Taking Care of Christmas

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting down to do some reading.  I turn on CMT for some background music and I hear a song oddly familiar and yet different!

It’s a remix of Randy Bachman’s “Taking Care of Business” – only this time in duet with Beverley Mahood.  Very nicely done.  I wonder if it’s on YouTube so that I can enjoy the entire song…  Yep!

But there’s more.

In addition to enjoying it on YouTube, you can download a high quality version from iTunes for $0.99.  Why do that?

The proceeds from the download go to the Corus Feeds Kids initiative.

What a great way to get some new music for your library and for a good cause at this time of year.

I’ve got my copy.  Why don’t you help this great cause?


Creating Interactive Stories

One popular activity that students enjoy is the Interactive story form known as “Create Your Own Adventure”.  I’m sure that most people have fond memories of working your way through one or two.  You read a paragraph or two and then you’re presented with options for where to go next.  One branch takes your story in one direction or another branch takes you in another.

If you go back far enough in computer gaming, you may remember the role playing game Zork where you explore an imaginary universe with commands like “GO WEST”.  I worked with an annoying person who felt compelled to repeat over and over “WHEN YOU COME TO A FORK IN THE ROAD, TAKE IT”.

inklewriter is a free online tool that lets you create your own interactive story.  Rather than creating a contrived example, click here to try a real story!  In this case, “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”

inklewriter is very easy to work.  Features include branching and looping, including images, and formatting of your works.  The interface, web-based, makes for easy creation of your story.

But, it would be very easy to get lost in the story with all the branching!  To make this understandable, a Map option displays an overview of your story.

In that respect, inklewriter is a wonderful tool to take a task that we might normally do and moves it to the world of the electronic.  I was wondering…could it be used in other ways?

Driving through town last night, I noticed a sign for Grade 8 orientation night at the local secondary school.  Lights went on.  What about a “Create your own adventure” to tour the school?!

For example, entering my old school would look something like this.  I could create a little adventure just exploring the school.  I’m starting to really like this.  I wonder…

As you’re editing and creating your story, not only do you add text and branches, remember I said that you could add images?  Why not include images of the rooms or artifacts that you might see along the way?  And, if we can do that, we could certainly insert a QR code linking to oh, say a YouTube video interviewing a teacher or student at a particular location?

inklewriter is a very easy powerful creating environment.  The website even includes an offer to convert your story to an e-book for a small fee.

I could see this as a very motivating and exciting tool for young authors.  Give it a shot and see if you don’t agree.


Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall on Twitter) tossed out a Twitter message last night inviting people to check out Kurrate – a new curation tool for teachers using video in the classroom.

I had to check it out immediately.  First, you’ve got to be interested in what an Ontario educator shares and secondly, I know that so many teachers are effectively and increasingly using videos as key in their lessons.

So, off I went.

I wasn’t expecting to see what I found.  It was actually in a directory off the root of Brian’s website.  It was another one of his projects released to the wild.  Now, if you go to YouTube or Vimeo, there is already search functionality in place.  What makes Kurrate different?

He’s searching them all, or you can selectively choose the services that you want.

We had a little back and forth discussion.  I think he’s done a very nice job putting this together.  My only comment surrounded the embedded scroll bars.  With a trackpad, I had hit the wrong scroll bar and had the wrong thing scrolling.  The individual results are embedded inside a window of results.  It seems, from our discussion, that he’s wondering the best way to handle the results as well.  We both agree that popup windows should not be an option!

We talked about opening the results in different tabs and having each individual set of results in a window and buttons to step through the results.  This seems like a puzzle to be solved.  How do you best return the results?

In the meantime, this is a really well created and I think it will be well received by teachers or students looking for a search engine to give them all.  Give it a try and see what you think.  He’s actively looking for feedback through Twitter or he’s got an email address on the page.  I’m sure that he’ll be appreciative of your thoughts.


I had a great learning experience yesterday!

In my reading, I stumbled across this post from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning titled “7 GREAT BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CITATION TOOLS FOR STUDENTS“.  I thought that it would be worthy of sharing and so sent the link to Twitter.  From there, it would end up in my Diigo stream since I have Packratius looking for links.  Done!

Not so fast there linky boy.

Later on in the afternoon, I got a message from Refr.it.  It was simple and to the point…


Hmmm.  Was this spam?  Probably not.  How many spammers would take the time to design such a spiffy logo!  I checked out the actual Twitter account and was intrigued by the descriptor.  “Hi were new. We aim to help harvard reference haters. Please give us a go at our website. There is a video demoing it. Big Thanks #refr”  (I did send a message about the missing apostrophe)

Looks legit so I thought I’d check it out.  Here’s their video.

The system looks so easy to use.  Just paste a URL into their form and submit – no registration required.  I can do that.  Copy and paste the above URL generates the following.


With the reference for your bibliography being:

refritofficial, 2012. Refr it – Harvard referencing made easy. youtube.com. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=d7k68TQLk6A [Accessed 13th November 2012]

The next step was to determine just what “Harvard References” were.  The term was new to me – I was familiar with MLA, APA, Turabian and Chicago.  Checking the colourful language on the Refr.it timeline shows the “love” that people have for Harvard References so I can see that there would be a demand for a service like this.  I found a pretty comprehensive list of examples here.  I can see the source of the messages.

I guess the original list of seven could use an additional reference!

Building a Google Docs Story

Here’s a cute little writing activity.  It’s called the Google Docs Stories Builder.  You’re not going to write the next great Canadian novel but it’s a fun little activity.  The activity starts here.

Every story needs characters so you’ll begin by adding them.

The two characters in this story are my fine furry friend Jaimie and me.  I’ll add the characters to the builder.  You’ll notice immediately that the names appear with a flag in the story window.

So, a typical dialogue between the two of us would go like this.

And, no story would be complete without a little music…

The whole process is interesting.  It reminded me of creating Google Search Stories.

The story would serve well as an introduction to multiple authors of a Google Document.  You easily get a sense of how the flag follows your cursor around the screen and how text can be inserted and edited.

I do get a feeling, unfortunately, that it’s still a work in progress.  There is no “Login” option – just an option to create a new Google account.  Even though I was logged in to my Google account, I wasn’t able to have a sense that I was logged in to Google Docs Story Builder.  I was hoping that there would have been an option to save my story to YouTube just like Google Search Stories.  After all, your construction can be played back as a movie with typewriter effects for those of us old enough to appreciate it…

Perhaps one of you reading this blog will tell me where I missed something.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s not uncommon to walk into your classroom and to see an empty seat.  Students get sick, go on field trips, etc. all the time.  It’s the worst feeling though when you realize that the seat will forever be empty because of a student’s decision to end her/his life.  In my teaching career, I experienced it once.  The country went through this last week with the suicide of Amanda Todd, a British Columbia teenager.

It became the topic of a number of blog posts from Ontario educators this week.

Fraser Mitchell, Amanda Todd & Teen Suicide

Andrew Campbell reflected on the life of one of his former students and compares that situation with this one.  There are tough questions to be asked during times like this and not enough answers.



Stephen Hurley contributed a pair of posts on the topic.  In the first, he develops on the information from a Toronto Star article.  Were the supports offered enough?

Who Killed Amanda Todd? Too Many Clues In This Room

Stephen’s second post was a repost from a colleague of his from the Globe and Mail School Council.  The story takes a look at girls in a world of change driven by technology.  It really does make you pause to think.

The Amanda Todd Story: It’s About So Much More


A Facebook friend of mind shared a YouTube video offering a similar story with a different ending.  Kim’s quote was especially important “Never use a permanent solution for a temporary problem; suicide is NEVER the right answer.

Suicide is Never an Option


As can be expected, there have been all kinds of suggestions for how to prevent things like this in the future.  People for Education ask a really good question.

Bullying – Can we really legislate people to be kind?

Normally, on Fridays, when I look through Ontario Educator blogs to find a few to include, I’m looking for positive, uplifting ideas.  It just didn’t seem right this week.

I hope that there is more than a knee-jerk reaction to hit kids further with more anti-bullying programs.  Yes, they are absolutely necessary but more importantly, understanding, living and dealing with the reality of “online” is important.

You can block it; you can ignore it; but that’s just avoiding the issue.  A deliberate and concerted education for all students is needed.  How many are left to learn about all of this by themselves?

You can read the above posts at the links included and all from the group of Ontario Edubloggers here.

Powered by Qumana



My first test for the value of any new resource is how much time I spend looking around at it before I move on to something else.  I must confess that I still have Wonderopolis open as I’m writing this blog post.

As I write this, the site is approaching 700 “Wonders”.  Each of these wonders is designed to engage a young mind and perhaps get them to generate additional questions on the topic.

Wonderopolis comes with some pretty good credentials and a lofty goal for 2012.

In 2010, the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) launched Wonderopolis.org in an effort to give Americans the tools they need to learn and tap into their sense of curiosity.  Since then, thousands of children, families, educators and classrooms around the country have visited Wonderopolis, embracing the wonder in their daily lives.

To further encourage that sense of curiosity in our growing Wonderopolis community, we’re embarking on Wonder Year Adventure 2012—a year-long journey of learning, playing, sharing and growing—and we’d like to invite YOU to come along for the ride!

Wonder Year Adventure 2012 will be lead by a WONDERful team of six creative educators, who, together with their own families and students, will share how they wonder and learn about the world around them, inspiring others to explore and experience the power of discovery, creativity and imagination in their own lives!

Each of the wonders are presented in a similar format.  First you’ll have the opportunity to view a YouTube video and then a discussion of the topic along with sections devoted to “Have You Ever Wondered”, “Did You Know?”, “Try It Out”, “Wonder Words to Know and Use”, “Still Wondering?” and “Wonder What’s Next?”.  In fact, I would suggest that this absolutely models the best way to use YouTube videos in the classroom or at home.

Wonders are arranged numerically or by category which is likely the best way to find a resource.  (A search feature is included but browsing a category gave me the best results).  For example, in the category of hygience, you’ll see something like this.

The writing level is easily readable and the approach to the topics really motivate you to dig deeper and learn.  Teachers and parents are invited to comment on wonders and I found that often the comments serve to extend the concept.

This is a really “wonderful” resource.  If you’re working with Junior or Intermediate students and looking for a very effective way to incorporate blended learning with them, you’ve got to check this out and see if it’s a fit for you.

Follow the site on Twitter at @wonderopolis.