Twitter in the Primary Classroom

“One Best Thing is a collection of books created by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) that demonstrate the use of Apple technologies to transform teaching ​
and learning. Each One Best Thing book shares a unit, a lesson, or a best practice and is designed to help another educator implement a successful practice. It’s a professional learning idea championed by an educator—in word and action—that others can look to for ideas and tips on ho w to replicate.”

Excerpt From: Kristen Wideen. “Twitter in the Primary Classroom: Engage, Inspire, & Collaborate.” Kristen Wideen, 2014. iBooks.


The “One Best Thing” is a nice collection of resources, ideas, inspirations, sharing of experiences from Apple Distinguished Educators.  (ADE)

Ontario Educator, Kristen Wideen’s offering is about her experience with Twitter in her Primary Classroom and will motivate readers to incorporate Twitter into their own classrooms.

If you’re looking for inspiration, additional ideas, concepts to share with colleagues, inspiration to convince your administrator, or a million other ideas, then this book is for you.  There are lots of practical examples of how Twitter can be used in your classroom and the final page is full of links to the resources that are shared in this iBook.

You can download the book from here.

Playing with Lightbot

I was unable to attend the 2015 ACSE Conference but thanks to the #ACSE15 hashtag and the Twitter messages from @pbeens, I was able to follow along.  It sounded like another great conference.  Hopefully, resources will be added to the website after the presenters get home and realize the powerful messages that they shared.

As I write this post, in another tab, I’m playing with one of the resources that was shared as an introduction to logic that leads to programming.  The program is called Lightbot and runs in a browser (Hour of Code version) and on iOS and Android devices for a modest fee.

The premise is very simple.  You start with minimal instructions and you use the instructions to navigate the Lightbot robot around the desktop and light up the blue tiles when you land on them.  As you increase in levels, you add more functionality to your robot.  This is going to be my Sunday addiction.

Of note, at the bottom, look for the link to additional resources.  And, a teaser about a new game on the way…

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s another Friday and an opportunity for me to celebrate some of the wonderful pieces shared by Ontario Educators recently.

3 Ways I’ve Used Google Apps to Help my School Run a Bit Smoother

As I mentioned in my post last week, the Google Apps community is great for sharing the good things that they’re doing with Google products.  In this example, Jason To talks about using the technology to streamline things at his school.


Jason calls the examples “modest” but I would think that anytime you put together something that makes even the most routine tasks easier is worth it.  I’m sure that his list will continue to grow.


Reading and Writing Google Style

Speaking of Google…I feel awkward using the Google voice search for things.  The only time I feel comfortable is when I’m alone.  When I’m with others, people pause to look and wonder what I’m doing talking into a box.  So much for privacy.  Read Aviva Dunsiger’s post to see how students in her class are making out with this and see some of their observations.

The world panicked when the talk was about about dropping cursive.  What’s next?  Keyboarding?

I realized that most of the iPads and our two ChromeBooks have a microphone option. I showed the students how to use this option. My one minute lesson was all it took!

Physical phenomena for quadratic relations

Brandon Grasley is looking for real, physical examples of quadratic functions…

One of his examples appears below…

I’m intrigued by one of the other examples that he’s given in this post and he’s looking for ideas.

Hey, how about some experimentation with Hot Wheels?  The only downside I can envision is hate notes from the Driver’s Education instructor.

Reporting from the heart!

I don’t think there are too many teachers that enjoy report card time.  It’s a very work intensive time and I know that so many just labour over them like they’re creating a work of art.  Afterwards though, it’s relaxation time and then the cynical question “Do they even read these?”  There are even suggestion in some camps to ban them completely and just do interviews with parents.  But this is education.  We love paper.

There’s this mentality that they’re just read and discarded – a moment in time, if you will.

Sue Bruyns’ post about report cards takes a different look at them.

I found it interesting as to how they remain permanent artifacts in her parents’ place.

It’s just too bad that they take so long to create.

iGeneration – 21st Century Education

Tom D’Amico is a Superintendent with OCSB who really gets it.  This is link is a wonderful example of another way to share your learning other than the traditional blog.  If you follow Tom on Twitter (@TDOttawa), you’ll find references to great resources, not to just one or two focussed things every now and again.  Tom appears to have an open mind and is collecting resources in three ScoopIt! areas.

This morning was a perfect example of why you need to get connected.  This time, it potentially saved money.

Tom had shared a link to News-O-Matic which I then reshared so that it would get bookmarked and perhaps be a resource for others.  I got a reply about a $20 price.  To that, the News-O-Matic Twitter account had a response.

It’s a great lead.  Thanks, Tom.

An interview with Doug Peterson

Last weekend, I had conducted one of my online interviews with Sylvia Duckworth.    She jumped in and did a nice response to my questions and showed the power of our Ontario network by giving credit to others.  As soon as she was done though, she asked to interview me.  What could I say?  Paybacks are a ….

So, I did my best to answer her questions.  It was actually fun to be on the receiving end for once.  I know that, when you’re asking the questions, you feel like a bit of a stalker at times trying to do your research and pose questions that you’ve always wanted to ask and to appeal to the readership.

In my interview, I was selfish and really wanted the scoop about how to do Sketchnotes.  Sylvia claims that it doesn’t exist so I guess Lisa Noble and I will have to wait until we corner Sylvia and get her to teach us!

In the meantime, enjoy this Sketchnote that Sylvia created from some of the other interviews that I had conducted.


My compliments to those who continue to share their learning so openly online.  Please visit the blog posts above and check out the entire Ontario Edublog collection here.

An Interview with Sylvia Duckworth

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of promotion of my friend Sylvia so I thought it might be appropriate to dig a little deeper and have her share more about herself. She was kind enough to participate in this interview.


Doug:  I always like to start with this question.  We certainly have “known” each other online for a long time but where did we actually first meet face to face?

Sylvia:  I remember exactly when we met face-to-face. It was at the GAFESummit Kitchener, April 2012. I saw you in the lobby that was filled with people but I recognized you right away because you look just like your Twitter profile pic. I think this is a really important tip for people on social media: avoid using an avatar or an overly glamorous profile pic so that you will be recognizable in person! I remember thinking how wonderful it was to finally meet you in person, after our social media exchanges. This is a big reason why I love to go to conferences. Online communication is great, but interaction with real-live people is even better. I’m always amazed at how comfortable people are with each other when they meet f2f for the first time after having only “met” on social media before. It’s kind of like meeting an old friend!

Doug:  That makes me feel bad!  I thought my Twitter picture was glamorous.  In your day job, you’re a French teacher at the Crescent School (  in Toronto.  For those of us who have never visited, give us an idea of the school and what educational life is like for students.

Sylvia:  Yes, I teach Core French, grades 3 to 5. Crescent is a wonderful school and I feel really fortunate to teach there. It’s a Boys-Only school, so the high energy level of the boys is palpable the minute you walk into the school. I get many visitors to my class to watch me teach (either for AIM or for technology integration) and they are always in awe of the kinetic energy in the room. Teachers at my school are completely used to it, of course, but visitors are not. They wonder “How can you teach when these boys can’t sit still?”. The answer: keep your class lively, change up activities frequently, and use technology!

Doug:  I recall one of the first conversations that we had and it involved using AIM in the French classroom.  Do you still use this technique?  Can you give us an example?

Sylvia:  Oh my gosh, yes, I would have quit teaching French a long time ago if AIM didn’t come along. AIM has revolutionized the way a second language is taught. Good AIM teachers are quite passionate about the methodology and would not consider using anything else. Sadly, many teachers who receive the training and the resources choose not to use it because it’s a very steep learning curve for a teacher to learn how to implement it properly. It also requires a completely new mindset, which is hard for many teachers to do. I think that the only way to understand how AIM works and to see the benefits is to visit a classroom of a teacher who is using it properly. My classroom door is always open! If you can’t come for a visit, you can check out my AIM blog with lots of videos of me and my students: (password to view the videos is aimlanguage)

Doug:  Could the techniques be used in other subject areas?

Sylvia:  Absolutely! Many (non-AIM) studies have been conducted that prove there’s a strong link between gesturing and better cognition of certain key concepts. Here is an article that describes how gesturing helped students with math.

Doug:  Is Crescent a BYOD school?  What sorts of technology do your students bring with them?

Sylvia:  From grades 6 to 12, it is BYOD. The younger students I teach can only use our school devices: we have iPads and Chromebooks. A question I often get is: if you had to choose one over the other, what would you choose? I would choose iPads for the younger students (K – 4) and Chromebooks for grades 5 and up. However, I truly believe that the way to go is to have a mix of both. iPads can definitely do things that Chromebooks can’t but the same is true vice-versa. If your school is on Google Apps for Education, nothing beats Chromebooks for a seamless workflow.

Doug:  How does technology fit into the French language classroom?

Sylvia:  Funny, just a few years ago I didn’t see how tech could fit in the French class. Then I got a SMARTboard and my anti-tech views changed dramatically. My SMARTboard is now gone (replaced with an amazing interactive Epson projector) and I use technology with my students on a daily basis. My whole program has gone digital and we try to go paperless as much as possible. The AIM program is story-based, so there are all kinds of wonderful ways to use technology to re-create the stories. Students love to take the original story and replace the main characters and other story elements with ones of their own. The stories they make up are incredibly unique and always very entertaining. They create them either on the on the iPad with different creation apps, or on the Chromebooks using Google Apps (Docs or slides). With Screencastify (a Chrome extension), students can screencast a Google presentation to make a video of their stories with voice narration. It’s magical! Click here for an example.

Doug:  You’re a Google Certified Teacher.  How do you use GAFE in your classes?  Do you have favourite applications?

Sylvia:  For sure Screencastify (as mentioned above) would be my top Chrome extension. But a new Google Doc Add-on, Speech Recognition (Speech-to-text) has been blowing me away lately. It works in 32 different languages. I also love Google Drawings which is a much-neglected Google App (click here for a presentation on how useful this app can be). I also adore Google Forms because it allows for paperless assessments and with the Sheets Add-on Flubaroo, my marking is done in seconds. Click here to learn how!

Doug:  Recently, you have been on a roll turning out many Sketchnotes depicting some awesome educational messages.  Have you always had an artistic inclination?

Sylvia:  This is the funniest thing. I literally have not done any drawing since I was a kid. I never considered myself to be a good artist. In fact, I was always convinced that I totally sucked at art. But I discovered with Sketchnoting that you don’t actually have to have a natural artistic ability to do some wonderful things. You DO have to practice, however. When you look at my Sketchnotes you might think: Wow, she can draw, but I swear, I CAN’T!!! I’ve just gotten pretty good at re-creating images I find on the internet. Something else I love about sketchnoting is the challenge of trying to figure out the best way to draw a concept. One of my favourite drawings is one I did for Mark Anderson when he asked me to illustrate “The 4 Stages of Teacher Confidence in the Use of Technology”. Click here to see his original graphic and click here to see my representation of it. Another one of my favourite drawings is  How to Grow a PLN which was Jacques Cools idea. This drawing was replicated by someone in Russia, if you can believe it, and then blogged about in Russian!

Doug:  What was your inspiration to first learn the technique and then to do this?

Sylvia:  I was inspired by Karen Bosch, Silvia Tolisano, and Brad Ovenell-Carter. Their imagery of concepts was so intriguing, I decided I had to try it for myself. Then I got addicted to it and now I am constantly on the search for things to draw. I think the reason why sketchnoting captures so many people’s attention is that it allows for personalization of the subject matter. It is also a very effective way to simplify a concept. I would venture a guess that many people are visual learners, so it is appealing to a lot of us.

Doug:  What would you consider the essential tools of your trade?

Sylvia:  Well, I have only drawn on the iPad, so I can only speak to that (Sketchnoting on paper is another animal altogether). You will need a good stylus. My #1 stylus at the moment is Musemee Notier Prime. Then you need a drawing app. My preferred one is FlipInk but many people like Paper by 53.

Doug:  Give us some insight here…what are you working on now for future release?

Sylvia:  Nothing at the moment. I am looking for inspiration. Do you have any ideas? Mark Anderson wanted me to draw the TPack model. I haven’t yet decided if I want to take that on!

Doug:  Just today, I saw another Twitter user share a Sketchnote with you.  You must feel proud that you’ve motivated others to do that.  Is there hope for a non-artist like me?

Sylvia:  This is so true, it gives me immense pleasure to see other people inspired to take up drawing because of my sketchnotes. Anyone can draw, Doug. Even you. Trust me on this. Use this resource as a starting guide.

Doug:  Do you ever go back and modify a Sketchnote after you’ve published it?

Sylvia:  All the time! Fortunately, Flickr allows you to re-upload an image, keeping the same URL in case you posted the link somewhere online. An annoying sidenote: you need a Yahoo account to use Flickr. (Click here to see all of my sketchnotes.)

Doug:  I love your attention to detail.  You really nailed it with Vicky Loras’ ponytail.

Sylvia:  Ha, I had never attempted to draw people before you asked me to do that sketchnote about your interviews. It was a challenge for me, believe me!

Doug:  Last year, you were the recipient of the National Certificate of Excellence in Teaching and were presented the award by Prime Minister Harper.  That must have been an exciting experience.  Who nominated you?  Tell us your thoughts about receiving this very prestigious award.

Sylvia:  It was an amazing experience that I blogged about here. What I loved most about it was meeting the other award recipients and hearing their inspiring stories. The thought that kept going through my mind was “Sheesh, what am I doing here in the midst of such greatness?!” But, without exception, these teachers were amongst the most humble group of people I ever met.

8 French teacher colleagues and 2 parents nominated me and I am forever indebted to them. It is quite a lengthy and labour-intensive nomination process, which involves submitting a 10 page document detailing the rationale for the nomination and three letters of support. I was so touched that they deemed me worthy of this award and then took the time to write testimonials of support.

By the way, did you know that Aviva Dunsiger (who you interviewed in 2012) won the award in 2013? We both attribute our growth in educational technology to our wonderful PLN. If any of your readers would like to nominate a teacher for this award, nominations are open until April 30, 2015. Click here for more information.

Doug:  Many may not know that, in addition to all this, you’re also an avid runner.  What are your accomplishments in this area?  What’s next for you?

Sylvia:  Oh geez, where did you hear that? I used to run marathons, true, but that was more than a decade ago! I ran 6 total. I ran my first marathon at age 40, in 4hrs:30min, then I got more serious about it and got my PB down to (3:35) in New York. Running the Boston Marathon was undoubtedly the highlight of my running career. Now my bones are getting old and creaky and I usually just run about 7-8 km at a time, at a snail’s pace.

Doug:  Thank you so much for the interview, Sylvia.  I know that many of us are in awe at your accomplishments and are so thankful for you doing what you do.  All the best.

Sylvia:  Thank you for this opportunity, Doug. I love reading your interviews and I feel very honoured that you asked me.

You can follow Sylvia on Twitter at @sylviaduckworth.

Trying To Understand My Learning Curve

I find it interesting at times, to step back, and just wonder “Why do I do this?”  Or, “Why don’t I do this?”  Or, “Am I weird?  Everyone else gets it to work”!

Right now, the thing I’m trying to understand is my use of Google’s new interface for Gmail.  It’s simply called Inbox.

Like many people, I think we’re looking for the magic interface that makes email manageable and maybe even enjoyable?  I have Gmail pull all my email from various places (and other services) together in one spot.

When Inbox was announced, it was with limited access.  I asked for a copy and got no response.  Then, it went to a wider distribution and I tried again and go access to it.

I immediately installed a copy on my Android phone (that seemed to be a no-brainer).  I used it and I really liked it.  Tap here, get the material, I liked the layout and the way that Inbox organized my incoming messages.  It was different from the schema that I used with traditional Gmail.  I decided it was a keeper so I downloaded a copy on my iPad.  I had the same response.  This could be a game changer for me.  I tried it in Firefox, my default web browser.  It didn’t work; it wanted to run it in Chrome.  How about Opera Next then?  Nope.  It was a Chrome only solution with the promise of others coming soon.  So, I used Chrome for a while but kept reverting to Firefox because of the extensions that I use regularly.  Even when using it in Chrome, it didn’t seem to have the hook that it did on my phone or tablet.

Then, yesterday, Google announced that Inbox was available on all browser platforms!  Sure enough, when I opened Inbox in Firefox, it was there.  The look was consistent with the mobile interface.


How’s that for a Sylvia promotion.

But, I started using it for my regular email.  I didn’t like it.  How could this be?  It’s my go-to default on phone and tablet?

I opened another browser and opened traditional Gmail.  It did make sense.  Is this just a case of product loyalty?

Then, it hit me.  I did the same action in both programs.  With Inbox, it takes a few more mouse actions to do the same thing.  Plus, as I’ll admit, I don’t always read all of the mail sent me.  With Gmail, I could just easily tag the stuff that I’m not reading and then mass delete them.  I guess it’s a moment of realization that I get too much email.  Many of it comes from subscribing to this and that.  But, it’s one of my learning platforms and I’ll do what I want.

Maybe it just boils down to function?  It’s a lot easily to tap on a device than it is to move a mouse to a spot on the screen and click the mouse button.  Then, I really thought about it.

My approach to email is different on a computer than it is on mobile.  On mobile, I pick and choose what I want to read at the moment.  When I sit down at a computer, I’m on a mission to address them all and reach the mythical inbox-zero.

It was a worthwhile activity and analysis.  Now, Inbox access via Firefox is now just a couple of days old.  I will give it a thorough shakedown.  I’m willing to admit that it’s my preconceived algorithm for attacking the mailbox.  Maybe I’ll be further off in the long run mastering this learning curve.  As with most things Google, it’s bound to be refined and enhanced. 

I’d hate to miss out but it’s slow going at present.

2015 CSTA Annual Conference


Hilton DFW Lakes

Bigger and Better than Ever!

2015 CSTA Annual Conference
July 12-14, 2015, at the Hilton DFW Lakes, Grapevine, Texas




Registration is now open for the CSTA annual conference. CSTA 2015 is a professional development opportunity for computer science and information technology teachers who need practical, classroom-focused information to help them prepare their students for the future. Conference content is peer reviewed and peer or industry led, making it relevant to today’s classroom needs. This year we are staying true to being “bigger and better than ever” so we have expanded our conference to span three days, with two days worth of workshops, more exhibitors, along with multiple networking opportunities.



  • Explore issues and trends relating directly to your classroom
  • Learn, network and interact
  • Choose from various workshops and breakout sessions
  • Amazing value (complimentary conference Wi-Fi, breakfast, lunch and snacks – CHECK!) at approximately $100/day!

Some of this year’s session topics include:

  • Advanced Placement Computer Science
  • Computational Thinking
  • Increasing Enrollment in Computer Science
  • Programming
  • Robotics


  • Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States – Invited
  • Randy Pitchford, Aaron Thibault and Jimmy Sieben with Gearbox

Pre-registration is required and will be accepted for the first 500 teachers. The registration deadline is June 26, 2015. Also, please note that you must complete the payment portion of the online form in order to be fully registered for the conference!

As always, we thank our sponsors for their generous donations. Your registration fee will include networking opportunities, lunch and resource materials. The 2015 CSTA Annual Conference is made possible by the generous support of Google, Lockheed MartinOracle Academy and the University of Texas at Dallas.


Conference registration (which includes a community session on Sunday (July 12) afternoon, Monday night’s event with the University of Texas at Dallas, and all general and plenary sessions on Tuesday (July 14) is $100 if you register by April 15. From April 16-June 26 the price is $150, and after that the price increases to $225.


Workshops are a separate price, and this year we have expanded our offerings to include options on Sunday, as well as Monday. The price for workshops is $100 for the first one, and $50 for each additional workshop (maximum number of three).


Please note that all workshops are “bring your own laptop” and that workshop registration is limited to 30-40 participants; so be sure to register early to get your workshop choice. As an additional reminder, we DO NOT accept workshop registrations onsite, and there is NO switching of options.


Register at:

For more information contact Tiffany Nash, CSTA Events and Communications Manager at


P.S. A big thank you to the 2015 Conference Planning Committee:


Doug Peterson, Program Chair

J. Philip East, Workshop Chair

Duncan Buell, Review Chair

Mindy Hart, Volunteer Coordinator

Stephanie Hoeppner

Tammy Pirmann

Dave Reed, CSTA Professional Development Committee Chair

Hal Speed, Central Texas Chapter Conference Liaison

Sheena Vaidyanathan

Henry Vo, Dallas Fortworth Chapter Conference Liaison

Lizan Ward, Greater Houston Chapter Conference Liaison

Lissa Clayborn, Acting Executive Director, CSTA


We look forward to seeing you in Grapevine!


The CSTA 2015 Annual Conference is generously sponsored by:







CSTA is the voice for K-12 computer science and its educators.


A Different Time

The story that malware was installed on hard drives was everywhere this morning.  Here’s an example.  “Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program”.  There’s no doubt that this is scary stuff, although the article indicates who and what were the targets of this software.  It still is something to be wary of.  Presumably, it’s in the “right hands” now but what happens if this technology is reverse engineered (and it will be) and falls into the “wrong hands”?  It does serve as a reminder to make sure that you are installing updates as they come along and run security scans on your computer regularly.  At present, it appears as though current technology wouldn’t catch this vulnerability but you just might catch something else hiding on your system.

This, and my masterpiece creation for calculating wind chill earlier this week reminds me that it wasn’t always this difficult.  Now that we’re connected so often and installing, sharing, and just visiting web resources, it’s easier to catch malware than it is to catch a cold, it seems.  As I was plunking around looking for the state of the BASIC programming language, I stumbled into this website, Vintage BASIC.  It is a reminder of the old days.

In the old days, one of the things that we were all so fascinated with was the ability to take this inanimate object and make it act like it was human.  The best way to do this was to have it play games.  If you long for those days, you’ll love the collection you’ll find here.

Now this is quality and classic.  None of this 3-D realism and surround sound that makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of the battlefield.  The program and your mind did the thinking and virtualizing!


And, you were safe doing it.

The programs were written in BASIC and you typed it into an editor and then ran it on your system.

In addition to developing keyboarding skills, you were learning a second language.

100 N=100
110 Q=100

If there was a statement that made your computer reformat your hard drive, you knew it immediately and just didn’t key it!  How’s that for the original malware checker?

Things were so much safer and black/white.

We didn’t have to be so paranoid but it wouldn’t enable things like Graham Culey’s “Targeted Attacks for Dummies”.

But we live in a completely different place and time.

When was the last time you scanned your computer for malware?