My Class Makes this Web Show Called Portable TV…

I have decided that the time has come for me to make a new blog.  

Here it is:

Audio = Safe

It took several years for me to get the courage to do video with my junior level students.  Audio? No problem.  My students seemed happy about creating radio style shows that we called Portable Radio.  I had done that with my students for well over six years. We had quite a bit of success with show.  The students were played several times on CBC radio, we won awards and even appeared on TV.  Portable Radio lives on, although we don’t make as many shows as we used to.

Video = Danger!

Video on the other hand,  I viewed with trepidation.  I guess I had bought into the fear and paranoia of all the horrible things that could happen if I were to post images of my students’ faces.  I was certain the parents of my students would feel the same way.

At the same time, working with video was such an obvious hook for the kids.  So, my students and I came up with creative ways to get around the whole thing.  Puppets, slide shows of arttalking hands, voice overs all worked and we were happy with the results.

Inspiration from New Zealand

It was a class in New Zealand that changed my perspective.  Teacher Stephen Baker had a year 5 class in Palmerston North, New Zealand where they created their own class TV show called Street Talk.  As I had learned with making our Portable Radio podcast, the real learning and quality came through repetition.  In my mind, it was vital to view this project not as a “one off” but as a regular series of episodes.  Stephen Baker clearly saw things the same way.

I highly recommend you watch the episodes of Street Talk in order.  I found it spine tingling to watch the students develop their skills in front of the camera.  The first few shows were perhaps what you’d expect.  Children read from scripts that mainly dealt with curriculum related topics.  While this was a wonderful experience for the students, it wasn’t always entertaining viewing.

Somewhere along the way something interesting happened.  Street Talk became less and less of a classroom project meant for themselves and more and more of an actual, well, show.  The students developed regular segments and challenges that gave Street Talk a unique style.  It made me want to watch more episodes – just like a “real” TV show.  The students seemed to become more aware of their audience.  The students and their teacher obviously put a great deal of time and effort into producing the show but, on camera, they appeared relaxed, funny and spontaneous.

Portable TV is born

So, I decided to take a shot at it.  I started with a small group of students and explained what I wanted to do.  Once they were excited, I sent home a permission form.  To my surprise, every form was returned to me within a matter of days and every parent was on board.  So we dove in and Portable TV was born!

The true eureka moment for me was when my class watched the first episode of Portable TV.  I had never experienced this scale of rapt attention, focus and pride from my class before.  Sure, there was excitement when we listened to our Portable Radio audio podcasts; the students would listen politely and look embarrassed when they heard their voices.  But with video, it was different.  The students seemed to relive the moment as they viewed it together.  This was especially the case in our class challenges and teacher vs. student challenges.  They would cheer the student on, even though they already knew the outcome.  There was applause and laughter throughout.  And this was from  a class where many of the students faced academic, social and family challenges.

I don’t pretend that this level of engagement will be sustainable for every group of kids that I work with.  But it is something I plan to explore more deeply for the next while.

Nathan’s nominations for the 2012 Eddies

Here’s my list of nominations for the 2012 Edublog Awards:

  • Best individual blog: The Frugal Filmmaker:  I keep coming back to Scott Eggleston’s blog for his cost saving tips on creating video.  This site is well worth visiting for budding film makers or, in my case, if you are figuring out how to get your class to create a video show.
  • Best group blog: Three Teachers Talk:  Three teachers’ thought provoking posts usually about writing and language arts.
  • Best new blog: Carron-Kemp Crew:  Grade 7/8 blog that makes use of a variety of web tools to display their learning.
  • Best class blog:  The Ins and Outs  This is the way to set up a class blog.  Be sure to dig deeper and check out the students’ individual blog.  Steven Baker has made this blog part of his teaching.  There are a multitude of ideas to incorporate into your own teaching practice.
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog:  All Elementary Lots of useful sites, at least for my situation, that are posted on a regular basis.
  • Best teacher blog: Silvia Tolisano Silvia continues to share and reflect on her own learning journey.
  • Best administrator blog: ErHead Erin Paynter “reflects on leading and learning” in her role as vice principal of an elementary school in Ottawa, Canada.
  • Best free web tool:  Jing It’s so easy to take screen shots and video captures and incorporate them into your own website.  I use it often.  Can’t beat the price!
  • Best educational use of a social network: I’ve used this with my grade 4/5 class this year.  I appreciate how much of the “extra” WordPress stuff has been stripped away so as not to distract my younger bloggers from the task at hand: communicating!
  • Best mobile app: Pinnacle Studio for iPad  What if your video camera allowed you to easily edit your video immediately? You know, without uploading and converting files, or waiting for the software to boot up?  That’s game changing in my book.
  • Lifetime achievement: Doug Peterson I’m in awe of how much this man shares on a daily basis.  Thanks, Doug!

I look forward to seeing more nominations!

New Ophea Resource to Support Internet Safety Instruction

On September 21st, OPHEA, the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, launched a new resource to support teachers, students and parents in grades 4-6 on how to be safe in their use of technology and internet resources. Connect[ED] provides online video, lessons and resources to help students in the development of their own online practices and safe behaviours relating to netiquette, security, personal privacy and relationships. The website,, is very comprehensive. OPHEA has done its homework. They draw information from a variety of resources and experts including the Physical Education and Health curriculum document, The Language Arts curriculum document, Marc Prensky (Article: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants), and the Media Awareness Network (, to name a few.

 This is a web-based program (it is also available as a DVD) that covers the topics of Netiquette (peer pressure, reputation risk), Security and Privacy (passwords, personal information, digital permanence), and Online Relationships (cyberbullying, boundaries, anonymity, inappropriate photos/text, luring and online gaming). Each lesson is supported with background information, additional resources and curriculum expectations from both the Health and Physical Education Curriculum document and the Media Literacy portion of the Language Curriculum document and assessment and evaluation suggestions. Each unit overview contains three categories of information:

         What Will the Students Learn?

         How Will I know What the Students Have Learned?

         How Will Assessment and Instruction Be Organized For Student Learning?

There is also an accompanying section for parents that provides strategies and questions for dealing with the topic of online safety at home.

 The lessons include video episodes that are done in animation and live action footage. I found the animation to be a little simplistic, but the messages are very clear and age appropriate. The live action footage is effective, particularly the interview with an unidentified victim of cyberbullying and a school principal about the consequences of inappropriate use of technology in the grade 6 videos. It is helpful that written transcripts are also provided for each video.

 This resource is available in both French and English. It is a sister resource to the grade 7 and 8 courses Cybercops which are also available as a free download in French and English.

Ontario Election Day – Thursday October 6, 2011

The writ has been dropped and Ontarians will be going to the polls on Thursday, October 6th.
For teachers of students in grades 5 this is an opportunity to address one of the overall expectations from the social studies curriculum document: “use a variety of resources and tools to gather and analyse information about government processes, the rights of groups and individuals, and the responsibilities of citizenship in Canada, including participation in the electoral process;”
For teachers of grade 10 Civics, the election provides opportunity to address many of the expectations around Informed, Active and Purposeful Citizenship.
Here are some technology resources (in no particular order) available to help you as you introduce and engage your students in the topic.
Click on the above link to get to the Elections Canada Young Voters page. Here you will find links to kits that can be ordered to support election activities. There is a kit for young students on electing a class mascot and one for older students on how to run a student council election, to name only two of the available resources. There is a tab on the upper right hand side of the page to let you select the information in French.
Elections Ontario has created an online slideshow that serves as a good introduction to voting. The slides are simple yet informative and answer questions such as, What is an election?, Why vote?, Who can vote?, etc. Scroll down to view all the slides (also available in French).
Student vote is a parallel election for students under the voting age, coinciding with official election periods. The program is designed to engage students in the electoral process and provide an authentic voting experience (also available in French).
The Ontario Election Almanac provides a countdown to election day with polls and projections about the different parties. There are also links to Provincial Election history and Provincial Government. There is some advertising that appears on this site.
The We Make Voting Easy page has the answers to the Who, When, Where and How of voting in the provincial election (also available in French).

For teachers in the OCDSB: Discovery Education has a video (in both French and English) called Government in Canada Jr. With Discovery Education you can watch the entire video or play the segments on How an Election Works. Once you click on the links below you will be asked for your user id and password. If you have never registered with Discovery Education, you can get information on how to do that through Hotline. If you can’t remember whether you have an account or not, use the Forgot user name/password prompt to get your account back and working for you.

English version

French version

Please share your links and election ideas by leaving a comment. Happy voting!

Decorating with a Global View

      Looking for a way to bring a bit of a global view into your classroom? Here is a simple idea that I have used for a few years that I might have stolen from Kathy Cassidy.

She is a classroom teacher in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, Canada who describes herself as a “Grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom.”

One of the things that Kathy does in her grade 1 class and that I have done in my grade 5/6 classroom is to use clocks. Bring in 3 or 4 wall clocks and set them to different times for different places around the world. It is a simple idea that can open up all kinds of classroom discussion possibilities and it makes your classroom look cool, like a newsroom. I found my clocks a few years ago at IKEA. The Rusch Wall clock sells for $2.99 but isn’t currently in stock at the Ottawa Ikea, although I am sure that there are other places where you can find inexpensive wall clocks.

I have used my clocks to mark places that we’re learning about in class or talking about in current events. I have also used them when students go on trips during the school year. I set it to the time zone where they’re visiting. I have also used them to show the students the time in classrooms around the world where we have blogged with other students. They’ve been a great help in my unit on telling time and time zones as well.

A simple idea that is cool and has many different applications. Don’t waste any more time…get out there and put up clocks on your classroom walls :-).

For more information about Kathy Cassidy, her class and her professional blog, click here. (The photo is of the clocks in Kathy’s classroom.)

Walking around the world

  Last year my grade 5/6 class and I walked around the world with the Global Children’s Challenge. Each student was given a (free) pedometer and a little record booklet in which to record their steps. For 50 days we recorded how many steps the class had walked and entered the information on the Global Children’s Challenge website. Last year our journey started at Niagara Falls, Ontario and quickly moved to Florida, the jungles of South America, Australia, Africa and parts of Europe. As our steps added up each new destination was revealed with information and pictures of where we were, the people, land and interesting facts. Through the website we were able to track our progress and compare it to students from other schools around the world. It was interesting to see how competitive my class became as we compared our progress to that of other Ottawa Carleton District School Board Schools. We didn’t go nearly as far as Nathan’s class. He was always a couple of locations ahead of us.

The challenge is open to classes of students between the ages of 8 and 12. Registration is being accepted until August 31, 2011 for this years challenge which begins on September 15th. I believe space is limited but last year all the classes that I knew of that had applied were accepted. The pedometers arrive in a box, enough for each student in the class and a few extras in case some are faulty, break or get lost.

Some ways I used the program with my class:

Daily Physical Activity – We did a lot of walking around the school, running and jumping. On indoor days when the weather didn’t allow us to go outside, we did follow the leader trips up and down the stairs in the school, and through the hallways. Some of my more active students liked to walk on the spot at their desks as they did their silent reading work. I found that the kids liked to record what their steps were at the start of an activity and then see how many steps they had added on at the end. The timing of the event coincided really well with our Terry Fox Run. We recorded our steps as part of our preparation for the run to see if we could get more steps in the same amount of time as we trained.

Math – There is so much that we were able to do in math with the pedometers.

  • – guess the number games using to reinforce place value (Who has a 3 in the thousands place? ).
  • -order the numbers from smallest to largest.
  • -addition, subtraction and division of really big numbers.
  • -word problems (If the class travels at an average rate of 12 670 steps a day and there are 10 000 steps in 8 kilometers about how many days will it take for us to walk 50 kilometers?)
  • students keep personal graphs of their progress…keep a class graph
  • estimation
  • graph the populations of the different locations
Language Arts and Social Studies –
  • shared and guided reading can be done with the information on each location
  • there is a blog component that your class can use to post messages about their progress and where they live
  • global awareness – there are many pictures of how different people live in the different locations
I have really only scratched the surface in this post. If you have used the program before, plan to use it again or have any suggestions about using this resource please leave a comment to share.
Happy walking!

Getting your podcast on iTunes – Updated March 2011

There is a real cool factor about having your podcast in iTunes.  It makes it easy for people to find you, subscribe to your show and easily put your show on their iPod, iPhone and Ipad. And, more importantly, it’s FREE!

Here’s how you do it.  This works for Mac and PC:

1. Get set up with Feedburner

The first thing to do is to get an account with Feedburner. This is a free service that does all the mumbo jumbo scripting that needs to be done for iTunes to recognize a podcast. Nathan did try to script it himself following iTunes instructions but I don’t think it was a pretty experience (he still twitches a bit).

A Feedburner account will give you a Podcast Feed URL that leads iTunes to the stuff that it needs and understands. The feed URL for our Portable Radio podcast looks like this:

Another advantage to having a Feedburner account is that it will also give you statistical information on how many visitors your are getting and what episodes they are listening to.

Once your account with Feedburner is set up, find the “Optimize” tab and select “SmartCast”:

Here’s how we filled it out for our Portable Radio podcast:

Find your Podcast Feedburner feed by clicking on “Edit Feed Details”.  This is the URL you will be giving to iTunes.

2.  Submit your Feedburner Podcast URL to iTunes.

If you don’t already have it, download and install iTunes.  Click on the “iTunes Store” icon on the left menu bar:

Then click on Podcasts at the top of the screen:

Once you are on the Podcast page it is just a matter of finding the “Podcast Quick Links side bar”.  Click on “Submit a Podcast”.

You will first be asked to provide the Podcast Feed URL that Feedburner created for you:

Following this, you’ll be asked to sign into to your account.  If you already buy songs and such from iTunes, use that account.  Otherwise, you’ll need to create an account.  You will be asked for your credit card information.  However, there is no money involved in submitting or subscribing to podcasts. Apple is just hoping you might decide to buy a couple of songs and videos along the way.

The podcast will go through some sort of mysterious approval process.  You should hear from Apple within a couple of days saying that the process is complete and your podcast can now be found on iTunes.

To check, search the name of your podcast:

All going well, your podcast will appear (along with a couple other ones with similar names):

Let us know when you have your podcast up and are ready for subscribers. We are always happy to promote education related podcasts.

Adding Categories to Your Blog

I had a question from a teacher about how to add categories to a blog. Categories are great for organizing your different blog posts. On my classroom blog,, and on Nathan’s,, we have given each of our students a category so that mom and dad can easily find the work that their child has done.

There are several ways to create categories. One way is to do it on the fly. As you create posts you can create categories to place them in. On my admin page there is a place where I select the category that I want my post to appear in on the right hand side of the screen. At the bottom you will see +Add New Category. Click there and it will create whatever categories you want.

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 7.07.13 PMAnother way to create categories is to Activate the Advanced Admin on the blog. To do this, click on the button on the upper right hand corner of the blog. This will reveal a whole lot of new tools along the left hand side of your post. Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 7.09.59 PM

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 7.13.25 PM Click on the word Posts and a drop down menu will appear. Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 7.15.15 PMClick on Categories and you will be able to add any categories that you want. NOTE: CATEGORIES WILL NOT APPEAR ON THE BLOG UNLESS YOU HAVE ASSIGNED A POST TO THE CATEGORY. They will just hang around until you need them.

Another thing to check it that your blog theme that you have choosen supports displaying categories. You can change the appearance of your blog any time without fear of losing any of your posts, pages or categories. Again you can access Appearance in the Advance Admin area of the blog along the left hand side. I will write more on adding Categories and other Widgets to the blog at another time.

Audacity and MP3 File Size

There are times that, even after you have exported your Audacity project as an MP3, you will discover your file is too large to upload.  For example, a podcast running over 15 minutes in length can be around 25 MB.  If you’re uploading this file to your Edublogs account, that is a problem.  Edublogs only allows files sizes up to 20MB.

Here’s a solution:

1. With Audacity open Edit/Preferences.

2.  Click on the “File Formats” tab.

3.  Change the bit rate to a lower number than the default of 128.  I’d avoid going lower than 64 as the decreased sound quality will be very noticeable.

4.  Now when you export your Audacity project as an MP3 the file size will be smaller.


Notes for OCETF Podcasting (blog) Presentation

Nathan and I are always really happy to share with our colleagues. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to present at the OCETF PD day. If you require more information please don’t hesitate to BEAM us.

Links from our February 18th presentation:

  • is our podcast site.  You can also find it on iTunes.
  • and are our class blogs.
  • is the provider we use for our various websites.  Let us know if you create a blog and we’ll work our magic to take off the advertising.
  • Audacity is the recording software that we use. It is free and works on both Mac and PC platforms
  • Lame is what you need to export files as mp3 with Audacity
  • Click here for posts we have written dealing with specific questions about Audacity.
  • and are great places to find pictures.  We make a point of using only Creative Commons licensed pictures and linking to their source.
  • Acid Express is a music program that uses loops to create compositions.
  • Levelator is a small program that balances the volume of your audio.  This is really handy in giving all your podcasts a consistent volume. Just drop the wav file into the program and it will save a new, balanced version of your audio.
  • is an example of where to go to find copyright free music.  Visit here for other sites we have found to be useful.
  • This is the splitter that allows you to connect five headphones to any device with an earphone jack.  It’s called the Belkin RockStar.  I got mine at Staples for under $20.00.
  • Here’s a link to the Portable Radio documentary we showed today
  • Click here for an introductory lesson with Audacity you might do with your students. You’ll hear Nathan describe the lesson towards the end of the podcast.  Here’s the worksheet that goes with it.