends on the the length and type of the music clip you select and the kinds of transitions Animoto ends up using. If you don't like it, you can remix again and again with different tune choices until you get what you want.

5. Let your partner create one, then your other partner.

5. Copy the “embed” code, then...
Send the code and a link to your teacher’s email.

The plan is to collect the embed codes, put them on a single webpage and let the Grade 8s vote on the top 10. We hope to show these to the incoming 7s at our orientation day.

(Some examples: in each case I uploaded pics labeled 1-12. You can see how many photos were used in each case.)

See below for handouts:

Animoto Music Video

Choosing and Creating a Blog - MacNeill

Eve Minuk and I met to set up a class blog for 2 blocks of Hum 9 that she shares with Linda Watson. The first question was "which service will we use?" Eve had a list of "gotta haves" for this project:

  • a clean, easy to navigate presentation,
  • easy to set up easy to maintain
  • no complicated password and ID management to get the students to participate
  • a way to moderate posts/comments by the kids,
  • a place to record homework
  • a place for a class scribe
  • an easy way to personalize the site
We looked at a number of offerings: Edublogs, WordPress, Ning, Blogger. I spent a couple of days also looking at, and Eduspaces.

We ended up choosing Blogger because we could get most of what Eve was looking for, without a lot of set up and maintenance issues. Eve created a "Hum Along" blog to serve her 2 classes and a second "Homework" page that feeds info to the first.

She opted to set up the following features:
A header that identified the group, (which gave us an excuse to create a contest to replace it with something created by students!)

A "blog roll" section where she will post a question of the day. - She will be asking 5-6 students per class to comment on the reflection question. This keeps the posts to a manageable level, but gives everyone a chance to participate - eventually. (She has "comment moderation" enabled so student comments do not get posted until Eve has read them first. Using the "name/URL" option, she has students give their first name + initial. (One student was very shy - we gave her the ID "Agent 59".)

Eve added the polling widget so she could get some immediate feedback from students on a content related question: Was Napoleon a hero?

We also added a Youtube widget so she could post a current event of the week for classroom discussion.

The blog also pulls the homework posts from a sister blog we set up so students would not have to check a separate blog. (We used the gadget called: "Blogger posts and categories" The gadget description says "Just enter your a blog name to display posts and labels (categories), with navigation on label. A simple way to have a blog anywhere...." [This gadget stopped working recently, and was replaced with a Tabbed news feed ]

We added a "this day in history" gadget so students could have another topic for class discussion.

Here's where we are so far:

Blundell - Fairy Tale Podcasts

I met with Janice at Blundell Elementary to plan a Fairy Tale Unit with students that she works with in the library.

Her plan is to use GarageBand to create an audiobook of a Fairy Tale. (Recordings could also be posted as an enhanced podcast for downloading from home.)

Here are the steps we will use:

1. Review partner-work expectations. (How to listen, how to cooperate)

2. Choose and practice your story with a partner (read alternating pages)
(use: Folk and Fairy Tale Easy Readers - from Scholastic)

The Little Red Hen
Martina the Cockroach
The Three Little Pigs
The Spider and the Beehive
Stone Soup
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Gingerbread Man
The Tortoise and the Hare
The Ugly Duckling
The Princess and the Pea
The Elves and the Shoemaker
The City Mouse and the Country Mouse
The Nightingale

3. Students record their story on GB. Record each "page" as a separate audio clip. (Makes for easier editing.)

4. Read over the story and look for ways to "Sweeten" the audio:
(Music, sound effects, stingers, etc) Make a note where in the story each effect would go.
Check GB "menu" of Sound Effects choices to see what's possible. (See sample below)

5. Add the effects and music you have chosen. (Bring Earbuds from home for the lab work.)

6. Tweak your sounds for the best results.

7. The teacher will help students share: export to the desktop, burn as a CD or put on website (podcast) for parents.

(Extension: write your own fairy tales. Follow the same process above.)

(We'll post a sample once the students are finished.)

Sound Effects PDF

Natural Disaster Public Service Announcements

I went to Homma today to work with Shannon and her Grade 4 class. The students had just finished researching a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake). The goal was for each student to now produce a 30 second PSA that features their topic. Students were challenged to pick a focus (i.e. a warning, a report, an appeal for victims, a "what-to-do-if" announcement) and fold in some facts that they learned from their research.

We started by brainstorming what might be included in a typical PSA.
  • Narrator
  • Attention getting stinger
  • Ambient sound effects (wind, rain, thunder)
  • Music track for mood.

Then the students were given a quick overview of Garageband and some housekeeping details (i.e. how to create a folder on the desktop, create a New Podcast, save using student's name in the title, etc). I explained how the voice tracks and jingle tracks worked, showed how to record and how to add sound effects. Then (on the spot) I created a quickie demo for the students to model how a PSA might take shape.

We gave the students about 20 minutes in their groups of 3 to play with the settings, look for sound effects and get familiar with the interface.

After recess, I took the students in groups of ten to start working on their PSA. Step one was to record the narration. I encouraged the students to break the track into "bite-sized" pieces. (In this way, if there is a problem, the student can re-record just the problem section.)

By the end of the morning, every student had created a file, and started recording his/her narration. Some had even begun adding music and sound effects!

Because the keeners may finish far ahead of of the rest of the class, students who are done early will have the option of creating additional versions for their disaster. Two weeks from now, we plan to present each student's finished work to the entire class, and then upload the PSAs to a class website for parents to view.

Here are the links to see some of their work:

(This first link will allow students and parents to download the shows as podcasts to iTunes and load onto their iPods.)

VIEW on-line
(This link is so parents can view the finished projects on-line.)

One of the "tricks" to using Youtube to display student work is to create a tag and description that is made up of an invented word (i.e. "gradefourweatherprojecthometeachername" ). I've labeled all the videos with the same tag, then added them to a playlist with the same title as the invented word, and shared this a public playlist. The playlist will generate an embed code so you can put it on an external webpage: voilà.

Some additional things to consider:
  1. Students will want to make sure their "end of recording" marker is snug up against the end of their podcast on the time line. A couple of students unknowingly had created a 20 minute production with 18 minutes of blank space at the end of their PSA!
  2. If students are adding art work or images to the top "podcast/image" track, make sure the pics are pushed up against each other, otherwise there will be black screen intervals throughout the podcast.
  3. Students can create an "album cover" that will show up when their work is downloaded as a podcast. If they want to see the cover when their PSA is played in class, leave a little blank space at the beginning of the "podcast/image" track.

Pro-D Day - Diefenbaker - Intro to Garageband

I was very happy to go to Diefenbaker Elementary (at the invitation of the Pro-D committee) to lead an afternoon workshop on some of the exciting ways Garage Band could be used in the Elementary classroom.

Garage Band is a great program that does for sound what iPhoto does for pictures. (In fact, I think iSound would have been a more apt and self-explanatory name!) All the labs in Richmond have this app installed as part of the default suite of offerings, so it makes sense to explore its potential.

Meaningful Integration
Any technology can be overused, or used in an unconnected fashion. In practice, we are looking for a logical tie-in with the content that is being covered in class. The trick is to always look at what your outcomes are: what do you want to students to know, to do and be able to demonstrate at the end of your unit?

GB can give a student a way to show his/her learning to the teacher, share it with the class or a wider "authentic" audience and provide extension or enrichment activities.

Where to start? Here's a copy of the handout I provided to get the conversation rolling: (click for larger image.)Literacy Extension Activities, Learning Demonstrations, Dramatic Extensions: each suggestion leads to other great ideas. Planning, teamwork, reflection, self-assessment, oral language production, story-boarding: students develop a range of skills as they complete the project. (In addition to recording their voices, students could even create ambient background soundscapes to play while they perform skits, read poetry or do creative writing. The only limit is our imagination.)

There are a great number of samples on-line for each of these activities. I've provided a few links here.

We then proceeded to look at how to build a simple podcast. (I created one earlier in the day using my voice and a couple of jingles. This allowed me to show how the elements work together. Click on the player below.)

I gave the teachers a chance to create a demo inserting their own voice along with some effects and jingles. Everyone had an opportunity to experiment and see just how easy GB is to use. (It got pretty noisy!) Hint: Teachers might want their students to bring their iPod earbuds with them to the lab. (If the school has headset/mic combinations, this would be even better.)

I've included some step-by-step instructions to work through the process here.
Garage Band 3 Steps

My impression was that teachers felt empowered to use GB with their class. Of course, it's only by playing with the app that we become confident users. Several teachers expressed interest in having me come back once they had played with the program a little more, and brainstorm with them about how they could introduce a GB activity to their students.

Visual Poetry (2) - Using Scrapblog

Joanne Panas' Grade 11 English class is also doing a "visualizing poetry" activity as part of her poetry unit.

For this activity, Joanne is having the students use "Scrapblog" as a way of representing the images in the poem. Here's a "Quickie" example using the poem "Hope is the thing with feathers" as the inspiration.

When you go to the Scrapblog site, you will be offered a chance to "get started". Clicking this will open an editing window that runs on a Flash plugin. (Hint: You'll want to check that your lab or laptops have the latest version installed or the creator window might not load properly.) offers the student many choices: a number of pre-set templates as well as the option of a starting with a blank screen. Adding "stickers" (embellishments), shapes, words and even pictures from the local computer (or a range of services: Facebook, Photobucket, Picassa etc) makes building an expressive scrapblog a snap!

For Joanne's class, we decided to have the kids create their collage and then take a screenshot so that their work could be displayed the next day. (With an email account, students over 13 can sign up for an account of their own and save their creations for subsequent editing.)

Here are the steps we used:

  1. Day 1: Students previewed their poem (1 of 3 used in the class) to look for words and images that spoke to them.
  2. Students were encouraged to look for images at home and bring them to school on a flash drive or via their personal email.
  3. Day 2: After a demo of scrapblog, students began assembling the elements and arranging them on the screen.
  4. Shift+Apple+4 activates a "crosshairs" cursor that students can click and drag over their collage to save a picture ("Picture 1", "Picture 2" etc) to the desktop. The pic is a PNG file that can be easily opened by Preview.
  5. Day 3: Using the "Slideshow" feature of Preview, students create a 'gallery walk' to show off their creations.
Here's a sample of student work:

FYI: Here's a set of video tutorials on how to use the features of Scrapblog.