Archive for February, 2012

Running Out of Space? Resizing Images is Magic!

Just when you get it all figured out, that dreaded message comes across warning you of your dwindling space on your blog. Most of the time this is due to posting images that are photo quality (right off the camera or ipad) but not web quality.   Some of you already use IrfanView or Microsoft Picture Editor to resize your images.   Here’s an opportunity to use something off the web.  I wrote about this in a previous post entitled Little Tools.


IPiccy is an amazing online photo/image editor that we’ve successfully used with grade 2 students and higher.  And we didn’t even get flustered!  The students easily took their images, edited, and posted to the blog in one session.  Try it out and see what you think.

Click here for instructions.

“Teach the Writer, not the Writing” ~ Calkins

Source: Troy Hicks. The Digital Writing Workshop. Heinman. 2009

 Troy Hicks, “The Digital Writing Worshop” believes that  our writers can achieve more, understand more, and discover more using digital tools, than in our traditional writing workshop.

In examining this photo, consider what happens in a typical writing workshop. 

  • What writing processes and expectations are the same as they have always been for print texts? What do you believe has changed?
  • Who are the writer(s) of the text? the girls who are seated, or the girl leaning in and using the trackpad? Who gets credit for having composed – a term that Yancey (2008) uses to broaden our notions of what it means to write with text, images, sounds and video – this text?
  • What behaviours do you believe need to be taught in order for students to work collaboratively as well as offer constructive responses to improve digital writing?

Homework: Read Chapter 1. and Comment on your thoughts on the above questions.

Play an .mp3 in your Blog

Would you like to use audio recordings to provide instruction in your class or have students use it to demonstrate their learning?  Well now there is a plugin for that!  You can upload your audio recording in .mp3 format to your blog and insert it directly into a post or page.  You upload your audio like you would an image then click on the Audio Player Button, then click on Insert into Post.

The result will look like this in your Page/Post.

When you Publish it will look like this to your audience in the front-end of the blog.

So whether you have your kids recording a response to a question, or you are reading a passage in a language class, you can quickly add that content to your blog.  Let me know how it works, or email me for help.


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Growing Readers – Literature Circles Gone Digital – Part 1

I wasn’t quite sure how to title this, swinging back and forth from “Passionate Conversations” and “Growing Readers”, both of which I believe Lit Circles to be.  I’ve been working with a fabulous teacher on engaging her class  with Literature Circles.  Oh not the process with all the jobs/roles (which I’ve done many times before), but the approach outlined by Faye Brownlie in Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses.   Our goal was to encourage enthusiasm for reading and create environments for deep conversation (in other words, give ‘choice and voice’).  We chose to extend our notion of ‘environment’ to include not only the physical classroom, but also online using our class blogs to extend the walls of conversation.  In doing so, we believed that we could complement the innate need to find community, purpose and audience. Thankfully, I work with a great team who came along to help and document our journey.  We hope to share both the instructional content as well as the conversations and some video clips along the way.

How did we start?  Our DLRC (District Learning Resource Centre) has a wide range of book bins just meant for lit circle conversations.  Choosing the bin was easy (each bin is themed with 5 copies of 6 different novels of varying degrees of readability).  A book talk (Lesson 1) was given that was no more than 2 minutes each,  served as hooks – we dangled intrigue, angst, curiosity, mystery and downright fun.  Students were given time to roam the room to check the books out “up close”.  Book groups were organized by student choice and availability of texts.  We also promised them that if they did not receive their first choice, that throughout the weeks they would have free reign on reading all the books if they wanted.  We waited until the next day just to generate the buzz and then handed the books out.  Lesson 2 was simply allowing them the entire period of just solid reading.  The teacher wasn’t too sure about this as previous experience told her that there was no way that we could extend this to 45 minutes.  You could have heard a pin drop the entire time as students found their comfy spots and dug into their texts.   Matching student lives to books that “leap off shelves” was the key.

If you’re thinking of starting the journey yourself, click here for our instructions.  And we’re very interested in hearing your story here.

(…Part 2 – The Circle Morphs)

Little Tools that Do Big Things


Do you ever want to do something with your class and the whole technology thing is just too much?  I get that a lot so I’m always on the hunt for tools that “take the mystery out of things” and just work.  Remember that we are also in a world of constant change so there are people out there who are creating new and different tools all the time.  More importantly, how would you use it to support learning?  Here are some that I’ve used in classrooms:

iPiccy – my latest image editor (simple, simple, simple).  Oh did I say simple?  The online tools allow you to apply special effects, add text or paint to jazz up images.  Registration is not required; upload images from anywhere and download the completed masterpiece when completed.
How would I use it?  Have students take images (camera) for their blog writing or other powerful messages; decide on a visual message and edit using iPiccy accordingly; use in a blog post to enhance or support writing or in powerpoint or Glogster presentations.  In any of these circumstances, the goal is to use images to convey a deeper level of communication beyond words. See some examples from Mrs Comeau’s class of grade 3 bloggers – they will tell you that they’re writers!

Vocaroo – This extremely simple online sound recorder is a must-have for recording anything.  I first wrote about this in November, where I explored the importance of developing oral language.   
How would I use it?   Record a practice speech or ideas – use it as a memory jog for writing.  Or instead of writing, record a blog post by audio and post. Voice recorders also give students the independence to self-assess their achievement by capturing and freezing words in time.  Capture another recording at a later time and compare the two recordings.

Spell with Flickr – I love this when I’m in need of some kind of catchy block title images. It stands out better than relying on fonts.

How would I use it? Select words out of writing or connect those words using a visual thesaurus like Lexipedia.  In Spell with Flickr, generate the letters by clicking through a selection of alphabets pulled from Flickr images.  Capture the image and use in blog writing or other writing pieces that need a word to boldly stand out.  In the example above, I chose the word ‘imagine’ to represent all the possibilities of creativity.

Draw a Stickman – This creative site tells a story by including your sketches.  Sketch a “stickman“.  Watch how the story unfolds.
How I would use it?  This provides a twist for those moments when you’re stuck in writers block.  Rather than have students wander the room,  create something and watch the wheels turn. Who knows, it may launch the desire to learn flash animation or programming.

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