Another Side of TED

By now, pretty much everyone has heard of TED – Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a one-off event in 1984, TED was to be a conference where speakers talked about ideas in Technology, Entertainment and Design. People began to share videos of the talks and before long TED became a viral internet sensation. TED talks continue to be held yearly and they’re joined by independently run, smaller TEDx events from all around the world.

Many teachers have seen TED talks (like the classic Sir Ken Robinson talk) during Pro-D events. Some have even been lucky enough to attend an event like our own TEDxWestVancouverED (videos from this year’s event have just come out – just sayin’….) And many educators have shown TED or TEDx videos to their students.

But how many of you have heard of TED-Ed(Lessons Worth Sharing)? Launched in 2012, TED-Ed was created with the intent of supporting educators with lessons based on TED and TEDx talks as well as sparking curiosity in learners of all ages.

TED-Ed provides teachers and students with a number of great resources. You can search through TED-Ed Originals (animated shorts based on a wide variety of topics and concepts), TED-Ed lessons (developed by a variety of experts and educators) and TED-Ed Selects (lessons based on videos, developed by educators and vetted by TED-Ed staff). On top of this, there are resources to help anyone develop their own personal TED-Ed lessons.

While I have not yet created any of my own lessons on the TED-Ed site, I have used a number of their videos with my students. One of my favourites is What Makes a Hero?, all about the hero’s journey. It’s a great language arts video. But I’m sure everyone who uses the site has a favourite! Are you interested in dinosaurs? Basketball and Math (Mr. Meldrum…) Ancient Egyptian mummies? The concept of pi?

Videos come with questions and discussion starters, as well as ways to dig deeper into the concept covered. Become a member for free. You can save talks for later, track lessons and become part of a world-wide education community.

And since today is Halloween, check out Dracula (vampire meets copyright) and Frankenstein (a ghost story written by a teenager) or learn a bit about superstitions. BOO!!


Digital Breakouts – Scary!

halloween header

Escape rooms have been popular for a few years now. You’ve probably heard of them or been to one….you and your friends get locked in a room where there are a bunch of clues and a big clock counting down the time you have left to solve the clues and unlock the door. In the same vein, educators began creating something called “Breakout EDUs”, where students (or educators) work collaboratively to solve puzzles that give them clues to unlock the locks on a box and eventually get the “prize” inside. There is even a website where you can buy canned games and all the supplies needed.

However, having enough locks and boxes and gizmos to keep an entire class occupied can be pricey, so some clever educators started thinking about another way to do things…digitally.

There are loads of instructions about how to create a digital breakout of your own (herehere, here, here,  and even here.)

Not sure you want to create your own? I don’t blame you – it can seem a little intimidating! So why not start with one someone else has created so you can see what it’s all about?

The first two breakouts I have collected for you are created by Tonya Coffey. She says they are for kids in Grade 3 to 5 but I think even Grade 8 kids would enjoy, although they MIGHT be able to solve them faster! The first one is Leaves FALL Down – a fun fall themed breakout. The second one is In The Haunted House – a not scary Halloween themed breakout. You can see that Tonya has lots of other breakouts on her website – I’m looking forward to trying the Christmas ones (but not until December 1st – can you believe there’s Christmas stuff in the stores already?! I haven’t even decided what to be for Halloween!)

The third breakout is a nod to some of my favourite Math teachers (Mr. Meldrum, Mr. Trask, you know who you are!) It’s called “Combine Like Terms and Save Halloween“. It was created by middle school teacher Tom Mullaney and is geared more towards early high school or Grade 7 kids who need a challenge.

In general, these breakouts run best if you are using Chrome as your browser. I have not tested them on iPads. They are designed for small teams (two or three)  – they’re more collaborative if all team members have to share just one device! They’re supposed to be done in a 45 minute block – some kids will solve them faster, some will take longer so be prepared. I do not have the answers to give you – there is kind of an unspoken rule not to put the answers out there on the internet in case kids find them! I suggest you try them yourselves before giving them to your students….are you scared yet?!

A Trio of Google Games!


The last couple of posts have been pretty serious so now it’s time to have some fun! I don’t know about you, but in my classroom we often have small bits of time when we haven’t quite started our lesson or when we’ve finished up early. It’s the perfect time to play a quick game, right? Sometimes we play little “analog” games like 7-up, Dot-Dot-Dash or 3 Word Stories. But sometimes we play online games. Google has some great ones. The three games listed below are really geared to students Grade 4 and older.

Geoguessr is an awesome game you can use to teach inference and world geography sleuthing (no, that’s not a subject in the new BC Curricula!). To play GeoGuessr, you create an account, log in and then project your device. You can play a random round or choose one of the canned games (like the Famous Places one). When you start, you get a picture of a place somewhere in the world, along with tools that allow you and the kids to scroll around the screen, looking for clues as to where you are. This is where the inferencing come is….what do you see, what does that tell us about where we are, can we guess what part of the world this is? Once you’ve had a chance to talk about it a bit, you can choose your spot on the world map and lock in your guess. And then you find out how close you were! Each round consists of 5 maps – just the perfect amount when you are waiting for a bell to ring!

Do you teach high school history (yes, I’m talking to you Mr. Griffiths!)? Do you and your students love pop culture? Then chances are you will have fun with SmartyPins! SmartyPins also uses Google Maps. You can choose your category (Science and Geography, Entertainment, History…there are a bunch) and then SmartyPins asks you a trivia question and you drop a pin where you think the answer is. The closer you are to the actual spot, the fewer points (miles) you lose. You start off with 1000 miles, so the better you are at answering, the more questions you get!

Do you want to help your students learn how to “google” for information? Then play Google A Day . You project the questions on the board and have the kids use their own devices to try to discover the answer. You could even put them in teams – one device to each team. Each day there are three questions – all of them have answers that you can find if you search carefully! Students can search and then tell you what the answer is. The faster you answer, the more points you can get.

So, the next time you wrap up your lesson 10 minutes before the bell rings, try one of these games. I bet you and your students enjoy them!

Digital Citizenship – Part Two


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So, last week I wrote about Internet Safety. This week, let’s tackle intellectual property, copyright, plagiarism and…..bibliographies! Did you know that every new idea, drawing, song, photo, invention or turn of phrase is someone’s intellectual property and as such, can be copyrighted and should not be used by others, without express permission by the author/creator. Simple, right? As if! There are people with law degrees who study nothing but IP based law and they still can’t agree on all of this. And to muddy the water more, Canadian copyright law changed a few years ago and now contains guidelines for “fair dealing” of copyrighted material in educational settings. And I haven’t even mentioned Creative Commons yet! Is your mind spinning?

So, as a busy teacher who has no time to study law (as fascinating as that might be), how do I teach my students how to navigate plagiarism, copyright and intellectual property in a digital age when almost every thing ever said, sung, painted, invented or thought of can be found by googling!?

Like everything else, start small! Primary students generally have a very strong sense of right and wrong as well as ownership. They are happy to do show and tell sharing, but as for “actual” sharing? Not so much! It comes as no surprise that toddlers very quickly learn the word “me”, “my” and “mine”! You can capitalize on this! Let them know that stories, pictures, drawings and the things they find on the internet and in books belong to the people who create them and we can borrow them, as long as we remember to say that’s what we’ve done. I’ve seen many primary teachers do this by saying things like “Our Starry Nights – Paintings Inspired by Vincent Van Gogh” or “If You Give A Mouse Stories Inspired by Laura Numeroff”. And if your little learners are using digital tools to showcase their learning, then at the end of the iMovie or BookCreator project have them do something as simple as add the following disclaimer: “Project by So and So, Images and Facts from the Internet.”

In the intermediate grades, students’ understanding of ownership becomes more nuanced and their use of digital tool becomes more sophisticated. I tend to break these grades down into Grades 4 / 5 and Grades 6 / 7.

For Grades 4 and 5, you can use terms like “citing sources” and “bibliography” – although unless you actually explain why we do these things they will be meaningless. With these students, we’re not trying to create a perfect MLA formatted bibliography. We’re trying to teach them the skills that will lead to that and why it is important to cite your sources. So, to me, a great bibliography would be a list somewhere on the project that shows what websites were used (show them how to find the url), what images they used (again, the url) and a list of books with the name of the book as well as the author(s) and Illustrator(s). It’s relatively simple, but it is a step we should be insisting on. It’s important.

In Grade 6 and 7, I like to introduce a proper MLA bibliography. And since I teach in a digital environment, I show them how to do so using the free version of NoodleTools. (There are other online bibliography sites out there, like EastBib and BibMe – I’ve just gotten used to NoodleTools!). The first time I have them use NoodleTools, it’s for practice. After that, they know that any project they are doing will require a proper bibliography. And to their future high school teachers….you’re welcome! Here is the assignment I use with my students when I introduce NoodleTools – just remember to cite me as the source!

For all intermediate grades, you need to teach students to avoid the dreaded “copy and paste”, for obvious reasons. Most teachers tell students to “use your own words”, which sounds great but in reality, unless you have taught them how to do that, it can be very hard for them. A better way to handle this is to go old-school! Do the research online but record the facts with paper and pencil. Use templates like venn diagrams, t-charts and mind maps to help them write down what they find in an organized way and teach them to just write “the facts ma’am, just the facts” – not whole sentences or paragraphs! Then they can go back to their device and write their own, new work with notes from the paper.

Still have some “copy-pasters”? Show the class how easily you can “catch” them. Copy and paste a line from an “anonymous” project (usually a previous student’s work, names removed) into the Google search bar and show them that if they have “copy-pasted” the result will come up, word for word, usually in the first or second search result. I am always amazed that kids think I can’t figure this out! Oh yeah, don’t forget to have a conversation about the whys here…why we don’t copy-paste, why it’s wrong, why people get in trouble for it.

With intermediate copy-paste offenders, my response is not “AUTOMATIC FAIL!!!” I want them to learn from their mistake so the first time they do it I generally give them a chance to re-do the work. The second time I often call in parents. A third offense usually gets a zero mark.

Finally, whether you choose to use the guidelines outlined in this post or go with something else, please do make sure that you are having these discussions with your students and teaching them about ownership and intellectual property. It’s an important part of their participation and citizenship in our digital world!

Digital Citizenship – Part One

TL Meeting Sept 2017 (2) copyWow! Digital citizenship is a huge topic…too much to fit in one tiny blog (hence the Part One). It incorporates all of the topics in the image above and more. As a teacher who is immersed in a digital (BYOD) environment, I feel it is partly my (and your) job to teach digital citizenship skills to my (our) students. (It’s partly their parents’ job, too, but that’s a topic for another day!) Oh yes, digital citizenship (digital literacy) is now part of the ADST Curriculum, too.

There are heaps of great resources on the web to help teachers with teaching digital citizenship. Common Sense Media has a great educator’s website called Common Sense Education that has a whole scope and sequence with lesson plans for teaching digital citizenship skills. The organization Media Smarts, has some great stuff on their Teacher Resources page, geared to educators here in Canada. Frankly, if you just stuck to the links above, you’d have more than enough material to teach digital citizenship!

And that, of course, is part of the problem for educators! There is so much out there, what do I teach? Where do I start? Is there a prescribed textbook? And (I love this one) “how can I teach digital literacy when I am digitally illiterate?” Seriously, a teacher asked me that once!!

So…..let’s start with a basic: SAFETY! When I am asked to talk to students about this, I break it down into primary and intermediate. I talk with the K to 3 students about being Internet STARs and I talk with the 4 to 7 students about getting their digital PASSPORT.

TL Meeting Sept 2017 (2)

So. Internet STAR. If you are an Internet STAR, you do the following things:

  • You know that anyone you and your parents have not met in person is a STRANGER. You know to stay away from strangers.
  • You know that if something happens that makes you uncomfortable or upset, you go and TELL a parent or trusted adult.
  • You know that it is important to ALWAYS be kind and polite when you are on the internet or in person.
  • And finally, you know that you need to RESPECT personal information like your password and address and birthday and you know not to share this information online.

Although this may sound simplistic, younger students generally deal well with clear boundaries and simple rules.

For the more savvy 4 to 7 crowd, talk to them about earning their Internet PASSPORT. (I am working on lesson plans to go with these acronyms – just haven’t quite gotten there yet!) Passport holders know:

  • That they should always PRETEND Grandma is sitting on their shoulder like the good angel, watching what they post and do online. (Okay, I swear….that’s not meant to sound creepy although as I read it, it kind of does….but you get the idea, right?)
  • ALWAYS be kind and polite – if you wouldn’t say it in person, why say it online? Spread peace, not hate.
  • Not everyone is who they appear to be online. Anyone you and your parents do not know in person has the potential to be a STRANGER, and therefore someone to avoid.
  • Learn what a STRONG password looks like and then find a safe place to keep your passwords. Do not share them with friends.
  • PHOTOS last forever online. Even after you’ve deleted them. Even on Snapchat if someone else “screenshots” them. The silly selfie you shared with your friend could wind up all over Instagram the next day. Not a great way to get famous.
  • OFF is good! Don’t spend so much time on screen. Get outside, ride your bike, walk the seawall, shoot hoops, go for a hike, bounce on a trampoline, curl up with a good book, share a snack with a friend. There’s a great big world out there and it’s much better to experience it in person!
  • RESPECT personal information. Don’t share passwords, birthdays, addresses, emails, etc. Do share your thoughts on the latest STAR WARS movie (I have always loved R2D2 but must admit I have a major crush on BB-8) but don’t share personal information. If you’re not sure, ask a trusted adult.
  • And finally, if something that happened online or that you saw online makes you uncomfortable, TELL a parent or trusted adult. Get help!

Yes, the kids you teach now are Digital Natives, in that they don’t know a world without the internet. But they are not inherently good digital citizens – they need our help and guidance for that. Hopefully today’s post will help you help them (and maybe yourself, too!!)